Monday: January 26, 2004


Hey, the university newsletter has a photo of me and my beautiful daughter sipping wine and cordial after the graduation ceremony! And here are a gazillion or so official photos.

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Sunday: January 25, 2004


Torill just posted an excellent photo-documentary of what actually happened during the graduation ceremony. Apart from the rector patting my shoulder, which was about all I managed to report. I look cute in my robe with buckled shoes and a handbag, don't you agree?

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Saturday: January 24, 2004


getting ready for the academic processionThe speech went great, the ceremony was impressive, the robes, the procession and the setting exactly like Hogwarts. Before the ceremony the rector smiled to me and to my surprise knew just who I was. She patted my shoulder, thanked me for agreeing to give the speech, and told me she was sure it would be great. Her smile and manner towards me was just like that of a loving aunt or a friend of my mother's, one of those experienced women who've watched you grow up and take pride in your success. Her gown was of deep red velvet with ermine edgings like a queen's, and her speech was a celebration of women's progress in academia. 47% of the new doctores were women last semester. Rektor reminded us that it's a hundred years since the first woman was awarded a doctoral degree in Bergen. After receiving her degree, Clara Holst contined her research abroad but on returning to Bergen, she was only given two half-year teaching contracts. She retired completely from academia when she was just forty and nothing more is known of her life.

It still isn't easy for women to remain in academia: only 13% of full professors are women. That number hasn't increased a lot in the last decade, despite the female-friendly Norweigan rules that award full professorships based on merit rather than available positions, and despite the growing numbers of women taking doctoral degrees.

After the ceremony the university newsletter journalist snapped photos of me and my daughter, as we were sitting chummily discussing how best to manoeuvre drinks and foods at a reception. I wish I'd been better able to answer her questions about how to get more female professors. Today I wrote her an email, telling her how much it meant to me that the rektor of the university patted my shoulder and smiled. Men have given me amazing support, don't get me wrong. Without Espen's belief in me and his steadfast pushing me into situations I didn't realise I could master I doubt I'd have realised I could start a PhD, let alone finish one so successfully. But I think rektor's pat on the shoulder was the very first time I've experienced motherly support in the university. And I really liked it.

When I have thirty years more experience than I have today, I'm going to be a motherly, encouraging professor. I'm going to encourage young women and men to succeed and I'll smile to them when they do as though I've watched them grow up and share their parents pride in them.

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Friday: January 23, 2004


I added a paragraph about joy to my speech and now I feel just so happy and enthusiastic - this ceremony thing's going to be great. I'm going to concentrate on the pleasure of research and of sharing knowledge and on how unbelievably brilliant we all are to have managed to finish. Yes!

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Thursday: January 22, 2004

[speech jitters]

Damn. I'd been holding back, telling myself, no, no, just write your own speech, honey, that'll be good enough, and it'll be yours, don't go trying to figure out what other people say on such occasions, what you've got to say is what they want, otherwise they'd have asked someone else to do it. And I was doing great, I really was, until one of those pauses in writing hit me, you know the kind, and my fingers idly googled "graduation speech" and of course there are gazillions and none anything like my words and all seem far more eloquent than mine could be.

Oh dear. My speech, you see, was about how much more confident and academically mature we are now, after getting our degrees. Yeah, right.

And oh my goodness. Look, this woman is coming all the way from Palestine to attend the ceremony. There's no way my speech can do that justice.

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Tomorrow's the graduation ceremony for everyone at our university who got a PhD last semester. 50 of 70 doctores will be there. We get to borrow gowns and do an "academic procession" and we'll be presented with our diplomas and we'll listen to music and be served champagne (I hope) with our families and and and and everyone else gets to listen to my speech on behalf of the new doctores. It's way cool to have been asked to give such a speech. It's very strange to be giving it.

A brand new stipendiat (PhD research fellow) has just moved into the office next to mine. She jolted me into realising how amazingly I've grown and changed in the last four years. She looks impossibly young for one thing, just as every primary school kid did the day I started high school, and she seems just as confused about everything as I was when I was a brand new stipendiat. She's also just as eager as I was. I'm sure she'll do a wonderful job.

I think that's what I'll talk about. It's to celebrate those of us who finished, after all, and good heavens, we really finished! Despite the frustrations and the anguish of being on one's way, we finished, we did great, we learnt so much, and now, somehow the process doesn't look that bad anymore. Also, we now know exactly where to find the department hole puncher.

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Sunday: January 18, 2004

[defence story]

Anders Fagerjord has posted his PhD defence story, with photos - and do you know, not only had his opponents read his blog, one even read from one of his first blog posts while interrogating him...

