I beg to differ from the view that all the elements which make up a given web page should fit neatly on the screen. I believe the act of scrolling to 'wipe away', topics, themes or ideas that you have finished with before being presented with the next one, is a useful mechanism. Besides, blank areas in a page have no overheads so your piece of cyber territory could be as greedy as you like. Several kilometers wide and several high, with a two pixel survey peg hammered into the bottom right corner, all sent down the line in the blink of an eye. An inviting space for your user to explore.
In some of these pages I'm going to make you work. You will have to scroll around to discover things. It could be a means by which an author might direct your attention in all sorts of inventive ways in a malleable landscape of browser-framed text.
A "writing" style suitable for web pages is yet to evolve. Text which makes sound, a word or sentence that moves in ways which convey meaning, perhaps in poignant counterpoint to it's dictionary definition, ambient sound tied to the reading of a particular passage. The dynamic of time, the rhythm of ideas and the 'theatre' of their presentation, the tension of design across a surface, the hypertext sideways jump to either related or very different trains of thought, the ambiance of the links encrusted around a site, a place where 'readers' talk back to authors, all provide the tools of a new kind of storytelling.
The internet is the conceptual marvel of our time. It has become a means of communication unlike any that has gone before:
Yet in spite of its potentially vast audience, it can be a most intimate form of communication, seemingly able to reveal something of the person behind the page. It is also the cheapest, most far-reaching form of self-publishing imaginable and for now at least, you can say what you damn well like because big brother hasn't a hope in hell of regulating the beast (or so we hope). Consequently it is merely a reflection the noble and to a minuscule degree, the evil, as found in human societies everywhere.
Above the increasingly featureless plain caused by the cancer of a world mono-culture determined by the greed of global corporations, which turns our food and our street scapes into boring sameness, where my city looks like yours, and I eat what you eat, and I watch what you watch, the net offers people a place where they can proclaim, celebrate and preserve their difference - where a culture, otherwise destined to demise, might even find a place with unassailable walls behind which to flourish.
The internet is a place where like-souls find each other. That's magic. It forces us to rethink the meaning of community in a way that is not place, race or culture specific. It sheds light on the injustices of repressive regimes as people take their message of despair and outrage to the world at the speed of electrical impulses. It is also a rampant rumour mill running out of control.
In a world of wired billions, the net makes it conceivable
that our day-to-day work will merely be to follow our own God given passion.
Once we are asked to pay ten cents a look, once all the mechanisms of
distributing tiny fractions of this small cost to its various stake-holders
can be automatically accounted for, then it is possible that someone's
quirky interests or unusual hobby becomes their livelihood. What a joyous
way to make a living. At last, the promise of technology delivered. You
instruct me how to fix my Goggomobile and I'll give you a great recipe
for marinated whale blubber.
This is a personal site. Nothing slick or corporate here. I was looking for some warmth in its design so I've used my own handwriting as links from the index page to other sections of the site. Research suggests that the use of the human face has psychological importance in communication, hence my digitally doctored image on the index page. (Just run the picture through a Photoshop aging filter with a setting of +20 years and stretch it sideways by 10% to get a better idea of my current appearance).
At times I'm interested in clear navigational design, but conversely, in narrow secretive 'doorways' easily overlooked that lead into a richer Aladdin's cave of offerings, just as if you missed taking a narrow side street which led to some significant architectural treasure. In some sections of this site, I'm quite keen to get you hopelessly lost. In short I'll be weaving my own mischievous web.
I started experimenting with columns as one might find in a newspaper. I learnt from my days as a graphic design student that it is difficult for the eye to keep track of long spaghetti-like lines of text. Columns can limit a string of words to manageable lengths, but I've found them handier as margins in which to add footnotes, side stories and commentary which might be subservient to the body text, or indeed to keep parallel trains of thought together in the same screen space.
