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Why Make use of the Internet?

an example of two websites in action

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INTRODUCTION

 

This document concerns two websites which have been created for the unit Introduction to Web Publishing 81524. Each of the websites will be discussed in detail relating specifically to the new possibilities opened to organisations and individuals thanks to the phenomena of web publishing. To present a broad contrast I have chosen to represent two contrasting situations which could make use of these possibilities. The first site was created to represent the means of an individual performing artist competing on an international and competitive scene, in this case a well-known Belgian opera singer (who incidentally invited me to create the site for him). The website itself represents a real person, even though part of the site is ‘fictional’ in that it will never reach the web. The primary advantage for this singer is that people from all over the world will be able to access information about his work. Either his fans or people interested in professional engagement will be able to quickly find out about his current agenda, i.e. his plans for performances, where they will take place etc. More specifically it will play a promotional role, one which his musical ‘agency’ had done on its own in the past. With the increasing competition on the market and of course the growing importance of the net, many artists have to make sure they are represented in this medium as well as any other. The internet provides a whole new range of possibilities in this regard. The second website has been created for a non-profit organisation. This contrasts to the first site in that it is less concerned with advertising an individual’s achievements as it is promoting an organisation which offers certain services and brings like-minded people together. Again, this site is partly fictional, although the organisation really does exist and some of the work created for the site will probably become part of the website representing the non-profit organisation and its services.

 

 


Why use the web?

 

Many traditionalists who are not familiar with the technology wonder what the ultimate advantages could be of a communication medium which involves primarily ‘texts’. One is reminded very quickly of the origins of HTML in the larger context of SGML [standard generalised markup language], an agreed upon set of computer recognised protocol which arose in the United States. It concerned how a document would appear on screen, consisting of a text-based set of agreements which would allow documents sent in a computer-based format to be reread in the same way at the other side of the USA. HTML can also be seen as an extension of this national protocol to a global level. It had a very specific context, one which is primarily ‘textual’ in the most traditional sense of this word. Since then, however, many things have changed, and are changing very quickly as WYSIWYG software provides more and more individuals with the ability to ‘Markup’ (from HTML: hypertext markup language) increasingly more complicated documents including graphics, video, sound and other multimedia aspects. The whole notion of ‘textuality’ has in this regard attained a new sense of signification it never had before. When we use the term ‘the web’ or ‘the internet’, we are not referring to a set of existing texts in the traditional sense. In actual fact these are loose terms for a vast range of computer controlled ‘databases’ spread around the world, banks of information data which thanks to the agreed upon protocol are accessible by users with enough knowledge to work a ‘web browser’, i.e. a programme which can understand the sets of protocols it has to go through to present a document on the screen of the user. Considering the enormous proportions of the data we have access to, information which is becoming continually easier to access through search engines which are becoming similarly quicker and quicker, avoiding the web seems to be a wrong move for people who wish their organisation or charity to keep up with current competition.

 

To digress a little, I think it is important to understand exactly what a web browser is and how they work to provide us with access to the internet. They are basically programmes which, in combination with a computer and its modem or network, are able to perform the necessary FTP (File Transfer Protocol: the information passed between an individual’s computer and the computer of the server so that the browser has access to the internet) so that the browser can download into the user’s computer HTML texts. HTML on its own, however, is a thing of the past. The ever changing world of the web makes new and more up-to-date web browsers necessary; what one can observe is new forms of protocol and/or software which has become so popular that it is necessary for web browsers to include them. Examples of this type of development includes the Java script necessary for many web-based applications, and even more recent software-based additions like Flash which facilitates multimedial animation on the web. The demo from yesterday with a downloadable interface becomes an essential part of tomorrow’s browser. Keeping up-to-date is therefore no easy task.

