Nörttiydestä

[In Finnish, about being a nerd] Nörttien julkinen kuva on parhaimmillaankin ristiriitainen. Suomalaiseen kulttuuriin on liitetty hiljaisuuden ja tietyn epäsosiaalisuuden sietokykyä, ja voikin olla että kirjoihin, eksoottisiin harrastuksiin ja tietotekniikkaan syventyminen saa nörttinuoren elämässä näkyvämpiä vastareaktioita esimerkiksi Yhdysvalloissa, missä sosiaalista suosiota ja suhdeverkostoja tunnutaan painottavan paljon. 80-luvulla, ensimmäisen tietokonebuumin aikoihin uutta tekniikkaa taitavasti käytelleitä nuoria noteerattiin ainakin mediassa tietyllä ihmettelyn ja ihailun sekaisella uteliaisuudella. Pelit, scifi, fantasia ja tietotekniikka eivät nykypäivän Suomessa vaikuta olevan mikään automaattinen kauhistelun tai kummastelun kohde; ehkä demoskenestä nousseet peli- ja it-firmat ovat puhtaalla rahallisella menestyksellään jotenkin luoneet sädekehää myös nörttien elämäntyylien ja mielenkiinnon kohteiden ympärille?

Silti, yksinäisyys ja masennus ovat usein perinteisiin nörttiharrastuksiin syventyneiden nuorten seuralaisina. Koululaisten sosiaalisen kompetenssin ja yksinäisyyden kokemusten aihepiiristä väitellyt Niina Junttila on kertonut että pojista 10-11 prosenttia kokee ahdistavaa yksinäisyyttä. Internet ja pelit voivat tarjota toiselle nuorelle myönteisen ja voimaannuttavan, toiselle yksinäisyyttä ja ahdistusta pahentavan elementin elämään – nörttiyden kokokuvaan mahtuu runsaasti erilaisia muotoja ja sävyjä, yksinkertaistavaa niputtamista kannattaa varoa.

80- ja 90-luvuilta lähtien on noussut myös nörtti- tai geek-identiteettiä kapinallisesti juhlistava vastadiskurssi, missä intellektuellit harrastukset, paksut silmälasit ja kankeat kauluspaidat nostetaan suorastaan muoti-ikoneiksi. Yhdysvalloissa julkaistiin jo 1984 klassinen nörttien kosto -komedia, Revenge of the Nerds, joka on saavuttanut pienimuotoisen kulttistatuksen. Tosielämän it-nörttien menestystarinat yhteen koonnut dokumentti Triumph of the Nerds (1996) viittasi jo nimellään aiempaan teinikomediaan. Erilaisten nuorten elämä on silti usein sietämättömän raskasta, eikä urallaan menestyneiden bittinikkarien esimerkit jaksa innostaa kaikkia.

Sosiaalisella medialla voi olla oma myönteinen roolinsa keskustelun herättäjänä ja vaihtoehtoisten näkökulmien tarjoajana. Hyvä esimerkki on seksuaalivähemmistöihin kuuluvien nuorten vainoamista ja itsemurhia vastaan kampanjoiva “It Gets Better” -projekti, joka nostaa esiin myönteisiä tarinoita oman paikkansa ja omanarvon tunnon tavoittamisesta. Suomessakin oli aikoinaan Irti Elämästä ry., jonka pyrkimyksenä oli huumorilla auttaa nörttinuoria irtautumaan ulkopuolisen hyväksynnän tavoittelusta ja liputtaa “ei elämää” -tyyppisten, enemmän introverttisten ihmisten elämään soveltuvien elämänsisältöjen puolesta. Jotakuta voivat auttaa vaikkapa Susan Cainin Quiet-kirjan kuvaukset sisäänpäin kääntyneiden ihmisten sulkeutuneisuuteen kätkeytyvistä voimavaroista.
Osittaisena inspiraationa tämän blogikirjoituksen laatimiseen olivat ohjelmistoyrittäjä, kirjailija Paul Grahamin pitkä verkkoessee “Why Nerds Are Unpopular” (Miksi nörtit ovat epäsuosittuja), missä hän korostaa että menestyäkseen (amerikkalaisen) koululaitoksen raadollisessa sosiaalisessa suosiokilpailussa joutuu uhraamaan niin paljon muuta, että fiksut nuoret menestyvät parhaiten elämässään kun eivät edes yritä lähteä mukaan moiseen. Toisaalta olen lueskellut viime aikoina myös monia erilaisia suomalaisen blogosfäärin tarinoita, missä yksinäisyyteen liittyy usein niin myönteisiä ja omaa identiteettiä määrittäviä piirteitä, että toisaalta mielenterveysongelmia ja syrjäytymistä. Mitään yhtä neuvoa tai “ratkaisua” nörttinuoren haasteisiin onkin mahdotonta lähteä tarjoamaan. Näin keski-ikäisenä, “professorinörttinä”, puolisona ja kolmen pienen pojan isänä toivoisi kuitenkin että näitä erilaisia tarinoita, ääniä, tulkintoja ja viestejä erilaisuuden samanlaisuudesta, elämän mielekkyyden ja yhteyden kokemusten löytämisestä pidettäisiin esillä – niin täällä internetissä, kuin mahdollisimman monessa muussakin yhteydessä.

