Learning to experiment

I have been recently thinking why I feel that I’ve not really made any real progress in my photography for the last few years. There are a few periods when some kind of leap has seemed to take place; e.g. when I moved into using my first DSRL, and also in the early days of entering the young Internet photography communities, such like Flickr. Reflecting on those, rather than the tools themselves (a better camera, software, or service), the crucial element in those perhaps has been that the “new” element just stimulated exploration, experimentation, and willingness to learn. If one does not take photos, one does not evolve. And I suppose one can get the energy and passion to continue doing things in experimental manner – every day (or: at least in sometimes) – from many things.

Currently I am constantly pushing against certain technical limitations (but cannot really afford to upgrade my camera and lenses), and there’s also lack of time and opportunity that a bit restrict more radical experiments with any exotic locations, but there are other areas where I definitely can learn to do more: e.g. in a) selecting the subject matter, b) in composition, and c) in post-production. Going to places with new eyes, or, finding an alternative perspective in “old” places, or, just learning new ways to handle and process all those photos.

I have never really bothered to study deeper the fine art of digital photo editing, as I have felt that the photos should stand by themselves, and also stay “real”, as documents of moments in life. But there are actually many ways that one can do to overcome technical limitations of cameras and lenses, that can also help in creating sort of “psychological photorealism”: to create the feelings and associations that the original situation, feeling or subject matter evoked, rather than just trying to live with the lines, colours and contrast values that the machinery was capable of registering originally. When the software post-processing is added to the creative toolbox, it can also remove bottlenecks from the creative subject matter selection, and from finding those interesting, alternative perspectives to all those “old” scenes and situations – that one might feel have already been worn out and exhausted.

Thus: I personally recommend going a bit avant-garde, now and then, even in the name of enhanced realism. 🙂

Day Pack

I probably get passionate about somewhat silly things, but (like my family has noticed) I have already amassed rather sizable collection of backbags – most optimised for travelling with a laptop computer, photography setup, or both.

What is pictured here (below) is something a bit different, a compact and lightweight hiking backbag, Osprey Talon 22. It belongs to the “day bag” / “daypack” category, which means that while with its 22 liter dimensions it is probably too small to handle all of your stuff for a longer travel, it is perfect for all those things one is likely to carry around on a short trip.

The reason why I like this model particularly, relates to its carrying system. I have tried all sorts of straps and belts systems, but the one in Talon 22 is really good for the relatively light loads that this bag is designed for. It has an adjustable-length back plate with a foam-honeycomb structure, ergonomic shoulder straps, and the wide hipbelt also has a soft multilayered construction with air-channels. Combine this with a rich selection of various straps that allow adjusting the load into a very close, organic contact with your body, and you have a nice backbag indeed.

There are all kinds of advanced minor details in the Ospray feature list (that you can check from the link below), that might matter to more active hikers, for example, but basic feature set of this comfortable and highly adjustable all-round backbag are already something that many people can probably appreciate.

Link to info page: https://www.ospreyeurope.com/shop/fi_en/hiking/talon-series/talon-22-17

Workshop in Singapore

I will spend the next week visiting Singapore, where Vivian Chen, from Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information in Nanyang Technological University has put together an interesting international seminar focused on games and play, particularly from the perspective of eSports phenomena. Together with several esteemed colleagues, I also will give a talk there; mine is titled “Evolution and Tensions in Gaming Communities”.

Since I have not found the full program online, I will share the most recent draft that I have, below Continue reading “Workshop in Singapore”

Keynote, EDEN 2017 – Diversity Matters!

EDEN 2017 keynote, Frans Mäyrä
EDEN 2017 keynote, Frans Mäyrä

Next week, I will take part in EDEN 2017 – the annual conference of the European Distance and E-Learning Network – in Jönköping, Sweden. I am proud to present an invited keynote in the first conference day, 14th June. Titled “Multidimensional Ludic Literacy: Diversity in Game Cultures” my talk is aimed to build bridges between the multiple dimensions needed to understand and constructively engage with games and play (the ludic literacy), and the issues related to diversity in game cultures. Looking forward to an interesting exchange of ideas. (Btw, this is also the first public appearance of the Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies logo – test driving it: the CoE officially starts its operational period from January 2018.)

See the full conference program here: http://www.eden-online.org/2017_jonkoping/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Conference-Programme.pdf.

On Bluetooth Headphones: The Case of Bose QC35

2016-06-28 11.45.18 (2)Enjoying music of all kinds home and on the road (and, at summertime, at the beach / in nature), I have been interested in mobile audio solutions (though not in any religious or “serious audiophile” manner, luckily for my wallet). At homes, my headphones are AKG K550, which are very analytical, crystal clean-sounding, closed-back German headphones, featuring 50 mm drivers and weight of 305 grams. I have attempted to travel with these things, but they are just not designed for travel, they are large and do not fold into any compact proportions. Also, long and thick cable is real hassle when you move from train to airport to bus, etc. Thus, to travel headphones.

In travel, everything is a compromise, in this case primarily between portability, size, weight, and features. Currently, I have settled into three-tier approach. In daily life, I always carry Apple EarPods with Remote and Mic: these are better than most light, in-ear headphones, but they do not isolate the user from the environment sounds, and they also play nicely with my iPhone 6 Plus apps for making phone calls and having those Skype meetings.

