Alan Lui discusses the use of visual metaphors from older media in web design and argues that such metaphors “naturalize the limitations of the new medium by disguising them within those of older media” (Reader, page 228).
Discuss while giving an example of a website.
The above quote is taken from a wider argument in which Alan Lui (2004: 195-230)discusses the properties and problems of achieving ‘cool’ web design. The subjective factor of ‘cool’ aside, one of the problems he highlights with designing for the Internet is that designers are not used to accommodating the highly fluid nature of web pages. One cannot design within a fixed frame of measurements, in the result is dependant on factors such as screen resolution/width, or wherever the user lands in scrolling up and down the page. Metaphors of older media are employed by designers to ‘naturalize’ these limitations by placing them within the explainable physical frameworks in a virtual form.
An example I would like to highlight is similarities between print publications and their online counterparts. If we compare The Age in print and the online version, we see certain overlapping design features. The newspaper logo is printed at the top and center of the page, headlines are ordered in size and importance, pictures and text are balanced for maximum readability. In some senses, the difficulties of arranging the somewhat space consuming information (which is done away with the folding sprawl of the printed broadsheet) is indeed naturalized within the uniformity and geometric arrangements that are common with newspapers. However, it may be argued that these design features are also kept because they are practical, and provides the same purpose in both print and digital formats. Newspapers will arrange headlines in order of importance, and size accordingly because it is trying to convey information efficiently.
What Lui neglects to address is perhaps the functions that these metaphors may serve in translating old media to new. The similarities between print and online media help the transition from print to digital – from old media to new media. The layout helps users recognize familiar features and identify that it is the same thing, only in a digital format. Moreover, the manner in which Lui discusses old media as a disguise or limitation falsely points towards the features of new media being hidden or ill utilized in these layouts. For instance, The Age website maintains its new media characteristics of modularity and variability (Manovich 2001: 30-31, 36-39). The articles displayed will be ordered by date and relevance, like the old media version, but there are links to older articles. Access to these articles does not break up the coherence of the text, whereas the print version could only contain articles within each issue as a whole. The constant updating of the website means that it is always unfinished and changing, producing constantly ephemeral versions of itself.
The arguments that Lui make highlight the difficulties in web architecture – form must follow function, combining the ease of navigation with aesthetic appearance.
(Word Count: 452)
Lui, Alan. “Information is Style”, in Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004, pp. 195-230.
Manovich, Lev. “What is New Media?” in The Language of New Media, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001, pp. 19-48.
Medosch argues that: “piracy, despite being an entirely commercially motivated activity carried out in black or grey markets, fulfills culturally important functions” (Reader, page 318).
Discuss this argument whilst giving an example online.
In his paper, Paid in Full, Medosch (2008: 73-97) argues for a more nuanced standpoint that combines the seemingly extreme perspectives of both the copyleft and copyright movements. The above quote is interesting in that it acknowledges the inevitability of piracy and the sureness of its effects. The full cultural consequences of piracy are beyond the scope of this discussion to cover, but Medosch offers that piracy allows “access to cultural goods which otherwise would be completely unavailable to the vast majority of the people” (2008: 81). This wider reaching access means that previous limitations such as financial status and geographical location are no longer as relevant. However, Medosch assumes that piracy is “an entirely commercially motivated activity” (2008: 81), whereas in most online cases such as peer-to-peer file sharing and bit torrent, acts of piracy are actually committed without gain or profit. The dependence offline piracy has on commercial gain means that whilst it does offer a wider access to previously limited or inaccessible goods, it is subject to more restrictions than the relative freedom of online piracy.
Torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay offer a large variety of texts to be downloaded free of charge, provided that there are other users willing to ‘seed’ the file. The sheer abundance of information means that users now engage with cultural texts more freely. The financially disadvantaged are offered the same access as the privileged, and national borders no longer pose as a restriction. Someone who would have been previously hesitant to buy an album would have no problem downloading it for nothing and trying it out.
This accessibility undermines the previously established economic structures surrounding cultural goods. Medosch points out the Marxist distinction between use value and monetary value, and that “the link between cultural production and money is fractious” (2008: 86, 92). By taking money out of the equation, audiences, artists and producers are forced to reconsider the actual worth of cultural goods, and the framework of relationships that connect each party. Various artists react to the impact of piracy in their own ways, demonstrating the manner in which they have evaluated the meaning of their work and its connection with its audience.
Exemplary of this is how Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series, decided to abandon the book Midnight Sun when its unfinished manuscript was leaked online. The statement Meyer released on her website states how her decision was made based on how this breach of copyright affected her position as an artist, and how betrayed she felt by her fans. In stark contrast, when the debut solo album of singer-songwriter Amanda Palmer was leaked, she decided to use the early disclosure of the album to the purposes of publicity. Now that the songs were available already, she took the opportunity to create a music video for each track to promote the album, relying on fan loyalty for revenue. This shows how piracy and leaks are becoming inevitable, and that it is becoming an important part of cultural production.
(Word Count: 473)
Armin Medosch, ‘Paid in Full: Copyright, Piracy and the Real Currency of Cultural Production’, in Deptforth. TV Diaries II: Pirate Strategies. London: Deptforth TV, 2008, pp. 73-97.
what makes wordpress a web 2.0 website?:
– several things; firstly it moves beyond just static webpages into a large variability of possible layouts and functions. there can be images and instances of modularity where content such as videos and text are reused and reproduced, ‘reblogged’ or ‘reposted’ from elsewhere.
moreover, wordpress relies entirely on user generated content, therefore adding a dynamic range with a reciprocal relationship with its user. this user based model also adds a social networking aspect to wordpress, with links and comments allowing the users of different blogs to communicate and view each others profiles. the primary function of wordpress is not for social networking, in the sense that facebook is purely for that purpose, but it provides features for social interaction to be very accessible, such as links and profiles to blog owners.
is it a sustainable model?:
-harnessing the hive; non-commercial produsage artefacts usually keeps in mind the benefit of the community as well as the company, having a ‘hive’ and benign state… this usually tends to keep the interest of the produsers and the success of the projects itself due to the interactivity and user generated information… the core idea of these projects is to provide services as supposed to reaping benefits. relies on the model of the produser as the distributor as well as consumer. wordpress can be seen as an ‘unfinished artefact’, with open chances for change based on comments and suggestions for improvement, meaning continuous updating of the website itself.
– wordpress as a produser model remains sustainable, in my mind, because of its accessibility and democratic function for an idea of not necessarily citizen journalism, but a voice for anyone who wishes to publish themselves. the creation and content of wordpress depends on its users, and therefore creates a reciprocal relationship that maintains wordpress afloat. i am unsure as to whether wordpress uses open source programming, but i can imagine the maintenance of the site seems fairly open. wordpress also uses the data and interfaces of other websites that are popular or easily accessible.
an example of produsage that isn’t wikipedia. how does it match the characteristics of produsage found on pg 84-85 of the Bruns reading?
a website like deviantart, perhaps. a community based model, relying on participants to create, contribute and comment on artwork to provide feedback and networking.
(blog entry no. 1: louise choi + lachlan phillips)