Unit operations are the modes of meaning which arise from the discrete interactions of multiple individual units of meaning within a literary or technological work. Unit operations are in stark contrast to deterministic and universalizing system operations, which often use one framework to explain multiple phenomena. Professor Ian Bogost attempts to establish unit operations as a legitimate strategy for analyzing all types of texts (poems, literature, videogames) in his work Unit Operations: An Approach to Videogame Criticism.

Unit operations are similar to Stephen Wolfram's idea of cellular automata, in which the inputs of multiple cells affect in order to create something greater than the sum of its parts. In a literary context, unit operations may refer to the interactions between themes and motifs in a work, such as the element of "uncoroborrated waiting" weaving between the subplots of each of the characters in The Terminal (Bogost 15-19). Due to its focus on the interactions between discrete units rather than plot or specific literary tropes, unit-operational approaches are particularly useful for componential works like videogames.