Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Notes on metamodernism has relocated!

Dear reader,

Notes on metamodernism has relocated to WWW.METAMODERNISM.COM ! A new look, new writers (don't worry, the old ones are still in place as well), and lots and lots of new observations and ideas! We have conveniently transferred all our archives as well, so you can go back and forth in time at will. We hope you will keep following us! 

You can also follow us on facebook, where we will post links to larger articles as well as fleeting observations and brief thoughts, and where there is all the space for discussion. Do come and find us at

The editors.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Einheitsdenken nach der postmoderne

Notes on Metamodernism
Robin van den Akker & Timotheus Vermeulen
Paper addressed at Thinking in Unity Conference Ludwig Maximilian University Munchen, Germany, 12-13 November 2010

        The ecosystem is severely disrupted, the financial system is increasingly uncontrollable and the geopolitical structure has recently begun to appear as unstable as it has always been uneven. CEOs and Politicians express their ‘desire for change’ at every interview, voice a heartfelt ‘yes we can’ at each photo-op. Planners and architects increasingly replace their blueprints for environments with environmental ‘greenprints’. And new generations of artists increasingly abandon the aesthetic precepts of deconstruction, parataxis and pastiche in favor of aesth-ethical notions of reconstruction, myth and metaxis. These trends and tendencies can no longer be explained in terms of the postmodern. They express a (often guarded) hopefulness and (at times feigned) sincerity that hint at another structure of feeling, intimating another discourse. History, it seems, is moving rapidly beyond its all too hastily proclaimed end. As Linda Hutcheon put it: let’s face it: the postmodern is over.
In this paper, we will seek to outline, or sketch, the contours of this emerging structure of feeling. We will pay particular attention here to the material sphere of economics, the ethical sphere of politics, and the aesthetic sphere of the arts.
We will call this structure of feeling, or sensibility if you will, metamodernism. According to the Greek-English Lexicon the prefix ‘meta’ refers to such notions as ‘with’, ‘between’, and ‘beyond’. We will use these connotations of ‘meta’ in a similar, yet not indiscriminate fashion.  For we contend that metamodernism should be situated epistemologically with  modernism and postmodernism, ontologically between modernism and postmodernism,  and historically beyond modernism and postmodernism.
Some remarks, finally, on our approach. As the paper’s title, ‘Notes on metamodernism’, suggests, we intend what follows as a series of linked observations rather than a single line of thought. We seek to relate to one another a broad variety of trends and tendencies across current affairs and contemporary aesthetics that are otherwise incomprehensible (at least in terms of the postmodern vernacular), by understanding them in terms of an emergent sensibility we come to call metamodern. We do not seek to impose a predetermined system of thought on a rather particular range of cultural practices. Our description and interpretation of the metamodern sensibility is therefore essayistic rather than scientific, rhizomatic rather than linear, and open-ended instead of closed. It should be understood as an invitation for debate rather than an extending of a dogma...

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The door opens inwards (2)

Some weeks ago, Galerie Tanja Wagner curated the first exhibition explicitly linked to the metamodern. It would be an understatement to say that the exhibition was a success in terms of either popular appreciation or critical acclaim. Art glossy Monopol instantly put Wagner on the front page. Art-Magazin called her the ‘absolute Newcomerin’. Der Tagesspiegel spoke of Wagner as the future of the Berlin art scene. And Die Zeit put lavish praise on the five young artists.

Notes on metamodernism decided to have a look for themselves. Timotheus Vermeulen reports.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The Limits of Postmodern Theory (from a gaming perspective)

From time to time, we receive an interesting mail in our mailbox. Michael McKenny's mail is one of those, so we will post it integrally, below. Michael analysed the limits of postmodern theory. He argues that postmodern theory is not sufficient for a proper understanding of the gaming experience. The following is an excerpt from his BA Thesis, aptly titled "Paradigm shifts" (2009). If you also have an insightful contribution to make to our blog in particular and our research program in general, send an email to: Meanwhile, enjoy the following post - the editors.

In this early part of the twenty first century, the medium of videogames appears to be growing into a level of maturity, as it moves out of the fringes of society and into the realms of popular culture. The evolution of new such forms of communicating a narrative to the masses has profound implications for society, as Marshall McLuhan speculates: “Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men [and women] communicate than by the content of the communication” (McLuhan and Fiore 1996: 8).

I would like to point out how it is tempting to look to the theories laid down through the postmodern discourse in order to conduct this analysis, yet I would also like to highlight the problems with this approach and why established modern theory cannot be rejected; that videogame analysis must be quintessentially metamodern.

Jean Baudrillard’s definition of simulation lends itself to the study of a medium whose very existence lies within digitally created renditions of fictional worlds. Yet the most important point to take from Baudrillard’s contribution to the discourse – from a videogame studies perspective – is the breakdown of established subject-object positions and, subsequently, the individual’s freedom to play with and to freely construct their identity. This in turn invokes Jean-Francois Lyotard’s championing of the rise of the individual’s little narratives, in opposition to society’s metanarratives dictating what its subject should believe.

Videogame players should be understood in terms of an evolution of the active spectator; not only do they negotiate the meaning, they also interact with the narrative, controlling the pacing and the editing. At times they even dictate the order in which the story is told, what dialogue is spoken and the gender and race of the protagonist(s). Despite all of these elements, which would point toward the liberating fervour of postmodernism’s little narratives along with the emergence of bottom up meaning creation, there still exists extensive sets of rules that are dictated by the writers and programmers involved in the game’s production.

This appears to be where the split in this emerging academic area arises: The study of videogames has been largely dominated by a debate between narratology and ludology; that is the debate surrounding whether videogames are an evolution of established narrative forms, or if they are a revolutionary rupture that demand an entirely new analytical model.

Ganzala Frasca epitomises the ludologist’s approach: “Video games imply an enormous paradigm shift for our culture because they represent the first complex simulational media for the masses” (2003: 224); whereas the approach taken by Jan Simons scrutinises the ‘freedom’ that the ludologists’ ‘simulation’ brings, proposing that narrative stories are confined by the author, only “as much as computer-generated simulations are constrained by the algorithms written by the designer of the model” (2007).

It is this space between the two that videogames currently occupy: testing existing notions of fixed narrative production along with the fixed subject-object positions prevalent throughout modernity, yet in many ways, not able to completely break away from them. Rather, these new forms of interactive narratives allow a certain amount of negotiated meaning creation through play and ludic experimentation, yet within a predefined set of rules. Videogames can therefore be viewed as part of a wider movement prevalent in new media, slowly wearing down the old top-down monocratic systems of meaning production, yet from a familiar position that is easy to engage with.

Frasca, G (2003) ‘Simulation versus narrative: Introduction to ludology’ in Mark J.P. Wolf and Bernard Perron (eds)
The Video Game Theory Reader. London: Routledge pp 221 - 236
McLuhan, M and Fiore, Q (1996) The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects (Digitalized edition. 1st edition 1967). San Francisco: Hardwired
Simons, J (2007) ‘Narrative, games, and theory’ in Vol. 7 No. 1 (August) [online] available at accessed on 01.05.2009

Michael's biography:
"I Graduated from the University of Bolton in 2009 with a first class BA(hons) degree, joint between Film Studies and Business Studies. I am due to begin an MA in Film Studies at the University of Bradford, but have to wait until September 2011 for personal and financial circumstances to allow. I currently write for Film&Festivals Magazine, providing feature articles and film festival coverage. My particular areas of interest concern contemporary popular mythology; particularly how new technologies and accompanying cultural paradigm shifts are forcing us to revise (though not reject) previous interpretations of myth in popular culture."