Networks and lines
Abstracted map of the Paris metro
I have been thinking about networks since Craig’s thought-provoking comment about the radial nature Chicago L system a few days ago. Thing is, I can’t shake the feeling that narrative and transportation networks are somehow related.
One easy relationship has to do with consumption. I enjoy being on the subway because it affords me time to read that I otherwise would not have. (I turn down rides home because I crave the time to read on the subway.) But what I really love is the way the L — especially when it is underground and impervious to cell transmission — eliminates options. You may be late for work, but there’s really nothing you can do about it. You can’t call anyone; you can’t get off the train and get to work any faster; you’re stuck. And that is wonderful. I feel like I suffer from a surfeit of options sometimes. It is so nice to just resign yourself to the moment. I’m going to keep reading until my stop, damnit. So nice to succumb to linearity.
But that’s not really what interests me. I’m still trying to tease this out, but clearly subway system design has conceptual similarities with new media. Stories can be point-to-point, multi-linear, radial, and true networks. They can even break out of the established route, creating new stations further afield. If you mapped these narrative arcs I bet they would bear a striking resemblance to the abstracted maps of subways around the world.