Sunday, December 20, 2009

Årsakssammenhenger og spill

I anledning VGs ualminnelig dårlige artikkel om sammenhengen mellom et drap på Kongsvinger og spilling av World of Warcraft og Counterstrike, vil jeg vise til en artikkel om skoleskytinger og moralske panikker. Denne artikkelen kritiserer den overforenklede ideen om at mennesker ikke er i stand til å skille mellom fantasi og virkelighet, og den like enkle forskningen som underbygger denne konklusjonen - blant annet ved å vise til et solid forskningsmateriale som gir andre/alternative svar. Samtidig viser den til FBIs funn når det gjelder drapsmenn som spiller spill (s 28 i C. J. Fergusons artikkel):
The FBI report appeared to focus on individuals who approved of hateful or destructive messages in the media, rather than merely enjoying the media for entertainment purposes. For instance, an individual who praised Mein Kampf and its message of racism and hatred would arguably be considered more ‘at risk’ than would someone who enjoyed playing the violent video game Medal of Honor because it was fun. Indeed, related to violent video games, the FBI report specifically stated, “The student spends inordinate amounts of time [although inordinate is never defined and is left subjective] playing video games with violent themes and seems more interested in the violent images than the game itself ” [italics added]. Thus, an overall interest in causing harm is potentially predictive of violence, not exposure to violent media in and of itself, a conclusion supported by the recent Savage, (2008) meta-analysis.

I følge FBI er altså ikke årsakssammenhengen mediebruk -> vold, men interesse for å bruke vold -> mediebruk. Altså, hvis du liker/ønsker å bruke vold er du interessert i medieuttrykk som inneholder vold. Videre påpeker de at voldsmenn som bruker spill er mer interessert i voldshandlinger enn å kose seg med å spille. De er altså fokusert på våpen og vold, uansett kontekst.

VG gjentar imidlertid et mantra som har kommet inn i mediene for en del år siden, og de gjentar det ved å ta kontakt med personer som har sagt akkurat det samme i årevis. De overser konsekvent all forskning som viser noe annet enn denne overforenklede årsakssammenhengen.

(The above is a public service research-reference directed at Norwegian readers who might be interested in alternatives to a piece of intense and single-minded journalism claiming that gaming leads to serious crime.)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Sustainability, Participation, Action

Call for Papers
Internet Research 11.0 - Sustainability, Participation, Action

The 11th Annual International and Interdisciplinary Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR)
October 21-23, 2010 University of Gothenburg/Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden

The challenge of this conference is to find multiple avenues for participation and action towards a sustainable future. In a society increasingly aware of social and ecological imbalance, many people now see information and communication technologies as key technologies for solving problems associated with an unsustainable future. However, while information technology may solve some problems, it can magnify others. As pointed out by world forums such as the United Nations and the European Commission, use of ICTs contributes to the unsustainable consumption of energy and resources. Similarly, unequal access and exploitative practices remind us that IT is not a utopian answer to complex social problems. A sustainable future is not only about greening processes and products at any cost, but also entails social responsibility, cultural protection and economic growth. Therefore the conference has a multi-dimensional focus, where the Internet is seen as a possible liberating, empowering and greening tool.

The conference will focus on how the Internet can function as a conduit for the development of greater global equality and understanding, a training ground for participation in debates and cross-cultural projects and a tool for mutual action; in short a technology of empowerment. The flip-side of the internet as a tool for empowerment is the issue of exploitation. Exploitation of resources and people is what has led to the current crisis, and issues of exploitation are highly relevant online, from abuse of the commons to censorship, fraud and loss of privacy and the protection of the rights of the individual.

Sustainability, Participation, Action invites scholars to consider issues concerning empowerment and/or exploitation in relation to the Internet. We ask scholars to specifically consider issues concerning integrity, knowledge production, and ethics in relation to the Internet and sustainable development. How do we, as Internet researchers, regard our work in relation to the unsustainable current situation and the possibilities of a sustainable future? How far can we take the Internet, and with it, people, individuals, groups and societies in order to create an arena for participation and action, all key elements in imagining a sustainable future? How can we apply previous knowledge to serve future solutions?

To this end, we call for papers, panel proposals, and presentations from any discipline, methodology, and community, and from conjunctions of multiple disciplines, methodologies and academic communities that address the conference themes, including papers that intersect and/or interconnect the following:

Internet and an equal and balanced society
Internet as an arena for participation
Internet as a tool and arena for action
Internet and an informed knowledge society
Internet and a green society
Internet and e‐commerce, dematerialization and transportation
Internet and security, integrity and surveillance
Internet and a healthy society
Internet as an arena for cultural expressions, and source of a culture of its own.

Sessions at the conference will be established that specifically address the conference themes, and we welcome innovative, exciting, and unexpected takes on those themes. We also welcome submissions on topics that address social, cultural, political, legal, aesthetic, economic, and/or philosophical aspects of the Internet beyond the conference themes. In all cases, we welcome disciplinary and interdisciplinary submissions as well as international collaborations from both AoIR and non‐AoIR members.

We seek proposals for several different kinds of contributions. We welcome proposals for traditional academic conference PAPERS and we also welcome proposals for ROUNDTABLE SESSIONS that will focus on discussion and interaction among conference delegates, as well as organized PANEL PROPOSALS that present a coherent group of papers on a single theme. All submissions should be submitted here.

Call for Papers Released: 24 November 2009
Submissions Due: 21 February 2010 (Details here)
Notification: 21 April 2010
Full papers due: 21 August 2010

All papers and presentations in this session will be evaluated in a standard blind peer review.

PAPERS (individual or multi-author) - submit abstract of 600-800 words
FULL PAPERS (OPTIONAL): For submitters requiring peer review of full papers, manuscripts of up to 8,000 words will be accepted for review. These will be reviewed and judged separately from abstract submissions
PANEL PROPOSALS - submit a 600-800 word description of the panel theme, plus 250-500 word abstract for each paper or presentation
ROUNDTABLE PROPOSALS - submit a statement indicating the nature of the roundtable discussion and interaction
Papers, presentations and panels will be selected from the submitted proposals on the basis of multiple blind peer review, coordinated and overseen by the Program Chair. Each individual is invited to submit a proposal for 1 paper or 1 presentation. A person may also propose a panel session, which may include a second paper that they are presenting. An individual may also submit a roundtable proposal. You may be listed as co-author on additional papers as long as you are not presenting them.

Selected papers from the conference will be published in a special issue of the journal Information, Communication & Society, edited by Caroline Haythornthwaite and Lori Kendall. Authors selected for consideration for submission to this issue will be contacted prior to the conference.

All papers submitted to the conference system will be available to AoIR members after the conference.

On October 20, 2010, there will be a limited number of pre-conference workshops which will provide participants with in-depth, hands-on and/or creative opportunities. We invite proposals for these pre-conference workshops. Local presenters are encouraged to propose workshops that will invite visiting researchers into their labs or studios or locales. Proposals should be no more than 1000 words, and should clearly outline the purpose, methodology, structure, costs, equipment and minimal attendance required, as well as explaining relevance to the conference as a whole. Proposals will be accepted if they demonstrate that the workshop will add significantly to the overall program in terms of thematic depth, hands on experience, or local opportunities for scholarly or artistic connections. These proposals and all inquiries regarding pre-conference proposals should be submitted as soon as possible to both the Conference Chair and Program Chair and no later than March 31, 2010.

In order to increase the diversity of participation in the AoIR annual Internet Research (IR) conferences, the Association of Internet Researchers will make available up to three conference fee waivers per year. The number of fee waivers will depend first of all upon the ability of the conference budget to sustain such waivers (a judgment to be made by the AoIR Executive Committee upon the advice of the AoIR Treasurer and the local organizing committee) as well as upon the quality of the applications for fee waivers.

Applications for fee waivers are invited from student or faculty authors whose paper or panel proposals have already been accepted via the AoIR IR conference reviewing process. All applications should be directed to the Vice-President of AoIR, and must be received by June 30 of the conference year. Late applications cannot be considered. More information and submission guidelines will be published in a separate announcement.

Program Chair: Torill Elvira Mortensen, Volda University College, Norway.
Conference Co-Chairs and Coordinators: Ann-Sofie Axelsson, Chalmers University of Technology and Ylva Hård af Segerstad, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Important Dates

Submissions Due 21 February 2010

Notifications of Acceptance 21 Apr 2010

Abstract Revisions Due7 May 2010

Full Papers Due 21 August 2010

Pre-Conference Workshops 20 Oct 2010

Main Conference 21-23 Oct 2010

Monday, December 07, 2009

Thinking with your brain

An interesting piece of research, studying the Buddhist brain, shows that meditation works on the brain sufficiently to change the electromagnetic activity. This is very interesting, and while I have never managed to meditate (I fall asleep the moment my thoughts start calming down), it might be a much better alternative for children with attention dysfunctions than drugs.

