klastrup AT it-c.dk

This is the research diary of Lisbeth Klastrup. Here I share some of my thoughts on life, universe, virtual worlds, interactive stories and internet oddities with you.

I'm a ph.d. scholar at DIAC at the IT University at Copenhagen (ITU). I also host & work in a world called StoryMOO. At this ITU homepage you can read more about my research project and miscellaneus activities. List of publications is here.

Current month

Fellow researchers
Jesper Juul
Susana Tosca
Troels Degn Johansson
Estrid Soerensen
Lars Konzack
Kenneth Hansen
Gabriel Hansen
Joergen Callesen
Soeren Pold

Jill Walker's blog
Torill Mortensen's blog
Ragnhild Tronstad
Hilde Corneliussen's blog
Carsten Jopp's blog
Anders Fagerjord's blog

Anna Gunder
Jenny Sunden
Mikael Jacobsson

Aki Jarvinen
Markku Eskelinen
Raine Koskimaa

-The World
Gonzalo Frasca's blog (URU, US)
Anja Rau's blog (DE)
Elin Sjursen's blog (NO, US)
Frank Schaap's blog (NL)
Adrian Miles' Vog blog (AUSTR.)
Mark Bernstein's blog (US.)

Related Reads
Dust from a Distant Sun (DK)
Cykelkokken (DK, in Danish)
Two Years in Denmark (DK,US)
Future Dr. Karlsbjerg (DK)
Laurel.blog (US)
Texturl (US)

©Lisbeth Klastrup 2002

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Typical! Away from Denmark for a few weeks and the Danish prime minister Paul Nyrup Rasmussen choses to announce elections for the government in November. - Well, I have always wanted to try to vote per mail, just to see if democracy works at a distance too;) and this time it seems important since we are in danger of having a right-wing government elected - with negative views on immigrants entering Denmark and a very pro-US attitude etc. And I am not too proud of the official Denmark's "humanistic" attitudes as is. Hope I can make the vote in time via Danish Embassy in Oslo....

Comparative Game Literature. MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) comparison - J.C.Smith at GameZnet compares the 5 big MMORPGs Ultima Online, Everquest, Asheron's Call, Anarchy Online and Dark Age of Camelot in areas such as Character Building, Background and Setting, Reputation System, Advancement, Quests, Diversity of Equipment etc.

This article by way of the MUD Developers list, which I have just been pointed to by DIKUMUD & ValhallaMUD core programmer Hans-Henrik Stærfeldt. I wrote to him yesterday to hear if he knew of any Danish MUDs?. He doesn't neither, so I am firmly beginning to believe that there are NO Danish language MUDs or MOOs around. There are the CALLMOOs at Bergen, which are aimed at learning Norwegian students foreign languages and there is SvenskMUD originally developed by Daniel Pargman. But no dedicated gameoriented MUD seem to exist with a nordic language as primary language. Guess, it is partly because MUDs want to be international and therefore choose to cater for as many nationalities as possible by having English as their primary language - another reason probably being that you would have to program such a MUD pretty much from the beginning to make all action in the database understandable in, say, Danish. Still, there should be Nordic players enough to inhabit a Nordic MUD with Nordic languages. Could indeed be interesting to study if there were one such, to see what would happen to the Danish, Swedish, Norwegian language in the process of playing and whether in a gameworld it would be possible for people to use their own Nordic language or whether, over time, a sort of Inter-scandinavian language would evolve... Matter of fact is, for the article I am writing in Danish about online worlds and textuality, all the texts I quote will be in English....

Not bad for a monday. By way of Elin and Gonzalo Frasca, I have now found the game, I always wanted to play:The truth is out there , one of several nifty small online games in the series Orisinal: Morning Sunshine made by game designer Ferry Halim. In this particular game, you have to film UFOs crossing the sky and zoom in on them too, if you can. The more footage, the more $ in the end. - Reminded me so much of my UFO period as a teenager: I have watched the sky sooo many nights hoping for a UFO to appear so I could photograph it, and finally prove they existed (also to myself!). So I guess that's one reason why I like to play games: some of them makes weird dreams come true, albeit just for a little while ;).

