ORAt the first click, Omnipedia feels like Wikipedia’s shadow sister: empty white space with an occasional image, punctuated by thin black text and iconic blue hyperlinks. But now we are on a different Internet. This fictional encyclopedia is essentially the narrator of Neurocracy, which is part game, part murder mystery, and part postmodern exploration of how we assimilate stories and information. It is a maze of text: the reader or player navigates a 2049 version of our world by clicking on hyperlinks. Having explored a bit, I think it is better to go totally blind, although I will say that the central mystery concerns the death of the man who launched Omnipedia in the wake of Wikipedia, a character named Xu Shaoyong.
We move from one fictitious entry to the next, gradually learning that this future world is full of threats, from the presence of a disease that disrupts civilization, to binaural implants that track and enhance our online experiences, to quotes that show ending. in a shocking loss of life. It feels eerily close to the internet as we know it, but with subtle differences that amount to clever ambient storytelling. For example, the GDPR cookie-tracking pop-up that is now the gatekeeper at the door of every website includes familiar text about data and consent, and a note about our “montages” being tracked – our emotional state, as per it is tracked by an algorithm. .
The style of the narrative is more like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, but rejects linearity in favor of allowing the reader-player to intuit himself through the information network. The rabbit hole online becomes a literary resource. There is even an option, like in Wikipedia, to start on a random page. This is ambitious and safe writing – here’s a certainty that this mystery machine works so well that you can enter the maze from any angle and still find what you’re looking for.
Omnipedia is an unreliable storyteller; We are encouraged to look at the edit logs for each wiki page to see what information is new and what has been removed. This Wikipedia feature, programmed into the encyclopedia for transparency, is used here as a postmodern storytelling tool and provides a strange kind of tension. Revealing new information and old information about the search for the truth behind Shaoyong’s death injects drama into the static and familiar space of a website.
New material has been added to Neurocracy every week, and its storytelling method is compelling. For me, the best way to get involved is with a notebook, jotting down my findings, but there’s also a thriving Discord community doing research. However, what is more powerful than the murder mystery is the description of a world that feels incredibly close to our reality. There is a feeling in every entrance that what we see there could be right around the corner. This is what excellent science fiction does: It is a mirror of culture as it is and shows us what is coming up behind us.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism