Inter/vention: Free Play in the Age of Electracy (MIT Press)

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A primary concept throughout Jan Rune Holmevik's text is electracy and its place in contemporary studies of both writing and rhetoric. Holmevik explains that electracy is a better descriptor than digital literacy for the reawakening that is occurring within composition. That is, we can't simply throw the same centuries-old rules of writing at digital texts:. That is: if as rhetoricians we accept that language shapes reality, then the term digital literacies is no longer appropriate for describing the innovative forms of creativity that help define our technological world. We can't simply assume that historical quantifications of writing apply to today's digital forms.

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In fact, digital forms of expression, including games, should be just as valued as traditional written i. In the second half of his book, Holmevik explores Stuart Moulthrop's concept of invention as a means of play. Here is where Holmevik's argument fully develops: that electracy isn't just about consuming digital media, or even about creating digital writing, but rather it is about making.

Therefore, electracy is not just about writing; it's about action. Electrate scholars practice, do, make, act, enjoy. They play. Starting at the beginning of the nineteenth century and working forward to today, Holmevik uses the chapters in his text to walk us through the major developments of digital computing. Overall, Holmevik successfully argues that none of the advances that have been made over the past years would have occurred without a healthy dose of play. That is, play—or the ability to creatively experiment without boundaries—is what helps us invent, reinvent, and evolve.

What adds to the overall ethos of Holmevik's argument is the fact that the historical events he presents can hardly be refuted. His presentation is further bolstered by his own personal and professional expertise, a life that has been fully experienced through the balance of work and play.

The Blood Elf paladin Raik, Holmevik's avatar in World of Warcraft , has "killed" more than thirty thousand alliance characters. In his twenty years of virtual killing play, Holmevik is an exterminator.


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He reflects on this play in the context of the virtual consultancy, the EmerAgency, bringing to bear on public policy formation the new resources made accessible to reason through electracy. Ulmer , , p.

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Rather than relying on the implications of juxtaposition, Holmevik extends wordplay to play itself, reflecting on his own experiences making, playing, discussing, critiquing, and contextualizing games over the course of many years. There's a kind of normalcy in this practice. It's no big deal. Whales don't surface and girls don't shrink to enter magical doors.

5-1 | Inter/vention: Free Play in the Age of Electracy

Holmevik just does the work, weaving his experiences with other historical and rhetorical threads. Bogost , , p. He is an activist, challenging his readers not only to incorporate play into their lives but to go beyond merely thinking and writing and instead move toward doing. Imagine this: We have all been under the influence of a dangerous substance. We have been led to believe that literacy should be valued above electracy, that work is more important than play, and that we must value truth and what is right above what brings us pleasure.

Holmevik's intervention confronts us with this somewhat painful truth: that as rhetoricians, scholars, and writers we need to bring more play into our research, teaching, and personal lives. Ultimately he urges us to reject the traditional literacy-based norms of our profession to incorporate more play, to make, to do, to invent.

When he's done, we want to join him on his playful journey, gleefully ripping away the boundaries between work and play.

And with a newly-discovered grounding in history, theory, and practice, we also feel more equipped to make arguments to our colleagues, students, and administrators that not only is play a valid area of research but that it's essential to the advancement of our field. The reason this intervention works is that Holmevik can do what many scholars can't; he has the academic ethos to support his theoretical claims, as well as the street cred of a true gamer.

Holmevik doesn't just study games; he lives them. And it is with this background that he navigates the worlds of both theory and practice, seriousness and play, to bring us a theoretical text that bridges the gaps between academia and gaming. ISBN: The author adds to the theory that electracy does not supplant literacy, just as literacy did not supplant orality; rather, electracy is informed by literacy.

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He argues that the deepest way to understand the importance and vitality of the electrate life is to study play and how play shapes one's electracy. Adopting Ulmer's theory that play is the behavior inherent in an electrate life, Holmevik traces the digital landscape from its inception-weaving the idea of electracy as play through it and exploring everything from informatics and the rise of modern computing all the way to massively multiplayer gaming practices.

He foregrounds his concept of hacker noir, discussing how hacker heuretics invent new forms and practices through playful interactions interventions with a medium, which in turn shape the digital tools we now use and play with daily. This, in turn, complicates the deep connections that occur across what he calls the ludic transversal, which is inherent in electrate environments and in being electrate.

In examining the history of computing informatics , he highlights the importance of exploration and play and shows how this play challenges and rewards work, which has important implications in life off the screen, as well as life on the screen. He uses hacker noir to explain how play with technology shapes one's electracy and helps create an electrate individual.