Experience the Curse

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As you’ve probably noticed, Angelina Jolie has written about her BRCA1 breast cancer gene. A new friend of mine, Lizzie Stark, has faced the same choices and blogs about her work on a book on the topic that you should absolutely check out. I had the pleasure of playing a chamber role-playing game she designed on the topic and wrote about it a while back here (Swedish). The game itself is in English and downloadable on Lizzie’s blog.

Other recent Fokus columns of mine have been about contemporary ghost stories, the low cost of prevention, meat-eating in a time of environmental crisis, the Egyptian tourism industry in a time of unrest, Zombie Ibsen, and how long ago the 20th century already is. (All in Swedish).

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Brains, Interaction Design and Nordic Larp Talks

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On Monday, I had the pleasure of hosting “Day of the Brain”, Hjärnans dag, an event gathering top-tier neuroscientists and other brain researchers for a day of communicating their findings in a popular fashion. The event is organized by the Hjärnfonden charity, which funds basic and specialized research with millions of desperately needed crowns at all Swedish universities connected to the field. I was thrilled to learn among many other things that the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease is in the process of an utter revolution. If the drug currently in clinical trials turn out to be the answer, the enormous suffering and cost it causes to day may be pretty much wiped out within a decade. Please support Hjärnfonden. The full programme of Hjärnans Dag was recorded by UR Samtiden and will pop up on the internet and on television at some point (Swedish).

On Tuesday, I went to GUC, a very special high school in Uppsala, to talk. It was World Book Day, but instead of literature in the traditional sense I chose to speak about larp, game design and interactive storytelling as a tool for understanding the negotiable nature of reality and society. The students totally got it! This pleases me to no end, since I’ve never spoken on that exact topic for a non-specialist audience before, and the talk will inevitably be a lot better the tenth time around. But they said kind things afterwards, and looked appropriately awed by the Monitor Celestra pictures I showed them. Thank you guys so much for having me, for stocking my books in your AMAZING school library, and for the lunch in the school cafeteria – which boasts a genius experience design feature: people from neighbouring businesses can buy lunch there for a pittance, I think it was SEK 55 (about EUR 6,5). They come because it’s great value; the school pretty much funds its food programme (free for all students) with the income, and the presence of extra grown-ups makes the lunches calmer. Not to mention that the school opens up towards the community. Win-win!

The reason larp was on my mind yesterday was that I’d spent a long weekend at the Knutepunkt conference – my 16th time! – which totally deserves a blog post of its own that I probably won’t have time to write. One of the many highlights of the week was the Nordic Larp Talks, now in its fourth year. The pic above (by Johannes Axner) shows me, apparently, yelling at the audience. The one below shows me with the editors of this year’s four Knutebooks. The talks were streamed by Falkevik and Danehav, as usual, and were a great success thanks to the amazing speakers.

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Crosstalks – Where Great Minds Meet

Crosstalks is a quarterly academic talk show, broadcast live in English, brought to you by KTH and Stockholm University. It is a forum for some of their greatest scientists to talk to each other, to international colleagues, to people in other fields and to students about some of the great issues of our day. Not only do great minds meet at Crosstalks – since I’m hosting I get to be there too, representing the non-expert viewer! You can watch the first three talks here, and the website is also where the live broadcast this Thursday will start at 5 PM (CET).

As per usual, we’ll have time for three topics. We’ll discuss the ultimate destiny of man and robot, look at whether and how it is possible to close the global health gap in our lifetimes, and ask some quantum and astrophysicists to explain how their work is changing perceptions on the nature of reality. You’re welcome to join in the conversation on twitter or by Skyping in with questions – there will be instructions on how to do that on the website!

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Resocializing Broadcast Television

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Last week marked the premiere of the second season of TV-cirkeln. This year we’re talking about the first season of the HBO show Girls, which we air directly after, making TV-cirkeln what I assume to be the only official Girls aftershow in the world. Our first episode was a ratings success at 111.000 viewers at 11 PM on SVT2, which is the artsier out of the public service networks in Sweden.