New bluetooth keyboard: Logitech k810

Logitech k810
Logitech k810

I have used my share of bluetooth keyboards before, and the various connectivity issues and other problems have eventually always turned me away from them. But it is apparently good idea to give them a second chance. The new Logitech k810/811 (Win/Mac versions) is a stylish, illuminated bluetooth keyboard, which features “Easy-Switch” technique, meaning that it has three quick buttons, which take you from your Android tabled/iPad to your desktop PC and back in a couple of seconds. The feel of keys is solid enough, and the backlighting is both automatic, and manually controllable (in automatic mode it will go dark when not needed, and then magically light up when your fingers approach the keys, it also adjusts to the ambient light levels, nice). The battery can be charged through a standard USB charger/port, and it carries on in standard use for c. 10 days, or a full year in one go, if the backlight is off, according to the manufacturer. Now, it it only could have been a bit cheaper…

But the price was worth it: this is finally something that consolidates much of the typing experience across my multiple devices. I can see carrying around just this keyboard and the Nexus 7 – or even the Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone – to trips where I know I will only be doing some note taking, email and other light-weight jobs, rather than taking the laptop. This is also go nice for typing that I am currently testing it on my main workstation as the main keyboard, let’s see how that goes.

Often technologies take their time to mature, but bluetooth finally seems to be achieving that state. The new, low energy / Bluetooth SMART as it is being called, is opening access to more links to e.g. sports, health care, proximity sensing apps and devices as well as providing new alerts and time profiles that e.g. the next generation wristwatches need to communicate with your smartphone. There is much talk about certain manufacturers preparing their smart watches at the moment, and it is interesting to see how that will work out, in addition to Google Glass and other siminar new peripherals that extend your access to information, games and services.

Summer School 2014: Identity and Interdisciplinarity in Games and Play Research

We got some good news in the middle of summer: our consortium of European game studies centres has been granted funds to organise an international Summer School of game studies in 2014. There is more information in the annoucement below:

Summer School: Identity and Interdisciplinarity in Games and Play Research

The first interdisciplinary European summer school in game and play research will take place 16-31 August 2014 at Utrecht University in The Netherlands. It is aimed at talented PhD and MA/MSc students who are interested in the study of games and play. It offers students an innovative interdisciplinary platform for learning about games and play that doesn’t exist anywhere else in Europe or beyond.

This ERASMUS IP Summer School is hosted by Utrecht University, but organized by different European universities that are considered as leaders in the field. It will consist of a two-week intensive programme during which students are encouraged to develop their research ideas further. It will provide a unique opportunity to learn about cutting-edge theories and methodologies from leading scholars in the field. Students will have the rare opportunity to broaden their horizon internationally, and to gain knowledge about games and play from an interdisciplinary perspective.

The target group consists of excellent PhD and MA/MSc students who are starting or working on thesis projects in games and play from a background in the humanities, design research, social sciences, computer sciences or other related domains. Around 60 students from 17 different participating European institutions of higher education will be selected and are offered an exceptional chance to look beyond the borders of their home institutions in order to gain knowledge about the full scope of European scholarship on games and play. The participating students, share the ability to broaden their scope of knowledge and go beyond the boundaries of their fields.

During this summer school we will stimulate students to develop an interdisciplinary understanding of games and play as cultural phenomena, thus teaching them the means to develop an informed methodological and theoretical framework for their research. Activities such as reading, writing, discussing, lecturing, presenting, excursions, and interdisciplinary workshops will serve this purpose. The main expected outputs will consists of papers (proceedings), poster presentations, public online discussion (web forum, social media) and designed games and/or playful objects as output of practice-based research during workshops.

