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

This page is

powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

friday, august 31

Common tropes of academic writing, part 1.

Decide upon your topic (A). Choose another area with which you are somewhat familiar (B). Show how descriptions of B are also perfect analyses of A. Claim that B gives us a perfect tool for understanding A. Most users of this trope find it hard to move on from description of similarities to actually using B constructively to understand A, so don't strain yourself past this point. Remember the Norwegian mountain rules: there's no shame in turning round and going home. If you're feeling feisty and want to start a fight, go for the "A is the embodiment of B" or "A is B" line. Your next paper can always be comparing C to A, now that you've done B.

Examples: A = hypertext, B = deconstructive theory, narratology, cinema, comics, poetry. A = interface design, B = theatre, stage magic, etc.

Though these examples are taken from the fields I'm familiar with, I'm confident that the trope can be used in any area of academic pursuit with minimal imagination.

posted 16:12 link

Yay! More blogs! Hilde, my wonderful colleague here at Humanistic Informatics (no, I'm not linking to the web site, it's embarrassing) has started a blog of her own: Gender and computing. She writes "As late as yesterday I promised Lars that I would not have a blog before I have finished my Ph.D. ... but then I had so much I wanted to say." Also, Elin's moved her blog, BloggerdyDoc and it's active again.

posted 12:47 link

Very useful: Handy hints for new new media reviewers. By Dean Kiley. ("‘Interactive’ is not a real word. Hasn’t been since about 1997. So feel free to use it without specifics, an intensifier of the same order as ‘very.’ Interactively often")

posted 11:57 link

thursday, august 30

I haven't written here for days, have I? I've been reading and thinking, I'm not quite in the mood for blogging and writing just now. This morning I've been reading the papers, Norwegian and Australian, and what a horrible state of affairs. (And nothing to do with the topics of this blog) The local Bergen paper has a rather good opinion piece titled "Not at war - yet" - seeing my two countries acting this stupidly feels like being ten years old and watching your parents fight. I think Australia (or more specifically, the Australian government) is acting appallingly but I also think that Norway is rather too happily taking the position of the innocently wronged. What was it, a month ago, we sent those bus-refugees right back "home"? It's easy complaining about other countries not accepting refugees when we're safely on the other side of the world from most boat refugees. Oh, and blogger has reinstated the old search-all-the-blogger-blogs tool, but restricting the searches to posts in the last 24 hours so as (hopefully) not to overload the system. Go search for the name of that unlucky ship, the Tampa, and you'll find a lot of blogs that care about it.

posted 11:11 link

sunday, august 26

Scary things, these games: "Mr Thanet Sommoi, 22, was found slumped over the keyboard by his friends. He had started playing on Wednesday evening and continued playing without a break." (The Electric New Paper) (via metafilter)

posted 21:22 link

friday, august 24

Blogdex is useful. It collects recent links on blogs and shows the most-linked-to URLs in the last hours. I've found interesting stuff there like that post about the e-books and stuff which I naughtily didn't credit blogdex for putting me on to. Another interesting way of of using it is in reverse, by looking to see who's linked to a particular URL. For instance, here are the blogs that have linked to that story about the e-books and such. I suspect that if I'm interested in one thing those blogs link to they're likely to have other commentary and links that interest me too - worth having a look at them anyway. To find blogs that link to other URLs, just take out the URL at the end of the URL in that last link and put a new one in. (Look at the URL in the address bar of your browser, fiddle with it and you'll figure it out.)

posted 14:57 link

Danes will probably start subsidising "Interactive fiction" (mostly computer games, possibly also net art etc). You can read the suggested set up yourself: Kulturministeriet - Kunst i netværkssamfundet. And yes, of course that's in Danish. Lars and Lisbeth have both commented on this, Lars quite extensively and interestingly. I'm really interested in how this will be received, especially given the Norwegian government's focus where net-based art is understood as visual art, not as games or "fiction".

posted 14:40 link

thursday, august 23

I love browsing at amazon. I hunt down books I like or think I might like, follow leads to other recommended books, read reviews, find out more about the people who wrote the reviews, browse their wish lists and check out the lists of books they'd recommend, have a look at reviews written by their friends. I enjoy traditional, physical bookshops, too, but I think I actually prefer amazon. (I know lots of people are shocked at that. I think partly I've rarely had really good bookshops around me, and my weird taste in books doesn't help me enjoy the bookshop experience. I mostly buy books based on word of mouth, and amazon just enlarges that.)

