Experiments in Literary Cartography

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

Coover wrote: “The most distinctive literary contribution of the computer has been (...) the intimate layering and fusion of imagined spatiality and temporality.” Of course, by “spatiality” Coover meant the topologies of text non-linear in its presentation, not a more literal representation of space. I discuss my experiments using the Google Maps API as an interface for hypertext fiction. This of course is not in itself new, but there are some possibilities in cartography-oriented fiction I would like to call attention to. In particular:

1. Using a familiar interface, such works may introduce a broader audience to Electronic Fiction, without dumbing it down;

2. The Golden Age’s concerns with spatiality are recast now with a third extra dimension, represented space in a more literal sense. The realm of topological possibilities in this intertwining – temporality, textual structure, represented space – is vast. 3. Such works inevitably touch upon our subjective relationship with space, and the shifting modes of our articulation thereof. Three works are presented:

1. Where in the World is Loira do Banheiro? (2008) is a collaborative map of haunted places in Sao Paulo. Visitors are invited to contribute their own stories of haunted places – personal, a-friend-of-friendish, or belonging to folk/common knowledge. An introductory text and a design in imitation of classical “ghost stories” websites suggest some playfulness to the endeavor. This work has been featured in Folha de São Paulo and O Estado de São Paulo, the two largest newspapers of the city and the first and third, respectively, in the country. Besides points 2 and 3 listed above, this work explores the common grounds between anonymous writing and folkloric storytelling.

2. Quem Matou Clarah Averbuck? (2009) Clarah Averbuck is a writer residing in Sao Paulo, who became notorious for her thinly-veiledly autobiographical fiction and who began her career writing on the Internet. In the real world, she is alive; in the story, she is found dead in mysterious circumstances. Her death itself is completely irrelevant, but the “mystery of her death” connects different storylines. I have tried to point out the specificities of the interface, such as using satellite photographs of real places in a work of fiction and its consequences, for example; and to scrutinize point 2 more closely. It is a humorous work, and its Leitmotiv is the difference between fiction and lies. Clarah Averbuck was not pleased.

3. The Time Again of Bruno Zeitblom (2010 – of yet unfinished) This work portrays a character, a musician fascinated with Sound Landscapes and the role of spatiality in music, by describing his relationship with the space he inhabits. Recordings of found and ambient sounds are presented as the main character’s attempt of an "aural cartography" of the city.

(Source: Author's abstract for ELO_AI).

Platforms referenced:

Title Developers Year initiated
Google Maps 2005
Google API 2001
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Record posted by: 
Audun Andreassen