Travel and sustenance costs for selected students from participating universities will be covered by the ERASMUS IP.

More information

More information about the Summer School, and how to apply for participation will follow later on http://www.gapsummerschool2014.nl. On this website you can find a list of participating universities.

Organizational team

Joost Raessens – Utrecht University, The Netherlands
René Glas – Utrecht University, The Netherlands
Sybille Lammes – University of Warwick, United Kingdom
Frans Mäyrä – University of Tampere, Finland
Mathias Fuchs – Leuphana University, Germany
Ben Schouten – Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands

Top notebooks, summer 2013

razer-blade
Razer Blade

The notebook computer (laptop) remains as the key element in their work and leisure for most people today. Many of us get regularly asked to recommend good laptops; here is my current listing, broken down in terms of available budget:

Budget range (200-300 euros):

– The netbooks used to rule in this category, but as tablet devices like iPad have taken much of their role, they are pretty much a dying breed. There is an interesting entrant in this category, though: the Cromebook, which is based on Google’s OS and specification. In Finland, we have now available Samsung Chromebook Series 3, which you can get at c. 350 euros (Wi-Fi version; internationally sold at $249, the price should really be a bit lower). Links, review:

http://www.gigantti.fi/product/tietokoneet/kannettavat-tietokoneet/SAXE303C12A01/samsung-chromebook-series-3-11-6-kannettava

http://www.zdnet.com/samsung-chromebook-best-249-you-can-spend-review-7000016148/

Mid-price range (500-800 euros):

Asus Vivobook series provides the best value for money at the moment, taking advantage of a combination of a touch screen, good keyboard and Windows 8 (I recommend installing “Classic Start” or similar, to boot to the desktop mode, but it is just me…) The 11″ Vivobook X202E is the most affordable option – it is not available right now, but S200E model looks pretty identical. Links:

http://www.verkkokauppa.com/fi/product/30135/dkqfn/Asus-VivoBook-S200E-11-6-touch-HD-Intel-987-4GB-320GB-BT-Win

http://www.asus.com/vivo/en/vivoBook.htm

Premium range (1000+ euros):

If you can stomach the Apple OSX and the Apple ecosystem, the overall best light and well designed & manufactured laptops are from the Macbook Air series. In the PC side, I’d recommend either Samsung Series 9, or Asus Zenbook Prime, which can also handle some graphic intensive stuff like gaming. For heavy-duty business use, I currently recommend Lenovo’s Thinkpad X1 Carbon Touch. If you have specialized needs like having a thin and light, gaming laptop, then you might consider Razer Blade. Links:

http://www.apple.com/macbook-air/

http://www.samsung.com/us/computer/series-9-notebooks

http://zenbook.asus.com/zenbook/?c=prime_ux32

Carbon Touch review: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2420645,00.asp

http://www.razerzone.com/gaming-systems/razer-blade

CFP: Digital Games and Literary Theory Conference, Malta

(Spreading the word about this conference – I am at the program committee)

International Conference Series in Games and Literary Theory
Inaugural Conference
University of Malta, 31st October-1st November 2013
University of Malta
Institute of Digital Games and the Department of English

This inaugural event in the Digital Games and Literary Theory Conference Series follows on from a successful International Workshop held at the University of Malta last year. That event established the scope, appeal and timeliness of interdisciplinary research involving Game Studies and Literary Theory. While there are ample conference opportunities for discussion of the impact of Game Studies on other fields in the Humanities and on the amenability, in turn, of Game Studies to critique by those fields, events where the affinities with Literary Theory take centre stage are, by comparison, quite rare. This is surprising.

There are, in fact, a number of reasons why a forum for formalised exchanges across the two fields is now overdue, and why the prospect of it should be exciting and enriching for both areas. For one thing, digital games’ modalities could be seen as reconfiguring and possibly subverting conceptualities and orthodoxies integral to literary theory (such as matters concerning textuality, subjectivity, authorship, the linguistic turn, the ludic, and the very nature of fiction).

