Cybercultural Tragedies

My original broad concept for my research project was to look into the ways in which Cyberculture might be seen to reflect aspects of oral cultures. I would examine specific case studies from Cyberspace, such as fanfiction, let’s plays, and forum threads in order to discuss where this digital space interaction does or does not take the shape of some new iteration of orality. Building from this idea that that there’s a legacy of the past in the present, I’d like to focus on the performance of tragedies online and the ways in which they recall Aristotle’s ancient oral/performed tragedian forms and structures.

According to Aristotle’s Poetics: “Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is admirable, complete and possesses magnitude […] effecting through pity and fear the purification of such emotions”, this ‘purification’ referring to a cathartic release of emotion through empathy. His definition requires the technical elements of wholeness, in that the tragedy is complete; reversal of fortune (preferably dramatic) from good to bad or vice versa; unity, as the tragedy should follow through on one main event or action; and universality. This final necessary element may be of particular interest to my research, and Aristotle explains it, saying: “the function of the poet is not to say what has happened, but to say what would happen […] So one need not try at all costs to keep to the traditional stories which are the subjects of tragedy; in fact it would be absurd to do so […] the poet must be a maker of plots rather than of verses”.

With these elements in mind I would enjoy making possible case studies of the ‘Angst’ genre of fanfiction and the Nuzlocke phenomenon in Pokemon gaming and story sharing as examples of modern Cybercultural reimaginings of Aristotelian oral tragedy.

Aristotle, Poetics. “trans. Malcolm Heath.” London: Penguin 8.17 (1996): 3-1.


5 thoughts on “Cybercultural Tragedies

  1. Your idea is incredibly unique, and i am interest to see you delve into this connection of tragedy and cyber-culture. I’ll admit, i am struggling to wrap my head around the concept a little, but I did latch on to the idea of a legacy of the past into the present, that we form our path forward from where we have travelled before. I really like your idea of a webcomic, it’s something that would actually make a fantastic digital arefact and something i’d love to tackle…once i know how to draw. Going forward I feel your research topic will be strengthed with more information and discussion on the relationship between tragedy and cybercultures. I am really anticipating what you come up with!

  2. Interesting. I would argue that Nuzlockes, Let’s Plays, and the like are less *imitations* of actions, because they’re unscripted; of course the person on the other side of the camera is always performing to a certain extent, but at what point does something stop being performance and becomes just an event that is happening in front of you?

    • I really love this idea. The Nuzlocke is this amazing self-imposition of rules designed to alter the state of play in Pokemon such that the story itself will inevitably succumb to tragedy.

      As I mentioned in class I think a cool way to represent this would be through a webcomic, constructed using screen grabs from a Nuzlock Pokemon run. This form would be a nod to the webcomic origin of the Nuzlocke rules as well as implementing the some of the semi-unscripted elements of a Let’s Play.

      For this purpose I would suggest the GBA Pokemon games are probably the best tradeoff between easy to run on a PC (where it can be screen capped) and visually pretty at higher resolutions (allowing for larger comic panels).

      As is probably very obvious by now, I am very excited.

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