Hello. I'm Jill Walker, a researcher at humanistic informatics at the University of Bergen. This blog is bits of my thoughts about my research on electronic texts:
hypertext, net art,
games, stories.

Right now the blog is hovering between two languages, so some bits are in English and some are in Norwegian. I reckon you'll manage just fine.


ISSN: 1502-8003



collegues with blogs:

adrian miles
torill mortensen
lisbeth klastrup
mark bernstein
carsten jopp
hilde corneliussen
elin sjursen
laura trippi
gonzalo frasca
katherine parrish
aki jarvinen
lars konzack
frank schaap


norske blogger

and also:

vog: video blog
hypertext kitchen
synthetic zero
ceres development peekhole
ockham's razor
ruthie's double

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saturday, may 19

Things will probably be quiet here for a couple of weeks - I'm going to be travelling and after that last failed attempt at being a roving reporter, I'm not promising anything!

posted 23:09 link

A few weeks ago I wrote "Being forced to do certain tasks in order to attain narrative resolution or a degree probably isn't the best way to learn. Or to enjoy oneself." But - uh - that's kind the opposite of the point of my dissertation-in-progress. That electronic texts always do force us to perform certain rather rigid tasks and that we actually do enjoy this. I haven't changed my mind, so am I simply of two minds here? I guess the thing is that not all forced tasks are equally satisfying. Let me quote Sue Thomas for you:

Working with a machine the operator becomes most efficient when she stops thinking about what she’s doing, and begins to operate in a semi-automatic mode.

This feels good. (Correspondence, p 20)

posted 23:08 link

Thinking is not what we think.

We try to believe we can think sitting in an office, in a car, in a plane, with us in the cockpit, our hands on the steering wheel, the steering wheel in our hands,

but it’s not like that at all, not at all,

thoughts arrive unleashed, impassioned, from all over, under all shapes and forms, and as we do not have enough strength, energy, electricity, clues, hands, seconds, tp receive them, they pounce on us, stone, bombard, daze, transport, fleece us----–us, puny seeds, mere ninny grains, intelligent, but minuscule–in a dazzling tempest, and with our fingers with our lips our eyelids, greedy tortured, we try to catch hold of all we can; we cling frenetically to the flaps, the folds, the fringes of these genial giants. (Hélène Cixous, Firstdays of the year)

posted 10:15 link

friday, may 18

Ages since I've linked to Adrian's vog (video blog) - the latest post is a video collage of impressions of Mount Loch. That's my back there, walking away, sliced up inside a collage/montage inside the frame. Be patient, the video takes a little while to load - I clicked it a few times but I'm not sure if I needed to. The vogs always unsettle me a little, teasing me into clicking just in case something I had no idea QuickTime could do has been programmed into the images. I like it.

posted 12:14 link

wednesday, may 16

I'm playing around with the title of this blog - lived thought, maybe? The words "lived experience" have been jumping out at me here, there and everywhere the last weeks, and I'm thinking of that and of my feeling that thought and life and experience and writing are deeply intertwined. On the other hand I quite like the basic command line interface of directory structures in jill/txt or something like that, so I might change back. Still, usr/bin/grl already does that. Someone's always already done everything ;)

posted 18:02 link

Elin's started up BloggerdyDoc again - nice new design! She thinks I've gone overboard with my post the other day, where I started off criticising Lev Manovich's style of presenting arguments in his recent book, continued by being annoyed with dominating men in seminars and finished up with the seeds for a manifesto for other styles of writing in academia. Elin asks: " Would you have reacted the same way if he was a woman? We have to be careful when we criticize people for writing what they feel they are entitled to write - otherwise - we are as "bad" as "them".. If we say "you can't write this nonsense!" - we are limiting them as much as they are us." I see her point, and I agree, I have a problem that in trying to explain the non-confrontational inclusive style of academic writing I would like to see, I tend to criticise - confront - people's writing. I obviously haven't quite found the solution yet. What I wanted to say in my post was not that Manovich oppresses me. He doesn't. I like lots of his arguments, and I disagree with others - that's fine. I don't like the style in which he presents his arguments: there is a lack of contextualisation, a lack of acknowledgement of other alternative perspectives that I find uncritical, and I find a lot of his statements far too generalising and unreflective ("A home page is a collection of personal photographs", page 220, is a trivial but illustrative example of unqualified generalising reductionalisms in the book.) This doesn't necessarily have much to do with gender. It is an example of one of many academic styles of argumentation - and sometimes intimidation - that I want to find alternatives to. Perhaps I should concentrate on examples of these styles rather than on individuals. No, maybe not - that would be right in an essay or a book, but a post in a blog is different. Posts in blogs do tend to start with something specific - a link, something the writer overheard or experienced or read - and then, if the post is more than a link, it expands into something way more general. The blogs I enjoy reading do, anyway. An essay or a book would usually be more balanced.

