This is the research diary of researcher Lisbeth
Klastrup, since february 2001 sharing her thoughts on life, universe, persistent online
worlds, games, interactive stories and internet oddities with you on the www.
Fellow research bloggers
Martin Sønderlev Christensen
Jonas Heide Smith
Terra Nova (misc, joint)
GrandTextAuto (US, joint)
Mirjam Paalosari-Eladhari (SE)
Jane McGonigal (US)
Patrik Svensson (SE)
Elin Sjursen (NO)
Adrian Miles' Vog blog (AUSTR.)
Other Related Blogs
Hovedet på Bloggen
Fellow Researchers, non-blog
Troels Degn Johansson
©Lisbeth Klastrup 2001-2007
Hmmh, this is what you get, when you are not quoted precisely in a newspaper....or just should have kept your mouth shut.
[Danish webpage about weblogs, accusing me for never having read one..]
I'm definitely out of the loop since I wasn't aware of the informal academic/discussion gathering of Danish bloggers taking place today and tomorrow: Blogforum.dk - until a few minutes ago, when I read Tinka's blog.
Judging from the presentations of participants it is a pretty impressive line up of senior and influential Danish bloggers, people working with blogs professionally, enthuisiastic newcomers plus academics and journalists studying blogs. I know several of the names - it is probably great fun to be there!
And lo and behold in the list of participants as well: an old acquaintance from my class in golden olden days at Comparative Literature has started to blog as well. Here is Knut Nägele's blog..
I didn't have time to blog that I was going to Bergen to attend Jill's defense, but you might have seen my name over at Jill's or Torill's and guessed what I was up to (Torill actually also took blogger-spot picture of me to prove it!)...
I left monday and returned wednesday and so was able to hear Jill's test lecture, her defense and then wednesday, a talk by her "first opponent" Marie-Laure Ryan on maps in cyberspaces. So it was a nice combo of relaxation and professional input - and it was also nice to re-visit Bergen University and talk to some of the people I got to know when I was studying there two years ago. Especially it was "hyggeligt" (nice, cosy) to meet Hilde and Carsten again.
Overall, it is interesting to experience this joint "coming of age" period: since last time I met them, Torill and Hilde have defended their degree and become doctors...and Jesper who came from Copenhagen too, is waiting for his defense to be scheduled. And in Oslo Anders Fagerjord is preparing his defense in December. Jill herself is, of course, now a well-deserved "doctor designatum" (waiting for official approval by the faculty after the committee accepted the ph.d. thesis etc).- I'm starting to feel old. Not in a bad way, but in a good way. It feels great to experience that the group of people I started knowing back at the Atlanta DAC conference in October 1999 are all moving on and that we have all matured as researchers in each our way; that there are academic futures ahead for most of us and many possible conference get-together's awaiting us, but also a past behind us; memories of early papers, of drunken parties, of shared insecurities and heated discussions; discourses and digressions which have turned many of these people into not just colleagues, but also friends.
Oh, and the defense? Both this and the test lecture gave me good food for thought and Jill appeared calm and reasonably relaxed most of the time. Also the opponents brought up some good and valid points of critique and discussion (though I could have done without the lengthy mock documentary viewing which Bjørn Sørensen brought into the equation - even if it was fun!).
I really liked Jill's presentation of her work, the one that opened the defense, and this was also the one time, I really wished that the more formal and serious Norwegian defense ritual would be more like the Danish, giving the defendant (the candidate?) more than 20 minutes to present her work. The test lecture might be a good way to test people's ability to present a subject (?!?), but since this subject is decided on by others and perhaps not always very close to the central subjects of the thesis, it appears to me to be more of a distraction from "the real thing", taking a lot of time and energy from the candidate. I think one event should be enough and that focus should be entirely on the thesis itself, but hey it might just be me speaking as a spoilt Dane who believes that peoples' teaching and communication skills should already have been proved in their teaching and their paper writing throughout the ph.d. project years and therefore need not be proven (again) at a test lecture.
On the other hand, the test lecture in combination with the defense itself turns the entire event of becoming a doctor into something that lasts for quite some time, thus providing a sonorous full stop to three long and important years of a candidate's life. I thoroughly enjoyed being part of it all, especially, of course, the party. You should have seen the late night "Fame" dancing - you would have thought that we had all spent several years at Juilliard...Life as an academic CAN be fun!
Console gamers play alone?
