söndag 30 mars 2014

Articles I've read (April last year)

Last year, I read a whole lot of articles during the first half of the year (Jan-June). Due to a regular and heavy teaching load, I generally don't have time to read articles during the second half of the year (Aug-Dec). Since I'm on a sabbatical right now, I'm at it again!

I decided some time ago - in fact almost two years ago - to write blog posts that summarises the articles I have read "lately", and to also add super-short annotations both as a public service and also for me to remember what the article was about, and if I liked it. Unfortunately, while I came around to writing blog posts about the articles I read in January, February and March last year, I haven't yet written up blog posts about the articles I read in April, May and June last year! This is thus the first of three blog posts about stuff I read last spring(!) - before I tackle the articles I've read this spring. Better late than never.

While I've harboured some remorse over the delay, I have however come to realise that to a you, dear reader, it doesn't much matter if I read the articles below a year ago or if I read them last week...!

Batch/week 1 - texts about the so-called "creative industries"
Comment: I was working on a paper about "Net literature in China" and I read up on stuff I felt could be beneficial to the paper. In the end, neither me nor my co-author could attend the conference in question (it was held in the Netherlands in the middle of the summer), so we unfortunately had to revoke our submission. That also meant we lost our motivation to finish the paper, so this is one of several papers that is "in the pipe". I hope to able to finish it if/when the opportunity arises, e.g. when I have the time and a good venue (conference, journal special issue, edited book) appears. Get in touch with me if you have any suggestions! I could even imagine us cooperating with a third author if that's what it takes to get the paper/article finished!

  • Banks, J., & Deuze, M. (2009). Co-Creative Labour: Introduction for Special Issue of International Journal of Cultural Studies. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 12(5), 419-431. */ "co-creation is used to describe the phenomenon of consumers increasingly participating in the process of making and circulating media content and experiences. ... how should we understand and analyse these value-generating activities?" /*
  • Potts, J., & Cunningham, S. (2008). Four models of the creative industries. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 14(3), 233-247. */ Presents four models of the relationship between the creative industries and the larger economy ("welfare", "competition", "growth", "innovation") and examines/evaluates/compares them. "What we aim to provide here is ... a necessary first step ... in developing the economics of the creative industries." /*
  • Hartley, J., & Keane, M. (2006). Creative industries and innovation in China. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 9(3), 259-262. */ Another special issue in the same journal (see above), this time devoted to the results of "the first-ever international conference held in mainland China on the theme of the creative industries and innovation". This text is the editorial to that special issue. /*
  • Potts, J., Hartley, J., Banks, J., Burgess, J., Cobcroft, R., Cunningham, S., & Montgomery, L. (2008). Consumer Cocreation and Situated Creativity. Industry and Innovation, 15(5), 459-474. */ Yet another paper by the same group of authors about "open innovation", "networks of firms", "consumer-producer co-creation", "digital media", "new business and cultural models" etc. /*
  • Wang, Q., & Li, M. (2012). Home computer ownership and Internet use in China: Trends, disparities, socioeconomic impacts, and policy implications. First Monday, 17(2). */ Statistics about trends of Chinese home computer ownership and Internet use against a background of increased income, urbanization, democracy etc. Not very exciting to read, but contains good background information; "China's total Internet sales increased from about one billion Chinese renminbi (RMB) in 2003 ... and reached 498 billion RMB in 2010." /*

Batch/week 2 - texts about ICT and sustainability
Comment: Not all texts below are situated precisely in the the intersection of ICT and sustainability, but it is still based on my interest in that intersection that I have read all of the articles below.

  • Ehrlich, P. R., & Ehrlich, A. H. (2013). Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided? Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 280(1754). */ "Environmental problems have contributed to numerous collapses of civilizations in the past. Now, for the first time, a global collapse appears likely. Overpopulation, overconsumption by the rich and poor choices of technologies are major drives; dramatic cultural change provides the main hope of averting calamity." Harsh but recommended. /*
  • Tainter, J. A. (2006). Social complexity and sustainability. Ecological Complexity, 3(2), 91-103. */ Analyses the connection between (societal) complexity and sustainability and the answer is not very encouraging. "In human society, complexity is linked fundamentally and inextricably to sustainability, but that relationship is neither simple, nor direct, nor constant." Highly recommended. /*
  • Tainter, J. A., Allen, T. F. H., & Hoekstra, T. W. (2006). Energy transformations and post-normal science. Energy, 31(1), 44-58. */ "A transition from fossil to renewable fuels, would be likely to involve post-normal science, which is science constrained by uncertainty, urgency, high stakes, and public values." Recommended. /*
  • Cramer, B. W. (2012). Man’s need or man’s greed: The human rights ramifications of green ICTs. Telematics and Informatics, 29(4), 337-347. */ Most environmental activists, conscientious consumers and policymakers look to ICTs and see/hope for significant greenhouse gas emission reductions. "there are little-appreciated negative impacts during raw materials extraction and product disposal. Citizens and their leaders often overlook the impacts of these other segments of the item's lifecycle, especially if those impacts are absorbed by peoples and ecosystems in other regions of the world." Good article, I will probably use it in my course. /*
  • Behrens, A., Giljum, S., Kovanda, J., & Niza, S. (2007). The material basis of the global economy: Worldwide patterns of natural resource extraction and their implications for sustainable resource use policies. Ecological Economics, 64(2), 444-453. */ "This paper presents the first comprehensive quantification of the material basis of the global economy ... from 1980 to 2002. ... The results show that annual resource consumption of the world economy increased by about one third between 1980 and 2002." Good background article for my teaching. /*
  • F. Farahmand, Enhancing Rural Connectivity in the Arab World Using Vehicular Wireless Burst Switching Network. The 5th Congress of Scientific Research Outlook and Technology Development in the Arab World, 2008. */ "a growing number of pilot projects have been focusing on bringing connectivity to seemingly unreachable and disconnected rural communities in an inexpensive manner." Interesting project but unfortunately not a very good paper. The implications for future low-cost resilient Internet(s) are very interesting though. Perhaps I should have read this paper by the first author instead: "Vehicular wireless burst switching network: enhancing rural connectivity" In GLOBECOM Workshops, 2008 IEEE /*
  • Raghavan, B., & Hasan, S. (2012). Macroscopically Sustainable Networking: An Internet Quine. */ "The Internet stands atop an unseen industrial system required for its continued growth, operation, and maintenance. ... it's dependencies ... make it vulnerable to disruptions." The authors propose an "Internet quine"; "a set of devices, protocols, manufacturing facilities, software tools, and other related components that is self-bootstrapping". I read this a year ago and have since the met the first author, and, we are working together on a paper. Excellent article, highly recommended! /*

