Locative texts

June 13th, 2010
by jodi

A post at HLit got me thinking about locative hypertexts, which are meant to be read in a particular place.

Monday, Liza Daly shared an epub demo which pulls in the reader’s location, and makes decisions about the character’s actions based on movement. Think of it as a choose-your-own-adventure novel crossed with a geo-aware travel guide. It’s a brief proof-of-concept, and the most exciting part is that the code is free for the taking under the very permissive (GPL + commercial-compatible) MIT License. Thanks, Liza and Threepress for lowering barriers to experimentation with ebooks!

‘Locative hypertexts’ also bring to mind GPS-based guidebooks as envisioned in the 2007 Editus video ‘Possible ou probable…?’1:

Tim McCormick summarizes:

In the 9-minute video, we get mouth-watering, partly tongue-in-cheek scenes of continental Europe’s quality-of-life — fantastic trains & pedestrian streetscapes,independent bookstores, delicious food, world-class museums, weekend getaway to Bruges, etc.– as the movie follows a couple through a riotous few days of E-book high living.

On their fabulously svelte, Kindle 2-like devices, they

  • read and purchase novels
  • enjoy reading on the beach
  • get multimedia museum guides
  • navigate foreign cities with ease
  • stay in multimedia contact with friends and family
  • collaborate with colleagues on shared virtual desktops while at sidewalk cafes
  • see many hi-resolution Breughel paintings online and off that I’m dying to see myself


Multimedia guidebooks2 are approaching this vision. Combine them with (also-existing) turn-by-turn directions, and connectivity and privacy will be the largest remaining obstacles.

So then what about location-based storytelling? I got to thinking about the iPhone apps I’ve already encountered, which are intended for use in particular places:

  • Walking Cinema: Murder on Beacon Hill – a murder mystery/travel series based in Boston (available as an iPhone app and podcast).
  • Museum of the Phantom City: Other Futures – a multimedia map/alternate history of NYC architecture, described as a way to “see the city that could have been”. It maps never-built structures envisioned by Buckminster Fuller, Gaudi, and others – ideally while you’re “standing on the projects’ intended sites”.
  • Museum of London: Streetmuseum, true history of London in photos, meant for use on the streets
  • Historic Earth, has historical maps which could be interesting settings for historical locative storytelling
  1. Editus’ copy of the video []
  2. e.g. the Lonely Planet city guide series for iPhone []

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