I discuss issues of copyright to my students, but the open architecture of the
World Wide Web makes it easy to copy images and text that they can
use in their own page design. I encourage students to use their own work (that is, other
than textual content) on their web site. What I dislike about many student projects
is the use of random images or graphics that don't quite fit the topic of the site.
Students shouldn't think they have to have something in addition to a strong argument. The images
they use should contribute to the design, not subsume it.
I recommend encouraging students do the following when designing web pages:
- The William Gibson Homepage.
- Michaela Drapes, Michael Hayden, & Alex Peguero were students in my Fall 1995 Cyberpunk class.
What they did, besides create an interesting web site that was eventually featured on the Voyager
web site, was attempt to draw most of the images themselves in addition to writing
short reviews of Gibson's work. The opening graphic, though not
designed by Michaela, was altered in graphic software.
Using Tufte's principle of small multiples,
she generated a menu using smaller versions of the original graphic. This practice is repeated throughout
Michael Hayden drew original artwork that represents his interpretation of characters from Gibson's
books (here is his interpretation of Case and Molly from Neuromancer). After downloading a binary image from the newsgroup alt.cyberpunk, many of the students
commented that they were capable of drawing pictures as good as those on-line. This group's advantage is that
Michael had designed and inked his own comic books, although he never thought it would come in handy
in a composition course. Although Michael wasn't familiar with HTML, the project turned
out particularly well because the group assigned particular tasks after they designed the site. I require all
groups to turn in a paper copy of the site design before they begin authoring.
Michaela Drapes continues to maintain this site.
Streams of Information: A Project
About Different Elements of the Internet.
- Cloyce Spradling and John Alme co-authored this extensive and informative site about the different
elements of the internet (E-mail, FTP, Usenet, Gopher and the WWW). Although neither had much
experience with HTML, Cloyce is a computer science major and immediately attacked the task from the
standpoint of top down design. Computer science emphasizes modular design and their site reflects this
organization. Their site is broken up into the elements
previously mentioned with a metaphor
that runs throughout (the internet as streams of information that continually
merge and diverge). Their design emphasizes useful structure with minimal waste of space.
The site is designed to run on any web browser and uses hidden glossary tags.
I realize most students do not have this kind of background, but as I mention elsewhere, Cloyce's and John's project
impacted the rest of the class. The navigation bar on the bottom of their pages made sense to students and though they couldn't
generate a link list like Cloyce, they could easily create a similar bar with standard HTML features. However, when other students
initially viewed this site, they asked where the color was and why
there were so few pictures. After reading through "Streams of Information," they began to see that the site
had an immense amount of depth without unneccesary distractions (though there are some images included for
Usenet as a Society on the Internet. An argument about
the culture of newsgroups. This site was also designed by Cloyce as a final project. It is structurally and navigationally similar to the
Streams of Information site but contains more of a definitional argument (Why he thinks Usenet is a society). Cloyce's links to direct sources
and other web resources are useful and appropriate in this context. Cloyce (as well as many of my other students) understands that links
become part of the rhetorical space. They must be integrated into the text in an understandable fashion. This is often a problem with long
link lists„without annotation they are meaningless. Here is a sample from Cloyce's project.
Cloyce's sources page is a good example of how
an on-line Works Cited page shoud be done.
- The Nanotechnology group created a fictitious corporation set in the near future
that manufactures nanotech in order to end
disease. It also has other motives as well (in the classic cyberpunk
tradition of evil corporate entities). Daniel Shih, Erik Saari and George Higa are the authors and their site
was particularly creative. The assignment was to explore
a technology associated with cyberpunk fiction. They chose to combine the best of fiction and nonfiction and
created a company that didn't exist. However, what really sold this site was their approach to the graphic
elements they designed to accompany it. They claimed that their images embodied a "corporate rhetoric."
For example, the colors of this corporate logo are muted, yet the design is slick enough for a professional agency to have
produced it. What is additionally impressive is that these students didn't have much experience with graphical software yet still
managed to produce a convincing site.
The menu (an image map) they use for their site is a good example of a navigational tool that is also aesthetically
pleasing. They also used graphs to show
profit projections as well as maps that showed the viral spread. Using these kinds
of information containers is a common practice in industry and business and so the images reinforce the rhetoric of the site
(that you are supposed to believe this is a corporation). The only drawback to this site is the large size of the images. With
software tools like Debabelizer, image size can be reduced without significant distortion
of the original graphic. Unfortunately, we didn't have access to a copy of it at the time this site was created.
