Sunday 11th July 2010 – Tuesday 13th July 2010
Mansfield College, Oxford
Reading with the Body: Interpreting Three Dimensional Media as Narrative
Umeå University/HUMlab, Sweden
This paper argues that virtual online worlds are complex sites for the realization of narrative, in a form of embodied reading that is posthuman and performative.
The in-world avatar is the embodiment of an interpreting agent in the virtual world. Such devices accomplish a number of functions in terms of the narrative realisation. The avatar contributes to the posthuman realisation of narrative through the navigation of the spatial attributes, the setting up of perspective in terms of Point of View (POV) in the reading, and the introduction of a character agent into the narrative architecture of the virtual world. Such a series of characteristics results in a cybernetic relationship between the virtual world, as a text, and its reception, interpretation and responses that can be offered to it. Such a relationship is based in the performative possibilities represented in the virtual world. Architecture becomes the grammar of reading in the virtual world, with design and code, copyright and the address of its objects and inhabitants, that which makes the narratives.
The meeting of an embodied agent in a virtual world results in tensions between phenomenological and hermeneutical conceptions of meaning. Building on the work of Harroway (1991), Aarseth (1997), Hayles (1999), and Jenkins (2003), this paper argues for the posthuman credentials of virtual worlds, as media that is read performatively. In doing so, it is proposed that the reading of virtual worlds has more in common with the role of narrative in pilgrimage, megalithic sculpture and the performance of place bound religious rituals.
Download Draft Conference Paper (pdf)