Anyway, Epinions.com tries to do the amazon community (pseudocommunity) thing for everything, and better. They don't sell products, they're solely about reviews. The reviews are longer and better sorted than at amazon, but there are so many things that I can't find listed here and so I can't review them - weird books, hypertext fiction, anything non-American. So I visit Epinions rarely, yet find gems there when I do. Here's an extract of an excellent epinion (about amazon, or Zon):

Point 1: at Epinions, the best reviews are quickly located; at Zon they are not.
Point 2: Epinions clearly divides its reviews into positive and negative; Zon does not. This makes Epinions' reviews much easier to scan and enjoy.
Point 3: At Epinions, the reviewers' personalities are revealed and celebrated; at Zon they are not. At least, not adequately. People at Epinions get paid for their work and also are motivated to rack up hits and build their WOTs. Zon has no such incentives; at least, none that I know about. Point 4: Epinions' reviews look good; Zon's look like garbage. Point 5: The quality of reviews at Epinions is just plain better.
I think few would aver that Zon beat Epinions in the review area. But there is just one problem: people are not using the Epinions database! (Epinions.com - Amazon vs. Epinions: product reviews: who wins? Epinions does.)

And yes, that is a problem. Perhaps one day everything will be all linked up - ooh, a non-proprietary reviews database... Utopic, huh? And even oppressive, perhaps. Both amazon and epinions are closed systems, run by inaccessible benevolent dictators (well, kind of benevolent) and the community the users can create is very limited, capitalistically motivated (the review I just cited was criticised for "not being what shoppers want") and totally dependent on the continued goodwill of the dictators. Oh dear.

posted 13:09 link

Frank Schaap, a Dutch ethnographer of MUDs and MOOs, has started a blog: Fragment.nl. He writes: "Fragment.nl tries to trap the thought. It's an attempt, like Salvation Anthropology, to note and store the state of a slowly disappearing now. Annotating, linking, changing, braindumps... it will have to do for now."

posted 11:00 link

tuesday, august 21

Kulturnett.no has an interview with Espen Aarseth about games research. (In Norwegian.)

posted 14:09 link

Have I mentioned that there are some really good radio documentaries and talk shows in Australia? And the ABC even transcribes them for their web site. Here's an excellent piece on the "monetising" (!) of information on the Internet - and I have to quote this bit for you: how do you like Adobe's licence for their ebook version of Alice in Wonderland, the text of which, as you know, is over a hundred years old and in the public domain:

Copy: No text selections can be copied from this book to the clipboard.
Print: No printing is permitted on this book.
Lend: This book cannot be lent or given to someone else.
Give: This book cannot be given to someone else.
Read aloud: This book cannot be read aloud.

Well. D'you reckon ebooks have a future? Not like this. Scientific work (which used to be freely accessible in libraries but is now increasingly online under contracts like Alice's, sometimes even with a limited reading time) is getting harder to access too - and there's talk in this documentary of a scientist's revolt starting September first - aha...

posted 12:24 link

monday, august 20

Roberto Simanowski has a very thorough review of Caitlin Fisher's These Waves of Girls, winner of the ELO fiction award for 2001. The article also discusses the politics of the award: the winner was a much more mainstream and easily acceptable piece than the other shortlisted works. I struggled reading this half in German (I only read the bits of German that are really close to Norwegian) and half in Google's rather garbled autotranslation:

What induced the jury to decide against far more radically the competitors even operating with the new medium for this quite harmlessly telling factory? The multimedia packing? The structure-adequate Sujet of the Erinnerns? The public-effective topic of the lesbian identity?(section 1

the ELO, those, I understand its friendly Logo quite, which by radical Avantgardismus does not frighten public, but by gradual perspective extension to digital literature to advance wants, is questionable. (section 6

