Tuesday, January 29, 2008

French food for dreams

I'm off to Cannes for an intense week in April, as I'm attending the MipTV and Milia. The main themes for the five conference days are known but the speakers are yet to be announced.

And right outside Cannes, there's a lovely paeonia garden, La Villa Noailles. I do hope I can arrange time for a stop there! It's my dream to run a lush, green, quiescent garden where peonies would grow throughout the season starting early spring and ending in autumn. I'd run a small café with sherry, gâteaus and orange liquor, with tables only for two or three parties maximum. It's intentionally not a very profitable enterprise, rather it's the spirit, l'esprit of it. Hopefully, I get a bit of nurture in Cannes for my dream.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Finally a grain of outdoor activities

It's been a hell of a winter, pardon my French, but it has. There are few positive adjectives I can come to think of when describing it. It's been dark, quite warm, little snow but instead very rainy, resulting in unusually wet forests and no frost in the ground. The river running by our house is usually covered with ice in January but not this year. And since we're currently living January, the festivities of Christmas and mid winter are all behind us leaving little mental nor physical light to cheer for. And when you add that to the usual polar night spirit (or Kaamos which is the term in Finland), only keeping the eye lids open is a task comparable to walking ten thousand miles. That's why I jumped out of bed with a big grin on my face this morning, the sun was rising, the temperature was -10 and a white blanket of snow reflecting golden sunbeams. Beautiful! I grabbed the camera and headed out. Let's hope it stays this way for a while longer. Otherwise, I need to indulge more in my survivor trick during dark winter times, knitting, needlework and embroidery (the angel came about last November...).

Friday, January 25, 2008

Notes from Ebba von Sydow's talk

Her talk treated mostly trends in young women's media consumption, behaviour and taste.
  • The internet is as such no biggie for young Swedish women. It's like any other medium, it's considered a carrier of other media, such as radio, TV, news papers...
  • Many are more comfortable with expressing emotions and opinions in front of a computer screen or via sms, instead of face to face. Young women of today are afraid of making a phone call and talking to someone, instead, they prefer electronic communication.
  • Ebba von Sydow dislikes the claim often heard today, that young people lack engagement, that they don't care. They do care, and they engage through clothing, fashion. The means of expressing the engagement is new, she stresses.
  • As for the environment awareness, young Swedish women seem to think: "That's great, but I won't...". A t-shirt made of organic cotton every now and then may be ok, but making a long-term commitment is out of the question.
  • She mentions the importance of involving the user in online sites and communities, the two cases she talks of are Ellos and Lego.
  • Finally, the brand is of minor importance for teenagers online. They're extremely disloyal and unfaithful to brands. What counts is what buzzing at the moment, what others are talking about.

Ebba's blog is here (in Swedish).

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The night prior to inspiration

My expectations of the coming weekend are high. It's the first conference for this year, and it's a good one, Mediespråk (media language). Two years ago, the chief editor of a Swedish evening newspaper, Bo Strömstedt, made fall in love with language and poetry again. On an early Saturday morning no less. I completely forgot the hangover and instead, I came to terms with the grudge against classic French literature (long story). I'm still impressed by the man. This year's main speakers are the journalist and fashion blogger Ebba von Sydow and the award winning journalist and author Mustafa Can.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Pen measuring emotions

According to NewScientist, the company Philips is launching a pen measuring heart rate, skin conductance, finger pressure and temperature in order to get an idea of the current state of mind of the author. I'd love to write a book about that pen, preferably a detective novel. And I'd love to see the SCL curves of Ms Rowling when finishing the Harry Potter series.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Highlighted in DN

The #1 daily newspaper in Sweden as to distribution and readership, DN, has an article on movies and audience screening. The reporter, who's taken part in such a testing, describes the process of having a say on how entertaining a movie is and presents an overview of the available methods of film screening on the Swedish market. This is where our iDTV Lab appears.

Although the Americans have carried the system of movie test screenings to an extreme, many of the technical progresses are made not in the West but in the East, in iDTV Lab in Vasa, the reporter writes. The article is found here (in Swedish only).

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A YouTube for thinkers

Do you feel like YouTube clips mostly resemble silly sitcom copycats with little substance, that only occasionally succeed in providing semi-funny haha moments? Longing for depth and intellectual snack? There's an alternative now, a YouTube for big thinkers, grand ideas and genuine, thorough discussion. It's called Big Think, read more on the story behind it here.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Looking for a cool job in new media and research?

