söndag 17 augusti 2014

MULTI.PLAYER 2 (computer games conference)

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I just came back from the conference "MULTI.PLAYER 2: Compete - Cooperate - Communicate" in Münster, Germany. It's a conference about computer games and the focus was social aspects of computer gaming. The first MULTI.PLAYER conference was organised 3 year ago. This was the first conference about computer games that I have attended for a very long time.

I was very enthusiastic about the conference when mine and Per Nygren's extended abstract was accepted for presentation. Per wrote a very good master's thesis - good enough to rework into a "real" article (or book chapter). I also very much liked the fact that one of the outcomes of the first MULTI.PLAYER conference was an an edited book.


Conference organisation
-----------------------------
Having stayed in the US for six months, I found the eminently walkabe city of Münster charming and the conference organisation was excellent (as to be expected by the well-organised Germans!). This was a small conference (70 persons) and it was sponsored by a EU research project so all participants got a lot of value for their money and the conference fee was very modest. Most of everything was included; coffee breaks, lunch, dinner and an excellent conference venue - the Münster palace (schloss). The format of the conference was very tradition with a single track sometimes branching out in parallell tracks (conference program as pdf file). The conference was chaired by professor of communication studies Thorsten Quant. I hadn't met or even heard about him before - but then I haven't been to a games conference for a very long time (see further below).


Our contribution
--------------------
As to our presentation, it could have been a problem that Per's empirical material was collected four years ago, but the research question itself is relatively "timeless" (cheating in online games), making it possible to shape a paper with the thesis as a starting point. When rolling up my sleeves to actually write the paper, two problems have appeared though. The first is that it wasn't as easy to "convert" the master's thesis into an academic paper as I initially thought. The conclusions, while good enough for a master's thesis, have to be sharpened and taken a bit further, and the same goes for the theoretical framework. The second problem is that I haven't had as much time available to write the paper as I thought I would have. I thus only brought a half-finshed paper to the conference. This is slightly embarrassing but not an insurmountable problem since a finished paper strictly speaking was not required (but of course preferred). In fact, no one asked about the paper and I realise that other presenters did not disseminate papers of their own. I hope they get in touch with us should the conference become the stepping stone for another book.

The conference
------------------
Senior Finnish games researcher Frans Mäyrä (university homepage, private blog) opened up the conference with a keynote speech where he talked about games and social games as well as game studies (games research) and the role of games and game studies in society. He's good at delivering and overview of the area having been central to computer games studies since its inception more than a decade ago. Another highlight was again meeting up with and listening to Richard Bartle's closing keynote (there were four keynotes speakers all in all). I also met a few more people that I knew, including three Norwegians of which one was Torill Mortenson. She was great company at the farewell dinner and she has also been blogging academically since 2001 - publishing hundreds of blog posts per year during the first five years! This blog of mine turns four years at the end of the month - a baby in comparison to her blog.

People told me that compared to the first MULTI.PLAYER conference, this conference was more focused and less diverse (for good and for bad). In practice that meant that about a substantial proportion of all presentations at the conference came from (only) two research environments; Thorsten Quant's in Münster and Jan van Looy's in Ghent, Belgium.

Quite a few presentations presented research with a quantitative focus, posing questions or using methods from psychology or quantitative social science sciences (surveys etc.) with a concordant emphasis on verifying results through statistical analyses. A typical research question could thus be something along the line of "is there a correlation between X and Y?". I personally feel that questions about that can be answered unambiguously by using such methods have been narrowed down to such an extent that I for the most part am not very interested in the results (even before the actual research has been conducted). It's possible to (for example) conduct yet another study on the link (or not) between violence and violent computer games, or on computer game addiction, but since the discussion to a high extent will concern methods, samples, correlations - and there are of course other contradictory results out there - I tend to personally not be very interested in such studies. I'm more interested in studies that raise other types of more open-ended questions, for example having to do with computer game culture, gamer habits or how to understand what games are, how they are used, what they do to/with us as individuals and as a society and so on. I unfortunately didn't get a whole lot of that at the conference.

In the end, that didn't much matter though. Already when I arrived to Münster - before the conference started - I noticed that I for the most part have been disenchanted with the whole field of computer games and game studies. Arriving to Münster, I realised I was not very excited when I thought about the upcoming conference. My current research interests focus on sustainability and there are few overlaps between sustainability and computer. Also, I care about sustainability in a way I have never really cared about computer games either as a researcher or in my non-professional life. I'm a more passionate environmentalist that I ever was a gamer. While sustainability and computer games can overlap (for example games about sustainability), the focus of MULTI.PLAYER 2 was of course very different. People who go to a conference such as this are for the most part intensely interested in computer games (as I was 10 and perhaps still 5 years ago). Many have played games (oftentimes a lot) for the major part of their lives and a jazz trio played video game tunes at the farewell party.

In the end I thus had a hard time engaging in and feel enthusiastic about the topics that were treated at the conference. Even though I like to socialise and go to conferences, the focus of this conference represents something that I for the most have behind me. The path I'm currently walking leads away from computer games and as far as I can see, there is little place for computer games in my future. I won't close the door to writing articles about games if the right opportunity arises, but going to a conference is different. You got to a conference to meet people - but if these are people you will not cross paths with and who won't affect my future in any way, I realised it becomes difficult to enjoy such a conference. When Frans talked about the woes of establishing game studies as an academic discipline, I realised I didn't much care about the answer to that questions one way or another - it just didn't feel very important to me. I believe no less than seven years have passed since I went to a pure computer games/game studies conference the last time - and I strongly suspect this conference might very well be the last such conference I ever attend. Games can be a track at other conferences I will attend in the future (for example the CHI conference or perhaps Mindtrek), but I hardly think I will ever again travel to a conference about computer games. Perhaps I actually needed to go to this conference to reach that conclusion...?

