Narrative 1: Between Urban Landscapes And Webcams

Fast City suggests an alternative configuration of interactive reading conventions from across a range of technologies available today, and in doing so challenges the user to reorientate himself or herself as to strategies of navigation, comprehension and appreciation of hypermedia narratives.

The title itself is better explicated through its Chinese translation, which juxtaposes the ideogram characters for "surpass" (or, "superior"; the character on the left) and "city"; the character on the left also corresponds to the "hyper" morpheme in the Chinese phrase for "hypertext". As such, Fast City is effectively identified as an urban landscape reconfigured into a hypertextual narrative.

The texts -- or narrative lexias -- explore six broad themes in ten permutations each, and are yoked together in different possible configurations by the interactive process. The themes are: city as built experience; youth culture; digital media consumption; globalisation; the occult as technology (and vice versa); and how cities remediate individuals and identities.

The writing style emulates and evokes various narrative genres popular today: including anime fiction, Hong Kong action films, computer gaming narrative, interactive text-based adventures, etc. Each lexia functions as a micro-narrative, a new media version of a pithy short story, inspired by the poetic imagination of writers like Jorge Luis Borges. Taken together, the micro-narratives segue into a digital litany of urban scenarios, technologically improvised on-demand, an interactive update of the William Burroughs tradition of cut 'n' paste composition.

Each lexia in Fast City is composed to function as a dynamic node that transfers/defers narrative resolution. Surfing through a series of lexias in sequence amounts to activating a narrative vector; this is intended to mirror TV audiences' "channel surfing" strategies, or voyeuristic scanning of hidden webcams, as is common today.

Indeed, in the way the interface conflates the entire story web into a stark grid of reactive buttons, the user is immediately prompted here to re-examine his or her expectations of the fragmented narrative experience. The lexias somewhat correspond to what George P. Landow identifies as the In Memoriam model of "self-sufficient poems that ... take on additional meaning from the various collages and montages" (217) that are produced when juxtaposed with other elements within the narrative. This is similar to the strategy observed in the hypertext poetry of William Dickey, as examined in Landow: whereby each element of the poem is a "sufficiently independent statement" that actively produces new poetic meanings when slotted between any other two elements of the hypertext poem (190). [>]


Landow, George P.. Hypertext 2.0: The Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1997.