søndag 25. oktober 2015


Accepting change as we
seek beyond and within
An extension of mind

Crucial connection fills
barriers and opens a stream
of endless surrender

Let go and forget
what you  know
Through weakness you are strong
As humility cradles the heavens

søndag 4. oktober 2015

Old Stories

Connecting old hard drives to explore old files is a strange thing. Old images, projects and text files present an interesting snapshot of who you once was, who you still are and, perhaps, who you will become. There is a certain irony to being against data collection whilst avidly collecting and keeping all kinds of data about oneself. Yet I feel these traces of the past need to be stuck there, on these dusty old hard drives I keep in my closet. This is not a matter of physical space, perhaps it is mental space? Old memories remain through these drives instead of synapses. It is possible to relive them if I should want to. Otherwise, they do not exist. In that case, are they still memories if I don't remember them?

Autumn 2010

søndag 24. august 2014

Open Access - A blessing or source of confusion?

In 2012, The European Commission announced that all research funded by the Horizon 2020 program will be Open Access. This means unrestricted online access to finished and peer reviewed research papers. UK research funders have also released similar plans the recent years. Now, Open Access isn't a new concept, but it seems like the world(meaning funders) is finally beginning to embrace it.

Open Access makes me positively excited. If you look at the fundamental purpose of research, it is (in my humble opinion) all about elevating humanity through new discoveries. How can you do this by keeping your newfound knowledge to yourself(ignoring ethical reasons)? Ironically, this is exactly what the research community has been doing through the years. Closed journals with expensive entry fees usually makes access impossible unless you are filthy rich or connected to a paying institution.
Yet you often hear complaints on how new discoveries are misrepresented and twisted in the media. How can we complain if we don't let all journalists read the source?

In an ideal world, I imagine news articles with lovely citations and references, where it is possible for the journalist to present the real numbers and discussions, not just the conclusion(which often isn't conclusive). I imagine a world where the reader can easily look up the papers and check the facts straight from the source, without having to rely on the abstract alone. Or as a researcher, you don't have to hassle your library to order specific papers from journals you can't access, but I'll focus on the public in this post.

Unfortunately, I realise this is slightly utopian. I am not blind to the often black/white representations in the media. Where the research world thrives on perhaps and maybes, the popular media relishes stark contrast and clear cases. A "Z might happen if X is this and Y is that, but we need more testing" rarely makes the headlines(or if it does, it's "X causes Z!!") .  

Reading and understanding research papers is almost an artform. The lingo and phrasings can easily confuse the most seasoned professor. Is it possible that free papers for the public can cause even more misrepresentation of research? I imagine three reporters reading the same paper, getting three different interpretations and three different sensational articles in the media. Will we get an even more confused public that shudders at the latest reports? The phrasing "Agh, those pesky scientists never find out anything useful, use our tax money and always change their minds" comes to mind.

With Open Access and the media of today, having skillful presentation of research is more important than ever. Perhaps we will see new degrees called "Scientific Journalism" in the future(or perhaps they already exist)?

There are many technicalities around this issue, mostly money based. Nevertheless, I strongly believe we can get around those in order to bring new knowledge to humanity. That is why we do this, right?

Read more:

onsdag 30. juli 2014


Every month, I receive some tea from the lovely people of the Global Tea Hut. Finding this package of love in the mail is a highlight of the month. 

This month I received a lovely red tea with the beautiful name "Daughter of the Forest". What a special tea. A group of people from the community travelled to Yunnan, China and participated in the creation of this tea. The leaves were rolled by many different hands and in the end combined for the final tea blend. What a beautiful testament to the intent of Global Tea Hut, where people from all over the world share the same tea during the same month. If you enjoy tea, I highly recommend checking these people out. A lovely and welcoming community that I appreciate, even if I don't know the people personally.

This particular day I didn't have anyone to share my tea with, any human at least. I am lucky to have a river as my closest neighbour, so I opened the windows and let the flowing river and trickles of rain be my tea companions. As this river ends up in the drinking water, there is a possibility that my humble bowl of tea included parts of the river. My tea could once have been the rain splashing down as thunder and lightening started filling the sky.

