U. Eco, The Open Work

The Open Work is a collection of Umberto Eco's essays, some of which appeared in Il Menab├▓ di letteratura journal before being published in a book form. It had a few differing editions in Italian, and in consequence now, in different languages, the selection of contents might be quite different from one The Open Work to another. All in all, the book resembles the notions it has introduced.

The central and probably present in all editions is the essay "The Poetics of the Open Work" which analyses the notion of openness in art. This is applied to art in general, with literature taking the forefront, but with music as the main inspiration as Eco opens up with talking directly about pioneering pieces that had some degree of indeterminacy involved:

Karlheinz Stockhausen, Klavierst├╝ck XI (1952)
Luciano Berio, Sequenza I for Flute (1958)
Henri Pousser, Scambi (1957)
Pierre Boulez, Third Piano Sonata (1955)

Openness in art is analyzed in the context of broader cultural phenomena. There is a regular recurrence of a few themes from different areas: James Joyce (literature), Bertold Brecht (theatre), John Dewey (philosophy), Zen Buddhism ("religion") and there are also references to some areas that are more unusual (for the time), like: theory of information (mathematics), Gestalt vs transactional (psychology) or quantum (physics).

Here's how the open work is currently defined in our glossary:
A work of art which is not fully determined by its author.

The above definition is only one of a few referred from Eco. It's the so called "second degree of openness" which is the most important for our field, and was generally picked up in game studies. For Eco, the more central aspect is when the shape and form of the work is maybe constant but when the meaning is intended to be co-created by the audience. As there were many degrees of openness introduced at once, the term was adopted rather inconsistently to different languages.

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