Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Has it been a month? Wow!

I left my last post mid-way through as I had to prioritise my time. Since the last post (which I will continue soon) a lot has happened. I have prepared and applied for two new jobs (one of which I have been anticipating for over a year); finally overcome a niggling ActionScript problem to launch my website properly (the beta test lasted 3 months); built and then rebuilt in CSS a website (my first CSS website) to promote an animation degree I had written earlier this year; planned and began the design for another CSS website for a degree I am writing now; redrafted the same degree and took this new degree through 2 reviews with flying colours so that it can be validated in early 2008; and still find time to read more papers and books on interactive design whilst still having a life. A tall order so I'm sure I am forgiven for not updating this blog.

This note about time between updates nicely segues into a point I wish to explore. I have just read Brendan Dawes' new book, which reads more like a blog, (a blook?) Analog In, Digital Out. In fact I have just closed it and put it down to type this post as I sit on the comfy sofas in FACT with my iPod ear phones in although the battery died about half an hour ago (a great way to stop people talking to you when you are busy). Dawes discusses how the nature of DIGITAL artefacts fail to feedback signs of use as physical artefacts do. With physical artefacts there are visible signs of wear and tear that denote ownership, that demonstrate a history of use for that artefact. His issue is that other than "last date modified" what visual information is there that indicates that a digital artefact has been "touched"? He does use Flickr as an example of appending extra data to an image, but we do not see digital fingerprints or tears/folds/scratches that you would get with a real photo that has really been viewed and shared over time. By no means is Dawes suggesting that some pedant invents an algorithm to add fingerprints/tears/folds/scratches to digital images. His point is simple: digital artefacts are simply not degradable in a visual way that records the passage of time.

This idea made me think of the work by Steve Rogers (head of production at BBC New Media) on digital patina as a method of demonstrating the elapse of time since a digital artefact was used/visited or updated. He used this concept in the design of the BBCi homepage to semiotically feedback to the user the most visited sections. The more faded the content is the greater the time between visiting that content. The brighter the content indicates the user has used/visited that content recently.

Just imagine websites with an algorithm that makes the pages fade over time if they aren't updated. The older the page the more digital patina it acquires. If you leave a bike outside eventually it will rust up. If you ride it occassionally you offset the formation of rust. Imagine the emphasis this would place on contributors to the web. Update the pages you create (even if it is just a quick reload of the page) to prevent the onset of digital dust or rust collecting on your work. It would also be a good indicator to visitors if the content is old or new. I know that would make me more motivated in keeping the content I post current.

Any thoughts?

1 comment:

Alec said...

There's a difference between patina caused by time/decay and that caused by heavy use. Is there a way to show each, in different ways? Would indicating both levels provide any benefit?