Batch/week 3 - articles from the 5th Engineering Education for Sustainable Development conference
Comment: We were working on writing a paper to the 6th EESD conference and since I attended the previous conference, I decided to read up on stuff I felt could be beneficial to our paper. The proceedings of the previous conference were delivered on a USB stick and are unfortunately, as far as I can see, not available on the internet. I submitted two papers to EESD'13 and attended the conference (half a year ago!). The proceedings from the EESD'13 conference (including my two papers) are available online.

  • de Eyto, A. & de Werk, G. (2010). Activating design and engineering students: Educational strategies for the activation and engagement of students for sustainable design and development – Best practices from TU Delft and IT Carlow. The 5th International Conference on Engineering Education in Sustainable Development, Gothenburg, Sweden, September 19-22. */ "This paper deals with case studies from TU Delft ... and IT Carlow ... that were shown to 'activate' students. This 'activation' was shown in their daily lives as well as their educational and professional spheres. /*
  • Axelsson, A. & Nyström, T. (2010). Taking a new direction: Behavioral interventions in higher education supported by Ajzen’s theory of planned behavior. The 5th International Conference on Engineering Education in Sustainable Development, Gothenburg, Sweden, September 19-22. */ The authors have developed an exercise to support students' in changing their behaviour in a more sustainable direction and report on findings from six higher education courses. "a majority of the students perceived the exercise inspring and motivating, supporting change of behavior in the intended, new direction." We are considering adapting this exercise in our course. /*
  • McMahon, M., Fitzpatrick, C., Fowler, E., Moles, R., Gowan, R., and O’Regan, B. (2010). Shared learning: A multidisciplinary approach to teaching the complexities of sustainable development. The 5th International Conference on Engineering Education in Sustainable Development, Gothenburg, Sweden, September 19-22. */ The paper describes a interdisciplinary, inspiring, but hard-to-coordinate course at the University of Limerick. We found interesting similarities between their description and our own students' reactions to some hard (potentially depressing) facts about sustainability. /*
  • Lozano, R. (2010). Organizational learning as a means to foster societies’ metanoia for sustainability. The 5th International Conference on Engineering Education in Sustainable Development, Gothenburg, Sweden, September 19-22. */ I learned a new word, "metanoia", i.e. "a shift of mindset". How do you create "Eureka" moments [that] can help challenge and break current unsustainable mental models" for your students? Great concept and a great question, but, I unfortunately found the text itself to be muddled and very theory-heavy (i.e. difficult to read and understand). /*
  • Lundholm, C. (2010). Society’s response to environmental challenges. On the interdependence of actors and the role of citizens’ socio-economic knowledge. The 5th International Conference on Engineering Education in Sustainable Development, Gothenburg, Sweden, September 19-22. */ One of the few "real" researchers who have conducted "real research" at this conference (rather than basing a paper on, for example, "personal reflections" etc.). "This paper considers governments' dependency for their mandate on the views of the median voter". Lundholm has examined university students' understanding of sustainability issues (and potential support for political/policy changes). /*
  • Mulder, K., Segalàs-Coral, J., and Ferrer-Balas, D. (2010). How to educate engineers for/in sustainable development? 10 years of discussion, what challenges remain?. The 5th International Conference on Engineering Education in Sustainable Development, Gothenburg, Sweden, September 19-22. */ A meta-review of "main challenges" in the EESD area. The paper is "based on EESD proceedings and participation in the conferences" and it identifies 9 challenges in the area, for example "How to teach normative content in an academic context?". Great paper and very useful to get an overview of the area. /*

tisdag 25 mars 2014

On tensions, contradictions and paradoxes

I have an affinity for certain kinds of complexity; I like contradictions, clever ambiguities, paradoxes and tensions. Truisms and platitudes can also be fun as well as rhetorical devices of all kinds and shapes. Who doesn't love alliterations? Or oxymorons? Or epanalepsis, anadiplosis, onomatopoeia, tautologies and Mondegreens ["The cross-eyed bear" vs "The cross I'd bear", "Trygga räkan" etc.]? This is what everyone who gets email from me gets to read in my signature:

