Year 2010 has been a truly busy one (I cannot really understand that it is almost over and that we soon will be living 2011 already). Apart from all the research activities (some of which we try to mention in gamelab.uta.fi), and the usual upheaval in university administration, law and organization (we are no longer part of the Finnish government), this year will go down in history as the one when the first graduates of Interactive Media finished their studies. Here are the names and the titles of the first three pro gradu theses that we accepted this fall:
- Henrik Saari, Itsensä esittäminen Facebookissa: eri-ikäisten käyttäjien käsitykset ja kokemukset verkostopalvelussa esiintymisestä (PDF link)
- Eva Leppänen, A study of views of Facebook users on the role of haptics in social network systems
- Matti Linna, Trotting the Globe: Evaluating and Categorizing Playful User Experiences of Google Earth
Congratulations to everyone – three very good and interesting works!
I have now OSZ Vertex 2, a 240 GB SSD drive, installed into my main workhorse, the Sony Vaio Z31WN, and I have to say I am impressed. The laptop feels totally different, much faster, more responsive — a system shutdown that could take minutes (or never complete totally) happens now in a few seconds. Much of the stability, speed and better user experience is related to the OS change: along with the new hard drive, also the old Vista was replaced with Windows 7, 64 bit ultimate/enterprise edition. But the step into solid state disk is nevertheless a major one. There is new life in the old machine. I have not yet tested the new setup completely, and there were areas like getting the 3G Gobi drivers to work with my Finnish operator’s network that were rather difficult (I ended up using the “WebToGo OneClick Internet” utility). And getting the old hard drive replaced with the new one is very difficult without professional help due to the complex Vaio Z series internals, so I cannot recommend this is as a DIY project. But having an SSD as the main memory device is clearly the way of the future for mobile computing.
Another interesting book, this one available for download from http://iipc.utu.fi/imaginaryjapan/ – Imaginary Japan: Japanese Fantasy in Contemporary Popular Culture. Edited by Eija Niskanen (University of Helsinki). Turku: International Institute for Popular Culture, 2010. This includes also a short article by myself, titled “Japanese Fantasy and the East-West Dialectic”; direct link to PDF is: http://iipc.utu.fi/imaginaryjapan/Mayra.pdf.
This hefty tome is definitely worth all the extra publicity we can spare: Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola have done major cultural service to game, culture and art studies (as well as to the history) by collecting and putting together an amazing volume of photos, descriptive texts and cultural essays to celebrate the fine art of live action role-playing, Nordic style. Great work, congratulations. For more, see: http://nordiclarp.wordpress.com/
I used to think Google Docs was a pretty limited tool; after seeing this, I do not think so any more (at least in much more skilled hands than those of mine). Something put together by three animators working together at Google’s Demo Slam project:
Here are some random words, taken from the xml dump of this blog site. This looks pretty technical, eh? (It is the meta terms that repeat the most.) Looking back, it was in April 2004 when the first posts into this were written. So it becomes – what – seven years next spring? Seems I have missed the five-year celebration already…
My work laptop is slowly but gradually getting slower, and with Vista, the power management and battery duration are not the best either. As one solution, installing SSD (solid state) hard-drive should get a system a boost. We have put in an order for OCZ Vertex 2 250 GB model, lets see when it arrives how installing it to Sony Vaio Z31 turns out, will keep you posted.
