Just Trying to Get Aarseth's Ideas

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When I read the introduction to Epen J. Aarseth’s Cybertext: Perspective on Ergodic Literature, I thought that I would enjoy this era of communication more than expected because it would bring up many new ideas about games and cyber literature that I had been exposed to, but never really explored in depth or academically.  However, Chapters two through four were extremely difficult and I gained only bits of information from them.  I can see why Dr. Jerz read this in graduate school.  Chapter two  was especially difficult for me.  I have somewhat of a grasp on the semiotics that he was discussing; however, I often had difficulty keeping up with his examples.  This may be because I have never actually played these games before and had difficulty following the verbal explanations (the pictures did help a bit, though).  I also understood somewhat the ideas about how cybertext is not “nonlinear” but could not find a place where he actually defined what cybertext is. 

However, I found myself enjoying the ideas invoked in chapter three much more than those in chapter two, especially when Aarseth writes, “So what is a text?  Or, what circumstances allow us to describe a certain object as a text?  This question is both helped and hindered by the fact that no universal definition of text exists” (62).  He goes on to write, “A text, then, is any object with the primary function to relay verbal information.  Two observations follow from this definition: (1) a text cannot operate independently of some material medium, and this influences its behavior, and (2) a text is not equal to the information it transmits” (62).  I thought that all of these questions and ideas were thought provoking.  I am considering exploring this sort of a topic in my final research paper by examining text as art, or art that is textual, so this is helping me to think more about what exactly a text is. 

According to Aarseth’s definition, a speech, verbally given and not written down, cannot be a text, even though it meets both of his observations.  This is so because a verbal speech is not a tangible object.  However, is any online writing an object?  I think the answer has to be no.  The computer is an object, and if the words were printed it would be an object, but no one can touch the actual words.  And if online material is a text, then could not a verbal speech also be a text because it cannot be given without the person, that may fall in place of the object?  To me, object implies tangibility.  It sounds to me like Aarseth is talking about texts as ideas rather than as objects, because I still cannot see how a computer keyboard is really any different from a typewriter keyboard; a pencil and paper; ink, a quill, and parchment; or the human voice.  I understand that there are differences, but these differences do not seem to require all of the new and complicated ideas that Aarseth points out. 

Maybe one of my classmates has some insight about this disconnect between Aarseth’s points and my understanding.

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