instrumental stories

‘Science has always been in conflict with narratives’ [13]

We have seen how a putative theory of interactivity might oscillate between the preferred register of the post-modern (serious, plural, decentred and legitimated by the academy) and the frivolous register of the game (playful, ephemeral, banal and without value). A further approach is suggested in The Postmodern Condition in which Lyotard outlines an opposition between narrative knowledge (convivial, traditional) and instrumental knowledge (cybernetic, scientific). The game can be considered as a cybernetic construct (a goal directed system of control and feedback) and as such, placed on the side of the instrumental, whereas narrative knowledge, argues Lyotard, is an older form - ‘narration is the quintessential form of customary knowledge...’ and ‘what is transmitted through narrative is the pragmatic which establishes the social bond’. Legitimation and authority are immanent to narrative form and are established within and through the act of narration itself (see Hayden White quote above). By contrast authority and legitimation are extrinsic to the form of instrumental knowledge. In scientific discourse legitimation must be fought for. Moreover, instrumental knowledge according to Lyotard is set apart from the language games that constitute the social bond. The analagous oppositions may be summed up thus:

Instrumental knowledge Narrative knowledge
science history
simulation narrative
game story
uncertain legitimate
synchronic diachronic

These oppositions sketch out the structural differences between two different kinds of representation, and two modes of spectatorship. It seems that the truth-effects of stories and games are very different.The question of legitimacy and certainty is central - the simulation remains a model which does not have the ability to auto-legitimate itself in the way an account does. Structured as it is around a core of what-if statements, the truth of a simulation or game can never be more than hypothetical. [14]


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