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.