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New Media

The first of six

Via if:book. Penguin have launched the first of six ‘interactive’ stories. I’m reserving opinion as to the interactive elements, as the first one online (The 21 Steps) is alarmingly, if engagingly linear, and despite a clever use of the Googlemaps interface, doesn’t add anything to the mix beyond a neat use of a familiar online setting.

If I’m being snarky, it’s because this could have been done so much more interestingly. The story begins in London, and tracks our narrator across the city and beyond (via the map interface) competently enough, but doesn’t ever allow the real joys of a mixed-media platform to take shape. The section on the tube, for example, is played out overland, which then doesn’t comment on or explore the difference between London above, and London underground, the interactive/mapping/immersive potential of which has been discussed to death online (just start with Edward Tufte, who remarked (bad paraphrase alert) that ‘for many Londoners, the map organises the city rather than the other way around‘). Which is a problem. And it’s linear. And it’s slavish with regard to repeating the meta-structure of Buchan’s novel, which results in a remediatively led experience rather than one that exploits, so far (I’m reserving judgement and hoping that they learned from last year’s ‘a million penguins‘. Really really hoping), the neoteric potential of a large publisher engaging with the medium in a genuinely thoughtful manner.

(edit: there’s an interesting moment just over halfway through, which starts to engage with the medium, and (I’m sorry but this really is done rather obviously) introduces ‘Alice’, the extra element in all six stories. We’ll see what they do with it.)


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