Posts Tagged ‘HTML’

What Exactly IS Web Art?

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

This is the second in a series of posts brainstorming about the nature of web art, or, in other words, art that uses the web and the internet as the medium, rather than something more traditional like paint, ink, or pencil.

Please feel free to go back and read Part 1: Web Art, and the Internet as an Artistic Medium

One of the biggest questions about web art for me is what is the art?

If I create a work of web art that you view and experience on a webpage, what is the actual thing that is considered the art?

With a painting, it is very clear what the piece of art is. It is the canvas with the paint on it.

But what about a website that is a work of art. Is it the computer code that creates the site? Is it the server that stores that code? Is it the user’s browser that looks at the website?

All of these things are part of the inner workings that allow a piece of web art to be viewed by someone. I don’t think that any one of these things is the art itself though.

The Experience is the Art

I think that the actual art is the experience that the user has with the website that hosts the art. All of the code that sits on the server doesn’t do anything until someone points their browser to the site. It is then this experience of going to a web site that becomes the art.

To give you an example of what I mean, click on the words “Red Dot/Blue Dot” below before reading further (following this link only takes a few seconds, and you’ll end up back here afterwards):

Red Dot/Blue Dot

Welcome back!

That was, fundamentally, a work of web art.

Pretty lame web art, yes, I know, but it should demonstrate my point. Until you clicked on that link, the art did not exist. All that existed were a couple of HTML files and a couple of PNG files. They didn’t do anything until you clicked on the link and had the experience of seeing a red dot then a blue dot.

In fact, the actual thing I created was this:

	Red Dot

Now click here

The experience you had of seeing those dots, in that sequence, was the art. The file itself is not the art, it is just a tool that is used to create the art.

This gets to one of the most interesting aspects of web art: you cannot separate the art from the experience of viewing the art. It is very similar to performance art in this way.

Additionally, the user plays a vital role in the experience of the art. Without your decision to click on the link, then to continue clicking, that art would never have existed.

User interaction is a vital part of web art. It cannot exist without the user there to view it.

Coming Next

In the next post I am going to start brainstorming and discussing some of the particular qualities that web art can have that distinguish it from other forms of art.

WordPress Structure

Friday, March 13th, 2009

In preparation for this weekend’s incubation, I created this outline of how WordPress is structured. WordPress is Stirfry’s CMS of choice because it is simple, flexible, and highly customizeable.

I, and many other Stirfryers, are firm believers that form and content are closely related. Understanding how WordPress works, and how a WordPress site can be structured will help to create the vision for your site. What content you provide, and how you provide it, is intrinsically related to the structure and organization of the site.

With that in mind, this may help you to develop your own website.

  • WordPress is functionally based on PHP and MySQL.  The presentation is based on HTML and CSS.
    • MySQL – This is a database that stores all of the information you enter into WordPress.  The title, content, and data (author, time, categories, etc) for each post or page are all stored in the database
    • PHP – PHP is a web programming language that can do stuff with the data in the database, and use variables, operators, control structures, and functions.  The output of PHP is HTML, which your browser then reads.
    • HTML – basic internet language.  The server throws a bunch of HTML at your browser, your browser displays a web page.
    • CSS – CSS organizes and designs the HTML.  Color, size, location, images, etc, are all determined by the CSS

Basic WordPress, or WordPress straight out of the box:

  • Two kinds of content: POSTS and PAGES
    • POSTS are blocks of content that are then displayed alone or as groups on webpages
    • PAGES are content that is always on a certain webpage.  They are “static” (though they are still dynamic in the web programming sense of the word)
  • Posts are shown in reverse chronological order on the homepage.  You can view a single post, or you can click on various archives of posts to see only posts of that type, such as by date, a certain category, or a certain tag.
  • WordPress often creates a list of the pages you create.
    The header, footer, and sidebar(s) remain the same on every webpage of your site.  Only the content area changes.
  • Themes change how your site looks.
  • Conceptually, this format creates a website where the most recent post is the most important, and the older a piece of content is, the less important it becomes.
    • This is similar to TV, radio, magazines, newspapers, and serialized content

Building Blocks of WordPress

  • There are four default regions on a WordPress page: Header, Footer, Sidebar(s), and content.  You can add regions other than these.
  • The Loop is a basic engine of WordPress.  It collects posts from the database and displays them.  The front page is a loop of all your posts.  An archive of a category, date, tag, etc, is a Loop of posts of just that type.
  • Templates:
    • A template is a PHP file that describes what information is contained in a certain page or element
    • Every webpage has a template. index.php is the template for the main page, page.php is the template for your pages, archive.php is the template for looking at a category or date archive, etc.
    • Many regions have a template.  header.php, sidebar.php, footer.php are templates for the content in those regions of the webpages, comments.php describes content of that region, etc. The individual posts do NOT have a template to decribe their content. This is done in the Loop.
    • A theme is just a collection of templates and a CSS file.
    • You can create custom templates to extend WordPress beyond it’s default content presentation
  • Metadata:
    • Content has metadata attached, such as author, time, and very importantly, category and tag.  You can use metadata to organize and display content.
    • Categories and Tags allow for a 2-D organization of content (which can be limiting)
    • Categories can have custom templates, not sure about tags.

Customizing WordPress

  • It is easy to customize the supplied building blocks
  • It is harder to add new building blocks to Worpress
  • Plugins can add new building blocks
  • Most (all?) changes are done by modifying the theme templates and CSS file.