Performative Modelling of Digital Literature

Critical Writing
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This paper starts with a consideration of Jakobson’s model of communication and argues in favour of a more pragmatic version of this as articulated by Jean-Jacques Lecercle. His model introduces the notion of interpellation whereby the text calls the figure of author and reader into subject positions. For our purposes however, this pragmatic model doesn’t account for the presence/function of the machine, vital to any model of digital literature. One way of dealing with this is to posit a second communication layer, an identically shaped model of digital elements laid over the top of Lecercle’s. This raises the question of the connection between the two planes? The answer offered here is ‘performativity’. To develop this further, the language positions of the two models are used as an example, i.e. how are the language of the text and the language of the machine linked through performativity? To answer this question, the paper exploits certain conceptual tools, starting with integrational linguistics. This argues that in natural language, meaning is determined by the performance of communication in specific contexts. This links with the Speech Act theory of John Searle, which itself grew out of J.L. Austin’s notion of ‘performatives’. And it is precisely the notion of Speech Act theory which underlines Geoff Cox’s articulation of code as performative, as speech/act. The paper considers certain objections to this argument – not least concerning the social nature of performative – as well as counters to this. The conclusion gives a very brief account of how the other elements of bi-planar model can similarly be linked through performativity.

(Source: ELD 2015)

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Alvaro Seica