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Saturday: January 17, 2004

[dr juul]

Hey! Jesper Juul is now a doctor! His colleagues gave him an x-box to celebrate the occassion :) Congratulations!

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Thursday: November 27, 2003

[the story]

I don't think I've ever been so tired in my life. I'm still tired, two days later, though I slept and slept last night. I'm exhausted. But hey! I did it!

after-defence.jpg defence-smiling.jpg

The defence was excellent. I was calm, and it wasn't terrible once I was there. Everyone was there: my parents, my grandfather, colleagues from my department, from literature where I did my MA, from the media deparment where I've taught new media, from Intermedia, from other institutions in Bergen; Torill came from Volda and Lisbeth, Jesper and my wonderful supervisor Espen came all the way from Copenhagen. I think there were about forty people there all told. The photo of the audience below was taken by my mum, but you can't see the front rows there. Mum took all these photos, actually: thanks, Mum!

After I'd given a short, twenty minute presentation of my thesis, Marie-Laure Ryan, the first opponent, spent an hour discussing it with me. She's an expert on the theories I've chosen as my main approaches to interactivity - possible worlds theory that discusses how readers (users) relate to the fictional worlds projected by representational works - so I'd been both dreading and looking forward to hearing her thoughts on how I'd used these theories. It was an interesting conversation, though I wish I could remember the details more. I remember talking about the differences between fictional and other worlds, and Marie-Laure had some insights I'll certainly be using as I continue working on this. The photo below shows me thanking her after she'd finished grilling me! While the actual opposition was happening, I was over at the other side of the stage.

after-defence.jpg defence-thanking-marie-laure.jpg

Even lunch was pleasant. It was a formal lunch of elegant open prawn sandwiches in a hotel, with the prodekanus, the committee members, my supervisor and me. It's not the terrifying setting I'd imagined, it's a pleasant way of simply chatting without pressure, and there is quite obviously a strong plan here of inculturating the candidate in an academic world. You're being accepted into the tribe.

After lunch, it was the turn of the second opponent, Bjørn Sørenssen. He's a media scholar, who started working on interactive video in the early 80s, and he offered a whole new approach to my topic: documentary theory. I've heard bits of this before, but since my background's in literature, I've been more likely to compare Online Caroline or Uncle Buddy's Phantom Funhouse to Dostojevski's or Nabokov's introducing a novel by saying that he found these papers in someone's attic or something, rather than to Peter Jackon's mockumentary about Colin McKenzie, the (fictional) forgotten New Zealand film maker. Bjørn showed an excerpt from the McKenzie film, and suggested several very interesting concepts from documentary - and mockumentary - theory that I could have used to think about the spams, hoaxes and fictions-pretending-to-be-real that I've written about. Bjørn also asked about ontology, which I use in Pavel's sense, as being about worlds, and he suggested that Heidegger and phenomenology would have been useful. I read Heidegger before I started thinking about fictional worlds and crossing boundaries; perhaps if I'd read it again, now, I'd find it more immediately useful than I did then.

All in all I found the defence a wonderful, if somewhat anxious, learning experience. I have a lot of new leads for continuing my research, and I've had help in clarifying some concepts. It's a wonderful privilege having two experts read your work that thoroughly.

Once finished, people started congratulating me and I just smiled and smiled and smiled. I think one of the most touching things was my students giving me flowers! I hadn't expected that at all, and they were just so lovely! The students I mean, the flowers too, very lovely, but oh, what gorgeous students I have!

By this time, the chef (mum's present to me, a totally brilliant present!) and his assistant had already filled the villa I'd rented for the party with delicious smells.

defence-checking-out-villaveien.jpg defence-cooks.jpg

We stopped by for a quick checkup - mum and my girlfriends had set the tables the night before and everything looked wonderful, so after a couple of minutes, I went home and picked up my daughter from school and did the standard afternoon things: stirfried a meal, helped her with her homework, watched some TV - and both she and I got all totally dressed up. She in her princess dress (white lace, pink sash) and me in my fishtail skirt and mermaid corset. Taxi to the villa, last minute preparations with girlfriends and parents, and suddenly the house was full of people and champagne and presents and congratulations and it was amazing. My daughter left with her dad at nine, when food was served (just as she broke down in exhaustion; I lasted a little longer) and oh, the food was so good! Below is Thomas (and a bit of Jon) giving me a brilliant book of photographs. Next to that you can see Bjørn, my second opponent, with Gro, head of my party committee and a good friend ever since my comp. lit. days.

defence-thomas-jill.jpg defence-bjorn-gro.jpg

The dinner may be stressful to prepare on top of preparing the defence itself and the trial lecture, but in retrospect I realise that it, along with the lunch with the professors, is crucial: social networking is absolutely necessary in academia and it's a skill that's not often formally recognised as part of the job. Often seeds of important ideas and collaborations are sown in these less formal settings, and getting to know one's colleagues socially allows much more fruitful collaboration later.

