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Andy Cameron
interactivity
narrative


A Literary You-topia
part 7

If the repressed reading of interactivity is that of the game, the preferred readings are interactivity as liberation, and interactivity as Post-Modernism come true.

In S/Z, Barthes describes two types of writing, readerly writing and writerly writing. What happens if we take the notion of the writerly at face value, innocently? Let us reproduce the notion of the writerly - or rather, let us post-produce it. Let us abolish the distinction between the producer (Barthes) and the reader (me, you) and rewrite the writerly. Let us read excessively, irresponsibly, futuristically.

‘The goal of literary work (of literature as work) is to make the reader no longer a consumer, but a producer of the text...

The writerly text is a perpetual present, upon which no consequent language (which would inevitably make it past) can be superimposed; the writerly text is ourselves writing...

In this ideal text, the networks are many and interact, without any of them being able to surpass the rest; this text is a galaxy of signifiers, not a structure of signifieds; it has no beginning; it is reversible; we gain access to it by several entrances, none of which can be authoritatively declared to be the main one; the codes it mobilizes extend as far as the eye can see ...’ [11]

In this excessive reading the writerly becomes a fantasy of the multi-linear text, Barthes a kind of Nostradumus of literary theory, writerly writing the uncanny prophecy of an interactive literature come to pass. Indeed, a number of commentators have noted the way in which poststructuralist writing seems to anticipate the non-linearity of new technology. In Hypertext - the convergence of contemporary critical theory and technology, George P Landow suggests that the literary theories of structuralist and post-structuralist thinkers (especially Barthes and Derrida) find their embodiment in interactive hypertextual forms made possible by new technology. Hypertextual and non-linear structures promise Barthes’ writerly text, never far from the possibility of rewriting, multivocal, decentred, without boundaries, a text which can break free from the chains of closure, a text whose instability lies not in our postmodern apprehension of it but in its very condition of being. Hypertext for Landow is post-structuralism made flesh, transubstantiated - Foucault’s death of the Author a corpse and a smoking gun, Derridean débordement actualized as hypertextual annotation... [12]

The problem with this kind of literal and utopian mapping of post-structuralist theory onto new technology is that it fails to acknowledge its own excessiveness. To literally and deterministically locate a set of complex, heterogenous and ambiguous ideas about the social processes of reading within a specific technology seems to be missing the point. One might as well argue that the telephone system is post structuralist. It is ironic that a set of theories which stress plurality and indeterminacy should be employed in the service of a reductive equivalence between very different types of object, a critical discourse of interpretation on the one hand and a machinery of interaction on the other. Just as theory is not praxis, interpretation is not interaction.

 
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