Is this a game too? The Ivanhoe Game - Jerome McGann and Joanna Drucker trying to develop a to-be-computerised(?) way of interpretating literary works as a kind of game...

Starting to work on a brief introductory article on "online textuality" to Danish Literary Magasine. A term I think I came up with myself to make my ph.d.title look good;). I am still not sure though, whether I have actually read it somewhere and it then reappeared in my mind without a sender - or if I did think it myself; a dubious feeling most reseachers experience at times, I would think. Whether my concept or someone else's (or shared between minds unaware of each other), I still really don't know what it means precisely or how to explain it. Will keep you posted, dear reader...Meanwhile browsing the net for relevant definitions, the finding of The Ivanhoe Game one of the results.

Been away from blogg a few days, because I have been participating in the seminar Cyber.* of which I was also the co-organiser together with Jill Walker. At the seminar we talked a lot about games. Jill, for instance, gave a presentation on various recent Bin Laden "games" and Jesper Juul talked about fun in games. Coming back, I found this article by Ernest Adams in Gamasutra The Day the "Fun" Became Real. At seminar, Espen Aarseth talked about what games are not - and here Ernest Adams seem to talk about what games can no longer be.Funny how themes sometimes congest at certain times, perspectives both supporting and contradicting each other.

I will be back later with more reflections on the seminar.

Biting the hand - a biweekly column on online gaming (&industry) by game designer and critic Jessica Mulligan. Column has in fact been running since 1997!. The column is now on the pages of the compagny Skotos, but used to be at Happy Puppet.com. Full archive is here.

Mostly by way of Game Research.com - a site run by the two Danes, Simon Egenfeldt-Nielsen and Jonas Heide Smith. A predecessor to this site is their site autofire.dk (which comes in newly revised edition too, I just see). Heide&Nielsen are authors of the book Den digitale Leg - om børn og computerspil (UK: The Digital Play - on children and computergames) from 2000 and, according to the authors, the online bibliography and game research site grew out of the work with that. The site lists games per genre (a courageous approach, I think) and has a short discussion of each genre plus references to literature about it. Perhaps a slight tencendcy to emphasise the children's gaming and pedagogy pov - but they try to be neutral :).

A list of lists. CataList, a catalogue of all LISTSERV based mailinglists (some 48.000!). You can search on lists of interest.

Sorry, I couldn't help myself :-D. Here is Jalwa, the original video (or one of them..) with Daler Mehndi, 34-year old Indian pop star. The video inspired the mock swedish video "Han teleporterar Taliban" or rightly Daler and the Secret Weapon . Some years ago I saw my first real Indian Bollywood Movie and I loved it for the sing-happily-whenever-we-have-the-chance-to-do-it-never-mind-the-current-setting-and-mood style. This goes for this video too, of course. Hmmh, I wonder what several western-looking female models are doing in it ;).(NB! 4,3 MB, .ra file)

A new community has been formed to follow the online game apparently premiering with relation to the US tv series Alias. The show's homepage definitely has very game-like style...

Having seen A.I., the film, I have been wondering how the community (the "collective detective") Cloudmakers which evolved around the online game which preceeded it, reacted to the film. I have not gotten that far yet, but it seems that the people behind the online game were named "The puppetmasters" and some gamers towards the end of the game period, eventually met up with some of them in an IRC chat on the game. Also the Puppetmasters has posted an entire creditlist at the Jeanine Salla site (on of the fictional characters in game). It includes a FAQ - one of which is the question "So how did the world end, anyway?" So now we know...
There is a clarifying article about the people behind the phenomena and its effects here.

O brave new worlds,
That have such people in them!

