no phone

Finally someone who shys away from cell phones like I do: “I’m not a cell phone guy. I resisted getting one at all for years, and even now I rarely carry it. To a first approximation, I don’t really like talking to most people, so I don’t go out of my way to enable people to call me. However, a little while ago I misplaced the old phone I usually take to Armadillo, and my wife picked up a more modern one for me. It had a nice color screen and a bunch of bad java game demos on it. The bad java games did it. […] This time, I decided I was going to work on a cell phone game.” Guess who. Indeed: John Carmack.
via entry at John Carmack’s blog


call for papers: cyberanthropology

The new website of the GAA conference 2005 now is online, and the German abstract of my workshop ‘cyberanthropology’ can be viewed there. Please understand the German and the English abstract as a call for papers. Proposals must not exceed 1500 characters and have to be sent to me by e-mail: Alexander.Knorr [at] before 15 June 2005. Proposals can be in either English or German language—presentations at the workshop can also be in English or German, but must not exceed 20 minutes. The workshop is tentatively scheduled on Thursday, 06 October 2005, 13.45-15.45 and 16.00-18.00.



Concept SSing to the tune of Dylan’s ‘Rising Sun’: “There is a house down in Agatha | They call the ragin’ bull!” Seemingly it is cars week for me: Lamborghini has done it again, as they already did when I was kid. Back in 1971 the first prototype of the Countach was introduced—the futuristic aztec architecture flabbergasted the audience, and several years later, when it went into production and on sale, us kids, too. We were standing at our preferred kiosk and wondered at glossy magazine pictures of that supercar of a never-seen-before kind. The car-magazines featuring the Countach even edged out the Batman-comics on the shelf nearby, at least for some time. Now, at the Salon d’Automobile 2005 at Geneva, Lamborghini showed off the Concept S—after the Diablo, the Murciélago, and the Gallardo the fourth reincarnation of the immortal Countach. A German newspaper said, with the Concept S Lamborghini is going for the future and for people who have nothing to say to each other, as the passengers are separated by the engine’s windpipe. Well, if you ever rode in a Lamborghini, you know that its pure piston sound already suffices to render every conversation an utter impossibility—no material separation of the car’s inmates needed. The raging bull says: “The classic single-seaters did not have a traditional windscreen, but utilised the so-called ‘saute-vent’ (in French: a sudden change in the wind) in order to direct air over the head of the driver – and so does the “Concept S”. These devices divide the cabin into two distinct compartments, giving the car an aggressive and futuristic look and also creating a space between them that acts as an additional air inlet for the powerful engine, which is positioned behind the seats.” (official press release)

Lincoln FuturaWell, in the 1950s Bill Schmidt, then chief stylist at Lincoln Mercury, had similar visions of what looks futuristic. Based on his ideas the Ford Motor Company built the Lincoln Futura, a concept car, which saw the light of day in 1955. “The most revolutionary car to appear on the American road in the past decade was revealed at the Chicago Auto Show, January 8 to 16, 1955.” ( official press release) Coincidentally the Futura’s body was made by Ghia in Italy—Lamborghini’s homeland—and its original color was white, just like the Concept S’. The Futura toured the motor-show circuit before it was sold to George Barris, self-proclaimed ‘King of the Kustomizers’ (this was allegedly the first time of ‘custom’ being spelled with a ‘k’—an early case of 1337-speech ). Barris had the Futura appear in the occasional movie, then stowed it safely away.

BatmobileIn 1965 Barris was asked to create a Batmobile for the upcoming television series, but was only given three weeks time. He pulled the Futura out of storage, painted it black, completely turned the car inside out, and built the Batmobile upon it.

Bob Kane and George BarrisIn the picture George Barris is shown together with Bob Kane (1916-1998)—the taller guy in the dark suit—, the creator of Batman. Batman has appeared for the first time in 1939 and since then became a globally recognized character, appearing in print, movies, TV, and on countless pieces of merchandise. with George Barris’ 1966 Batmobile the concept of the globalized costumed mythical superhero artistically appropriates the equally global concept automobile. It may seem a little far-fetched, but customizing cars for telling stories on the silver screen is the movie-maker’s cultural appropriation of the motorvehicle.

Now imagine Lamborghini’s Concept S varnished in a shiny black, the raging bull emblem on its hood substituted by the simplified silhouette of a bat on yellow background … Welcome to the 21st century, Dark Knight.