And of course it's a wonderful high after the horror of the defence (or at least the horror of dreading it) to hear generous, appreciative speeches about yourself! The prodekanus's research field is religion, which turned out to be rather interesting since I spoke about avatars and fictional, sacred and actual worlds. She spoke about the defence as a rite of passage in her speech. Dag, the head of our department said lovely things too, one of the nicest being that they think I'm an excellent teacher! That made me happy. Espen said wonderful, generous things about me, and so did my mother, of course. Mum, who did her PhD at Cambridge in the late sixties, said that getting a PhD mightn't make much difference in what I actually do, but that it's more like getting an upgrade to business class. You'll be treated with more respect, and you might get to slip more easily through the lines and red tape. That, along with my rather exuberant thank you speech, concluded the mandatory list of speeches, but Lisbeth slipped in a few words too, and oh, she was lovely. Everybody was lovely, really, I have wonderful friends and family and colleagues!

I'd forgotten to charge the batteries in my camera (ah well, I remembered a lot of other things) so I don't have as many photos as I'd like. If you were there and took photos, do send me copies, please! Below is a cross section from before dinner was served: this is Jesper, Frank, Lisbeth, Carsten, Magne and Jon.


The Norwegian defence actually sets up a complete range of traditional, academic ways of exchanging knowledge. You're given written response to your thesis, as reviewers do to papers you submit to (good) journals and conferences. You're asked to prepare a lecture on a tight deadline. You go through an intensive question and answer session in the old tradition of academic debate. You eat lunch with the dean and professors in your field. You host a dinner for colleagues, family and friends, and again, you sit at the same table as your opponents, the dean, the head of your department, your supervisor and your parents. I continued my academic discussions with my opponents during dinner, but in a much more pleasant and cheerful manner.

The best, yes, the very best part of the day was after midnight, after the cakes and coffee and after quite a few people had left. I put on the music from Fame and we all, and I mean all, danced to it.

The last guests left at six. And yes, I did manage to get to Marie-Laure's talk at noon, and I finished tidying and gave back the keys, and I picked up my daughter from school - and collapsed. We just watched videos all afternoon, eating leftovers from the party. I went to sleep right after she did.

Defences are usually on Fridays. That is a very sensible idea. You need a weekend or two after an ordeal like that.

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Tuesday: November 25, 2003



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[over soon]

I can't decide whether to spend the next two hours frantically revising or deliberately relaxing. Whatever I do the whole PhD defence will be over soon. By my next blog post, actually.

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Monday: November 24, 2003

[trial lecture's done]

Survived part one: I officially passed my trial lecture. There were no questions, just a strange sort of end, but Marie-Laure said afterwards that she liked the golems :) I even had a nice dinner with Lisbeth, Torill, Jesper and Marie-Laure, before shooting off home to work while they, the lucky things, have another drink or two. My wonderful mother and friends have been setting the table and so on in preparation for tomorrow's dinner. And now I'm going to have a cup of tea, some chocolate, and I'm going to sit down and make quite sure I know how to respond to the critical points in the committee's report.

Oh, what the trial lecture turned out to be about? Well, I talked about the Hindu and digital origins of the word avatar, and argued that avatars, as projections of the user into another world, are useful concepts in thinking about represented worlds that have clear boundaries from our own, actual world. I showed how the user mirrors the characters in Magic-tree.com, and how those characters aren't really avatars; how I don't even really identify with the characters whose movements I'm enacting. Then I described the myth of the golem (not a projection into another world but an animated non-human in this world) and read a bit from Fuentes's Aura (search for "ritual" inside the book, that's the page I read), and proposed that when there are less clear boundaries between actual and represented world it might be more useful to think about the relationship between user and fictional characters as similar to that between a golem and its creator.

I am dying to get my hands on Norbert Wiener's God and Golem, Inc. The weirdest thing about writing a paper on a set topic in only two weeks is that you get all these good ideas that don't quite have time to unfold. And you discover potentially fascinating connections and literature the day before your deadline.

Tomorrow: the defence itself. The disputas. Tomorrow evening: the party. Then it'll be over.