posted 17:57 link

I'm back from Hypertext 2001 and in a wonderful mood. It was an excellent conference, which I hadn't really expected I think. The sense of doom from the last few conferences seems to have lifted. Instead of complaining that "that's not a real hypertext", lamenting the web's reductive version of hypertextuality, wondering where the hypertexts are and whether there's any point in even talking about hypertext any more, people were talking about what there is and about what there could be. I really enjoyed many of the presentations. Ted Nelson was there to present zigzag, but also gave us a full session of his philosophical view of the world. It is amazing to watch someone as mythically famous (for those who don't know: he invented the word hypertext in 1965) and with such a fervent mission. A lot of the other papers were excellent and sparked many ideas, and in particular, the conversations between sessions and over dinner and drinks were brilliantly inspiring. We had some interesting discussions in the writers' workshop and the hypertext readings went well too. My only regret is there were several people I would have liked to have spoken more with. Still, I did (eventually) dare to shake Ted Nelson's hand. I was too shy to actually say anything very sensible to him though. Silly really. Maybe the mythically famous actually end up rather lonely because everyone's too shy to talk to them? I talked to lots of other people though, and now I even know what systems people mean by ontology. I'm all ready to go to next year's confernce (in Maryland in June).

posted 16:17 link

friday, august 17

There's an online chat about electronic literature around the world at LinguaMOO on Sunday at 10 pm Norwegian time. I think Sven Hope (local boy and innovative Norwegian net writer) will be there and there are lots of other interesting people there as well. In case you're wondering, this is free, online and you can participate just by logging on to LinguaMOO at the appropriate time - you do that through your web browser. You'll find an explanation of how to participate at the ELO web site.

posted 13:15 link

thursday, august 16

I'm at Hypertext 2001 in Århus, and there's just been a morning of great talks. More later (like next week) but here's a brief excerpt from my notes:

so most of the real hypertexts are shaped by a handful of tools - that people happen to have had and happen to have survived. if trellis etc had survived, our ideas of the dominant patterns of hypertext would have been quite different to what they are. the customary reason for building a new system is to build a better system. These systems aren't better. They're worse. but they're WEIRD. (Mark Bernstein about two peculiar systems for writing hypertext narratives - he reckons the talk will be webbed shortly so I'll link to it then.)

posted 17:02 link

friday, august 10

Salon has an interesting interview with Neil Young, the producer of that game I can't play cos I'm not in the US but that fascinates me anyway: Majestic (link not working right now). Neil's 31 years old and grew up playing computer games. He reckons that as you age (and get a job, family, bills to pay etc) you have more and more trouble finding six hours a night to play a game - and most computer games demand that kind of time for you to feel successful. He looked for entertainment on the Internet, but couldn't find anything "for the medium" - flash cartoons would have been better on TV (most would, actually) and I guess he wasn't interested in textual stuff or MUDs and MOOs - the latter do demand six hours a night for true enjoyment. So he built Majestic to use the web and also communication: net-to-phone, net-to-fax, instant messaging, emails. The interviewer calls Majestic "one of the first cerebral games that fits into the short attention span of your typical professional adult." There's a lot of the same stuff happening here as in Online Caroline. I think we'll see a lot more of this kind of "game", if that's what it is.

posted 10:43 link

You say words because they are there - you put them together because the patterns exist. But you don't necessarily mean them. (Marion Halligan Spider Cup)

posted 10:11 link

thursday, august 9

I wish my notebooks looked like this. (via Caterina)

posted 14:26 link

Lars Konzack is a computer games researcher from the University of Århus who's visiting our department this month. He actually invented the word ludology at the same time as Gonzalo Frasca did, and neither of them knew about the other - ideas do seem to float around and land in more than one mind at about the same time. To my delight, he's just started up a blog. I love how blogs are spreading! I'll be looking forward to seeing how he decides to use it.

posted 13:43 link

wednesday, august 8

On gift economies and the fallacy of the market: "there is no reason to believe a society based on barter has ever existed. Instead [..] most objects moved back and forth as gifts - and almost everything we would call 'economic' behavior was based on a pretense of pure generosity and a refusal to calculate exactly who had given what to whom." But then. in cynical moments (at Christmas time for instance) there's a fine line between bartering and giving.

posted 17:23 link

RV, the most left-wing party in Norway to actually (sometimes) be represented in parliament, have just released a wonderful "net-politics" program. "Hackers of the world, unite!" Here are some of the things they'll do if we vote for them:

  • Get proprietry systems like Microsoft's off computers in the public sector.
  • Free net access for everyone.
  • Laptops running Linux and/or other open source software for all students and teachers.
  • Libraries to be digital bastions.
  • Press subsidies for free net journals (currently we only have them for paper publications)
  • All Norwegian books on the net, available to everyone, authors paid by the state.
  • Stop persecuting honourable hackers! Go for the real criminals!
  • Money for net access in developing countries. Support the UN's demand for net for everyone!