UPDATE (08 November 2012):
The Los Angeles Times carries a feature article on Barris.



cyclopian oil-coolerThe nipponese metropolitan nights not only know the yakuza—there are the bososoku, too: “Studies of the bososoku motor cycle gangs of Japan have shed light on a population that engages in illegal and reckless biking stunts that endanger, injure, and kill thousands of gang members and innocent bystanders every year.” ( sirtomas) Those gangs are on the road—preferrably after midnight—not only with motorcycles, but also with tuned cars. One goal of the tuning seems to be making the cars as loud as possible, in order to lift the sleeping citizens straight up from their futons by means of exhaust-pipe symphonies. (

nipponese gran turismoNow endo tells me that there is a car-tuning concept or style called bososoku: “[…] this strange concept born from biker gangs. Mad Max meets 70s japanese touring. | actually the funny part is that the Western car modders think it’s gay.. | but to be honest it represents a lot of japanese thinking.. functionality over the look | but at the same time there is an opposite side…. the japanese tuners that want to be more american.. so they make stupid looking cars copying the american trend of all show and no go | well… in japan at least they do improve the performance before the kits :P” (via IM) And of course this concept is taken up by 3D-modellers—see the GTApex thread on Bososoku started by endo, a modder modeling modded motorvehicles.

One might say: so what? But I sense something here—a strand of associations being a part of modding- and/or gaming-culture. At a LAN-party I was shown some flics of the ‘Ghost Rider’, a scandinavian outlaw clad in black leather and helmet, riding a black racing motorcycle with a cubic capacity that easily could swallow half an ox, doing wheelies at 200+ km/h and generally making fools of the police, ‘owning’ them and there by making the highways his own. Then there are: games like “Need for Speed – Underground”, “Midnight club”, and of course the famous “Grand Theft Auto” series … gamemodders being graffitti-artists and having a background in the connected illegal activities, having artistically appropriated metropolitan structures … gamemodders being skater-artistes athletically appropriating the city-landscape.
    As with Open Source I do not think that we are dealing here with a so-called revolution, but with resistance. Resistance in the subtle form of appropriating what those entities, which are stylized as enemies, have created and maintain. Yes, they all ‘break the rules’, and do not obey to order. But obviously the sprayer needs concrete walls, and the skater needs ramps, stairs, and especially handrails to grind on. Finally, what would the bososoku be without the cities inhabited by ‘normal citizens’? They could not exist without ‘normal society’, as they are defined as its counterpart, its nighttime opposition (for a minute putting aside the phantasmagories from beyond the thunderdome). ‘Normal society’ and the spaces created by the very same are these groups’/cultures’ natural habitat. Rebellion maybe—revolution? No.


zelda vans

daughter of the neon chrysanthemum“They tower above the traffic like extra-purfled ceremonial elephants, or dinosaurs in wedding gowns.” ( bedford’s metamorphosis) In Japan there is truck-modding, too. And the Nipponese obviously know how to don their vans dressing gowns of neon.

Batman's zelda vanAlas, this heavily anime-influenced specimen looks like the A-Team—meanwhile living on old-age pension—had sold its van on the used-car market, Batman had acquired it, dragged it down into his Batcave and, being stone drunk, customized it to his needs. After having sobered up he immediately resold it.
tnx to endo


bedford’s metamorphosis

hotbeds of creativity — the appropriation of the truck in Sudan
SifinjaGabriel Kläger has produced a substantial update to his website Africars, a subpage of the website of the Institute for Sociocultural Anthropology, Munich. As I still am a tremendously generous and forthcoming webmaster, I immediately set the update online. Kläger transformed Prof. Kurt Beck‘s article “Bedfords Metamorphose” (Beck 2004) into html, ‘hyper-augmented’ with a load of exclusive, illustrative and commented photographies, stemming from Beck’s recent fieldwork in Sudan. The pictures document the technological process of appropriation and make the latter comprehensible. Since ‘globalization’ and ‘glocalization’ became issues in anthropology, cultural appropriation has been discussed, too. But the focus mainly was on ‘symbolic ascription’, ‘redefinition of meaning’, ‘rededication’, and the like — or ‘artistic achievements’. The hands-on side, the technological aspect of appropriation has been widely neglected. Hotbeds of creativity highlights exactly these aspects:

Everybody who has travelled in Asia, Latin America, or Africa knows those ingeniously converted and richly decorated trucks. They shape the scenery of the city-streets as well as the traffic on hinterland’s most remote dirt tracks. Exceptionally aesthetically impressive specimens are on the road in Nigeria, Mexico, the Philippines, and Pakistan. They tower above the traffic like extra-purfled ceremonial elephants, or dinosaurs in wedding gowns. The better part of freight haulage and passenger transportation is done with those trucks. Anthropologists naturally use them on their expeditions as means of conveyance, too. However, until now they have not been legitimate objects of research. But that does not at all mean that there is nothing to discover. Quite to the contrary, as those trucks lead our gaze to what anthropologists think to be among the most wonderful things in the world: human creativity.

