Eventually, even the out of the way topic within the topographic is mapped and storied. In Dassin’s Night and the City, made in political exile in London, the whole of space has become telegraphic. There is no escape. This completes the first level. Topology begins when the topical ceases to have any autonomy, when the line along which communication flows closes the gap between map and territory. The open frontier is enclosed in a field of calculation. History and geography cease to dwell between the topical and the topographical, always rushing to keep up. History and geography are subsumed within a topology, which tends towards a continuous field of equivalent and exchangeable values, instantly communicable everywhere. Where the topical was once bounded within the lines of the topographical, it is now connected along the lines of the topological. The fixed geometry of topography gives way to the variable forms of topology, in which the lines connecting points together lends themselves to transformation without rupture from one shape to another. The storyline of outward movement is complete; the gamespace of interior play commences. Welcome to the second level.
Topology announces its ambitions through radio and particularly television, a signal for everywhere and nowhere, potentially interested in anyone or anywhere, a Candid Camera. The key genres for working out the subsumption of the topographic into the topological are the situation comedy and the game show. On a game show, anyone can be taken out of everyday life and brought into the magic circle of television; on a sitcom, television can extend itself to the everyday life familiar to the average viewer, anywhere. Sitcom and game show announce the coming of a topology in which all of space might be doubled simultaneously, without lag, by lines of image, lines of sound, which as yet still broadcast out of central nodes. The lines run only one way and indiscriminately.
What completes topology and prepares it for the next — unknown — level is when the line splits again. The telegraph is a line that connects, but it is also a code, a line that makes distinctions, chopping information up into digital bits. Gradually, the digital extends and expands to the whole of telesthesia, from telegraph to the internet and beyond. This combination of the speed of telesthesia, its perpetual advantage in its war with objects and subjects, with the digital code that divides all information and makes it malleable, is what makes possible a vast and inclusive topology of gamespace. This is the third level: The world of topology is the world of The Cave™. Any and every space is a network of lines, pulsing with digital data, on which players act and react. In work and play, it is not the novel, not cinema, not television that offers the line within which to grasp the form of everyday life, it is the game. Julian Dibbell: “…in the strange new world of immateriality toward whcih the engines of production have long been driving us, we can now at last make out the contours of a more familiar realm of the insubstantial — the realm of games and make believe.”
If the novel, cinema or television can reveal through their particulars an allegory of the world that makes them possible, the game reveals something else entirely. For the reader, the novel produces allegory as something textual. The world of possibility is the world of the linguistic sign. For the viewer, the screen allegory is something luminous. The world of possibility is the world of mechanical reproducibility. For the gamer, the game produces allegory as something algorithmic. The world of possibility is the world internal to the algorithm. So: a passage from the topic to the topographic, mediated by the novel; a passage from the topographic to the topological, mediated by television; a passage, mediated by the game, from the topological to as yet unknown geographies, a point where the gamer seems to be stuck.
Start over with another new world. (This time with a little gamer theory.) Welcome to the first level: The novel is a line of a certain type, which opens towards certain possibilities, a storyline. It arises at the moment when topic gives way to topography. For Georg Lukács, what is to be valued is the historical novel and its ability to trace a line across an historical moment and reveal the forces at work in it. “It is the portrayal of the broad living basis of historical events in their intricacy and complexity, in their manifold interaction with acting individuals.” The historical novel shows historical events through secondary characters, perhaps not unlike the reader, and shows the historical event as at the same time a transformation of everyday life. And yet the novel suffers this paradox: it can only represent the line of which it is only a part to the reader. If it explores the possibilities of the line within its pages it opens itself to a ‘formalism’ that leaves the reader behind.