Additionally, and conversely, theory’s capacities for close and rigorous critique finds ample opportunity for extension in digital games. The discourse on theory in the area of game studies is, by some lights, remarkably slow in bringing to bear those perspectives which theory is peculiarly well endowed to address (for instance, on matters concerning undecidability, the trace, the political unconscious, the allegorical, and the autopoietic, to name but a few likely avenues). To be sure, the encounter between Digital Games and Literary Theory is not inexistent. The lively debate around narrative in games and about the nature of concepts such as fiction and the virtual, as well as discussion about indeterminacies across characters, avatars and players, attest to that. But there can be no doubt that there is much more that can be broached within that encounter. A conference series providing for regular meetings where that could start to occur, allowing for new thinking on the mutuality and divergences between Games and Literary Theory, would be extremely helpful in energizing the debate further and in helping the two areas to find a congenial and productive space for their interaction.

To this end, the organizers of this First International Conference on Games and Literary Theory—based at the Institute of Digital Games and the Department of English at the University of Malta, and networked with a number of academics in the United States, Europe, Australia and Asia equally committed to this interdisciplinary undertaking—are issuing a Call for Papers that invites proposals for presentations that could focus on issues related, but not limited to, any (or a combination of) the following :

  • Textuality in literature and games.
  • Rethinking fiction after digital games.
  • Characters, avatars, players, subjects: What changes occur for literary theory when digital games are considered?
  • New forms of narrative and games.
  • Games and the rethinking of culture.
  • Genetic criticism.
  • Digital games and literariness, and/or intermediality.
  • Digital games and authorship and/or focalization.
  • Autopoiesis, literary theory, and digital games.
  • Reception theory, reader experience, player experience: new phenomenologies for critique.
  • Gender in games, literature, theory: transformation or more of the same?
  • Digital games, literary theory and posthumanism.
  • Game Studies and the New Humanities.
  • Possible Worlds Theory and games.
  • Digital games in literature.

We invite scholars with an interest in the conjunction of games and literary theory to submit abstracts between 1000 and 1500 words including bibliography. The deadline for submissions is April 30th 2013. Please submit your abstract in PDF format to gamelit2013@um.edu.mt.

All submitted abstracts are subject to a double blind peer review, which will be the basis for the programme committee’s selection of papers for the conference. A full paper draft must then be submitted by September 30th.

Papers will be made available to participants on the conference website. A selection of top papers from the conference will form a Special Issue of Game Studies focused on Literary Theory and Games. Notifications of acceptance will be sent out by June 15th , 2013.

From Mobile Games to Playful Communication: Play in Everyday Life (keynote)

I am happy my keynote in IADIS Mobile Learning 2013 conference seemed to get a good response today in Lisbon. You can access my slideset for the lecture from Slideshare, below, but just to summarize what I was actually talking about: I tried to argue for a sort of “playfulness literacy” – the need to understand and reconsider the role of game play and other play forms in the situation where the role of mobile devices is getting more and more pervasive in our everyday lives. We are easily getting into situation where we are constantly bombarded my messages of various kinds, and multitasking in many different layers/frames/realities of real/fictional/playful interactions. My interpretation of this direction is divided and under tension: we both have evidence of this kind of actively undertaken engagement in playful communication, creative play and pervasive game play as being empowering and providing really interesting opportunities for individuals, groups, institutions and societies to evolve their practices and potentials into new, innovative directions. On the other hand, it is important to develop ethical principles for designing this kind of services, and for educating children and adults alike about the possibilities of controlling and moderating the engagement in more and more intense and complex networks of games, play and communication. (This builds upon and updates my earlir, Finnish language ITK conference keynote.)

The Hobbit

Saw the Hobbit movie today. I have read the book countless times since I was a child, and now I have been reading it to my own children. Thus, this was an interesting evening, to say the least. 

Hopefully I would find time to do a proper analysis of it some time, but a couple of notes:

– It is a bit too slow. It tries to establish characters and show the historical context of things that follow (in LotR), but that is not good for this film as an individual work of art.

– HFR 3D actually worked fine. It is a bit hyper-realistic, but you will get used to it. Seeing New Zealand scenes this way was really beautiful in many places.

– The screenwriters had done rather ok job in finding the philosophical key lines from this text, that is a children’s book after all. The epic and the silly clashed a bit occasionally, though.

As a summary, it is a fine, a bit slowly proceeding work of action fantasy cinema. There were only a couple of truly emotionally moving scenes in the film, but that is more than in several standard representatives of the genre, so I was not disappointed. But similar achievement this in not as the LotR films, but I was not expecting it to be such, neither.