I love how tea can instantly connect you to the nature that surrounds you. As I drank the tea, these thoughts made me look at my little droplet decoration that I once bought for a water charity. The glass droplet with water inside rests on a silvery ring with the inscription "Water~Life". Almost everything is connected through water. Life and water has a symbiotic relationship where life will cease to exist without water. Water is the seed to life(To be fair, energy, carbon and other things are too, but I am being poetic here!). 

Water is also the main ingredient in tea. I am so lucky to live in a place where the tap water is pure and better than the bottled water. Whenever I travel, water is what makes me miss home the most. When I get home from travels, the first thing I do is fill up a huge glass of water and chug down the most amazing drink this planet can offer.

A strange little flowery companion. This one also likes water!

torsdag 29. august 2013

Do we need game research?

Indirectly related, as I'm getting more and more excited about Dreamfall Chapters!

Game research. These words often make the gamer shudder. It is my impression that many gamers, or even game designers, are doubting the point and benefit of game research.
Do we really need game research? Should it just be left alone as a natural art where game designers do their own thing? It might seem like game designers and researchers live on different planes. Research and reality(reminds you of biology vs humanities?). Personally I'd like to see a blend between the two. There is no point to research if it can never be applied to reality. Vice versa, game design or the way we think of games can always be improved by good and relevant research.

What good does game research do? I wouldn't want game research to simply be the systematic explanation of what we already know. As it stands, there is a lot of knowledge on game design. I would like to take it one step further. Games are more than Starcraft or the latest Grand Theft Auto. Games offer us the opportunity to tap into interesting parts of our psyche normally not seen. Buzz words such as gamification and serious games have been around for a while now, but do these have anything to offer? There are many good and bad examples, but let me show you some of my favorites! 
I have enjoyed using the workout tracker Fitocracy which incorporates various game mechanics. You get xp after tracking your workout, there is a level bar, quests and achievements to win. If you respond well to level mechanics, this will work great for you! I would call this good gamification. A great example of serious games is how the Norwegian military uses simulation games  to practice teamwork and communication skills in serious situations that are hard to replicate in real life. These types of games would not be around if there was no knowledge of the player and the psychology of gaming.

Understanding the gamer is crucial to game research. How does the gamer react to various game mechanics? Does game mechanics overide other important elements in the game? Games for learning often attempt to put some sort of curriculum on top of a well established game mechanics to promote learning. But lets face it, would you truly learn molecular strucures by playing a bubble shooter with molecule "bubbles" and somewhat correct matches you had to create? Chances are, you'd simply play the mechanics after a while, not caring about the bubble graphics. This argument is often used to refute arguments about game violence turning the gamer violent, they are just playing the mechanic of reducing health bars and moving onto the next! What is more interesting are those who watch. The experience of sitting next to someone playing a game could be very different than being the one with the controller. How about kids watching game violence played out by their parents. Is it possible that they could link the action to their parent and take damage from it? We don't fully know, yet.

These are just a sample of interesting questions and dilemmas surround the world of games.By use of reliable game metrics and controlled experiments, I think there are many interesting things we can find within the gaming world. Perhaps it can even help us understand more about ourselves?
Personally, I think game research should be fuelled by both the desire to make better games and wanting to harvest the fruits of powerful game mechanics in useful ways. This might sound idealistic, but isn't that what all research is? Curious, ambitious and with the desire to improve.

Detail of a beautiful University glass painting, "Science and religion". 
"Education" by Louis Tiffany.

lørdag 29. juni 2013

Who do you think you are?

Generally I am happy and content with my Scandinavian and Northern Norwegian culture, although there are things that I'd be more than happy to throw away. The prime example here is the renowned Jante law. This is a set of rules that describe the ugliest and most ingrained part of Scandi culture. It basically tells the individual to submit to the general consensus and never ever try to stand out or attempt to "be something".

This law looks like this:
  1. You're not to think you are anything special.
  2. You're not to think you are as good as us.
  3. You're not to think you are smarter than us.
  4. You're not to convince yourself that you are better than us.
  5. You're not to think you know more than us.
  6. You're not to think you are more important than us.
  7. You're not to think you are good at anything.
  8. You're not to laugh at us.
  9. You're not to think anyone cares about you.
  10. You're not to think you can teach us anything.