Then do send us your application! We're hiring more folks to the audience research lab at work. If you like exploring why people would bother being interactive on the web or on TV after a rough day at work, why someone would get excited over a thriller movie or if you enjoy finding out best practice of creating digital products with high scores in user experience and usability, this is the post for you.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

What's going down next year?

I'm a bit disappointed in contemporary journalism. Too little attention is devoted to the glorious art of following-up. It seems to me that news media is way too focused on tomorrow, tonight (and possibly on the "right now" although not much), which consequently leaves the history and yesterday all gray and forgotten in the dumpster in the back yard. I'd appreciate a remembrance every now and then, a check up if you will, of the goals, beliefs and visions at earlier days and how it all turned out. For example a comparison between the actual weather and climate data of 2007 and how it was predicted by a) the local foretellers using coffee grounds or the mating behavior of frogs or swallows b) the meteorological institute and c) climate researchers. Who came closer to the truth? Or a comparison between the election promises given by local politicians and now, after four years of power, the results. Or a comparison between the fears and hopes regarding the web back in mid 1990's versus how we actually use the net today. Are there great differences? Did someone foresee the social networking craze of today?

My memory is extremely bad and I'm sure I'm not the only one to suffer from this. This being the case, there's money to be made :) But since the news I consume seem to be occupied with the next year's flowering season rather than with the roots and last season's blooming, I started documenting the weather and happenings myself in order to be able to make comparisons and remembering later on (a dream I have is to take an identical photo of say the views from my balcony, every day at the exact same time. That would make an impressive index of weather, the changes in how the local community evolves as new houses, trees and road would emerge and old ones perhaps disappear. The idea falls short however due to my constant moving around.) I've also been thinking of collecting the trend reports and predictions that flourish at every turn to a new year, and compare them with how it all turned out say after four, five years have passed. I've been happily reading every trend report I've come across, in all sorts of contexts, and this year, they're a bit contradictory. According to Kairo's institute, we'll see more of the blending of private and public on arenas such as MySpace or FaceBook. But as a consequence, conflicts in law, organization culture and conventions (what's suitable to reveal regarding your work online for instance) will emerge. This trend watch report was a great read, I do recommend it! The women's magazine Amelia on the other hand predicts that IRL is back, a social networking fatigue will hit us and we'll favor integrity and keeping thorough, deep discussions face to face with our friends. I will try to keep up and see which prediction is more accurate.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Playful products

I stumbled upon an article by Jonathan Follett on UX Matters. He suggests four characteristics for a playful product, and thus, these are the variables to measure when studying the playfulness of a digital product.
  • lots of small rewards and positive feedback for taking action
  • no negative consequences for experimentation
  • the ability to take someone else’s work and build on it
  • frivolous interaction
His suggestions are a good start. There are two more features I immediately want to add to the list, socializing and challenge. For instance challenging your friend to create a cooler Nike shoe than the shiny masterpiece you just did, by sending him or her an e-mail.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The tale of the well-being

D Kahneman (a psychologist awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences six years ago) tells a tale of being wrong in the research of well-being.
"Measuring experienced happiness turned out to be interesting and useful, but not in the way we had expected. We had simply been wrong. Experienced happiness, we learned, depends mainly on personality and on the hedonic value of the activities to which people allocate their time."

wii 2.0

For a long time, we've been clueless regarding what to do with our Wii at work (gaming has naturally been out of the question), but that's hereby a solved problem.

Monday, December 31, 2007

I can fool you anywhere!

Evidently, I need a reality check and get updated on civilization, as it turns out I've missed out on a famous magician and psychological illusionist, Derren Brown (thanks Jonas for the tip!). I knew nothing of the guy so I did what anyone would do, I browsed YouTube and yes, j'ai trouvé. In this clip, he raises an interesting point regarding the individuality that we praise today, regarding how our mind works and how we subconsciously register messages that affect us without our knowing it. Interesting, I must say.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Gendered Simpsons?

Sweet, thanks to Mr Santa Claus, I am now the proud owner of two more DVD boxsets of my favorite TV show, The Simpsons. The fact that this show, probably along with The X-files and Seinfeld, is on my all time top 3 list on TV shows came up at a party a couple of weeks ago and to my big surprise, people were astonished to hear this. Apparently, the typical Simpsons fan is considered to be male. To be honest, this is nothing I've thought about, and spontaneously, I'm a bit doubtful as to if this is true. There's no doubt plenty of women enjoying watching the bad manners of Homer, the many pranks à la Bart and admiring the sharp wit of young Lisa, right? Well, perhaps therefore, this gender "prejudice" intrigued me to such an extent that I did a bit of ad hoc-research. It turns out, not many women at the party watch the show, whereas many men do, and when asked about it, most felt that the show appeals to men in the 20s-30s. And now, when I google it to see if there's audience research or sociological studies available to shed some light on the matter, I find nothing. I did find that gamers seem to include the show in their TV consumption, but I still don't know whether there are more men than women in the fan club.

