A Manifesto for Reading a Web Site
Write a six-to-eight-page essay that presents a manifesto that charts a new approach to conceiving, designing and interpreting Web sites. Throughout your manifesto, use the specific example of a Web site to illustrate your new method and its value.
Use Gregory Ulmer's theory of the manifesto as a template for your essay, following the steps that Ulmer says manifesto writers throughout history have used to structure manifestos in politics, the arts and society.
As part of employing Ulmer's structure, you'll do the following
- Though you'll divide the parts of your essay according to Ulmer's "CATTt" steps, give these parts subtitles that reflect the content of what you're arguing in each section, not Ulmer's steps or some generic description of the part. For example, in the sample project I propose on the Ulmer page, I would title my first section something like, "What's Wrong with Being Useful?" rather than "Contrast" or "Introduction."
- Illustrate and amplify the essay with very specific details and observations drawn from the sample Web site you choose. (use MLA citation and documentation format in the text and in a Works Cited section at the end).
- Support these observations with "screen shots" from the Web page/site, focusing on and illustrating the key details you're discussing. See the note below about producing screen shots.
- Quote and cite a writer or theorist in the opposing camp, or what Ulmer calls the "undesirable example or prototype" in his "Contrast" step. (Use MLA citation and documentation format for these quotations).
- Quote and cite a theorist in Trend (or from our non-Nielsen readings on the Web) to detail and develop the principle or issue you're highlighting in the essay (also use MLA citation and documentation format for these quotations).
By definition, a manifesto can't support the dominant, standard, conventional, or common-sense approach to doing something. Your essay should champion an approach that is new, alternative, emergent, unconventional, contrarian, or (apparently) eccentric.
Don't write a manifesto simply arguing for the status quo, but also realize that the definition of the status quo is, to a degree, a matter interpretation and argument as well.
Note: you can capture screen shots on PCs by viewing the page with your Web browser, hitting the "Prt Scr" button (Print Screen) on your keyboard, and then pasting the captured image into a new Photoshop document (control+n, control+v).
Use Photoshop to crop and scale your images to focus on the key details you're discussing in your text, and insert the images into the appropriate portions of your text using Word (Insert > Picture > From File). Also, please save and keep in your "Web Design" folder (non-www) the Photoshop files of your screen-shot images to make Web-ready versions later.
1. A Rationale for Splash Screens. Critique Nielsen's commandment that "splash screens must die" and develop a rationale for judging wise and unwise uses of splash screens. As a positive example, look at the site Design for Marketing that uses a splash screen that effectively speaks to the tastes and culture of its audience, and creates an idea of itself.
Use Heim's notion of "eros" as a way of theorizing and explaining the success of this splash screen, and Design for Marketing's way of conceiving of its audience--as opposed to Nielsen's notion of the user who is motivated by by strictly practical needs for "information."
2. The Future of Web Politics. Cite and quote a newspaper article from the last presidential election, which assumes (wrongly, you think) that the Web will be a boon to the political parties in organizing and fund raising.
Argue instead that the old mode of politics represented by the parties is organized by geography (on concentric precinct, district, state and national levels), and that digitally mediated culture will supercede the political parties organized in such hierarchies, just as in Pierre Levy's "Collective Intelligence," "territorial" and "commodity" spaces are superceded by "knowledge space" (256-57).
Illustrate this emergent political force by looking at Michael Moore's site as an example of how these new modes of political organization will be organized around a combination of celebrity and populism, and how this new politics will depend on "glocal" identities rather than physical locales, economic classes, or professional affiliations.
3. Amazon's World of Mirrors. Look at Amazon.com's practice of customizing its home page according to the individual user's previous purchases, searches and wish lists. This was described in recent news accounts, and you can see the result if you visit and use Amazon's site regularly with the same computer.
While this kind of customizing makes perfect sense from a marketing point of view, argue in your manifesto that this represents a culturally unhealthy trend on the Web, realizing Heim's/Leibniz's vision of the "monad": "For monads," observes Heim, "there is no outer world to access, no larger, broader vision. What the monad sees are the projections of their own appetites and their own ideas" (79). In essence, such customization is the cultural, digital equivalent to heavy industry pumping pollutants into the air: it may be advantageous for the company in the short run, but the public has a right to oppose that practice and bring pressure to bear on the company, if it's not healthy for the society as a whole.
Describe your model of an alternative book site (a new form of commercial site) that nurtures not Amazon's commodified sense of self-focused "culture," but a more open, social and dynamic "community" (83).
5 ways to write an inspiring manifesto.
A written statement to publicly declare your intentions, motives, or beliefs.
From the Latin manifestus — to manifest, to clearly reveal, to make real.
Writing a manifesto can help you clarify what you believe and what type of contribution you want to make in the world.
If you feel like writing a manifesto is something that only presidential speechwriters and poet laureates can do… think again!
Here are 5 different ways to write a manifesto.
(You can choose 1 of these ideas or combine a couple of them together to create a manifesto format that suits you. Enjoy!)
1. I BELIEVE …
Just state what you believe. Simple as that. One sentence, a bullet-point list, or a whole commencement address.
“I believe in the power of love.”
“I believe in real butter and thick-cut bacon.”
“I believe that everyone and everything is fascinating — and that everyone has a story worth telling.”
Or — for an unexpected twist — state what you no longer believe. (And why.)
2. I WANT TO LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE …
Paint a vision of the world you want to live in. What’s different? What’s better? What’s easier?
This is your version of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.
“I want to live in a world where girls at risk have a way out — and up.”
“I want to live in a world where meditation is taught in every high school.”
“I want to live in a world where organic food is just as affordable as fast food.”
Wrap it up by explaining how you are working to create that “better world.” Tell your reader how she can join your revolution.
3. HERE’S WHAT I KNOW FOR SURE …
How very Oprah of you! Reveal a few undeniable truths in a poem, an essay, or a list.
“Here’s what I know for sure: love is the antidote to fear.”
“Here’s what I know for sure: one handwritten thank you note can alter the course of someone’s day. Or life.”
“Here’s what I know for sure: when you fall asleep for the last time, you won’t wish you’d spent more time linking, tweeting, and liking. You’ll wish you’d spent more time kissing, laughing, and loving.”
You can frame this as a letter to your younger self. Or a collection of truisms for a sister, child, client, or friend.
4. ALWAYS WEAR SUNSCREEN …
Share a collection of straight-shootin’ tips and advice from the perspective of someone who’s not “perfect” — just a few steps ahead on the path.
This is your version of Mary Schmich’s classic “Always Wear Sunscreen” speech.
“Love yourself even if you’re working on changing yourself.”
“A good night’s sleep and a warm croissant can soak up a river of sorrow.”
“Use the expensive perfume. Wear the saucy panties. Nobody needs to know. Unless they do.”
5. THE MICRO-MANIFESTO
If you were at the world’s biggest open mic night — and you had just fifteen seconds on the microphone — what would you holler out into the crowd? (Quick! Go! There’s not much time!)
“Just dance, babycakes!”
“Sweat. Stretch. Serve. Smile.”
“No one on earth can do what you do… in precisely the way that you do it.”
I hope these ideas got your manifesto-wheels turning!
If you’re craving even more manifesto goodness, here is a three-line template that you can take for a spin. Happy writing!