Hypertext Gets Wet

How does Stuart Moulthrop’s Deep Surface work? What a difficult question for a non tech-savy student like myself. Technically speaking, it’s an interplay between “a reading machine and a free-diving simulator.” This relationship creates a metaphor for the submersion of oneself into reading  (a book and pages on the web). The “deeper” we go, the more dangerous it is. This applies in two ways in Deep Surface.

The farther you go down into the water/bring your air bubble down the page, the more dangerous information the player finds. The deep refers to the dark and disturbing words that appear. The words closer to the surface are less disturbing. Secondly, the farther you go down the page/into the water, the less air you have to breathe and the closer you are to dying.

Luckily, not much is taken away when you die because you can start over again. Unless of course, the points, accumulated by returning to the surface in time to get air, and winning mean a lot to you.  Personally, I died quite a bit because I wanted to get to the bottom to read the more dangerous and disturbing information. More often than not, (perhaps because of slow computer that couldn’t make the works come up fast enough) I died trying to go back up to the surface. I don’t think this adaptation by the game was made by chance.

Moulthrop purposely made it difficult to thrive in the deep of his word pool. It enhances his metaphor by saying that there are more risks, but also more interesting information the farther you dive/look into reading.

Moulthrop also allows the player to access information from separate sources easier than one would be able to find in any other medium. He makes Deep Surface into another literary dimension where the player is able to “dive gradually from one plane of presentation to the next.” By presenting it this way, we’re able to travel from one piece of information to another as if gliding in water. Despite slow computer technical difficulties, I think any player will have to think about Moulthrop’s electronic textuality and the modalities of reading because of Deep Surface.

2 thoughts on “Hypertext Gets Wet

  1. I wonder what you make of the connection between the form of Deep Surface and its content. How does the relationship between the “textual instrument” form and the actual contents of the text on the screen make sense (or not make sense)?

  2. In order to better answer your question, I went back to Deep Surface to try to record some of the text that appears as you go deeper/drag the cursor down. My conclusion is that there’s no way to write down everything (especially as you go deeper). But the text that I did write down truly does seem to be random with comments such as “The kidney was rushed to Cleveland for treatment by a helicopter. Sporadic gunfire mixed with the scent of desert flowers in a scene from a Steve Martin film. The creature was the size of a large minivan and resembled a major league baseball player from the late 1990s…” As random as the information is, some aspects do make sense. For instance, the text changes in font and color the deeper you go. I think this places emphasis on some of the information over others. The limited amount of time to read to the deeper text reflects the way someone would read something secret and important, as if you wouldn’t want anyone to catch you reading it. Lastly, the points you earn reflect how you travel through Deep Surface. You get more points for going back to a particular section. The number of lifelines used and points received places emphasis on certain parts of the text. I think it’s through these points that the relationship between the textual instrument and the actual contents of the text on the screen make sense.

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