TITLE:About this website:TITLE
"I actually hate websites. So maybe you could make me a website that is not a website at all?"
This was roughly what Theo asked of me during our first meeting. Never before having had a project that required me to design something that is actually not what it is, I decided to take inspiration from Theo's critical data-art; his SNOGs (SNapshots Of Globalization). We have designed the website as an organic system, a machine feeding on (the captured data of) our visitors. With every move, visitors leave their traces and alter the website. The website itself becomes in a way a living overview of the behaviour and interests of its visitors. Through the interface it tries to seduce visitors to interact with the datascape following the routes, or traces left behind by other visitors, while more and more data accumulates.
Monitoring visitors on the web is becoming more and more omnipresent, especially within the current 'web 2.0' boom, which totally evolves around the attraction of content (and attention), and generating revenue from this. Even the imperium of Google, as well as that of other search engines, is build around (a.o.) the tracking of its users, generating information about the value of data/intellect by using their services. These services thus create a (dangerous) mix of valuating human intellect by means of capitalistic market-structures (the most popular/most demanded is rarely the most valuable knowledge/theory). By valuating our intellect this way we are building an isolated, monolithic knowledge-culture, impermeable for new or alternative 'truths'. By scaling the content according to popularity, this website tries to show the problems with these self-enforcing structures of valuation; the most popular parts will slowly 'conquer' all attention, by getting bigger and visually more attractive at the cost of less popular parts, which might in the end even disappear totally. This also shows the behaviour of people, they will typically follow the paths of others, which, after a certain critical amount of visitors have visited the site, makes the problem irreversible. [see: v2]
Another, more practical danger that is inherent to the logging of this kind of information, that recently became painfully clear, was when when Google was ordered by court to turn over every record of every video ever watched by YouTube users, including users' names and IP addresses, to Viacom. This shows how the logging of user generated information is never solely used in order to create a 'better consumer experience' or rate knowledge, but also has potential meaning in the fields of privacy and politics. If we look at the filters most search engines have put in place at the request of governments on (a.o.) their China-oriented services, or the instant release of searchlogs at the request of the United States government by most search-engines, the danger of these logs becomes very clear.
[v2/Oct.08; at around 24.000 hits we have had to make some concessions within our rules and rewrite the scaling-algorithm to include a minimal category-height, because even whole categories started to disappear.]
All data captured by this website is data that is available to all websites while you browse them (and typically even logged by most servers). We don't use any special software or cookies of any kind.
Users' IP addresses are resolved to their geographical location, and its latitude/longitude values, which is mapped on the chart, which can be viewed individually by clicking on the little icon with the dots at the right-top of the page.
The server-load, which is the amount of visitors over time is plotted on the barcode-infographic, which can also be viewed individually by clicking on the barcode-icon at the right-top of the page.
The content itself forms one big statistical diagram, showing the popularity per section (the vertical bars, e.g. 'News', 'Architecture', SNOGs, etc.) by scaling the height of the sections relative to their popularity. The popularity of the individual articles within their sections is mapped to their relative height (this can be seen working especially well in the 'This is Spijkenisse' post, with the recognizable 'abc...' picture, which is quite popular and thus the biggest in its section). The most unpopular articles are already starting to disappear, preserve them by visiting them!
The website is made and run exclusively on FLOSS (Free/Libre/Open Source Software). The server is Apache and MySQL, running on GNU/Linux (Debian) The website is written in php, relying heavily on the GD library for the real-time generation of images and statistics. All development and static imagery is done on Ubuntu, using Kate, Inkscape and The Gimp. All dynamic content, images and multimedia are managed using the KOBOLD Content Management System, which is also build exclusively using FLOSS software and programming languages (php, MySQL, FFmpeg (to automatically convert uploaded multimedia to OGG vorbis/theora and Flash), Imagemagick (to automatically convert uploaded images to the right sizes and web-quality)).
(Theo about the website;)
Generally websites are stupid. The pure awareness of the existence of a virtual flyer, containing 'work', makes one puke. It’s plastic appearance and the fact that it is just there to be looked at and that it is waiting for the next maintenance reminds one on the Tamagotchi.
But one has to have one.
Michael van Schaik turned with this website the stupid electronic flyer into a machine. This site is alive. Michael wrote programs that make you, dear visitor, part of this site. With your visit you left already a trace on this site and your visit changed this site already. In this way you will never see this site again because every new visit will make it change. The web is alive – thanks to Michael van Schaik and to you, my dear visitor.
Michael van Schaik, media designer / artist / researcher, living and working in Rotterdam. Practice revolves around critical research of the practical application as well as the socio-/political implications of media, applied to assigned and self-initiated projects. Projects and designs intend to create awareness of, and deal with this layeredness. Knowledge of the 'substance' of new media, code, is essential for getting to understand the intrinsic qualities of new media. FLOSS is a base premise for this research, and for code itself to become the creative material used to design and structure media in a sustainable and constructive way.