Pretty depressing stuff. The "us" in this law describes the majority of people, the masses. Even though this was written in 1933, the concept of the law is very much alive today. People don't think about the law, but it hides deep within the national psyche. Although I agree with and sometimes like how most Norwegians are humble in their efforts, this Jante culture is easily destructive.

Most of the time I like to think of myself as a person who has thrown this pattern of thought in the trash. Unfortunately, I caught myself in a most unfortunate way yesterday(which is also why I am inspired to write this. I read an article in a local newspaper about two young girls who spent a considerable amount of money on a 9 week trip to South America to mix studying and cultural experienses. Suddenly I found myself thinking thoughts like "What a waste. They could have saved the money and worked while finding out what they really wanted to study. They probably were study loan leeches who had joined many programs before and never decided..." WAIT.

I was "us". Ashamed, I had to admit to myself that I was thinking in the exact pattern of the Jante law. "Who were these girls to brag about their experiense in the news? Who do they think they are?" (See law 1, 4, 6 and 10)

What was the problem, I thought. These girls had said in the article that they loved their trip and had gained so much personcal experiense from it, they were happy. No, I was the problem. More specifically, my thoughts were and they stopped me from being happy for these girls who had an amazing experiense. The more I thought about this, it annoyed me. It looks like I still have more work to do with myself. 

In an earlier post I wrote a little piece on how your thoughts are the beginning of everything. Your thoughts lead to what you say, what you say leads to action, your actions lead to your habits, your habits to your character, and in the end, your character is your fate. Eventually, I intend to rid myself of this silly thought pattern. It all starts in the mind...

tirsdag 25. juni 2013

Book Review - Parable of the Sower

For quite some time I have been intrigued and fascinated by dystopian stories. I think it is the mix of prophecy and description of how people cope with a difficult and sometimes deadly society that triggers me. After plowing through the classics I was tired of the gloomy big brother'esque stories.

Not too long ago I came across "Parable of the Sower", a book written by American Octavia Butler. Apart from having an incredible first name, she also wrote an amazing story called "Parable of the sower". As I do not enjoy spoilers myself, I will keep this spoiler free.


The story centres around Lauren Olamina, a 15 year old daughter of a baptist preacher living in a walled neighborhood, set in a semi dystopian 2024 USA. We never truly get an explanation of what went wrong with the world, but it seems like a mix of climate change and economic collapse hurled the US into chaos. We follow Lauren throughout several traumatic experiences in an unforgiving world and her spiritual journey of creating a new religion for herself.

The two qualities about this book that makes it stand out is its excellent character development and believable society. With only 329 pages, there isn't too much space for cramming descriptions into the story. What Butler did well for this story was to weave character personality and traits into their dialogue and actions. Society is experienced as the characters live it rather than explained. This is done with the finesse that I loved Dune (book by Frank Herbert) for.
Throughout the book, several new characters are introduced without being too vague or too elaborated. I heavily enjoyed this. I also want to give the book a heads up for the believable character development. I especially enjoyed a segment where a few characters who were neighbors their entire life found out that they never knew one another at all and restarted their friendship.

This book deals with several themes that usually isn't found in popular dystopian literature. The protagonist is an African American woman, which in itself is a fresh change and also understandable as Octavia Butler herself was of the same background. This is however never the main point of the story,  while there still are hints of a world with women's issues and trouble for mixed couples. The story also digs into the paranoia of growing up in a world where your neighbor could quickly become your enemy, who do you help and who do you abandon?

As the story progresses we also learn to know Earthseed, the new religion created by Lauren. As I personally love religious references and explanation, I wish that the story would dig into the core of Earthseed instead of swirling around its edges. This is my personal opinion and the descriptions might have been enough for others. I enjoyed reading the Earthseed verses at the beginning of each chapter and did not perceive this as preachy in any way. I think it is refreshing to read a book where religion is used as a part of the narrative because it allows for dialogue between characters you normally wouldn't find.

When asked about this book while reading it, I described it as "The Walking Dead" (Game or TV series, you chose) without the zombies, plus a sprinkle of religion. Overall, I think this description captures the feeling I got from most of this book. Eerie, scary and immersive. A great read!