Final "random" reflections
-------------------------------
- Compared to other conferences about computer games I've gone to, I got the feeling there has been progress in terms of theoretical grounding. It seems it is now for the most part not enough to just "do something" and then publish a paper without having read up and grounded your study in related non-games research in "ordinary" academic disciplines (e.g psychology, sociology, media studies, performance studies etc.). That is a welcome development.
- Richard Bartle has some interesting thoughts about designing for emergence and designing for subversion. Clever, devious game designers can design for encompassing the potential for subversion in the very design of the game, thereby fooling players into believing they are subversive while they actually just enacting pre-designed possibilities that are already encoded in the game. This can thus constitute a strategy for "containing" (some) players' subversive tendencies. This touches on some of the things me and Per write about in our paper - sometimes it's hard to know if an opportunity for "cheating" in a game is a bug or a feature. Players may think they are breaking the rules while they are just inside a bigger maze (of the designers' making).
- Mäyrä mentioned a paper in his keynote that me and Per should already have read and that we will have to work into our paper: Stenros, J. (2010). "Playing the system: using frame analysis to understand online play". In Proceedings of the International Academic Conference on the Future of Game Design and Technology. ACM.
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söndag 10 augusti 2014

Articles I've read (April)

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Below are articles I read earlier this year, in April, on my sabbatical at UC IrvineHere is my previous blog post about the articles that I read in March.

During the spring I reviewed papers for a couple of different conferences. I have pondered if and how I would refer to these papers in my blog posts. I have decided to openly refer to papers that were accepted (thereby disclosing the fact that I was one of the reviewers) but be very brief in writing about them. As to papers I reviewed that were not accepted, I will only note which conference they were submitted to and also append a single semi-cryptic keyword as a place-holder (for my own personal use). My hope is to not reveal myself as a reviewer by writing anything that can unequivocally identify me as a specific reviewer (accepted papers) or that can identify me as a reviewer at all (rejected papers).


Batch/week 1 - accepted position papers at the CHI conference sustainability workshop
Comment: I prepared for the workshop by carefully reading all the 14 position papers. I did the same thing last year in preparation for the sustainability workshop at the CHI 2013 conference. I will not comment on these papers since they have not been peer-reviewed and published, but, my two favourite papers the papers by Knowles et. al. and Håkansson. I like the paper I wrote together with two colleagues - it should be further developed at some point. All the position papers are available at the workshop website.
  • *Knowles, B., L. Blair, S. Walker. Toward a sustainability lexicon and pattern language?
  • Brewer, R. S. Three shifts for sustainable HCI: scalable, sticky, and multidisciplinary.
  • Norton, J. Accounting for potentially detrimental unintended impacts in HCI.
  • Dillahunt, T. Toward a deeper understanding of sustainability within HCI.
  • Remy, C., E. M. Huang. Tailoring sustainable HCI design knowledge to design practice.
  • Bendor, R. Designing interactive ethical spectacles for sustainability.
  • Prost, S., K. Röderer, J. Schrammel, M. Tscheligi. A networked culture of unsustainability: actor-network theory and activism.
  • Lim, V., F. Yalvaç. Household food waste prevention: how to design and evaluate technological interventions?
  • Mankoff, J. Resource availability.
  • Willamowski, J., Convertino, G. and Grasso, A. Leveraging organizations for sustainable commuting: a field study.
  • Eriksson, E., D. Pargman, H. Artman. Usability as a threat to a sustainable future: induced disability through better HCI.
  • Håkansson, M. Sustainable HCI: what have we learned?
  • Gui, X. Statement.
  • Gilbert, A. M and Silberman, M. S. Re-purposed activist as new sustainable HCI researcher (new researcher format).

Batch/week 2 - accepted position papers at the CHI conference design fiction workshop
Comment: I prepared for the second workshop by carefully reading all the 13 position papers. I will again not comment on these papers since they have not been peer-reviewed and published, but, my favourite paper was the paper by Prost et. al. All papers are available at the workshop website.
    • Andersen, K. Using Props to Explore Design Futures: Making New Instruments.
    • Ganglbauer, E. One day in the future, there will be no food wasted.
    • Haldenby, T. and Candy, S. The Age Of Imagination: A History of Experiential Futures 2006-2031.
    • Kwon, H. Envisioning Futuristic TUI.
    • Martindale, S., Trujillo Pisanty, D. and Durrant, A. Memories of a Future Past: A Design Fiction Exploring New Parenthood.
    • Prost, S., Roderer, K., Schrammel, J. and Tscheligi, M. Product Boxes and Worst Nightmares: User-generated Design Fiction.
    • Tartaro, A. Alternate Endings in the Classroom.
    • Thomas, L., Briggs, P., Van-Zoonen, L. and Turner, G. Fictional Futures and the Premediation of Identity Management.
    • Williams, K. Faiths, Futues, & Fictions: A Dispatch from the Field.
    • Berzowska, J. Programming Materiality and Society in the Age of Functional Fibers.
    • Blythe, M. and Buie, E. Digital Spirits: Report of an Imaginary Workshop on Technologies to Support Religious and Spiritual Experience.
    • Moulder, V., Wakkary, R. and Neustadter, C. Ada Lovelace to Babylonia.ca Alternate Endings: Using Fiction to Explore Design Futures Workshop.
    • Pargman, D. The Future of News and ICT for Sustainability 2029.

