The Semiotic Threesome

Is it weird to call a PhD thesis’ language erotically charged?

In A Play of Bodies: A Phenomenology Of Videogames, Brendan Keogh, author of Killing is Harmless: A Critical Reading of Spec Ops: The Line, Australian games academic and probably someone I’m going to have to call ‘sir’ at some point going forwards, writes about the challenges of videogame texts. In the thesis, he forwards that videogames are a unique medium where there’s a challenge in divining a text, and that we have to re-examine what a text means and –

Look.

There’s good stuff there.

But, during this writing, he says (quoting Aarsith, describing Ergodicity), the semiotic threesome. The model of semiotics we normally use is one of encoding and decoding; the creator makes the text (encoding), the consumer experiences it (decoding). But that term, that turn of phrase, the idea of the semiotic threesome, where we consider an encoder, and their experience, the decoder and their experience, and the text itself as a trio of entities.

It’s romantic, in a way. It’s something I quite like to imagine – the encoder glimpsing the edges of the decoder, through the text. The text, curling and sinuous between all, entwining them, a thread that transforms and mutates and becomes its own thing. And it in a strange way, means that there is a time, a moment, when the art, the artist, and the audience are all together, in the moment when the audience enjoys the work, and considers what it might mean to mean.

It’s quite sweet.

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