 

In conclusion, HTML and its derivatives has opened the doors to thousands of everyday users with a small flair for text processing to create their own ‘web pages’ thus creating a sense of mass publication which would never have been thought possible in the past. The term ‘web-surfing’ seems to connote some sort of joy-ride or escapism. In actual fact, however, surfing is a creative process involving the individual using ‘search engines’ which have access to the World Wide Web and its millions of ‘websites’. Being creative is, therefore, a vital part of web communication standing against the passivity of other forms of mass communication; the internet has something that ‘mind-numbing’ one-sided non-interactional communicative forms such as television does not have. This brings with it a series of other social issues. To start, for many the internet has become a form of emancipation. No one needs to know where you come from, your sex or the colour of your skin. In a cyberworld there need be no distinctions resulting in racist or sexual discrimination. Here we have again that unique option to remain anonymous in the face of others also involved in Web discussion groups and note-boards. Furthermore, its emancipation stretches beyond both financial and political goals. The ability of the web designer doesn’t play a strong role in determining who may visit web-sites and purchase products being offered via the net; the web surfer has to actively seek them out.

 

Another major issue involves a destabilisation of social class. Individuals have been empowered to see themselves as who they are, not how they are programmed to be in a social environment (i.e. one creates one’s own self on the net). This emancipatory level of the internet can be taken further when every social group, club, sexual fetish or any other type of symbolic or behavioural group can be represented via the web allowing people with the same beliefs to come together and share their thoughts. The result has been remarkable, allowing a new form of independence and globalisation never possible before the dawn of the internet age.


Broad Goals

 

In this section I would like to discuss the major goals of the two websites, and more specifically what they achieve which wouldn’t be possible if the internet hadn’t come to exist as it has. First and foremostly, both of the websites are directed towards an international market, and because geographical borders do not restrict the spread of the web, an international audience can easily be reached, or rather the information provided within the sites will be easily accessible to anyone in the world should they be interested in doing so. Unlike television advertising, for example, the web is often not something intrusive: people choose to visit websites, and certainly in the case of the specialised artistic behaviour referred to in both of the sites I have designed for this unit, only people specifically interested in these areas would be likely to ‘take a look’. If, however, a theatre festival was looking for a concert performer or an experimental fringe festival for an innovative new form of theatre, they may very well be led by the powerful search engines to these sites. Of course, the singer in question is known internationally, so accessing his site can occur simply by typing a name in a search engine. The search engines which make an effort to keep up to date with new developments within the internet are becoming more various and stronger by the day. If enough effort is taken by the designer of the sites to make the websites known to these search engines, more people will have access to this information and that information will be more accurately related to what the ‘surfer’ is looking for. Three important search engines made use of Belgium are Altavista, Yahoo and Google [accessible world-wide], and Scoot [restricted to Belgium]..

 

The broad goals of these sites, therefore, is not to ‘reach a public’ or ‘attract attention’, rather just to be there should the interest be sufficient enough. The Belgian tenor can use his website to direct any international enquiry in any part of the globe. His agency will also be able to make use of this tool to advertise their singers (in addition to their own organisation which gains prestige appearing on the web and being connected to the name de Mey). This will also be possible for members of the avant-garde theatre group. In this regard, the most powerful tool is the current events section. People can keep up to date on what either the singer or the theatre group are working on, and this can be regularly updated as necessary so that the sites don’t appear to be falling quickly out of date. The web designer (Laskewicz), however, will be responsible for organising this.

 

The following pages include a map of the pages of the website and how they relate to one another, which is followed by a description of the web and its ultimate goals.