-- E.A.Abottt, Flatland, 1884

"A.I. - or The return of Lassie". I went to see A.I., the movie, with Jill yesterday. Both of us were rather disappointed afterwards. There was much promise in the online A.I "game", which ran prior to the opening of the film and I really had looked forward to watching it. But the film itself turned out to be a rather banal story about a robot that wants to be human, so "mummy" could love it more. The film's premise - which was not consistent, something that really annoys me - is that robots do not have an emotional life, but if you program them to "love" a certain person, they will develop a "human" emotional system. Before our emotionally capable robot, David, is created, there is only sofisticated robot looking like humans, but not behaving as such. However, firstly the film has a rather weird concept of "love" - here it consists of imprinting David to love one - and only one - person, that is: "mummy". Though he is programmed to behave nicely to other people, what he really only cares about is mummy's love - and in that sense he reminded me more of a faithful dog, devoted only to his master. And you can view the story as "kilobyte" version of Lassie. Lassie (David) gets lost from his mum and tries to find his way home again, overcoming ever so many obstacles, facing bad humans etc. Of course there is this xtra element that David wants to be a "real" human, so mummy can "really" love him. But the absolute lack of reflection on the consequences and implications of the wish, is characteristic of David's somewhat canine capabilities. In that sense, too, he is more like a stupid dog, once set on track, he continues without ever stopping... And what about the remaining robots which were supposed "not" to feel? I am still wondering what, if not feelings of "kindness" or "care", motivates the speaking teddybear and the lover-robot to help out David whatever the costs. Why would a robot, programmed to make love to women, care to run around in a dark wood holding hands with another robot (boy), if not a rather irrational "non-robotlike" pity for his mate? Etc. It reminded me more than I thought it would, of another recent film on robots/humans "The Bicentenial man" with Robin Williams. Here the resolution consists in the future "world council" recognising the robot as a human in legal terms. - As Jill asked yesterday: why on earth should robots, if they ever developped a consciousness, want to be like us?

Communications from elsewhere - another blogg to follow. Has links to several story & essay generators and looks like an American with a more nuanced view on recent happenings.

Carsten Jopp, ph.d.student at University of Bergen who is studying IT and Learning, has aired with a cool, new blogg: Jopplogg. Looks like he has personally fought and won the fight with the Blogger-Template [reverent & impressed bow to the ground].

Analyzing behaviour in computer games, a Master thesis by student at Institute for Matemathical Models and Informatics (DTU), Claus Behn. From studies of the way people play Quake 3 - Arena, he tries to outline 4 levels of behaviour when playing games which could be used to identify the player, i.e. another way of working with a digital signature. By way of this article in Computerworld.dk.

Finnish colleague, game reseracher and game developer, Aki Järvinen has started a weblog too, ruutukaappaus.com. But alas (quite logically), it is in Finnish. However, so far there is a link to his homepage akijarvinen.net, which is partly English ;). Btw, the online English-Finnish-English dictionary at Finnplace tells me that ruutukaappaus means something like "screen takeover".

Norway chronicles, Day 13
It is quite amazing what can happen by way of electronic media. Not long ago my colleague Charlie Breindahl suggested me for a position in the executive commitee of A.o.I.R (Association of Internet Researchers). Out of courtesy and interest, I agreed and uploaded a short bio to their webpage through which also the election of the commitee took place. And most unexpectedly, last Friday I was informed that I had been elected for the commitee (i.e. the open seat for graduates). So I am now member of a commitee of which I have only seen very few faces in RL. Still, I feel I know most of them from the postings of the A.i.R. list...so they are, however, not "unfamiliar" faces. The commitee had a physical meeting this Saturday at the Internet Research 2.0 conference in Minneapolis - both I and another researcher could not participate - he in Asia and I here - but still we contributed to the agenda by sending mails with comments to it. It is occasions like this which still makes me stand back and marvel at what the Internet can actually do for you in terms of academic co-operation and development across borders. I think of my father, who in his own field (he was a vet) also co-operated a lot with colleagues outside of Denmark. But he could only do it by phone or written letters - or the occasional live conference. If he was alive today, I know he would be envious :), but also happily embracing these new opportunities himself. It is strange to think how far we have come in less than one generation.