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Therapy for the anxious young woman about to defend her PhD: Put on all the music that's ever made you crazy happy, the older the better, the more memories of dancing with girlfriends the better, the more buoyant the words the better. Fame! I'm going to live for ever! I'm going to learn how to fly! Baby remember my name! will do nicely, as will I'm a racing car passing by, like Lady Godiva! I'm going to go, go, go, there's no stopping me!Don't stop me now! I'm having a good time, I'm having a ball... or even It's raining men! or win a fortune in a game my life will never be the same. Is there a version of Survive that's about PhD dissertations instead of men? I'd like that!

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[today and tomorrow]

Today's my trial lecture. At 4.30 pm. Tomorrow's the actual defence. From 10.15 am till about 2 or 3 pm. Anyone who's interested is welcome to come and listen; it's in Auditorium B at Sydneshaugen. In Bergen. In Norway. But you're not allowed to ask nasty questions ex auditorio. The press release explains when and where things are happening.

This afternoon, before my trial lecture, Torill's giving a talk titled "Kontroll, innflytelse, utfordring og fryd: Flerbrukerspill som brukerstyrt medium", and on Wednesday, Marie-Laure Ryan, my first opponent and a wonderful scholar, is giving a talk titled "Cyberspace, cybertexts, cybermaps". Those lectures are open to the public as well.

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[sick child]

My daughter's got the flu and can't go to school. It's supposed to be my week (I'd worked out the sitter, me picking her up later, her hanging around before the party tomorrow night) and I felt so guilty asking her dad to take two extra days. He's got important stuff at work too, but, well, it's obvious. I think I could take almost any other days in my whole career off work to look after my sick child, but not these two.

Nah. Not too guilty now I'm off the phone with them. That's the point of having two parents.

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Sunday: November 23, 2003

[getting there]

Nearly done with the trial lecture, except the visuals, which may end up being rather minimal. Still working on the twenty minute presentation of the whole thesis, for the actual defence on Tuesday, and the Answers to the Seven Points of Criticism from my committee.

My arm hurts as it always does when I'm scared and I'm feeling so so so tired.

But the lecture's not bad.

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Saturday: November 22, 2003

[45 hours from now]

Urg. My trial lecture is the day after tomorrow. In 45 hours and 15 minutes I'll be nervously waiting outside the door to Auditorium B with the prodekanus, the opponents and the head of my department. When the hands of our watches reach half past four we'll walk in, in a little procession. At least I think we will. Maybe the procession's only for the actual defence. Which is Tuesday. In 63 hours time.

I should have reread all the books I've cited in my dissertation. But first I have to finish that lecture. And the presentation for the defence. And and and and...

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[costumes and etiquette]

Man and woman wearing the Fana bunadThe University of Trondheim provides an etiquette guide for the nervous PhD candidate planning his or her defence and surrounding celebrations. They even tell you what to wear: pent formiddagsantrekk for the trial lectures, for instance a light-coloured suit, or a slightly informal dark suit with a coloured blouse or shirt. For the defence itself you should choose a festantrekk, as you'd wear to a wedding, a christening or on 17. mai: a dark suit, a bunad or even a tuxedo. The audience wears regular clothes.

I've never seen anyone defend their PhD in a bunad, though it's a fascinating thought. Do people really do this?

The author actually suggests that you might need to rent a hotel room to get away from kids and housework. I obviously haven't been taking this seriously enough! Get enough sleep, eat properly and don't get drunk the night before - sound advice.

And it's not an oral exam, as it is in Finland, apparently. A Norwegian defence is supposed to be an exchange of ideas between peers, where two external experts use their time and knowledge to study and discuss the third expert's research.

The first doctoral defence at the University of Bergen was held in 1949. The candidate wore a tuxedo.

I have actually done some work today. This is my 15 minute break :)

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Friday: November 21, 2003

[last year]

I was busy this time last year too.

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Thursday: November 20, 2003

[not this]

Jamie's link made me laugh so much I'm putting it on the main page for other unfortunate soon-to-defend their PhDs to enjoy: Things Not To Do During Your Defence. [Update: Torill, upon reading this list, would like to point out that she actually did many of these things at her defence. Kissing the thesis when the guests clink their glasses with their spoons is quite a touching thought, really.]

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Look at that. The University newsletter, På Høyden, has taken a quote from my remediated-into-website radio interview, combined it with a couple of sentences from the press release and hey presto I'm in the newsletter. Journalism is so efficient, I'm impressed!