Another recent report on console gaming use shows that most console gamers prefer to play alone (73%). This runs somewhat contrary to the 2001 IDSA report, I cited in my paper at Utrecht (talking about the relation between fun and social interaction in Super Monkey Ball gaming), showing that 2 out of 3 consoles are situated in a social space and that 59% of the interviewed players played with family and friends....I'd really like to get my hand on this new report, but unfortunately the full report costs $2450. Not a lot a poor researcher can do.
BBC NEWS: Why girls and games are a good mix. Female game developer claims that you shouldn't make games for "girls", but just good games and argues that you need to market games more broadly, for instance in woman's magazine. Interesting idea. Personally I think one should try to develop some game hybrids, that appealss specifically to a adult female audience. However, such a game would never catch on, if it weren't a good game in the first place. And marketing would most likely play a major part in such a game's succes - IF it could convince non-gaming women to spend their rare hours off-work and off-family on games and not tv. Or friends. Or laundry.
Test your stress
Test your stress level atStressorganizer.com (Danish site). Are you in the danger zone?
The site not only provides you with an indicator of how stressed you are, but also with good advice on how to manage your stress and reduce it.
Miss Digital World
According to this article in Ekstrabladet, next year we will see the first Miss Digital World competition. Programmers and designers can enter their own personal digital version of a beautiful woman (she needs to be programmed to do a catwalk) and the most perfect woman wins. The organiser Franz Cerami predicts that the winner might be able to get a leading role in a computer game...
Are Virtual Worlds games?
Greg Costikyan started an interesting discussion on this subject: are virtual worlds games - just some or all of them? And will those, which are not games, fail? Those who have commented on Greg's post include Raph Koster and Jessica Mulligan.
I believe some virtual worlds have so many gameelements that they could be considered as marginal forms of games (such as EQ and the other RPG worlds). However, I do prefer the term gameworld instead of game, to me there is a difference: EQ is both a world and a game at the same time, not either-or. I know a lot of games project a world, but they are not primarily gameworlds. I wish we could reserve the term "gameworld" for those virtual worlds which are dominated by gaming activities.
It is time for theannual bookfair (Bogmessen 2003) in Copenhagen. Three days filled with presentations and interviews with authors and the possibility to buy a lot of books at discount prices. Normally the top floor/balcony holds a lot of stands with educational material and toys, that is normally the place to go if you want to see anything digital. I have been going for years, always hoping that one day multimedia productions and computerised literature (interactive narratives etc) would also have íts place on the groundfloor. I don't expect my dreams to be fullfilled this years either, but it is great fun anyway!
My article: "Paradigms of Interaction" is now online at Dichtung-Digital. The article is part of a special issue edited by Finnish researcher and hypernovelist Markku Eskelinen, focusing on Scandinavian research. "Old" and brilliant colleagues like Ragnhild Tronstad, Aki Järvinen, Torill Mortensen, Raine Koskimaa and Anders Fagerjord are amongst the contributors.
State of Play Papers
Several of the Conference Papers from the State of Play conference are now online! Looking forward to reading Castronovas paper on "The Right to Play", Hunter on "Virtual Property" and Dibbell on "Owned!". Zimmerman writes about the Immersive Fallacy and Michael Froomkin on "Virtual Worlds - Real Rules". Quite a feast.
Regional jokes in a small country
It can be difficult to explain to non-Danes that even in a small country like ours, there is a distinct "cultural gap" between people from Jylland (Jutland) and Sjælland (Sealand) - which is often verbalised in jokes and friendly banter. People from Jutland are considered to be slow, silent, sly and stingy, whereas people from Sealand are considered to be very talkative, superficial and rash in movement and judgement. I don't normally post jokes here, but as a proof that these prejudices do indeed exist and are continously nurtured, here is a good example of a "Jylland versus Sjælland" joke, which also plays on religion, alcohol and cheating (i.e. a very Danish joke all in all!). First version in Danish, my English translation below:
En jysk præst og en præst fra Sjælland er ude for et slemt biluheld i Mols bjerge. Begge deres biler er totalt smadrede, men utroligt nok kommer de begge ud af det uden en skramme. Da de er kravlet ud af deres biler finder jyden ud af, at ham, han er kørt ind også er præst.
"Hvor pudsigt, jeg er også præst" siger han og fortsætter: "Se på vores biler. Der er ikke noget tilbage, men vi har ikke fået en skramme. Det må være et tegn fra Gud. Gud må have ment, vi skulle mødes og lære jyder og sjællændere om venskaber indbyrdes." Den Sjællandske præst står og glor dumt på jyden og tænker på hvor meget han lever op til fordommene om jyder.