The research is, of course, questioned, the way research should be. Wired has an interesting report of the almost religious mood when Dalai Lama addresses the scientists involved in the project or interested in the project.

This is a very real project, leaning heavily on technology and established neuro science. Mind & Life institute in Boulder describes it among their research grants, where the research is taking place in two different laboratories, situated in Wisconsin and Paris.

One of the leaders of the project is a Richard J. Davidson, and while I am not a neuroscientist, his list of publications implies updated participation in relevant research, with publications on his work in relevant journals.

So, what if the Mind & Life institute works to integrate Buddhism and science? I find it fascinating and uplifting when mysticism is not defensive, but opens up to science - and the other way around.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Google google google

When Google became the most used search engine and also started their own mail system, people started to worry. I am a little slow, so it took a while, but now that I am playing around with Google wave, desperately trying to figure out a use for it, I realise that I have been pwned.

I have several gmail-accounts, because it's so convenient to organise and also share according to projects when I know which box things come into, I use Google documents all the time, and I have my blogs at blogger. Which is, yes, Google owned. It's almost a relief that Yahoo owns Flickr, where I have a lot of my pictures. And now, Google wave.

So, let's try to look past the hype, and see if Google wave can become useful.

The main problem with all the google "thingies" is that despite the Google ownership, they aren't integrated. Well, not quite true - Google talk, Google's instant messenger (before wave), works wonderfully inside gmail. It is actually an added incentive to having the gmail box open, some of my favourite people are available that way. However, if I open Google documents - a very useful feature for coproduction of documents - both the email and the chat ends up in the background. The same happens if I open Google wave. This means that when I want to use the one or the other, I have to choose. That's rubbish. Ideally I would want to edit a document in Google docs (I think this is the most useful and innovative application google has come up with so far), be able to see if I got a relevant mail and comment instantly in the messenger, all without leaving the window I am in. If I have a google wave running (and I can absolutely see how the combination editing a google document/staying in touch with co-conspirators via live waves can work great) at the same time, I would want to see that it's been updated immediately, and particularly if it's a wave that is relevant for the work I am doing.

As long as Google Wave is seperate from the rest of the Google applications, it's about as useful as ICQ was, way back when. Actually, when ICQ entered the arena, instant messengers were new and uncommon and it was immensely useful. It had the messages, just like todays many different systems, but the live conference feature was organised in boxes and not like an IM. This meant that during a live update, you could choose to see the conversation not chronologically, but organised by sender, the way we experience a flesh world conversation. "Oh, wait a moment, you said something interesting," becomes relevant - and it can be re-found with a minimum of scrolling.

So far I haven't found a way to use Google wave better than ye olde ICQ. The interesting thing with all the google-apps is the potential, and that's huge. With some intelligent connections and user-friendly design they can soon connect everything. And when you have everything and a blog, then there's no stopping you at all - at least not in this society where the importance of social media is continously increasing.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Trinity, help!

Just because this is a movie-piece that puts so much together - play, popular culture, cyberculture and animation:

Thanks to Pål Hellesnes for the original pointer to it, BoingBoing for putting it where one of my friends could find it, and of course the folks behind legomatrix, Trevor Boyd and Steve Ihlett for spending 440 hours on making the 44 second long scene.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A bit of my past, to the highest bidder

When I was four years old, we moved from a cold, moist and unhealthy basement on a farm, to this house. The change was immense. Of course, for the first 20 years we couldn't afford to live in all of it, it had been designed for two families, and we rented half of it to students and tourists, depending on seasons. And so I had moved out before it was all "ours." Still, it's been the family house for almost 44 years, my father drew and built it for us, and the light of that house is part of my earlier memories. Nothing like falling asleep on the living-room floor, in the patch of sunlight from the large windows, when you're 6 years old and cold from a long morning of exploring what was at that time still open land between our house and the ocean. I was like a cat, soaking up the warmth, or perhaps a plant, embracing the light.

Now we are selling it. None of us have plans of moving back to Ålesund, even if we grieve as we let it go. I'll never live in a house like that again, the view, the light, the space... my parents had very few luxuries in their life, but they had Vindheim, and loved it with fierce passion.

Oh well. I can afford the luxury of nostalgia now, as we are selling, but I am not so well off that I can afford to indulge it. Good bye, Vindheim, and may some other little girl find out how warm and wonderful that spot on the floor really is. Mom and dad - don't make her go somewhere else with her toys, even if it is inconvenient. It's really the warmest, nicest place in the whole house.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

All you need is to have no life

Jonas Linderoth at the University of Gothenburg published an article in "Digital Læring" or Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy on the value of games for learning. The title "It is not hard, it just requires having no life - Computer games and the illusion of learning" positions the article as a stumbling block right in the middle of the over-enthusiastic rush towards games as a solution for modern education.

I had heard about and disagreed with this article several times before publishing, but reading it I am almost inclined to agree with it. Linderoth points out that there are two ways to gain skills in games. One is by learning to jump better, learning to think more tactically than the opponent or in some other way use the resources at hand better. The other way to gain skills in games is by doing repetitive tasks until you are rewarded with a level, an object or some other affordance that makes your avatar stronger. In short: he makes a clear distinction between what you learn as a player, and what affordances your avatar gains.

So far I am with him, and I think it's a very important consideration. The general belief that games make learning easier is severely flawed. The most important flaw is however in my opinion the belief that games makes it easier to teach what is on some curriculum. I don't know about the rest of the world, but here in Norway we have certain things pupils are supposed to learn each year, and their progress as well as the success of the teachers and the educational system is measured by how well they are able to learn these particular things. Outside of those skills, what the pupil or student learns doesn't count. So if you learn how to dance salsa really well, that does nothing for your grades in mathematics.

Games tend to teach you how to salsa, when what you should have learned is to do maths. If you don't want the game to teach salsa, you have to remove all options for dancing, and only leave options for mathematics. Linderoth describes his argument of the relationship between affordances and skills:
What I aim to illustrate is that a game system can be designed in such a way that you can progress in the game to a certain degree without adapting yourself to the system. A system that means that a gamer can succeed without the effort of mastering gaming skills. Phrased in a more theoretical way this is an issue about how new affordances are introduced in the gaming activity (p 10).

So, to sum up the argument - somewhat brutally, I admit: in order to learn something from a game, or develop as a gamer, the game should have static affordances. No new skills with new levels, no new tools, no gold or achievements, only you and your skill. Most common games which are typical agôn games are like this. They take you to the arena, read you the rules and give you your game-piece. Then it's just you, the board and your fellow gamers, and nothing changes within that frame.

Games where you can gain affordances simply by working diligently at simple tasks are, according to Linderoth, not games from which you can learn anything.

In the light of Scott Rettberg's article on "Corporate Ideology in World of Warcraft," in Digital Culture, Play and Identity, this is an interesting claim. Rettbergs argument is that exactly the grinding aspect of World of Warcraft is what makes it an ideal training ground for capitalist work ethics (p. 32). So, on the one hand you don't learn anything from grinding, on the other hand it's perfect training for many of the positions you can expect to hold as an employee today.

Now, Rettberg's argument gives strong ideological reasons to adapt Linderoth's position on games with non-static affordances, but I am still not totally convinced. The reason is that both in World of Warcraft (Rettberg) and World of Conflict (Linderoth), personal skill is the most important feature for satisfying gaming.

Most players who play a game with levels more than once, learn how to use levelling as just another fixed affordance, and so learn to become better at it, do it quicker and with better results. You can use levelling processes to learn more about the story of the game, hence use it to gain narrative satisfaction, or you can aim at aquiring particularly useful objects which you will then not have to return for later.

The problem with Linderoth's argument, where increased skill and new tools and resources pull in different directions, is that this conflict is just skin deep. For the players who play through a game that demands leveling more than once, the apparently increasing affordances they gain access to become fixed. There are just that many quests, just that many abilities, just that many levels, and that is what you have to play with. Yes, it takes longer to reach that point, and players who think a game ends just because they have reached a certain level, may feel that it's all about grinding. But players have other experiences from games of progression. The game researcher Kristine Jørgensen at the University of Bergen recently wrote a glowing description of her experiences with the new game Dragon Age: Origins, and all who have followed her descriptions of the play process on Facebook know that she is planning to go back to old saves in order to explore the game much further.

Now, we can argue that exploring old saves does not lead to learning, as it's just about repetition of something already done. But for a game which reveales a story that's even experienced as a moral story, a fable even, replaying old saves is a way to delve deeper into the conflicts, the parables and the lessons of fiction, and hence absolutely a way to learn... even if there are levels and new skills and objects to be gained on the way.

