Elements of Style: Homo Ludens, Deludens, Transludens
(submitted by sean smith to the 2009 artfulness of play conference at the university of western ontario)
Play is a fundamental component of human cultures, one that has infused other structural forms of society such as art, philosophy and law (cf. Huizinga, Homo Ludens). Inherent in play to greater or lesser degrees are sets of rules that channel the conditions of possibility for the ludic subject, whether towards a particular goal or in freer forms of expression. But in the contemporary digital age, these rules of play become more implicitly rules of a system, algorithmically and architecturally so. Julian Kücklich suggests that cheating — deludology as a strategy — is one way to understand such systems, to learn what constitutes their conditions of possibility and opportunities for agency. Though the theory of deludology is born of the computer game medium, there are still other forms of game in which we play more directly with and against human competitors: is there a violence to these human others in executing strategies of the deludic? Here we turn to Brian Massumi, who suggests style as a third way of approaching the situation. In his analysis, style exists in the liminal space between rules-based technical proficiency and deliberate strategies of cheating, the space where the possible always emerges as a provocation to the game's governing authority. This paper will interrogate play, cheating and style together in trialectic form, as well as in resonance with Paolo Virno's notion of virtuosity, in order to investigate its applicability for a potential micropolitics.