in praise of fragments: dissecting Death Stranding in a post-linear world

in praise of fragments: dissecting Death Stranding in a post-linear world

reading time: 5 minutes

As an inquisitive scholar in a world obsessed with completion, seeking nuance and revelation in the cracks between disciplines, why do I find myself magnetically drawn to fragments? It’s like being a kid in a candy store, but instead of sweets, I’m surrounded by these tantalizing, unfinished thoughts. Brief blinking vignettes, cryptic asides, fleeting impressions – these glimmering motes of meaning serve as portals, leading my mind on meandering journeys between ostensibly disconnected domains.

Ever heard of Roland Barthes’ “text of bliss”? If not, imagine a book that doesn’t just end with “The End.” It’s a text that revels in the unfinished, the elliptical, the implied. It’s like that cliffhanger at the end of your favorite TV show that leaves you screaming at the screen. But here’s the twist: in these gaps, in these lacunae, ideas sprout like mushrooms after the rain. Drawing inspiration from Barthes’ The Pleasure of the Text (1973), this predilection permeates my approach to games, where I eschew exhaustive textual analysis in favor of fragmentary interrogation. With Death Stranding, a title rife with ruptures and discontinuities, I opt for shards over summations, splinters over syntheses. I’m not here to present a definitive reading and give you a Wikipedia summary. No, I’m offering a kaleidoscope of observations, questions, and what-ifs – an unfinished collage exploring the aesthetics and significance of fragments within Death Stranding and beyond.

You see, postmodern thinkers like Jean-François Lyotard (The Postmodern Condition, 1979) argue that knowledge isn’t this neat, linear thing. It’s subjective. And it’s fragmented. It’s like trying to watch a movie with half the scenes missing. But here’s the beauty of it: these fragments let us play, let us participate in the act of meaning-making. It’s like jazz; it’s all about the notes you don’t hear. Fragments reflect the partiality of knowledge. Comprehension arrives in piecemeal increments, a mosaic compiled over time. Echoing Bruno Latour’s We Have Never Been Modern (1993), I shy away from pretensions of scholarly omniscience, embracing Socratic ignorance. Like the Fox in Le Petit Prince, I seek meaning through connections, not ownership. Death Stranding’s fractured landscape sedulously avoids coalescing into tidy totality; its narrative delivery follows suit. I pursue not to conquer, but to explore.

Revelation dwells in the liminal. By foregrounding interstices and juxtaposing disparate fragments, I highlight seams, inviting questions. In Death Stranding, boundaries prove permeable: life bleeds into death, the real into the surreal. Similarly, my collage scrambles genres – at times playful, at others ponderous. I splice scholarly rumination with contemporary references, allowing different registers to interpenetrate and spawn insights through contrast. Thematically, fragments reflect our polarized cultural moment. Division pervades: truth wars against misinformation, communities fracture into echo chambers. Yet connections endure, evidenced by the game’s emphasis on building bridges. So too this essay links discrete strands, weaving fragments together into a tapestry expressing my perspective. The dialectic between division and unity animates both my approach and subject matter.

Fragments model ergodic engagement. Their gaps demand filling. The reader must venture interpretation, puzzling meaning together. Similarly, Death Stranding casts its player as courier and connector, actively facilitating human connections in an isolated world. Drawing from Espen Aarseth’s concept of “ergodic literature” in Cybertext (1997), my fragments call attention to their own incompleteness, underscoring the contingency of knowledge. Capacious whitespace surrounds each, allowing the unsaid its say. I embrace negative capability – the ability to abide in uncertainty, resisting the allure of false closure. Fragmentary form enacts this ethos. I do not profess to offer the final word, but rather to catalyze thinking. My aim is not to end discussion, but sustain it.

Fragments foreground process over product. Their offspring – impressions, questions, juxtapositions – matter more than tidy summation or systemic coherence. The journey holds richer rewards than its destination. Similarly, playing Death Stranding entails an experiential flow state, a immersive traversal of its world where emergent moments of beauty and meaning accrue through lived process. My fragments are not components of some ultimate unified theory, but rather speculative sorties without predetermined endpoints. I mirror the game’s nonlinear open world structure, ranging freely across topics, pursuing connections according to impulse and intuition rather than rigid rationale. Out of exploratory drifts arise moments of unexpected resonance.

Brevity breeds boldness. Freed from obligations of comprehensiveness, fragments narrow the focus to pithy essence. Death Stranding’s mini-narratives and vignettes isolate key moments, inviting imaginative investment. Unburdened by continuity, I distill observations to their vivid core. Fragments operate at the threshold of sense, flirting with enigma. Their suggestive potency derives from calculated concision, beckoning the reader to extract meaning. They shun handholding, inviting participatory co-creation. I embrace lacunae and non-sequiturs, prizing provocative questions over pat conclusions. Risk and revelation walk hand in hand.

Fragments epitomize diffuse, decentralized networks. Brief nodes linked by unseen filaments. Each shard tells a small story, but gains significance through its connections to others. Death Stranding foregrounds invisible strands undergirding reality. My fragments aspire to polyphony, juxtaposing divergent voices and viewpoints to nurture nuanced perspective. I shy away from didacticism, preferring open-ended associations which resonate on multiple frequencies. Fragmentary form foregrounds subjectivity and relativity – an experiential mosaic assembled by reader and writer, filtered through personal contexts. Meaning emerges through dialogue. My role is not dictator but discussion moderator, sharing impressions to spark conversation. I pose questions without answers, eliding false closure. I embrace uncertainty, non-duality, dialectical tension – qualities which fragmentary form implicitly honors through its emphasis on subjective assembly over objective unity.

Death Stranding’s fragmented landscape mirrors the partial perspectives comprising our knowledge. Its narrative avoids overt authorial messaging, instead fostering speculative space. Likewise my fragments reject grand syntheses in favor of suggestive glimpses – impressionistic forays which highlight the contingency and subjectivity of comprehension. I embrace lacunae as openings for imaginative investment, interstices as gateways to discovery, juxtapositions as means to spur associations. The gaps are the point. Or rather, the gaps provide points of entry – negative space ripe for participatory co-creation between creator, artifact, and audience. My fragments do not seek to complete a finished work, but rather to catalyze an unfinished conversation. I shun conclusions in favor of continuity. The journey continues.

related references:
  • Aarseth, Espen. 1993. Cybertext: perspectives on ergodic literature. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Barthes, Roland. 1973. The pleasure of the text. .
  • Latour, Bruno. 1993. We have never been modern. .
  • Lyotard, Jean-François. 1976. The postmodern condition. .

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