However, Linderoth does actually say something along these lines:
The relationship between the player’s skill and progression in using tools and resources is not something fixed, but rather fluid. In one and the same game there can be moments that require more or less skill. It is not as simple as saying that just because a game introduces new tools and resources the player never has to develop her or his skill (p. 12).

But I find that he loses sight of this in his final words:
Games and education have completely different conditions. While games are designed to make players happy, educational practices are legitimate as long as they offer students the opportunity to learn something. To design educational tasks where you can succeed by just waiting and doing some extremely simple, non-challenging activities is hardly appropriate. That would be like giving someone on a diet a set of scales that showed weight loss without the person actually loosing any weight. Maybe the things that make a player motivated while playing games neither can nor should be brought into schools (p. 17).

First, learning is very much about repetition. You learn how to do a certain task, and then you drill that task until you can repeat it easily and quickly. This is how you learn how to do maths, how to play instruments, how to read and write. Each repetition is simple and non-challenging.

Next, you gain new affordances all the time, as you learn. When you have repeated one piece of music until you know how to play it, you get a new set of notes. Perhaps you get to play together with people with different instruments. You get to play in some new spot. Boring repetition leads to increased skill, new affordances and new achievements. You do actually gain levels, and you are not stuck on the same limited board with the same game-pieces for the rest of your life. Rather, if you keep repeating the same things without gaining new affordances, in real life you're stuck on a corner of the game board, without looking up to see that you're just playing a tiny part of the game.

Still, I think that Linderoth's article is very important for developing pedagogic games. I just agree with him on a different premise. I agree because what educators need isn't a virtual representation of how the world really is, but a way to see how pupils perform at a certain set of tasks given limited affordances. For this the games Linderoth promotes would be just perfect.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

In memory

Suddenly they are cool again, all the things my parents did way back when. And today the lovely Serena shared a link with me, for something which reminds me particularly strongly of my mother. We have inherited hundreds of bottles of the stuff. This summer I just might test if any of it has survived.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Meta-blog post, since it's been a while

I am no longer blogging as actively as I did, and I am glad of it. As Alex Halavais predicted, in five years we'd be embarassed by having been really active bloggers. Well, it's not that bad, but I see that both my own writing and the structure from the technology has changed since 2001.

I blog more about events now, travels, conferences, meetings, and less commentary and opinions, also, a lot less from my private life. Oh, it's all still there, but it has changed, become toned down. Partly this is caused by a couple of rather upsetting events, where the weblog became focus for actions that spilled over into other media, and led to an overwhelming feeling of professional and personal isolation here, at this small college. I still don't think it was possible to avoid what happened, but I might have been able to do some more damage control. Or not. Who knows.

Also, my personal life is a lot more boring now. What do I do? I work, travel to conferences and occasionally on a vacation, and spend the evenings working, doingchores or playing WoW. Yes, I still do that. I tried to swap to Age of Conan, but the lag killed my interest. I just ordered Dragon Age, perhaps playing single-player games for a while will help. Also, I am healthier, the result of watching what I eat, working out and not obsessively writing a book or thesis, and plain health is boring. I don't even have anything to whine about. From January I'll also be free of the administration of the PR, communication and media education (new name since this autumn), which will hopefully lead to more time for reflection and creativity around the topic of social media. The dean wants me to plan a couple of courses as a start. I'd like that, to be able to teach what I research.

And I think facebook has changed my blogging, too. A lot of the general commenting and tracking has moved from here to there. Oh, and then there's the weblog, where I put the more researched blogposts on games. It's in Norwegian, so I don't double post it. Now, considering, that's too bad. I should at least link those posts.

Anyway, that's what's going on here. I am not going to promise the posting will pick up. I am actually quite happy with my online/offline balance at the moment.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Security, risk, crisis

I am in Trondheim at a conference about safety and risk, where I have been invited to be on a panel organised by the Research Council of Norway, who organise their own conference in conjunction with "Sikkerhetsdagene" - the security days. The topic for the panel is media, crisis and panic.

I have to admit this feels a bit out of my field, but when I arrived just in time for last night's dinner, I was greeted enthusiastically by a friend I barely had time to get to know before he left Volda, and since lost touch with, Professor Peter Burgess at PRIO, the International Peace Research Institute of Oslo.

"What are you doing here?" I asked, subtle as ever. "Oh," he responded, "this Norwegian question, how to answer that?" It turns out that these are his people, as the research group he is leading in PRIO is concerned with security. And so it clicked into place, the talks I had noticed him doing earlier, about Security in Europe. Meeting him saved the evening for me, and reminded me why I missed him when he left Volda for other fields. Some people understand what you're talking about, you know. Which, after all, is why we go to conferences: To meet the people who understand what we're saying, and listen to the ones talking our own tribal language.

The panel I am on is quite interesting, in relation to both my teaching and my research. The session is lead by one of Norway's most interesting law and informatics scholars, who is also a science fiction author (yes, this is one of my long-time heroes) Jon Bing (he has wikipedia entries in both book- and new-Norwegian). Leading the panel debate is Eva Bratholm, a former journalist now leading the information department of Norad, Norwegian Agency of Development Cooperation. Then there's Tone Bergan from The Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning, two full professors, Tore Bjørgo and Rune Ottosen, and ... me.

*smartassed overconfident finishing remark deleted*

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sustainability, Participation, Action

Next year's AOIR conference, IR 11.0, is in Gothenburg October 6-9th 2010, and the local chairs are the lovely ladies Ann-Sofie Axelsson and Ylva Hård af Segerstad. They have a program chair who is not quite as lovely, actually a grumpy old bitch, but you know, program chairs need to be the bad guys. I have said yes to that job, and I am looking forwards to it. Ann-Sofie and Ylva are both very enthusiastic about making a conference that aims at the future, and while I tend to be a little tentative about the future I desperately want there to be one. I do however think we need to cooperate if we want a future, and we need to act - preferably in some sort of agreed way.

The CFP isn't done yet, but will be soon now, as the Super Scandinavian Consortium is on its feet and cooperating. It can't get better than this: A Norwegian to mess things up by asking importune questions, and two Swedes to cover over and make things run smoothly after all. And if you don't get that last reference, you're not Scandinavian, and have a long way to go yet...

But you can start with a trip to Gothenburg! See you all there in 2010!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Me, feminism, again

I was asked to be part of a panel with a group of wonderful scholars, all female, for a conference next year. It was a very flattering request, and, weak soul that I am, decided that I wanted to be part of it the moment I read "I have been teaching your work." I mean - somebody uses my work in classrooms. Gosh, that's as close to immortality as I ever expect to come.

Anyway, I dawled a little over the response, because I am always stunned when I find that people think of me as a feminist. I think I am just a humanist, a person who happens to be female, but who cares about the system within which we all live. I think of my work not as restricted by gender or viewpoint, I am studying players and I study them independent of their gender. At the same time I am very aware that gender influences them, as players, and it influences me, as a researcher.

In a way, when I see myself presented as a feminist scholar I have a flashback to a conversation with my daughter. Her teacher had rounded on her saying "you, who are Torill's daughter, can't have such ignorant opinions of gender!" My daughter was truly upset, because she didn't understand what she had done wrong. It took a long conversation to try to make sense of it. Our final conclusion was that my daughter's role models as a woman are me and my four very strong sisters.

What do the other four do? One runs a successful export/import firm, another has an expanding business of design and craft on top of teaching, one is a well respected artist, and the fourth has her heart and attention on leading live-action role-play games, one of the few female GMs in Norway. We always did what we wanted, despite gender, class, culture, economy, ethnicity and geography working against us. Actually in that mix of obstacles we ignored, gender was just another issue. Between the five of us, my bright and wonderful daughter had never even considered that she couldn't do just what she wanted.

By the time my daughter and I had come around to that, we had agreed that yeah, we were feminists, because if we were to isolate gender from the rest of the soup that influences humanity, then we were definitely, she and I, on the feminist side. We just were a little handicapped when it came to seeing the specifically gender-related topics.

Now, I'd be a bad feminist if I didn't tell you about my son and how he taught me about gender studies. You see, he is the one who dwells on gender issues, explores the limitations and affordances of masculinity, questions, criticizes and discusses them. But that's for some other time.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Why I really should read CFPs more closely

I just finished an article I am now quite happy with and would love to see published, on player ethics and pleasure in games, and enthusiastically I looked up the CFP of the magazine I was asked to contribute to, in order to see where I should send it.

I have written 7000 words too much.

I can cut 2000, perhaps 3000 if I really go through and remove all redundancy (I probably should do anyway), but reducing the paper by more than half?