Den jydske præst forsætter: "Og se, her er et andet mirakel. Min bil er totalt smadret, men denne flaske kirsebærvin er ikke smadret. Det må helt sikkert være Gud, der mener at vi skal drikke den og fejre vores held." Han rækker sjællænderen flasken, som umiddelbart synes det lyder fornuftigt. Sjællænderen tager tre store slurke af vinen og rækker den tilbage til jyden, som straks hælder resten af indholdet i en rist ved siden af dem og kaster flasken ud over skrænten. Sjællænderen kigger spørgende på jyden:
"Skal du slet ikke ha' noget"? Jyden svarer: "Nej...jeg tror jeg venter til politiet kommer"!
A minister from Jylland and a minister from Sjælland find themselves victims of a serious car crash in Mols Bjerge [area in Northern Jutland]. Both cars are completely wrecked, but both ministers quite unbelievably survive without a scratch.
When they have emerged from their cars, the Jutlandian minister discovers that the guy, he collided with, also is a minister. "How odd, I’m a minister too", he says, and continues. "Look at our cars. There is nothing left of them, but we are unharmed. That must be a sign from God, that we were supposed to meet and to teach people from Jylland and Sjælland friendship amongst them. The Sealandian Minister watches the Jutlandian with stupified amazement, thinking how much he lives up to the prejudices about people from Jutland.
The Jutlandian minister continues: “And look, here is another miracle. My car has been completely ruined, but this bottle of cherrywine did not break. It must definitely be God who thinks we should drink it and celebrate our good fortune. He passes the bottle to the Sealander, who in the spur of the moment think this sounds as a sensible suggestion. He takes three solid swigs from the bottle, and gives it back to the Jutlandian, who immediately empties the remains of the bottle into the sewer next to them and then throws the bottle over the brink, they are standing at. The Sealander looks at the Jutlandian, all questionsmarks: “Aren’t you going to drink anything at all?”. The Jutlandian answers: “No, I think, I’ll wait until the police has arrived!”
An Old Lady
My secret counter tells me that Klastrup's Cataclysms (both here and at its old place) has had more than 27000 unique visitors since it launched. A bit scaring. More than I ever expected, I think.
Writing like a man?
According to the The Gender Genie, that both Frank and Jill have written about, I write like a man. I tested it three times with feeds from respectively this blog and two articles (one recent and one two year old). My male score was significantly higher than my female score every time. He,he.
I actually think the male score has a lot to do with the fact that I use "the" a lot of times when I write (it seems like "the" counts on the male side score). Probably because I am a non-native English speaker. When writing Danish you use definite forms of nouns much more than you do when writing English (I surmise).
A thought-provoking report from Level Up at Buzzcut.com
Games are representations too
Frank posted a nice little post on toilets in game environments some time ago, which I want to remember, he links to a Russian site which contains pictures from toilets in a number of games.
I'm very interested in thinking more about how gamespaces actually use forms of ellipsis of time and ellipsis of architectural and physical space functions in order to make the "simulated" environment more interesting and appealing (ellipsis can be interpreted as "contraction", a term borrowed from Genette who talked of it in relation to literature). For instance, a full day in EverQuest lasts only 90 minutes in Earthtime and there are no toilets anywhere (in fact, most rooms are very big and very empty).
Gonzalo argues that it is an essential characteristics of games that they are simulations, I think I am ready to argue that games are a form of representation too, and that this form just happens to be a simulation. However these simulations are as mediated, biassed and "economised" as the other forms of representations we know from the entertainment and art genres: film, comics, literature, television etc (except perhaps for professional simulations of environments which do implement everything fully). Looking at the use of elliptic time and space in games can help explain how this particular form of representation works.
Danish Game Politics Website
A Danish website om "Game Politics" has just been launched by the Danish Multi Media Association. It is an attempt to neutrally (?) inform parents and teachers about computer games, presenting rating politics, research etc. It also includes a test of one's knowledge of computer games (in Danish). Simon and Jonas, ph.d. students here at ITU and editors of game-research.com, and deservedly almost national 'experts' on children and gaming, talked at the seminar accompagnying the launch of the website.
Spilpolitik - om børn, unge og computerspil
Test your knowledge of computer games (and childrens' use of them) (In Danish)
Levelling up: now groupblog manager
The last few days I have spent a good chunk of time setting up a privatish groupblog for a group of Danish researchers from various universities and departments - we are working on writing a joint research project application centering on issues of mobility, physical and virtual life. It took quite some time before the member invitations worked (I had to recreate the blog once), but now the blog is up and running - and 11 people can post to it. It will be quite interesting to see how (much) people will use it and if group blogging will work well with so many contributors. Several of these are completely new to blogging and I find myself having to explain details of blogging practice that I have myself completely internalised by now. It is nice to get a fresh view on things and to have pointed out interface issues which are actually weird or malfunctional but which I have learned to "see through" in my more than 2½ years of blogging.