    Batch/week 3 - mixed texts but mostly about ICT and sustainability
    Comment: There is no clear-cut theme to these texts, but the majority were text I reviewed for conferences (ICT4S, UbiComp).
    • Easterbrook, Steve (2014). From computational thinking to systems thinking: A conceptual toolkit for sustainability computing. The 2nd International Conference on ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S'14), Stockholm, Sweden, Aug 24-27, 2014 (available online). */ I outed myself at CHI 2014 and talked to Steve whom I will meet again later this month at the ICT4S conference. I very much liked the paper but Steve said it will be heavily rewritten and I haven't read the final version. /*
    • Alinikula, P, Latikka, Juha-Lasse and Paanajärvi, Jussi (2014). Gaming for good changing the game for corporate sustainability. The 2nd International Conference on ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S'14), Stockholm, Sweden, Aug 24-27, 2014 (available online). */ A very short paper - less than three full pages long including the pictures. /*
    • Paper rejected to the ICT4S 2014 conference. Keyword: "Community participation".
    • Paper rejected to the ICT4S 2014 conference. Keyword: "World System Theory". */ I personally leaned towards accepting this paper. /*
    • Ekbia, H. and Nardi, B. (2014). Heteromation and its (dis)contents: The invisible division of labor between humans and machines. First Monday, Vol. 19, No.2 (available online). */ I read a draft version of this very interesting article as part of ongoing discussions I had with Bonnie Nardi during the spring. The paper argues that besides technologies of automation (that take humans out of the loop), we now also have technologies of heteromation that bring humans back into the loop - but a loop where the machine (computer) call for help/calls the shots and "outsources" difficult tasks to humans. The paper explores some of the "remarkable social, economic, and ethical implications" of this new paradigm. /*
    • Leebaert, D., & Dickinson, T. (1991). A world to understand: technology and the awakening of human possibility. In Technology 2001 (pp. 293-321). MIT Press. */ A great text that I re-read for the n.th time. Asks just the right questions (which is less usual than you might think) and has any number of thoughtful and intriguing conclusions. /*
    • Bourgeois, Jacky; van der Linden, Janet; Kortuem, Gerd; Price, Blaine A. and Rimmer, Christopher (forthcoming). Conversations with my washing machine: an in-the-wild study of demand-shifting with self-generated energy. To appear in The ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp 2014), 13-17 September 2014, Seattle, Washington. */ Flawlessly conducted study. /*

    ---------- QUOTES ----------

    ----- On sustainability in Human-Computer Interaction -----
    "Sustainable HCI is premised in a set of modernist assumptions which prescribe a limited solution space and a particular strategy for garnering buy-in and enthusiasm. These assumptions are that people are rational, and determine the most beneficial actions to take with respect to their own self-interests.
    [...]
    These solutions can at best have have an only minor impact towards any measurable sustainability goals, such as carbon emissions reductions; worse, they may reinforce a worldview and a set of values that is incompatible with sustainability and lead to a net negative impact for sustainability.
    [...]
    Given that these solutions are rooted in as set of assumptions (frames), new frames must be adopted as the foundation for a new “sustainability” discourse in computing. Frames are cognitive narratives about how the world works. Discourse analysis of Sustainable HCI publications reveals three key frames [...] namely Rational Actor, Self-Interest, and Free Market. Unsurprisingly, yet problematically, these three frames comprise the modernist worldview, which has so powerfully shaped academic institutions and norms. This has important implications about how difficult it may be for Sustainable HCI to break out of this thinking.”


    Knowles, B., Blair, L. and Walker, S. (2014). 
    Towards a sustainability lexicon and pattern language?
    .

    söndag 3 augusti 2014

    Books I've read (Feb-March)

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    I read the books below between mid-February and the end of March, on my sabbatical at UC Irvine. At this time I was also in full swing, finding and posting great quotes on Facebook at least once per day (each asterisk below represents a quote further below). I had the habit of buying a coffee on my way to the lab and then sitting down and reading "heavy stuff" for an hour almost every single morning. Here is the previous blog post about books that I've read.


    ***I've been curious about Immanuel Wallerstein and his theory of world-systems analysis for quite some time - several years at least. Picking up his series of books on the topic is not en endeavour you start on a whim - Wallerstein has worked on and with his theory for more than 40 years by now with his main for books having been published in 1974, 1980, 1989 and 2011 - and with two more books planned. My sabbatical felt like a suitable opportunity to dig in and I bought and read the first volume in his four-volume history of the modern world; "The Modern World-System I: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century" (1972). I have to say that the book is written by a historians and for historians and it was a little more in-depth that what I felt I needed for my purposes. Numerous pages had in-depth notes that covered more than half the page. After reading this book, I chose to not buy the other three volumes but instead two slimmer summaries of his work (see my next blog post about books I've read). Despite this I did appreciate the book quite some.

    According to Wallerstein, the origins of our global economy came into being during the 16th century. Some parts of the world ("the periphery") exported raw materials (including slaves) and other parts of the world ("the core") made use of them and sold larger and larger volumes of the resulting products at a profit. The wealth that that was created tended to stay in the core countries/regions/cities (at the time primarily in the Netherlands and later in England).

    This model (core - semiperiphery - periphery) implies that while all countries could "improve" in absolute terms and some countries can "improve" in relative terms (e.g. "catch up" and become wealthier than other countries - think of South Korea as an example), not every country can "catch up" with every other country. There is only room for a limited number of key economic players in a world economy and the disadvantaged will, for the most part, continue to be disadvantaged. This can also be formulated in a much rawer way; our wealth is preconditioned on their poverty.



