New ebr Interface (2)
I just had to jump in here. What a courageous document / email "essay" this is. These issues of database construction, interface design and context, publication as active event, navigational cues, visual metaphors, environmental logic, reader-response "picture theory" etc., are crucial. So my first suggestion is that we archive these group emails as they evolve. We're definitely onto something here.
A lot of these issues are coming up in the net/web art scene too. Calling into question how an online publication presents itself is similar to calling into question how an exhibition context emerges for net-specific works of art (email "essays" being one form of net-specific art).
Hybrid practices cause shifting momentums. As the energies of the distributed team of cultural producers collide and mix, the interface is subject to metamorphosis. Sometimes this happens because the machine applies itself. Sometimes this happens because the reader applies herself. Sometimes this happens because the writer/artist applies herself. Not to mention the environment these hybrid-applications exist in.
All of this should somehow manifest itself visually and, ideally, automatically.
The database becomes a kind of reliable narrator (although its dependency on the network to help fulfill its function could make it look unreliable at times). So: how to program the narrator so that IT [info-tech, all the way] tells the ongoing ungoing story of ebr in a way we, as its developers, are keen to see it go.
["Let's go," is the rallying call of THE WILD BUNCH, and so Peckinpah's database of the narrativized West attempts to take us there. Another email "essay" or vital missive being sent via pony express?]
One site to look at:
They depend heavily on a search database which, btw, I don't recall Anne mentioning and was wondering: is that intentional? Or maybe it's so implied that I'm behind the curve here - but either way, "to search or not to search, will that be an option?" end construction
The "logical outgrowth of the environment" Anne speaks of, one that pushes us further and further away from the print paradigm no matter how attached we (pivotal figures) are to it (it is, after all, where we come from), is, to my mind, totally consistent with the way the entire Alt-X site, as web phenomenon, has been developing. The ebr community is a dynamic database of knowledge and experience, one that (to quote Sukenick from his 98.6 novel) "like a cloud, changes as it goes." One of the terms floating around ebr lately is "self-reflexive autopoiesis" - what better way to describe the new publishing/exhibition paradigm that ebr is to become?
Auriea Harvey, a powerful african-american web artist and graphic designer now living in Belgium, gave a preview of her "ANANATOMY" at the Walker Art Center two weeks ago.
Her interface allows all of the visitors to her site know how many other visitors are there in live-time by metaphorically re-presenting each user as an animated sperm moving in toward the egg that is centered on the screen. [see this happen during a live "wirefire" performance every Thursday at www.entropy8zuper.org ]
The idea of creating a "machine" that responds to the community and reconfigures the interface in such a way that the community can then respond-to-the-response exhibited visually (and thus cause further metamorphosis), is stimulating beyond words (for me). That is, can we both map "each essay's appearance as a representation of its position within the site as a whole" and map the community's live engagement with those appearances?
Database / Artbase / Theorybase / Communitybase
When Anne talks about designing herself out of a job, I can relate. I feel like I've written myself out of a practice (or one kind of practice). But then that's what engaging in a dynamic environment should be about. "Thriving on Chaos" is what new-age management guru Tom Peters calls it (did you know that there is a networking management guru named "Ron Sukenick"? Our Ron doesn't like that a bit).
As for Anne's question "what does it mean to publish in such a manner?" I have a few responses (dynamically mapped in my brain as I try to reconfigure my role here as Publisher):
- it means spontaneous writing exhibitions will be performed in networked cyberspace and cause us (the ebr community) to reconceive what a "publication" is
- it means the discourse units can be programmed as "essayistic" avatars whose artificial intelligence (supplemental, always supplemental) asserts itself in such a way as to effect the dynamic visual metaphors being manifested in the interface-design
- it means all "essays" will be both current and archived, part of the permanent collection and always already "on display"
- it means the journal is timeless, though not necessarily off-topicality (in fact, I think it would be great if we could figure out a way to develop dynamic "critifictional" responses to the issues of the day, for example, the ETOYS vs. ETOY fight now working its way into both the net art/theory community and the mainstream e-commerce media cycles)
- it means the journal is wholier-than-thou, always expanding, monster-like, unpredictable, but with editorial vision
- it means this editorial process becomes more focused on our theme of "gathering threads" and involves a more dynamic interweaving process that is faciliated by the database/machine/application
Ewan's idea of creating an interface that would "begin to reorganize the connections and groupings in ways other than those intended by the editors" so that "the visible relationships would reflect the intersection of editorial interests and reader interests" is fascinating. With Anne's designwriting genius informing these "visual relationships" and Joe's continued "editorial interests" facilitating the remarkable growth of content on the site, all of a sudden, ebr the process and ebr the community of networked cultural producers becomes a work of art that is on exhibit 24X7, a curatorial "program" featuring self-reflexive autopoiesis and editorial vision.
The organizational logics could be divided into much of what Anne suggests, i.e.
> - date of publication
> - author
> - subject matter
> - theme
> - number of links within an essay
> - most "popular" essays or themes
> - most recently visited essays or themes
> - connections (reader movement) made between essays not linked
> - connections (reader movement) made following editorially-determined paths/links
> - frequency of occurence of certain keywords
- editorial-based connections (links within essays, visited or not)
and as the database grows, keywords become important, as does the automatic rendering of the "popular" essays although one thing to keep in mind here is that "visual representation" of "popular essays" on "most visited" entry-level screens usually creates a self-perpetuating phenomenon - i.e., if Joe's essay on Strickland is #1 for three weeks, then chances are good that it will remain there just by the fact that lots of people want to click on the #1 viewed essay on ebr. Maybe not, but something to think about.
Well, as you can tell from the length and quickness of my response, I'm eager to see where this goes.