Interestingly, while browsing for information on the demographics of the audience, I found out via Wikipedia that The Simpsons turned out to be a viewer success in Japan, only after the marketing spotlight was put on Lisa. I'm having a Japanese friend of a friend coming over to stay with us tomorrow, I'll have to ask her about the audience of the best animated series there is in her country.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Cuisine and games

Sweet. The home made Carrot Casserole is ripening in the oven, the beetroot casserole is already cooling down and... there's snow on the ground! Yey! So far though, the holiday has been revolving around cuisine and games (and that can't go wrong...). I've downloaded the classic arcade game Bubble Bobble to my Wii. It's good fun, although not as challenging as my all time favorite Boulder dash. And I realized that one of my favorite stand up comedians at the moment, Björn Gustavsson, appears to be a true WOW gamer ("du, du är precis som en priest som inte healar". Muahaha!). And interestingly, as for the board game Draughts, it seems to be game over.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas party video

One of our visual contributions on last night's Christmas Party at MediaCity is out on YouTube now. It's in Swedish, but the visual language is, should I say, rather alive and present. The 10 minute masterpiece is here.

AC going on

The current spirit of this blog is perhaps best illustrated by the poor fate my cactus out on the balcony faced this winter: drained of energy and struggling. Remains to be seen if this post is just a First aid care performed just once, on the compulsory “tying up the ends” day at the end of the year, or will it instigate more posts in the future. In the documentation of the blog’s medical history, the reason for the low activity is found in the author, naturally. Lately, I’ve been focusing more on identifying and posing the right questions, on the nature of the battery of yet un-uttered questions there simply must be out there still, concerning everything really, mundane things as well as metaphysical ones. I haven’t been too much concerned with trying to find answers, to write papers or outlining views on the world and therefore, the need to write has not been all too prevalent.

This is not a new turn of event though. I’ve always thought that life in general is much more about the whys and the hows than about the ergos. That is, I’m not so much interested in one big truth or a definite recipe on how things are but rather on challenging these views by asking how they could be, according to a number of perspectives. Consider a funnel; my way of working is moving my way from the narrow spout upwards towards a much greater space. I’m probably like a child stuck in a “why” phase that never tapered off :)

Well, anyways, at the Christmas Party of MediaCity last night, a journalist and my former colleague, currently on leave of absence for completing a PhD, asked me whether I miss journalism and writing news features for a news paper. I confessed that I do. That’s a profession that suits me, apart from the evil deadlines. And the reason for that is exactly that I talked of above. Along the lines of classic journalism, you get to explore and shed some light on an event or a phenomenon, and typically, you need to do so out of multiple perspectives, in order to explain it and tell it to your audience in an intelligible and engaging way. In short, you get paid for asking loads of whys and hows, to put bits and pieces together in a simple manner, and then move on without ever becoming an expert on the issue.

But as we were talking, I realized that the focus of people’s mind is like an alternating current, whose direction vary in a cyclic way, as opposed to DC (yes, I did ask the band to play AC/DC but I really can’t remember if they ever did…). And the wave of my focus is presently changing, it’s just that I hadn’t realized it until last night. I’m actually leaving the phase of why and how now, in favor for the ergo. The signs are there, like we’re hiring a research manager at iDTV Lab, which will kick start the getting below the surface-phase pretty seriously and I’m really looking forward to that. Also, I fell in love with a book on how to get answers to all your unthinkable questions, of which I have a bundle. I found it at Designtorget down town Stockholm last Monday, it’s called Can cows walk down stairs? I do recommend it!

Well, first aid treatments are by default simple and provides only limited care, therefore, over and out.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Finland's three T:s