    ***********************Norbert Elias' "The Civilizing Process: Sociogenetic and Psychogenetic Investigations" (1939) was published as two separate volumes but these have been put together in this 500-page tome. The two volumes are "The history of manners" and "State formation and civilization" and I found the first volume to be much more interesting than the second - as can be seen by the no less than 23 quotes from the book below (note to self: I'd also like to read Elias' seminal work in the sociology of sport, "The quest for excitement"). 

    Elias genial idea was to study the evolution of modern civilisation through the evolution of behaviour - but how do you know how people behaved hundreds of years ago? Elias main material consists of "close readings" of etiquette books that had been published over the course of hundreds of years (from 800 to 1900). This gives him insights into a very large number of different aspects of life. His genius is that he manages to tie these to each others and find a direction and general lessons about the evolution of behaviour ("the civilizing process") and to explicate a "theory of civilization". The one-sentence summary from Wikipedia states that "Elias traced how post-medieval European standards regarding violence, sexual behaviour, bodily functions, table manners and forms of speech were gradually transformed by increasing thresholds of shame and repugnance, working outward from a nucleus in court etiquette". The second volume got more tedious but actually neatly fit with just having read Wallerstein's book (above).



    **********Another book I have wanted to read for along time is Marshall Sahlins' "Stone age economics" (1972). The book consists of six chapters that are be better thought of as six essays. I found the quality of the essays to be uneven; the first two were brilliant, but some others were more specialised and were perhaps of interest primarily to (other) anthropologists.

    Sahlins have studied "primitive" (premodern) societies and draws on the work of other anthropologists in his fundamental and far-reaching critique of modern "advanced" societies. If wealth is defined as having "enough", then many premodern (hunter-gatherer) societies had much more wealth than we do. In terms of possessions, we of course win hands-down, but in terms of (leisure) time, we come out as a distant second. It's not that we are so much smarter than they are - it's that we have access to so much more energy that can do our bidding than what they have:

    "the world's most primitive peoples ... create unparalleled technical masterpieces. Dismantled and shipped to New York or London, Bushman traps lie now gathering dust in the basement of a hundred museums, powerless even to instruct because no one can figure out how to put them back together again."


    ---------- QUOTES: ----------

    ----- on differing (class) perspectives -----

    "In general, in a deep conflict, the eyes of the downtrodden are more acute about the reality of the present. For it is in their interest to perceive correctly in order to expose the hypocrisies of the rulers. They have less interest in ideological deflection."
    Wallerstein (1974), "The modern world-system I" (p.4).


    ----- on quality and quantity (and chaos theory) -----

    "Either eastern Europe would become the "breadbasket" of western Europe or vice versa. [...] The slight edge determined which of the two alternatives would prevail. At which point, the slight edge on the fifteenth century became the great disparity of the seventeenth and the monumental difference of the nineteenth."

    "economic development and underdevelopment [...] is structurally different from, yet caused by, its relation with the other."
    Wallerstein (1974), "The modern world-system I" (p.98.99)


    ----- To understand the future, I read about the past -----

    "The new system was to be the one that has predominated ever since, a capitalist world-economy where core-states were to be intertwined in a state of constant economic and military tension, competing for the privilege of exploiting (and weakening the state machineries of) peripheral areas, and permitting certain entities to play a specialized, intermediary role as semiperipheral powers."
    Wallerstein (1974), "The modern world-system I" (p.196-197).


    ----- on (table) manners and interpersonal relations -----

    "People who ate together in the way custromary in the Middle Ages, taking meat with their fingers from the same dish, wine from the same goblet, soup from the same pot or the same plate, with all the other peculiarities of which examples have been and will further be given - such people stood in a different relationship to one another than we do."
    Elias (1939), "The civilizing process" (p.60).


    ----- on changing times and changing behavioural norms -----

    "The fact that Erasmus [of Rotterdam] ... devoted a separate book to the whole question of behaviour in society ... is a clear sign of the growing importance of the question, as is the book's success. 
    ... 
    The old social ties were ... loosened and ... Individuals of different social origins were thrown together. ... For this very reason the question of uniform good behaviour became increasingly acute ... People, forced to live with one another in a new way, became more sensitive to the impulses of others."
    Elias (1939), "The civilizing process" (p.68-69).

    Comment: Erasmus' book, "De civilitate morum puerilium" (On civility in boys) was printed in 1530, reprinted more than 30 times in the following 6 years and more than 100 times thereafter (as well as translated, and imitated, many many more times).


    ----- on medieval peasants' table manners -----

    "What do you think the bishop and his noble company would have said to those whom we sometimes see lying like swine with their snouts in the soup, not once lifting their heads and turning their eyes, still less their hands, from the food, puffing out both cheeks as if they were blowing a trumpet or trying to fan a fire, not eating but gorging themselves, dirtying their arms almost to the elbows and then reducing their serviettes to a state that would make a kitchen rag look clean. Nonetheless, these hogs are not ashamed to use the serviettes thus sullied to wipe away their sweat (which, owing to their hasty and excessive feeding, often runs down their foreheads and faces to their necks), and even to blow their noses into them as often as they please."
    Elias (1939), "The civilizing process" (p.77).
     Quoted from "Galeato" (1609) by Giovanni della Casa, Archbishop of Benevento


    ----- on evolving patterns of behaviour, speech and thinking -----

    "Nothing in table manners is self-evident or the product, as it were, of a "natural" feeling of delicacy. The spoon, fork and napkin were not invented one day by a single individual as technical implements with obvious purposes and clear directions for use. Over centuries, in direct social intercourse and use, their functions became gradually defined, their forms sought and consolidated. Each custom in the changing ritual, however minute, was established infinitely slowly, even form of behaviour that to us seem quite elementary or simply "rational", such as the custom of taking liquid only with the spoon. Every movement of the hand - for example, the way in which one holds and moves knife, spoon or fork - was standardized only step by step. ... Not only the eating manners but also form of thinking or speaking, in short, of behaviour in general, were moulded in a similar way."
    Elias (1939), "The civilizing process" (p.92).


