We planned to do our second workshop over the summer, but, like everything else, things ended up getting pushed back.
Instead we noticed an exciting energy emerge around publishing online simply by the sheer quantity of new web projects published from the beginning of the pandemic till now. We wanted to take some time to reflect on what we saw this paradigm shift (of sorts).
Over the past few years, a handful of designers, developers, and educators have been likening web design to architecture ( 1-3 ). This isn’t a new thought among web designers, developers, and educators. But some would argue that the web could never fill that role ( 4 ). Maybe they’re right. And having gone through the pandemic, one could argue that anything virtual does not hold the same weight. Although, it’s funny and interesting to think about what Twitter ( 5 ) or Are.na ( 6 ) might feel like as a space...
The lockdown happened when most higher learning semesters were ending. It was kind of like a mad-scramble for institutions to transition physical event budgets to web projects. We saw everything from thesis shows to graduations happening completely online. ( 1-3 ). This was the same for almost every event during lockdown. Upstream gallery hosted a virtual show where artists talked about works and guests were represented on the webpages ( 4 ). Soundsaboutriso.online hosted a virtual event with different “rooms” to celebrate risograph printing ( 5 ). Club Quarantine tried to bring the club to your house with many video stream rooms where users could listen and chat ( 6 ). And in lieu of an exhibition closing, the brick-and-mortar gallery Artists Space published a generous video tour of their current exhibition about playwright Adrienne Kennedey narrated by Hilton Als ( 7 ).
Video games solve an immersion problem that most websites have. Instead of dealing with dense information on a flat plane, you simply roam and explore. Large and small events took advantage of already popular video games to host shows, concerts and other events. A gallery group show on Animal Crossing ( 1 ), music festivals and graduations on Minecraft ( 2-3 ), and even a Travis Scott concert on Fortnite ( 4 ).
There are some lessons we can learn from video games … beyond expensive 3D graphics, there are a few core things that really do make us feel like we’re immersed: proximity / feedback to people in a space. Here are a couple lo-fi sites that do this well ( 1-2 ).
This has also been a time to speak up against racial inequality and police brutality sparked by the unjust death of George Floyd and many others. While people met and marched IRL, quick and resourceful sites that were published to help educate, organize and contribute. Widgets and sites with resources to support the BLM movement ( 1-3 ), ways to help black businesses ( 4 ), information and tools about surveillance, masks and image scrubbing during protests ( 5-6 ) and a project about inequality in higher education ( 7 ). For many of these, it was important they lived outside of social media since social media’s “architecture” is predetermined and changeable at any time by the companies that run them. While they are still just a tool, websites, when compared to social media, allow more flexibility and authorship in presenting information.
Ultimately, we think it’s important to see the web as a space. Your space to share with others. Paul Ford said ( 1 ), “Anyone can set up a web site and point to all the other web pages. Everyone is a publisher. Everyone is a peer. That’s why it’s called a web. Individuals knit themselves together by linking to one another. Everyone tends his or her own little epistemological garden, growing ideas from seed and sharing them with anyone who comes by.” We’ve seen many “digital gardens” arising, many of them based in plain text ( 2-5 ) and inspired by recent technologies and a general re-excitement in hypertext ( 5-6 ).