Loops: the Circle Line

One reader said something like: you can tell the author is a Brit, it's so relentlessly miserable. (BTW, I'm a Canadian.)

Another critic said something like: the constantly flippant tone gets annoying.

I began to realize, that readers were getting stuck in loops of similar characters and stories with the same general tone. The internet can only link you to things that have something in common. It takes an effort of will to insert links to something completely different. It was the first indication I had that the internet could channel users into different social and political worlds.

This had the effect of making the online version about hidden similarities. That led to a similarly of emotional effect as readers followed the links.

When 253 THE PRINT REMIX finally was published, the same text felt much more variegated. Very different people sat next to each other. Without the links, 253 was about variety not similarities.

Which was what the book was supposed to be about. I was better at writing for print.

Years later there was a project to lead 253 readers out of being trapped in loops. J. Nathan Matias then of MIT recruited enthusiastic volunteers to read through all 253 characters and create a database of subjects, locations, and characteristic tones or emotional affect: comic, tragic, disturbing. New software would track users and know when they were trapped in a loop. The program would then offer links with a different tone. It would have been an early effort to guide readers out of loops.

I also learned something else--that writing interactive material requires a team effort. A wide fictional world needs a lot of heads to populate it. Thus I came up with the idea of a sequel to 253 to be written by the readers. It was to be called Another One Along in a Minute. This well intentioned effort at audience involvement showed me the psychological underbelly that the internet was going to expose.

Journey Planner
The world of 253
The underbelly of the internet