Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Walter Benjamin Labyrinth Game

"Opinions are to the vast apparatus of social existence what oil is to machines: one does not go up to a turbine and pour machine oil over it; one applies a little to hidden spindles and joints that one has to know." ~Walter Benjamin

From my youth I have been fascinated by labyrinths. Perhaps this is what later led me to take an interest in the writings of Jorge Luis Borges after my first encounter with his story The Garden of Forking Paths, as did many other readers and writers who have encountered his brilliance.

When I first discovered the World Wide Web in 1994 it became apparent to me that in a certain sense it was like a gigantic, ever-expanding labyrinth. Most people look at pages upon pages of information, in visual form. But what I saw was a network of rooms, each hyperlinked to other rooms.

When I designed my first website in 1995 I constructed it along those lines, as a network of connected rooms. I mapped it out much like the board game Clue where there were hidden passages to take you from one corner to the other. Online, you do not see those passages, you only see the rooms.

For the fun of it, and to illustrate my idea, I built a labyrinth of sorts on my website. The way it worked was that you enter where it says "Enter" and that links to a next room and a next. It was a fairly simple construct, with occasional places along the journey to make a decision between one link or another. Hard to believe that this was twenty years ago. You can still visit it here.

This week I decided to use this labyrinth concept to make a game for readers of this blog. I call it The Walter Benjamin Labyrinth Game because of Michael J. Gilmour's The Gospel According To Bob Dylan, which I reviewed the other day.

Gilmour opens the preface of his book with the quote at the top of the page, which is intriguing in and of itself, an interesting start-point. Then for four pages he presents his premise that Walter Benjamin, a German philospher and essayist who died in 1940, and Bob Dylan have a lot in common. The theme is returned to in several places along the way and in greater depth around page 100.

All this led me to seek to learn more about Walter Benjamin.

My guess is that many you are unfamiliar with Walter Benjamin, so I thought a link to his Wikipedia page would be interesting. But as I considered this the idea emerged to turn this blog entry into another labyrinth, to make a game and see where it goes.

The game goes like this. Beginning at the Walter Benjamin Wikipedia page, find the correct "door" to the next "room" in this immense labyrinth. When you click on the Walter Benjamin hotlink below it will open another tab and you can return here to retrieve your next clue while working your way through over there. Work your way through the "labyrinth" by retrieving a new clue each time the next page opens.

After a day or so I will share a comment regarding the last clue, which also has to do with Borges, and labyrinths.  Have fun.

Walter Benjamin Hotlink

1. Major 19th century French poet. (Wait for the re-direct.)

2. His muse and onetime mistress. (There is a picture of her on the page.)

3. Her longtime lover was a Belgian tycoon

4. People who died the year he died.

5. The Royal Naval Officer whose last name begins with the letter A.

6. The ship he joined in 1804 had 38 guns.

7. In 1866 the Admiralty sold this ship for $2000 to this company....

8. ..that was founded by....

9. The country in South America where the man helped develop transportation systems.

10. The largest city in this country is....

11. This city formed a partner city relationship with what other city in 1997?

12. What famous author from this city is pictured on this page?

13. Where was he buried?

And your bonus question: What does this burial place have to do with Jorge Luis Borges? If you can answer that one, you're pretty darn good.

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Meantime, life goes on all around you. Celebrate it. Happy Pi Day!

1 comment:

jacobihc said...

Jorge Luis Borges aux Éditions Montparnasse?