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Wednesday: November 19, 2003


chinese-top.jpgI just realised I have to figure out what to wear for my trial lecture, too! Would it be inappropriate to wear the same outfit as I'll wear the next day? Should the trial lecture attire be a little less formal than the actual defence's costume? Would a skirt give the wrong impression? Boots or shoes? Perhaps my red, chinese top, á la Mary, with jeans and boots (and hair up or down? sleek or curly?) to invoke an image of multivalency and grassroots power? The intertextual connections to the turquoise corset in Chinese fabric I'll be wearing the next night (with a scarf and a long, black, mermaid skirt) would work well.

It's amazing how easy it is to obsess about practical details rather than write my lecture. At least I've stopped researching the entire etymology of "avatar".

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Tuesday: November 18, 2003

[radio, remediated]

The radio interview this morning was fun, and living as we do in convergent times, they remediated it into a web article three hours later: Doktor i internettfiksjon [update: with a link to the audio]. Very efficient way of interviewing people, that. I mean, it was literally a four minute interview, with all of three minutes of small talk on either side. My taxi pulled up at 6:53 (a little late, the driver went to the wrong address...) and they waved goodbye to me at 7:03, by which time the news had been on for three minutes.

The taxi driver who drove me home was cute. It was his second day on the job, so he was extra talkative, and by way of conversation he asked me whether I worked at NRK, where he'd picked me up. No, no, I said, they interviewed me. "Oh, you're famous!" he said, making me laugh with that pleasure at being flattered, even jokingly. "You can drop me off here", I said, "don't bother driving all the way in, there's so little room to turn." But he insisted. "Nonsense! You're famous! I'll drive you all the way to your door step!"

He had the radio on, of course, but it was tuned to Radio 1. Not NRK.

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Monday: November 17, 2003


I'm going to be on the local radio news (NRK Hordaland) tomorrow morning at 6:50 am. Cool! I haven't been in a radio studio since I worked as a journalist in Studentradioen, and I quit that in 1992, in the dark ages, before digitality. I guess the journalist's phonecall means the press release worked. They've promised me fresh coffee and a hot newspaper as well as taxi coupons and an early and efficient start to my day. I'm dreading the alarm clock.

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Sunday: November 16, 2003

[digital avatars]

I've been hunting to see when the word avatar was first used about user puppets in digitally represented or simulated worlds - I'm not sure I'm quite there yet, but this is a start. Neal Stephenson (1992), Habitat (1984-88, paper on it published 1991) and Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar (1985) are the sources I've sniffed out so far. I've yet to work out whether the word was used about MUDs in the 80s. If you know more, please drop a line in the comments!

Continue reading "digital avatars"
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Friday: November 14, 2003

[veiled books]

veiled-books.jpgI push aside my books and pull my new scarf across my arm, feeling the thin but slightly rough cloth drawing strings of bead in its wake. Lisbeth is coming from Copenhagen, and Jesper, and Espen, my beloved supervisor, and Torill's coming from Volda and Patricia who's known me since I was a baby is coming from Oslo and James and Julie and Andrew said that maybe they'd be able to come, though it's a long way from Oslo, they'd like to, and my friends from Bergen are enthusiastic and gorgeous and, actually, you know, it's going to be a brilliant party! The defence? Oh, that'll be OK. The audience will be on my side! And now I have a scarf to pull around my shoulders if I'm chilly. Or just shy.

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[press release]

Ooh. The official press release they made me write is on the university website now. That's the photo the university photographer took, right there. I look slightly insane. And here's the internal announcement. Adgang for interesserte, admission open to those who are interested. At least as importantly: I finally found a scarf I like and can afford, that I can wear with my mermaid outfit for the dinner. It's black. With beads.

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Thursday: November 13, 2003

[avatars of vishnu]

When there was trouble in the world, Vishnu would allow a portion of himself to be incarnated as a mortal: a fish, a boar, a dwarf, a semi-human semi-man, heroes like Rama, wise men like Krishna and Buddha. These were his avatars. A Hindu site explains this in detail, as does the Encyclopedia Britannica, though the latter may be subscription only.

Kalki, the avatar that is yet to come (though some believe he is here already), will be a machine-man, says this completely unauthorised site, but the Encyclopedia Britannica unfortunately refuses to confirm this - if true it would be a nice tidbit for a talk on avatars and machines.

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Tuesday: November 11, 2003

[female avatars]

I wanted to find out more about the religious use of "avatar" (it comes from Sanskrit, a deity sends his avatar to our world, avatars cross boundaries between worlds) and instead serendipitously found an article about female golems, dolls and cyborgs in Latin American literature (you'll need access to Jstor for the full text), which again led me to find a book that uses second person address and is about a woman who creates a female, Carlos Fuentes's Aura, and that reminds me of those Digital Beauties, or for that matter, Seducity (though the avatars there are both female and male, it's the female they show you first), and that I was thinking of perhaps writing about Galatea in my trial lecture about user-avatar relations. I'm starting to enjoy this :)

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[ex auditorio]

"So is it possible to fail, once you've made it to the defence?" I asked, hoping the answer would be no.

