These are notes on what I have been reading on the web recently:
We seem to have forgotten that without joy and comfort, both in the making and in the experiencing of the thing, there is no purpose. Infant rhesus macaques intuitively grasped this in Harry Harlow’s research. We need to rediscover it in web development.Good question – how do we get to a better, kinder, and more joyful web?
I’m not entirely sure how. But I do know that there is much more to the web medium than the mess that is the hyper-complicated, npm-dominated, fad-obsessed ecosystem that currently passes for web development.
We need to be better, kinder, and more joyful. And we aren’t going to get there with a new ‘framework’ that breaks in some way several times a year.
But the field itself is a Red Queen Wire Mommy and she offers no love or joy.Interesting that Bjarnason focuses on the psychological side of accepting the field at its most insensitive and cruel – this sort of wire mother.
Why do we do this? Curious to look more into Harlow's wire/cloth mother experiments in conjunction with its connection to web development.
Web development is the Red Queen of the Red Queen’s Race: no matter how hard we work, there we are still in the same place. We know this and, as a group, have largely accepted this. But it’s also the Wire Mommy. It is an unloving, harsh parent that buys our loyalty. It is the joyless experience that we think we deserve.Accepting the rules of the Red Queen's Race. We are in a constant state of not only staying up-to-date but trying to look ahead at what is around the bend.
Reminds me of what Frank Chimero gets at in his essay “Everything Easy is Hard Again” (source).
We are a field that is driven by fads and is unconcerned with end-user value. Our best practices guarantee a broken future; the only question is how it will break. The core tools of our ecosystem are either unpaid or subsidised by some of the worst, most impersonal, and capricious multinational corporations in the world. And because of that those tools are either driven by fads and novelty or by the haphazard whims of an organisation that is entirely indecipherable to an outside observer.Choosing the wire mother – existing in a field that is a pop culture a la Alan Kay's definition.
Do we think we deserve to exist in such a treadmill of the pop culture, of the wire mother? Or are we just conditioned to the climate like the air we breathe?
The most incisive moment, one that many others have picked on, is a scene that builds on Harry Harlow’s research on attachment: when given a choice, do you choose Soft Mother, or Wire Mother?Harlow focused on wire mother and cloth mother in experiments with rhesus monkeys. These experiments focused on maternal-separation, dependency needs, and social isolation.
Yet the body intervenes constantly, whether one is ill or not. It is the mode of intervention that conditions how well, or unwell, we feel. A state of wellbeing is one in which we do not need to think about our embodied organism in any way other than the sensorial pleasures it affords, where we are immersed within our environment, engaged in an activity, involved with others. But one of physical or emotional pain affects the very foundation on which the sense of self we otherwise take for granted rests: what we feel ourselves to be can be upended. When this happens, we may realise that what we feel ourselves to be is in fact constructed. How we exist as embodied selves is a highly complex business involving the brain and body engaged in constant interaction.Understanding ourselves through upending moments of intervention. I wonder about this with experiences on the web. How aware am I of my own being when I clack on this keyboard? What kind of self do I build when I am here?
When I am away from the web there is a different sense of self. A contrast of being. What of that? Can the contrast ever be rectified? Can I make them more harmonious? Or is it an impenetrable gap – one nobody can breach?
“I don’t think we would be here if it wasn’t for technology, in a sense,” says founding member Robert Del Naja, otherwise known as 3D, who’s also responsible for the band’s visual direction. “That’s been the thing that’s kept us moving – me as an artist, as you can imagine, it’s been the way I’ve always worked. Every project we put out, I’ve thought, what’s the thing that I can do next that’s different from the last?”It is interesting to think about our relationship to technology in this way – to be indebted to technology for one's fulfillment or livelihood. Technology is so embedded in our day-to-day that we forget that it underpins our hobbies, passions, jobs, and a lot of other things.
Upon his arrival, Ariadne, the daughter of King Minos, fell in love with Theseus and gave him a ball of thread so that he may use it to find his way out of the labyrinth after confronting the Minotaur. Attaching one end of the thread at the opening of the labyrinth and carrying the ball with him, Theseus moved through its winding corridors, found his way to its center, and ultimately defeated the menacing beast. Using the trail of thread that had been quietly documenting his journey, he re-traced his path back to the entrance of the maze and heroically escaped to freedom.Recall Joseph Campbell using this imagery as an analogy to how the hero's journey can act as our ball of thread to get through the labyrinth of life. Still apt.
Rather than expelling energy taking steps to ensure our site visitors always know how to get back to point A, let’s remember that the browser itself equips them with the ball of thread needed to escape the maze in the form of the Back button—and the browser History.Love this analogy to the Ariadne's ball of thread. User's are not only more capable than we give them credit for but are also given more tools to navigate the web than we acknowledge. Sometimes the simplest tools are enough.