- At least the leak isn't at our end of the boat
- Every time history repeats itself the price goes up
- I think, therefore I am. I link, therefore you are
- There are two sorts of people, those who divide people into two sorts and the others

The last one is the best because of its inherently paradoxical nature ("I am the best of liars because I alway tell the truth" etc.). Also there are some great phrases I've heard in lyrics. At one point I kept track of them, but I don't any longer. These two have for some reason been etched into my brain:

- What if misunderstanding is misunderstood? (D.A.D.)
- Money wasn't made for the poor! (Pop will eat itself)

Yogi Berra was also pretty great, here are some of his "Yogi-isms":
- Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded
- It's like deja vu all over again
- The future ain't what it used to be
- Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't go to yours
- Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical

Inasmuch as there is a point to my ramblings above, that point is that my love for these quirky turns of phrase also give some indications of what kinds of theories and what kinds of analyses and what kinds of results I am attracted to as a researcher. There has hardly ever existed an "on the one hand ... but on the other hand" that I didn't like. One example is the deeply fascinating Sunstein - Benkler (Internet) and the Redfield - Lewis (anthropology) academic smack-downs I've written about in a previous blog post. And on one would be happier if we could please squeeze in an "on the third hand" here too...

Many people (including researchers) all to often look at something complex and see one thing and one thing only. I guess most people - including researchers - are just too good at discerning patterns - we see them even when there aren't any there in the first place. Or, are people just plain lazy? No, they are curious and industrious! And altruistic. No, they only think of themselves! Life in premodern times was, as well all know, "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short" (Hobbes). Or was it actually cooperation (Krapotkin, Axelrod) and not competition that made for the success of the human (and other) species? Well, at least we can be sure of the fact that people are different and that we like variation. Or, are we creatures of habit, set in our thought and constantly scanning and confirming what we already believe? All these cock-sure statements are to me signs of a simplified worldview. To me, reality is more complex than X or Y, this or that, good or evil. I'm convinced that Bertrand Russell was absolutely and irrefutably right when he said that "the whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubt". Right? Are you with me on this one or are you against me?

In that vein, I would argue that people are neither (only) nice or nasty, but rather that we all harbor the possibility of being both - in different situations. The balance between these two modes (nice/nasty) can vary from moment to moment, and, it could even happen that both are exhibited at the very same time; being nice to (defending) someone by being nasty to (threatening) someone else. Here's a great example that sheds light on some of what I've this far been blabbering about on a more general, theoretical level:

BBC created the in many ways impressive and unprecedented television series “Walking with dinosaurs” in 1999. The programs are confusingly similar to the well-known genre of semi-documentary nature programs, except that they document the everyday lives of dinosaurs that have not walked the earth for many tens of millions of years. These dinosaurs are brought back to life through clever use of models, animatronics and computer graphics. In one of the many follow-up series, “Walking with cavemen” (2003), the more recent history of human pre-history is presented. All of these series are based on background work and cooperation with literally hundreds of researchers in relevant areas.

A key scene in an episode about one of our predecessor who lived around 1.5 million years ago (homo erectus/homo ergaster) illustrates how the small flock – perhaps for the first time – acts in unison to repel the danger that a big carnivorous cat constitutes to one of the weakest members of the flock. It is a scene that hominids like us can be proud of, and terrified by at the same time (apart of course from the fact that it does not document any “real” event but instead present a possible - or perhaps "probable" - event). The scene shows how the whole flock/tribe – constituting a dozen or so individuals –  climb up trees as the big cat approaches - only to climb down again in order to save the small, orphaned, three-year old “child” that did not make it to the trees. The rioting simians start to make a lot of noice and throw rocks at the predator so as to drive it away, and they are “filmed” in full frontal furriness by the virtual camera as they, bursting with adrenaline, cautiously advance upon their adversary. Because of the camera angle, the viewer becomes the adversary who watches the advancing flock, and, they are indeed something to behold and to be frightened of. The sheer and pure aggressiveness and rage exhibited by this "band of brothers" (and sisters) would for sure have been confusing and terrifying for any lone opponent (be it a big cat or another hominid/simian). This nasty party does indeed make the day by saving the "child" and driving the predator away, but they are also a fearsome sight, since they show the extent of the (potential) aggressiveness we all harbour as individuals and as part of a larger group.

I come to think of American journalist Bill Buford's truly amazing book "Among the thugs" (about football hooligans). He spent eight years with or near these primordial football hooligans and came to understand the Fight Club-like pleasure they (and he) can get out of putting themselves in harm's way, and, in exercising random acts of violence against "enemies" of theirs (other hooligans, other football fans, innocent passers-by and the police).

