My background comes from publishing, which means when I think of the web, I think of it as its constituent part (pages) rather than as a collection of interlinking screens. The problem with this is when putting Internet into an old school entertainment company, there is this instrinsic desire to marry ones self to the nasty, ubiquitous ratio of 4:3.
Muse, Superman. Why? 4:3 aspect ratios, no conformance to the exceptions of the page. Rather, its use of the screen as a medium, instead of a page. This discussion came up today when we were discussing in the office scrolling pages vs. pages with iFrames vs. pages with just a Flash movie. The argument was whether or not the page should scroll. Creative (understandably) wants the pretty headers to remain up top the entire time, and have static visual elements. My self and the tech team wants to conform to the user interface that is given and the expectations of the user. It boils down to Human Computer Interaction. Scrolling is an endemic paradigm, not something we should subjugate for the purpose of aesthetics.
Here is my argument. Why are our MySpace pages more popular than artist sites? I think the difference comes down to the compliance with expectation. MySpace pages are regimented to structure, and thus the visual element is competing for individuality. In this case, the visual identity is strong out of necessity in order to differentiate themselves aesthetically if not structurally.
Art, good art at least, is born out of the desire to break out of boundaries imposed by media, but never quite getting there. The Art is not necessarily in the result, but the ways in which that art was achieved. In the film Five Obstructions, Lars von Trier gives his mentor Jorgen Leth “obstructions” in the re-imagining of his film The Perfect Human. What transpires is interesting, because the obstructions serve to complicate the situation of making a work, to the point where the obstructions themselves become more important than the resultant work.
MySpace is a big obstruction. It is an obstruction as big as poverty/heroin was to punk, and insanity was to Basquiat. And born out of that obstruction is a desire for expression that is akin to punk music and subway paintings tinged with paranoia. The problem with artist websites therefor is that no one really imposed any obstructions. The budgets were there, the bandwidth was there, the page was a blank canvas on to which any desire from any part was put up without concern for the ability to continually draw, or progressively involve.
I believe in obstructions, as well as I believe in standards. The Internet was founded as, and should remain a system on which people agree to agree for the sake of a better good, not simply wrap the conformance with substrates that enable a more “free” form of expression. I’m looking at you Flash. I’m looking at you client-side Java.
Flash is like retrofitting a perfectly good industrial building. Sure, its not pretty, but with the right tools, the right people and the right knowledge, it can be made into anything you’d like it to be. 100% flash, 4:3 websites, and their ilk are the gaudy exteriors on otherwise serviceable canvases. Not necessary, and terribly tacky.
The interface we use, and the paradigm in which it exists is something that is not an accidental creation. The human mind has adapted to the metaphors inspired out of Engelbart’s presentation: the browser, the mouse, point and click. It is an obstruction that exists to ensure that the Internet remains what it should be, which is a universalized, agnostic mechanism of transport for digital information. The representational element (the browser/renderer) is likewise subject to standardization to ensure that the information remains agnostic down to the photon level. Meaning of course is not agnostic, but if noise is minimized along the transmission chain, Information (in the Claude Shannon sense) is only inserted between screen and human, as it should be.
Flash sites , etc are basically saying “Here is how you SHOULD think of what I am presenting.” It leaves nothing up to conformance. It inserts noise midway through the causal chain of point and click, and by the time the information hits the retina, its subjugated under masses of imposition and pretension.
So for the sake of information, let us scroll.
Long live XHTML.
Long live CSS.
 I have no problem with Flash as a whole. Stamen design, Digg’s new interface, Pandora, etc use it to great effect. I used Flash pre-Macromedia people.
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