Website 1

 

The first website is the less complex of the two, primarily because its goals are relatively simple and practical: to promote the work of a single artist [Guy de Mey, a Belgian opera singer]. The home page sets the basic outline for the site, and will obviously be the most common place for potential visitors to encounter. The intention is to make an easily accessible site with all the basic information about de Mey’s career, information which can be found by only one click (avoiding complex mediation resulting in the user becoming lost or bewildered). The text forming the body of the document is concise and simple, and powerful images are made use of to directly attract the reader’s attention. The text is deliberately short to make sure potential visitors won’t lose patience and leave the site, avoiding scrolling lots of information. On the left and the right bars are primary images to attract the reader’s attention. To the left is an attractive and recent black and white portrait of the artist, whereas on the right we have a series of photos highlighting different points in the singer’s career. The intention here is to directly demonstrate the versatility of the singer and the incredible range of roles he has been required to play (‘the many faces of Guy de Mey’). The text itself is divided into two major parts. The first part simply introduces the singer in a sentence and then describes the basic layout of the site. The second part discusses the singer in a little more detail for those readers who are interested in directly finding a bit more about the singer before taking on the chunkier pieces of text further on in the document.

 

The website has been envisaged in two levels as demonstrated on the previous page. On the first level a basic set of functions is included to assist the user in performing functions within the site. This includes a feedback page for readers who want to find out more about the singer or react to the site, a search page for people looking for direct information, a table of contents which clearly directs people to different parts of the site and a credits page for people who want to find out about the authors of the web. These pages are all accessible via a menu spanning the top of every page above the title, so it is easy to return to any of these pages at any time. Level two, in contrast, includes detailed information about the singer. Copies of his CV are included in a number of different languages (French, Dutch and English: thanks to de Mey’s agent for the translations). The next major page is a complete discography of the singer, including copies of some of the CD covers for recordings which de Mey considered his most important work. When the web is launched, we’re going to try to organise points of access between the websites of the recording companies and de Mey’s site so that potential customers can order directly after finding a particular CD or LP and clicking on the title. The following page on the second level de Mey considers perhaps the most important of all: his agenda for the coming year. Many of his fans like to know what he is doing and where so they can follow his career and at the moment there is an ‘appreciation society’ in his native city. They communicate, however, by publishing and sending out manually a short newsletter. If this information is available on the internet, it will save a lot of time and effort and will be able to be updated quickly and accurately at any time in case there are any changes.

 

The last major page concerns one of de Mey’s recent recordings which celebrates 25 years of singing internationally. A ‘portrait-CD’ has been put on the market by his agents, and the intention here is to make it available to all visitors willing to pay a reasonable price (extra cheap for members of his appreciation circle). Last but not least, and unfortunately unrealisable for this assignment, a page has been envisaged with sound samples so that visitors will be able to appreciate the site in a musical way. We intend to sample short sections from his Portrait CD, but that project is still underway. In any case, all of these pages are accessible from a list on the left side of every page. In conclusion, this site is clearly short and concise, but at the same time an effective tool for publicity for a performing artist.


Website 2

 

As is clear from the more detailed site map on the previous pages, this second website is particularly more complicated than the first. This is only natural considering that a whole organisation is being represented rather than just the work of an individual. Further, this organisation is a complex one, remaining effective on a number of different levels. A little background information is necessary here Night Shades / Nachtschimmen v.z.w (‘vereniging zonder winst’: non-profit organisation) is a collective of artists who are interested in working in a multidisciplinary fashion, i.e. multimedia in the performative context of this term. The organisation functions to promote the work of its members (particularly its director, Laskewicz), and at the same time to provide a forum for discussion of multimedia in contemporary society. This expresses itself in a number of different fashions as will be made clear in this description.

 

First, however, I’d like to start with a general overview of this site. In comparison to website one, this site has particularly more levels of complexity (5 as opposed to 2). The possibility always exists that the reader gets ‘lost’ in the sight by becoming confused by the many different signs presented directing to different places. To make the site as accessible as possible I’ve tried to divide it up as consecutively as I could so the potential visitor knows clearly what sort of route he or she is taking. On the first level, like site one, a number of basic functions are included such as feedback, table of contents and a search function. These options are also included in a bar across the top of the site, accessible from every page just in case the reader does get confused or lost.

