Today I got my Nintendo DS Lite, plus a pack of classic Atari games from 1970/80s from a Brussels media store. (Already loving what touch screen control means for the gameplay of Centipede, for example.) With some Neil Gaiman comics that previously were missing from my collection, it looks like I have multiple ways to spend the remaining summer vacation.
This looks like a bit different kind of midsummer. Today, the castle of Bouillon, an impressive medieval ruin overlooking the Semois river. Then to the Trappist cloister of Orval where they make really great beer and nice cheese. I was a little disappointed that after this travel we were not even allowed to the courtyard of abbey, since we were 15 minutes late from their admission to the entrance tickets. In Finland, you can visit a forest or church freely; here, you need an entry ticket to both.
Apart from pils/lager, that has conquered the world, Belgium is one of the places still treasuring traditional fermentation methods and receipes. Today in Ghent; St-Baafskathedraal with the famous Adoration of the Holy Lamb by van Eyck brothers. Now “Keiser Karel” (dark), a “bier van hoge gistning”, the high fermented brown beer. Tasty.
These are well worth checking out — especially the ‘song’ of multi-instrumentalist Lyre bird. These samples are part of yet another great nature series by David Attenborough, Life of Birds. See link: http://www.pbs.org/lifeofbirds/songs/
I wrote recently a newspaper article (published in Aamulehti, June 6, 2006) on the direction of game design and research. In summary, I think that examples like Nintendo‘s Wii control and the emphasis on easily accessible games appealing to ‘non-gamer’ audiences are promising signs, that the need for true multimodality in game design (not only multimodal interfaces, but the support for multiple modes of gameplay and style) is also something that at least some people in game industry seem to recognize. But any true evolution in game cultures will require also public recognition for games’ cultural significance, including education (meaning also us in universities, and the Ministry of Education funding us) paying serious attention to games. See the pdf manuscript version: link to article (in Finnish).
Tim Gill writes in the Guardian blog about “risky childhood” and how it actually might be necessary for children’s development. In a society increasingly obsessed with surveillance, it appears to be getting harder for children to play in freedom, and escape the (well-intended) suffocation of adult eyes. Link: Comment is free: The play’s the thing.
This is weird: according to this piece of news (in Finnish), the Latvian parliament has today passed it in law that discrimination against homosexuals is perfectly legally allowed in their country. Whoot? What is going on in the Baltic? Anyone knows? Link: Homoseksuaaleja saa syrjiä Latvian työmarkkinoilla – HS.fi – Uutiset – Ulkomaat
Ok, some quickly typed notes:
1 Clay Shirky, Professor, New York University
Failure for Free
This opening talk was an interesting discussion on the benefits of openness vs. optimisation; the open source code software ecosystem will be ultimately more successful than closed company efforts since it can ‘fail more’. I suppose there could have been more discussion on the mathematics of evolutionary or ecology models in the area of human behaviour, or the logic or emergent phenomena. But it was nice, compact talk as it was.
Then saxophonist Jukka Perko was making some ambient music.
2 Alastair Curtis, Head of Design, Nokia
This presentation claimed that all media is social now for Nokia, and that the design in Nokia needs to aim to make Nokia the most loved and admired brand of all. Oh yeah, he did say that. Curtis was not a very inspiring speaker, though, and also failed to make any really interesting points whatsoever. Sorry for that. And as an audience member pointed out, even his vocabulary was still locked to the good old ‘consumer’ discourse, rather than genuinely taking up the challenge of seeing production of value and significance in terms of social interactions and distributed human creativity. (The values of this social software oriented subtribe of digerati, you remember.)
Nina Hyvärinen made a dance performance next. I think this modern piece reflected the meeting of East and West; at least the dance styles appeared to come from traditional Japanese and modern Western dance traditions. With some African rhythms and moves thrown in, perhaps. After this, the organisers were brave enough to suggest the large hall of audience in Bio Rex to have a fifteen minute break. “The bar is open.” Fifteen minutes, sure.
3 Martin Varsavsky, CEO, Fon
The Wi-Fi Movement
The most fun presentation of the evening. Varsavsky started by explaining the idea of his company, Fon, which joins Wi-Fi users into a worldwide Wi-Fi sharing network. “You share a bit, you gain a lot.” You roam the world free, yeah! Fon is owned by Google, Skype and its employers. “Yes, it is a company. I don’t want to deceive anyone.” But it is also a movement. Five euros for a lifetime membership. Varsavsky confessed that routers are not sexy, or not intended to make people to fall in love with it, but then again, Varsavsky is in love with this Fon router thing, and he is not from Nokia. Audience laughs and immediately buys into this thing. [goto: www.fon.com]
Then some more music from Perko. Saxophone this time.
4 Joichi Ito, CEO, Neoteny
World of Warcraft is the New Golf
Introduced as a venture capitalist, investor into new companies, Ito first starts with the c-word. Cyberspace. Being immersed in one’s computer. Voice communication in 3D world is not shattering the fantasy, claims Ito. (I suppose he has not read the study by Dmitri Williams on the subject?) World of Warcraft is the ‘new golf’ because it now dominates the dinner discussions. ‘Monochromic’ and ‘polychromic days’ are terms how next Ito describes the different types of contextual frames dominating his life (mostly meaning discursive mono-tasking or multitasking, I suppose). 6 million WoW subscribers mean that there is now an interesting rainforest of people and behaviours to observe. Most of the leaders in Ito’s guild are people who are good in communication. (Surprise?) MBA does not qualify. Then he proves his point by showing a video of his guild in a raid, using Teamspeak for coordination. This voice channel becomes a constant audio backdrop of the players’ lives (at least in a super-techie player’s like Ito’s), always switched on in their home stereos even while they are eating. (Which I suppose they’ll do really quick, to get back in.) To conclude, WoW add-ons are a rainforest for interesting user-created innovations. But it was in the end rather difficult to see what was the actual lessons from the talk — it was enthusiastic, yes, but then again the perceived interlinking or mixing of real social networks and social networks from inside games are not exactly new, so it is perhaps just that since WoW has all these millions of players, and they are free to communicate and add on their own tools to the playing experience, then it is a qualitatively new situation? More of everything, thus new? Maybe.
In the end the ‘Movement’ was hardly a sensation, but a very welcome evening it was. Culture, social life and technology are too rarely combined in such refreshing ways these days. And I did miss the party afterwards, as my train for Tampere left. Pity. We need to have more parties also in Tampere.