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September 25, 2004

location aware fiction


Hypertext's limit exceeded

The emergence of location aware or physically located narrative works is the subject of Data and Narrative: Location Aware Fiction, a Trace article by Canadian writer and new media artist Kate Armstrong.

Earlier Turbulence blogs have described one of the works Armstrong addresses, 34 North 118 West by Los Angeles artists Naomi Spellman, Jeremy Hight and Jeff Knowlton. Its focus is on "narrative archaeology" and "the investigation of liminal city areas such as abandoned industrial zones, in which layers of time and story are unveiled to the wandering reader/user. As they move through the area, a GPS reading triggers audio fragments in the headphones, resulting in a dynamic fictional experience that follows the user's unique path." (Armstrong)

Armstrong references a second work as well--[Murmur]--by the Toronto-based collective of the same name. [Murmur], she writes, is an "archival audio project"; it "establishes links between narrative fragments and specific points in city neighbourhoods...When a user calls in using a cellular telephone, points in the city scape marked by encoded street signs trigger stories collected from other users and residents."

What intrests Armstrong is how these works push the limits of hypertext by pulling the reader away from the screen and back into physical space. As she says, they "take spatial and navigational relationships outside the almost purely mental space of the computer and posit them in the living city...It is hypertext but without the links between nodes: nodes in physically located narrative works are imbued with content and then left where they can be encountered by the reader/user/walker - in any order, in no order, in an order determined by the movement of the user. The last mechanical determination of the author is erased: the reader has total agency in an uncontrollable, unpredictable, living city. It makes hypertext seem microcosmic, almost sterile - at least more sterile than the world."

Kate Armstrong is a new media artist and writer. Her physically located narrative project PING is on exhibit at the Contemporary Art Centre in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Posted by newradio at September 25, 2004 04:49 PM