 

The homepage includes a basic description of the site, i.e. the four main fields the organisation works in to promote its art and its artists. The reader has access at all times to four different levels which are accessible via a menu bar positioned always to the left of the central text. These levels are as follows: products, services, members and manifesto. The manifesto is a stand-alone page which describes the basic impetus behind the organisation, what it stands for and what it believes in. When the site is officially launched each of our members will be listed, but for the purpose of this assignment I have included four of the major members who I have a resume for. Thumbnail diagrams of each of the members is included on the ‘members’ page on the second level, which leads onto individual descriptions and larger photos on individual pages embedded in level three of the site. It is, of course, easy for people to return to the home page or in fact to any of the pages on level 2 thanks to menu bars on the left and the top of the page. The most complex pages (all of which exceed beyond level three, many of which are of such complexity that they couldn’t be completed for this assignment) are Night Shades Products and Night Shades Services. These two pages represent the vital functions fulfilled by our organisation. Products is basically a page which provides the reader with information regarding ‘products’ such as recordings, art-work and scores available as representation of what the organisation has achieved. This includes CDs, theoretical work and documentation and videos of performances.

 

The services page on the other hand, involves what the organisation ‘does’, i.e. what it can perform actively in a social context. A skim through the website provides the reader with a general idea of what we can do, which includes education in our special ‘notation system’ for notating and performing music-theatre and experimental dance (not entirely unlike the well-known labanotation system). Other services involve expressions of multimedia in an artistic context. This includes web design, new music-theatre production, and interactive theatre production (theatre which involves active interaction with members of the audience, or where the audience becomes an essential part of the show, a full theatre experience). Another important area is interactive CD-ROM design. We consider this important because it makes use of multimedia representation which can be far more true to multimedial experience than the written word (for example complex multimedial communication of Indian temple dance is far better understood if one sees the ‘text’ being performed rather than just reading about it). Multimedia provides a unique chance to achieve this. In the context of this website, these services are not detailed: for the purposes of this assignment a summary is included. When launched onto the web this will be extended considerably.

 

By far the most developed and interesting part of this website is the productions we have produced in the past or are in the process of planning in the present. Detailed information is included with illustrations taken from various sources including film, theatre and avant-garde literature. The reader can find out the most about these productions by visiting the site itself. Three major productions are included in this version, namely The ZAUM Project, Lair of the Spider Women and Bizarre Acts. Each of the projects concentrates on a different aspect of the multimedial experience. ZAUM is based on Russian cubo-futurist poetry which attempted to discover language as a form of musical expression. Bizarre Acts involves other expressions of avant-garde behaviour in twentieth century theatre. It is divided into two major parts, Bizarre Acts I: [radical] Experimentation and [enforced] Machination, concentrating on avant-garde theatre communication around the turn of the century (Dada, Futurism and Bauhaus) and Bizarre Acts II: [enforced] Machination and [involuntary] Stage-Fright which involves more contemporary existentialist expressions of the avant-garde in works by the playwright Samuel Beckett and the composer Mauricio Kagel. Of course, both of the concerts also include new works composed by members of the group.


Conclusions

 

Both of the websites presented in this document have similarities and differences. The primary similarity is that they represent artists, and the primary difference is that the first site represents an individual (and is comparatively simple) and the second site a collective (and is comparatively complex). My primary goal has been to provide a forum which potential visitors can use to gain information about particular types of performing arts, primarily music and theatre, and after having tested my sites by browsing through them myself I think I have been successful, at least to the point where the potential visitor will be drawn in by the general structure, beginning simple and becoming at each new level sufficiently more complex to gain interest, but not too complex to lose the attention of the web visitor.

 

 

 

 

May 2008 Nachtschimmen Music-Theatre-Language Night Shades, Ghent (Belgium)*
Send mail to zachar@nachtschimmen.eu with questions or comments about this website.


*LAST MODIFIED:
September 27 2013.

 

 

Major Writings