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Ergodic literature

From Academic Kids

Ergodic literature is literature that requires special effort to navigate. The term is derived from the Greek words ergon, meaning "work" and hodos, meaning "path". It's described as non-linear literature.

This can mean having to click on hyperlinks to follow the text, or having to use menus to continue reading in a new place, or navigating by more unconventional means as in computer games, for instance. This is different from conventional "nonergodic" literature that almost never requires the reader to do anything beyond simply turning pages and moving their eyes. In this literature, the 'user'--not only a 'reader'--has to perform complex semiotic operations to construct the reading. Ergodic texts demand an active role of the reader.

The term was coined by Espen Aarseth in his book Cybertext--Perspectives on Ergodic Literature,. Though it might be supposed that this kind of literature was born in the second half of the 20th century, at the same time as computers, the fact is that the critics of this literature often mention the I Ching as the first example of ergodic literature. Also known as the Book of Changes, the text is from the time of the Western Zhou Dynasty (1122-770 B.C.). The I Ching is made up of sixty-four symbols, called hexagrams, which are binary combinations of six whole or broken changing lines--which is why it's also called the Book of Changes. A hexagram has a main text and six others, smaller than the main text. One for each line.

Another good example of ergodic literature is Composition No.1, a novel on cards written by Marc Saporta in 1961.

See also

Examples of ergodic literature online:


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