I'm one of those people who crave instant answers. If I could, I'd integrate an audio Wikipedia in something that I always carry with me (most likely the keys, the phone is increasingly left behind these days). Whenever I come across something that I'd fancy knowing, a simple question would be uttered and a definition would be read to me within a few seconds, or perhaps a minute. It would take too long to fiddle with pens on pda:s or googling via 3G and besides, that requires time and effort. No, I want it instantly, without grand energy investments on my part. But then again, such a system would be the end of the fun ways knowledge hits you at times. Like the night before I went on a holiday to Rome. Late, I finished R Florida's book on the Creative class, as he labels persons working in fields such as research, computer programming, art, law etc. People whose jobs somehow revolve around creativity. Florida has found a correlation between high socio-economic development of an area and a large population of creative workers. Florida argues that in order to attract and maintain this much sought for creative class, cities and regions must have functioning “Three T’s”. These are Talent, Tolerance and technology (learn more here). When reading the book, I was wondering how well Finland is doing in this regard. We most certainly do have the talent and the technology, but what about the part regarding tolerance? Well, the answer came to me a couple of days later at one of the two metro lines in Rome, in an Italian Metro paper (No, I don't understand Italian but I do have 20 something ECTS-points in Latin so I figured the stem of the words ought to resemble at least). Apparently we're doing good, we made the top three of the big T:s of creativity.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Societal thoughts

Two pence worth of thoughts, i.e. things I feel worthy of contemplation.
  1. In December last year, I predicted a future Western society where values and thoughts, instead of money and gadgets, rule. I still believe in this vision and I'm wondering when this transition will be completed. When will the zeitgeist equal thoughts and values, not things and gadgets, and focus on the process, not the final product? And when we're there, how do you show off to others? Say today, you can flash with a designer bag worth of 5 000 euros. Not everyone, but significantly many, admires that item. But in a world where thoughts, ideas and visions make the currency, how do you show off to friends and colleagues? The contemporary Finn may buy an even better, more powerful SUV to outdo the neighbor, but that won't do the trick tomorrow. Probably, clothing will still play an important role, signaling what you stand for and in what intellectual hemisphere you currently roam.
  2. Will categorization according to gender ever disappear? I mean, will we ever primarily consider the human, and the gender as a secondary aspect? It's seems hard to stop labeling people and raise expectations on others depending on their gender.
  3. Will micro issues surrender to macro ones when debating politics, visions and suggestions? It seems today, when important and relevant issues are being discussed, the focus lies on details and is not often shifted to the bigger picture, to a macro level.
  4. How many have considered who, if anyone, has something to gain on the climate debate currently raging? Is the question of who may have an interest in instigating such a debate, and why, and are these reasons of such a kind that we want to support them or not, raised at coffee breaks at work places around the world? I wish it was raised and genuinely analyzed. I hope I'm not falling into a conspiracy trap here but I believe it's sensible to ponder why we are debating current issues and who benefits from it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

eyesonitv stolen notes

The Eyesonitv is well under way, it's just frustrating to be swamped with work to that horrifying degree, that I have to skip about half of the talks. Good thing Simon just blogged an overview of what has been discussed so far.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Notes from EuroITV 07 part one

Astrid Weiss of University of Salzburg, the host city of next year’s event, presented findings on how the TV audience perceives their living rooms. It plays a role of a recreational area yet at the same time as a place for socializing. She quoted a woman saying she wants to watch TV in her living room, read and be lazy but the same room is where her son plays PS. A truly multi functional space, it appears. I’ve always been fascinated by how people act, when they have friends over; do they kill the tv or do they actually turn it on, as a background noise or perhaps as an aid or instigator to get the discourse going. But now, when I'm in the middle of a moving process where the function and roles of new rooms are designed, I started reflecting on how I perceive my living room and the role of TV. I chose to have a different room for media. It’s quite small, with a blood red wall, Kill Bill motives painted on the walls and b/w curtains. It’s a place for playing WoW and watching movies. In the living room on the other hand, the only media will be piano music and talk. I see that primarily as a place for socializing and resting. Interestingly, many seem to combine these two, but I’m not comfortable with that solution (anymore I should add).

