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Dreaming of a Poetic Web

May 14, 2024 Winter 2024

HTTPoetics was a 10-week class taught by Todd Anderson with assistant teachers Tyler Yin and Kayla Drzewicki. Each week, we came to class intent on unlearning the conventional assumptions about making websites, asking: What is a poetic website? Why do we make them? How can websites heal, connect, and liberate us? In this blog post, we look back at these ten weeks and share some of our learnings…

As we began our study of the poetics of the web, we first learned about its core components—HTML, CSS, and JavaScript—and how these elements build the foundations of a website. We reflected on the web development practices, user expectations, and profit-oriented motivations of the past few decades that have corralled us into the highly commercialized websites we now engage with on a daily basis. We then looked at the experimental, handmade, and self-published websites that offered to break those rules and challenge our preconceptions of what a “good” website should be.

Inspired, we set out to make websites of our own that were purposefully unusable, ugly, and bad; digital collages that invite us to click on every text, object, and portal imaginable; and sprawling, endless labyrinths that stretch beyond our browser windows and carry our most intimate confessions. Visiting artist Chia Amisola challenged us to think about making websites as an act of caring for the self—of maintaining one’s visibility—and to think about self-preservation as an act of communal preservation.

Isa Sabraw’s miss you manor takes visitors on a meandering journey through a house under renovation, inviting them to wander into its many rooms—encountering mini-games, photos, personal collections, and moments of introspective pause along the way.In ꘏ ु[the RVER] ु꘏, V for 5 builds a meditative landscape filled with sounds, poems, video performance, hyperlinks, and mythological lore, all hidden within a vibrant collection of clickable objects and figures.

Afterwards, we learned about how websites can transform over time and change in response to our inputs and actions. We discussed the versatile and imaginative functionalities of a simple button, the many ways in which a mouse can be leveraged as a creative tool, and how we can incorporate music, sound, and time as key elements in our websites. As we explored these interactive possibilities in our own websites, we learned that websites can be a medium for us to understand and express our own changing and healing journeys.

In Julia Pelosi-Thorpe’s Translations of Enoe Di Stefano, the cursor becomes a vital agent used to translate a text from Italian to English, allowing the visitor to feel as though they are uncovering secrets, letter by letter.In the locals just want goods by Amber Jaitrong, a poem proceeds at the click of a button, revealing and activating its subsequent lines at the pace of its reader.In write to love songs, Jediael Shaphir offers a website for the times when you want to write a letter to someone, but don’t want to send it. Upon hitting ‘enter,’ the user is provided with background music, lyrics, and writing prompts to accompany them as they type.In Pleasure Gallery, Angela Vang compiles anonymous, user-submitted sexts into a randomized exchange of intimate messages, and invites visitors to contribute their own. (Disclaimer: content may be NSFW)

In our final weeks together, we talked about websites that connect us and ask us to be present. We learned from Everest Pipkin, who considers the architectures of connectivity and “how to leave power, agency, and conviction with the people who are constructing their own spaces” when building browser-based games, experimental software, and open source tools lists, and from The Parks Staff—creators of the perpetually expanding—who shared with us their collective impetus of “placing process and people first...making work for the audience of each other.”

Alex Beige built the Directory for NYC Indie Theatre as a resource for meeting and discovering local DIY theater groups, in response to the difficulty of finding community among indie performers in New York City.Taking inspiration from the act of looking at someone when their eyes are closed, Irena Wang asks visitors to be either a Whisperer or Listener in psst. As the Whisperer writes messages into a text field, the Listener will hear these messages read aloud to them so long as they keep their eyes closed.In Triadic Patterning, Banyi Huang crafts a “non-linear realm” populated with 3D models, GIFs, hover effects, sound, and buttons in order to unravel a story about deities within the daoist pantheon.

On our last day—as we ended our collective study with a rendition of “Mr. Brightside” conducted by Todd’s in-class demo strong-bow-clerk—the memories of our time together lingered in our minds. As we reflect on the learnings of these past ten weeks, may we continue to foster our stirring, budding ideas for the next venture: a website that takes breaks; a website that changes with us; a website for being together (again).

The HTTPoetics Anthology can be found here.