As it's getting down to the 11th hour, technology is really the last barrier to finishing this project. As I was working on editing my interviews into podcasts and videos, I ran into technical issue after technical issue. To make the podcasts, I used Adobe Premiere, which was probably a mistake given that I wasn't familiar with the program. When I went to export my second interview segment, I got an MP3 that only had one track for some reason, so entire sections of the audio were silent. This was no good. I had to go back and trouble shoot and it took me hours. With the affordances these machines give us there are also incredible constraints—ironically, technology is often more inconvenient than it is convenient. Boy, do I miss the analog days right now. To have been able to turn this project in as a printed essay. But then, it wouldn't be a multimodal project, now would it?
As the deadline for this project approaches I'm trying to move from higher-level concerns, and that brings me to website design. At first blush, making a website for a project like this is simple: just do research, present the findings, and lay everything out on a website. Simple right? Not so much.
The problem, it seems, is a one of design. It's a problem of information architecture. Yes, I have a lot of information, but what's the best way to lay it out? Ironically, Weebly doesn't give you many options, and rather than make things easier, it makes it a lot harder to create a well-designed and intuitive website. The first obstacle, for me, was how to best divide my project into clear and discrete sections using the navigational bar template in the header section of each page. Immediately, it was getting overly crowded, so the first thing I had to do was remove the link for the "home" page, which because of Weebly's layout actually functioned more like a splash page; it could be eliminated, because why would anyone really need to navigate to a splash page?
Removing the link for "home" gave me a little bit of room, but it was still crowded, and every section needed to prove itself worthy. Then, I decided that the section formerly titled "The Problem" was not distinct enough from the "Introduction," so I merged those two. I kept on going. What I ended up with, I hope, are five sections, which can be read in both linear and nonlinear ways (a big reason why I stopped using Atavist, which uses the infinite vertical scroll, and jumped to Weebly, which allows for separate pages). Further, the separate sections allow for some hyperlinking (I actually have a hidden sixth section for footnotes which the other sections hyperlink to), which is an important part of th experience I wanted to create.
Today I'm going to begin putting up the videos and interviews, and more than likely I will run into more tech problems!
More to come.
Let me begin by telling on myself. I'm already starting a little bit behind on this blog thing, as I started the project a little over a week ago. But it doesn't stop there. This isn't the first draft of this blog, either. I already wrote another draft of this blog but somehow it got lost. Technology is hard!
That's one of the reasons I'm doing this blog, to record the difficulties, obstacles, and the constraints of using these technologies to create this project. Another reason I'm doing it is that since I began this, I wanted to include myself as a participant in my study, but quickly realized that that wasn't going to happen, because of obvious biases and blindspots. So this blog is a chance to analyze my process, at least informally. Even if no one reads it (likely), I'll have a chance to reflect on my process in almost real-time, as I'm creating the site.
So let's start at the beginning with invention. How did I generate this topic? Like my friend Mike J., I started with a mindmap. To create a mindmap I used a deceptively simple program called Mindnode, which is a highly capable piece of mindmapping software. It even allows you to embed your mindmaps on websites, like this:
Scroll around. These are the wanderings of my mind. Each little box is like a neuron in a sea of ideas. I think it's pretty cool.
Beyond that, it's simply useful. Interestingly, as I said, Mike did this very same thing, but on a whiteboard (check that out here). We're doing the same thing, but he's taking the analog approach and I the digital, but in the end it has pretty much the same effect: the free (as in free association) invention of ideas and the visual representation of their connections. It's a powerful (and incredibly non-linear) tool for invention.
But even after the ideas in my head are translated to their visual representations on the mindmap, a seemingly endless number of further translations must occur, such as, well, the translations of this mindmap into English sentences on my Weebly page.
Anyway, that's a little look into the first step of this project.