Future Cinema

Course Site for Future Cinema 1 (and sometimes Future Cinema 2: Applied Theory) at York University, Canada

Questions about ergodic texts and technogenesis…

A few queries raised by this week’s readings…

  • Aarseth seems to fetishize interactivity and participation above the potential for meaning-making in any given text, thus privileging form ahead of content. Deleuze & Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus and Lynch’s Twin Peaks: The Return may be non-ergodic, while the Call of Duty video game series is ergodic; yet it would be ridiculous to argue that Call of Duty offers its “readers” more power as authors of meaning in the text than AO or TP’s “readers.” (Witness the online profusion of fan theories and speculation about TP in all its facets.) How can the value of cybertexts be understood in a way that is not simply a formal fetish?
  • Further, Aarseth does not adequately address the fact that ergodic narratives, however seemingly extemporaneous, are nevertheless limited by the calculations, algorithms, and logic internal to the (cyber)text. This is in addition to the inaccessibility that is formally integral to ergodic literature and cybertexts. Despite their superficial interactivity, does the closure of possibility and ambiguity in ergodic literature and cybertexts make them more ideologically coercive than other textual forms?
  • Hayles’ How We Think (2012) could be considered a lengthy rumination on McLuhan’s axiom that “We shape our tools and then our tools shape us,” foregrounding the epigenetic influence of technology on cognition, perception, and knowledge production. This raises a question (similar to the ones posed below by Kate) about a potential danger of predictive algorithms in global information systems: they tend towards closed feedback loops, gradually shearing off aberrations, outliers, deviation, and, consequently, possibility. This points towards a narrowing, as opposed to a flowering or proliferation, of human understanding (Cf. Nicholas Carr, Eli Pariser). If our technology and media are indeed, per McLuhan, protheses and extensions of the human, ought we not treat technology with the same degree of mistrust, inquisition, and even persecution with which humans have treated each other each other throughout history? Should we not more aggressively interrogate and intervene in our technology before its ill effects reach critical mass?

Wed, November 8 2017 » Aarseth, McLuhan, books, hypermedia