I just received another virushoax, a warning mail describing a virus that alledgedly spreads through a mail named "A virtual card for you" and which you are asked to pass on to all your friends... Seems like someone somewhere in the world has taken opportunity of the xtra fear and anxiety a lot of people feel these days towards anything that could remotely have anything to do with "terror" (like "oh, this could be a "terror" virus). In connection with a bit of research of the possible existence of the virus (it IS fake), I came across this neat listing of hoax virus' at Symantec.

Courtesy of colleague researcher and gamedesigner Gonzalo Frasca: Kabuul Kaboom - a game you cannot win...Made as a kind of response to the game New York Defender which Jill presented the other day, asking why she has enjoyed to play it? Are we allowed to have fun while we play games of this nature? I think so - if they are good games [disclaimer] and games are not per se reflections of the real world, so playing a game with an "evil" theme does not mean that you want to perform "evil" things in real life[disclaimer], they entertain and engage you for the same reasons that other good games entertain you (for discussions of what good games are, try looking at Ludology.org, Ludologica or Jesper Juuls homepage). And why should not games comment - in their own way - on what happens in the world? Novels, films, paintings and other "artistic" means of expression have done that for centuries and to my knowledge, no-one ever put a ban on people looking at Picasso's Guernica. Should what validates a commentary (be it ironic or serious) be it's mode of contemplation? That is, is it only valid as commentary if we have to apply intellectual reflection to understand it? If that is the claim, what about pop- and performance art? Other media forms have also used other modes than that of the intellectual-only to make a comment, make us stop and look at the world from another perspective, just for a brief while...

Virtual characters: the Danish Political Party Socialdemokratiet has just launched a chatbot called "Rosa" (would Luxembourg per chance be her sirname?) whom you can ask questions about the political viewpoints of this party - she is part of their newly redone frontpage....Interesting concept - though a quick test shows she is as primitive as most bots in her comprehension of natural language.Puzzling feature is that since she represents Socialdemokratiet, she insists on speaking in the plural "We" ;).

www.epan.se - a small swedish digital publishing compagny which specialises in e-books for both PCs and PDAs. There is such a thing as a mobipocket reader for my psion Revo I here discovered. Also the mobipocket site offers the I Ching as book on your PDA....

A note on canon.
Last evening, I picked up Sarah Sloanes Digital Fictions: Storytelling in a Material World (2000)- a recently borrowed acquisition, and was absentmindedly leafing through its bibliography when it struck me, not for the first time, that to a certain degree writing an ph.d.thesis is as much about expanding the "canonical bibliography" with new titles as it is coming up with new content...The field that I study (Digital aesthetics, digital narratives and other ways of creating story-experiences with the computer, -please note more literature than games, otherwise the canon would be different) is still quite new theoretically (some 20 years??) but still my sense is that there is already a certain canon established (of theory books that is, I consciously sidestep the question of a canon of interactive fiction work, games, various versions of cybertext etc here because this is minefield of somewhat dangerously normative nature). Hence, as an integral part of my "research" what I look for in a bibliography like Sloane's is titles apart from those listed below - in this still limited field of not yet canonised relevant publications - which can help me in my own work . And what I try to do as part of my own research is try to find articles and books which can be added to my own canonical bibliography in a new combination and though that to the unwritten but yet in the academic air floating "bibliography of the field" as such.
OK, deep breath: here is a list of what I think is the top 10 "canonical books" (not necessarily in terms of quality but of most referred to and most often listed) - also found in Sarah Sloanes bibliography (and in Espens "Cybertext" which was the book in the list I had available to check):

Roland Barthes: S/Z (1970 org./1974, first US translation)
Sherry Turkle: Life on the screen (1984)
Gilles Deleuze/Feliz Guattari: A thousand plateaus (1987, eng. trans)
Jay David Bolter: Writing Space - the computer, hypertext and the history of writing (1991)
Brenda Laurel: The computer as theatre (1991)
G.Landow: Hypertext:The convergence of contemporary critical theory and technology (1992)
Richard Lanham: The electronic word: Democracy, technology and the arts (1993)
G.Landow (ed.): Hyper/Text/Theory (1994)
Espen Aarseth: Cybertext - Perspectives on Ergodic Literature (1997)
Janet Murray: Hamlet on the Holodeck (1997)