    ----- on language and power and on who decides "how one must speak" -----

    ""Antiquated words", words that had gone out of fashion, were used by the older generation or by those who were not permanently involved directly in court life, the déclassé. "Too new words" were used by the clique of young people who had yet to be accepted, who spoke their special "slang", a part of which would perhaps be tomorrow's fashion. "Learned words" were used, as in Germany, by those educated at the universities, especially lawyers and the higher administrators ... "Low expressions" were all those words used by the bourgeoisie down to the common people. The linguistic polemic ... showed and delimited the group which at a given moment exerted control over language ...

    in a narrower sense they were a smaller, especially aristocratic circle of people who at the time had influence at court, and who carefully distinguished themselves from the social climbers, the courtiers with a bourgeois upbringing, the "antiquated" and the "young people", and from the "snobbish" competitors of the rising generation, and last but not least, from the specialized officials who came from the university. This circle was the primary model-making centre for the language at this time. ... Here the models of speech were formed that subsequently spread out in longer or shorter waves."
    Elias (1939), "The civilizing process" (p.96).

    ----- on things that stink -----

    "it is not a refined habit, when coming across something disgusting in the street, as sometimes happens, to turn at once to one's companion and point it out to him. It is far less proper to hold out the stinking thing for the other to smell, as some are wont, who even urge the other to do so, lifting the foul-smelling thing to his nostrils and saying, "I should like to know how much that stinks" (from "Galeato" (1558) by Della Casa)
    [...]
    behaviour of this kind would, by today's standard of shame and revulsion, simply exclude a person as "sick", "pathological", or "perverse" from mixing with others. If the inclination to such behaviour were manifested publicly, the person would, depending on his or her social position, be confined indoors or in a mental institution. At best, if this tendency were only manifested behind the scenes, a specialist in nervous disorders would be assigned the task of correcting this person's unsuccessful conditioning."
    Elias (1939), "The civilizing process" (p.111 and p.120).
      

    ----- on the consumption of meat in the medieval world -----

    "The relation to meat-eating moved in the medieval world between the following poles. In the secular upper class the consumption of meat was extraordinarily big, compared to the standard of our own times. A tendency prevailed then to devour quantities of meat that to us seem fantastic. In the monasteries an ascetic abstention from all meat-eating in part prevailed, an abstention resulting more or less from self-denial, not from shortage, and often accompanied by a radical disdain for or restriction of eating. ... The meat consumption of the lower class, the peasants, was also often extremely limited ... from shortage. Cattle were expensive and therefore destined, for a long period, essentially for the rulers tables."
    Elias (1939), "The civilizing process" (p.100).
      

    ----- on changing attitudes to meat (1500's to 1900's) -----

    "[The] direction is quite clear. From a standard of feeling [in medieval times] by which the sight and carving of a dead animal on the table are actually experienced as pleasurable, or at least as not at all unpleasant, the development leads to another standard by which reminders that the meat dish has something to do with the killing of an animal are avoided to the utmost. In many of our meat dishes the animal form is so concealed and changed by the art of its preparation and carving that, while eating, one is scarcely reminded of its origin.
    [...]
    There is even [delicate people] to whom the sight of butchers' shops with the bodies of dead animals is distasteful, and others who from more or less rationally disguised feelings of disgust refuse to eat meat altogether. But these are forward thrusts in the threshold of repugnance that go beyond the standard of civilised society in the twentieth century, and are therefore considered "abnormal"."
    Elias (1939), "The civilizing process" (p.102).
       

    ----- on blowing one's nose -----

    "In the sixteenth century, Monteil tells us, in France as everywhere else, the common people blow their noses without a handkerchief, but among the bourgeoisie it is accepted practice to use the sleeve. As for the rich, they carry a handkerchief in their pockets; therefore, to say that a man has wealth, one says that he does not blow his nose on his sleeve."
    Elias (1939), "The civilizing process" (p.123).
       

    ----- on spitting -----

    "in the Middle Ages it was not only a custom but also clearly a generally felt need to spit frequently. It was also entirely commonplace in the courts of the feudal lords. The only major restraint imposed was that one should not spit on or over the table but under it.
    ...
    the spittoon ... still had considerable importance in the nineteenth century. ... Gradually this utensil too became dispensable. In large sections of Western society, even the need to spit from time to time seems to have disappeared completely.
    ...
    The modification of the manner of spitting, and finally the more or less complete elimination of the need for it, is a good example of the malleability of the psychic economy of humans. It may be that this need has been compensated by others (e.g. the need to smoke) or weakened by certain changes of diet."
    Elias (1939), "The civilizing process" (p.132-135).
       

    ----- on violence and cruelty in medieval society -----

    "rapine, pillage and murder were standard practice in the warrior society of this time, as is noted by Luchaire, the historian of thirteenth-century French society.
    ...
    Outbursts of cruelty did not exclude one from social life. They were not outlawed. The pleasure in killing and torturing others was great, and it was a socially permitted pleasure. To a certain extent, the social structure even pushed its members in this direction, making it seem necessary and practically advantageous to behave in this way.
    What, for example, ought to be done with prisoners? ... To keep them menat to feed them. To return them meant to enhance the wealth and fighting power of the enemy. For subjects (i.e., working, serving and fighting hands) were a part of the wealth of the ruling class of this time. So prisoners were killed or sent back so mutilated that they were unfitted for war service and work. The same applied to destroying fields, filling in wells and cutting down trees. In a predominantly agrarian society, in which immobile possessions represented the major part of property, this too served to weaken the enemy."
    Elias (1939), "The civilizing process" (p.162-164).
       

