The Reader/ User/ Game Player:

Video Games analysis

You as protagonist/ collaborator: Positioning the reader

Eco - The Role of the Reader: Closed and Open texts


Authoring an interactive work - some interface design guidelines


Eco - The Role of the Reader

Closed texts:
Aim at pulling the reader along a predetermined path, carefully displaying their effects so as to arouse pity or fear, excitement or depression at the due place and at the right moment.
Structured according to an Inflexible project.
Presuppose an average reader resulting from a merely intuitive sociological speculation: a fixed profile.
It is enough for these texts to be interpreted by readers referring to other conventions or oriented by other presuppositions, and the result is incredibly disappointing.
Thus, a closed text, even though aiming at eliciting a sort of obedient cooperation, is in the last analysis randomly open to every pragmatic accident.

Open Texts:
A text that wants the reader to make a series of interpretative choices which even if not infinite, are more than one.
You cannot use the open text as you want, but only as the text wants you to use it.
An open text, however "open" it be, cannot afford whatever interpretation. Rather, it reduces indeterminacy.
An open text outlines a "closed" project of its Model Reader as a component of its structured strategy.
The pragmatic process of interpretation is not an experimental accident independent of the text as text, but is a structural element of its generative process.
The reader is strictly defined by the lexical and syntactical organization of the text: the text is nothing else but the semantic-pragmatic production of its own Model Reader.


Identity Crisis / Multiplicity of Self - Sherry Turkle

What will computer-mediated communication do to our commitment to other people?

Will it satisfy our needs for connection and social participation, or will it further undermine fragile relationships?

New images of multiplicity, heterogeneity, flexibility, slippage and fragmentation dominate current thinking about human identity.

On the Internet people are able to build a self by cycling through many selves. It has thus become a significant social laboratory for experimenting with the constructions and reconstructions of self that characterizes postmodern life. (178)

What kinds of personae do we make?
What relation do these have to what we have traditionally thought of as the "whole" person?
Are they experienced as an expanded self or as separate from the self?
Do our real-life selves learn lessons from our virtual personae?
Are these virtual personae fragments of a coherent real-life personality?
How do they communicate with one another?
Why are we doing this? Is this a shallow game, a giant waste of time?
Is it an expression of an identity crisis of the sort we traditionally associate with adolescence?
Or are we watching the slow emergence of a new, more multiple style of thinking about the mind? (180)

The characters one creates for a MUD (Multi-User-Dungeons; a social virtual reality) are referred to as one's personae. This is from the Latin per sonae which means "that through which the sound comes," in other words, an actor's mask. Interestingly, this is also the root of "person" and "personality." The derivation implies that one is identified by means of a public face distinct from some deeper essence or essences.

All MUDs are organized around the metaphor of physical space. When you first enter a MUD you may find yourself in a medieval church from which you can step out into the town square, or you may find yourself in the coat closet of a large, rambling house.

For example, when you first log on to LambdaMOO, one of the most popular MUDs on the Internet, you see the following description:

The Coat Closet. The Closet is a dark, cramped space. It appears to be very crowded in here; you keep bumping into what feels like coats, boots and other people (apparently sleeping). One useful thing that you've discovered in your bumbling about is a metal doorknob<>b set at waist level into what might be a door. There's a new edition of the newspaper~ Type "news" to see it. (182)

As with reading, there is text, but on MUDs it unfolds in real time and you become an author of the story. As with television, you are engaged with the screen.
As in acting, the explicit task is to construct a viable mask or persona. On MUDs, that persona can be as close to your real self as you choose.

On a MUD one actually gets to build character and environment and then to live within the toy situation.

In this way, the games are Laboratories for the construction of identity, an idea that is well captured by the player who said:

You can be whoever you want to be. You can completely redefine yourself | if you want You can be the opposite sex You can be more talkative. You can be less talkative. Whatever. You can just be whoever you want, really. Whoever you have the capacity to be You don't have to worry about the slots other people put you in as much It s easier to change the way people perceive you, because all they've got is what you show them. (184)

Since MUDs are authored by their players, the solitary author is displaced and distributed.(185)

In MUDs the action has no set endpoint. The boundaries are fuzzy. They are what the anthropologist Clifford Geertz refers to as blurred genres. The routine of playing them becomes part of their players' real lives. (188)

One MUD participant wrote that through participating in an electronic bulletin board and letting the many sides of ourselves show, "We start to resemble little corporations, 'Logins R Us,' and like any company, we each have within us the beancounter, the visionary, the heart-throb, the fundamentalist, and the wild child. Long may they wave." Other participants responded to this comment with enthusiasm. One, echoing the social psychologist Kenneth Gergen, described identity as a "pastiche of personalities" in which "the test of competence is not so much the integrity of the whole but the apparent correct representation appearing at the right time, in the right context, not to the detriment of the rest of the internal 'collective.'" Another said that he thought of his ego "as a hollow tube, through which, one at a time, the 'many' speak through at the appropriate moment.."

Gergen describes us as saturated with the many "voices of humankind" - both harmonious and alien." He believes that as "we absorb their varied rhymes and reasons, they become part of us and we of them. Social saturation furnishes us with a multiplicity of incoherent and unrelated languages of the self." (257)

What is the self when it functions as a society?
What is the self when it divides its labors among its constituent "alters"? (259)

The historian of science Donna Haraway equates a "split and contradictory self' with a "knowing self.": "The knowing self is partial in all its guises, never finished, whole, simply there and original; it is always constructed and stitched together imperfectly; and therefore able to join with another, to see together without claiming to be another." (261)


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