Ludic Homunculus: Figuring Interfaces Beyond the Avatar

A lecture by Dr. Darshana Jayemanne

Thursday, June 14, 7pm

Please join us at SLEEPCENTER for the final event in a series of programs surrounding our current solo exhibition Ian Gouldstone: IN THE SHADE BUT NOT THE SHADOW.

Image: J.J. Grandville, “Une eclipse conjugale”, 1844


The characters with which we identify in gaming are often termed “avatars.” The avatar figure, with its implications of a shining manifestation in an inferior reality, is too flattering by half. In this talk, Darshana Jayemanne challenges the avatar imaginary with another, less appealing figure: the homunculus. Homunculi are strange, distorted beings when compared to the glorious avatar. Tracing the homunculus from its early manifestations through caricature and the “cortical homunculus” of contemporary neuroscience, Jayemanne engages with the audience experience in Gouldstone’s IN THE SHADE BUT NOT THE SHADOW to propose the “ludic homunculus” as a guiding figure through which to envision our messy engagements with technology and virtual worlds.



Dr. Darshana Jayemanne is Lecturer in Art, Media and Games at Abertay University, UK, the author of Performativity in Art, Literature and Videogames (Palgrave MacMillan 2017) and a Co-Investigator in the AHRC/ESPRC-supported “Reality Remix” project on the Next Generation of Immersive Experiences. One of his key research interests is how our experience of art is affected by the framing device, whether that’s a videogame, a book or an artwork. His book explores this and ultimately outlines a rigorous, interdisciplinary approach for analysing videogame performance.

He was previously a researcher at The University of Melbourne, Australia where he worked on projects such as ethnographic studies of toddlers and touchscreens and toxicity in online cultures, as well as publishing work on temporality and narrative in videogames.

Current projects include articles on the Alien films and games, and collaborations with Macmillan Cancer Support and the NSPCC. His work has been published in The Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic MediaFibreculture JournalWestminster Papers in Communication and Culture, and Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Culture.