These students worked hard to learn HTML, various kinds of software and improve their
composition skills. A well-designed site communicates more than the text it contains-it makes the information more accessible to a wider audience.
I hope you have an opportunity to look through some of these web sites.
- The Edge.
- A fictitious on-line company (ala The Sharper Image) that sells cyberpunk artifacts. Ruben Garza's site
is more than eye-candy. He spent a great deal of time designing an image for a list of technological tools/toys found
in classic cyberpunk fiction. At the same time he was emulating the designs found in certain magazines.
His use of scantily-clad women was modeled on guns and ammunition magazines. His sleek designs of
computer equipment were
more along the lines of the Sharper Image catalogs. Like the Nanotechnology group mentioned above, his text also mirrored
those of advertisers. Ruben frequently uses exclamation marks in his text as well as ironic homages to cyberpunk.
The "max reverse" feature in the following quote is an important one because many a hacker has been lost in the
viral safeguards (black ice) of the cyberspace universe.
Of course, the C-7 is equipped
with a MAX REVERSE
function, for those times when you stray too near some Black Ice.
There are also three expansion ports for adding constructs or
upgrades. Ono-Sendai has even added a battery backup function so
you can take the deck with you and not lose your work. Ruben embraced HTML and has a fairly extensive home page.
He has long been interested in 3-dimensional design and has always had to make due on subpar equipment, but that has not
dimmed his enthusiasm.
Ruben created these
images using IMAGINE software. He also
has links off advertisements that describe the cyberpunk sources. Although I wish the source information had been more
detailed, I was pleased with his image designs.
The Diamond Age.
site about Neal Stephenson's book by the same title. Michaela Drapes designed this site about Neal Stephenson's text.
What constitutes "appropriate periods" is debatable, but I wanted to emphasize that your students are aware of the difference in designs
from varying historical periods. Allowing them to incorporate other styles through the interface of the WWW can be rewarding for everyone
involved. Michaela does two specific things in her site: 1) She uses a neo-Victorian style in the appearance of her pages (because
Stephenson's book takes place in an extrapolated future where neo-Victorians are in power) and 2) She designed the structure of her site
to be as linear as possible. The Diamond Age is subtitled Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer.
The fonts and images are Victorian-like. The serif fonts in particular
and the images of gears that run throughout the site reinforce her notion of the "Victorian"(the gears
are ironic because they are a sensibility of the Victorian age, becoming merely an affectation in the nanotechnology future).
The site mirrors a primer's linear organization. Michaela notes on
the index page that "The Diamond Age, or A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson is
centered on the repercussions of the education of young girls by means of a hypertext book. In an effort to capture Stephenson's sentiments, this site is set up similar
to a book." Michaela includes a graphic at the bottom of each page directing the reader.
Statistics and Polling Useless? Not to a Social Scientist. This
site takes Neil Postman's Technopoly to task about his characterizations of social science.
- This site is fairly typical of the HTML projects I receive
from students. If you look
through my class site, you will notice only a handful of final web projects for each class. Though all students do some kind of hypertextual
project during the course of the class, it is only required from a group rather than an individual. I offer web projects
as an option, and students
are free to write a conventional paper (though they may be required to convert it to HTML to publish on the class site).
it's important not to force the technology down the students' throats. My students are in a computer-assisted classroom and
by this point in the semester they have mastered e-mail, the web, newsgroups, MUDs and DIWE (The Daedalus Integrated Writing
Environment). If they would prefer to write a standard paper, then it's fine by me. Also, it's important to consider those
students who don't have easy access to the hardware and software they need to develop hypermedia or hypertext.
Rebecca Bowser's site
contains solid content. She argues that Postman unfairly characterizes polling and statistics as useless. She responds to
each point he makes about polling and clarifies some of his own definitions. For example, she uses a quote from his book
to define "invisible technologies."
She also includes information from one of his interviews where he follows up on that definition as well as a link
to the entire interview. What is wonderful about
this site is that she maintains consistency of structure and navigation throughout. She may not have original images (she
has pictures from the cover of the book as well as a picture of Postman himself), though they're somewhat informative, but what
she does have is a good site that develops an argument using either a nodal or linear path. Rebecca uses the web to bolster
her argument without detracting from her content. Her ethos is good as well, and she cites a picture source that she uses
on the statistics page.
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