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Less tangible ways of reading

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Using the Internet, people realize the identity of their offline selves alongside establishing the nature of online simulacra, screen content. Drawing on European philosophy, responding to Asian audiences, the authors argue here for a theory of these processes as seriously ludic (or ‘ludenic'). Asserting the ‘primacy of play' in human–computer interaction (HCI), ‘epistemological Calvinism' (Stone 1995, p. 9) is critiqued. Internet users' plural personalities switch between enabling roles in mundane material and mediated virtual worlds: they alternate aspects of the self, with the hermeneutic goal of constructing from hypertext menus online narratives of the read and hence (explicitly or implicitly) of the reader. The authors' hypothetical account of multicultural media appropriation as fundamentally (if not entirely) ludic is tested against the recorded evidence of Chinese and Malays talking in Malaysian focus groups about their experience of reading three online versions of newspapers. The virtual journalism accessed here was located on websites for the Australian (Melbourne) Age , UK (London) Times , and US (New York) Times . The Internet genre of e-journalism provides its readers with ludic gratification. Engaging with online news narratives can be an enjoyable escape from the daily round. Dutiful Internet use with a worldly purpose is more constrained in its capacity to liberate. As instrumental (with an extrinsic goal), it is therefore less than entirely playful but more materially functional. Nevertheless, the authors seek to show that such obligatory activity on the Web remains liminally ludic.
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Keywords: Internet users; Malaysian identity; electronic journalism; ludic reception; play

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Melbourne, Parkville, PO Box 4219, 3052, Melbourne, Australia

Publication date: September 1, 2005

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