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Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature Hardcover – 6 Aug 1997


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"A book that critics and researchers in the field cannot easily ignore." -- Svenska Dagbladet

Book Description

From computer games to hypertext fiction, Aarseth explores the aesthetics and textual dynamics of digital literature

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Amazon.com: HASH(0x8ea58d44) out of 5 stars 3 reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8e70d780) out of 5 stars A fascinating subject 30 April 2006
By Dr. Lee D. Carlson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The word `ergodic' is very familiar in mathematics and physics, where in the former it designates measure-preserving transformations and in the latter an equivalence between time and space averages. To see the term appear in literary analysis is therefore interesting, and instigates curiosity as to its role there. The author of this book is the first one to refer to `ergodic literature' and he therefore gives the reader insight into the subject that perhaps cannot be obtained anywhere else. As a whole the book is very interesting, even though at times it might appear that the author is skating to close to the `deconstructive' school of literary criticism.

When one reads a book in the "normal" way one stares at the cover, reads the title, opens the book, and then begins reading at the first page and continues reading until the book is finished. The content of the book usually does not require the reader to perform any particular actions other the mere act of turning the pages and reading. But in the Internet age it is clear that texts or books (i.e. "hypertext") can require that the reader become more "active". For example, the reader may have to click on hyperlinks, input words or information to the story or text, or even interact with story by using user interfaces so that the story can take on a different path or even have a different ending.

To require the `reader' to become actively involved is the key strategy of ergodic literature. As the author states, a `nontrivial' effort is required by the reader to get through an ergodic text. This is to be contrasted with a nonergodic literature where no such effort is needed. In ergodic literature, something else must be occurring outside the confines of the thought processes of the reader. This is what the author refers to as the `extranoematic' responsibilities on the part of readers when they `interact' with ergodic literature.

So other than `hypertext', are there any other examples of ergodic literature in history? Interestingly, the author points to the ancient Chinese text I Ching, The Book of Changes, as an example, due to the use of randomization to combine the texts of the `hexagrams.' The author gives a few other examples, all of them of which should be familiar to the experienced reader. All of these examples require that the `reader' participate in some way with the text or the play. For one example, the result of court trial is dependent on the `vote' of the reader.

Of course, this book itself is not an example of ergodic literature since it presents a case for it in an organized `linear' fashion, and readers must respect this linear order if they are to fathom the arguments of words of the author. However when reading the book one can see the value and challenge of ergodic literature. A computer game for example, could be viewed as a full-fledged novel. Literary purists may be cringe at this prospect, but to this reviewer it signifies a fascinating development, and one that could evolve into a genre that depends on advanced technology. And along these same lines, the ability of the `reader' to change the "flow" of the text has interesting ramifications for the field of artificial intelligence. A story that can adapt to the input of the reader, or even perhaps to learn from it and then rewrite it if necessary is an exciting prospect. Ergodic literature will no doubt expand in its ramifications and complexity in the twenty-first century, due mostly to the more exotic technologies that will be developed alongside of it.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8ea59c08) out of 5 stars THE book on interactive narrative studies 21 July 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Aristotle is alive and he is norwegian! Finally here is the lost book of Poetics. If you are one of the rare race of people that like to think about videogames rather than play with them, you will love this book. Maybe many scholars won't pay Aarseth much attention, but time will speak by itself. This is the most intelligent, visionary and interesting book available about interactive fiction/narrative/drama/or-whatever-name-you-like.
7 of 21 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8ea5a094) out of 5 stars Just get it 16 Jan. 2000
By elinesca - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
... what else is necessary to say. This book will spur so many thoughts and ideas that you will be reading it for ever after. It is a must for any serious hypertext/cybertext scholar.
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