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Reconfiguring Interactivity, Agency and Pleasure in the Education and Computer Games Debate – using Žižek’s concept of interpassivity to analyse educational play

By Caroline Pelletier


Digital or computer games have recently attracted the interest of education researchers and policy-makers for two main reasons: their interactivity, which is said to allow greater agency, and their inherent pleasures, which is linked to increased motivation to learn. However, the relationship between pleasure, agency and motivation in educational technologies is under-theorised. This paper aims to situate these concepts within a framework that might identify more precisely how games can be considered to be educational. The framework is based on Zizek’s theory of subjectivity in cyberspace, and in particular his notion of interpassivity, which is defined in relation to interactivity. The usefulness of this concept is explored firstly by examining three approaches to theorizing cyberspace and their respective manifestations in key texts on educational game play. Zizek’s analysis of cyberspace in terms of socio-symbolic relations is then outlined to suggest how games might be considered educational insofar as they provide opportunities to manipulate and experiment with the rules underpinning our sense of reality and identity. This resembles Brecht’s notion of the educational value of theatre. The conclusion emphasizes that the terms on which games are understood to be educational relates to the social interests which education is understood to serve

Year: 2005
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