Websites

How we communicate

Memory and vanity

Of course, websites are places of information, repositories of fact and detail (the typical business and organisation website). But they are also potentially rich and powerful modes of communication. Information, factual or otherwise, is presented in a certain way, not just for its own sake (to inform), but often to persuade, convince, impress, or even excite the reader. So the sites are as much about argument, especially the argument of sale, whether that be of product, service, personality, or activity – purposeful communication. And the technology is versatile, enabling a stimulating combination of word or text and image.

The resort to the medium of the website prompts some thoughts about how we as humans communicate with each other at the this point in history. Think about the shift from ‘hard copy’, in books, newspapers, letters, post cards, greetings cards, printed photographs, and from interactive audio methods, such as interpersonal conversation and dialogue, or the telephone. But, unlike reductive and limited attention span text messaging, emailing, and many social media communications, the website is a potentially complex, data-rich and sophisticated site of communication.

My first motivation for my own website was primarily archival and retrospective, prompted by a concern about my own accumulated product of writing and intellectual activity – how to conserve it, and to record, summarise, index, and basically not forget about it all. Well, that of course was a vain motive, and I was surprised to discover that some friends and colleagues were not troubled by such a preoccupation. But, as one of them had quoted to me some years before, ‘you probably think this song is about you, don’t you ?’ Right, I confess it, I am vain in that way. But, as another one remarked to me, ‘if you don’t blow your own trumpet, not many others will do that for you.’ And I have written poems about this preoccupation, about what is left on the record or of the reputation (‘Thought I Was One of Ulysses’ Band’, ‘You Can Be My Witness’ and ‘Narcissus Retractus’).

But then thinking further about the idea of an own website, and actually starting on its design, I found that my vanity took me further. Yes, it would function as an archive and a life-work index but it could also have an important present and prospective function. It could work to link past, present and future, and serve creatively as well as intellectually. It could show-case the poetry, the artwork, the political and reflective argument, and the ongoing collaboration in various ways with others. So the main fields emerged as both ‘creative’ and ‘research’, and include sections such as ‘The Band Plays On’. In this way, the site could come to life, even become a place of dialogue.

What I discovered in this process was the website as something to be read as a distinctive genre. I became an avid and critical reader of other people’s websites, and began to experience the enjoyment and fulfilment of making my own.