Now if only I could vote at the national elections in September - but I can't, because I'm not a Norwegian citizen and I've only lived here for 25 years, you know.

posted 16:13 link

Next week I'm going to Hypertext '01, in Århus - it's a pretty official conference as conferences go, it's been running since 1987 or something. This year the conference URL is ht01.org. Last year the URL was ht00.org - clever, huh? Well, no. ht00.org is now a porn site (and you can type that URL in yourself if you must check). Not a great look for a serious conference. Ridiculous for a conference specialising in hypertext. (via Adrian)

posted 15:50 link

tuesday, august 7

There are good reviews of interesting books at The Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies.

posted 16:25 link

monday, august 6

Here's how to get an ISSN for your weblog. Apparently. (Postscript: it worked, and within 24 hours, too. Cool. Norwegians, you can apply online at the National Library.)

posted 19:01 link

Blogging: vanity press or exhibitionism? I can't decide which word sounds worse. Adrian writes that blogs' conversationalism "reminds me strongly of those lists where you made friends and where posts meandered between the personal and the essay." (ah, I didn't italicise that, did I?) I can't seem to find those mailing lists any more. Or maybe I'm just not putting enough effort into it. Found blogs instead ;)

posted 18:57 link

I was trained to be precise about citations. When quoting three lines or less, use quotation marks; if you're using more than three lines, indent the quotation and use a slightly smaller font. Give thorough references whether paraphrasing or referring to an argument or quoting it directly. Put titles of books or complete works in italics and use quotation marks instead for essays or sections of works. I take pride in doing this carefully. I feel the same pleasure in correct italics and references as I do in a cleared kitchen bench or a pleasantly set table (I shudder at my messy kitchen but don't always clean it). When I see book titles in quotation marks or citations in italics I shudder. On the web these misuses (good usage to some) are common. I shudder often.

But reading John Barber's essay in New Worlds, New Words I found myself after a while enjoying his italicised citations. He uses a lot of citations, maybe a hundred in the essay, and often only a few words. I would have used quotation marks rather than italics - but admiring the way the italics merge other voices into his writing and yet preserve their difference I realised that italics allow this difference yet proximity more than quotation marks do. Quotation marks mark a boundary between the other voice, the quoted voice, and the main voice, the quoting voice. Quotation marks separate the two, clearly marking the other voice as outside and different. Italics allow the two voices to meet without physical boundaries. Difference is the only separation.

Also, in this age of irony quotation marks signal "sort of" and "so-called". Perhaps there's always a slight sneer implicit in them? Italics, on the other hand, signify importance and prominence; sometimes also authenticity when we use a foreign word but italicise it to show that it's not in English. Perhaps italics show a greater respect for the voice being quoted?

I still don't think I'll be able to bring myself to using italics for citations. I may manage not to shudder next time I see it on a web site or somewhere though.

posted 18:27 link

Did you hear that album sales are down, for the first time in a decade? Just as Napster's been shut down, too. And you know how when Napster was huge, album sales were increasing, despite the music industry's claims that Napster was taking their business? I suppose there needn't be a connection, but...

posted 17:55 link

The Game Studies journal got slashdotted: Slashdot | Academic Journal on Computer Games. Cool ;)

posted 14:50 link

saturday, august 4

Written about MOOs, but valid for blogs too: Dene says, "And there is that notion that writing in virtual spaces is not *real* writing - it is playing at writing, and because it is playing, we can be 'playful'." (Dene Grigar, "A Dialog on the Reality of Writing" in New Worlds, New Words: Exploring Pathways for Writing about and in Electronic Environments

posted 12:36 link

thursday, august 2

Tormod's blog has this cute system where you can click + or - to tell him whether you think a post deserves good karma or not, and a comments system built in - but noone's given him any feedback. I'm surprised he doesn't just forge feedback himself, I think I probably would. ("love yourself - nobody else can" as the great artiste Madonna sings mournfully yet with an upbeat lilt to her vocalisation). Bjørn at Threepwood '01 is shutting down his blog, sounding rather disillusioned as well. He has a rather downhearted post about the lack of readers, but concludes, in Madonna's spirit, really, that it doesn't matter, "I just like standing on a soapbox, that's all." Is it the five month itch of blogging, I wonder?

posted 12:59 link

Programmers are artists and this is how to motivate them, according to the talking moose. Any relation to transmediale's "artistic software" category?(via evhead)

posted 12:29 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.)