Fingerspitzengefuhl

Copyright: Tor Books

Corey Doctorow is one-of-a-kind, not just a renowed author, a respected blogger and an advocate for Copyright reform; he is also a real doer, someone who makes his Dreams into a reality. One way he does this is by offering all his books under a Creative Commons Copyright- this means that all his books are protected as his property but that anyone who owns a copy has his implicit permission to share, re-imagine or re-mix his work. To aid in this, Doctorow has copies of his books available free on his website, http://craphound.com/.

So why are we brining him up here, under a Sense post? Because Doctorow’s latest book, For The Win, a tale of online gaming, gold farming and economics (available to download here) features one of the most well rendered and easily understood definitions of that Principle. While the excerpt below is understandable on it’s own, this book really should be read in full and I recommend it to anyone.

Without further ado, a selection from Corey Doctorow’s For The Win:



Connor Prikkel had found His People. Technically he was a vice-president, 
but no one reported to him, except for a PA whose job it was to fish him out of 
Command Central a couple times a month, steam-clean him in the corporate gym, 
stick him in the corporate jet, and fire him into crowds of players and press around 
the world to explain -- with a superior smirk -- just how Coca Cola Games managed
to oversee three of the twenty largest economies in the world.

The rest of the time, Connor's job was to work on his fingerspitzengefuhl. That was a 
useful word. It was a German word, of course. The Germans had words foreverything, 
created by the simple expedient of bashing as many smaller words as you needed 
together until you got one monster mouth-murderer like fingerspitzengefuhl that exactly
and precisely conveyed something no other language could even get close to.
Fingerspitzengefuhl means "fingertip feel" -- that feeling you get when you've got the 
world resting against the thick cushion of nerve-endings on the tips of your fingers. 
That feeling when you've got a basketball held lightly in your hands, and you know 
precisely where the next bounce will take it when you let it go. That feeling you get 
when you're holding onto a baby and you can feel whether she's falling asleep now, 
or waking up. That feeling you get when your hands are resting lightly on the 
handlebars of your bike, bouncing down a steep hillside, gentle pressure on the brakes,
riding the razor-edged line between doing an end-over and reaching the bottom 
safely.

Proprioception is your ability to sense where your body is in space relative to 
everything else. It's a sixth sense, and you don't even know you have it until you lose 
it -- like when you intertwine your fingers and thread your hands through your arms 
and find that you wiggle your left finger when you mean to move your right; or when 
you step on a ghost step at the top of a staircase and your foot lands on nothing.

Fingerspitzengefuhl is proprioception for the world, an extension of your sixth sense 
into everything around you. You have fingerspitzengefuhl when you can tell, just by 
the way the air feels, that your class is in a bad mood, or that your teammate is 
upcourt and waiting for you to pass the ball.

Connor's fingerspitzengefuhl meant that he could feel everything that was happening 
in the games he ran. He could tell when there was a run on gold in Svartalfaheim 
Warriors, or when Zombie Mecha's credits take a dive. He could tell when there was a
huge raiding guild making a run at Odin's Fortress, six hundred humans embodied in 
six hundred avs, coordinated by generals and captains and lieutenants. He could tell 
when there was a traffic jam on the Brooklyn Bridge in Zombie Mecha as too many 
ronin tried to enter Manhattan to clear out the Flatiron Building and complete the 
Publishing Quest.

All this knowledge came to him through his ever-rotating, ever-changing feeds -- 
charts, chat-transcripts, server logs, bars representing load and memory and failover 
and rate of subscriber churn and every other bit of changing information from in the 
game. They flickered past in a colorful roll, on the display of his monster widescreen 
laptop, opacity dialled down to 10 percent in the windows that sat over his playscreens
in which he ran four avs in both games.

Every gamerunner had a different way of attaining fingerspitzengefuhl, as personal as
the thought you follow to go to sleep or the reason you fall in love. Some like a lot of 
screens -- four or five. Some listened to a lot of read-aloud text and eavesdropped 
gamechat. Some only watched charts, some only logs, some only game-screens. Coca
Cola Games had hired some industrial psychologists to try to come and unpick the 
game-runners' methods, try to create a system for reproducing and refining it. They'd 
lasted a day before being tossed out of Command Central amid a torrent of abuse and
profanities.

The game-runners didn't want to be systematized. They didn't want to be studied. To 
be a game-runner was to attain fingerspitzengefuhl and vice-versa. Game-runners 
didn't need shrinks to tell them when they had fingerspitzengefuhl. When you had 
fingerspitzengefuhl, you fell into a warm bath, a kind of hyper-alert coma, in which 
knowledge flowed in and out of every orifice at maximum speed. Fingerspitzengefuhl 
needed coffee and energy drinks, junk food and loud goddamned music, grunts of 
your co-workers. Fingerspitzengefuhl didn't need industrial psychology.

Connor's fingerspitzengefuhl was the best. It guided the unconscious dance of his 
fingers on his laptop, guided him to eavesdrop on the right conversations, to monitor 
the right action, to spot the Webblies' fight with the Pinkertons as it began. He grunted
that special grunt that alerted the rest of his tribe to danger, and stabbed at his screen
with a fat finger greased with pizza-oil. The knowledge rippled through the room like a
wave, bellies and chins wobbling as the whole tribe tuned into the fight.

5 Responses to “Fingerspitzengefuhl”

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  4. WinchesterWing says:

    This Life, which seems so fair,
    Is like a bubble blown up in the air
    By sporting children’s breath,
    Who chase it everywhere

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