I have a thing for jewelry, especially rings, but it’s definitely not precious metals and stones that set me off, neither do “bling bling”. Anyways, in Amsterdam I wore one of my favorites I got in London, a black ring by a Japanese designer, made of sponge. Suddenly I overhear a participant commenting it to my colleague: “Susanne is wearing a very special ring. Is it very common to be that different in Finland?” I started laughing, and contrary to the question raiser’s fears, I wasn’t offended at all. Quite the opposite really, I don’t mind wandering off the beaten tracks at times. That doesn’t however mean I don’t possess a sense of community, a desire to belong to a Gemeinschaft. This division between individualization and community characterized many of the presentations and issues raised, in my view, during the conference. That is, especially these days, many long for expressing themselves in a highly individual way whereas the need for belonging to a group and being part of a community of own choice is very important as well. Many TV viewers want to enjoy the social experience that TV consumption is, via watching shows or programs with family and friends, and discuss the shows the next morning over coffee with colleagues at work but highly personalized, niched content is also appealing to them. This is evident even in a concrete and physical manner, at times you watch the news in the living room with your family, at other times you watch them in bed upstairs in your own room on your own TV-set or via mobile TV. So how do you combine the desire for expression of individuality and the desire for belonging to a community? (If you find the recipe, you’re likely to do good. I think the popularity of services such as Flickr lies in the fact that it combines these two factors.) And is the need for belonging to the group (who watched the Eurovision for instance and thus can discuss whether the right song won, the clothes of the artists etc) transforming? This is what comes to my mind when reading the long tail theory, which I largely agree on. According to it, small (as opposed to hit products and mega markets with more, bigger, better) is beautiful and even profitable, the future is all about giving the consumers the choice to choose what they want, when they want it, and niche content will be prevailing. But doesn’t this imply that colleagues around the coffee table have each seen different Sunday night movies, instead of earlier when many watched the 9 o’clock movie on Channel X? There’s no sense of belonging to a group when every colleague watches different, personalized content. The question is, does it matter? Will people be satisfied with the fact that the group they belong to (say those who watched the Eurovision) is likely to be scattered around the world, instead of geographically close, as friends’ and colleagues’ TV guide may look completely different? Will the habit of chatting about last night’s 9 o’clock TV series or movie at work slowly disappear? Qui vivra verra (He who lives, shall see).

Photos from the conference here.

Monday, May 14, 2007

On the issue of love

I just finished the book Essays in Love, written by Alain de Botton. In a witty, but at times way too philosophical, way he treats the topic any reader can identify with, namely le mal d'être deux, that is being in love. I loved reading it, I kept laughing out loud as I recognized myself and others. There’s no point in listing examples here as then, I’d have to go on forever. Instead, get the book and get revealed (and no, I'm not bribed to say this :) ) It’s easier to mention the two thoughts I couldn’t quite embrace. Firstly, the character in the book states that we fall in love, hoping that the target of our feelings does not, like we do, possess any of the following: cowardice, weakness, laziness, dishonesty and pure stupidity. I’m not so sure. I believe that we choose not to focus on these traits when we’ve fallen head over heels in love. We perceive our beloved as a flawless ideal at first, but that’s something different than actually _hoping_ these characteristics don’t exist. And secondly, the hero of the book firmly believes that silence in company of an attractive person is beyond the shadow of a doubt a proof of you being an absolute, dreadful bore. I disagree. Silence is, to me, a sign of self confidence, courage, comfortableness, open-mindedness (!) and sexiness. In my opinion, the rate of inflation of words these days is very high. The less chattering, the better.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Attributions to bad driving

Lately, I've had a hang-up about appearance and constructions of social reality. I've reflected on how, and why, we choose to convey who we are and how others interpret the message and ultimately understand us. Today, I learned something in relation to this, namely that I tend to make external attributions. I'm digging into Rhodes's and Hamilton's article "Attribution and Entertainment: It's Not Who Dunnit, It's Why" (in Vorderer's and Bryant's Psychology of Entertainment) where the reader is provided an explanation of the attribution theory: it's the prediction of whether an observer will attribute an actor's behavior to internal or external causes.

Think about the last time you were driving, and another driver cut you off.
the writers ask rhetorically. Peace of cake, that happened today, on lunch hour. So they continue:
Did you explain the breach of driving etiquette by focusing on the situation characteristics such as that the driver must be in a hurry, or having a bad day? Typically not. Under those circumstances, most Americans would make disparaging remarks about the driver's bad character, that is, they would make an internal attribution.
Interestingly, I did make a situational attribution as I suggested to my angry passenger that she, the driver cutting me off, probably was late for a meeting or had stretched her 30 minutes lunch break a bit too much, transforming the shortening of the Friday working hours an illusion yet again. I did not look for causes in her personality or character. But I'm wondering if that has anything to do with her being a woman. If it would have been a male driver, I suspect I'd be more prone to look for causes in a bad character.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Papers to the EuroITV conference

We just added the papers we'll present during the EuroITV event in Amsterdam to our research website. The work in progress paper titled "Different” and “exciting”. The impact of set-top box and mobile phone interactivity on TV viewing experiences is available for downloading (pdf), as is the Doctoral Concortium paper Decoding experiencing entertainment in iTV. Oh well, inventas vitam iuvat excoluisse per artes.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


I feel like a polar bear squinting against the sun after months of hibernation. Or in my case, weeks. I've been busy with a client's audience research and yesterday, after days of collecting data and analyzing it, the conclusions were finalized and the report was handed over. In such projects, I do nothing but devote my time to that, I don't check my calender to see what's up next month or follow up on interesting links I get. I'm "live by the hour" and "carpe diem" personalized. But now, when there's time for dating, that is to cruise around in the digital calender, I notice there's a lot of interesting things going on.

