Subversive Gaming, Protocol and Ideology: Reading Hayles, Galloway and Bakhtin

Friday, 20 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Oguz Ozgur KARADENIZ, Mugla Sitki Kocman University, Turkey
Digital games are cybernetic systems par excellence, since they involve feedback loops between human and non-human components. During these feedback loops, a process of continuous access and modification of signifiers by the player is accompanied by transcoding of chains of information in the machine memory, typically inaccessible to the operator. This constitutes a semiotic/informatic phenomenon specific to digital media, which N. Katherine Hayles calls flickering signifiers.

This paper argues that this phenomenon is ideological in two aspects: Firstly, as Mikhail Bakhtin (V. N. VoloŇ°inov) argues, physical bodies become ideological products when they acquire meanings and thus become signs. This can be expanded to include information: Although, according to Hayles, information is a pattern utterly without meaning and context, informatic objects become meaningful, and thus ideological, when they are displayed to the operator as signifiers. Secondly, the transcoding between information and signs within the machine is governed by algorithms which ultimately control and limit the human operator's access and interaction, forming the second ideological aspect of digital media and gaming. It follows that, subversive gaming practices include not only the deconstruction of the meaningful/ideological content of games, but also transgressions of the protocols by which this meaningful content is made available to the user.

The aim of this paper is to explore subversive digital gaming practices by offering a reading of Hayles's semiotics of virtuality and Alexander R. Galloway's concepts of gamic act and Protocol in the light of Mikhail Bakhtin's elaboration of signs and ideology. In the scope of this paper, the notion of subversiveness is taken as subversion of ideology, and ideology's relation to semiotics and informatics is formulated drawing from Bakhtin's views on the ideological character of signs and Galloway's concept of Protocol as a mode of control in decentralized societies.