"Oh yes!" he answered with glee. "Absolutely! Actually, there was one particularly bad case in medicine a while back. Everything looked great until one of the doctoral candidate's lab assistants asked a question ex auditorium."

"What was the question?"

"Oh, he just asked why none of the human subjects who had died during the experiments were mentioned in the thesis."

Once my relieved laughter had subsided he added, "I think that was back in the twenties."

"So what about the other times people have failed at the defence?"

"Other times? I've never heard of any other times that's happened," he said with a smile.

I'd still prefer there to be no questions ex auditorio.

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Monday: November 10, 2003

[topic given]

I got my topic for the trial lecture I've got to give the day before my defence: ”User-avatar relations in cybertexts”. So now I have a fortnight to write a traditional 45 minute lecture of the sort you read slowly from a carefully prepared manuscript.

It's very close to the topic of my thesis. It nearly is the topic of my thesis, though I suppose maybe I could have spent more time discussing the user/avatar thing. I was hit by communication model fatigue, you see, you know, the real author - implied author - narrator - narratee - implied reader - real reader stuff. User and avatar (though I'm not sure I like the word avatar) go in there instead of "real reader" and "narratee" - more or less, perhaps a little less than more. You get into those questions people often get stuck in, too, like should we really be using models devised for literature and reading for works that aren't simply literary, and then there's the whole how structuralist do you want to be discussion. I delved too deep in all that in the first year I worked on my thesis, and got so tangled in definitions I had great trouble disentangling myself. Threw most of what I wrote into the "probably rubbish" folder. Perhaps I can write about this differently, though?

I think I'm going to do a close reading of something, and discuss the user/avatar question through that. Careful readings of actual works are my favourite kind of academic writing these days. Perhaps I'll write about Magictree.com, it's fascinated me, and I've not really written about it at all. And it involves the user quite peculiarly. Or I'll find something else. Suggestions?

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Wednesday: November 05, 2003



My girlfriends came over for dinner and planned the party. We've grown since planning parties to celebrate completed MAs, but we have just as much fun. Now I have a toastmaster, shoppers, party game organisers, cake bakers. It's going to be fun.

Though just this morning I was complaining to Rolf in the corridor that I wanted to just escape to a desert island. Ah, yes, he said. It really is your last possible chance to AVOID getting a PhD.

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Tuesday: November 04, 2003


Ragnhild finished, and Anders's PhD thesis is found worthy of being defended! He's defending it on December 11. I, meanwhile, am exhausted by practicalities, hungry, and have to finish an article tonight. And another tomorrow. Ticked a few more items off my list though. And I had a wonderful morning. Conversation, sun, cafe, walk, coffee.

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Monday: October 27, 2003

[clara holst]

I'll be defending my doctorate just a fortnight shy of a hundred years after the first woman in Norway was award her doctoral degree.

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Wednesday: October 22, 2003

[To do list for defence]

What I have to do now:

That's all I can think of for now. Seems like enough, don't you think?

Oh, there are all the other things too of course. Parent, teach, three bits of writing to finish up before November.

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Tuesday: October 21, 2003

[worthy of being defended]

The faculty sent me the committee's report electronically, to reach me more speedily:

It is the judgement of the committee that Jill Walker’s dissertation displays the depth and breadth of research, command of the field, and original character required of the PhD.

There's lots more. Three and a half single-spaced pages describing my thesis, explaining what it's original contribution to the field is and listing seven points of criticism. It concludes with what I assume is a set paragraph:

Despite the problems pointed out above, in the committee’s judgement the thesis represents an original piece of scholarly work that makes a valuable contribution to the field. The unanimous conclusion of the committee is that the thesis is worthy of being defended for a doctorate.

Some of the critical points confirm my own doubts about sections of the thesis, others I'd never considered. Several sentences make my eyes swim with concentration and will obviously need a lot of thought. There are some very specific theoretical criticisms that I'm sure will be raised at the defence. I need to read Searles. It seems I've both stated that "games aren't narrative" (pages 115 and 176) and also used a narratological approach. How silly of me. And why haven't I discussed phenomenology? Etc, etc, etc.

As I read I find myself repeatedly wondering who this "Walker", is, anyway, before repeatedly realising that oh, that's me. I've never seen one of these reports before. How strange, this ritualised, closed system, until the defence, which is so very public.