  • The conference on Media Literacy, in which I participate with a poster, is taking place here at my university in two days. There's a blog too for posting ideas and sharing experiences during the conference, which is a great idea! I wish there were more digital meeting spaces around events taking place off-line.
  • The date of the conference that my colleagues are organizing, Eyes on iTV, is also hurdling towards us. Registration is still open.
  • I'm off to Amsterdam in two weeks, for the EuroITV conference. Makes me kind of wonder, where was I during the spring? It feels like it's 2 months or so away. I guess I need to start preparing for it.
  • The deadline for submitting abstracts to the Virtual conference is 15th of May. More here.
  • And regrettably, my loan of the excellent but yet half unread book Psychology of Entertainment is way too soon due. Which, by the way, is an excellent excuse to occupy the cozy sofa in our lab :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

WoW and flow

One of the most popular search words referring to my blog is MMORPG addiction or WoW addiction as I blogged this matter once. It seems that the issue engages, or worries perhaps, many, as for some, playing the game is affecting work, spare time, spending time with friends etc in a negative manner. I can certainly understand the popularity of the game as WoW is highly engaging for players on all levels, for both the noob as well as the the lvl 70 gamer, for the casual player and the hard core player. I’ve praised my restless character many times as it’s unlikely that I dwell on things, or get hooked on one single thing. My WoW-playing is more of the character that when I play, I do it fully and whole heartedly but quite rarely. As soon as I get a little bit tired, I quit. I forget about the game for weeks and when people ask me what level I’m at, I can’t remember. That said, that doesn’t mean I don’t like the game, I do. And it occupies my mind at times as I find myself thinking, “I should log on to see if my items were sold at the auction”, and I sometimes refer to items in the game when talking with friends. The game’s got me good but not hopelessly, in my opinion at least. To me, it’s pure entertainment.

On my desk at work, I have two books of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on the issue of flow. I’ve read his theory on what happens when we’re engaged in things we love to do and I’ve applied it on interactivity in media and on iTV but one could also of course apply it to video games.

In short, Csikszentmihalyi argues that we’re the most happy when we’re completely immersed in something we love to do. When this occurs, we’re in a Zen like state of mind, “in flow”. When we find ourselves in that state of mind, we can lose track of time, may forget to eat and probably wouldn’t notice at all if a lion roared behind our back. The flow state is full of enjoyment, fulfillment and pleasure and naturally, it’s a state of mind that most people wish to be in quite often. According to Csikszentmihalyi, a couple of prerequisites must be met in order to this flow state to occur. For instance, there must be clear goals. There must be a challenge but one that relates to the level of skill. It’s like playing a set of badminton with an opponent much better or much less skilled than you, it’s simply not fun nor rewarding. There must be immediate feedback and the actor must have a sense of control.

Now, with WoW, all these requirements are met, in my view. There are two clear goals, the conflict between the Horde and the Alliance, and the goal of reaching lvl 70 and the “end game” (or leveling in general as then, the character is more powerful, gets better gear and stronger aids, and for some reason, humans always strive towards “better”, “higher”, “more”). There’s always something to work towards, depending on your moods. For example, you can develop your character and hunt for better equipment, weapons and gaining experience by completing quests. Or if you’re not up for loads of action, you can sit by the river fishing as that improves the skills of your character and ultimately, helps you reach the goal. The sense of control is great as there’s little that you must do. It’s up to you what quests you do, which skills you have, and what regions you play in. This is one of the big hooks of WoW in my opinion as since you can make what you want of the game, that is you’re designing your own gameplay experience, it’s likely to appeal to you in a great way. If you want a game where you can socialize with your friends or other players a lot and just occasionally go on missions, look no further! If you’re mostly interested in developing your character, feel free to do so. If you’re looking for taking part of an epic story much like a movie, you certainly can do that as well. There are huge challenges for those who look for that, like the raids or instances or trying out quests that are “aimed” at characters at much higher levels. Of course, you can choose easier challenges as well, although the reward of leveling might take a while then.

