Network Ecologies

Symbolic Xchanges: Poetry, Money, ARGs

“Money and language have something in common,” Franco Berardi writes in The Uprising, “they are nothing and they move everything.” For Berardi, the virtualization of reality and rise of finance capital function as the dystopian mirror of language and poetry. My talk will examine this dialectic between money and language as well as the relationship of electronic literature to emerging cultures of financialization through an analysis of Speculation (http://, an alternate reality game (ARG) directed by Katherine Hayles, Patrick Jagoda, and Patrick LeMieux. Set in a near-future after the collapse of the Eurozone and creation of a global oligarchy, Speculation’s diffuse, transmedia form engages the conditions of capitalism by attempting to mimic the inscrutable and inaccessible processes of algorithmic stock trading, complex derivatives, and futures investment. The production of fiction and the production of what Marx called “fictitious capital” co-evolve in this alternate reality game. Speculation’s authors have coined the term “derivative fiction” to describe this process of symbolic exchange—pairing concepts like Debord’s dérive with the digital logic of financial derivatives. As much as this game is about finance capital, it also is finance capital in the way it mixes media, apes algorithmic process, and circulates electronically.

Stephanie Boluk

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