I don't want to silence Manovich. Of course not: I value many of his insights. And Manovich isn't the men in the seminars, either (as far as I know) - that wasn't what I meant to say. My point is that I would like to see more awareness - in all writers and speakers, including me - of how we present our arguments.

posted 12:00 link

tuesday, may 15

There was a thread about fictional web diaries on metafilter the other day - some rather amusing parodies here: the secret diaries of the chairman of the US federal reserve, the jailed ex-president of the Philippines, and Jame Gumb (a member of the Serial Killer Webring). Our Norwegian Sven Hope is doing the opposite: rather than parodying a real person he's a fictional character trying to infiltrate the real world by applying for real world jobs and participating in the "real" public debate.

posted 18:03 link

monday, may 14

The mere animal consciousness of the pleasantness I call Aesthesis, but the exulting, reverent, and grateful perception of it I call Theoria. (Ruskin, Modern Painters)

posted 16:54 link

She: I won't say anything. They expect me not to.
He: I must think of something to say. They expect me to speak.

This isn't make believe. This is today, here, now. These are my friends: wise and wonderful women and men who still sometimes hope that men and women are equal in our society.

posted 14:44 link

Torill suspects that the name-rememberers and academic jargon-dominators (see my post from yesterday) are mutants with flawed brains - that thought cheers me up considerably. I'm reimagining every man who's ever made me feel silly and ignorant as being terribly disadvantaged, having a tragic past where he was abducted by aliens who misaligned his brain - this theory explains many things.

posted 10:57 link

sunday, may 13

Reading Lev Manovich's The Language of New Media. It's obviously an important and thorough work, but it's another of those "I'm different, I'm new, no one else counts" manifestos that create conflict or disciples, not constructive dialogue. This book has no bibliography! Sure there are references, but they're hard to find since they're only in the footnotes. Not presenting a bibliography is a way of ripping away the context you're writing in and presenting your work as yours alone, in a vacuum where noone else has thought at all - or if they have, it's only as footnotes to your master-text. The blurb on the back cover states that this is "the first systematic and rigorous theory of new media" - now admittedly that's the publishers trying to sell it rather than Manovich's own words, but it's such a confrontational statement, refusing to acknowledge all the theory that has been written in the last decade or so. In the prologue, he complains that there are no theorists writing about new media's present, though some write about its possible futures:

Future researchers will wonder why the theoreticians, who had plenty of experience analyzing older modes of address, did not try to describe computer media's semiotic codes, modes of address, and audience reception patterns. Having painstakingly reconstructed how cinema emerged out of preceding cultural forms (panorama, optical toys, peep shows), one might ask why they didn't attempt to construct a similar geneology for the language of computer media at the moment when it was just coming into being, that is, when the elements of previous cultural forms shaping it were still clearly visible and recognizable, before melting into a coherent language? Where were the theoreticians at the moment when the icons and buttons of multimedia interfaces were like wet paint on a just-completed painting? Where were they at teh moment when the designers of Myst were just debugging their code, converting graphics to 8-bit, and massaging QuickTime clips? (page 7)

And so on. Certainly we can do with more of this kind of research, but this is written as though none exists - which is obviously self-inflating nonsense.

You know that guy who was there in every lecture you ever went to as a student, who still turns up at seminars now and then if you happen to go to one; that obnoxious young man (always a man) who can't help but comment the speaker at every possible moment blurting out seemingly endless lists of names and theories, never relating them to the topic at hand other than superficially; never speaking of experience or personal reflection but only of names and schools. I was intimidated by those men for years. They spoke in a jargon I thought I'd never learn to master, and knew the name and ideas of every theoretician in existence. The turning point for me came when I sat down with one of those men over coffee and discussed de Sade, the topic of that morning's lecture. For half an hour he ruled with his names and language. But then his barriers broke down. I started to see that he had no idea what he thought or felt about de Sade, he hadn't felt at all when he read the novels. Perhaps he'd never really read them, only read what all the names had written about them.

After that I grew suspicious of the jargon-spewing men who master that discourse so perfectly; all those intricately written essays that demand respect simply for their impenetrability. I started writing hypertext and discovered I was no longer trapped by my attempts to write as they do. I could invent my own voice instead of always failing to master the Master's Discourse. Now I know that kind of writing is a way of demanding attention and respect. I probably slip into that kind of intimidation technique myself now, sometimes. But I much prefer writing and speaking as me.

For me, knowledge (erkjennelse) is always personal. I understand the world and other people's voices and writing by relating what I see to my own experiences. I don't believe in abstract knowledge. That doesn't mean I have to experience something myself to believe in it, but I do think I have to relate things to my own desires and needs and experiences in order for them to mean anything to me. Experiences aren't always physical, they can be from reading, thinking, writing as well as doing. And I don't believe in "first", "only" and "best". In the same way, I detest evangelising as well as religion-bashing: I'm an atheist but attacks on other peoples' religions infuriate me just as much as the state education system telling my child that Jesus exists and people become angels when they die.

I want to write and think theory in an inclusive manner. My thoughts are always tied to a context of other thinkers and of lived experience, and I want to write about them in a way that includes that context. I want to build on others' thoughts rather than discard them or fight them. I want to try to write and think without needing to make other people into windmills to fight.

Why do they teach us to fight when we write?

