Random March of video game thoughts

Don’t know if it is the coming fall here in Australia, but just when I had my mind made up that there were no good-creative-inventive-odd-not-another-sequel video games coming out, the latest Game Informer has not only one but at least three interesting titles that didn’t reach my radar before.

The Talos Principle has been marketed as a first person puzzle game with philosophical underpinnings that make you really question your humanity. Sounds like a game for everyone who enjoyed Asimov’s robot books – yeah, that’s me! I even got Steam installed on my old MacBook Pro without any problems – legendary as I haven’t played anything major on a computer since the age of Morrowind, but done my gaming with consoles instead. 😀 Will just need to cross my fingers and hope it runs.

Another interesting (what an understatement) title is That Dragon, Cancer. This is a game developed by parents who in real life lost their very young son to cancer. The aim of the game is to convey the experience of being the kid and getting to know his life through exploring the game. Napkins anyone?

Life Is Strange: Episode 1 – Chrysalis seems to be more like a reality rewind kind of an adventure game where you can experiment how your actions make various ripples in the future. You are tossed into situations which you can change by going back in time and see what happens. I don’t know if this interests me because I just finished reading the magnum opus 11.22.63 by Stephen King, but it sounds something worth checking out.

It almost feels again like [a positively potential itch] video games are evolving to another more mature lineage. And I’m not saying this as some kind of a snob: I mostly play FPSs, currently the newest Borderlands.

Of diversity and hospitality

Hostis: Guest, stranger, enemy.

How can the unforgivable be forgiven? But what else can be forgiven? (Derrida, p. 39)

I want to, no, I need to, take a moment to reflect the current trend of “catering for student diversity” in higher education organisations. I do not wish to speculate the history of this strange movement of supporting different students, often assigned to the fact that there is pressure from the world becoming increasingly multicultural, or ponder why it might be upon us just now. Instead, I want to entwine it to some ideas in Of Hospitality by Derrida & Dufourmantelle. I believe the importance of such a work will continue to rise, if one is interested in any aways succeeding in building (online) communities in a university context.

When you are visiting an organisation, you acquire the role of a guest. A person might be assigned to host you, take you in and around the space where you are a stranger, often showing agreed parts of the organisation and the people. As a guest, you are responded by others in certain ways, which like magically almost everyone knows how to act.

But what happens when you become a part of an organisation? You are not a stranger anymore? Perhaps. At least you are not a guest? Perhaps. When does a person become a part of an organisation, taking part in certain kind of organising? Part of a group of people, agreed to be organised in certain ways.

Various stories we tell (and also study programs we take, also those informal ones) of hospitality define the roles and interactions during an occurrence of hospitality. The host submits to take and act the role of the host, navigating with the guest in the space, unknown for the stranger but known for the host. At the same time the stranger, the guest, accommodates oneself to not break the rules of the space and occurrence visited, and by doing that honors the almost sanctity of this often unspoken agreement. If the guest does not uphold this, the role of the enemy might emerge.

Who are university students? Are they strangers, guests, or perhaps part of organising and maintaining certain ways of being and acting in the university? When we examine the language of diversity initiatives, projects promoting student diversity, it is clear someone is trying to organise something for the students, deciding something for them.

In an educational institution, both the students and the staff have a choice of accommodating oneself to the existing ways of being and acting, trying to change them, or just deviating away from them, still staying in the community, but on the verges. When one is accepted inside an organisation, rules, policies and procedures are laid upon the person. Often the person is as if relinquishing the rights of acting certain ways while bound in a certain organisational space. Because of these particular processes and dynamics, how can promoting diversity ever be possible? Diversity might find spaces within small cracks, but what about as an organizational vision, as an underlying purpose? The appearance of this taking place can of course easily be achieved with words, but does the evidence from day to day interactions support them? Certainly not.

What has to take place in an organisation, in the way of organising, for hospitality of diversity to take place, or better yet, to be expelled? This is a crossroads. If a university is a place of hospitality, “catering for diversity”, it suggests a community where the roles of its members from students to teachers have already been laid out in certain ways that prevent a tolerant community.

The very idea of creating guidelines or instructions for the (more) permanent members of the community gives birth to a host, inviting the notion that the transitory members of the university are guests. In this very moment, certain possibilities of a community are lost, and other ways of acting introduced. The hosts will ‘help’ the guests to navigate the university’s context, and the guests will honor their status, or risking the status of an enemy. The guests will also start to execute certain rights assigned to a guest: during an act of hospitality, it is not expected from the guest to be an active agent, but the host will navigate, choosing the presentable parts of their common, but not collaborative, journey. Still, one of the odd rights reserved for the host is to make fun with the true members of the community of the guest’s incapability to act in that specific context – which is actually laid upon the guest by the existing host-guest relationship. The mission of the host is to show the guest around, but not in its true sense, as it would require connection, true openness and releasing control.