Perhaps the practice should look to Daedalus and his labyrinth for inspiration. Daedalus built an object that contained a bloodthirsty beast, but the design provided a chance for its users to choose their path and discover hidden places, even the possibility of eluding or defeating the beast entirely. Not everything we put online should be commerce-based, but even for the projects that are, can’t we uncover ways to give the user some personal agency over their path, and maybe a chance to escape the clutches of the beast to a greater extent than we are right now? We should be designing the Web that we want rather than continuing to force the user into the role of the product, an advertising target and source of revenue.The beast (ie: being asked to buy or watch or view or read or consume or rent or try something).
Thinking of a person less as an impression or as a conversion and more as an actual individual with agency.
The trajectory of the Web when treated ever-increasingly as a marketing tool above all else, has resulted in the proliferation of websites that serve as little more than costumes adorning capitalistic calls-to-action for users who function as potential customers, or simply as mere data with an assumed re-market value.Web design as facade for a call-to-action: to buy, to sell, to view, to consume.
Sites as costumes for ulterior motives than the piece of design itself. This has happened with a lot of art in the past, advertising a life style or a brand. But this is on another level – as if a painting could reach out and perform a transaction, giving you a product in exchange for cash.
Objective parameters such as these might simplify the process of formulating a design solution, but should online experiences really be reduced to uninspired straight lines? Does that not belittle the canon of hypertext and underestimate the intellect of its users?Design solutions as belittling the intellect of its users. Fascinating – as if design solutions appeal to the lowest common denominator. They have to be as obvious as possible, otherwise what if someone doesn't know how to use it?
Today’s active web design is enraptured with menus as a primary means to navigate a website. All user actions are predefined, and the journey through the material is as prescripted as possible in an effort to achieve maximum linearity.Pruning and weeding out the gardens, making them more linear and predictable, creating uniform rows of genetically modified crops.
I think Theseus would have enjoyed the World Wide Web in 1997; the adventure and excitement that it fostered. Its labyrinthine shape full of passages, turns, tunnels, and the unknown. Websites often eschewed the formal navigation systems we have come to rely on and expect in favour of more open-ended or casual solutions. Moving around a site—much like moving around the Web in general—was a journey that embraced the forking, wandering naturing of hypertext and allowed the user—with varying degrees of agency—to choose their own path through cyberspace, the hero of their own self-authored epic.Love the idea of the web as a labyrinth. It reminds me of what was espoused of in Eastgate Systems' Hypertext Gardens and Mike Caulfield's view of the ideal web as a garden.
It is possible that further changes couldaffect even the existence of note taking. At a theoretical extreme, for ex-ample, if every text one wanted were constantly available for searchinganew, perhaps the note itself, the selection made for later reuse, might playa less prominent role.Even if it is a theoretical extreme, it is still a plausible concern. Memory offloaded to search functionality rather than one's own notes. A search history becomes one's notes or, as Kenneth Goldsmith has stated, autobiography.
Vincent Placcius’s note closet(scrinium literatum),as depicted in print in1689. Placcius improved on a design described in an anonymous manuscript by someone whodescribes himself as a friend of Samuel Hartlib, c. 1637, currently accessible as British Library MSAdd 41,846 (Kenelm Digby Papers). The closet consists of dozens of moveable slats labeled withtopical headings, which swivel to access note slips for each heading kept on hooks on the reverse.When open, the closet reveals under one gaze all the headings on which notes are available.!!!
Secondly, Drexel and his contemporaries protested against the use ofnotes taken by another person. Francis Bacon, for example, denounced thehiring of gatherers who would take notes in one’s stead: “I think . . . that ingeneral one Man’s Notes will little profit another, because one man’s Con-ceit doth so much differ from another’s; and also because the bare Noteitself is nothing so much worth, as the suggestion it gives the ReaderOthers' notes as little more than suggestions since the reader cannot get into the mind of the reader who made the note in the first place.
Then the best thing to do is to make your own notes? To make notes of another's notes?
A recent volume on note taking in the eighteenth century has argued forvarious gradual shifts of emphasis away from the dominant mode of notetaking in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries—a greater emphasis onthings not read but heard and seen; toward the diary based on personalexperience and away from notes primarily based on the reading of author-itative sources; a greater and more original choice of headings under whichto collect notes; a shift away from faithful transcription toward a paraphraseof the source, often including a personal or critical assessment.Interesting, especially when you think about the writings of James Boswell, from his own note books to his Samuel Johnson biography – full of what is heard in conversation, letters, etc.
The copiousness of Montaigne’sEssaysis similarly due to the nu-merous examples he strings together; in successive revisions Montaignetypically added more examples without removing any. Montaigne’s choicesof theme and example often seem startling and strikingly originaYes! That is what I always thought of the Essays. They seem like a stream of the most fascinating anecdotes, like a friend telling you stories that loosely relate to a topic of conversation.
ts natural laziness; inhis regimen there is no reading without taking notes, which would be idleand vain, and no time wasted because every free moment can be put to usereading over one’s notesReading without taking notes is such a vastly different experience. Your brain is operating on a different level when you have a pencil in your hand.