Signal to Noise, by Ian Hatcher, is a work of hyper-textual fiction. Despite the title, this text has no audio qualities. No sound or music, and no “noise.” The title is an allusion to the signal-to-noise ratio that is used to compare the strength of a signal and the background noise. In this case the the background noise is actually the signal.
The text is designed to be read simultaneously by multiple people at once. The readers, however, cannot interact with each other as there is no way to directly communicate. This social dynamic formed by the experience is the true meaning of the work, the literary content could be argued to be somewhat inconsequential when compared to significance of the interaction and all that can be deduced from it.
Each reader individually selects a progression of links and chooses actions for the protagonist of the story. As the text is read, and the readers interact with the links within it, a seemingly random assortment of letters appear on the space below the text. Gray against the black background, and then rapidly fading away. These letters become more prolific as you explore the text and take a life of there own. Drawing your attention. Forming a rhythm not only in their stance but with the tempo they fade in and out of the page. Their presence is an unavoidable disturbance.
The structure of the text and its progression, which makes the each reader move the mouse in order to find the links to click through promotes the viewing of the letters below. The realization comes about that the other person that is meant to be reading the text simultaneously is the one that effects ans interacts with the letters below while interact with the text above, and presumably the letters on the other reader's screen.
There are multiple links at one time that the reader can click through and the text is non linear. It is up to the readers to choose their individual directions. Therefore, since the each reader acts independently, the experience is not only individually unique but shared. Each reader makes choices that affect the other with out any influence on the previous choice, the dynamic is post reactionary. The experience is synchronized but not coordinated. It can be a somewhat uneasy feeling at first, if not frustrating, but highly intriguing.
Signal to noise is coded in a way that one can also interact with prior readers. This makes for two very different experiences . If the interaction is with a prior read, your experience is fast paced and dynamic. One can't help and wonder at the fact that the prior read that you are interacting with was made with yet another reader and you partake in half that event to a completely different result. Not to mention that there is an interaction with a conscious effort, but focused on a different experience. If the interaction is two readers simultaneously in real time, the experience is much slower. Both reader endure one another processing time while one chooses which link to follow. It creates a consciences of social interaction in where people must interpret each other in other to communicate with one another. A real realization of reaction time. It is a unique social experience in which the computer is not the tool but the interpreter. A social interaction exclusively limited to two one-way communications. The two people in this case only coexist in the text.