The Potential of New and Different

Starting my semester with Duckett’s chapter on text and all of its coding properties did nothing to ease my anxiety about what lies ahead in this class. But then I remembered Norman’s assertion that happy people are “more tolerant of minor difficulties” so I paused for some Arrested Development and M&M’s and carried on, presumably more tolerant and indeed happier.

I imagine it is hard for anyone to read about margins and cutlines and feel enthused; I imagine enthusiasm wanes even faster when you add coding to this reading list. So, by the time I opened my final reading for this week (“Acts of Translation”), I could only feel relief that it was almost over.  But then, on the verge of blissful completion, I came to Elish’s discussion of the SFMOMA Artscope Project. Clicking on the link, I immediately felt the impact of good design.  After reading something on design conventions last semester, I remember pondering whether good design (aesthetically-speaking) actually made any difference to the task-oriented and deliberate users of the web. After viewing the SFMOFA site, it appears that it just may.  Granted this site goes way beyond design conventions of the “works-every-time” layout and the coding outlined by Duckett, but, we all begin at a “What is Design” chapter or a Clio Wired course, and from there, we build.

The SFMOFA site is a well-designed site. But, beyond this, it is significant because it reminds us of the “expressive potential of digital form.” One of the greatest difficulties for historians who attempt to cross into the digital realm (or maybe just me) is understanding that digital media is indeed new and different and that it allows us to do history in new and different ways. I understand this in theory- that digital history can (and should be) more than a digitization of sources and uploaded research- but the practice of digital history is a little less clear. How can we use this new media to do history better?  Though it may make for less than thrilling reading, learning design conventions and basic coding just might help us to realize and to “take advantage of what is different, new, and possible.

Week 2 Comment on Amanda Regan’s post


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