Thursday, December 29, 2005

Slaving over HTML

I spent much of today and Tuesday slaving over the HTML on the website, making mostly low-level changes to the top navigation and various content, moving a few areas around (which had ripple effects to the navigation that I only realized afterwards, necessitating many further changes).

It's kind of nice to do work like that. It requires care and attention, and has to be done right. While the "hypertext" is not the deep and beautiful hypertext that Compendium provides, it is still hypertext, and thinking about the compendiuminstitute site's far-from-perfect information architecture is not dissimilar to the kind of structuring work I love to do within a Compendium database.

I also find that doing HTML coding gets me thinking about things Compendium still doesn't do.

We've actually thought about, and I've at times advocated, generating the whole site from Compendium itself, much as the output from the 2005 Workshop was done (available here). It wouldn't look like a conventional website, and maybe that would not be good. On the other hand, thinking about and getting it to work "right" -- that the navigation would get people to the right places and content -- would also force us to think about improvements to the tool itself. It would also be an exercise in knowledge art because it would involve a host of aesthetic/technical choices about how to structure both the user experience and the technical underpinnings.

That work -- thinking about and manipulating the aesthetic and technical structure -- the interweaving of the two levels, thinking about and working with them as one -- is the essence of knowledge art. Immersed in the experience of making, there is no difference, no separation between the levels. That's the same as all art, really -- art always involves using a technology and knowing its facets and aspects. What makes it knowledge art is the direct engagement with a "knowledge representation" -- something showing and leveraging the relationships between ideas.

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