Ergodic literature

Ergodic literature

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Ergodic literature'
Start a new discussion about 'Ergodic literature'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Ergodic literature is a term coined by Espen J. Aarseth
Espen J. Aarseth
-External links:*...

 in his book Cybertext—Perspectives on Ergodic Literature, and is derived from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 words ergon, meaning "work", and hodos, meaning "path". (Ergodic is used in a different sense
Ergodic (disambiguation)
Aside from its generic use as the generic adjective ergodic, ergodic may relate to:* Ergodic hypothesis, a postulate of thermodynamics* Ergodic theory, a branch of mathematics* Ergodic literature, literature that requires special effort to navigate...

 in mathematics and thermodynamics.) The most commonly cited definition of ergodic literature is from pages 1–2 of Aarseth's book:

In ergodic literature, nontrivial effort is required to allow the reader to traverse the text. If ergodic literature is to make sense as a concept, there must also be nonergodic literature, where the effort to traverse the text is trivial, with no extranoematic responsibilities placed on the reader except (for example) eye movement and the periodic or arbitrary turning of pages.


Cybertext
Cybertext
Cybertext is the organization of text in order to analyze the influence of the medium as an integral part of the literary dynamic, as defined by Espen Aarseth in 1997...

 is a subcategory of ergodic literature that Aarseth defines as "texts that involve calculation in their production of scriptons"(Cybertext, page 75). The process of reading printed matter, in contrast, involves "trivial" extranoematic effort, that is, merely moving one's eyes along lines of text and turning pages. Thus, hypertext fiction
Hypertext fiction
Hypertext fiction is a genre of electronic literature, characterized by the use of hypertext links which provides a new context for non-linearity in "literature" and reader interaction. The reader typically chooses links to move from one node of text to the next, and in this fashion arranges a...

 of the simple node and link variety is ergodic literature but not cybertext. A non-trivial effort is required for the reader to traverse the text, as the reader must constantly select which link to follow, but a link, when clicked, will always lead to the same node. A chat bot such as ELIZA
ELIZA
ELIZA is a computer program and an early example of primitive natural language processing. ELIZA operated by processing users' responses to scripts, the most famous of which was DOCTOR, a simulation of a Rogerian psychotherapist. Using almost no information about human thought or emotion, DOCTOR...

 is a cybertext because when the reader types in a sentence, the text-machine actually performs calculations on the fly that generate a textual response (ELIZA is categorised as a cybertext on page 75 and in figure 3.2). The I Ching
I Ching
The I Ching or "Yì Jīng" , also known as the Classic of Changes, Book of Changes and Zhouyi, is one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts...

 is likewise a cybertext because it contains the rules for its own reading. The reader actually carries out the calculation, but the rules are clearly embedded in the text itself. It has been argued that these distinctions are not entirely clear, and scholars still debate the fine points of the definitions of ergodic literature and cybertext. http://grandtextauto.gatech.edu/2005/08/12/clarifying-ergodic-and-cybertext

One of the major innovations of the concept of ergodic literature is that it is not medium-specific. New media researchers have tended to focus on the medium of the text, stressing that it is for instance paper-based or electronic. Aarseth broke with this basic assumption that the medium was the most important distinction, and argued that the mechanics of texts need not be medium-specific. Ergodic literature is not defined by medium, but by the way in which the text functions. Thus, both paper-based and electronic texts can be ergodic: "The ergodic work of art is one that in a material sense includes the rules for its own use, a work that has certain requirements built in that automatically distinguishes between successful and unsuccessful users." (Cybertext, p 179)

The examples Aarseth gives include a diverse group of texts: wall inscriptions of the temples in ancient Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 that are connected two-dimensionally (on one wall) or three dimensionally (from wall to wall or room to room); the I Ching
I Ching
The I Ching or "Yì Jīng" , also known as the Classic of Changes, Book of Changes and Zhouyi, is one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts...

; Apollinaire’s “calligrammes
Calligrammes
Calligrammes, subtitled Poems of war and peace 1913-1916, is a collection of poems by Guillaume Apollinaire, and was first published in 1918 . Calligrammes is noted for how the typeface and spatial arrangement of the words on a page plays just as much of a role in the meaning of each poem as the...

” in which the words of the poem “are spread out in several directions to form a picture on the page, with no clear sequence in which to be read”; Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand was a Russian-American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter. She is known for her two best-selling novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and for developing a philosophical system she called Objectivism....