BTW: Cutting is going fine. Not even sarcastic about that! I may not make all 7000, but it's really useful to start killing darlings! It's an important part of the process, as well. What comes out at the other end will be the important material. At least I hope so!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


What you're looking at here is an image from the Norwegian weather site, showing the weather in Urbino for 48 hours. The temperature is about the same as in Volda, and if you notice the dip in the red line towards the slightly thicker line, Friday it's coming frighteningly close - that means it falls down almost to freezing. There's snow in the mountains in the distance (luckily, note distance), and I have been shopping for warm clothing. I now have a very exclusive italian wool jacket made in Toscana, and the cap and gloves I put into the bag when I got on the plane out of Norway, not planning to use until I got back, are actually getting use!

Email issues

If you have sent me an email to the address and not gotten a response, that's because for some reason when using webmail from the University of Urbino's network I only get to look at mails there for about 60 seconds, then I get kicked and need to relog. Although I can't just relog, I have to restart the browser, then relog. This means that for every minute spent reading mail, I spend two - three relogging. So, if it's really important, make sure to mark the mail urgent or, if you're one of the people who know my gmail address, please use that.

Monday, October 12, 2009

And the skies opened...

After a week offline, I am finally at a stable connection with my own machine. Oh, the luxury! I am in the Larica office, at the University of Urbino, just arrived by way of Ancona from Alghero, Sardinia. As the plane landed the skies opened, and out poured one happy and rested Norwegian scholar - and a huge deluge of rain, with thunder and lightening added. As we entered the University - an hour delayed due to the weather - the first words spoken by a student on his way out was "Madonna, ce freddo!!!" That doesn't really need translation, hmm?

So, well, I feel quite at home - cold, rain and internet!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Food feeds the soul

While I know my cooking has little to do with soul food, I enjoy cooking on many levels, from the simple pleasure of eating the results, to the process as a flow experience, where each step is its own reward in a process of scents, colours and textures as much as taste. And so when a group of game researchers from the Norwegian network JoinGame gathered in Volda, I had a chance to prepare by cooking. The result was a three course dinner: Grilled fennel, baked eggplant and chocolate mousse.

The fennel was good, but not stunning, so I'll just skip that, but I was asked for the recipe for the eggplant, so here it is, for 4 persons:

4 large eggplants
2 tbs olive oil + extra for the eggplants
1 small onion
800 g chopped tinned tomatoes
2 tbs chopped fresh basil
50-75 g freshly grated parmesan
200 g mozarella, thinly sliced
seasalt and freshly grated black pepper

Cut the eggplant in 1 1/4 cm thick strips. Leave them in salted water for 30 minutes.

Heat the oil in a frying pan, and fry the onion until it's soft. Put in tomatoes and basil, and let this bubble slowly for about 30 minutes.

Let the eggplant drain, clean them in fresh water and pat them dry. Deep fry them or brush with oil and bake them at about 180 degrees Celcius for 20 minutes.

Put a layer of eggplants in the bottom of a oven-proof pot. Then a layer of grated parmesan, mozarella and then the tomato sauce. Repeat this, to end with a layer of tomatoes if you want a soft top, or cheese if you want a more dry, crisp top layer.

Bake this at 180 degrees Celcius for 30-35 minutes, until it bubbles and is golden on top. Take out and put aside for 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm or room tempered.

For the dessert, loads of dark chocolate, here for 2 persons:

100 g 70% (at least) chocolate
juice and zest of one orange
2 eggs, seperated

Melt the chocolate gently in a fireproof bowl over a pot of hot water. Don't let the bowl touch the boiling water. Cool the chocolate and then stir in orange juice, zest and egg yolks. Beat the egg whites firmly, then gently cut one spoon of whites into the chocolate mixture, before you put everything in. Put the mousse in two high glasses and cool until it's set. decorate with orange peels before serving.

This mousse is so intense that I prefer to serve it with a dash of cream. It is not particularly sweet, so it does not demand coffee to go with it, but it is very rich, so you don't need a large portion.

Later on the poor, overfed gamers were served warm apple cake and tea.

What's up in Volda?

What's worth blogging, one asks oneself once in a while. And hey, let's admit it, the world won't stop spinning if I don't blog. I do however find that something else stops spinning, and that's those wheels in my brain. I am, as the blog indicates, a person who thinks while writing. Or, that's not true: I am a person who needs to write in order to organise my thoughts.

I find that I ramble more and more to my students. Their stunned looks when I pause in an attempt to trace down the core of the thought I had, the idea I want to communicate to them, indicates that I have been off on some totally undisciplined tangent, and bombarded them with apparently unrelated facts. This happens because I have deliberately stopped writing out my lectures. There was a day when I refused to face students without 20 pages, double space, 12 points. That's 45X45 minutes of pretty steady talking, in case you wondered. But no more. I put down the most important facts, I find some ways to illustrate those, and then I try to connect the dots. It's those connections that occasionally get a little - fragile.

But I am still writing. I am just about to finish up an article I write with Luca, Rene and Kristine. I have to download and bring with me the material from my project this spring, in order to write it up, not yet in article form then at least in a form that lets me access the material easily. I have to rewrite an article for a collection Esther asked if I could contribute to. I have a research grant sketch on my machine. I have a plan for a much larger research grant based off the material from the "Gamer's Space" project. Basically, I can spend the time from now until Christmas writing, and still not be done. I have two weeks in which to do it.

And in the mean time, I write and play other stuff. Last night I made an experiment to see if people would/could come to my farm-town toons' wedding. I had a few guests, it was, as Rene stated, an intimate wedding. Which is just as well, as they revealed quite a bit of the future development of the drama on the farm. Yes, I am creating a drama on there, and I am trying to track the use of the game in order to do it. Right now, for instance, I need to gain a new level before I can get on with the story, because I need a greenhouse. Once that is in place betrayal, tragedy and the final plot twist will follow.

Also, I have been asked to reveal the secrets of my aubergine, tomatoes and cheese course from last week's game researcher dinner. But that deserves a blogpost all of it's own.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Flow, seduction...

Just updated the link to my paper from "Other Players" in Copenhagen 2004. The online conference proceedings have disappeared, but I found an electronic version of the article, and now the link leads to my own version.

I have no idea what happened to the conference proceedings, but I hope you enjoy the paper, even if it's aging.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Variety and familiarity

So far the DiGRA09 conference moves along smoothly, aided by a tremendous effort from the organisers. Tanya, Helen, Esther, Patrick, Justin, Barry and the rest of the crew working to make this work out are really WORKING.

On the presentation side, cancellations and no-shows have made the program very "roomy". While this makes for a relaxed atmosphere which people uses as an opportunity to talk, explore and exchange ideas, it tends to make people a little restless, as we all wonder what's going on in the other rooms.

The conference games are as usual played more intently by some than by others. I had some fun reading the rules and trying one of them yesterday, but then the interesting backchatter twitter game was forgotten due to the fact that I would have to plan the words for the next session, and not the current one. This creates a disruption in the flow of the conference, as it means I have to concentrate on what is to come by doing it. Also - seriously, how grand do you think our batteries are? There's no place to plug in the computer, and I am not taking the machine out in the cramped coffee/tea area just to send off a couple of twitter messages. So they need to wait until next session... when I am thinking about the session, not next backchatter round. Sorry about that, because it's a great idea.

As for the other game - well, I have the cards with me, but I just don't remember them at the vital moments when I could do something with them. Perhaps that game will take off during dinner.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

At Digra 2009

So here I am, at Brunel University, in incredibly lovely weather. Since I left Volda in pouring rain and +10 degrees Celcius, I was really not ready for +20 and sunshine.

I flew in to Heathrow, and that seems to have been the best choice, as Brunel in Uxbridge isn't exactly in the heart of London. From terminal 3, where SAS out of Scandinavia landed, the U3 bus went straight from the Central bus station to Brunel. It cost 2 pounds, and was very easy.

So now I am here and ready to listen to four days of presentations. Last night the game researchers all drifted in, ending in the local pub. There are still local pubs in England, for which I am very thankful - we're not exactly right on any fancy restaurant streets.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Endless frustration partially ended

Yesterday seemed to be a day of nothing but frustration. On top of the issue with the fraudulent co-author on, I got the gaming machine back from repair.

First, it took a MONTH to exchange a ram chip and the mouse plate around the touchpad.

When it returned, it was wiped of all information, even the drivers were all gone. I had to reinstall all drivers, and no, that did not happen easily and automatically. I also had to update and reinstall all the programs I had put in.

I am updating wow as I type, but all of that feels like child's play after I got up at 2 am tonight, unable to sleep from frustration, and finally managed to find the right way to install the drivers that followed the computer when it was new. Then I let it work on installing windows updates the rest of the night.