This is a drastic example and I do not want to suggest that we should draw too many conclusions from an episode in "Walking with cavemen" - a fictive television series. Without delving too deeply into the topic of the biological basis of modern humans' behaviour, I still think this scene is interesting and important to any discussion about complex (social, psychological) phenomena. We all of course know that human beings have the capacity for both altruistic and aggressive behaviour. The reason why this scene is captivating to me is because it shows both of these two opposing drives being exhibited by the group at the very same time and through the very same actions. No matter how unappetising the conclusion is to a modern, "civilised" person, this truly terrible, terroristic and terrifying group of "aggressive violent-prone hooligans" save the day, and, save a life by coming together in sheer, unbridled aggression towards “the other”, who in this particular case happens to be a "legitimate" external threat (a big cat).

This scene made a huge impression on me when I saw it. There is something fundamental to be gleaned from this example, namely that the very same group behaviour can be interpreted quite differently depending on point of view, and, that the very same behavior can simultaneously serve several functions at the same time. By protecting itself from, and ganging up on an external threat, the group exhibits the best and the worst features of humanity at the same time. A less appealing illustration of what we are capable of doing would be the same group ganging up against someone from the next tribe over, or one of the group’s own (weaker?) members that rightly or wrongly is perceived to constitute an threat to the group ("she's a witch - let's burn her!"). As apart from when the group protects itself against external threats, it becomes much thornier to decide what is right and what is wrong, or what is fair and what is unfair in such situations. Kathleen Hogan gives an interesting example of the connection between community, (perceived) internal threats and (grossly unfair) consequences:

to help bring about the moral life of the New World, 17th century Colonial cities were laid out so that all citizens lived within sight of the church. Not only did this place them close to the visual representation of the guiding principles of their communal life, and give them a certain amount of safety, but it also made them observable to one another. The community was organized physically to reinforce the ideology of the community. It is not surprising then, that the majority of women accused of witchcraft in Salem had moved with their families out of the center of Salem in the hopes of establishing a second church. Their accusers may have been alarmed in part by the threat of an ideological break in the community signaled by the physical one.”
Kathleen Hogan (1998), in her (unnamed) master's thesis about 

The project of liberating ourselves from parochial prejudices and stereotypes by building societies based on universalistic principles that treats everyone the same is of course a highly commendable task, but, it might so happen that every advance comes with a corresponding (but not neccessarily equally large) setback. By organising ourselves into larger and larger societies, it for example seems logical to assume that we are also weakening the strength of the average relationship between any two random individuals in such societies. The anonymous existence in big cities also makes it easier to fall between the meshes of an expanding emotional safety net. What could be the consequences of that? Alienation? Depression? Deviance? Drugs? Crime? Workaholism? Consumerism? Does there exist a tipping points that can be passed when the connections between people in a society become to weak? Should we then counter this tendency by organising ourselves into smaller, tighter communities (the primordial tribe)? If so, we might make gains in some ways, while at the same time having to submit to implicit and previously better-hidden pecking orders and to leaders who sometimes are enlightened and fair, but at other times can be unpredictable and capricious. These are tough choices and I for one assume that there always are and will be both advantages and disadvantages, winners and losers to social change and to any particular social arrangement.

I believe the perspective I have described here brings with it a certain kind of sensitivity that makes for more nuanced and interesting (research) results compared to more simplified, one-sided perspectives of "how things are". I'm sure there must be academics in some (or several) disciplines (psychology? systems theory?) who have conducted research and written about these issues before, but I am not aware of them.

Nothing is as simple as it seems - there always hidden dimensions that make phenomena both complicated (darn!) and interesting. This is the logical conclusion I have arrived at and you can trust me on this, because like many other rational persons I was born in the sign of Capricorn!

lördag 22 mars 2014

Cheating and creative play in EVE Online

Back i august, I wrote a blog post about a proposed book chapter that I and and Per Nygren submitted to an edited book about research on a specific online (MMO) game: EVE Online. The book was/is to be called "Internet Spaceships are Serious Business: An EVE Online Reader". There is a website ("EVE Online Scholarship"), but the site hasn't been updated in the last seven months - perhaps the editors are busy putting the book together? Our proposed chapter was based on Per's (excellent) master's thesis, but the editors "received significantly more submissions than was expected" and our proposed chapter was (gently) rejected as it for some reason "fell out of the scope".

I have reshaped the proposed book chapter into an extended abstract and I just sent it to a conference called MULTI.PLAYER 2: Compete - Cooperate - Communicate that will be held in Germany (Münster) in mid-August. This is the second MULTI.PLAYER conference and the first conference (held in 2011) apparently resulted in an edited book that was published by Routledge, "Multiplayer: The Social Aspects of Digital Gaming". That sounds promising. The conference is jointly organized with The European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA) and the ECREA "temporary working group" Digital Games Research, as well as the European Research Council (ERC) research group/research project "The social fabric of virtual life".

