Heading towards summer vacation

Well, the academic year 2011-2012 is well and truly over. The vacation season is upon us, and for the most part the university will start to cool down after this and next week.

I will also try to forget work and get some rest. If only I would not have just gotten into the “zone” when it comes to writing! I feel like this vacation comes at a very bad time, but perhaps I can jot down some notes with pen and paper and just be creative with it – not approach writing like it would be work. It is anyway interesting how writing can sometimes feel like it is a break from the “real work” I do when teaching and supervising. Of course it depends on what I am writing, but I must say that a good, solid afternoon of writing can be just as invigorating as doing some other recreational activity. It clears the head and leaves you relaxed.

Currently I am working on a book chapter to Routledge Companion to Video Game Studies (due August 15th), and a couple of other conference papers and article drafts in the works. Let’s see how the summer pans out with regards to writing:)

Jammin’ at the Nordic DiGRA 2012

For two days now I have the pleasure of participating in the Nordic DiGRA 2012 at Tampere, Finland. This event is the little sister of the DiGRA main conference, arranged bi-annually. Being a partner in the Finnish Science Academy -funded project looking at gaming cultures in Finland, I got to participate in creating this conference from planning meetings to overseeing one review track (games as media and communication). And during the two-day conference, I will chair three work groups and be the respondent in one paper session.

It is nice type of work, to get a varied look at what is happening in the field, and to be able to give input to work in progress research. While the new financial realities of Finnish universities do not encourage conference participation, I feel very strongly that this kind of cross-pollunation is ever so important for the academia, and that it is a shame that our resources for organizing and participating in such events are often so limited. Conference, I give you a thumbs-up!

Are we blinded by choice?

Courtesy of Young SIETAR‘s Facebook-feed I just stumbled upon this fascinating talk by Sheena Iyengar about choice and the way that our perception of it differs culturally: http://www.ted.com/talks/sheena_iyengar_on_the_art_of_choosing.html?source=facebook#.T8rzHQIP3qE.facebook.

It got me thinking about international students in Finnish universities. While I don’t know how we compare to people from the United States in general, I do feel that we Finns generally value choice tremendously. Especially with the history of living next to a model of a society with limited or no choice (the Soviet Union -era countries), choice has presented itself as something to be proud of. For example, at our Department the freedom of students to choose their M.A. thesis topic is almost sacred, and it has become almost a shared fantasy (in the sense of Ernst Bormann‘s Symbolic Convergence theory) to separate ourselves from those departments and subjects where students are given topics by the staff. However, on many an occasion I have encountered students who struggle enormously with this choice, and who would much rather have a limited set of alternatives or a ready-made topic instead of choosing freely.

Now, I don’t want to make cultural generalizations, since I have also met Finns who have trouble with the total freedom of choice we offer them, but I have the feeling that with some international M.A. students the issue is even stronger. Perhaps they are used to an educational culture where students have limited choice, or perhaps their other cultural upbringing has not prepped them for what we expect here, but I have seen my share of troubled students who struggle with the choices related to writing a Master’s thesis all the way throughout the process.

Could it be that we need to become more sensitive to this (baffling) possibility that our students might not want to have the choice? Might there be other ways to operate, or if we agree that choice is *that* important, how could we train our students better in the art of making them?