Where do you want this information?"
the sign on my desk says. Every day at work I come up with new
and exciting ways to catalogue information. I am (and this title,
while by no means official, is used in office memos, emails, and
staff meetings) "The Internet Information Czar" for these United
States. My rise to this auspicious title started about three years
ago when I wrote a program for the Library of Congress.
as I can put it, it was a cross-name, re-directional, self-sufficient
automated hypertext editor. Well, to be completely straight, the
"self-sufficient" part is a bit redundant, but I really like the
sound of it. The Library of Congress is dedicated to recording
all instances of American development to "sustain and preserve
a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future
generations". What my program does is this:
As the Library
of Congress stores terabyte after terabyte of information from
all the web pages hosted in the United States, as it saves every
image, every program, every file, my program, "The Cleaner" goes
in and finds all the duplicate instances of every element...and
deletes them. It deletes the duplicates. It then redirects and
rewrites any hypertext code that referred to that file to reflect
a new location. A new location of the latest South Park wallpaper,
for example. A new location of that cracked version of Adobe Photoshop,
or a new location of that picture of the "teen" who is holding
the pacifier and looking out the window wistfully while being
pleasured. The web is so filled with unoriginal ideas, rehashing,
and appropriated images, that the monetary amount of space I saved
the Library of Congress is in the millions.
it, every time you see a web page that's using a piece of clip
art with a dog looking surprised, there are anywhere from six
to a thousand other web sites using the exact same image, all
stored in different places. This is what my Information Mechanics
professor used to call a "waste of space".
I also get
a report detailing the changes made by The Cleaner e-mailed to
me every day. In every single 24-hour period The Cleaner has to
tackle over ten thousand instances of this one particular animated
gif that shows a mailbox opening and closing. Every twenty-four
hours it has to delete and redirect over thirty-three thousand
occurrences of a specific horizontal transparent gif. Sixteen
thousand "ivy" backgrounds. Three thousand jpegs of the planet
Earth. Unfortunately it can only blink its eye at every vector-inspired
page of fluff that has a disturbing amount of circles that you
can click as links. It can only ruffle its hidden brow at every
happening of a Java-run clock. It can only feel disquieted when
it scans over every unnecessary guest book. I only know this because
I have watched its memory usage skyrocket as it tries to make
sense of these repetitious elements that can't exactly be redirected.
Maybe I'll figure out a way to do this with version 2.
I tell my
friends in the design field all of these anecdotes brought to
me as an ASCII attachment and printed with my laser printer. They
all laugh, nod their heads, make derisive comments about "amateurs",
and then go home to make a giant red vector circle with a black
outline gain size one hundred and forty percent before fading
into a company's logo.
I have these thoughts of adding to The Cleaner a sub-program that
also deletes repetitive design. Simply due to the insane number
of web pages out there, certain very basic designs will reoccur
quite often. I wonder just how many pages have a specific green
background (00CC66) and use Courier New as their font--10 point,
having the words "enter..." as their first line?
would be stepping into the world of information maintenance ethics--a
very touchy and hazy realm of information control. One of the
precepts of Information Theory is that all information tells a
story. If there are fifty-two thousand online journals written
by a fourteen to seventeen year old girl who has been hurt by
a boy, loves poetry, has an affinity for French names, and who
has fantasies of red wine and New Orleans, then there are fifty-two
thousand of these types of pages for a reason.
doubt though, that for all of my complaining about the content
and form of the web, I do believe--just as my supervisor (Executive
Director of Society Petridge) does--that the web and web pages
are the art form of the twenty-first century. Right now people
surf through an intro and interface perhaps only saying to themselves,
"That's neat". But this design likely took seven months of coffee,
cigarettes, and expense accounts to create. When speaking of the
best pages, the complexity of the interaction is planned out so
tight that the user has full control over their movements. For
the most part, right now the only people who appreciate these
designs are other designers.
day someone will say aloud while shopping for a new car, "This
General Motors page is art." Or, "You know, that Coca-Cola interface
is genius". And when they do, the Library of Congress will open
their online exhibition of E-Society. People will flock to it
thinking, "how did I miss all of this? Why did I spend all of
my time reading online journals and guest books?" And it will
all have been made possible by The Cleaner.
© 2000 Jason Wesley Upton All Rights Reserved
is jason wesley upton. i live in new orleans. i have a degree.
i have no job. i live with my cat janelle. one day i want to make
vector circles fade into a company's logo.
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