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Desktop Island

johannes p osterhoff - Desktop Island

Got struck on a deserted island.
So I thought.
By now I discovered a lost civilization based on—Windows.
I cannot leave yet, so please read my notes!

This interface-based robinsonade I wrote in 2009 for the Digital Folklore Reader published by my former professors Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied. You can start reading here, download the PDF version (2.3 MB, great layout by Manuel Bürger), or buy the book.


Memo 1, day 1
WatchI am the only survivor of Flight 6000 to Redmond, WA. My plane has crashed into the bay of a deserted island. It is quite likely this happened on February 1, 2007 at 3 pm (which is when my watch stopped working anyway). It seems I am all by myself and so I have decided to take notes of my life here. As the exact date is not clear, I will write the notes undated with consecutive numbers.

Memo 2, day 6
WatchThe island is a real paradise. The scenery is beautiful and diverse. It is populated by many exotic plants and appears to be completely untouched. Not a soul to be seen. No traces of any civilization at all. And except for a few butterflies, no animals.
How long will the supplies from the plane last?

Memo 3, day 8
I have discovered a bridge! It appears not to have been used for ages. Later I discovered more evidence of a civilization on the island. Not far from the bridge I have also found some deserted houses. I will continue my exploration into this direction tomorrow.

Memo 6 a, day 13, in the evening
Wow! From the peak of a hill I saw a gigantic city surrounded by a medieval wall. In the distance I could see the lights from suburbs and skyscrapers. I ran down the hill and climbed over the wall. I still cannot believe it! I am delirious with joy!
I saw houses, and streets, and electricity. Everything is familiar and I have found myself back in civilization.

Memo 6 b, day 14 in the morning
Yesterday I was completely exhausted and fell asleep on a nearby bench. I slept deeply. When I woke up the next morning I was scared. Nearby my bench I could see a group of… aliens. I thought I might still be dreaming. They had heads and torsos like you and me, but neither arms nor legs… And they were hovering!

When I came closer, I could see their faces. They were blank. At first glance they were man-like, but then I saw that they were lacking eyes, nose as well as mouth. They clearly could not see me. I will try to remain undetected and observe these aliens from a safe distance.

Memo 6 c, day 14 noon
I am still observing the aliens. I have not tried to get in touch with them. I do not dare to. I have noticed that they seem to communicate among themselves by telepathy.

Memo 7, day 15
Although there are streets, I have not discovered any cars. The streets of the city seem to me like the ruins of a formerly motorized society. Perhaps because the aliens can hover, they no longer need cars and have no need for the streets. The city offers a network of teleporters. In all major locations there are teleport stations, which are used by the aliens to “jump” between stations throughout the city.

Memo 10, day 18
First contact! Despite my fears the aliens are very friendly. However communication still is difficult. They appear to understand my words, but they cannot speak and I am not capable of reading their thoughts. Unfortunately this means that exchange takes place in a single direction.

Memo 16, day 20
We have found a way to communicate. The aliens are capable of projecting diagrams, signs and symbols to me. In response to my questions they answer with these visuals and I am slowly starting to comprehend.

Memo 19, day 25
The aliens invited me to the biggest building in the city—the “Library”. It is a huge building that contains the entire history and collective memory of the alien society. It was communicated to me that I would find answers to my questions here. After several days of silent observation I am very keen to learn more about the aliens’ past.

Memo 20, history, part 1
My research in the “Library” is progressing well. I have begun to understand that: the entire society continues to evolve rapidly in many areas
the beings’ technological achievements can be seen as reactions to a genetic mutation that is causing the rapid change to the entire society.

Memo 22, dwellings
The beings inhabit small houses, reminding me of old-fashioned cottages. These cottages are arranged into estates of terraced houses. Each of these estates is equipped with a teleport station. They all look very similar. Entrance doors are located on the front right, and to the left there is a small window. Usually these houses have a red rooftop, although I have found a few smaller ones with light blue paint and a blue roof.

Memo 23, office buildings
The aliens work in large office buildings behind glass facades; some also have prefabricated plastic parts. The buildings usually have six floors and have a smaller adjoining building in which a teleport station is located. Office parks are surrounded with brick walls. These walls also are pre-fabricated. They consist of many elements of the same type imitating a wall of 14 bricks.
There are no gates or passages between these office parks. Commuting office workers teleport themselves from work to another teleport station near their home and hover the rest of the way.

Memo 25, history, part 2
The evidence suggests that these aliens must have developed their telepathic abilities over a short period of time. The change must have happened so quickly that that neither the culture nor architecture had time to properly adapt.
As I have discovered, this change was likely caused by a genetic mutation in which they lost their physiognomic features. When their ability to speak degenerated, they developed the iconic projections they still use to communicate with me. When they gradually lost their sight, they developed the ability to interconnect themselves by telepathy. Around this same time the teleport stations were built.

Memo 31, visual arts
Due to the degeneration of their sensory organs development in the visual arts also seems to have stopped. But even though the beings cannot see paintings any more, the genre still is popular and retains a sentimental value. During my research in the Library I found that four styles remain popular:

1. Depictions of the island
The most common subject on the island is the island itself. There are numerous different kinds of prints in various styles. Those prints can be found in the islanders’ homes and on the desks in many offices as well.

2. Flower pictures
Additionally I saw many images of the island’s diverse flora. One type of image in particular, showing a flower in front of gray patterns is very popular.

3. Paintings of Painting
Another dominant genre on the island is depictions of painting itself. In these styles of pictures I saw images of brushes, painted color spots and close-ups canvases. This genre seems to have had its heyday before the society developed their telepathic abilities. It is as if, worried they were losing their ability to paint forever, all they could paint was the act of painting itself. These sentimental and yet sober views bear witness to the impact of the severe changes the society underwent. When the beings later also lost their sight many artists turned towards this genre, sadly aware that they might lose painting as such forever. Their sentimental and yet sober view still bears witness to the impact of the severe changes the society had to undergo.

4. Geometrical figures
Simple geometric figures and shapes are the fourth and last genre of visual arts on the island.

Memo 34, industries
As illustrated the society is very technologically advance and highly developed. This is especially noticeable in the high-quality manufacturing of electronic goods and glass products.

Memo 39, planned society?
In the Library I have found an interesting document depicting a number of formulas and diagrams. According to these formulas the islanders seem to regard half of the ‘golden proportion’ as a perfect and aesthetic ratio.

This would mean a ration of 1 to 5,23 or 68,75 degrees of a whole.

Apparently this “ideal” ratio has been applied to many aspects of society.
Besides being dominant in architecture and the visual arts, it is also used to plan and control population. E.g. the relationship of couples to singles and the relationship of adults to children are subject to the ratio. As a result there are strong sanctions and laws for families.

Last memo
I remember myself being on my way to Redmond on Flight 6000. Most likely it was on February . Unfortunately I cannot provide any information on my whereabouts. The island and its inhabitants are so unique I can hardly imagine where it could be.

And because the islanders have never left their island there are no records in the Library as to its location. There is only one single map. It is very vague.

I am full of hope that this one map, which locates the island in the proximity of the Cayman Islands might give my rescuers a small hint. With this I am finished and will send off these documents.