The aim of this site is to create a narrative form that in some essential way mimics the way we experience the web; and further, that uses this form to make observations on the way each individual human consciousness interacts with others and how this interaction goes on to produce a whole that essentially transcends the sums of its parts.
There are several, immediate aspects of "web-narrative" that distinguish it from other established narrative forms. Most obviously, there is the simple fact that posting a work on the web gives it the theoretical potential of connecting with the entire population of the wired world. Then there are the somewhat less obvious and somewhat more metaphorical ways, such as the formal use of the web page as analogue for the printed page, the clicked link as a successor to the turned page.
Fairvale nevertheless shares the same traditional purpose of all other expressive works: to communicate. And that which is to be communicated is simply one more variation on the same old story, which can be pretty much boiled down to the 4 am utterance, “Woah, I mean, why am I alive, man?” Yet this purpose too can exploit the structure of web-sites by using their linking structure to shed some light on the way we all connect when we communicate and how the individual and unique narrative that each of us carries around from cradle to grave links up and subsequently shapes and is shaped by those with whom each of us come in contact with throughout the course of all our lives; from the brief encounters on subway platforms and in lines at the supermarkets, banks, and post offices that make up our almost unconscious quotidian interactions with the mass of humanity at large, to the deeper and longer lasting bonds that we form with friends, school and work mates, lovers and spouses, and finally, that deepest of all mysteries, the bonds we share with our parents and those we form with our children.
The primary formal element that distinguishes Fairvale is the novelty of the narrative structure provided by the introduction of the random element made possible to the reader by the inherent structure of web-sites. The introduction of this random factor to the narrative is, I believe, somewhat analogous to the introduction of randomness to writing pioneered by William Burroughs via the innovative “cut-up method”, in which his writings were cut up and then reassembled at random, thereby creating combinations that the mind could not conceive of on its own due to the inherent limitations placed upon it during its formative years by the training and education it has received; at least that's the theory. The primary difference in the employment of “web-narrative” as opposed to “cut-up” is that the emphasis of alteration is shifted towards the over-arching narrative structure and away from the under-girding grammatical structure. As a result the effect thereby created is less directly assaultive on our interpretive apparatus. In addition, with “web-narrative” it is the reader rather than the writer who is empowered to assemble this narrative, and as a result it is the reader who determines the final form in which the narrative is absorbed; this is a crucial distinction. The shift in our horizon of expectations is more subtle, but, possibly, more profound as well. I can only hope that in addition to this formal novelty some intellectual stimulation will be provided solely by the text itself.
The way we connect to one another as human beings is, and must be, reflected in our fictions and myths. As the infrastructure of our communications has evolved from the spoken word to the printed word, from the drawn image to the painted image to the photographed image and then on to the filmed and then video-taped and now digitized moving image, we have left nothing behind; each new step is always simply an addition to that which came before, never a replacement. So it is with the internet and the web. It is simply another addition to the house of language in which we all live, giving us one more room to explore. Fairvale has been, is and will continue to be an exploration of this new room.
Fairvale as you will now experience it, if you choose to do so, is only at its bare skeletal beginning, and even that stage has yet to be completed; but I feel that there is enough now to warrant sharing it with others-- i.e., you. What you will get is the rough outline of where it is going along with a pretty good idea of where it is coming from.
At this point there are two ways to work through Fairvale. First is the way it is designed to be read, and that is just to plow right in and see where you end up, reading and linking, then reading and linking some more. The problem is that in Fairvale, as it stands right now, there are quite a few dead-ends, as it is so very much still under construction; so you will need to make liberal use of your browser’s back button if you want to continue. Certainly, the first order of business here at Fairvale is to reduce this dependence on the back button to a bare minimum and finally to eliminate it all together. Which leads us to the second way, which is to use the site map as a table of contents and just read through it one bit at a time. However, the links present on the majority of the pages will doubtless lure most readers away from the strict linearity of this method, with the end result being that you will find yourself, should you decide to continue beyond these introductory remarks, in all likelihood employing some combination of these two approaches.
Any comments, criticisms and/or contributions are quite welcome and will be responded to. The input I receive now will play a large part in determining where Fairvale goes from here, so if your reaction to the material is enough to make you care one way or another, share your thoughts. Your input will make a difference.
Thanks for your time. I've done my best to make Fairvale a place where its expenditure is commensurately rewarded.
6 January 2001
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