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Interactive Realism: The Poetics of Cyberspace

Author: Daniel Downes
Publisher: Montreal, Quebec: McGill-Queens University Press, 2005
Review Published: March 2009

 REVIEW 1: Yara Mitsuishi

In Interactive Realism, I attempted to sort through a variety of discourses around technology, media ecology, and the concept of cyberspace. Through the process of writing the book my own attention shifted from an analysis of the particular characteristics of cyberspace as a phenomenon, as a "place," to a fascination with its development as an environment comprised of, fostering, and supporting communicative interaction and relationships. By the time the book was published in 2005, this shift in attention was reflected in the title, which changed over time from "The Poetics of Cyberspace" to "Interactive Realism," the method I developed to help me sort through the narratives, metaphors, and expectations associated with cyberspace and digital culture.

I appreciate Yara Mitsuishi's thoughtful review of the book and I recognize and sympathize with her assessment that more concrete description and analysis of virtual spaces, games, and identities would be welcome. On the other hand, I am pleased that the book warrants a review almost four years after its publication, demonstrating that the ideas have a lasting contribution to make even as digital culture continues to move along at its technologically-enhanced pace.

Interactive Realism was written before social networking sites took off, before YouTube, and before the expansion of critical cyber-studies as a field of inquiry, and it provides a method (or more accurately an approach) to studying the ways we construct personal and communal relationships through technological mediation.

My current work expands on this foundation in several ways: 1) I am examining the tension between traditional media and their concern with the distribution of information content and new forms of production and reception as the Internet has become an important component of what I have called elsewhere the New Media Economy, and 2) I am applying the method of Iinteractive realism to non-digital communities (in particular practitioners of Irish folk traditional music in Canada and the United States) to show that the approach can be useful in the study of communicative behaviour, however mediated.

Again, I am pleased and honoured that my work has been included for review by the RCCS.

Daniel Downes


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