Some of these pages contain excessively
large files, particularly those with coloured photographs. If you are
on an internet backbone at, for example, another university, the downloads
should be reasonable. My apologies to others who do not have access to
this kind of speed. I experimented with a number of different compressions
in order to crunch my graphics down but found a point at which image quality
began to suffer so much that I was not prepared to compromise any further.
You'll have to determine for yourself whether they are
worth the world wide wait.
I've worked on and off in manic bursts, sometimes all through the night and I can't yet tell what is driving me. Although I am doing it for myself, the fact that it is potentially up before the rest of the world seems important too.
I am a little concerned that this is shaping up as a backward looking site, somewhat nostalgic in its nature. I'm always very excited by new ideas and new ways and means of doing things. I like science fiction, and am fascinated by science fact. As I started the site, I was conscious of just grabbing what was at hand which tended to be things from my past, rather things made specifically for these pages. Being re-purposed like this, has of course, changed their nature and context. Perhaps my feeling about it will change.
"Notes from a Travel Diary" was my first page after the index went up. It started by dragging some writing out of a diary but I was surprised by the way the page evolved. "3D Computer Animation - a personal story" came next. It was born from an all night binge of writing that helped me dissipate some intense anger after an appalling meeting at which things dear to one's heart were frivolously placed in jeopardy. You know, one of those university things.
Some friends say they get lost in the photographic journey section. That's good. Travel is about surprises, turning a corner and seeing something new, or sometimes unexpectedly finding yourself back at a point you've already become familiar with. Jeremy wants maps to locate the places I talk about. I love dreaming hunched over maps too and I'll get some up one day.
Mr Felix has suggested a site map. I'm
beginning to feel the need for one as an organizational tool as I get
lost sometimes too. If I make one, (I've just made
one for my photographic journeys section and this is the only link
- 19th February 1999)
I'll dedicate it to him. Also at his suggestion, I've posted my email
address. I was reluctant to do this, but as yet no one has contacted me.
Hello? Is anybody out there?
Jeremy gave me a little guest spot in his lecture yesterday. I showed a bit of my site to our students and prattled on much along the lines as I've done in this page. I groaned to myself when I saw my index page come up. I am so familiar with it and its naff simplistic layout. The students have created some wonderfully stylish and sophisticated graphics for the Web project they've just completed, which puts mine to shame.
Those who know me would probably say that the index page reflects my personality - naff and simplistic. But although this page branches out to others in strange and curious ways, it remains the same, giving no indication of the changes which have occurred at the more remote parts of the site providing no incentive for anybody who may have popped back to look at it again, to explore further. So I was thinking. What if the structure was turned upside down, or is that inside out? What if the most recent page on its tentacle-like branch became the current index page and you worked your way back through time to the original hub of the site? A bit like a compost heap!
In my chat I tried to emphasize that it was a personal site and that I wouldn't presume anybody else might be interested in it. That it was more about an exploration of forms and styles of presentation which might be suitable for the Internet. I even confessed to the fact that it has helped(ing) me through a mid-life crisis of sorts.
Okay, so its a site that reflects my interests and passions. In cobbling it together from all sorts of bits and pieces, what is interesting is that for the first time ever all the things I've thrown at it can exist in one place as a kind of collection. I don't have to go hunting high and low, rummaging through boxes in a garage, loading video tapes, setting up a slide projector or pulling stuff out of a drawer. And although all these things may not be as quick and slickly presented as on CD ROM, I don't have to replicate anything and post it off. The collage that results from putting digitising objects and images together as a collection in a shared space has become an emerging theme in multimedia design.
Web sites are partly about communicating something using image, layout and text, but you soon start to realise that they are also about the architecture to do this - building spaces and rooms, differently decorated, each designed to host different things of different flavours and moods, and which might be adjacent to, or distant from, other rooms and spaces around about, which also has meaning. This kind of architecture is less about designing a plan which is completed at a certain point in time but rather adding on other bits and pieces as you go. A city of bytes.
Tonight I put up the following pages:
8th April 1999
All text and images within these pages unless otherwise accredited are copyright David Atkinson