Monday, June 28, 2004

Conferences 2004
Finally got the "go" from our dean, and I can start registering to conferences.
Yes, I will be at Blogtalk 2.0, but I didn't need to clear that with the dean, except to make sure it didn't clash with anything at the College.
Next will be Ubiquity, the AOIR conference in Sussex. This will be my first AOIR conference, so I am thrilled about it.
After that it's the conference the dean wants me to attend - and which I am very happy to go to: Norsk Medieforskerlags 11. medieforskerkonferanse i Trondheim - Norwegian association of media researchers' conference 2004.
Next is something I am very happy to attend to: Jill Walker, Eirik Newth and Thomas Brevik are arranging a seminar in Bergen in November. I am looking forwards to that! I miss Bergen, have been going too much to Oslo lately, but going to Bergen is like going away and still going home.
Finally: Other Players. I am wringing the last drops out of my brain to write a paper before August 1st.
Professional communicators
One of the other things I do is educate professional communicators: PR-consultants and -workers, information advisors, public communication consultants - you name it, if they work in the borderland public/media/organisations I educate (at least some of) them. This is an area fraught with conflict between journalists and consultants, a conflict which in Norway is both aggressive and ugly.

So it's with a great deal of pleasure I introduce today's link, a commentary (in Norwegian) by Kathrine Aspaas: De lærer oss å snakke - "They teach us to talk", a sober, clear expression of her opinion about the conflict journalists/information workers, printed in Aftenposten, one of the leading national newspapers. Her main point is that everybody wins when both sides in a communication process know how to communicate. Thank you, Kathrine, for being a wise woman.

And thank you Trygve, for the link.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Dreams in the shortest night
If you are a young girl, unmarried and eager to know if you will ever find your true love, you should have picked seven different wild flowers last night, put them under your pillow and gone to bed. You should have done this in silence, and as you fell asleep he would be there, in your dreams: the one to share your life.

I did this many times, in the midsummer nights of childhood, but somehow I never managed to stay silent and draw the dreams in. Instead I was awake way past midnight, watching the bonfires. The fires burning along the fjords and in the mountains this night are to scare the witches, who gather to celebrate, as well as any other dark spirits, who would start gathering strength as the sun turns. There is a fierce optimism and a whole row of fertility rites connected to midsummer, St. John's day, Jonsok. To ensure your fertility until next summer, you should walk three times around a natural spring, naked, and then you should bathe in it. To keep pestilence from your sheets (and so, your bed), you should spread them on the churchyard and leave them past midnight. But at the same time it is a night of melancholy and loss.

After this night, the shortest of all, darkness approaches. Last night was the most beautiful midsummer night in many years, and I sat on the veranda until sunset, watching the pink and purple fade in to pale delicate blue, as the shadows lightly touched the darkgreen mountains. In this pale imitation of a night, the potential of darkness is perhaps more powerful than at midwinter, as summer and light feels so fragile. A cloud can darken the long days, rain can wash this pale palette into grey.

And so, it is a night for dreams, for sleeping uneasily and for waking up with your mind filled with portents of the future.

What I dreamt tonight? Oddly, I think I had wings - slick dragon wings of steel-grey ribs and silvery membranes. They would mirror that pastel sunset and reflect a flash of fading sunlight as I soared above the mountains.

Picture nicked from
From my moblogging colleague Erling Sivertsen I got a link to an article in the Norwegian newspaper, Bra nok bilder for folk flest, about the new Nokia 7610 and its accompanying program Lifeblog. Under the heading "browse your life", nokia invites: "Simply and easily save your mobile images and other data in Nokia Lifeblog on your PC to start your own, ever-growing, life log."

This is however not a service connected to the internet. There is no offer of server space and no system for publication included. What Nokia calls a Lifeblog, interesting though it is, is a program to organise your pictures and text messages on you own PC.

Nokia Lifeblog takes care of the organizing so that you don't have to. You don't even need to leave your mobile phone software open. Just install it on your phone and let it start building your diary as you take photos and videos, and send and receive messages. Then, Nokia Lifeblog makes sure that you don't have to delete memorable moments in your life just to make room on your phone. To clear up space on your phone, connect to your PC and let Lifeblog save and display your items securely and efficiently.

What we have here is a classic personal diary, but on your computer. Which, by the way, I think is a neat idea, particularly if you have a camera phone and it also connects with your organiser on the cellphone. Then I could match my college calendar on the college organising system with my cellphone every time I dropped by at the office, and I wouldn't have to write everything twice. However neat I think it may be though, it is not a blog. The log function exists, but the web part, which creates the (we)blog, is non existant.

