Refiguring Minds in Narrative Media

Refiguring Minds in Narrative Media

Refiguring Minds in Narrative Media

Refiguring Minds in Narrative Media


How do writers represent cognition, and what can these representations tell us about how our own minds work? Refiguring Minds in Narrative Media is the first single-author book to explore these questions across media, moving from analyses of literary narratives in print to those found where so much cultural and artistic production occurs today: computer screens.

Expanding the domain of literary studies from a focus on representations to the kind of simulations that characterize narratives in digital media, such as those found in interactive, web-based digital fictions and story-driven video games, David Ciccoricco draws on new research in the cognitive sciences to illustrate how the cybernetic and ludic qualities characterizing narratives in new literary media have significant implications for how we understand the workings of actual minds in an increasingly media-saturated culture. Amid continued concern about the impact of digital media on the minds of readers and players today, and the alarming philosophical questions generated by the communion of minds and machines, Ciccoricco provides detailed examples illustrating how stories in virtually any medium can still nourish creative imagination and cultivate critical--and ethical--reflection. Contributing new insights on attention, perception, memory, and emotion, Refiguring Minds in Narrative Media is a book at the forefront of a new wave of media-conscious cognitive literary studies.


Stories, Minds, and Media

I entered the thought space of the octopus. It was, more specifically, a mimic octopus, a species renowned for its ability to alter its color, shape, and behavior in order to elude or repel prey— as it plays the scene as anything from inconspicuous coral to a venomous lion fish. I myself was playing Mimesis (2012), a computationally driven narrative created by Fox Harrell and the team at his Imagination, Computation, and Expression Laboratory at mit, and the creature in question was serving as my undersea avatar. Not a story in any singular or conventional sense, nor strictly speaking a game given the absence of winning or losing outcomes, Mimesis is certainly “an exploration of what else we might play,” to borrow from Stuart Moulthrop’s description of one of his own works of digital literature.1 For me, and for the conception of this book, it is also an ideal illustration of how new and perhaps unlikely forms of narrative media continue a longstanding literary preoccupation with aesthetic treatments of mind.

Through the octopus’s encounters with a number of other anthropomorphized sea creatures, Mimesis stages a series of what social psychology refers to as “microaggressions,” utterances or behaviors that may appear superficially benign but convey subtle forms of prejudice and hostility. in each encounter, the player chooses from a circumscribed number of modes of response to the comments of the other sea animals that assume that we have, for example, “foreign status” or “criminal intent.” Via a click and drag mouse input that swipes the screen horizontally, we can adjust our outward demeanor from more “open” to more “closed.” Or we can click on the avatar itself and adjust our internal stance with a vertical swipe that moves from more “positive” to more “negative.” the various permutations of these positions make us either “oblivious,” “confused,” “suspicious,” or “aggressive” in what we say to the creatures we . . .

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