This project has received funding from the European
Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon
2020 research and innovation programme.
Grant agreement No. 834033 AN-ICON.

2021 Interactivity


Can ‘interactiviy’ be saved? A terminological triage.

Espen Aarseth University of Copenhagen

‘Interactivity’ and ‘interactive’ are terms used to describe an ostensibly essential quality of digital technology, but are they robust analytically useful concepts, and if so, describing exactly what? What does it mean to declare a phenomenon ‘interactive’? Is ‘interactivity’ a type of technology, a structural characteristic, or a mode of communication? Using examples from print, games, software, and other material media, this talk will take the adverse view, arguing against usefulness of ‘interactivity’, and suggesting a number of alternative, more precise terms and conceptual models that do not suffer from the same ideological and rhetorical weaknesses.

Espen Aarseth is professor of game studies at the Center for Computer Games Research at the IT University of Copenhagen.  He holds a Cand.Philol. in comparative literature and a Dr.Art. in humanistic informatics, both from the University of Bergen. He is co-founding Editor-in-Chief of the journal Game Studies (2001-), and author of Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature (Johns Hopkins UP 1997. He is currently directing the ERC Advanced Grant project MSG – Making Sense of Games (2016-2021).