Down Time

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Description (in English): 

Down Time consists of twenty-one stories of the computer age, connected by shared characters, events and objects. A police officer, a terminal patient, a computer technician, and a high-school guidance counselor are just a few of the characters we follow as they try (and fail) to understand themselves, their lovers, and the strangers they meet. Interactive elements allow readers to create their own paths through different stories, revealing new correspondences and connections.

(Source: Eastgate catalog description)

Down Time consists of a set of twenty-one short fables named for, and metaphorically based on, computer jargon. In these stories a couple of dozen characters from many walks of life in a mythical Silicon Valley move and interact in complex ways through one another's lives.

The text is accompanied by original music and narration (about 5 1/2 hours worth), and broken into small narrative units (NITS) that can be recombined in many ways, from random to semantic. Although structurally the project may present similarities with some of the films of Robert Altman, notably Nashville, Short Cuts and Pret-a-Porter, in Down Time the effect is a mosaic portrait of a subculture, not a linear narrative, and the readers may generate other stories.

The Down Time stories (the title story based on what it is called when computers fail) are each relatively brief (around 2000 words), and depict a small incident or set of incidents, covering everything from manufacturing accidents to the seductive lure of databases. Because a character may appear at one time as the protagonist in a story, at another only briefly as a supporting figure, it is possible to create other slices through the narrative. For example, the reader/user may follow a character instead of an incident, or an image or motif. Done in Macromedia Director, cross-platform.

(Source: DAC 1999 Author's description)

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Jill Walker Rettberg