Heterotopias are worlds within worlds, mirroring and yet upsetting what is outside. Foucault provides examples: ships, cemeteries, bars, brothels, prisons, gardens of antiquity, fairs, Muslims baths and many more. Foucault outlines the notion of heterotopia on three occasions between A talk given to a group of architects is the most well-known explanation of the term.
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He is also an editor and author for the e-journal Paidia. His research interests include game studies, gender studies, pop literature, economization of culture, literary and media theory. In the coming months articles previously published on our respective sites will be translated and cross-posted. What have gardens, graveyards, brothels and videogames in common? What might sound like the beginning of a joke for one, is in fact the introduction of a theoretical approach towards videogames which uses a concept popularized by the French philosopher Michel Foucault: the heterotopia.
All quotes were translated by Thomas Erthel and myself especially for this article. My heartfelt thanks for his help! Then, in a second step I want to focus on the question if the concept can be transferred and productively applied to videogames.
Places, that resist all the others and that are in a way destined to erase, replace, neutralize or purify. They are in a way counter-spaces. Children know these counter-spaces very well, these localized utopias.
Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp , p. Ce sont en quelque sorte des contre-espaces. Since its inception in , Paidia gives dedicated scholars from various backgrounds the chance to conduce their thoughts and theories to the widening of the field.
Contributions to Paidia can take the form of individual double-peer-reviewed essays as well as the contribution to periodical special issues. One may stumble at first, what would count as a heterotopia following this definition.
A derivation of the term might help here: other spaces. On this bed you discover the ocean because you can swim between the covers. But the bed is also the sky because you can jump on the springs. It is the forest because you can hide in it. It is the night because you become a ghost under the sheets.
Because what else does Foucault describe than the unbridled play of children? So the play creates heterotopias which at least exist as long as the game continues. The magic circle of play is — from this perspective — just another expression for the temporary heterotipization which the play causes. Thus games are not heterotopias. But spaces of playing are. This missing differentiation might cause some problems because it expresses a different understanding of game and play in general.
In my translation I tried to acknowledge this differentiation. There might be favored places of playing in a society, the game room, the football field or a paintball arena. It would even be imaginable to apply the distinction between paidia and ludus to the possible types of heterotopias. Thereby we could distinguish between mobile heterotopias, the ones that have not yet gained a stable place in a culture and all such that already have an assigned space.
All the more fascinating is the type of non-stable heterotopias because they are — more than the others — a form of transvaluation and reframing of the actually existent as they occupy other places:. This questioning also transfers to heterotopias themselves since they are always at stake: Their own transvaluation can in turn be transvalued at any time as soon as the game ends or the playing is disturbed from the outside.
Its status is always endangered and so playing is a second order game, the game between game and not-game, between play and not-play. I think the same holds for heterotopias even though their conventionalization tries to secure its status. The graveyard is no longer a graveyard as soon as I start partying there. Johan Huizinga: Homo Ludens , p. The game on the other hand can neither rely that it will be continued nor that it is continuable.
But at least it has the feature of repeatability Huizinga Here we touch the debatable status of virtual spaces. What we can cherish is videogames being a visible representation of being located in a heterotopia.
We see images of the spaces on the screen and, following the established perspective on the avatar-player-relation,[foot]Cf. Jan Noel Thon Ed. To what the definition of heterotopia can be transferred very well is the playing of videogames. Because every time we pick up a controller, start a game, we create temporary heterotopias no matter where we are — even in public spaces whose status we torpedo by doing so.
This perspective might provide us with a whole new outlook on the massive proliferation of mobile games. Because as Foucault remarks when he declares the ship as a paramount example of heterotopias:. Civilizations without ships are like children whose parents do not possess a double bed on which they could play. Then, their dreams run dry. Surveillance takes the places of adventure and the hideous police take the place of dazzling corsairs.
Foucault, Michel. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp The Order of Things. An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. New York: Vintage Books. Huizinga, Johann.
Homo Ludens. A study oft the play element in culture. Boston: Beacon Press Iser, Wolfgang. Pespektiven literarischer Anthropologie. Because as Foucault remarks when he declares the ship as a paramount example of heterotopias: Civilizations without ships are like children whose parents do not possess a double bed on which they could play.
Heterotopia & Play