Seymour Chatman "Story and Discourse", Gerard Genette "Narrative Discourse", Michael Joyce "Of two minds: Hypertext, Pedagogy, and Poetics", Walter Ong " Orality and Literacy", J.L, Austin "How to do things with words", Elisabeth Reids "Cultural formations in text-based virtual realties", Michael Heim "The Metaphysics of virtual reality", de Certeau "The practice of everyday life", Michael Benedikt (ed) "Cyberspace - First steps", Marie-Laure Ryan (ed): "Cyberspace Textuality & Literary Theory" are some often spotted comers-up.
Jane Yellowlees Douglas "The End of Books- or Books without end? Reading interactive narratives" published in 2000 is going to found in post-2000 bibliographies too, I think. As is Marie-Laure Ryans "Narrative as Virtual Reality" (2001). Probably Lev Manovichs "The Language of New Media" (2000) will be a must-read too. And hopefully Eskelinen/Koskimaas "Cybertext Yearbook" series (2000 - ) will be indispensable if you want to know who the future canonical writers will be...

Norway chronicles, day 7
I survived a weekend without internet access, but it was hard work. So such joy it has been to browse the net and mailpost again this morning... The Danish zine Søndag aften has a webwork in their latest issue. Relationships by David Cuartilleres. A fake homepage from a real dating site and some interaction beneath if you can get the flash-file to work. And hidden in the source-code of the page a longer reflection on the work (so this is this place where the author's "intentionality" hides these days..;)). In general a puzzling idea, but oddly static.

Norway chronicles, day 3
I'm still here and it's still raining. Yesterday and today, amongst other things, I have tried to update my MOO-link page and have renamed it to My virtual world catalogue - yet another linkholder. As part of this I'm currently going through some of the mags & journals I have bookmarked during the last couple of years, surprisingly few seem to survive on a longterm basis. Came across this article in one of them "Technologies of the Self:Foucault and Internet Discourse" by Alan Aycock - an Foucouldian inspired analysis of the interaction in a chessplaying newsgroup. Of relevance to some students, I'm supervising currently, but might also be interesting in terms of interaction analysis. I, for one, like those articles that quote extensively from the groups or communities examined - this is one of them.

At some point, the Journal of MUD Research turned into JOVE (The Journal of Virtual Environments). Had some good articles, but no new volume out since beginning of 2000. Another dead journal?

Norway chronicles, day 1.
I am now in Bergen, Norway and on the University of Bergen's network. Long live the efficiency of the local network admin! I will be staying here till the end of December, working with Espen Aarseth, Jill Walker, Carsten Jopp, Hilde Corneliussen and the other interesting people at this place.:). So far, Espen has gone to a conference in the US which is why I am currently sitting in his office, watching the Bergen rain and the mountains in the distance, behind the university buildings...

Opening mailbox, I found an interesting post to the AoIR list.
Web design is not about webdesign, it is about web-d 'media' design. We are talking about a medium of expression which will be expressed in many ways. Sometimes the best way to get across an idea is with the ambiguity and obfuscation common to art. A critique of the Bible and other holy documents could be that they might have been easier understood if they hadn't been written in parable form and just used bulleted action points not open to interpretation.

Indirectly this quote addresses exactly the kind of expression I am working with. Though I might not agree to the use of the word "obfuscation", making life a little bit harder, not easier for the users, is what the "arty" kind of work I am dealing with does. Interfaces can be mysterious, events unexplicable, the computer's power over you as user explicitly demonstrated - indeed, all these traits can be seen as "art-efacts" in works which aim at confronting your intellect or your curiousity. Making "the medium" transparent, meaning digestable and navigation easy, is not always a goal, despite what all the Jacob Nielseners of this world claim.