[artinfo] Webdesign, the First Decade (conference, Amsterdam,
January 21/22, 05)
geert at xs4all.nl
Fri Sep 17 10:01:54 CEST 2004
Web Design, the First Decade
International two day conference
Plus: Online Open History Timeline
January 21/22, 2005, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Organizers: Media Design Research, Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam
(http://pzwart.wdka.hro.nl/) & HvA/Institute for Network Cultures,
Amsterdam (www.networkcultures.org), in collaboration with Stedelijk
Museum, Amsterdam (http://www.stedelijk.nl/).
In 1994 the world wide web crept out of its scientific and academic egg
and entered the first phases of popular consciousness. At this point the
web design explosion began. Ten years later, we would like to stand back
and attempt to map something of these years of frenetic and inventive
What do we mean by web design? At the most obvious level, web design is
about bringing visual organisation and power to computational and
networked processes. It means organising sites by means of graphic
elements and structuring devices. But increasingly it means more than
this. Digital media designers also work in the area of what used to be
walled off as 'technology'. Designing is now as much about formal
language, that is to say, code, as much as it is about more subjective,
free-form or 'natural' and visual languages. Designers make and link
digital processes which are then taken up by social processes. They do
this with a sensibility that is as much in dialogue with technicity as
with a visual aesthetic or a model of communication.
Until recently web design discourses have been dominated by a frantic,
market driven search for the latest and coolest. The ongoing media buzz
around 'demo design' has prevented serious scholarship from happening.
Technical innovations such as frames, shockwave, flash, WAP and 3G have
dominated the field. Until 2001 a substantial part of the sector's
activities was geared towards instruction and consultancy. The dotcom
crash and IT slump have cleared the field - but not necessary in
positive ways. Due to budget cuts some firms now believe they can do
without design altogether. Instead of asking ourselves what the Next Big
Thing will be, we firmly believe that future design can be found in the
understanding of a recent past that offers a rich mix of utopian
concepts and undigested controversies.
After the introduction of the personal computer in the eighties brought
desk-top publishing, the introduction of networking in the nineties has
proved a fundamental change in the field. Graphic design, only one area
of the design we are talking about, as a practice has fundamentally
changed, at once becoming empowered, but also strangely useless in its
vocabulary and concepts.
Alongside this, we see the web as being a unique and massively
distributed laboratory for vernacular and emergent designs. The Internet
has been the biggest ever Rorschach test for media culture. Some of the
key figures and sites over the last decade have developed outside of
traditional computing or design sectors, or have been adapted from them
by popular currents or idiosyncratic users in novel and inventive ways.
Turning a media technology loose to work almost as a generative
algorithm reiteratively developing through the hands and ideas of
millions of users is an unprecedented experience in design.
In short, this ten years of web design has seen design change as much as
it has seen the impact of a new form of global media. We want to
celebrate this and to use a consideration and testing of the recent past
to provide a platform for thinking about what is to come. In this, the
conference will be unprecedented, the first event of its kind.
Sessions for the event will be:
-Histories of Web Design. What do social, technical and cultural
historians propose as ways to make an account of the last decade?
-Meaning Structures. As automated site-design becomes increasingly
important the history of the interweaving of technology and culture up
to the point of semantic engineering is mapped out.
-Modeling the User. Creativity and usability have often been set up as
the two key poles of webdesign. This panel asks instead for a more
sophisticated narrative about the change in understanding of user needs
and desires over the last ten years
- Digital Work. Following on from the Digital Work seminar this panel
brings together key observers and critics of the changing patterns of
work in webdesign along with designers.
- Distributed Design. The web amplified an explosion on non-professional
design. This panel will ask what happens to design once it becomes a
non-specialist network process.
The event will be held at Club 11, the new temporary location of the
Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum, the key archive of Design and locus of
design debate in the Netherlands.
Professor of sociology at St. John's University, New
York. He is the author of a key study, from a socio-economic
perspective, of work in the web-design industry, Silicon Alley: The Rise
and Fall of a New Media District.
John Chris Jones
One of the leading figures in design theory and author
of several key books. More recently he has established a unique web
presence via a peripatetic and mobile blog. He is the author of The
Internet and Everyone, Ellipsis, London, 2000.
Amsterdam based artist and designer with a long history
both in digital art, on and off the net and in VJ activity. He will
provide a 'History of Flash'. http://www.ctrlaltdel.org/
Director of the Institute for Technology and Aesthetics
(ITA), founder of mediawork: The Southern California New Media Working
Group, and a coordinator of the graduate program in Communication and
New Media Design at Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. He is
the editor of The Digital Dialectic: New Essays on New Media (MIT Press,
1999) and of Snap to Grid, a user's guide to digital arts, media and
culture (MIT Press, 2000)
Member of the Institute for Cultural Research, Lancaster University and
author of Transductions, bodies and machines at speed (Continuum, 2002).
Currently working on a cultural and ethnographic study of programming,
including Java, he asks how new media infrastructural objects such as
databases, protocols, image codings and frameworks can be read as
collectively embodied imaginings.
Director of digitalcraft.org the Franfurt Museum of Applied Arts'
groundbreaking digital agency whose activities include creating a
collection of key sites from various perspectives in webdesign.
Danny O'Brien, NTK
Editor of Need To Know, ntk.net the satirical web-weekly that has
tracked, fed and parodied internet culture and web-design for
over seven years.
Professor of Human Computer Interface at City University,
London. a Chartered Psychologist and an Associate Fellow of the British
Psychological Society, she is a leading figure in the design of web
sites for maximum accessibility and the author of the UK Government's
Disability Rights Commission's recent landmark report, The Web, Access
and Inclusion for Disabled People.
Schoenerwissen/OfCD Office for Computational Design
A Berlin based design partnership that have proven themselves one of the
most significant developers of the interrelation between the 'traditional'
domains of design and the changed context of computer networks.
further speakers are to be announced.
Parallel initiative: Open History Timeline
As a core part of the project, beginning before and continuing after the
conference we will initiate an open research website/database into the
first decade of web design. The online forum will take the form of a
visual and textual timeline generated out of a self-customisable
questionnaire. Using a custom content management system the site will
allow for users to add images, comments and links to make a collective
history of the web as it developed. Such elements might include
histories of their own first homepage; the first use of a technology;
original html code; reminiscences of key designers, innovators, critics
Using a question based interface users can write their own questions and
respond to those of others. All questions entered will then be
available, ensuring that no one set of views or way of writing predominates.
The site is designed for use both by the general public and as a simple
structured tool which can be used for research and teaching.
The site will start on October 1, 2004. It will continue for six months
after the conference, at which point it will be archived and remain
publicly available. The Timeline will be on show at the Stedelijk Museum
during the conference and for some time thereafter.
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