The Book, The Alternate Reality Game, The Cultural Phenomena
Hortus Semioticus 9/2022 – 07 ONG’S HAT and the construction of a suspicious model reader
and the construction of a suspicious model reader
Abstract. In the late 1980s, an art collective led by writer Joseph Matheny created a multimedia narrative eventually known as Ong’s Hat about a supposed group of scientists who had achieved interdimensional travel and a subsequent persecution and concealment by of a dark conspiracy. Unfolded through printed documents sent by post, BBS (bulletin board systems) and later blogs, videos and radio, the Ong’s Hat textual complex managed to create a community of believers who discussed and amplified the narrative, appropriating it and disavowing its original creators. This article proposes to approach Ong’s Hat through Umberto Eco’s semiotics of interpretation, particularly his ideas on textual cooperation between reader and text and, starting from there, the textual strategies through which Ong’s Hat created its Model Readers. For this, concepts linked to transmedia are used, as well as the methodology developed by Margrit Schreier to evaluate how certain texts manage to confuse their readers about their reality status.
Keywords: transmedia, interpretation, textual cooperation, textual strategies, Model Reader, BBS, ARG
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