Anyway, this is for the Norwegians out there.

Hvis du tenker på å kjøpe en Asus maskin, tenk et par ganger til hvis du ikke er i nærheten av verkstedet deres på Kjeller, og du ikke tar automatisk back-up av arbeidet ditt hele tiden. Det tar lang tid å få deler, på tross av et godt system for å sjekke hva som skjer får du ikke noe mer hjelp enn dette når det begynner å drøye, og du kan ikke regne med at de tar vare på dataene på harddisken din. Den blir slettet, selv om feilen er et helt annet sted. Maskinen i seg selv er god, men det hjelper lite når den til nå har tibrakt en av fire måneder på verkstedet, og jeg har mistet mye av arbeidet jeg gjorde før RAM-kortet ble ødelagt.

Rett skal være rett, etter en måned tilbød de meg kompensasjon for at det tok så lang tid - en trådløs mus. Men det er ikke akkurat en fullgod erstatning for at jeg har vært uten et viktig arbeidsredskap i mer enn en måned.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Abusing user-generated information

Logging in to admire my lovely book on, I discovered something really weird. Suddenly, I had a co-author.

Somebody had, for some weird reason, put a Michael Peters as co-author of my book.

Where was he while I was struggling to put together that text? That long dark winter in Umeå, I could have used some company! But no.

I suspect that I have been the victim of an attack, where somebody have suggested that Michael Peters be added. It's now possible to change the information on Amazon. I have tried to use that to change things back, but it has not yet been updated. I tried again today, this time with a link to the publisher's page for the book.

What this means is that we can no longer trust Amazon for information on literature - neither author, publisher, editor or number of pages, all of which can be changed through this function concerning product information. Now, I normally use libraries for that stuff anyway, but, you know, sometimes Amazon is so nicely convenient. But now, obviously, also unreliable.

And who the #¤%& is Michael Peters?

I alerted about the problem through the system for book information updates, but nothing happened. corrected the issue the next working day, and the book shows correctly on their site now. still has to respond to my attempts of alerting them to the matter, but I called their sales contacts, and got the phone number to Nielsen Bookdata, their supplier. I have not had time to call yet, but I emailed a bunch of their editors, hoping somebody cares :)

Updated again:
The French version of Amazon has now corrected their information, and Nielsen Bookdata came back to me. Turns out they are not responsible (of course not), but they contacted the company they get their data from, Ingrams in USA. I assume that means Ingram Book company, and they expect the data to be corrected in 1-2 weeks.

However, while this is going on, the errors in the German Amazon are multiplying. Now they have not only changed authors, but also publisher. Somebody is "playing" amazon, and my book is one of their pawns. While I am pretty offended, I am also oddly fascinated. All this attention, on one little academic book!

Update: corrected the information, but in two operations. They did not react until I made them aware that the publisher was wrong, and then they corrected the publisher data, but not the author. I reported - again - the error in the author section, and then this was corrected immediately. In the cases where the error has been corrected, I used the system Amazon has implemented for user-generated metadata. For this has not worked though, and the error is still in the system.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Drilling isn't boring...

Check out this video from one of the most serious companies in Norwegian business! It's just absolutely fantastically hilarious! I am unreasonably happy that Statoil made it.

Yeah, still laughing.

OK, a quick check to see if this video was being written about. It turns out it was made for a team building seminar a couple of years ago. While it may be embarassing for the participants, who work in Statoil, I really hope they also understand that the kind of enthusiasm, self-irony and humour they express is admirable.

Another video surfaced in the process of checking though, this one from Aker, a company that among other things builds boats. This one is called "The Nutcracker", and the refrain is "have cracked worse nuts before." It received a price as the best Norwegian advertising video in 2005, some claim the best ever.

And if you think Statoil normally sends out this kind of silliness, have a look at "Tomorrow's Heroes", one truly touching movie, right up there with "Thanks for the trip" by Freia. I don't know if the sentiment carries past cultural barriers, but if you're not Norwegian just trust me, these two ads pull all the important strings in our national pride.

2009 election

It's election year in Norway, and the race for votes has started. I am a very bad watcher of politician discussions, and I much prefer to listen to them while I do something else. Looking at people talking never stimulated Me sufficiently. Perhaps I should take up knitting again, to stay awake.

However, there are some interesting websites out there, doing analysis. One such is Stortingsvalget 2009, a website that presents the online buzz before the election. They look at weblogs, at Twitter, and at the general online existence of certain words, and come up with graphs, some of which are beautifully presented. Take a look at this model of Twitter messages, for instance:

I am not entirely certain if their method of selection is quite suited for Norwegian weblogs and online discussions though. If there is a weakness to the system, my guess is that will be it. They rely heavily on technology developed by a Norwegian firm, Integrasco, which is promising, but at the same time they pull their weblog network analysis out of Technorati.

I am not quite certain how well Technorati works for Norwegian weblogs, many of which sail below the radar of popular search engines as they link in networks which may or may not have been captured by the web crawlers. Norwegian blog portals are for instance Norske Blogger, Bloggurat and, which is a very active blogg site linking to fashion blogs and young girl blogs, has very few hits at Technorati, compared to their activity level.

Now, Stortingsvalget 2009 may be compensating for the linguistic and cultural challenges, I don't know their methods that well. What it does is to demonstrate in a very interesting manner how it's possible to harvest and represent information from already existing online sources in very compelling ways.

And thanks to my colleague Inger Knude Larsen, for this interesting link!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

This is the year of reminders

In 2007 I packed up the office since I was going to be away for a year. When I came back, it took a year before I managed to unpack. There was something about the feeling of being slightly away that I enjoyed, an illusion of not being quite there. But at the same time I felt the absence of my books keenly, and one by one the boxes found their way into the office, there to be opened and rummaged through, in the search of one book or another.

Now I have managed to unpack almost all, and get them back into shelves. But then I have to make decisions like the following:

I am the proud owner of a copy of self-published material from the Institute of Nordic language and culture in Bergen, from 1983. It's not even removely relevant, and I think it used to belong to my husband. Do I throw it away? Before you say YES, I should mention that it contains two early works by professor Toril Moi, from before she finished her Dr. art. in Comparative literature.

It's 26 years old, and I bet Toril Moi would like to forget all about those two articles - one on Narcissism in Hedda Gabler, the other on Freud's Dora. I, however, find that I cherish them just because of that. In the shelves I just unpacked there should be (unless my daughter has borrowed it) a book by Toril Moi on one of the women she admires, Simone de Beauvoir. At the same time Toril Moi has almost become a similar icon to female Norwegian scholars: One of those big names that you mention to let people know that yes, there are great, successful Norwegian scholars out there.

And she came out of Bergen.

And in 1983 she published in this little, yellow booklet: Lacan * Kristeva * Freud * Hertz * Ibsen, Eigenproduksjon, nr 18, 1983.

I think I'll keep it.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Puppy eyes

Puppy eyes
Originally uploaded by Rotill
I just wanted to show you all the cutest thing ever. It is one of the puppies from Hildringens kennel, which belongs to my brother in law and my sister. Last time I visited, they had six of these! Cuteness overload!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Assisting gently or biting viciously?

I am playing two games on Facebook currently - I am part of too many for me to keep track of, but two are currently sufficiently intriguing to keep me playing. Both are fairly simple games where I do things with, to or for my facebook friends. One is Vampires. I am a vampire who can fight friends or attack random "npcs" by questing, but I can also feed non-vampire friends to my vampire friends. It's in many ways a quite satisfying game, not because of the mechanics, but due to the fiction. The game is mainly a matter of clicking and waiting for the response from the website, which informs me whether the dice rolled for or against me this time. The quests are a matter of clicking somewhere else, and see if I get one of the items which I can get randomly, or just the regular points and currency. It's actually an extremely boring game, way below solitaire. But it has two highlights. I can taunt my friends when they lose, and I can sacrifice random people to have them mauled by friends.

So, do you have a facebook friend you don't really like? Is one of your friends the boss of one of your other friends (who happens to be a vampire)? Did somebody just write the scholarly article you always wanted to write? Or do they just deserve some pain on principle? Vampires lets you take it all out on the more-or-less innocent, and you don't have to let them know they have been sacrificed. It's not a game you play with people you don't feel comfortable with, though. They have to be able to endure a beating - at least a fantasy-beating. The language is aggressive, funny and rough, and sometimes I wonder if the pleasure of playing Vampires is the same pleasure as swearing - a verbal release of emotion that can have no physical outlet.

The other game I play these days is Farmtown. This is a game where people are nice to each other, and by being nice, all gain. If you share, you get more than if you play solo, and the things you can give (and get) as gifts from your friends, are often locked to you for several levels if you want to buy them to your own farm. This means that if you want to flaunt anything, you need friends, and you need to treat them well enough that they want to share with you. Now, as all know this, the treshold for friendly behaviour is very low.

