Paradox and Play: Beyond Computer Games

Mona Mahall, Asli Serbest

This paper investigates ludic interfaces invented by those who should, according to entertainment industries, only consume them as finished products: User consumers, who set their hands on electronic devices, computers, consoles, hardware or software, are the protagonists of a history and theory of technological misuse. And it is these forms of misuse, which offend technological industries and mass culture by opposing individual, creative and funny alternatives – consumer production in the words of Michel de Certeau [1]– to homogenous and uniform commodities. We are methodically intrigued in customers, actually underdogs, who find gaps in the middle of new media multi business, who somehow subvert, board, or break technical systems from within the belly of the beast. For which reason, is not clear, they become inventive for their own creative projects, for their own style, hitting mainstream use, hybridizing interfaces, and crashing technical dispositives. In this however, they obviously make a statement on economic and political trajectories intended by the market. Certainly, they are having fun.
Following the approach of anthropologist Gregory Bateson [2], we investigate humor being linked to some kind of paradoxes in thinking. To think of things and uses and at the same time, imagine their counterparts, non-things and anti-uses, is related to some kind of humor occurring when circuits of figure and ground are completed. It is about conventions and about the inversion of conventions, which, not only makes fun, but which becomes important when conventions are usually set up by money-intensive markets and their industries.
In this sense, we will investigate different forms of media misuse that somehow close up the circle of paradox, and thus show alternative practices within the mass market. We will try to classify their different practices and strategies. Following fields will structure a systematic approach:
- Pragmatics of misuse, reuse, conversion, inversion, and subversion.
- All sorts of tinkering and do-it-yourself.
- Forms of play and pleasure.
For the panel we will present examinations on actual instances of misuse, involving technological devices, like radio, TV, computer and consoles.

[1] Michel de Certeau: The Practice of Everyday Life (original: L'invention du quotidien. Vol. 1, Arts de faire', 1980), 1984 http:// www.ubu.com/papers/de_certeau.html
[2] Gregory Bateson: The Position of Humor in Human Communication, in: Cybernetics, Heinz von Foerster (ed.), New York 1953, p. 1-47
Gregory Bateson: Steps to an Ecology of Mind, Chicago 1972

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