Somebody at Nokia didn't do their research before naming the thing.
Or, somebody at Nokia have wicked plans of selling server space and net connections, and are just testing the software on peoples' unsuspecting PCs.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

No crocodiles in my dreams. As a child I used to dream of wolves, chasing me through the night forest and on to the lawn in front of my parents' house.

A wolf stands for aggression, instinctive urges and cravings. In men's dreams a wolf indicates difficulties in controlling his sex drive; he may be out of control. Seeing a wolf is a warning of false friends. A wolf attacking: a well-known person will make a lot of trouble.

Now I dream of lions.

In the positive sense, a lion represents dignity, intensity and valiant energy. If you dream of a lion in a positive light, it means that you need to call on courage within yourself. If you are being attacked by a lion, be careful, you might be in danger. Seeing a lion: your friend sometimes looks dangerous. If you defeat a lion in the dream, you will eliminate your enemy. Seeing a lion in the cage: your enemy has no way to attack you now.

In my lion dreams I see the lion from a distance, then it comes hunting me, but I manage to trick it and close the doors on it so it is trapped. Now the house this happens in flows fluidly from my mother's house and to ours, as if the places I have called home have melted into a kind over "hyper-home" in my dream mind.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

To do
Got to put this list here, or I lose it...
This year I may have said yes to too many things. But after years of the College waiting patiently while I finished my PhD, everybody now wants a piece of my time. I suddenly have responsibilities I did not expect, and find that I have to somehow make time for work vital to running this college, but not associated with teaching or research. I hate it for taking me away from the things I really like about my job, and love it because it gives me a chance to change the things that annoy me as I try to do the things I find are most important. And so I am ambivalent in this as in everything else. And my to-do lists now mirror this wide range of responsibilities:

Finish the keynote
Finish the information study plans for the autumn term (includes calling those guest teachers)
Look at the media theory plans, and plot when I teach
Read the papers for the reorganisation comittee
Attend the organisation theory seminar for the reorganisation
Read the papers for the college hiring board
Write a suggestion for an article on games and culture
Write a suggestion for a new course spring 2005
Finish the description of another, accepted new course spring 2005
Submit the reading lists by the end of the week
Check if I can order tickets for the conferences I want to go to this year
Clean up the office
Pack, and get out of here!
Now also in Danish!
Danish BT has an article called "Unge flygter inn i en fantasiverden" (Youths escape to a fantasy world) where they interview Espen Aarseth and quote an article by Pal Kvamme, where the part they used was where I position the responsibility for computer games on the adults, not the children.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Iser and the play of the text
The following essay is an attempt to raise play above representation as an umbrella concept to cover all of the ongoing operations of the textual concept. It has two heuristic advantages: 1)Play does not have to concern itself with what it might stand for. 2. Play does not have to picture anything outside itself. It allows author-text-reader to be conceived as a dynamic interrelationship that moves toward a final result.

From Iser's "The Play of the Text" in Languages of the unsayable.
The passage of time
My daughter collects "things". Not systematically, but items which are souvenirs of her life. I used to do this too - tickets to the theatre, special coins, the top of a soda with significance - it all had meaning and referred to some even in my life. I felt like I needed to hold on to them. My life was so short, how could I know there would be larger events, deeper emotions, souvenirs of more mystery, and that they would be found, experienced, cherished and lost - and still life would go on?

At this point in life there are too many things. I need to lose them. But how can I? I want to get rid of the plates we bought when we first moved to Volda, scratched and chipped dinner-plates. But for that to make sense I have to replace them with something. I know what. I just don't see myself throwing out the old ones. I have to make it a major operation: old out, new in. Smooth easy refurnishing of the cabinet and the old crap is gone, long live the new style.

But those were the first plates I ever bought for myself. Until then I had lived with the odd spares my mother didn't want to throw away. And I bought them when our life as students living in student housing ended, when we both had work, real work, for the first time. It's not a soda top. Time passes, and I really need to learn that new events will have as much or more significance, if I just make room for them.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Academia frontstage - backstage
In five days I went twice to Oslo and had two totally different academic experiences.

The first trip was the frontstage.
Ragnhild Tronstad defended her thesis Friday 11th of June. She did a good lecture, clear, but her point where she addressed the topic came a little late. I was worried there for a few minutes, if she would actually get to the point within her given time. The suspense kept me awake though, so I was alert as Ragnhild concluded authoratively.

Then came the defense, with two lovely and skilled opponents. I tended to agree more with Cynthia Haynes, which of course would make her the harder opponent to oppose, and disagree more with Niels Lehman, which I think Ragnhild did too, as that is when she got into the discussion. Afterwards: reception with the Institute of Media and Communication in Oslo, and Ragnhild's party.

