Get Lost With “Where You Are”

by Katie Sharrow-Reabe

There is a certain joy to falling down the rabbit hole. Readers of Where You Are, the latest project from Visual Editions, are taken down paths that seem to infinitely bend and twist. The digital book acts as an atlas to creativity and technical innovation that also celebrates the traditions of mapmaking and visual storytelling.

16 writers and artists created personal maps–some of which are fictional, others autobiographical, some hand-drawn or entirely typographic. They printed a physical edition of the project, which consists of 16 printed pieces that, when unopened, are the same size and shape. When opened, however, they take on different forms: some are saddle-stitched booklets, others unfold. The free digital book, which I find more captivating, is an ambitious project illustrative of the creative potential within digital publishing.

Each map takes the user on a journey inside the mind of its maker. Author Geoff Dyer utilizes a Google Maps view of his hometown in England to give a sort of walking tour of his adolescence, using a legend with subjects such as Death, Sex, Relatives and Employment. Rather than describing his experience, one can survey the hundreds of matching houses and cul de sacs surrounded by large swaths marking commercial farms and can imagine what it would be like to be a teenager in such a city. Peter Turchi’s map is a narrative speaking of roads not taken, which winds its way around the webpage. The text leads the reader down a clear path, but the design invites the reader to skip around on her own, sort of like Cortazar’s Hopscotch. But if you take your own path, you may never find your way back again. It is entirely possible to keep scrolling down, then realize that you’ve looped around and are above where you started. One is dependent on the course set by this map should they want to finish the essay, its reference to Borges’ labyrinths not lost on the reader.

Roads Not Taken, Peter Turchi

Each creation unfolds in a unique way and each challenges the expectations — and orientation — of its reader. The site features an index of participants that functions as a responsive table of contents; below each listing, there is a count of the number of readers and their referral source, so you can track (and follow) the routes taken to reach the site. The wide reach of this project is told by the disparity of some of the sources: The Paris Review, The New York Times, Reddit. Reviewing the site visitors and their places of origin, I discovered that one of the most popular sources was Site Inspire, a blog dedicated to showcasing beautiful and innovative websites. I find it heartening that a book can be selected as one of the best digital experiences available on the web today.

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