[addendum, 14/5/01. isn't this also an attack? against windmills, perhaps? how can i think and write differently?]

posted 10:46 link

sunday, may 6

I'm trying to read 400 pages of theory of science for a seminar I have to attend tomorrow. After years of deciding for myself what's useful to me, what to read, I'm finding it almost impossible to force myself to be interested in these texts that are doubtlessly interesting but are someone else's choice. Half a dozen other books are tempting me but saint-like I've told myself no, read about rationalism instead. The result is that I've barely read anything. Hopefully the seminar will either spark my interest in the reading or allow me to merrily skip past it.

I've never been enthusiastic about set readings. I think my four year old might agree with me. She and I played with a new educational game today: Krakkel Spetakkel ABC: storm over ingenmannsland by Levende Bøker. A "game of letters" based on a humourously illustrated ABC book that was supposed to help kids learn to read. A series of meaningless rote exercises with each letter of the alphabet are legitimated by a rather thin narrative frame that explains how the letters were blown away to a sleepy town and the player has to wake each of them by doing these exercises. Aurora kept wanting to go "back" to the town from the introductory narrative scene, but all the game would let her do was dull exercises to learn about letters. Worse, the exercises were more easily solved by random clicking than by skill or deduction. Putting the right letters in the right places to spell a word correctly was rewarded by a tinny bell and a new puzzle, making me feel nostalgic for our Bananas in Pyjamas game where B1 or a teddy will praise each attempt and encourage you when you're not doing it right, maybe giving you an extra clue.

After gritting her teeth through a few letters, Aurora asked me to do the rest so she could see the end of the story. I know many gamers find narrative cut scenes distracting to the real point of the game, but Aurora felt the opposite about this game, wanting the narrative but finding the gaming barely worth the effort. I guess the "game" was even worse than the thin narrative.

She and I have played several other educational games. We enjoy Bananas in Pyjamas and Reader Rabbit Toddler (though she's grown out of that). Others have been huge disappointments. Abandonning good intentions, I started buying a few kids' games that don't claim to be educational, like Pyjama Sam (we like pyjamas). I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that not only are these games much more entertaining for both of us, Aurora also learns a lot more from them. After all, catching the letter "V" in a saucepan (beautifully drawn, but still) and emptying it in front of the letters "ÆR" to spell "VÆR" (weather) doesn't really teach you to read or write. Especially not when catching the letter "S" and putting it in the same place results in one of those annoying "no" beeps and a "try again" message instead of the word "SÆR" (which is also a real word that means odd).

Being forced to do certain tasks in order to attain narrative resolution or a degree probably isn't the best way to learn. Or to enjoy oneself.

posted 23:10 link

saturday, may 5

New blog by the eminent ludologist Gonzalo Frasca: Ludology - Videogame Theory. Gonzalo's already got lots of good links, and his seminal essays are here too - it was Gonzalo who coined the term "ludology" and in a sense, started the movement. You'll probably find something of interest here even if you just like computer games but couldn't care less about the theory of it all.

posted 12:29 link

friday, may 4

On criticism, found among the excerpts on the back cover of a book in a used bookshop in Boston:

The impulse is to be masterful, to make sermons, to have disciples, and anyone who has ever taught or written knows it well. But since it is an impulse that easily can blind us to what we have not said, it is one which anyone of conscience and intelligence must guard against. The easiest and best way to keep the guard up is to quote a lot, to quote at length, because, unless one does this in the spirit of a copyist, quoting forces one to face the fact that the subject is another mind, one is forced to try to make one's prose responsible to the words of another, even if the response is scorn or laughter. (Roger Sale, On Not Being Good Enough.)

posted 00:13 link


Do you think you're part of this? Digital texts and the second person address
(or pdf) Cybertext Yearbook, Jyv?yla University. You can order the whole anthology from roisko@dodo.jyu.fi.

A Child's Game Confused
a hypertextual riff against (or with?) some netpoems. JoDI 1.7, 2000. Speilet lokalt.

Men er det litteratur?
en introduksjon til skjermtekster. Bob nr. 7-8, 2000.

Men hvorfor virker ikke musen?
en anmeldelse av nettkunsten på høstutstillingen. Kunstnett Norge,okt 2000.

Jeg taster, derfor er jeg
en kronikk om websåpeoperaer. Studvest, 18/1999.

Piecing together and tearing apart: reading afternoon, a story.
about Michael Joyce's classic hypertext fiction. Won Ted Nelsons Newcomer Award, Hypertext '99.

Tripp trapp tresko i cyberspace
en hypertekstuell anmeldelse av Juliet Ann Martins elektroniske diktsyklus xxxoooxxx. vinduet.no,1998.

Hypertextual Criticism. Comparative Readings of Three Web Hypertexts about Literature and Film
my MA thesis on non-fiction web hypertexts. Dept of Comparative Literature, University of Bergen, 1998.

Jernaldervev: lesefragmenter
en hypertekst om min lesning av Steinar Lødings papirroman Jernalderdrøm. 1998. (Dette er ikke en hypertekstuell versjon av romanen men en anmeldelse av den.)