The conference does not seem to primarily compete with other "digital games conferences", but is instead more geared towards social scientists: "The aim of this conference is to take a deeper look at the various forms of human interaction in digital games. Researchers from a variety of disciplines interested in social interaction in games are welcome, including (but not limited to) the fields of communication research, media studies, sociology, psychology, education studies, and economics". In case you didn't know, I have a Ph.D. in communication studies (with a specialization in human-machine interaction), so I pass! There is in fact a pretty great match between our paper and the topic of the conference - they welcome papers about (among other things):

- Game communities and cultures, social interaction in and around games
- Development of interaction rules and social norms, including questions of ethics, morality, economy & justice in digital games
- Social functionality of online games
- Violent interactions, griefing, and sexual harassement in digital games
- Theoretical and empirical approaches to social interaction in digital games
- Methodology of research on social interaction in games

I submitted the extended abstract Monday - six days in advance of the deadline. That might be a personal record, but I didn't want to have it lying around because that would only tempt me to spend (waste) more time on the abstract when I believe it's "good enough" and I urgently need to spend my time this week doing other things.

When I submit papers to conferences, I usually publish just the abstract and perhaps one more paragraph here on the blog, but this time around I'll publish the whole extended abstract. Enjoy!


Cheating and creative play in EVE Online


In Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMOs), many thousands of players interact simultaneously in a single virtual game world. "Cheating" is a fluid concept in online games and the conception of what exactly constitutes cheating can differ markedly from person to person. What is cheating in online games and what is instead “creative play”? How do you differ between them? Cheating can, despite the inherent fuzziness of the concept, have significant consequences for both MMO players and developers.

In this paper, we present the results of a qualitative investigation of experienced players' subjective opinions about what constitutes cheating in the massively multiplayer online game “EVE Online” in terms of five different categories of cheating; 1) bugs & exploits, 2) bots & macros, 3) player-created programs, 4) real-money trade of virtual objects and 5) meta-gaming. 

Background, theory

Our theoretical framework is based on research in psychology (Rosch 1975, Rosch & Mervis 1975) and linguistics (Labov 1973) concerning human categorization as applied to the concept of cheating. Following Rosch and Labov, we propose that complicated phenomena (like “community” or “cheating”) are hard to unequivocally delimit, demarcate and categorize. In practice we instead often base our reasoning on “category membership” and “prototypical examples”. Practical experiments show that a robin has a higher degree of “birdness” than an ostrich or a penguin, and that team sports like football (soccer) and basketball has a higher degree of “sportness” than fencing or biathlon. When put on the spot, respondents primarily think of prototypical, core examples of different categories (robin, football) rather than “equally valid” (to, say, a biologist or the Olympic committee) but less prototypical examples. It is, in the same way possible to determine that certain kinds of behaviours are more or less (proto)typical of what players consider to be cheating, without resorting to Manichean black-or-white dichotomies (e.g. cheating - not cheating).

Some games researchers have previously studied cheating (Consalvo 2005, 2007, Kücklich 2007, 2008), and in our article we furthermore also make use of Salen & Zimmerman's (2004) "player types" and Yee's (2006) model of player motivations to analyze cheating in relationship to online games. Theories of “frames” and on the motivations of players are also of interest in order to elucidate the complex relationship between transgressive behaviour and perceived appropriateness of said behaviour in different contexts (e.g. Huizinga 1949, Goffman 1974, Fine 1983/2002).

What then is “cheating” and how does it differ from creative play? In our study we first differ between 1) “only” exhibiting anti-social behaviour within a game (for example griefing), 2) delicts (for example hacking someone’s account) and 3) that space in-between these examples that we here term cheating. Cheating is here defined as either violating the prospective functionality of the computer code (either because the computer code is “correct” (in a narrow sense) but badly designed or because it contains bugs), or, as a violation of explicit rules as stated by the game operator. Rules (explicit or otherwise) are not embodied and enforced through the computer code, but are rather enforced through social means (for example with the help of an in-game “police force” - game masters - or with the help of systems that makes it possible to report transgressions of fellow players etc.). Implicit rules (etiquette etc.) are on the other hand neither unambiguously formulated nor possible to enforce through computer code or by social means, and they thus fall outside the scope of our study. While these kinds of behaviours can be considered problematic, we still do not consider them to constitute “cheating” in this context.

In our study of EVE online, we have in the end divided “cheating” into five different specific categories:
  Bugs and exploits (EVE-relevant example: Loggofski)
  Bots and macros (EVE-relevant example: ISK farming)
  Player-created programs (EVE-relevant example: BACON)
  Real-money trade of virtual objects (ex. ISK, accounts)
  Meta-gaming (acquiring in-game advantages through utilizing out-of-game means, e.g. spying, deception etc.)

[Figure 1. The relationship between different kinds of cheating in online games - relatively complicated Venn diagram]


Our results are based on a survey with open-ended questions that was sent to very experienced EVE players - members of the Council of Stellar Management (CSM). CSM was created by the game developer/operator CCP in 2007 to mediated between the player base and the CCP developers in order to further “the implementation of social ideas” and for “the strengthening of the social structure” in the game. Our invitation was sent to 25 current or previous CSM player-representatives through the in-game message system. Around 45% (11 persons) answered our survey and two thirds of these (7 persons) answered a follow-up survey that was based on the answers we received on the first survey.

We have furthermore searched for, and analyzed relevant discussion threads (about cheating) on two discussion forums, the official EVE Online forum and the “Scrapheap Challenge” (a forum which since then has migrating to the “Failheap Challenge” forum).


