The Text/Reader Interface: From Videogames to Literature
This essay explores the relationship between the reader’s engagement with literature, and in particular with narrative texts, and the player’s interaction with videogames. It builds on the concept of “interface,” arguing that in videogames the interface is the layer (both physical and conceptual) that enables players to intervene meaningfully in the game world. According to recent, second-generation cognitive science, meaning is grounded in the embodied interaction between an organism and its environment; it is such basic meaning that players generate by acting on the interface of the game. The interface can, then, be thought of as a hermeneutic space. The author goes on to argue that this approach can be applied, with important modifications, to print narratives. In his theory of “negativity,” Wolfgang Iser came very close to the idea that texts have an interface through which readers can participate in the meaning-making process. Despite being conceptually mediated and propositional, interpretive meanings are derived from simple, embodied interactions with an environment. This is why, the author concludes, playing a videogame can be seen as a metaphor for the way readers play with the meanings of a story, within the text’s hermeneutic space.
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