The Farmtown fiction is very satisfying in a different way. I feel like I am producing something worthwhile - or, at least, I get depressed when my harvest goes bad because I have been too lazy about the game. Also, I get to gather wealth and display it according to the dream of having a little house in the countryside. I have rows and rows of fruit trees, flowers blooming in odd places, and a small brown farmhouse that I am planning to upgrade to a white one. In a few levels I'll have rivers and bridges, and benches under the fruit trees, but currently I am restricting the decorations as I am playing for money for expansion and decoration. And I love it when people point out that I have planted in a pretty-looking way. I admire the intricate fields of some of the people I "work" for, harvesting in meandering patterns as the field is planted with plants that grow at different speeds and bloom in different colours. I particularly like the development of watermelons, and I can't wait to have peppers.

But people get their game-face on in nice little Farm Town too. Cheats and walkthroughs exist, to help you level faster. I tend to read these, but I don't think I want to, this time. I want to live in the fantasy of the hard-working farmer producing food and values out of the soil of the land. It lets me live with the knowledge that my real-life farming friends actually get their hands dirty and see results from it. Then I can go write another article about the importance of rules and affordances for ingame interaction.

Bite me.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

After Leipzig

I just returned from the GCO - Game Convention Online - in Leipzig. Invited by some of the members of the very interesting Hans Bredow Institute in Hamburg, I was fairly unprepared for the Leipzig experience.

GCO is a new convention startet as a cooperation between several actors with a vested interest in getting a larger "messe" or convention together to work, both as an attraction for the city of Leipzig, as a meeting spot for a group of game developers who are somewhat less oganised than the very established MMORPG designers, and as a place to promote and test games.

Just add academia, and you have quite a lot of different interests in the same object.

The different cultures became obvious from the first evening. In a regular academic conference I'd have been sadly overdressed for an opening, but the formal invitation where I had to write down the name of any company I wanted to bring was a hint that this wasn't a matter of a quick talk by some Headmaster before the wine and the cooling finger-food. Next to the expensive suits of the German businessmen and politicians I was still a sad, rumpled mess. What luck that I am a geek, and could wear an air of excentric distraction with authority obviously only aquired by much practice.

In the next few days the security level, the service in the speaker's lounge and the shuttle service to the hotel indicated that I was still in a culture not quite familiar. Also the sluggish internet connection at the conference grounds (totally lacking in the speakers' lounge - how did they expect us to prepare in there - free coffee does not make up for no net) and the lack of free wireless at the four-star hotel were indications that I was not in Academia any more.

The great part of the conference was however the opportunity to meet and listen to German scholars. I did spend a lot of time agreeing with Ren Reynolds that "There has been research done in this field, you know," but that's a common response in too many occasions, sadly. One of the better moments was spoiled by the speaker suddenly sorting the ludologists under "effect studies" - even after years of "please do a few google searches before you talk" that was a new one.

What I did find was where the psychologists studying games hunt. They are in Germany. According to one game researcher I talked to, most of German game research is on effects and consequences of games, with a heavy bias towards the problems games may lead to.

If we can somehow integrate the German game scholars in the European community, they might be a very valuable asset, as this is an angle which rarely is carefully discussed and explored in more game studies based English language conferences and journals. But such an integration needs to be desired by those who work within the field, and so far the lack of knowledge about what has become "common knowledge" among a fairly large group of game scholars is more a hindrance to being taken seriously than a challenge (which we need) to the hegemony of certain ideas in the game studies community.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The burden of the past

In New York I went to MoMA, where Beijing based artist Song Dong has an exhibition called "waste not" this summer. In this work he celebrates the values of past generations, by offering to our curious eyes that which is today considered waste.

Pieces of fabric used for clothes, saved in case of patches or alterations, old shopping bags, a broken kitchen oven, bottles, jars, boxes, ribbons, worn shoes, the exhibition was a large display of what you can find when you empty a house after the passing of its inhabitant, particularly if it was one of the thrifty ones of older generations.

This week my sisters and I have been looking through the relics of our mother, slowly sorting through her treasures. Modern-day women as we are, we are throwing it all away, wasting, as her treasures have been going to waste over the last 20 years. But each piece has its own history, poignant reminders of our past. And it's not just that we recognize the curtains, the old clothing, the boxes and bags, but we all know how it could have been used. We spent long hours cutting the old clothing into material for rugs, we made a lot of our own clothes and clothes for each other, we knitted, and remember the many spools of yarn - what they were used for, and what they were supposed to be used for. We know the year the old marmelade was made, we know the pieces of wood and the materials, and even the many rocks of our mother's collection for the hobby she wanted to engage in, cutting and polishing stones, are objects wose potential we know. This house was one of activity, of reclaiming the broken, the torn and the spoiled as well as of creating new things from nothing. The garden is a powerful reminder, even in its neglected state it hides secrets of herbs, berries and salad leaves.

Now we are carrying all of this away, throwing it out, and even in this context I choose for display a picture which does not fully display the disorder, the sad state of all these resources from the past. It helps, as I do this, to think about the exhibition at MoMA, which somehow prepared me for this process. My mother could have filled that museum floor with all she had stored up. And oddly, I wish I could have shown it to her, let her see how stored resources can be both trash and art at the same time.

I suspect the rest of my life will be filled with moments like this one, when I wish I could have shown this or that to somebody I have lost. It's part of still being alive.

Friday, July 10, 2009


I am seriously considering a change of career. Particularly the dress-code is interesting, not to mention the fact that curses, nasty laughs, wickedness and mysterious behaviour is part of it. Also, I would get to have lots of cats at work, and run and hide if somebody got particularly unpleasant. Candles will probably be a work expense, and it ought to come with its own cauldron.

Monday, July 06, 2009

From heaven to frustration

Just before Easter this year, I bought a new machine, a big, powerful gaming lap-top from Asus, on Hilde's recommendation. I loved it, despite the bulk (which makes it more schleppable than portable); the speed, the power the graphics - yes, I felt empowered.

So, what happened?

The motherboard is most likely dead. I have to mail the big thing in for repairs. And to do so, I have had to fill in their forms, and read the language on their sites. Now, the very polite and helpful clerk at the helpdesk had an accent which, for dialect-sensitive Norwegians marked him as originating from outside of Norway. He spoke perfect Norwegian though, no problem with understanding there. I don't think the following issues originate with him.

Once I started reading on the Asus help site, the problems started. First, the site did not like the signs I used. I eradicated all the Norwegian letters, æ, ø, å, which so often create problems. My mail was still not accepted. Then I removed all the "", and if that wasn't enough, the () was going next. This time it went through, though. And then I got to see the high point of the experience:
Registreringen er vellykket!

Vennligst merk at ønsket dato for opphentingen kan variere.
Den endelige opphentings datoen vil bli bekreftet på en email som sendes tilbake til deg i løpet av de neste 2 timene. (gelder kun Mandag-Fredag 07:00-16:00.
Vennligst forsikre om emailboksen ikke er full, eller din spamfilter ikke filtrerer bort emailen.

Now, if you're not a fluent Norwegian speaker, there's no problem. But Norwegian has genders, which influence pronouns, and the word "opphenting" means literally "upfetching", as ridiculous in Norwegian as in English - unless they arrive with a helicopter and actually fetch the machine "up". Also, they aren't fetching the machine at all, I have to mail it to them. Not to mention the simple typos. So: Bad grammar, nonsense words, typos and imprecise content.

Right, my English isn't perfect, far from it. That's why I, when ever I have a chance, use proof-readers. It's part of being a professional in a formal context: you make sure you make a good impression, and you can't be misunderstood. (Before I get slammed to death with my own typos, I don't consider this blog a formal context, it's just my personal writing, my responsibilities, my errors.)

I have a bad feeling about this experience. Very bad. It's making me regret I didn't spend a little more and got the Dell which was the alternative.

I am crossing my fingers, hoping, and hugging the new, shiny, functioning machine the college got for me, just a few weeks ago. Also I am praising the fact that I did some maniacal copying of the most important files just before I went to the states, and my recent habit of putting the pictures on a remote hard drive. I just may have been very lucky with that timing.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Dear Expert

I suspect Ian Bogost has met the same journalists as I do, although I am baffled that they managed to track down Ian, seeing as they can't use google and he isn't in the Norwegian phone-book. From his post:
I wonder: instead of doing research myself on the story I am required to write, would you be willing to talk to me by phone for an hour about it? During this time, I would pose a series of basic questions that demonstrate how little thought and time I have given to the topic, not even enough to Google its key terms.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Orient Point

After an exhausting spring, I am having something odd called "vacation". You know, when you're not making excuses for all the things you haven't gotten around to doing yet, and you only need to do the things you feel like doing.