In Sudan trucks — mostly Bedfords and Nissans — are not merely externally decorated. They are reconstructed from the bottom up. Small workshops meanwhile are specialized on deconstructing imported trucks, only to rebuild them according to own patterns. This workshops belong to the econonomy’s informal sector and are located far away from any development aid or formal training. The final product of their craft is a completely new truck hardly resembling the original one. Surprising technological innovations have found their way into its unorthodox construction. A local creativity of dealing with and advancing global goods manifests itself. This seems all the more astonishing, as it directly contradicts every common-sense assumption concerning Africa. [my translation]

Hotbeds of creativity is at the moment only available in German, but we are working on an English version (the pictures themselves already are available in English, though).


gamer stereotypes fragged

NerdThe (U.S.) entertainment software association (ESA) had Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc. conduct a study which’s findings contradict the usual clichés of gamers. This goes well with the findings of studies undertaken by the Forschungsschwerpunkt Wirkung virtueller Welten (research focus “virtual worlds’ virtue”) of the University of Applied Sciences Cologne (articles are in German). The stereotypes are fragged for now, but they sure as hell will respawn. And of course the argument will come up that the study was commissioned by the ESA, and was done by a commercial institute. The german studies were commissioned by the government, and done at a university.
via entry at gamersgame


world’s greatest

Fatal1tyBBC-News carries an article on pro-gamer legend Jonathan Wendel aka Fatal1ty: Golden boy gamer becomes a brand . The golden boy has to say something on the social dimension of gaming, too: “Socialising online is awesome – you are talking to all these gamers just about random topics. It’s like you are on the phone talking to a friend almost. Then you get to meet these guys at LAN parties. It’s a total blast.”
During the last months I noticed a substantial increase of articles on gaming issues in the supra-regional major daily newspapers and magazines — at least in what is printed here in Germany. But the core of those articles almost exclusively revolved around two central subjects: the explicit expression of a lack of understanding what’s happening, garnished with a laconic to sarcastic sneer, and astonishment about the money involved. Articles about pro-gaming always stressed the sums those people potentially can earn, pieces on MMORPGs always described the trading of game-objects and/or accounts at eBay. Texts on shooters (see FPS and TPS) revamped the ‘virtual violence’ discussion, and in the case of Doom III introduced disgust and execration into the construction of public opinion. In all cases the immense time people are ‘wasting’ playing computergames is mentioned. In the case of the pro-gamers the latter is somewhat relativized, as cash is made by them. Not that I want to whine or complain about that — I am just observing. And the fact remains that computergames seem have to made it into the pages of the big print media.
BBC-story via entry at gamersgame


wandering astray

on boundaries, fieldwork, and tags in letters
Who the fuck is Alice?It is sunday and I am at home. That means going online is only possible on 56k—a slight difference to the 100Mbit/s at the office; I shy away from going online so slow and am working offline. Working means reviewing and sorting the fieldnotes, -downloads, and logs of the last days into their appropriate daily folders. Apart from this I try to finish the begun weblog-entries, and try to bring them into an online-publishable format. By format I do not mean technicalities like inserting html-tags, but the texts themselves. Writing for immediate publication, and being conscious of that, is quite different from writing inside the considerable security and privacy of your HDD. Alex Golub recently wrote that over time he learned where to draw the boundaries, and that he now is quite embarrassed by the privacy of many of his own early blog-entries. That means that, not surprisingly, blog-entry-writing-know-how follows experience. Well, with the ethno::log I already have more than two years blogging-experience, but with xirdalium it seems to be another story again. From all the people I know face-to-face KerLeone has by far the longest experience in blogging. And he indeed has a strategy for maintaining boundaries. But his strategy is hilarious, completely crazy, customized to the max, therefore uncopyable, and in itself too private to tell here.

Today I remembered my two articles on the first Matrix-movie which were published in Magische Welt-magazine (print, in German). I really should translate them and publish them here, as they are connected to maxmod in certain ways. This led me to the question if, by publishing all the stuff of that kind here, in the end the reader knows more about me and my way of thinking and feeling about gamemodding, and less about the gamemodders’ culture. On the other hand you have to know about my imagination of gamemodding, in order to be able to evaluate my interpretation of modding-culture.
    Again an old problem of anthropology, already discussed many times. The latter in turn confirms that with my attempt of ‘transposing sociocultural anthropology’s methods into the cyberfield’ I am on a not-too-wrong path.

