Free Play in the Age of Electracy

By Jan Rune Holmevik

Foreword by Gregory Ulmer

Afterword by Ian Bogost

A proposal that electracy—the special skills needed to navigate and understand our digital world—can be developed through play.





A proposal that electracy—the special skills needed to navigate and understand our digital world—can be developed through play.

In today's complex digital world, we must understand new media expressions and digital experiences not simply as more technologically advanced forms of “writing” that can be understood and analyzed as “texts” but as artifacts in their own right that require a unique skill set. Just as agents seeking to express themselves in alphabetic writing need to be literate, “egents” who seek to express themselves in digital media need to be—to use a term coined by cybertheorist Gregory Ulmer—electrate. In Inter/vention, Jan Holmevik helps to invent electracy. He does so by tracing its path across the digital and rhetorical landscape—informatics, hacker heuretics, ethics, pedagogy, virtual space, and monumentality—and by introducing play as a new genre of electracy. Play, he argues, is the electrate ludic transversal. Holmevik contributes to the repertoire of electrate practices in order to understand and demonstrate how play invents electracy.

Holmevik's argument straddles two divergences: in rhetoric, between how we study rhetoric as play and how we play rhetorically; and in game studies, between ludology and narratology. Games studies has forged ludology practice by distinguishing it from literate practice (and often allying itself with the scientific tradition). Holmevik is able to link ludology and rhetoric through electracy.

Play can and does facilitate invention: play invented the field of ludology. Holmevik proposes a new heuretic in which play acts as a conductor for the invention of electracy. Play is a meta behavior that touches on every aspect of Ulmer's concept of electracy.


$32.00 X ISBN: 9780262017053 232 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 5 figures


Gregory Ulmer and Ian Bogost.


  • Inter/vention is a masterful exploration of the roots and contemporary condition of digital culture. Each of the central chapters offers a clear and convincing historical or experiential account of one aspect of our digital culture today. At the same time the book never loses sight of the larger implications of the digital revolution for the traditions and future of the humanities.

    Jay David Bolter

    Digital Media Program, Georgia Institute of Technology

  • A unique consideration of the play of new cultural and narrative forms, new media, and the interrelationship between artistic and other knowledge structures and emergent networked global cultures, Inter/vention glints with convertible, reversible, interchangeable attractions, grounding both gameworlds and electronic textuality firmly in the richest tradition of the humanities.

    Michael Joyce

    Professor of English and Media Studies, Vassar College

  • Inter/vention is a fascinating product of scholarly bricolage: part general computing history, part memoir, part glossary to the work of media theorist Gregory Ulmer, part manifesto for a rigorously electrate game studies. Jan Holmevik traverses the parts with admirable clarity and precision; he plays through them without reserve—which freedom, he shows, is the condition of possibility for critical and pedagogical invention.

    Terry Harpold

    University of Florida; author of Ex-foliations: Reading Machines and the Upgrade Path