Anyway, what I felt like doing today was to go for a bike ride from Greenport, where I am currently staying at a motel which feels overpriced in this crappy weather, but which I guess would feel cheap if I was lazing in the sun instead of uploading pictures to Flickr on a weak wireless signal

(lovely beach site, fantastic view of the water, big room and immensely comfortable porch). The goal was Orient Point, the easternmost point of the north fork of Long Island.

At the point of the fork, there's a ferry going to New London,

and that's where I went on this rather exhausting ride. The bike I had rented had seemed fine the day before, but what is OK for a 3 km ride from Greenport to the motel, becomes exhausting when we're talking 30 kilometers. Oh well, I got my exercize in today, that's for sure!

On the way, I passed some wonderful spots, a couple of nature preserves with a fishing egret and an osprey's nest,

a public beach which was closed at the time (I find "closing" a beach slightly absurd, but Americans obviously don't),

and several very american buildings. Not American in an overblown, overexclusive, "everything is bigger and better" way, but lovely pieces of Americana - intricate patterns on railings and beneath roofs, comfortable, wide porches with chairs and decorations, beautiful windows. There's a love of decoration and a surplus of time and skill which comes out in these incredible details to small and big houses alike, and definitely in their churches.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Pointing to the side

What am I talking about at State of Play? Peek into my blog on the Gamers' space project.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

4.49 am

It's early morning in New York. I am jet-lagged as usual on the first morning in NYC, even after a serious lie-in. I was, after all, wide awake at 1.30, already feeling like I had overslept.

For the next few days I'll be busy at the New York Law school, first with a Graduate Student Symposium, and then with State of Play, the conference, not the movie.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Touch me, la la la

I find myself sighing with pleasure, as I settle down with my new computer. I knew it would be nice looking, because if it was just half as elegant as on the pictures it would be a great upgrade, look wise. Inside it has twice as much of everything as the last machine, my much loved and much used 12" XPS, also from Dell.

I thought I would be reluctant to give the other machine away. After all, I had it set up just as I wanted, it could handle everything I threw at it, it was small and light and I had found the perfect sticker for it.

Can a machine be better, I thought, particularly after they quickly and efficiently exchanged the keyboard and mouse when the first one broke down from frequent use. "Do you mostly play with the left hand?" one technician asked, after they had seen how used up the machine was. I had to admit that yes, I play with the left hand on the keys, the right on the touchpad (yes, I play with the pad, no mouse for me unless I want RSI).

For a lot of different reasons, I invested in a monster machine for the home - a private computer for the first time in years. Here's a review of it, in Norwegian though. It's a totally oversized 17,1" lap-top which I would never have spent money on if I didn't have such a problem with my back and shoulders, to the point where I need to be able to have the machine on my lap when I work. As things are, that machine is just amazing!

I thought I was pretty much set by then. How could machines give me a new experience? High portability from the little Dell machine, extreme performance from the big Asus, and a hard working, decent desk-top in the office.

That was until I touched this one. First, yes that really is leather at the bottom there. It's smooth and begs to be touched - particularly contrasted by the steel. I find my fingers caressing the leather and wandering over the steel stripe to daringly approach the shiny black laquer finish of the upper part of the back of the screen. It feels like walking the edge, as I touch the place where brushed steel meets black laquer, in terror of leaving fingerprints, evidence of my dirty pawing.

But the tactile pleasures don't end on the outside. Last night, as I was busy raiding on the big machine, my husband, the "as long as it works" functionalist, picked up my new machine and settled down to see what all the fuss was about. He was tracing the details, exclaiming over the responsive touch pad, playing around with the control panel for sound and video where a mere touch to the back-lit signal is enough. And as his hands touched the keyboard he sighed, deeply content. I knew then that it wasn't just me. This machine is seductive, plain and simple.

I haven't REALLY tested it yet. No raids, no 12 hours of constant typing, no running of games, presentation programs and video projectors simultaneously. I may start hating it when it starts failing me at vitals moments like those. But at the moment, I find myself humming along with a-ha:
Touch me
How can it be
Believe me
The sun always shines on T.V

And I don't even like a-ha that much. Should I be worried?

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Why we don't like cell-phones in class

Thanks to Pattie Belle Hastings for posting this link, to a study about cellphones, ringtones and recall by Jill Shelton.

"Many of us consider a cell phone ringing in a public place to be an annoying disruption, but this study confirms that these nuisance noises also have real-life impacts," Shelton said. "These seemingly innocuous events are not only a distraction, but they have a real influence on learning."

Titled "The distracting effects of a ringing cell phone: An investigation of the laboratory and the classroom setting," the study was conducted at Louisiana State University, where Shelton received her doctoral degree. Her co-authors in the LSU psychology department include Emily Elliott, Sharon Eaves and Amanda Exner.

Apart from being annoying, distracting and rude, ringing cellphones makes students forget what they learned before and during the ringing of the phone. If the ring tone is a popular, well-known piece of music, this is even worse.

So: That mute button? Use it!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Etiquette and netiquette

As new tools are available to us, we need to learn new ways to use them. It seems like cell-phones and text messages is the new "issue" in manners at the moment. The article in NY Times is a very good example of how we need to develop new ways to integrate the new technology in our lives.

At our table, texting is no problem. Not that it never happens, but if you receive and send a text message at the table with our family, you're expected to share the contents. It becomes part of the family conversation. Often the sent messages are communally authored, or the person may receive the response from somebody else than they wrote to. That's a pretty efficient way to limit the texting, whoever does it. Sometimes it's nice too. Discussing the most recent cute picture of my daughter's kitten or the urgent issues at work are both typical dinner-time conversation topics anyway.

So yeah, I am more in the Danah Boyd camp here, where technology is integrated in the rituals of everyday life, rather than one of those with tech-free zones and blackberry-free hours.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Just to hang out

Like so many others, I have a facebook account. No shock there, hmm? Also, I play games on it! No shock there either, I guess! The facebook games are small and fun, but most of the time I find that I play them for the same reason I play a hand of cards or participate in the yearly winter games at the department (last day before christmas). I play because I want to connect with the people I play with.

And so I send and receive flowers, I read and do quizzes, I buy and sell friends, I bite and get bitten, and I have a little dragon that occasionally tries to help her friends. Poor little thing, robbed of all gold and dignity, but she still tries!

It's quite amusing, really. This is perhaps the oldest use of games in existance - playing in order to enjoy connecting with others - and it is still a revelation to discover that we do it in yet another medium.

Monday, May 25, 2009

End of spring term

Just to let you all know, you who think teachers don't work when you don't see them: We do. So when you all have dropped off your papers and gone off to get a summer job and wait for the grades, we work day and night to get everything done within the deadlines. And if you feel the grades are published slowly, it's not because we're not working. We are reading like maniacs, right up to the moment you learn about your grades.

And then we do some more assessments, and start planning next term, so you have something to think we're dodging next year, too.

Yeah, I know, a touch bitter here, but after yet another student claiming that "a little bit more work can't kill you", it feels like yes, actually, a little bit more work is exactly what would kill me right now.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


And thanks to Alex Halavais for linking to this article, which finally made me feel understood.

Games Convention Online

Despite the title, this is a convention over online games, not an online convention. Yeah, it confused me at first.

It's a grandly planned conference over online games in Europe, taking place in Leipzig. Despite having travelled extensively in Germany at one point, I never went to Leipzig, and checking the map I realised why. Most of my travels in Germany happened in the late 70-ies, early 80-ies, and my only trip into the then East-Germany happened in 1981, with a trip to Berlin, East-Berlin and Potsdam.

This is an extremely interesting part of Europe, which I have neglected visiting since travelling with children made it harder to jump on a train and roll through Europe for days on end, stopping at random places to sleep whereever there'd be a cheap hostel. Now the children travel quicker, lighter and easier than me, being the age I was when I was exploring Europe by the railway, and I am worried about not having booked hotels in advance. Who'd have thought the map of Europe would change so much, just in the time it takes a child to be born and grow into an adult?

Anyway, this isn't about Europe, it's about games. At the same time I wonder, can it not be about Europe? Or about Asia, Africa, Oceania, Australia or America, for that matter - it's all about culture, change, humanity and society.

