Cybertext Might Not Be So Bad Afterall
Reading Espen J. Aarseth’s Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature has really helped to put into perspective exactly what we are going to be discussing in this unit. I was having trouble thinking about how we could discuss it in ways that were similar to what we already discussed about oral, manuscript, and print culture, but it seems that there is a whole large group of people who focus on this topic in highly academic ways. I thought that Aarseth’s ideas about cyberculture were also very interesting, especially the fact that he sees the text as more than just the program that used to write the game or the game itself. He includes all aspects of the technology that is used to create the text. This idea reminded me of the video we watched about the printing press and how Kristensen views the process as important to the actual text, and possibly even as a part of the text itself.
I was also excited about this reading because I was able to make connections like this that I had a more difficult time making before. For instance, Aarseth writes, “The reader’s pleasure is the pleasure of the voyeur. Safe, but impotent. The cybertext reader, on the other hand, is not safe, and therefore, it can be argued, she is not a reader. The cybertext puts its would-be reader at risk: the risk of rejection” (4). I immediately connected this to Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler; however, reading on, I saw that Aarseth was already familiar with this work (7). Actually, as I began reading Calvino’s book, I felt as if I were experiencing something more similar to a cybertext. Although I am not very experienced with cybertext, I have three good friends who worked at, or still work at, Gamestop stores and who somehow constantly found the time to play and beat video games. Because I was a voyeur through their experiences, I could understand what Aarseth was talking about as he discussed his labyrinth ideas.
The more I consider the gaming and cybertext world, the more I can see how it mimics real life experiences much more than only writing can. Before reading this text and considering what we have so far about the various communication movements, I often talked about how my friends were wasting their time in these fictional worlds. We clip newspaper articles that we think are funny or interesting and hang them in our dorm. My favorite article has been one from Reuters that says, “Average video gamer is 35, fat, sad: study,” and I would often make fun of my friends about this. However, I am starting to see that reading is much more solitary than the cybertext world that instead encourages interaction. Aarseth has not won me over to the cybertext side because I will always love the tangibility of the book and real interactions; however, I am starting to see and understand some of the things that make it valuable.