Deep Surface

Deep Surface

Deep Surface is a textual instrument that plays with the metaphor of immersion. Starting with the irony of a U.S. government report that warned of "reading at risk", Moulthrop creates an ingenious work born from a strange love affair between a reading machine and a free diving simulator. Deep Surface is a suggestive literary image based on a simple question: what would happen if the pages of a book, or rather, the so-called web-pages were made of a flexible fluid such as water, so that readers could dive gradually from the home page to the next and so on? Deep Surface is not just a narrative, because it is similar in structure and approach to a game, but you must enter the literary dimension to learn how to play, how to breathe, and therefore, to be able to keep reading.


Author description: Deep Surface is the monstrous progeny of a strange romance between a reading machine and a free-diving simulator. Literature at crush depth. Hypertext gets wet. Generically, it is yet another instrument: one of those things you can play (or play with), without playing a game. There are rules here, and procedures, and (as in Real Life) a more or less invisible scoring system; so astute players may be able to invent clever and even elegant strategies. But if you're not feeling astute, you can plunge in and have a dip, immersing yourself in what signs and symptoms may present themselves as you pass by, dreaming perhaps of meaning... till robot voices wake you, and you drown.

Instructions: Deep Surface requires a Web browser with Flash Player 7 or later. Audio is an important part of the experience, so you will also want headphones or powered speakers.

Previous publication: Deep Surface won first prize in narrative at the "Ciutat de Vinaròs" Awards in 2007. Code, graphics, and text, spoken and written, are my work, except for quotations. Deep Surface was programmed in ActionScript 2.0, using Macromedia Flash 8. Synthetic voices are ScanSoft's Tom, Daniel, and Emily. Sea sounds are from samples at the Freesound archive. Graphics were produced with Poser 7 and Vue 6 Esprit, using figures from Digital Art Zone and assets from vendors at Renderosity, used in compliance with relevant licenses.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.

The Electronic Literature Lab could not preserve this Flash work with Ruffle in February 2021. We do plan to preserve it with Conifer at a later date.