The second tier is currently occupied by Bose QuietComfort 20, which are a pair of in-ear noise cancelling headphones that are perfect for that short flight or other day-trip with only light hand luggage. It has well-designed “StayHear+” style silicone tips that happen to fit my ears perfectly (there are three sizes). These are the most efficient noise cancelling headphones I have tried. In everyday use they might even be a bit too efficient: the user is just enjoying blissful silence, even if directly addressed or discussed around you. You will not hear a thing. There is a specific “Aware Mode” button that you need to press, in order to get some ambient sounds through. Also, this is a wired system, so the cable will catch and occasionally tangle with the straps of your laptop bag and elsewhere.

And here comes the third tier, the more demanding mobile use and the solution provided by the new wireless, Bluetooth headphones by Bose: QuietComfort 35. These are bit on the larger size, so I would not probably always pack them with me on short trips, but on longer travels this is an excellent choice. The noise cancelling is very good, but not quite as efficient as that on QC20, since these are an on-ear model rather than a completely isolating in-ear ones – but in many situations that is even preferable. And the sound quality is excellent. There are probably some aspects that a real audiophile expect could criticize (there always are), but What Hifi? magazine reviewer for example gave them five stars. These have a rechargeable lithium ion battery that promises circa 20 hours of power, and after that it is possible to connect a cable and continue in wired mode, without noise cancellation. There is also the ability to connect to multiple (two simultaneously) Bluetooth devices, so that one can take that call from the work phone, while listing to music from the laptop or iPad (I have not tested this yet, I am currently on summer vacation). Pairing can be done with NFC, by touching, and there is a Bose Connect app for smartphones (iOS and Android) that can be used to managing paired devices, changing battery status, and setting sleep timer, for example. When power is turned on, the headphones use voice synthesis to speak aloud the battery level and device name they are currently connected with. Handy. The weight is 309 grams, so this is not the most light-weight option, but wearing QC35 feels comfortable. Testing with different music styles, I was particularly impressed how QC35 handled the “Silent Night” album by Tapani Rinne – with its mixture of deep-bass electronica and quiet, soft acoustic tunes, this is a very challenging recording, and the clear soundscape and powerful dynamics of QC35 really let this kind of music shine.

Luggage update

A travel gear note. As airlines and airports regularly lose or even destroy cargo luggage, I try to travel light, and having only hand luggage means also going faster. My old Samsonite must be now over 10 years of age, and even while it is still ok (it has a durable build), I wanted to check what kind of bags are these days.

There are interesting Bluetooth enabled, smart bags developed these days, but I decided to go for something cheaper and light, and then combine the bag with a Tile, a smart tracker that I can locate with my smartphone apps.

My choice was a new generation Samsonite bag, called Short-Lite Upright 55 cm model (quite a calling name). In the below pics you can see the changes that have happened in the manufacture and design, as well as in weight of these things. As there is often 8 kg (sometimes even 7, or 6 kg) limit to the weight of cabin baggage, every gram or pound matters. The size of this model is 40 x 20 x 55 cm, which falls within the regulated limits. It can hold 41.5 liter, and comes with 5 year warranty. Samsonite had a campaign with 30 % discount in price (€125, down from €179 – there are cheaper alternatives, of course).

Compared to my old bag, the weight difference is pretty amazing. Old bag is much smaller, yet it has weight of 3.2 kg, which is twice the 1.6 kg of the new, larger cabin bag. The structure is not build to withstand cargo treatment, but feels solid enough and this is after all a soft bag, that you take to the cabin with you. “Edistys edistyy”, as they say in Finnish: Progress Progresses.










Clash of Realities, keynote

Next week, I will be in Cologne, presenting a keynote in the fascinating Clash of Realities conference. My title is “Playful Culture: Are We Undergoing a Ludic Turn?” Other speakers include e.g. Janet Murray, Jussi Holopainen and Rachel Kowert. More at: http://www.clashofrealities.com/.

Talk in London about Hybrid Playful Experiences

I will give a talk about “Hybrid Playful Experiences – Bridging the Physical-Digital Divide” this Wednesday in London, at the Innovations for the Benefit of Packaging and Commercial Printing event. This research is related both the the ‘Hybrid Media COST Action’ (FP1104) that we collaborate with several European partners, as well as research on playfulness and hybrid experiences, carried out in such research projects of ours as Hybridex, OASIS, Ludification of Culture and Society and others. The vacation period is July in Finland, but there is still some work to do – this will be my last work trip though, before the summer vacation starts. More information about the event: http://wcpcswansea.com/events/24-06-2015/Innovations-for-the-Benefit-of-Packaging-and-Commercial-Printing#agenda .

Paris keynote 

I am happy to be the keynote speaker in the “Game Studies – à la française!” conference that takes place in the University Paris 13, 3-5 June 2015. My talk is titled “Inter- and Multidisciplinarity of Game Studies: The Expanding Challenges”. You can access the conference program here: http://gsalf.hypotheses.org/edition-2015-les-supports-du-jeu-video/le-programme