As the requirements for a flow state are met by the design and structure of the game, I’m not surprised that many find WoW a highly rewarding and entertaining game to which they devote a lot of time and energy. The trick is to keep the playing time at moderate levels.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

My personality has been unveiled

I've never taken a personality test in my entire life, apart from the ones of a more entertaining character like "which of the girls in Sex and the City do you resemble the most?" (turned out to be Miranda btw). And I rarely browse around, or surf around, on the internet. I actually installed the Stumble Upon-feature of Firefox to get me started but I've used it once. I always know what kind of information or source I'm looking for. This morning though, when reading the usual dozen of online magazines, I read a column where the journalist listed cool self tests, where you may find out if you're a leader, a complete idiot or if you stand a chance to make it to heaven or not. Boldly, and admittedly full of excitement, I took the "What your boss wants to know about you - your personality traits". Evidently, it's a test based on Carl Jung and Isabel Myers-Briggs typological approach to personality.

Having answered 2 of the 72 questions, I started thinking about how I could make better formulated statements myself. Like this one "You are almost never late for your appointments". How much does the negation affect your choice of answer, "yes" or "no"? And is your notion of "almost never" equal to mine? Or this one, "It is easy for you to communicate in social situations", how many would seriously answer no to this positively formed statement? It takes a great deal of courage to say No, actually, it is not easy for me to communicate in social situations.

Well, I figured there's not much I could do about the formulations so I filled it out and got the results. Et voilà, I'm a INTJ rational mastermind, a personality type that about 1 % of the world's population belongs to. In short, such a person is considered to be an enigma, of some even weird. They are self confident, of some considered even arrogant, they know what they want, they have a huge passion for knowing how thinks work and acquiring more knowledge on the world. In short, they are analytical, process driven, idea loving individuals that try to make sense of the world and of other people. When reading the results, I laughed so hard I nearly tipped over my cup of coffee. Some assertions were so right to the point! One example is the desire to constantly gain more knowledge. I'm currently reading, at the same time, 8 books. I'm reading loads of online magazines and newspapers every single day. Take that possibility away from me and I get restless like the wind. And what I just did when filling out the questionnaire, that is tried to improve the questions and hunted for signs of low validation and cheap tricks to make the results as general and widely applicable as possible, is a characteristic for INTJ persons. Lol!

What strikes me though is that the results were not as generally crafted as horoscopes and astrology models tend to be (like "You generally want to do good". Honestly, who doesn't?!) but rather detailed and to the point. Other things again were rather loosely defined. I don't fully buy into the type I was labeled with though. A lot of it is applicable to me but certainly not everything. But it sure was a good deal of fun to read through the suggested character and to recognize oneself at times.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I doubled my foot size

I made a sad discovery yesterday. I attended a class on ecological footprints and I decided to measure my own remains. Turned out to be 6.6 global hectares and compared to my last measure, which I did 2,5 years ago, it has doubled! Lately, when reading and hearing about how frustrated and stressed some feel regarding the climate change and what to do to prevent it, I’ve suspected that the real issue has been a slight exaggeration. Not so anymore. My body actually feels stressed and I feel upset that this score (it is exactly that, a score among many, but one of the better measurements of how one’s consumption influences the Earth) of mine actually doubled although I’ve tried to live in a sustainable and ecologic way.

So I started troubleshooting, that is looking for the reasons to this increase and I found two: the use of cars and flying, two things that are not merely comfort issues but necessities. I have to travel in my work in order to attend events and to conduct audience research. I guess I don’t have to fly to Amsterdam in May, but driving or taking the train means less hours at work. Lately though, I’ve wondered what it would be like to arrange conferences and meetings say in Second Life. I know students who have their classes in SL are generally satisfied and happy with it (it was tested at Åbo Akademi last semester), could it be a model for work meetings as well? Being a sociologist, I’m kinda skeptical. And as for the use of car, it’s frustrating that it’s out of my control. I’d love to have the bus as my primary transportation vehicle, like I did for 7 years when studying, but it’s hard with the current bus routes in the countryside (on Saturdays, they’re leaving once an hour to town, the last one way too early at 17:30, and on Sundays, nada, zip, rien.). I could always approach the local politicians and/or the bus companies but oh well, it’s easier not to make a fuss and jump in the car. Sadly enough.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Jean Valjean and the changing identity

Tonight, I did something I can't recall doing for ages. Flickering through the TV channels only to find a program I've seen before, but nonetheless remaining absolutely absorbed hooked the next hour although every scene is familiar and totally predictable. I normally don't do that but when something as brilliant as the story of Jean Valjean and his move from being an prisoned thief to becoming a noble citizen and mayor of a small town is on the telly (in the Les Misérables from 2000), you simply got to make an exception.

And I'm not much of a superstitious person, but indeed a drama queen, and therefore, I'm amused by a coincidence here. I stumbled upon the show at a major turning point where Jean Valjean, the villain, chooses to alter his identity, name and to change his way of leading his life. That's one way of looking at it. Another is that he cowardly escapes and runs away as his noble turning point, that is returning the penny he stole from a child, came a bit too late and he's charged with theft and thus sought after by the police.