    ----- on medieval knights -----

    "The warrior of the Middle Ages not only loved battle, he lived for it. He spent his youth preparing for battle. When he came of age he was knighted, and waged war as long as his strength permitted, into old age. His life had no other function. His dwelling-place was a watchtower, a fortress, at once a weapon of attack and defence. If by accident, by exception, he lived in peace, he needed at least the illusion of war. He fought in tournaments, and these tournaments often differed little from real battles."
    Elias (1939), "The civilizing process" (p.164).
       

    ----- to think about in relation to globalisation -----

    "If in a society the production from a small or large piece of land was sufficient to satisfy all the essential everyday needs of its inhabitants from clothing to food and household implements, if the division of labour and the exchange of products over longer distances were poorly developed, and if accordingly ... roads were bad and the means of transportation rudimentary, then the interdependence of different regions was also slight. Only when this interdependence grows considerably can relatively stable central institutions for a number of larger areas be formed. Before this the social structure simply offers no basis for them."
    Elias (1939), "The civilizing process" (p.206).
       

    ----- on trade, "globalisation" and the emergence of money -----

    "Trade over long distances ... was essentially a trade in luxury good ... Even wine was not, in general, transported over long distances. Anyone who wanted to drink wine had to produce it in his own district ... This is why there were in the Middle Ages vineyards in regions where wine is no longer cultivated today ... Conversely, regions like Burgundy which are for us synonymous with viniculture, were not nearly as specialized in winemaking as they later become. ... Thus slowly do the various districts become interconnected, are communications developed, are the division of labour and the integration of larger areas and populations increased; and increased correspondingly is the need for a means of exchange and units of calculation having the same value over large areas: money."
    Elias (1939), "The civilizing process" (p.206).
       

    ----- on the "have-nots" among knights -----

    "The rift between those who had land and those who had none or too little, ran right through this society. ... Those from the warrior class, ... the "younger sons", whose inheritance was too small either for their demands of for their mere sustenance, the "have-nots" among the knights, appear down the centuries wearing the most disparate social masks: as Crusaders, as robber-leaders, as mercenaries in the service of great lords; finally they form the basis of the first standing armies."
    Elias (1939), "The civilizing process" (p.217).
       

    ----- on the medieval society, the battle of the sexes and Game of Thrones (?) -----

    "The differentiation between the bulk of smaller and medium knightly courts and the few large ones more closely attached to the slowly developing network of trade and money, brought with it ... a differentiation of behaviour too.
    ...
    In a society of landed nobility dispersed fairly loosely across the country in their castles and estates, the likelihood ... of a more or less unconcealed male dominance, is very great. ... Characteristic of [relationships in medieval warrior society] is a particular kind of mistrust between the sexes, reflecting the great difference in the form and scope of the lives they each lead.
    ...
    The great absolutist courts were places in European history in which the most complete equality between the spheres of life of men and women, and also of their behaviour, had so far been achieved.
    ...
    Within the great feudal courses ... the military function of the men receded to some extent. ... An abundance of unwarlike administrative and clerical work had to be done. ... As happens wherever men are forced to renounce physical violence, the social importance of women increased. ... As so often in the history of the West it was not men but women of high class who were first liberated for intellectual development, for reading. ... And so it was about women that the first circles of peaceful intellectual activity were established."
    Elias (1939), "The civilizing process" (p.246-248).
       

    ----- on societies based on slave labour -----

    "the mechanisms of a society based on slave labour have been summarized as follows:
    ...
    "Just as, by Gresham's law, bad coins dive out good, so it has been found by experience that, in any given occupation or range of occupations, slave-labour drives out free [men]; so that it is even difficult to find recruits for the higher branches of an occupation if it is necessary for them to acquire skills by serving an apprenticeship sideby-side with slaves in the lower.
    This leads to grave consequences; for the men driven out of these occupations are not themselves rich enough to live on the labour of slaves. They therefore tend to form an intermediate class of idlers who pick up a living as best they can - the class know to modern economists as "poor whites" or "what trash" and to students of Roman history as "clientes" or "faex Romuli". Such a class tends to emphasize both the social unrest and the military and aggressive character of a slave-state.
    ...
    A slave society is therefore a society divided sharply into three classes: masters, poor whites and slaves; and the middle class is an idle class, living on the community or on welfare, or on the upper.
    ...
    a slave community will tend, either to engage in aggressive warfare, or to become indebted for capital to neighbours with a free-labour system"."
    Elias (1939), "The civilizing process" (p.227).
    the longer quote comes from Zimmern (1928), "Solon and Croesus, and other Greek essays"
       

    ----- on the absence of slaves in the Middle ages (and the implications) -----

    "during the slow growth of population in the Middle Ages, slaves were absent or played only a minor part [in Western society]. From the start society was therefore set on a different course than in Roman antiquity. It was subjected to different regularities. The urban revolutions of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the gradual liberation of the workers displaced from the land - the burghers - is a first expression if this. From this a line of descent leads to the gradual transformation of the West into a society where more and more people earn a living through occupational work."
    Elias (1939), "The civilizing process" (p.228).
       

