Twentieth-century serial figures enacted a “parergonal” logic by crossing boundaries between various media, slipping in and out of their frames, and showing them—in accordance with a Derridean logic of the parergon—to be reversible. With the rise of interactive, networked, and convergent digital media environments, these medial logics are transformed. A figure like Batman exemplifies the transition from a “parergonal” to a new “parergodic” logic; the latter term builds upon Espen Aarseth’s notion of the “ergodic” situation of gameplay—where ergodics combines the Greek ergon (work) and hodos (path), thus positing nontrivial labor as the aesthetic mode of players’ engagement with games. Ergodic media give rise to new forms of seriality that accompany, probe, and trace the developmental trajectories of the new media environment and the blurring of relations between work and play, between paid labor and the incidental work culled from our leisure and entertainment practices.
Shane Denson is a DAAD postdoctoral fellow at Duke University and a member of the research group “Popular Seriality—Aesthetics and Practice.” He is the author of Postnaturalism: Frankenstein, Film, and the Anthropotechnical Interface (2014) and co-editor of several collections, including Transnational Perspectives on Graphic Narratives (Bloomsbury, 2013) and Post-Cinema: Theorizing 21st Century Film (REFRAME Books, forthcoming).