By asking open-ended questions, we found that certain behaviours can be considered to be “prototypical” examples of cheating (e.g. “Say you found a way - an exploit of some sort perhaps - which enables you, through some in-game mechanics, to somehow basically generate ISK [the EVE online currency]. Would it be cheating to take advantage of this? Why? Why not?”). Other behaviours were less morally unequivocal (e.g. “When is logging off to escape enemies cheating?”).

Our questions unveiled a fascinating variety of viewpoints as to what constitutes cheating, about the relationship between players and the developer, about the relationship between the players themselves and about what EVE “really is about”. Despite this diversity of opinions, there are still clear tendencies and an emerging consensus about what to a higher and a lesser degree is considered to constitute cheating to this group of (very) experienced players. We present and analyze the results both in terms of what they consider to be cheating as well as their reasoning concerning these issues and we conclude that their reasoning around these issues is both varied and nuanced.


Our conclusion is that cheating is a relatively subjective and ill-defined phenomenon; what one person perceives to be cheating can by another person be perceived as an opportunity, and a smart way to “get ahead” in the game. There are also subtle differences between what the EVE game developer (CCP) considers to be cheating and what the players consider to be cheating in the game. It is, despite this, possible to discern patterns and draw conclusions regarding the perceived “degree” of cheating of different kinds of “problematic” behaviors in online games.

We conclude the paper with a discussion about who suffers from cheating, and what could be done to decrease or prevent players from cheating in online games in general and in EVE online in particular. 


  Consalvo, M. (2005). Gaining Advantage: How Videogame Players Define and Negotiate Cheating. In DIGRA Conf..
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  Salen, K., & Zimmerman, E. (2004). Rules of play: Game design fundamentals. MIT press.
  Yee, N. (2006). Motivations for play in online games. CyberPsychology & behavior, 9(6), 772-775.


onsdag 19 mars 2014

Books I've read recently

I wrote a blog post only two weeks ago about books I've read recently and that's a good thing because I've got a lot of catching up to do. I read the three books below between mid-September and mid-October (half a year ago). These books (again) treat the topic of work and this is the second blog post in a row to do so.

It seems Owen Jones book (2011) "Chavs: The demonization of the working class" came out at a "fortuitous" moment - right before the 2011 England riots when widespread rioting, looting and arson took place in many different cities around England. This apparently catapulted Jones and his book into the limelight (interviews, television etc.), but this is something I only learned when I started to read the (reprinted) book and the new preface. 

I understand that "chav" (and "chavette") is a derogatory term, but I have to admit that I have few connotations to these terms. I have seen the movie Eden lake with its ordinary, decent middle-class couple being assailed by the teenage uneducated  almost-feral underclass chavs. They were portrayed a little like H.G. Wells' Morlocks, emerging at dark and attacking the innocent, good-natured "ordinary" middle-class folks. Wikipedia tells me that "The Oxford Dictionary defines Chav as an informal British derogatory [term] meaning a young lower-class person who displays brash and loutish behaviour and wears real or imitation designer clothes". I would say that Jones book is primarily a book about class warfare (where the upper and middle classes wield all the weapons):

"It is both tragic and absurd that, as our society has become less equal and as in recent years the poor have actually got poorer, resentment against those at the bottom has positively increased. Chav-hate is a way of justifying an unequal society What if you have wealth and success because it has been handed to you on a plate? What if people are poorer than you because the odds are stacked against them? To accept this would trigger a crisis of self-confidence among the well-off few. And if you were to accept it, the surely you would have to accept that the government's duty is to do something about it - namely, by curtailing your own privileges. But, if you convince yourself that the less fortunate are smelly, thick, racist and rude by nature, then it is only right they should remain at the bottom. Chav-hate justifies the preservation of the pecking order, based on the fiction that it is actually a fair reflection of people's worth."

Jones text is a book-long speech in the defence of ordinary working-class people who are squeezed between forces they don't understand and can't affect, including globalization that melts away all the "good jobs", immigration that pushes down the wages and makes hollowed-out working conditions possible, oppressed by politicians and finally downtrodden and taunted by a corps of prejudiced and largely middle-class journalists who are "waging a war" against the working class in media. Jones makes it out to (almost) be a conspiracy to destroy the once-proud working class - and it's all Margaret Tatcher's fault originally as she pulled the plug and released the neo-liberal hounds that have haunted Britain ever since. 

I was less interested in the book because of the "political" side of it (it's very much a book about Britain) and more interested in Jones' description of the actual working and living conditions of the former British working class who nowadays are trying to scrape by, working in call centers and retail (e.g. supermarkets etc.), but who for the most part seem to be trampling water but still slowly sinking. The number of UK factory jobs have for example been reduced by almost 2/3 in three decades and this is not just an economic blow to local communities, but a blow to a way of life and to working-class identities and culture:

"I grew up in Stockport [...] People grew up with each other; mixed groups of families and friends would do things together, like watching football in the pub; and people felt rooted in a community that they and their families had lived in all their lives. [...] Entire working-class communities used to be based around a particular factory, steelworks, or mine. Most of the men would work at the same place. Their fathers and their grandfathers may well have worked there and done similar jobs. When industries disappeared, the communities they sustained became fragmented."