’s play "Night of January 16th
Night of January 16th
Night of January 16th is a play written by Ayn Rand, inspired by the death of the "Match King", Ivar Kreuger. First produced under a different name in 1934, it takes place entirely in a court room and is centered on a murder trial. It was a hit of the 1935-36 Broadway season...

", in which members of the audience form a jury that chooses one of two endings; Marc Saporta’s Composition No. 1, Roman, which is a novel with shuffleable pages; Raymond Queneau
Raymond Queneau
Raymond Queneau was a French poet and novelist and the co-founder of Ouvroir de littérature potentielle .-Biography:Born in Le Havre, Seine-Maritime, Queneau was the only child of Auguste Queneau and Joséphine Mignot...

’s One Hundred Thousand Billion Poems
Hundred Thousand Billion Poems
Raymond Queneau’s Hundred Thousand Billion Poems or One hundred million million poems , published in 1961 , is a set of ten sonnets. They are printed on card with each line on a separated strip, like a heads-bodies-and-legs book...

; B. S. Johnson’s The Unfortunates; Milorad Pavic
Milorad Pavic (writer)
Milorad Pavić was a Serbian poet, prose writer, translator, and literary historian. He was also a candidate for Nobel Prize in Literature....

’s Landscape Painted with Tea; Joseph Weizenbaum
Joseph Weizenbaum
Joseph Weizenbaum was a German-American author and professor emeritus of computer science at MIT.-Life and career:...

’s ELIZA
ELIZA
ELIZA is a computer program and an early example of primitive natural language processing. ELIZA operated by processing users' responses to scripts, the most famous of which was DOCTOR, a simulation of a Rogerian psychotherapist. Using almost no information about human thought or emotion, DOCTOR...

; Will Crowther and Don Woods’s Adventure; James Meehan’s Tale-spin; William Chamberlain and Thomas Etter’s Racter
Racter
Racter was an artificial intelligence computer program that generated English language prose at random.-History:The name of the program is short for raconteur. The sophistication claimed for the program was likely exaggerated, as could be seen by investigation of the template system of text...

; Michael Joyce’s afternoon: a story
Afternoon, a story
Afternoon, a story is a work of electronic literature written in 1987 by American author Michael Joyce. It was published by Eastgate Systems in 1990 and is known as the first hypertext fiction....

; Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle
Richard Bartle
Richard Allan Bartle is a British writer, professor and game researcher, best known for being the co-creator of MUD1 and the author of the seminal Designing Virtual Worlds. He is one of the pioneers of the massively multiplayer online game industry.-Life and career:Bartle received a Ph.D...

’s Multi-User Dungeon (aka MUD1); and James Aspnes’s TinyMUD
TinyMUD
TinyMUD is the name of a MUD server codebase, and the first MUD running that codebase. The MUD itself has subsequently come to be known as "TinyMUD Classic" or simply "Classic", or occasionally "DaisyMUD"...

. With the exception of Tale-spin, where a program generates a linear text, all these examples can be said to require non-trivial effort from the reader, who must participate actively in the construction of the text. It has been argued that the effort required to read Apollinaire's calligrammes is not http://grandtextauto.gatech.edu/2005/08/12/clarifying-ergodic-and-cybertext.

The concepts of cybertext and ergodic literature were of seminal importance to new media studies, in particular literary approaches to digital texts and to game studies.

See also

  • Electronic literature
    Electronic literature
    Electronic literature is a literary genre consisting of works of literature that originate within digital environments.-Definitions:N. Katherine Hayles discusses the topic in the online article...

  • Digital poetry
    Digital poetry
    Digital poetry is a form of electronic literature, displaying a wide range of approaches to poetry, with a prominent and crucial use of computers...

  • Fighting Fantasy
    Fighting Fantasy
    Fighting Fantasy is a series of single-player fantasy roleplay gamebooks created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. The first volumes in the series were published by Puffin in 1982, with the rights to the franchise eventually being purchased by Wizard Books in 2002...

  • Interactive fiction
    Interactive fiction
    Interactive fiction, often abbreviated IF, describes software simulating environments in which players use text commands to control characters and influence the environment. Works in this form can be understood as literary narratives and as video games. In common usage, the term refers to text...

  • Cybertext
    Cybertext
    Cybertext is the organization of text in order to analyze the influence of the medium as an integral part of the literary dynamic, as defined by Espen Aarseth in 1997...