May 11, 2008
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Torill Swings

Torill Mortensen’s weblog seldom criticizes her colleagues, but a recent virtual conference on World of Warcraft has brought out her inner troll. The questions in the session, she recalls, were all asking the panelists for predictions.

1. Given that computer technology and Internet have stabilized, are current virtual worlds a technological dead end?

2. Other than WoW's are there really any long-term viable business models for virtual worlds?

3. Would standardization of software-data platforms be revolutionary, permitting migration across many worlds?

Her summary: “‘As a team building experience, this conference was interesting, it brought together a lot of people from all over the US, and some from beyond. As scholarship? Well, let's say: I know in which context I can use this experience :)” And her title: Sorry, crystal ball is DC'ed!

In a related vein, Jonathan Gottschall in the Boston Globe calls for literary criticism to recover its footing by planting its feet in firmer, more rational soil.

Though the causes of the crisis are multiple and complex, I believe the dominant factor is easily identified: We literary scholars have mostly failed to generate surer and firmer knowledge about the things we study. While most other fields gradually accumulate new and durable understanding about the world, the great minds of literary studies have, over the past few decades, chiefly produced theories and speculation with little relevance to anyone but the scholars themselves. So instead of steadily building a body of solid knowledge about literature, culture, and the human condition, the field wanders in continuous circles, bending with fashions and the pronouncements of its charismatic leaders.