“Gabriella infinita” by Jaime Alejandro Rodríguez

Open "Gabriella infinita" by Jaime Alejandro Rodríguez
Open “Gabriella infinita” by Jaime Alejandro Rodríguez

Gabriella infinita (1999–) is a hypermedia narrative by Colombian author Jaime Alejandro Rodríguez. The narrative is presented via a rich array of lexia, images, and audio files, and we are not provided with established markers such a contents list or page numbers which would normally guide the reader through the conventional print novel. Instead, links to the various lexia and sound files are hidden in the visuals, and it is only through exploring the interface and testing out possible entry routes that the reader/user pieces together the narrative.

A Lecturer at the Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Rodríguez is well-known for his theorisations on digital narrative and hypertext (see his bibliography). He is also arguably the leading hypertext author in Colombia and his Gabriella infinita, as well as his later Golpe de gracia (2006), have won him a series of awards and nominations, and put him at the forefront of e-lit in Colombia.

"Gabriella infinita" opening image
“Gabriella infinita” opening image

The plot of Gabriella infinita is clearly set in Colombia’s capital, Bogota, with references to immediately identifiable places within the city in several of the lexia. Similarly, the opening image which the reader sees before entering the narrative displays the landmarks of the Monserrate hill, and the Cerro de Guadalupe with its famous statue of La Virgen de Guadalupe appear behind the sky-scrapers of the Centro Internacional. Yet this is a futuristic and dystopian Bogotá, in which the cityscape is in a state of devastation and destruction.

Set in this identifiably Bogotano backdrop is the story of Gabriella, who searches for the missing Federico, and we follow her through the various lexia, images, and audio files as she attempts to piece together clues as to his disappearance.

Yet, more than just her story, what Rodríguez weaves for us is the story of our own encounter with hypermedia narrative. Gabriella’s sensations and experience, as she searches for Federico and tries to make sense of the scraps of evidence that she finds, stand for the experience of the reader of hypertext narratives. For instance, Gabriella’s perusal of Federico’s bookshelves as she attempts to make an order out of the apparent disorder in which the books are arranged is a clear metaphor for the work of the reader of hypertext narrative, constructing an order from the dispersed lexia. Or her examining of the loose sheets of newspaper strewn on the floor of Federico’s apartment, and finding that “al ordenarlas, le han revelado relaciones insospechadas” [‘when she put them together, they revealed unexpected connections to her’] is, again, an image of the reader of hypertext fiction creating his/her own order from the dispersed links, with the primacy on the reader, not the writer, to establish these ‘unexpected connections’.

But does Gabriella ever succeed in her quest? And do we, as reader-users of hypertext fiction, ever gain full control of the narrative we are navigating?

“Reagan Library” by Stuart Moulthrop

Reagan Library by Stuart Moulthrop

Reagan Library might be best described as exploratory hypertext fiction. In this work, Stuart Montfort has created an eerie world, reminiscent of the game Myst and its sequels, which seems to require a particular state of mind, a suspension of disbelief, and a total immersion into a new and unexplored universe.

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“217 Views of the Tokaido Line” by Will Luers

Screenc apture from “217 Views of the Tokaido Line” by Will Luers. White background with a set of three pictures. Text: "his life now / a stationary shop / pilgrims".
Open “217 Views of the Tokaido Line” by Will Luers

This mesmerizing work of observational poetry juxtaposes a generative haiku with a split-screen 6 minute looping video composed of short clips captured along the Tokaido line. Luers’ statement explains the concept in detail in the “About” page.

With our small cameras, smartphones and apps we document our travels. We capture and collect “haiku” moments, tokens of time and space, just as we always have, whether with pen and paper or the bulky camcorder. But with digital technology, we now store these moments as files in searchable databases. How do we use them? Do we try to find the narratives in the fragments or hunt for the suprising incongruities? Perhaps we only care about the isolated moment,the singular shot or sequence, which we “share” as soon as it has rendered. However we narrate experience, our devices and their databases remind us that there are always moments lost in any narrative retelling, always a different path through the data.

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“Errand Upon Which We Came” by Stephanie Strickland and M.D. Coverley

Screen capture from “Errand Upon Which We Came” by Stephanie Strickland and M.D. Coverley.  Abstract painting of a natural scene, mostly flowers, against a black background. Stylized white text superimposed on the image transparently. Image is signed "Simone Weil". Text: "Will is broken by the trails of all follitales the Aegean stables,/the straw spun. A Nail/that fixes the center so the register is true--/what the scale hangs on,/not what,/the pointer points to./
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“Incarnation: The Heart of the Maze” by Carolyn Guertin

Screen capture of "Incarnation: The Heart of the Maze" by Carolyn Guertin. Sections from a maze displayed on a black background. Text: "Tap tap tap / (12 lines too small to read)"
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“Video Blog::Vog” by Adrian Miles

Screen capture from "Video Blog::Vog" by Adrian Miles. Dark grey background with a drawn portrait laying at the left of the image. There are yellow lines of text in the foreground of the image. Text: "while rummaging around / softenly mildewed memories s / a muse that disap"
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“Figure 5 Media Series” by William Carlos Williams, Charles Demuth, Megan Sapnar

Screen capture from "Figure 5 Media Series," by William Carlos Williams, Charles Demuth, and Megan Sapnar. Photograph of a fire engine overlain with a transparent number 5.
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“Wired” by James W. Johnson

"Wired" by James W. Johnson
Open “Wired” by James W. Johnson

This video poem presents a nightmarish image of a body that seems to be inspired by Hellraiser and The Matrix. A sitting skeletal naked body with an umbilical-like cord connected to his heart and a screen for a face, inside of which a face grotesquely screams, apparently in pain or a trance (or both) seems to be the speaker for the poem. The verbal part of the poem is delivered entirely by audio, and through electronically distorted voices.

“CityFish” by J. R. Carpenter

"CityFish" by J. R. Carpenter
“CityFish” by J. R. Carpenter

“You Secure in Your Job?” by William Poundstone

"You Secure in Your Job?" by William Poundstone
Open: “You Secure in Your Job?” by William Poundstone