Author Archives: nichollp

Collective Culture

Today’s readings include “The New Socialism: Global Collectivist Society Is Coming Online” by Kevin Kelly and “Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism” by Jaron Lanier. While in general, Kelly seems fascinated by the positive improvements that collectivism can offer our digital and social environments, Lanier criticizes the collectivism he calls “hive mind” for what elements he feels are lost in the transaction- our personality, our voice and even our ability to discern. Before explaining the tension between their ideas, I will first start with Kelly’s perspective.

In his article, Kelly describes the communal function of digital culture, its collectivism, as a new form of socialism. This is because the digital exchanges are centered around social interaction, not ideology as the term “socialism” evokes at first glance. Kelly terms it “a sort of socialism uniquely tuned for a networked world” (Kelly 1). It is characterized by an interaction that- as we have learned in discussing networks previously- relies heavily on a widespread connectivity of individuals; the eventual ability to “connect everyone to everyone” (Kelly 1). It is the force dubbed “dot-communism” by John Barlow in the 1990s, derived of “free agents” and a lack of owned property (Kelly 1). Since the Internet functions as a global platform, this new socialism produces a world-wide egalitarian environment. The implementation of the Creative Commons alternative copy right liscence and the proliferation of file sharing have aided this growing communal digital landscape.

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Ergo Pages, Ergo Perspective; Ergodic Literature

In “Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature”, Espen J. Aarseth defines and defends “ergodic literature”, named after the Greek words ergon and hodos (meaning “work and “path”) to be highly performative compared to typical readings of texts. He is careful not to compare it too closely with literature because he is not trying to prove that it fits the same constraints, but instead to investigate it for its own functional features. Though he admits this way of reading still must have some linear characteristics– “the act of reading must take place sequentially, word for word”– ergodic literature and cybertexts create active readers where as linear narratives do not (Aarseth 2). The two types of readers Aarseth describes are divided by their ways of experiencing the text. Readers of narratives are “voyeuristic”, “powerless”, merely looking at a book” (Aarseth 3). However, cybertext readers experience the “investment of personal improvization”, “a struggle not merely for interpretive insight but also for narrative control” and traverse the paths presented by texts with intent (Aarseth 3).

Typically, I expect research material such as this to first explain the topic and terms and then to hit me with the theory or counterarguments. However, it is not until page twelve that Aarseth starts a section entitled “What is Cybertext?”, in which he goes on to (finally) define text.  Not to mention, there are multiple times in the introduction where he notes which chapters will continue a discussion of which topics. Though that in itself may be “normal” protocol for an introduction, when paired with the links beside the text (which are obviously only functional when read digitally), it seems that Aarseth created this article with a bit of ergodic encoding. Afterall, as a reader, I could choose which, or how many of those links I would like to explore, if I would like to skip ahead to chapter 4 and if I would like to crush some of the linear functions at work with my “narrative control”. Ergodic texts are characterized by an “unlimited possibility for variation” and also a reminder of paths not taken– or links unexplored (Aarseth 9).

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