Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Speaking at Lift11 in Geneva

It’s T-7 days until Lift11 begins in Geneva, and I’m delighted to have been selected to participate, and also to be selected as a speaker for the open stage, during the Games, beyond Gamification and transmedia session.

Lift11 is a three-day conference about current and emerging usage of digital technologies such as online communities, social media and casual games. Participants come to better understand the challenges and opportunities presented by digital technologies, and meet the people who drive these innovations.

The synopsis of my talk, titled “Localizations of global games: cross-cultural lessons” can be found here on the conference website>>

What happens when global games meet local culture?

In this talk, Florence Chee discusses the idea of games as a medium of communication and how it may look the same or different depending on where in the world you may find yourself. How do factors like culture, social structure, and infrastructure affect how people play online games in different global contexts? Drawing from ethnographic studies of games from all over the map, game designers, engineers, or cultural theorists will be interested in this discussion of the contingent factors that arise from public and private game play that is sometimes not about the game at all.

The whole conference happens at the Geneva International Conference Center (CICG). All talks will be given in English unless specified, and a French translation will be provided. The program is subject to changes.

The entire Lift11 schedule can be found here>>

Geneva. Can I be excited yet?

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Monday, January 17, 2011


It's been two weeks since I arrived in Austria and since then, I have been getting into the rhythm of life in Graz, which is approximately 200km south of Vienna.

So far, so good I must say. It might be too early to say for sure, but I have the impression that this city has a lovely fusion of German, Italian, and Eastern European sensibilities. For example, Venice is often mentioned as a 'doable weekend trip' from Graz. Golly.

The Institute (IAS-STS) is a great place to work so far. It's filled with intellectually curious and open people from all over the world.... kind of like an Austrian STS version of Hogwarts... or rather like the X-Mansion of Charles Xavier... ;) It's proving an ideal place to dissertate.

When I first arrived, shellshocked from re-entering Eurospace (and the crazy journey previously mentioned), I got a transit pass to get around the city. It allowed me to take the trams and buses all around. However, I really missed the cycling I did in the Netherlands, and as I got to know the city better, decided to get a bike. The local preference is for fatter tires, given the terrain, so my bike is a cute little thing with a basket on the back (handy for groceries, though not for giving rides like in NL!). The bikes are also less numerous so though the law does not demand people wear helmets, there is enough traffic mixture to warrant wearing a helmet. Given my dissertation is still swirling around in my noggin, worth the 24 euro investment to protect, non? Through trial and error, I've since found some traffic calmed routes that avoid tram lines (and all the ugliness that can ensue from heavy traffic).

Speaking of getting around, I got myself a Vorteilscard, which is the ÖBB system discount card for trains. It was pretty easy to get at the station, and allows for 45% discount for journeys right off the bat. Given that I needed to book my journey to Geneva, I already made up the price of the card with this one booking. No Austrian bank account needed (cough cough). Only my Meldezettel (residence registration) and passport.

My own flat is on the "right side" (meaning facing downstream, and West on the map) of the Mur, and what one might call a "spacebox." My studio in Seoul was 246 square feet, which had been an exercise in efficient living, but this one even more compact at 161 square feet (15 square metres, for the metric-minded:) I've now managed to make things a little cozier and start to even like how everything is within arms reach... though my shower is literally a porcelain square but at least it's my own. It's in a primarily Turkish neighbourhood, which means no shortage of döner kebab places on a Sunday (when most things in the city would close). There are lots of casinos around the city, and places that say "Interactive Games" are often gambling of some sort with a video interface.

Opening hours for shops and services are what is normally expected for smaller cities in these parts. Shops usually keep 9am-6pm business hours, and things slow down on Saturdays (sometimes shops open in the mornings 9am-12pm), and on Sunday, only some shops are open at all. Luckily I had Delft life prepare me for this rhythm.

Food deserves its own paragraph too. It fills me with immense joy that food is once again a social thing. I am familiarizing myself not only with Austrian food, but Styrian specialties specific to the region, like pumpkin seed oil! And living within the embrace of the "good coffee belt" (which I am told ends when one travels north of Munich) is such a blessing during dissertation time. So civilized, during what can be a pretty mind-warping time.

More soon! The most exciting stuff is yet to come.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Constructing Amusement (in Airports) 2010/2011 - a review of the last little while

So. It's been a journey, channeling a boomerang and winging myself from living in Delft, Netherlands, to Vancouver, Canada for Christmas, and then to living in Graz, Austria.

Admittedly it was difficult to wrest myself from the comforting holiday cheer of friends and family in my hometown of Vancouver BC, but here I am, despite some pretty 'amazing' events, mostly to do with airport drama. Here is the link to my flickr set called "Dramatic flying."

Yes, I too was caught in the European airport debacle of December 2010. The Netherlands was slammed with a bout of snow that crippled its train system just enough to make getting to Schiphol from Delft a little more than interesting, and once at the airport the cascade of fail delayed or canceled flights and I did not make my connection in Frankfurt.

Once in Frankfurt, as covered by BBC World News, airports were shutting down altogether and the thought of not getting home for Christmas was a scary reality I was not willing to entertain at the time. After lining up for hours and making friends along the way, I managed to get waitlisted for the next flight to Vancouver and put up in Rüsselsheim just outside of Frankfurt for the night in order to try again the next morning. The next day, I lucked out and was able to get on the flight to Vancouver and arrive only 24 hrs later than planned. Lucky compared to others who had to camp out for 3-5 days or more during that time.

The two weeks in Vancouver were great. Hitting the ground running, I was meeting with colleagues at SFU the day after arriving, looking only a -little- insane. The rest of the time was seeing the friends and family I could leading up to Christmas and New Year... not to mention pigging out on some serious Vancouver food!

And then it was time to leave. Little did I know the adventure was just beginning (again). Commence airport jargon: Right out of YVR, the flight was delayed by more than an hour on the tarmac. So I missed my connection to FRA by a few minutes in YYZ. Pretty brutal. So I got rerouted and placed on a flight to MUC 1.5 hrs later. Kudos to the YYZ crew. Then after landing in MUC, had to clear passport control and hoof it make a connection to GRZ. Didn't have a ticket printed for that one, so that took more time and so another couple and I were the last ones being bussed to the little plane destined for Graz. The climax of the journey was that this little plane landed (the important thing) but then the cabin started filling with blue smoke because something had caught fire! We all evacuated onto the tarmac relatively calmly, while the fire engines, polizei etc came around. Wasn't exactly the welcome wagon I was hoping for in Graz but at least no one was hurt.

And then, well... considering all the events, my luggage didn't have time to catch up with me so it arrived 24 hrs later. Not bad in hindsight but you can imagine at the time I was quite beside myself. ;)

The rest of the week in Graz was comparatively easy! The first week of January in Austria is taken up with New Year's and Epiphany so the city has only really gotten going today. I have been settling in with all the 'housekeeping issues,' getting to know the Institute where I will be spending the next 3 months, and getting my bearings with the rest of the city. People in general here are disarmingly friendly and always willing to help. Things are organized and logistics are pretty easy to wrap one's head around. It's as though people believe your time is valuable here and they try not to waste it. How refreshing is that?

Things are off to a good start and I think I will like it here. As I mentioned to some, it is not lost on me that securing the time and space to write and reflect (in an intellectually stimulating environment no less) is indeed a privilege. And thus commences the second chapter of my "European (dissertation) finishing school."

Here's to a smooth, productive, and ~efficient~ New Year for all!

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