    ----- on a medieval catch 22 before there were strong states -----

    "The "liege lord" had the "right" to the invested land, to be sure, but the vassal actually controlled it. The only thing making the vassal dependent on the liege lord, once ha had the lad, was the latter's protection in the widest sense of the word. But protection was not always needed. Just as the kings of feudal society were always strong when their vassals needed their protection and leadership when threatened by external foes ... the liege lords of lesser magnitude were weak when those to whom they had entrusted land did not happen to need their protection.

    The liege lord at any given level could compel one or other of his vassals to fulfil his obligations, and drive him by force from his land. But he could not do this to all, or even to many For, as there could be no thought of arming bondsmen, he needed the services of one warrior to expel another."
    Elias (1939), "The civilizing process" (p.236).
       

    ----- on unity, disintegration and the EU -----

    "The "civilizing" process ... appears as the process of advancing integration, increasing human differentiation of social functions and interdependence, and the formation of ever-larger units of integration on whose fortunes and movements the individual depends
    ...
    in the early phase of Western history which had a predominantly barter economy, the integration and the formation of stable governments for large empires had little chance. Conquering kings could, it is true, subjugate huge areas through battle and hold them together for a time by respect for their sword. But the structure of society did not yet permit the creation of an apparatus for ruling sufficiently stable to administrate and hold together the empire by relatively peaceful means over long periods of peacetime."
    Elias (1939), "The civilizing process" (p.254-255).
       

    ----- on the connection between the rise of the central state and the monetization of society -----

    "the .... [Ventian ambassadors] account [about France in 1546] also once again shows particularly clearly why it was only the monetarization of society that made possible stable central organs: money payment sweeps all recipients permanently dependent on the central authority. Only then could the centrifugal tendencies be finally broken."
    Elias (1939), "The civilizing process" (p.360).
       

    ----- on the connection between civilization and (increased) self-control -----

    "From the earliest period of the history ... social functions have become more and more differentiated ... The more differentiated they become, the larger grows the number of functions and thus of people on whom the individual constantly depends in all his actions ... As more and more people must attune their conduct to that of others, the web of actions must be organized more and more strictly and accurately ... Individuals are compelled to regulate their conduct in an increasingly differentiated, more even and more stable manner. ... Precisely this is characteristic of the psychological changes in the course of civilisation: the more complex and stable control of conduct is increasingly instilled in the individual ... a self-compulsion that he or she cannot resist even if he or she consciously wishes to. ... the direction of this transformation ... is determined by the direction of the process of social differentiation."
    Elias (1939), "The civilizing process" (p.368).
       

    ----- on why so many work so much even thought we don't need more -----

    "A totally destitute person who works for other under constant threat of hunger or in penal servitude, will stop working once the threat of external force ceases, unlike the wealthy merchant who goes on and on working for himself although probably has enough to live on without this work. The latter is compelled to do it not by simple need but by the pressure of the competition for power and prestige, because his occupation, his elevated status, provides the meaning and justification of his life; and for him constant self-constraint has made work such a habit that the balance of his mental economy is upset if he is no longer able to work.
    ...
    Western society as a whole has gradually become a society where every able person is expected to earn his living through a highly regulated type of work ... earlier, work as an attribute of the lower classes."
    Elias (1939), "The civilizing process" (p.382-383).
        

    ----- on the fact that there are not one, but two roads to affluence -----

    "[hunting and gathering] was, when you come to examine it, the original affluent society.
    ...
    For there are two possible courses to affluence. Wants may be "easily satisfied" either by producing much or desiring little. The familiar conception ... makes assumptions peculiarly appropriate to market economies: that man's wants are great, not to say infinite, whereas his means are limited, although improvable: thus, the gap between means and ends can be narrowed by industrial productivity. ... But there is also a Zen road to affluence ... that human material wants are finite and few .. Adopting the Zen strategy, a people can enjoy an unparalleled material plenty - with a low standard of living. That, I think, describes the hunters."
    Sahlins (1972), "Stone age economics" (p.1-2).
         

    ----- on the original "collaborative consumers" and the original "maker" culture -----

    "Bushmen who live in the Kalahari enjoy "a kind of material plenty":

    'the !Kung ... lived in a kind of material plenty because they adapted the tools of their living to materials which lay in abundance around them and which were free for anyone to take (wood, reeds, bone for weapons and implements, fiber for cordage, grass for shelters) ... !Kung have not developed means of permanent storage and have not needed or wanted to encumber themselves with surpluses or duplicates. They do not even want to carry one of everything. They borrow what they do not own. With this ease, they have not hoarded, and the accumulation of objects has not become associated with status.' (Marshall 1961)
    ...
    what is here said of the Bushmen applies in general and in detail to hunters from the Kalahari to Labrador - or to Tierra del Fuego.
    ...
    Such "material plenty" depends partly upon the ease of production, and that upon the simplicity of technology and democracy of property. ... But, of course ... this "prosperity" depends as well upon an objectively low standard of living."
    Sahlins (1972), "Stone age economics" (p.9-11).
     The quote comes from Lorna Marshall (1961), "Sharing, Talking, and Giving: 
    Relief of Social Tensions Among !Kung Bushmen", Africa 31:231-49
              

    ----- movement and ascetic conceptions of material welfare -----

    "Thus the first and decisive contingency of hunting-gathering: it requirers movement to maintain production on advantageous terms.
    ...
    The manufacture of tools, clothing, utensils, or ornaments, however easily done, becomes senseless when these begin to be more of a burden than a comfort. Utility falls quickly at the margin of portability. The construction of substantial houses likewise becomes absurd if they must soon be abandoned. Hence the hunter's very ascetic conceptions of material welfare: an interest only in minimal equipment, if that; a valuation of smaller things over bigger; a disinterest in acquiring two or more of most goods; and the like."
    Sahlins (1972), "Stone age economics" (p.33).