I am starting to really appreciate the pomp and circumstance of academic rituals. The Dean proceeding was a masters' student in Bergen when I started the media studies, and I have known and admired her for.. hmm.. 19 years. She looked like a gothic priestess in the velvet robe, and her stately nod was only slightly marred by the giggle that was bubbling behind her eyes as she saw her old friends leap back up in order to wait for the signal to be seated from the Dean.

Tuesday was academic backstage.
As a member of the board of the local group of the researcher's union, I was invited to a conference on the upcoming negotiations about wages for academics. It was complicated, and not really very uplifting. I was very far from the showpiece of the public defense, where academic achievement is celebrated. When it comes to paying for the same achievement in something more substantial than pretty words, it's a different story.

Scholars have long expensive educations that we pay for through loans, and then have to pay back out of wages that are as low and lower than those of blue-collar workers in the industry. Now, I don't want to start working on an oil platform, because I happen to like my work. Still, it sounds kind of wrong to pay the most educated people, the ones who are supposed to educate others and develop the base of knowledge in Norway, less than the rest.

(For spesielt interesserte: En prosent av lønnsmassen skal deles mellom medlemmene i lokale oppgjør. Det er halvparten av 2002-oppgjøret, som jo var eksepsjonelt godt. Alle forhandlingene må i år være ferdig før 30 september. Det er to måneder tidligere enn vanlig.)

These two experiences were both interesting. Together, they demonstrated the span of the concerns of an academic in the Norwegian system of higher education.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Until Saturday
I am in Oslo. Meetings, Ragnhild Tronstad's defense, party, meetings.
Going commercial
In May 2002 I was a participant in an experiment in the Eyebeam atelier. They were testing name-tags for social interaction through electronic interaction. Yesterday, the lovely japanese girl in the story sent an email with a link to the website for the nTAG, the commercial version of the tags we tested.

I really don't know what I feel about the commecial version. I mean - it was fun to play with as an experiment, where i could let myself go and get into the joy of the experiment. For a conference or a more formal party where I'd expect to employ a minimum of manner - I am not sure how it would work. But I guess, at geeky gatherings with holodeck karaoke and interactive dancefloors, I can see the people checking their tags and comparing scores, definitely.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Digital deception
Larry's face
Are you awake for it?
Today - RIGHT NOW - you have the chance to see a very rare natural phenomenon occuring on our skies. They call it the passage of Venus. What happens is that Venus passes between the sun and the earth. You can see the live webcast here. Oslo is one of the places in the world where you can see this best, but there are webcasts from several different cities in Norway, linked from here. The next passage is scheduled in eight years, but the last one happened 122 years ago. Track the transit of Venus here!

I appears that the passage of Venus plays a role in Mayan mythology. And of course there is a very different kind of Venus pasage, this one including Adonis.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Sensuality in paper
First Person edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan just arrived. It is weird, how some of these books about new media are such wonderful examples of the sensuos experience of the bound, fleshworld paper book.
My heroic strength
"Now in this extension of my volition and my physical frame into another animal, my tyrannical instincts and my desire for heroic strength are at once gratified."

Bruce Rolston quotes Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr in the article The Killer App Of The 19th Century. Rolston writes of cybersports, and links to the original ideals of developing the mind and soul through sports, rather than the body - which was, at the time, well developed through manual labour.

Online sports can be understood as online sport-simulator games or even as collections of sports memorabilia, available online. But Rolston speaks of the developing community of competitive gaming, where some few professionals are able to make a living from their passion. The Norwegian player "Slayer" (real name Fredrik) was offerent a contract in 2001, of playing professionally in Korea for a year. (The picture isn't of Slayer, but of the world's best Quake player at the time, "Zero4".) Some of our students made a documentary about him, Alias: Slayer, and it was sent on Norwegian Broadcasting.

This emphasises the importance of understanding sports, team-sports strategy and competitiveness when we explore gaming, and not just the intellectual and very academic game of mastery and understanding.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

We repeat: games are not dangerous
Some articles in Norwegian newspapers, June 1st: Espen Aarseth about the new reality created by technology, an article from may 6th comes up with some interesting statistics on media use among Norwegian children, and me, June 1st, saying that the modern society has no secret rooms for children, yes, very Henry Jenkins inspired.

A summary for non-Norwegians: Espen puts an emphasis on the connection between culture, virtual representations, technology and economy, and shows how technology is interweaved with modern culture. The article with the statistics shows that children who use computers a lot are as active in other games and activities as children who don't. It shows that children still use television a lot more than they do computers. See also Jill's blog for statistics on Norwegian media use. I am repeating the "don't blame the technology, it is a product of our culture (or at least, someone's culture)" mantra I have been pushing for years.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Warning: violent and gooey
This example of linux bashing should really speak to the media watchers out there. Look what games get us to do: equip uncorrupted polar bears and take it all out on innocent cuddly creatures!

(PS: highscore so far: 619,74)