I guess it has already been circulating for a while, but I still think that the "Oh, God, I have been caught blogging" article from The Onion is pretty spot on:The Onion | Mom Finds Out About Blog
What gets in the media?
The Level Up conference has attracted some media attention, but apparently, it is not the conference in itself, but very specific aspects of its content, which the journalists focus on:
for instance, BBC online reports very briefly from the DIGRA conference, that is: they present Jeffrey Coldstein and his Utrecht colleagues paper on Gaming in the work Place and finish the article by mentioning that the paper was presented at "the first ever Digital Games Research Association conference".
Games at work may be good for you
A little bit on games and narratives (a disclaimer of sorts)
At the conference in Utrecht, Gonzalo did a good job when trying to close down the "ludologists" versus "narratologist" debate. However, people at the game center here in Copenhagen are still looked upon as the "ludologists" and other people (albeit not present at the conference in question) still focus on 'proving' that (all) games tell stories.
I was unfortunately late for Janet Murray's keynote at the conference (we chose a taxidriver who couldn't speak English and refused to recognise the address of one of the largest university building in Utrecht - I mean, what can you do then?), but from what I heard/saw, she hasn't given up on narrative, either. I am afraid that the debate on the importance of narrative in games (versus the importance of looking at games as games etc) are far from over.
Personally, I see myself as neither a ludologist, nor a narratologist, but as some kind of hybrid of both. On the other side, there is no need to hide the fact that narratives normally interest me more than 'pure' games (of the clearcut action- and skill type), which is probably why I most often prefer games which 'tell a story' or are characterised by having implemented a certain degree of dramatic tension. I believe, what 'we' (those interested in narrative aspects in games) need to focus on now, is the concrete use of narrative devices in specific games, not looking at these games as narratives who should produce the same kind of emotions we know and expect to be rewarded with when we read narratives in books or on screen, but contemplating how narrative devices can be used inside games for the purpose of creating good gameplay and in order to produce a desire for the completion of the game (i.e. how narrative devices can help create "an anticipation of completion" and not retrospection, perverting Peter Brooks a bit).
Wall Street Journal preamble on the Utrecht conference, I just attended.
Are Videogames Ready To Be Taken Seriously By Media Reviewers? I mailed a couple of times with the journalist, who wanted to read all the papers produced for the Game Center's Super Monkey Ball panel. He's actually quoted my colleague Troels' paper, so I guess he actually read them all! Not a direct quote from me, but I think I'm supposed to be one of those researchers wishing for a better game critique...Hmmh.
Plan to post on the conference itself a little later, right now mind going blank after 12 hours of work.
Almost an ant...!
Another night with not a lot of sleep, but finally it happened: I have just come back from putting the "Digital Aesthetics & Design" anthology together with my co-editor and sending it off to the publishing house by way of one of those fast biking delivery boys, a lot of people in inner city Copenhagen have come to rely on. 334 pages (somewhat over the original 250 page proposal) and 16 brilliant articles on everything from webdesign to virtual worlds. I'm sure it is going to rock, once it gets published! (sometime around early March next year, rumour has it).
It has been great, but also extremely hard work, to translate 4 of these 16 articles into Danish from English (and there is one more to go), in about two weeks (with a lot of other stuff going on at the same time) - at some point, you simply turn snowblind to words, and you can't remember what anything is called in neither Danish or English. But mostly it has been So Fun to work with the Danish language again - after having written almost exclusively in English for the last two years or so, I had forgotten how much more freedom of expression, your own native language lends to you after all. If the day had more than 24 hours (say something like 34 hours instead), I would definitely consider writing a Danish blog.
However, with the anthology of my shoulder for a little while, I now have the rest of the day to prepare for the Level Up Game Community conference in Utrecht, which starts tomorrow. Counting on being offline for that reason until Friday, but should be back in this space sometime after that.
+ coming up: link to the new issue of Dichtung Digital, which includes an article by yours truly and should go online any day now.
My Other Places
Death Stories project
DK forskerblogs (DK)
klast at del.icio.us
Site feed Link (Atom)
Buy our book
Mobile Media 2007
Perth DAC 2007
My Ph.D. thesis website:
Towards a Poetics of Virtual Worlds
I also used to host & work in a world called StoryMOO.