My new colleagues Linnea Wikblad and Nour El Refai are very, very smart and very, very funny. In tonight’s episode the abundance of bodily fluids inspired some autobiographical talk about menstrual blood that may raise eyebrows even in this country – although I kind of hope it doesn’t. Because wouldn’t you rather live in a world which did not treat a completely natural and temporally big part of the majority population’s life as something shameful? Not saying we should talk about it everywhere, nor all the time, but I do think once every decade or so, on late-night television, should be able pass without comment.

A few weeks back I had the pleasure of talking about trends in contemporary television at TV Drama Vision at the Gothenburg International Film Festival. I spoke about the parallel trends of increasing individualization and resocialization of viewing. I observed that multiplatform and transmedia storytelling (although typically consumed in a non-linear fashion) actually drives linear viewing on the broadcast television platform. Simply because transmedia often uses the broadcast specifically to anchor progress in narrative time, and because much participant interaction around audiovisual media relies on the viewers all having reached the same point in the story at hand.

Since social media audiences already and increasingly consume event television – like the upcoming Oscars – on multiple screens, one thing broadcasters can do raise interest in scheduled drama is to transform broadcasts into live viewing events, like they used to be before reruns, VCRs and so on. An affordable way of achieving this is to lure in the already existing online conversation, in other words reconquering the second and third screens. This is what TV-cirkeln does, and the attraction of the conversation is so strong that even viewers who have already paid premium for the same show, or downloaded it illegally, quite like to return for a second round with a community attached.

This sounds way manipulative, but really, for us at Rundfunk, it’s just the way we were loving and watching television anyway. Then we had the opportunity of turning it into a job. The joy!

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War Without End

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For our company Rundfunk Media AB, Sara Lundin and I have produced a three-part radio series called Det eviga kriget, The Eternal War. It looks at Sweden’s obsession with military history, in particular the Second World War. Why is the war, 70 years later, mentioned daily in the Swedish press when the country did not strictly speaking even participate? Why are especially men so enticed by military history? And why has WWII become a sort of mythos, employed by many in ways quite similar to those of others who engage in Star Wars or Middle Earth?

In the first programme, Sara visits re-enactors and I talk to Eva Kingsepp, one of the editors of the scholarly anthology Hitler für alle, cultural studies on the use of WWII in popular culture.
In the second programme, Sara goes to Boden in northern Sweden to meet the phone salesmen of Svenskt Militärhistoriskt Bibliotek, and I call Magnus Perlstam at Mittuniversitetet to ask, among other things, what kind of people sign up for his online courses on 20th century warfare.
In the third programme, which airs today at 14.03 and tomorrow at 18.15, I visit Peter Englund at the Swedish Academy. A as a historian and bestselling author of military history, designer of strategy games, professor of narratology and sometime war correspondent, he has all kinds of relevant experience to draw upon. But we also talk about a clock donated to him, indirectly, by 18th C monarch Gustavus III – the one which rings when it’s time for him to announce the Nobel Prize in literature – and about growing up in a military town in northern Sweden, waiting for the war which never arrived.

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Quarter Finals: GO TEAM US!

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So the champions’ season of this game show is accelerating towards its riveting end game and on Friday, Marcus Birro and I were cleared for the quarter finals. Which, if I understand the rules correctly, shall air this Friday. Have fun! Go team us!

The beautiful image is borrowed, or more precisely stolen, from the SVT website linked above.

PS It’s not that I haven’t been working the past few months. I totally have. Mostly writing. But I’ll try to post links to the events and things I’ve done or soon enough even I won’t understand what my job actually is.

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Writers On Stories

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Uppsala Nya Tidning hosted its yearly literary salon for the 18th time at Uppsala Stadsteater yesterday, and by yesterday I mean november 19th, 2012, since apparently I never got around to posting this. I was invited to speak after PC Jersild, Bodil Malmsten, Johanna Ekström, Peter Fröberg Idling and Mattias Klum. There is a video which you can find here. I spoke about Carola, of course.

At the theatre, they are/were currently playing some kind of classic crowdpleasers season (and to great reviews!) – Dracula, Fanny & Alexander, and Sound of Music. I always wanted to be in Sound of Music. Yesterday I got closer than I ever will: my mic was labelled “NUN 4”. (I am actually envious too: my actual musical theatre career culminated in the role of “Guard 5”. I’d give a lot to play “nun 4”. In the film, the nun posse get some of the best singing action – one of them is indeed the divine Marni Nixon, better known as the voice of Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady).

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