Do most people feel jubilant at this moment? My PhD thesis was accepted. I just have to defend it now, and that's a ritual, they might humiliate me in front of colleagues, superiors, students, family and friends (though I think my opponents are generous enough and I'm strong enough for that to be unlikely) but the chances of them failing me at the defence are negligible.

I just feel flat. I dread having to read the thesis again. I dread all the practical arrangements: copies made, summaries, press release, photo, dinner invitations, food, what if I offend someone by not asking them, who'll clean up? I dread having to come up with good answers to the critical points; my impulse is just to agree with them and say they're quite right, but I know that's not the way to do it in academia.

Once I get started I'll be fine. I'm going to hang on to the bits of the report that are wonderful to read, and there are quite a few of them, really, half the report is positive. This bit, for instance, I like this:

She succeeds in problematising the concept of interactivity in a way that still makes it possible to use the term in a fruitful way. She also represents a pioneering effort in her analyses of various interactive websites that so far have eluded this kind of theoretical reflection. In short, her dissertation is to be recommended as a useful theoretical excursion into a quickly developing field.

Oh, and this bit too:

Another strong point of the dissertation is its lucid and economical writing style, which make it a true pleasure to read.

Maybe I'll photocopy these positive bits (enlarged, huge, immense) and paste them all over my walls so that I don't forget them in the far more time-consuming nitty gritty of dealing with the problems pointed out. And I already know what I'm going to wear to the dinner!

Posted by Jill at 14:17 | | Comments (24) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday: October 19, 2003

[another one done!]

Jesper handed in his dissertation two days ago! Congratulations!

Posted by Jill at 12:18 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday: September 15, 2003

[what happened]

Torill's posted "the big description" of her trial lecture and defence.

Posted by Jill at 12:03 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday: September 12, 2003

[to brilliant]

My Volda correspondent just sent an SMS I'm sure she won't mind my sharing: "Torill was brilliant in a fast-paced repartee with Stuart. Second part starting now, flowers bought for this evening." (Actually the original says "Torill briljerte i samspill med Stuart", which I can't translate. The repartee may not have been "fast" but it sounds that way to me. Why doesn't English have a verb like "å briljere", to brilliant, to shine, I suppose, but to brilliant is better. "Samspill" is a good word too: to play together, as in music, complementing each other. Perhaps English isn't richer than Norwegian, just different.) Update! At 13:55:07 Hanne-Lovise sent a new SMS: Torill's a doctor!!!!! HOORAY! Update 2! Torill sent an SMS saying it was wonderful, she'd love to do it again, she'd recommend it to anyone! Yay! She even remembered to breathe.

Posted by Jill at 12:51 | | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday: September 11, 2003


Jesper's got three weeks left of his PhD grant and is in that zone where everything is connected, and even procrastination is weirdly productive:

[Playing Virtua Tennis] was meant to be a pure waste of time, but I’ve already written about how Virtua Tennis is a stylized simulation of real tennis in that many aspects of the real sport have been removed: You can’t leave the court; the player automatically positions himself for a smash. And is it cheating to quit a game in career mode if it’s not going well or should you play it to the end?

I remember that! Not the tennis game as such, but everything linking up, the glow of it, the insanity of how everything, no, really, everything, becomes relevant to what you're writing.

Posted by Jill at 0:03 | | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday: August 25, 2003


Torill is cutting up her dissertation committee's comments to keep some measure of control. I know that she'll fly, without even needing to row.

Posted by Jill at 14:36 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday: August 16, 2003


I've already managed to scare myself this morning by rereading my year-old but perfectly preserved description of a colleague's PhD defence. I was looking for a neutral description of a Norwegian PhD defence ritual to link from my nice new version of the "about me" paratext of this blog. The worst defence I've been to was one where the candidate was attacked for six straight hours for being too "untheoretical". Unfortunately, he got angry, and attacked his opponents in return, in fact, he took on the entire notion of theory and in particular French theory, with very little success but much incoherent fury. I must remember not to do this. At least not until the party, after the defence...

I find comfort in the fact that both these candidates received their degrees. Though I do hope that my supervisor, in his speech at the celebratory dinner, doesn't try to disown me by saying that "of course, the candidate refused most of my offers of help, so I don't really feel I've had a lot of influence on the result..."

Posted by Jill at 10:27 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday: June 07, 2003

[smith and andersen]

Damnit. Saw Matrix Reloaded tonight and I realised that in the brief, semi-obligatory reference to The Matrix in my thesis I wrote Mr Andersen when I meant Smith. Mr Andersen is what the evil sentient software agents call Neo. Agent Smith is the generic name of the infinitely replicable, evil, sentient, software agent. I can see how I made the error: the agents repeatedly say "Mr Andersen" whereas Neo hardly ever says "Smith", so of course I associated the words Mr Andersen with the agents...

