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.

(5) Comments for 056.
posted: 5/24/2006

Just a typo note: in the third last sentence there is an agreement issue – the clause “in which the lines connecting points together lends themselves…”

posted: 6/4/2006

is it possible to have links to the films and media referenced? Example in ////Dassin’s Night and City////
or something close to that. Or at least a wikipedia entry summarizing the reference? I obviously need to watch more noir pictures to understand your book =)

McKenzie Wark responds to andrew jones
posted: 6/4/2006

I think it would be good result for a book to encourage people to watch some good films, or play some good games, ot read some good books — rather than be a stand in for them.

posted: 1/7/2007

“In Dassin’s Night and the City, made in political exile in London, the whole of space has become telegraphic.”

I think it should be “In Dassin’s Night and the City, the whole of space has become telegraphic.”

The part about him being in political exile in London seems like it should be in a paragraph introducing Dassin to readers that don’t know who he is or where he’s coming from.

It would also make people more interested in checking out the material these other authors have published.

McKenzie Wark responds to Joe
posted: 1/9/2007

Thanks fr the suggestion. What i am hinting at is that Dassein’s imaginary London with a pervasive underworld who communicate with telegraphic speed might partly come out of is experience of Mccarthyism, which was also a telegraphic rumour mill, with nowhere to run but to leave the country. But that’s another story and only partly connected to this book.

Leave a new comment
View all comments in the book
(All comments will be moderated)
(1) Comments for 057.
posted: 1/14/2007

i am looking forward to reading this book for the first time. i hope this book will get published soon. keep up the good work.

Leave a new comment
View all comments in the book
(All comments will be moderated)
(3) Comments for 058.
posted: 5/24/2006

in the dibbell quote there is a small typo: whcih for which…

Julian Dibbell responds to virginia kuhn
posted: 5/29/2006

And while we’re on the topic, here’s citation info, now that the book is off to the printers:

page 25, Play Money: Or, How I Quit My Day Job and Made Millions Trading Virtual Loot. Basic, 2006.

McKenzie Wark responds to Julian Dibbell
posted: 5/30/2006

It’s a terrific book, Julian. (Not that i’ve read it, i just wrote a blurb for it ;^}…) Since you have multiplayer covered, i’m mostly talking about player vs machine interactions here. I’ve also left out the amazing para-culture in which gamers communicate about these games, which i think Henry Jenkins has down cold.

Leave a new comment
View all comments in the book
(All comments will be moderated)
(3) Comments for 059.
posted: 6/17/2006

very interesting McKenzie. I like this part very much. Very clear and logical.I know you are not covering multiplayer, but I imagine you would feel that the online gaming world would combine som eelements of the topological and the topographic- like television, it’s brings individuals out of everyday life and into the magic circle. But it’s a very different magic circle. More closed than TV- Xbox for example limits games for the most part to 16 players, so it is not a global village. This is not true of the single-player games that you discuss, where it is a lonlely (and beautiful) world of just you and the code.

McKenzie Wark responds to cburke
posted: 6/18/2006

I’d see multiplayer more as the invasion of the game by gamespace. It actually reduces the atopian qualities of the single player world, introducing the everyday social games that populate gamespace.

posted: 3/7/2007

i concur

Leave a new comment
View all comments in the book
(All comments will be moderated)
Comments for 060.
Leave a new comment
(All comments will be moderated)

scroll for more comments
Recent Comments in Forum
Forum has been discontinued
We are looking into whether it is possible to resurrect the forum, but have had to disable it since moving servers.
Go To Forum