Writing Machines is the course website for English 170L at Pomona College in Claremont, California.
Deciding what is good innovation and what is bad innovation on the web is always a challenge. After all, if web designers ignore accessibility (the ability of search engines to interpret pages, users to bookmark them, different web browsers to interpret them the same way, etc.), some very cool effects can be achieved (see many of the projects this semester). In contrast to these projects, however, I would like present a web design company that innovates in form while retaining a fair amount of convention.
Enter 2Advanced Studios. Beloved and hated all over the net (but known everywhere), 2Advanced are undisputed magicians of Flash (if you want to know more about flash). They have produced some of the most dynamic and interactive sites on the net, integrating animation, audio, and video (hypermedia anyone?) at an unprecedented level. So why are they hated?
The Flash format is closed. That is to say that when one looks at a Flash based website (at the text level), it looks like a bunch of gibberish (binary encoded files for the techies out there). In order to interpret this code, the browser calls on the flash player (or interpreter), which provides a much higher level of control to the web designer (it's also cross-platform â€“ yay!). But at what cost?
At any point, Adobe could remove the flash player from the general market. Or they could make it pay per use only (there are a myriad of reasons why they don't, but lets pretend). Add to this the fact that if you want to produce Flash files, you need to pay for a license, one that runs well into the hundreds (if you're a student/academic) or thousands (if you're commercial). So if flash becomes the standard for web design (ignoring accessibility issues of a closed format altogether), the people who can afford to publish on the web suddenly become a much more elite group than they already are.
But I've gotten distracted â€“ I meant to talk about how 2Advanced retains convention within innovation. So here goes.
2Advanced retains interfaces that are conventional and accessible. Menus remain at the edges of centralized content, and although the eye candy is fantastic, the basic functionality and aesthetic organization of the site remains. I find myself intrigued by the design and want to explore it more, if only to figure out how the form functions (much as various projects throughout the semester have tried to hook users). It is different and new, but I'm not repulsed. I don't have anxiety as to the elements â€“ they aren't disappearing or leaving. There's no pretense to a temporality that doesn't exist (though, because this is produced in flash, they could well make pretense to a temporality that has some validity under the anti-reverse engineering mandates of the Patriot Act among othersâ€¦), and in this design I find myself excited to explore.