Nod – Commentary

My project is based on the dystopian novel Nod by Adrian Barnes. Within the novel the protagonist, Paul, creates ‘a book about the history of sidetracked words, of orphaned and deformed words. An etymological freakshow’.[1] This book is also named Nod and is integral to the proceedings of the story. After the vast majority of the world loses the ability to sleep and society crumbles, Paul’s Nod is appropriated as a religious text by a small sect of the sleep deprived population, which refer to themselves as ‘the Awakened’.[2] As the author of this religious text Paul becomes an unwilling prophet, and manages to survive and watch the effects of sleeplessness on society, despite his status as a ‘Sleeper’.[3] As the novel plays out Paul’s Nod also transforms into a kind of journal that details the collapse of civilisation, as such this book is integral to the novel in both a passive and active manner. My project lifts this imaginary book from Barnes’ novel, and transforms it into an authentic, albeit digital, version of how it might look.

I used Textwrangler and constructed Nod out of code, this allowed for the greatest freedom of design and possibility for interactivity. Interactivity is very important for the project and hypertext allows the user to transfer effortlessly between: journal entries, etymological definitions and important quotations. As Barnes’ novel is preoccupied with connections between words, and how they shape reality, hypertext was an ideal medium for demonstrating the multitude of connections within the novel. The user is not forced to follow the same linear path as the novel when interacting with the project; instead they can forge their own path by following any hyperlinked word or phrase that captures their imagination. In many ways the project has a similar functionality to a wikipedia, but is different in that it purports to be a genuine document in which the user has to actively uncover the story. It was integral to have the utmost freedom of design as I wanted the project to have an authentic feel. This was achieved by various means such as: using a realistic font that emulates handwriting, genuine looking pages, and evidence of amendments and erasure to the writing. I even included the presence of ‘The Admiral of the Blue’ to some pages, a villainous character whom appropriated Paul’s book and used it for his own cultish means.[4] The Admiral’s unique blue scrawled handwriting can be seen, commenting upon and amending certain pages.

The concept of my project is highly influenced by 88 Constellations for Wittgenstein ‘an interactive, non-linear piece that explores the life and philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein’.[5] I wanted to emulate the interactivity and sense of exploration that David Clark created, his interactive constellations allow viewers to examine the associative relationships between his different vignettes. Likewise, my project aimed to create associations between different aspects of the novels such as the etymology of forgotten words and how they relate to the plot. I knew this task was viable as each chapter of Nod begins with a forgotten word or phrase that somehow relates to the main story. I also sought to imitate the philosophical, introspective and digressive nature of 88 Constellations for Wittgenstein in which the user is encouraged to diverge from linearity and consider philosophical musings. Barnes’ novel lent itself well to this idea as it is infused with introspection, philosophical and moral contemplation. As a result some hyperlinks lead the user to abstract content, such as a poem from Lewis Carroll or a passage from Paul considering Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. I included these aspects of the novel as I wanted the project to inspire the user to think upon the larger implications of the novel, rather than just search the project for the bare plot details.

Ultimately, the project compliments the novel by allowing the users to immerse themselves to an even greater extent into the story. My project lends itself to the premise of Barnes’ novel which presents itself as a record of the end of humanity. By creating an interactive version of Nod the reader can more freely and believably fulfil the role he or she is given by Barnes; the role of discoverer and interpreter of a book that chronicles the end of mankind. Free from the constraints of linear storytelling the user can actually interact with a form of Nod which looks like a genuine artefact from an apocalyptic world, and which requires interactivity to discover all its content.

[1] Barnes, Adrian Nod. London: Titan Books, 2015. p19

[2] Ibid, p

[3] Ibid, p41

[4] Ibid, p83

[5] Clark, David 88 Constellations for Wittgenstein. [Online] Available from: [9 May 2016]

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