Guy Standing's (2011) "The precariat: The new dangerous class" describes a hodgepodge non-class who might (or might not) at some point become a class (with common interests and goals). The precariat is a neologism that combines the words "precarious" and "proletariat" into "an emerging class, comprising the rapidly growing number of people facing lives of insecurity, moving in and out of jobs that give little meaning to their lives". The precariat is the flip side of globalization and of businesses constantly striving for increased "flexibility" (wage flexibility, employment flexibility, job flexibility, skill flexibility). What "flexibility" does is that it transfers business risks and costs to workers, and, with the world seemingly in constant flux, puts a lot of pressure on individuals. My question is 'what is this doing to their personalities and their world views?'

"In essence, the flexibility advocated by the brash neo-classical economists meant systematically making employees more insecure, claimed to be necessary price for retaining investment and jobs. Each economic setback was attributed in part, fairly or not, to a lack of flexibility and on the lack of 'structural reform' of labour markets. As globalisation proceeded [...] the number of people in insecure forms of labour multiplied".  

Young, university-educated 30-somethings who have never had a permanent job and who instead jump from one temporary job to another, scrambling to land on their feet at ever jump/to not fall in the widening cracks of a rapidly dismanteling social system - that's the precariat. To always have to scramble and start anew means that there is little coherence and also scant material available to spin a narrative of their own lives that has both direction and progression. Insecure conditions and variable salaries also means that it is hard to plan ahead, to set out and buy an apartment or to plan for forming a family and having kids. Actions and attitudes drift towards opportunism and "there is no "shadow of the future" hanging over their actions".

This is the plight of an increasing number of persons - not just university-educated 30-somethings but also those without a degree from an institution of higher education as well as immigrants and the elderly. The term "precariat" and exactly who belongs to it is at times so inclusive that it hard to pin down and to understand the limits of the term (which would also seem to make i hard to mould a class from that most diverse of "materials"). The precariat seems to encompass people who, for the most part unwillingly, have (a sometimes long string of) temporary and part-time jobs.

Despite some sloppy categorization, I did find Standing's book interesting and thought-provoking and I'm quite sure that he's on to something in terms of noticing a number of important societal trends lurking under the surface. He's good at pulling many things together and his book awakens many thoughts, but he could have spent more time tying it all together into a stringent, coherent whole.  

For my 20th birthday, my friend Sören gave me André Gorz's (1983) (predictably out-of-print) "Vägen till paradiset" [Les Chemins du Paradis/Paths to Paradise]. I read it, and understood perhaps half of it at the time. The book was indeed much better this time around, and, many ideas that "radicals" might believe are recent, were in fact already treated by Gorz 30 years ago in this or in some of his other books (for example in "Farewell to the Working Class" (1980), "Critique of Economic Reasoning" (1988) or "Reclaiming Work: Beyond the Wage-Based Society" (1999)). I would (for example) say that Gorz pretty accurately identifies the underlying forces behind the emergence of the precariat when he says that as the costs of automation decreases significantly "Those permanently employed will become a thin privileged layer besides an enormous mass (30-50 percent of the active population) of unemployed".

"According to a German inquiry, investing 100 million D-marks into industry would have resulted in 2 million new jobs between 1955 and 1960 and [only in] 400 000 new jobs between 1960 and 1965. From 1965 to 1970, these investments would have reduced the number of jobs by 100 000."

As apart from the gloomy books above, Gorz is a free thinker who dares to "think the impossible". While his ideas might indeed be "impossible" - politically and practically if not in theory - it's like a breath of fresh air to encounter so many new, seldom-hearx and perhaps even at time contra-intuitive ideas in such a short book. The actual book is only slightly longer than 100 pages, but another 5 essays (80 pages) have been bolted on to it. It is, to Gorz, quite clear that the need to work will decrease as production will continue to get automated, and he criticises the political left for lacking imagination to think "outside of the box". The single biggest idea in the book is a proposed lifelong basic income in exchange for 20 000 hours of work. He quotes the French "philosopher, law professor, sociologist, lay theologian and Christian anarchist" Jacque Ellul who said that "We need to radically change our way of thinking and our general direction. It's what you would call a revolution. If you tell me that that is utopian thinking, I will answer that what is utopian is to believe that things can go on like this".

Gorz can at times write in a slightly cumbersome way that I associate with French (academic) authors and it is of course also a little difficult to read a 30-year old book that uses lots of contemporary examples and numbers to support claims that was written at a time when the world looked very different from today (the cold war etc.). Despite this, there are many gems and deep insights hidden in (sometimes) semi-cryptic formulations and reasoning. One quote of Gorz' that made a huge impression on me the first time I read the book and that really drove home the idea of huge global inequalities is: "A Norman pig or cow, a Parisian cat or dog has greater purchasing power than landless farmers in the third world". I might add that a western car also has a greater purchasing power than the majority of people on Earth. According to Wikipedia, it was estimated that 2.7 billion people lived on less than $2 per day in 2008. We for sure spend a lot more than $700 per year taking care of and pampering our cars, right? It turns out it wasn't Gorz who said it, he actually only quoted the aid organization Frères des Hommes - but I have never ever forgotten that quote and the pictures of extreme inequality that follows from it.

söndag 16 mars 2014

In 2029, we will...