I'll be talking in this session:
„Nutzung & Potenzial“:
In diesem Themenblock der Konferenz bilden die Nutzungsgewohnheiten, -präferenzen und -folgen auf Spielerseite sowie die damit einhergehenden Erwartungen, Chancen, Herausforderungen und Risiken den Schwerpunkt. Faktoren, die die Angebotsauswahl und Spielenutzung beeinflussen, sind ebenso relevante Themenbereiche wie aktuelle Nutzungsmodi, Genrepräferenzen, tatsächliche und potentielle Vergemeinschaftungspotenziale und Spielzeiten. Damit einhergehend sind auch Fragen exzessiver Spielenutzung zu thematisieren. Zu beachten sind die Potenziale von Online Games und Mobile Games etwa für Sozialisation und Berufsfeldkompetenzen

However, when I can, I'll sneak over to this session:
„Gesellschaft & Politik“:
Im dritten Stream sollen die gesellschaftlichen Auswirkungen der steigenden Nutzung von Online und Mobile Games im Zentrum stehen. Welche Debatten in welcher Form in der Öffentlichkeit geführt, und welche Risiken und Möglichkeiten den Spielen zugeschrieben werden, können eine differenzierte Sichtweise auf das Phänomen erlauben.

Auch die regulatorischen Herausforderungen, die sich aus den Spielinhalten und -formen, der aktuellen Technologie, der Vereinbarkeit von Erlösmodellen mit dem Verbraucherschutz und den veränderten Rollen der Akteure sowie den sozialen Komponenten der Angebote ergeben, werden hier Thema sein. Zudem sollen die bisherigen Reaktionen von Gesetzgeber, Regulierungsbehörden und Politik diskutiert werden.

And if you want to see the topics in English, you'll find the program here. Me, I am taking this opportunity to start brushing up my German. It used to be much better than my English - before those two young adults were born.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Slowed shock

12 days ago my mother died. When I learned of her death, I sat there, expecting a jolt of some kind. Nothing happened. Then I started taking action. Apart from the persons who found her, two of the wonderful neighbourhood ladies who looked in on her after they started worrying, I was the first to get the message. I had to talk to a lot of people very fast, then figure out what to do about the practical issues surrounding a death.

It's not something you can rehearse. It's not something I had researched. Even now, when it's all done, I shy away from it. I don't want to remember the details of what I needed to deal with.

My mind is very busy shying away from topics right now. It knows there is this big minefield, and stepping into it needs to be done carefully. I loved my mother, but I was also incredibly angry with her. Much of that anger was justified, but now I can let it go.

All of this takes time, my mind tells my brain. The brain wants to get on with things. I have always had an impatient brain. But the mind has a - well - can a mind have a mind of its own? Not really, huh? Anyway - I want to move on, but since I am moving through this mindfield of issues that slip into the past with each step, everything is slowed down.

And that's actually what I was getting to today. Just takes some time to get there.

So, this post is to tell people who wonder why I am extremely passive and out-of-the-loop that no, I am not that passive, I have this mindfield I need to walk through. I am ok. Just slow.

(And yes, at first it was a typo. But sometimes my fingers are smarter than me. It is a minefield of the mind.)

Friday, May 01, 2009

The sense of the absurd

Sometimes, truths can only be spoken through the impossible, the absurd, ridiculous and surreal. For my funeral, I would like all to act like dadaists. Don't even try to make sense, and please, put the established objects to new use. And if you feel you need to throw something in some grave, don't use flowers. Throw seeds.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Out of touch

I will be unavailable for anything but emergencies until May first. That means most likely no internet, and very limited phone access.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Games and public relations

Most of my readers know I play games, write about them and talk about them. Some know about the blogs too. Well, the meta-part, not just the blogging. And then there's the group that mainly knows me as the teacher, occasionally leader, of a public information/public relations education.

I have been working with this side of communication since 1991, and it's how I entered into studying games. The original study I did of games was the study of one called "Det store manndomsspranget" - the great leap to manhood. This game was finished in 1998, and was just about to be published when it was said to be stopped by the the government which - at the time - had a christian people's party representative as the prime minister: Kjell Bondevik. Even before it was published, the game was critizised for the extreme effect it would have on young people.

The game was designed to teach young boys about relations to others, with and without sex. Mainly it rewarded communication, willingness to wait until both parties were ready, acceptance of alternative sexualities and different cultures. The critics claimed it would make young boys want to try out sex. Also it would lead to negative feelings about monogamy, and encourage polygamy and homosexuality. As you understand, an extremely dangerous game. If you would like to test your personal integrity and are willing to risk ending up polyamorous, gay and obsessed with sex, in 2001 the game was available from Helsedirektoratet, in Norwegian, of course.

My own work with this game was to analyse and discuss its potential as a persuasive game. Since it was created by the Norwegian board of Health in order to educate and persuade boys about/into safer and generally more well considered sex, it was a very interesting experiment for me to write about. I was in general working a lot on health campaigns and information concerning gender, sexuality, abuse, pregnancies and abortion, using several large Norwegian campaigns as examples for my students. Most of the different aspects of these campaigns were however targeting girls. Girls are a lot easier to find, if you want to communicate with them strategically. They read magazines, they watch certain programs, they surround themselves with certain objects, such as school journals. Boys at the age of 13-17 are however much harder to reach. At this age they disappear into their own interests, and very little can pull them back out of it.

What I wanted to learn was if a game could do it. Could I expect a game to be a sufficiently strong medium that boys would be able to take their learning experiences from the game world to the real world?

My conclusion after watching the game, playing it, testing it on a few choice subjects, discussing it against theories of the formation of ideas and attitudes and in general using what tools I had short of a very big and long experiment, was that no. At least not this game.

What happens with games, even extremely pedagogic, educational games such as The Great Leap to Manhood, is that when you start playing, you enter into a play sphere. It's more fun to see what kind of responses you can get out of the game (if I put the avatar's hand under the girl's skirt, will she slap him?), than to try and respond politically correctly. This could then encourage non-monogamous experiments in the game space (can the avatar manage to date both the girls?) Would this endanger the Norwegian core family? Hardly - the game was a point-and-click adventure which at no point let you forget that this was exactly that, a game.

I was thinking about this work now, because I was shelfing, unread, Ian Bogost's Persuasive Games. Spillets leser - leserens spill was in many ways before it's time, and it was looking at connections between games and persuasion which is frequently overlooked.

First of all, as public relations research shows us, it's not easy to create attitude change. It happens slowly, and the media have a limited influence on our attitudes and values.

Second, coming from reader-response theory, which I run into only rarely these days, the analysis of The Great Leap addresses a theory which originally was abandoned due to the fact that "interactivity" in Iser's sense and "interactivity" in the game sense is not the same. Today it might be the time to go back to those topics and question the theories of the active reader more closely. What kind of reading IS gaming?

Third, boys know the difference between playing in order to satisfy the teacher, and playing to satisfy their own curiosity. The issues of oppositional readings must be huge with pedagogical, or "serious" games. Now, there might be a lot of research on this which I have just ignored as I haven't really followed the "serious" scene that closely, but so far I have seen very little on this.

Still, today I find myself thinking that going from Public Relations to games was not such a long step after all. The theories I have explored, the problems I have written about and the topics I teach have changed, but it's still all about how people behave while they communicate. I may straddle a gap, but it's not as wide as it looks.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Researcher's retreat for you?

My best writing is always done when away from the daily running of the department at which I have now worked for almost 18 years. While I am here, I know too much about what goes on, and I care and get distracted by it. Away it is true: Out of sight, out of mind. This means that 3 weeks at the end of a publishing process normally is all I need to write a decent article. Three weeks, somewhere peaceful to stay, an internet connection and a library.

Now, thanks to the generousity of Volda College, specifically the Media Department, others can have exactly this if they want to come to Volda! We're formalising this as soon as possible, but the outline of what the department is offering is this:

An easygoing, if sometimes very busy and focused staff, with which to have lunch and occasionally even interesting conversations. The main topics of research and teaching here are journalism, public information, animation, television documentary and new media.

An apartment, at an extremely good rate by any standards, for three weeks (time depends somewhat on how many need to use the apartment a given month).

A desk in a common office, with internet connection.

An ok library (not the largest, but with an extremely helpful and friendly staff).

For this we ask one 90-minute lecture over a topic of your choice - your speciality, the thing you would really like to share with others, the research you're most proud of. If you can't make up your mind, contact us to ask what we need, and we'll slot you into one of the many courses running here.

There's no funding for travel, and nothing to cover your work here unless you negotiate that directly with an interested party. This is an offer mainly aimed at making your own funding go a little longer than it would otherwise. It's a way to make it possible to get away from the daily grind and stay for a while in an extremely peaceful spot on the planet. Fresh air, small community, very little crime, amazing opportunities for hiking or skiing (get a map, you'll need it!), a few concerts while the students are active and organising it, otherwise just a quiet place to be while you rewrite that pesky manuscript.

Volda is far away from everything, but sometimes, that's just where you want to be.