I'm also at a major turning point in my life where my decisions will influence my identity. I've decided to buy a house, which is a golden opportunity to express who you are to others. I know pretty much what I want, and in what surroundings I want it, but I was thinking the other day, could you get away with faking it? At the end of the day, what the brochures with new houses try to sell you is an identity, "the modern one", "the traditional one", "the arty one" etc. But what if you find yourself in seven years saying, this is not me (anymore)? I don't see myself in this house? Suppose that a city girl, much like Carrie in Sex and the city, fancies a big red house out in the countryside, and decides to get one with huge vegetable gardens, sheep, bees and apple trees, solar panels and a life style endorsing an ecology and sustainable living. And it'd turn out, she tires of it in a couple of years, then what?

What I'm ultimately chasing here is the volatility of identity, and in the long run, much like Jean Valjean in Les Misérables was pondering, the importance of appearance for how others perceive who you are. Foucault claimed that identity is not something you have or possess, it's a shifting discourse, a construction that emerges when you interact with others. Giddens talks about the reflexive project, that we keep working with, reconstructing and rebuilding, our identity our entire lives. If this is the case, how do you succeed in making a sustainable and honest (to yourself) choice as to how you're going to live the next 20 years, at least, and in what area you'll live and so on? What if in the midst of skyscrapers a desire for a lush garden emerges, or if a yearning for a city life with cafés and bars rages in the midst of fields of wheat? I doubt that my favorite character in Les Misérables, Mr Javert (magnificently acted by John Malkovich), would agree with the life project ideas of Giddens nor with Foucault as he states that once a thief, always a thief, there's no way a villain will regret his doings. And if this was to happen, the person will always remain a thief in the eyes of the public. He'd better not be right.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Marge's view on the fate of Grad students

I watched another episode of the Simpsons again last night and this time, Marge was the one to serve words of wisdom one can't do without. Bart holds a pony tail up to the back of his head saying "Look at me! I’m a Grad student and I made $600 last year." whereas Marge scolds him saying "Don’t make fun of Grad students Bart. They just made a bad life choice." Absolutely brilliant!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Catch your thoughts

I watched an episode of The Simpsons last night, where my favorite character Lisa got caught thinking. In her opinion, it was morally wrong to dissect an animal. After telling her teacher this, the "Independent thought-alarm" was pushed and a series of brainwashing followed. A group of researchers at the University of Illinois catches and monitors thoughts too but in a complete other way and for a completely different reason than the Springfielders do. Here's a snapshot of the exact moment when the brain understands the received visual information (from the eyes), and here's a short video clip of the same event.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

An slr camera as a mental sling

I'm currently on holiday, for quite sometime as well, 2,5 weeks :) We did have plans on going abroad this week, but the urge kinda faded out. I don't know whether it's all the talk about flying to Thailand or even southern Europe is the ultimate proof that you're an environmental culprit or just that there were no really interesting last minute flights available. We had been to all the cities available, even lived in one of them so... Instead, I "wasted" my money on a new SLR camera, a Nikon D40. So far, I'm more than happy, rather excited really, I even neo-launched my flickr account that has been in a respirator for quite sometime now.

And today, I was again reminded of why it is so important to me to always carry around a camera, to always document things. The breakup of the ice in the rivers and streams has occurred unusually early this year. So when discussing this, my mum comments "yes, it's rather early but the ice breakup has been this early before too" and she tells me the year. Same thing happened when the past December was unusually warm, a friend of our family could pinpoint the exact year (I think it was in the 1930's) the weather had pulled similar tricks on snow sick Finns celebrating Christmas. And this is what bugs me, people remember things, they store knowledge in the nervous system well hidden from complicating factors like oblivion and they can more or less with little ease pull the information out of there. Whereas I don't. Sometimes, when I solemnly swear I don't know/remember something although having told a friend about it earlier, I'm told "I know you know that". That's pretty bad. And this is because I have to see an image in order to recall something. When I do, or when I'm told the scenery or surroundings of the situation I try to recall, all sorts of information comes to the surface such as who participated in the event, when and where it was, et cetera. It's the same thing with books or magazines, I always know on what page an article or even a piece of information is. And since I'm very interested in time spans regarding the weather, fashion, music, politics et cetera, taking pictures and storing them with a time stamp and a short, descriptive tag or is the only means I have to ever recall anything. Perhaps this is a form of photographic memory, on whose "to be or not to be" there seems to be a controversy going on...