(In Finnish only, sorry.) Tampereen yliopiston informaatiotutkimuksen ja interaktiivisen median oppiaineessa on mahdollista erikoistua tutkimaan esimerkiksi sosiaalisen median tai digitaalisten pelien kaltaisia alueita. Herätteitä mahdollisiin graduaiheisiin on nyt listattuna täällä. Erityisesti tässä yhteydessä mainostan mahdollisuutta tehdä gradutyönsä suomalaisiin pelikulttuureihin liittyen. Suomen Akatemian rahoittama Pelikulttuurien synty Suomessa -tutkimushanke tarjoaa taustatukea tutkimuksille, joissa syvennytään tarkastelemaan pelien mieltä, muotoja ja merkityksiä niin makro- kuin mikrotasolla. Kun hankkeen tuottama Pelaajabarometri-tutkimus tarjoaa yleiskuvaa pelaamisen jakaantumisesta eri sukupuolta olevien, eri ikäisten ja eripuolella Suomea asuvien ihmisten keskuudessa, tarvittaisiin myös tutkimuksia jotka tulisivat lähelle jotain pienryhmää tai jopa yksittäisen ihmisen arkea. Luontevasti tässä yhteydessä erityisesti laadullisia, ihmistieteisiä menetelmiä yhdistävä gradutyö voisi ottaa tarkasteluun vaikkapa jotain internetin pienpeliä harrastavan iäkkäämmän ihmisen, tai vaihtoehtoisesti nuoren peliharrastajan, ja pyrkiä haastattelujen ja osallistuvan havainnoinnin keinoin tallettamaan kuvan siitä, miten digitaalinen pelaaminen sijoittuu ihmisten arkeen vuonna 2011. Akatemiahankkeella on todennäköisesti mahdollisuus myös rahallisesti tukea paria tämän aihealueen gradutyötä esim. palkkaamalla graduntekijöitä kesätöihin hankkeen tutkimusapulaisiksi kesällä 2011. – Kiinnostuneita interaktiivisen median opiskelijoita pyydetään olemaan yhteydessä: frans.mayra (ättämerkki) uta.fi.
I haven’t owned an Android phone before, but I decided to give it a try as Saunalahti/Elisa (a Finnish telcom operator) provided a nice deal with an unlimited dataplan, and I needed one for my iPad. They even provided me with a micro-sim so that I could put the new sim into the iPad and use the phone with whatever sim I preferred (it was not operator locked). The phone, a Chinese thing called ZTE Blade, is an interesting gadget: it claims to have a 5 mega-pixel camera, but camera quality is pretty crappy. I have not yet managed to tweak the touch input into a setting that would really work well – either I am using wrong input methods (Android supports several), or the delay and sensitivity issues in the capacitive screen ruin the typing experience. On the other hand, Android links very easily with the Google services that I am already using, so my Google calendar and contacts were instantly synced as soon as I entered my account details. Gmail works fine, as well as Google Maps and other standard G-services. The standard browser is pretty ok, but since the WiFi is breaking down every hour or so (there is some reported bug in Android 2.1 in this, if I remember correctly), I try to avoid using it and continue to use my iPhone 3GS for pretty much everything online/Web. But: the phone is cheap (or free, if you are after the dataplan like I was), Android has a lot of different downloadable applications, and it provides more room for tweaking and hacking than iOS devices, for example. If that is what you are after, ZTE Blade might be an interesting thing worth checking out.
iPad has plenty of useful applications for multiple purposes; coupled with an unlimited 3G data plan, the tablet is almost there to be an all-around laptop replacement for productivity/utility purposes as well as media and entertainment use (its real forté). Almost. Typing with the virtual keyboard is really painful for anything except short notes like status updates in social media, or quick email replies. Since iPad supports bluetooth, it is perfectly possible to use it with full wireless keyboards. I have been using the Apple Wireless Keyboard for this purpose some time now, and it has made a real change in terms of usability for writing, of course. Unfortunately the iOS does not support keyboad shortcuts except for some basic actions, like copy-and-paste. I have not found a shortcut that would switch between applications in cmd-tab style — iOS 4.2 supports multitasking in iPad, after all. No way to go to the home screen and launch applications with keyboard only, either. Typing email with the keyboard is fine, but to send the message, you need to tap into the touch screen. The final resulting use experience is a sort of weird hybrid, having features of PC style interaction, and tablet/touchscreen actions, all mixed together a bit uncomfortably. But after some practice you can get it, I guess. The final lesson is newertheless that iPad is not intented as a full laptop replacement, and putting some extra money can you get something like the new version of Macbook Air, where keyboard and screen are already fitted together with an OS that supports a real desktop environment. But if your laptop is taken away for repairs (like my case), then you can get away with iPad and an add-on keyboard for some time, with some extra effort.