I wonder if they'll lock me up if I change Mr Andersen to Smith in the 40 copies I have to make for university libraries around the country, when/if my thesis passes. I mean, just imagine the ignomy of having such a horrific pop-culture error in libraries for ever. I would never live it down.

Blogging the debacle seems the only way of living through this and keeping any remnants of honour I have left.

Posted by Jill at 21:19 | | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday: May 14, 2003


Now that his thesis is done (like mine!) Anders has resurfaced with a delightful desciption of the arcane doctoral defence rituals of Norway. I think there may be tiny differences between the Bergen and Oslo versions of said ritual. In Bergen the candidate summarises his or her thesis at the beginning of the defence (or disputas as we call it - of course only Latin is used for such names) whereas Anders writes that this is the task of the first opponent in Oslo.

I would also like to add that once I witnessed a candidate who was permitted to sit during the disputas. She was 7 months pregnant, though, and the chair was wobbly and high so she was almost standing anyway. It did make me wonder whether non-pregnant but nervous candidates might get away with a chair.

Probably my adrenalin levels will be so high that sitting down will be the last thing on my mind.

Posted by Jill at 23:34 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday: May 10, 2003


fetching-bound-PhD-thesis.jpgMy mother, daughter and I laughed so gleefully when we picked up the five copies of the thesis from the copy shop that the copying men smiled back, enjoying the absurdity of photo sessions in a copy shop. It looked just like in the PDF, except realer. It didn't feel real at all leaving the bundle of theses in the secretary's office with a letter on top formally requesting that the thesis be considered for the dr. art. degree. There were no witnesses except for my mother, daughter, two students we passed in the hall and my mother's camera. But I think it's true. I finished!

Posted by Jill at 22:09 | | Comments (35) | TrackBack (1)


I just sent the PDF of my thesis to the copy shop. I'm hoping they can make me five copies tomorrow so I can take it up to the university tomorrow afternoon so I can enjoy the rest of the weekend before going to the university pedagogy course in Alver from Mon-Wed and then flying to MelbourneDAC on Thursday. Phew!

I have no idea whether it's good or bad at this point but there aren't any more red notes to myself anyway, and thank goodness I chopped out that pretentious bit in the introduction. It starts off with David Still. Oh and I'm so sick of it I don't even care if it's so bad they laugh at me during the defense so long as I don't have to write any more thesis.

Of course if they fail it I'll not be so happy. But I've seen some pretty lousy PhD theses, heck, if they passed, I will.

The defense will be public, gruelling and several hours long, according to Norwegian traditions: you're welcome to come but it won't be for at least half a year.

Posted by Jill at 1:43 | | Comments (8) | TrackBack (2)

Wednesday: May 07, 2003


Right. I've finished teaching for the semester, though I still have email supervision of essay-writing MA students for another week. Tomorrow and Friday I'm fixing all the last typos in my PhD thesis, and shifting round the conclusion a bit. And then, before picking Aurora up from school on Friday, I'm making five copies and piling them on the secretary's desk. I'll have submitted my PhD thesis.

I'm suddenly terrified just writing that. But it should work. Cross your fingers for me, please?

Posted by Jill at 22:23 | | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)

Monday: April 14, 2003

[impressive indexing]

I just sent Espen (my wonderful supervisor) my last thesis chapter, the one about hoaxes and stuff. I think it's sort of OK but after having chopped out the ridiculous attempts at Lacan (not really my cup of tea, though I struggle with deep feelings of inadequacy for not always know when to spell "other" with a capital O) I'm worried it's all just chatty surface stuff with no depth. So to distract myself, since I was on a deadline and needed to procrastinate, I started marking words so Word will generate an index. Wow. I am so impressed. Not only do I have interactivity, definition and narrator, homodiegetic, I have twelve mentions of Online Caroline, three of Kaycee Nicole and several different uses of ontological. I wonder whether putting the index at the front of the thesis will impress the committee enough to pass it?

I've promised Espen to have the conclusion done by Tuesday night. Then I've just got to polish it all and make sure it's sort of all about the same thing. I'm so excited going to sleep doesn't seem an option at all!

Posted by Jill at 0:37 | | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday: March 12, 2003


Torill's submitted her PhD thesis! OMG. Wow. Cool. CONGRATULATIONS!

Posted by Jill at 14:15 | | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)




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