Writing Machines is the course website for English 170L at Pomona College in Claremont, California.
One of the most interesting experiences in this class has been watching people create final projects after listening to commentary all semester. I wasn't sure what I was expecting, but I was fascinated to see people encounter web design after making design commentary all semester long.
For all the criticism that we provided on interface design and the frustrations we had with the various site designs, I was surprised that I didn't see more attention paid to form. Or perhaps I'm simply not seeing innovation where there is some. I absolutely loved the projects, but I was stunned to see how many people imposed arbitrary restrictions on how people viewed their projects, whether it was in using pixel dimensions in their web design or making comments about what resolution users should use to view the projects.
Fine! It is possible that pseudo is going to kill me for this, but I suspect the class will revolt if the secret is not revealed. I'm not sure that the person wants their name posted on this blog, so I'll just say this: On pseudo's project page, there is a section on possible suspects. One possible suspect is described as having their fingerprints all over this. That person was the main initiator of the Cassie prank. Said lead prankster had help from several individuals, most of them on the suspect list. Crashingintowalls and I both knew the identity of the prankster, and I fear that a couple of joking suggestions I made were actually implemented (the "You don't care about me!" letter, among others).
The title of this post is a comment that I received a number of times during my hours spent at ITS working on my final project. It came a couple of times while I was sprawled outside ITS, poring over my printouts of floor plan maps and hundreds of thumbnail images. And then several more times, while I was sitting in front of Dreamweaver's split coding/design screen, the same brightly colored printouts spread out all around me.
I've been frustrated writing critical papers before. I've been frustrated writing fiction. I've had writer's block. I have never, in my entire life as a student, been as frustrated as I was at many points during my work on this final project. A solid twenty-four hours of hair-pulling and tears spent trying and failing to recover the crashed (coughcoughpirated) copy of Dreamweaver and the pages I'd already built from off my computer (the ITS staff tells me Dreamweaver software will never run on my computer again); hours wasted figuring out how to convert full-size images into thumbnails; and don't even get me started on how long it took me to figure out silly, little things like that in order to lay out text/images in horizontal columns I had to use the "Insert Table" function.
Now that I've written the recap of my final project (which felt a little violent considering how far I had been from the project itself throughout), I'm deciding where to go from here. Part of me wants to be throught with the long walks to go photograph an unchanged landscape on Walker Beach or to repost another blank page of the journal. I did not feel like people got much out of the visual space, but there was a very interesting conversation going on in the journal when the project "ended." People were saying some very meaningful things, using the journal as a cathartic tool. Also, the journal "broke the bubble" when a group of sixth-graders happened upon it and joined the conversation.
First off, I just accidentally deleted this entire post, so forgive me if my recreation of it is a bit disorganized.
I've been looking through the final projects page with great interest. I'm really impressed with how interesting and innovative these projects are. I'm also very interested in how many of the hypertext projects have dealt with the issue of organization. Whether the projects included maps or just intuitive linking structures, they tended to be organized in a fashion that was reasonably accessible to the reader. None of the projects I have looked at thus far have left me feeling lost or manipulated, as some of our class readings did.
Last night I went to watch the Digital Art and Computer-Programming Art classes present their final semester projects. I was curious to see what would come out of a semester of focusing on the technology rather than the theory. The Digital Art students' projects' took the form of increasingly bizarre powerpoint presentations. What I was really struck by in their presentations was the ability to manipulate the expectations of the viewer. We computer users are so programmed in what to expect from a machine--that it will only react when we click something, that when you exit out of a window it's gone and won't come back again, that the screen will only react in certain ways. Thus, it is jarring when those expectations are not met, like, for example, when a window starts shaking for no reason, or collapses then reopens randomly a few seconds later. These techniques could be valuable tools for an internet artist. There really is the ability to scare a computer user, to surprise them with something totally unexpected.
Hi, all. The final projects page is up, and those folks who've sent me their permission to post links to their sites are included. If you're not linked and I've missed your permission somehow, or if you want to give me permission to add a link for you, let me know.
As we wrap up our final projects, I'm just wondering what other people ended up writing about in their appendix/accompanying paper. My project appendix was one of the last things to come together for me. My project is mostly drawn from pre-existing source material, so I had trouble creating an interjection in my own voice that didn't seem jarring. One of my goals starting out was to create a hypertext that wasn't self-concious, something that shaped the content without overpowering it. Even expressing this sentiment in my appendix made me feel as though I was to some extent compromising my intial goals.
I've been thinking about my own project in a few different ways after seeing what other people have been thinking about this semester. (I guess that is one of the points of presenting, huh!)
crashingintowalls' post and presentation this afternoon struck me because his role in his final project is so different from mine. I am like the control-freak mother who creates and nurtures my baby of a hypertext. (Wow-- that analogy was creepier than I meant it to be.) One of the things that seemed to define crashingintowalls' relationship with his project, in contrast, was the lack of control that he had over it-- although he certainly desired that control.
This was in progress when I had to leave for class, but it represents a chunk of my reflections on my final project thus far. As marmalade observed in her presentation today, there is something really different about creating than theorizing. Likewise, the experience of working on a collaborative art project has been eye-opening for me in terms of understanding how much power there is in creating or reading a text. There is a real power in being able to decide meaning. In writing, it is that (somewhat terrifying) moment when all possibilities are open. In reading it is having the text open in front of you and the beginning of an interpretation in mind.