Trail Blazers, web six degrees of separation

Theo Seemann

‘Trail blazing’ has a kind of Wild West ring to it. Expanding on the relaxed, nerdy couch potato attitude that Marisa Olson has labeled ‘Pro Surfer’, Trail Blazers takes this idea out into the world in a big way. Trail Blazers are sort of web surfers on steroids; Pro Surfer meets HTML wrestler. Participants actually leave the privacy of their homes or offices, and come together in big rooms. This is a project by Theo Seemann, a student of Russian online art pioneer Olia Lialina at the Merz Akademie in Stuttgart. Seemann created Trail Blazers as a surfing match in which the winner is the person who can find the shortest path between two sites, with only a mouse to navigate. The player has no keyboard and cannot use a search engine. The game is played with a slightly modified browser that registers every click. Besides being a lot of fun the project seems like a declaration of war on the search engine. It is a return to the feel of the early Web, in which navigation largely depended on links. In this sense it is also a return to the truly social web. In a time when the search engine, and this is usually Google, increasingly guesses the pathway (‘did you mean?’), link surfing is the digital equivalent of the six degrees of separation. Players actually have to look and see where they are, resulting in a more grounded form of web surfing. With your hand firmly positioned on your mouse, you conquer the data landscape, travelling from host to host. Trail Blazers do this, and they do it fast, somewhat like Gone in Sixty Seconds. Like that movie, Trail Blazers also have their own soundtrack, with music typical of the German digital highway. Music for Trail Blazers, part one.

Josephine Bosma