Speaking of transpositions, and earlier of boundaries which sometimes have something to do with enculturation and maybe going-native: Last week in the office I had to write some formal letter. So I fired up a word-processor (StarOffice Write in my case), and started typing. On the screen I reread what I had written and was satisfied; hitting ‘print’, taking the sheet from the printer. Not before reading the hardcopy-version of the letter I noticed that I had used—obviously out of habit—html-tags throughout the letter, break- and italics-tags mostly. What amazes me is that I didn’t recognize this when rereading the letter on the screen.
    Once upon a time jim broke into IRC and greeted us all with the words: “Last night I crossed the line-of-no-return to absolute geekdom.” jim, I am here now, too.

Being there sometimes one can’t resist to wander astray, although one still believes to be very well on topic. The core of my project is the culture of gamemodding, respectively the culture of the modders—in my view a sound anthropological topic. But today it struck me, that a lot of my reading and recherche clearly falls into the domain of gamestudies. A twig to be cut off? On the other hand, in one way or another, everything I dig up in this respect somehow is related to the project’s core. *sigh* The Hermetics of old have been right: Everything is connected with everything (that’s why Dirk Gentry always found his way). Especially when doing anthropology, and still harbouring a holistic stance.

Then there was the usual wandering astray in the web’s vast valleys. E.g. I found out that the girl “Alice” on the posters plastered all over the city is 17-year old (which I can hardly believe) italo-american supermodel Vanessa Hessler. Temptations to resist—the time-eating wandering astray, I mean. In some entries at random blogs it is stated that Ms Hessler is of ‘mediocre attractivity’. Which lets me wonder about the looks of those bloggers. Sometimes one can’t resist to fall back on nerd-clichés.


new snake

taming of peripheral computer hardware revisited
DiamondbackToday I bought a Razer Diamondback, the follow-up of the legendary Razer Boomslang. It glides over the pad seemingly almost without any friction. Its 1600dpi suit me very well, as meanwhile I am used to my Boomslang’s 2100. The ‘magma-glow’ looks nice, although I do not think it is necessary. The mouse really feels good, but despite of the glow does not radiate the mythical atmosphere of its predecessor. There simply is neither the same kind of history nor tradition yet — at least to me. And I indeed feel something like a traitor, now having my hand on a pure optical gadget. I am no hi-senser lo-tek anymore. On the other hand Razerguy aka Robert Krakoff, president of Razer USA Ltd., said: “Boomers have been discontinued and we’re also sold out. It was a nice ride, but the world of mechanical gaming mice is one of the past. We held a quiet burial at sea for family members only.” OFM answered: “Well I for one am Proud to have my Retired LED Modded Boomslang 2000 in its tin with all the stuff it came with. […] I’m glad I have these fine instruments and have stuck with them this long. We are truly an obscure and dedicated community that is very tightly knit and I am proud to be here from way back with an original 2000 Boomslang. [… but ends:] VIVE La DiaMoNdBacK!” … and Krakoff in reply: “Sorry, we know that we are burying a legacy and also know that there are many loyal ball mouse users who are not ready, willing or interested in optical.” (thread at Razer Blueprints Forum) For Krakoff’s views on the history and technology of mice, see RPG Vault Soapbox — Robert Krakoff. For in-depth information and discussion, pay a visit to the Razer-community at Razer Blueprints.

Razerguy There is a graphic novel called Razerguy, a fine piece of machinima at the razer-site, which in mood and plot matches my transition into new realms of motoric input, into the twilight of the Razerzone lit anew. Hint: First go to Razerzone, leave the window open, then open Razerguy in a new window. That way you have the background-sound from Razerzone running, which is very appropriate to the graphic novel. Razerguy, episode 1: “I tried to deal by immersing myself in video games. The last thing I remember is sitting in front of my PC and feeling a wave of intense dread fall over me … then the room went black. When I wake up, I am not ta home, but on this weird beach wearing all white clothing.” The beginning of the story reminds me of the scenery in Neuromancer’s (Gibson 1984) chapter 20, where Case finally meets Neuromancer:

He jacked in.
    Nothing. Gray void.
    No matrix, no grid. No cyberspace.
    The deck was gone. His fingers were…
    And on the far rim of consciousness, a scurrying, a fleeting
impression of something rushing toward him, across leagues of black mirror.
    He tried to scream.
    There seemed to be a city, beyond the curve of beach, but
it was far away.”

To say that I am associating everything with Gibsonia would be legitimate criticism, but it is obvious in this case, isn’t it?.