"Imaginary Systems" - Computer Games, media comprehension, and the systemic organization of human experience

Nikolaus Koenig


From a combined media studies and Systems Theoretical perspective, this paper proposes an expansion of the systems paradigm towards human experience and imagination by arguing that systemic thinking is an inherent and intuitive feature of human cognition. On the example of filmic montage, it is shown that the creation of basic ‘imaginary systems’ is necessary for the meaningful interpretation of media experiences, regardless of the systemic nature of the medium. Based on play experiences in computer games, aspects of imaginary systems are examined in detail: the distinction between interior and exterior through assumed boundaries; the interior organization of systemic elements and relations; the setting of goals and action strategies, enabling interaction and purposeful manipulation; and the ambiguity of imaginary systems, which distinguishes them from real systems and requires them to be approached differently. Possible implications and benefits for media studies, Systems Research and the teaching of Systems Thinking are discussed.


Imaginary Systems; Systems Thinking; Radical Constructivism; Media Experiences; Video Games; Film Comprehension; Human Imagination;

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Systema: connecting matter, life, culture and technology (ISSN: 2305-6991) is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal. All journal content, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.