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White Noise on White Noise
Mar 17, 1997 :: Michael Sippey


(OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - March 17, 1997) Stating the Obvious is pleased to announce a new site which brings fragments of Don DeLillo's seminal novel "White Noise" to the World-Wide Web. The site, titled "White Noise on White Noise," is a random walk through DeLillo's text, hand-annotated with hypertext links to the WWW. "White Noise on White Noise" can be found on the web at <>.

"Noise," as the site's creator Michael Sippey affectionately refers to it, is a collection of 36 randomly selected, small fragments of text from DeLillo's novel. The fragments range from 1 to 10 lines in length, and appear in page number order. Reading the site provides an experience akin to quickly browsing through the novel in a bookstore. The entire site can be experienced in 15 minutes, leaving the reader with merely an impression of the novel's power and relevance to late 20th-century American life.

The identifying elements of each fragment -- the page number, the beginning line number, and the number of lines to quote --- were picked using Microsoft Excel's RANDBETWEEN function. Certain words in the text of each fragment have been hand-annotated with links to the World Wide Web, each destination URL chosen by Sippey to have relevance to the selected fragment. In most cases, these links need not be followed; the reader can merely pass their mouse pointer over the link to experience the appropriate cultural response.

"By using Excel's random number generator, I was able to remove myself from the process of selecting appropriate fragments of text. The machine became the author of the site," according to Sippey. This is contrasted, however, with the hypertext links, which were personally chosen by Sippey. "For me, reading the novel 'White Noise' is a hypertext experience to begin with. Building 'White Noise on White Noise' was a way to make those associations explicit."

The site goes live at a time when the popular press is awash with references to DeLillo's upcoming novel, "Underworld," scheduled for release in Fall 1997. "With 'Noise,' I hope to introduce the above-average Internet reader to DeLillo's work, well in advance of the release of 'Underworld'," says Sippey. "Furthermore, I hope the site encourages readers to purchase 'White Noise' and read the novel in its entirety."

During production of the site, which lasted more than four months, Sippey was faced with issues related to copyright and fair use. "I believe that 'Noise' is covered under the fair use provision of the Copyright Act. It passes the four factors test with flying colors, being a work of comment and criticism that quotes only a small portion of DeLillo's novel."

Sippey, however, is well aware of the trials and tribulations faced by Luke Seeman, the producer of The Holden Server, which provided randomly generated selections from J.D. Salinger's novel, "Catcher in the Rye." Seeman shut down The Holden Server after receiving cease-and-desist correspondence from Salinger's literary agency, Harold Ober and Associates. "I sincerely hope that 'Noise' isn't attacked the way The Holden Server was," says Sippey. "For me, 'White Noise' is fundamentally about the role that technology plays in our culture. I would hope that Mr. DeLillo and his representatives respect the way that I've used technology to give the Internet community a new way of experiencing just a small portion of his work."

"White Noise on White Noise" is the latest addition to the "Other" section of Stating the Obvious. Previous "Other" projects include The Network Diagram, a guide to incest in the web publishing industry, and Suck Harder, the officially licensed home for castoffs from the daily webzine Suck. Stating the Obvious, located at <> is a site which provides weekly commentary on Internet technology, business and culture. It's been run by Sippey since August of 1995.



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