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The Cybernetic Assemblage
Why study the experience of speed? Why not perhaps the sensation of speed? Experience is described not just as sensations, for if experience was just sensations, then experience would only be an entirely passive phenomenon, rendering any possible action or thought unfeasible. If we were to say that traditional forms of media, be it newspaper, radio, television, or cinema are systems of ‘mediation’, it implies that the effect of the mediation is purely one way, that there is no option for critique, analysis, let alone identification and enjoyment on part of the subject. Manovich argues against this, that ‘interactivity’ occurs in traditional media, allowing the subject to experience the affects of mediation as an internal change in thought (2001). As has been argued elsewhere (Aarseth, 1997), Manovich misunderstands the concept of interactivity. Interactivity is the element of experience upon which ergodic art is based. It occurs when the subject performs an external action that results in the art form changing in some way, usually in the form of acting back. Manovich’s
‘interactivity’ negates the subject’s actions. A basic model for experience, is that experience comprises of two factors: sensation, and action. In order to recreate this experience from a stored form, (which is one of the aims of media; of experience recreation), the vehicle or media technology must have abilities that initiate mediation and interaction. The assemblage of the vehicle, subject and environment are not just systems of mediation or of interaction, but of the combination of these, a cybernetic assemblage. This combination of interrelating cybernetic systems I shall define as a system of intermediation.
Intermediation describes the concept of a cybernetic feedback loop of mediation; of the mediated feedback between in both directions between the environment and the subject. While the concept of interactivity onlyrefers to the interactive potential of media, intermediation additionally encompasses the ‘interactivity’ of the subject.