I wrote a blog post only a little more than three weeks ago about "My submission to ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S) 2029". That blog post described the idea of creating visions of the world 15 years from now and the role of using Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for sustainability purposes at that time and place. I submitted no less than four scenarion - two written together with Baki Cakici and all in the form of 150-word long abstracts of future research papers that we "will write" 15 years from now. All four were accepted for inclusion in the paper.

For the sake of completeness (I always write a blog post each time I submit something), this blog post is about my third contribution to the upcoming ICT4S conference (here are the blog posts about the other two papers I have submitted). It turns out no less than 19 (!) scenarios were accepted to the paper "ICT4S 2029: What will be the Systems Supporting Sustainability in 15 Years?". Birgit Penzenstadler is the first author and she has done the major part of the work of putting the paper together (since the paper is more than just the sum of the 19 scenarios). People in bold below are the heroes who helped frame and make an academic paper out of these 19 diverse scenarios. I am author number 22 (!) out of that paper's no less than 29 (!) authors. I have never written a paper before with more than four authors altogether, but if that record of mine is to be broken, why not break it with class? Here are all the 29 co-authors, organised by educational institution (half the authors are from UCI):

University of California, Irvine, USA:
Birgit Penzenstadler, Bill Tomlinson, Marcel Pufal, Ankita Raturi, Debra Richardson, Lynn Dombrowski, Gillian R. Hayes, Melissa Mazmanian, Sahand Nayebaziz, Juliet Norton, Donald J. Patterson, Kristin Roher, M. Six Silberman, Kevin Simonson, André van der Hoek

KTH Royal Institute of Technology
Malin Picha Edvardsson, Elina Eriksson, Daniel Pargman

Université Paul Sabatier, France
Georges Da Costa, Christina Herzog, Jean-Marc Pierson

Cornell University, USA
Eric Baumer

Swedish Institute of Computer Science (SICS), Sweden
Baki Cakici

University of Leicester, UK
Ruzanna Chitchyan

Universitat Polytecnica de Catalunya
Xavier Franch

University of Zürich
Wolfgang Lohmann

University of Naumur, Belgium
Martin Mahaux

Rolls-Royce PLC
Alistar Mavin

University of Kansas, USA
Andrew W. Torrance

That's a lot of authors. I felt I needed some other way to make a finer distinction between authors who had put a lot (or less) time into creating these scenarios. Here are the top contributors in terms of co-authorship (number of scenarios):

Bill Tomlinson (8), Debra Richardson (5), Donald J. Patterson, Daniel Pargman (4), Ankita Raturi (3), Juliet Norton, Baki Caciki (2), everyone else (1).

It's of course not a competition. But. Still. Bill (who started by writing up a bunch of drafts that others contributed to) is irritatingly far "ahead" so I obviously needed to invent some other kind of metric to "catch up". Right? I hereby bare all my nerdiness (again) and decide that you get 1 point if you are the single author of a scenario, 1/2 if two persons collaborated and 1/4 if there were four contributors to a scenario. At the risk of angering my gracious UCI hosts (and a bunch of other people), the new list then looks now like this:

Daniel Pargman (3), Bill Tomlinson (2.34), Debra Richardson (1.62), Donald J. Patterson (1.12), Baki Cakici, Ruzanna Chitchyan, Xavier Franch, Wolfgang Lohmann (1), Ankita Raturi (0.87),  Juliet Norton, Kristin Roher, Malin Picha Eriksson, Elina Eriksson, Martin Mahaux, Alistar Mavin (1/2), everyone else (<1/2)

I'm first on that list - what a fortuitous coincidence! After that long and pretty pointless exercise, here is the paper abstract:


ICT4S 2029: What will be the Systems Supporting Sustainability in 15 Years?

Research is often inspired by visions of the future. These vision can take on various narrative forms, and can fall anywhere along the spectrum from utopian to dystopian.
Even though we recognize the importance of such visions to help us shape research questions and inspire rich design spaces to be explored, the opportunity to discuses them is rarely given in a research context.
Imagine how civilization will have changed in 15 years. What is your vision for systems that will be supporting sustainability in that time? Which transformational changes will have occurred in the mean time that allow for these systems? Is ICT even the right tool or does it contradict sustainability by making our world even more complex? How can we make systems and our societies more sustainable and resilient by ICT4S?
This paper presents a compilation of fictional abstracts for inspiration and discussion, and provides mean to stimulate discussion on future research and contributors to ICT4S community building.

--------------- bonus paragraph from the introduction: ---------------

Inspired by a contribution to the alt.chi track in the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems [2], we sent out a call for fictional abstracts for papers on ICT4S systems that might appear in the ICT4S conference in the year 2029. This call made the process explicit that abstracts would be compiled into a paper with the above title and submitted to the regular review process of this year's edition of the ICT4S conference. A time span of 15 years (the fictional context of ICT4S 2029) seemed appropriate to allow for creativity and significant paradigm change sin the future scenarios but not too far in the future to result in abstracts that are totally disconnected from the present. The abstracts were required to be 150 words long, to provide a title for the fictional future paper, and to optionally include an image as well. Abstracts were then selected for inclusion based on their ability to represent a diversity of guiding research visions, their excitatory or provocative potential, and the likelihood of engendering conversations about the future of ICT4S.