Hyperrhiz 14: Featured works
Phantom Agents: Variability in Narrative Fiction
Washington State University Vancouver
In Phantom Agents, my aim was to create narrative sequence (or at least the semblance of temporal progression) within an interface that was indeterminately arranged with image selections, text fragments and design elements. I wanted an episodic narrative that included its own variability as spatial structure, as plot and as theme. Why? Recombinant works of art use deterministic and variable processes to produce "fields of meaning" where "a finite set of media-elements is entertained through a vast set of potential combinatorial abstractions (Rieser, 242)." This "recombinant" state of things is very familiar to me at the beginning of the internet age. We think of ourselves as agents in a system that is constantly changing the rules and purpose of play. It is exhilarating and exhausting. We wake up, login and negotiate the day's novel data into our bodies. The story of Phantom Agents depicts the adventures of two characters inside a broken augmented reality game. The game, its purpose and backstory is never explained, if only to introduce a familiar disorientation. The remix of spy films and secret agent tv shows is intended as hauntings from another century, but their stochastic juxtapositions (sometimes meaningful, sometimes not) presents a disembodied, networked and gamified world in which identity and agency are lost to endless novelty. Phantom Agents is metamorphic text, a subset of ergodic cybertext that transforms "endlessly with no final (and repeatable) state to be reached" (Aarseth, 181).
Aarseth, Espen J. Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature. Baltimore, Md: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. Print.
Rieser, Martin, and Andrea Zapp, eds. The New Screen Media: Cinema/art/narrative. Pap/DVD edition. London: British Film Institute, 2002. Print.