Why to examine diversity (diversus: opposite, separate, apart, diverse, different, hostile) and university (universitas: a whole) this way, and how might forgiveness connect to this? Derrida suggests that true forgiveness comes from forgiving something that seems to be impossible to forgive. This has everything to do with diversity, and how we recognize or accept the Other. When we interact with others, for example at work, who acting in certain ways, always carry out hostile acts against our identity, our only true home, ourselves, we have such moments wherein to forgive. If we can forgive these acts (which most of the time, if not all the time, are because of otherness), no matter if they are done on purpose or not, we are one step closer to accepting the difference, perhaps banishing the stranger. If we understand that the qualities the other person is constructed with, are at that moment what they are, we release new probabilities for interactions that form actual communities. In such a state, words such as retention, engagement and diversity become futile, they are not needed.

Special thanks to @KateMfD, as “she knows something about Derrida”.


Derrida, J., & Dufourmantelle, A. (2000). Of Hospitality. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Derrida (2002): http://youtu.be/CtcpwJCC6Co?t=52m44s

Reflections on thinking, learning and the message

Learning as a process or a phenomenon is something I sometimes try to escape in my reasonings, as some days I can not even stand the topic because of the too mixed up discourses around it. But for some reason it comes back to thoughts, often with new flavours. Call it passion, call it whatever.

When I moved to Australia, I had to choose just a couple of “real” paper books with me. What I left behind was almost a roomful. Although some consider it after his golden era, I had grown fond of Heidegger’s ‘What is called thinking?’ (Was Heisst Denken?, 1954) and brought it with me. I do not consider myself as Heideggerian, although a certain person (you know who you are) have suggested that. Still, I cannot deny that introduction to his thinking has indeed provided new venues for my own.

As the name of the book implies, it discusses thinking, and simply summarized, with an assertion that we are still not thinking.

Most thought-provoking in our thought-provoking time is that we are still not thinking. (p. 6)

My reason to write this is not to try to explain what Heidegger possibly meant with the series of lectures of which the book builds on. What interests me here is examining the arguments with higher education learning as the focus.

Heidegger suggests that

Teaching is even more difficult than learning. (…) because what teaching calls for is this: to let learn. The real teacher, in fact, lets nothing else be learned than – learning. (…) The teacher is ahead of his apprentices in this alone, that he has still far more to learn than they – he has to learn to let them learn. The teacher must be capable of being more teachable than the apprentices. (p. 15)

I have to resist quoting the whole paragraph, because that is most likely too much. Some of the words in this argument make me think if he really used these terms or has something been lost in the translation. However, this particular part, coming all of a sudden in the book, in conjunction with thinking as the focus, is interesting to me.

Heidegger suggest we are still not thinking. What does this mean? When we are on our paths in the so called formal education, are we not thinking? We “cover a lot of content” and write essays about them in culturally accepted forms. Does this not constitute as thinking? Dears he suggest that this is not what thinking is about? What am I not thinking when I am writing this blog post? What “withdraws” from me, from us?

I feel a connection could be found from Finland, from Yrjö Engeström’s thinking (the use of word intended), and his theory of Expansive Learning. In one of his books, Kehittävä työntutkimus: perusteita, tuloksia ja haasteita [in Finnish, sorry folks], he refers to Bateson’s levels of learning [in English].

These matters connect with Heidegger and his thinking. For us to learn, we very often think about the content and not with it or how it affects our own thinking and frames of reference. I have not followed this idea through, but for me this sounds something to be also connected with Jonassen’s “learning with technology“. We need to ponder what terms such as “medium” and “technology” mean to us. Information and communications technology. Technologies, weather digital or for example processes, are to support humans to achieve something easier. [How] is information and communications technology helping us learn thinking?

We are fond of consuming and examining content, but we do not pause and reflect upon it, or ourselves in the event of learning.

Reflection is also one of those troublesome terms. With reflection, I mean thinking about our own thinking, and thinking about ourselves in the middle of the event of learning; Do we just try to hack the game of learning, how to beat the system (Bateson’s level 2 learning), or do we actively inquiry into how the learning events and stimuli affect our thinking, questioning our very being and thus really try to learn and think? In general we are too fond of following the routes that please us, that make us feel good, rarely asking could something else that does not seem to please us in the beginning to be more important for our understanding.

To think, is to think and reflect the world and ourselves in it, the stimuli we receive and how they affect us. Great deal of evidence shows that we are very picky in our personal theory making, too often we assimilate new information to our existing patterns of thought. I feel that to truly be in the world, is to question the stimuli, processes, our own thinking and how we are in the events we are thrown to. To look beyond those in a larger systemic context.

So what is the message of learning? As I’ve been attending to a media convergence course conserning myself both as tutor (a role assigned to me) and a learner (a role assigned by me), I feel obliged to refer to McLuhan and his “Media is the message”. What are the messages of higher education as a medium [of learning]? The message is written in the processes, in how we act our roles during the play, on what we spend our time in the university and what we try to achieve, and how. The message is quite easily there to be noticed if one reads the world and the word (thanks to Joan Wink and of course to Freire for this nice thinking tool).

Heideggers suggests that the most thought provoking in our thought provoking time is that we are still not thinking. If we are not thinking in the events of learning, what are we doing?