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Tube Lines
A digital fiction by Chris Joseph

Tube Lines is a set of overlapping narratives – personal and historical, passengers and staff – revealed through a reworking of the central London underground map. Readers may choose to follow the linear love story by tracing a particular journey around the 78 stops and lines. Alternatively they may access the nodes randomly in a kind of dadaist reading of the tale; or instead follow their own particular personal journey in the form of a digital labyrinth.

Created in Flash and primarily designed for desktop viewing, I wanted the scenes to be full of competing words and stories, sounds and images, like the tube itself. Too much information, yet for the London immigrant (and even after ten years here, I still feel like a newcomer) there is so much information that it seems an intentional and perverse recipe for confusion. A warning for users on older computers or slow internet connections: due to the number of layers, things may sometimes run slowly. However as regular tube travellers will know, this is another important aspect of the tube. Fortunately here things can be speeded up by switching off narrative layers via the menu bar at the bottom.

Although this piece is created for desktops, mobile readers are not forgotten. The stripped down stories can be uncovered in a more traditional fashion by viewing at the relevant central underground stations on a mobile device and a 3G/4G connection. There is one route around the underground network that will reveal the main story in a linear order, without crossing your path or doubling back on yourself. Please note: as internet access around the tube is patchy, you may have to exit some stations completely to receive a signal, so if you are viewing the stories this way I'd strongly recommend purchasing a travelcard rather than using an Oyster card.

Thank you to...

Firstly, many of the original videos used in this piece were taken by Jane Jones – I am hugely grateful for her permission to (ab)use them here. Likewise, many of the audio files are from the master sound engineer ERH, who generously continues to offer numerous high quality audio files for use under Creative Commons licensing at

Secondly, my enormous and continued thanks to the geographically spread community of old and new media readers and writers who inspire, advise, and create, because they believe that digital literature has something to offer beyond an unnecessary contraposition to print. In particular (alphabetically): Randy Adams, Mark Amerika, Jim Andrews, Alan Bigelow, Andy Campbell, the Creative Writing and New Media MA graduates and the Institute of Creative Technology at De Montfort University in Leicester, Marc Garrett, Ian Harper, Jess Laccetti, Chris Meade, Edward Picot, Kate Pullinger, Sue Thomas, Christine Wilks and Tim Wright.

Finally, most of all, to Nadine.

Inspiration and resources

Many artists and writers have used underground networks as inspiration for their work, The following is not an exhaustive list, but the works that have inspired, informed, made me laugh and kept me persevering with my own creative version of the London Underground network. Links are correct as of October 2012.

Transport for London (1863/2000-)
Zazie Dans Le Métro (Raymond Queneau, 1959)
253 (Geoff Ryman, 1996)
London Tube font (Jonathan Paterson, 1997)
Going Underground (Annie Mole, 1999-)
Sous-Terre (Grégory Chatonsky, 2000)
Citizen (Alison Clifford, 2001)
Sin and Subway (Millie Niss, 2001)
Tubeprune (2001-)
Tube Gossip (Greg Stekelman, 2002-2009)
Passagen (Sören Lachnit, 2004)
Travel Time Tube Map (Tom Carden, 2005)
Cyberpoetry Underground (Komninos Zervos, 2005)
London Underground Map with Distance Grids (kilf, 2006)
Describe Online - TFL services (Terry Robinson and Chris Cook, 2007-)
Tubewalker (Mark Moxon, 2008)
Sounding Underground (Ximena Alarcón, 2009)
Tunnel Sounds (Ben Langham, 2009-)
Live map (Matthew Somerville, 2010)
Lost London (Emilie Giles, 2010-2012) [not currently available]
Stickers on the Central Line (2011)
150 Great Things About the Underground (Ian Jones, 2012-)

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA Tube Lines is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.