    ----- on poverty and hunger (written in the 1970's) -----

    "Hunters and gatherers have ... an objectively low standard of living. But ... given their adequate means of production, all the people's material wants usually can be easily satisfied. The evolution of economy has known, then, two contradictory movements: enriching but at the same time impoverishing
    ...
    The world's most primitive people have few possessions, *but they are not poor*. Poverty is not a certain small amount of goods, nor is it just a relation between means and ends; above all it is a relation between people. Poverty is a social status. As such it is the invention of civilization. It has grown with civilization
    ...
    what about the world today? One-third to one-half of humanity are said to go to bed hungry every night. In the Old Stone Age the fraction must have been much smaller. *This* is the era of hunger unprecedented. Now, in the time of the greatest technical power, is starvation an institution. Reverse another venerable formula: the amount of hunger increases relatively and absolutely with the evolution of culture."
    Sahlins (1972), "Stone age economics" (p.36-37).
               

    ----- on work productivity in pre-modern societies -----

    "primitive underproduction conforms closely to European prejudices ... although the more appropriate deduction from the cultural differences might have been that Europeans are overworked.
    ...
    One of the main conclusions of Mary Douglas's brilliant comparison of Lele and Bushong economies is that in some societies people work for much greater part of their lifetime than in others. "Everything the Lele have or do," Douglas wrote, "the Bushong have more and can do better. They produce more, live better as well as populating their region more densely that the Lele". They produce more largely because they work more"

    Comment: In pre-modern societies, increased standards of living can usually only be obtained by working longer hours (or working "harder"). Productivity for the most part "is what it is" in the absence of fancy machinery and supercharged (fossil) energy sources"
    Sahlins (1972), "Stone age economics" (p.51-52).
         

    ----- on the delusion of loving work -----

    "A strange delusion possesses the working classes of the nations where capitalist civilization holds its sway. This delusion drags in its train the individual and social woes which for two centuries have tortured sad humanity. This delusion is the love of work, the furious passion for work, pushed even to the exhaustion of the vital force of the individual and his progeny. Instead of opposing this mental aberration, the priests, the economists and the moralists have cast a sacred halo over work."
    Sahlins (1972), "Stone age economics" (p.63).
    Quote from Lafargue, Paul (1909), "The Right to be Lazy" (first French edition 1883). 


    ----- on what it means to be a "social climber" in a tribal society -----

    "Siuai working standards are so modest - because, except for politically ambitious people, they are *sufficient*:
    ...
    "there is a lot of difference between the amount of taro consumed by an ordinary man with his one or two pigs, and an ambitious social-climber with his ten or twenty. The latter has to cultivate more and more land in order to feed his increasing number of pigs and to provide vegetable food for distribution among guests at his feasts"."
    Sahlins (1972), "Stone age economics" (p.65-68).
    The second paragraph is from Oliver (1949), "Studies in the Anthropology of Bougainville" 
               

    ----- bonus quote to all anthropologists I know -----

    "Nothing is more tiresome than an anthropology "among-the" book: among the Arunta this, among the Kariera that. Nor is anything scientifically proven by the endless multiplication of examples - except that anthropology can be boring.
    ...
    Philosophers who have examined the foundations of society, Rousseau said, have all felt the need to return to the state of nature, but none of them ever got there. The master [Rousseau] thereupon proceeded to ... speak of things "that no longer exist, that perhaps never existed, that probably shall never exist, and yet of which it is necessary to have correct ideas in order to better judge our present condition." But then, even to speak of "*the* economy" of a primitive society is an exercise in unreality."
    Sahlins (1972), "Stone age economics" (p.73-76).
         

    ----- on skills and the use of tools -----

    "The world's most primitive peoples - judged as such on the plane of overall cultural complexity - create unparalled [sic!] technical masterpieces. Dismantled and shipped to New York or London, Bushman traps lie now gathering dust in the basements of a hundred museums, powerless even to instruct because no one can figure out how to put them back together gain.
    ...
    For the grater part of human history, labor has been more significant than tools, the intelligent efforts of the producer more decisive than his simple equipment. The entire history of labor until very recently has been a history of skilled labor. Only an industrial system could survive on the proportion of unskilled workers as now exists."
    Sahlins (1972), "Stone age economics" (p.80-81).

    ----- on (the value and function of) money and gnatoo -----

    "Upon Mariner's [the anthropologist's] explanation of the value of money: "Finow [the tribal chief] replied that the explanation did not satisfy him; he still thought it a foolish thing that people should place a value on money, when they either could not or would not apply it to any useful (physical) purpose. 'If,' said he, ' it were made of iron, and could be converted into knives, axes and chisels, there would be some sense in placing a value on it; but as it is, I see none. If a man,' he added, 'has more yams than he wants, let him exchange some of them away for pork or gnatoo [bark cloth]. Certainly money is much handier, and more convenient, but then, as it will not spoil by being kept, people will store it up, become selfish; whereas, if provisions were the principal property of man, and it ought to be, as being both the most useful and the most necessary, he could not store it up, for it would spoil, and so he would be obliged either to exchange it away for something else useful, or share it to his neighbors, and inferior chiefs and dependents, for nothing.' He concluded by saying 'I understand now very well what it is that makes the Papalangis [Europeans] so selfish - it is this money!'""
    Sahlins (1972), "Stone age economics" (p.257-258).
    Quote from Mariner (1827), "An Account of the Tongan Islands in the South Pacific Ocean" 
    .