Phew... busy, busy, busy

I read a really intriguing post over at Berea St. on browser testing (which links to a discussion by super-hero Andy Clarke). Johanson presents his order for testing--its interesting to see how many browsers a professional looks at. I feel mighty inferior, since I test only in 1) Safari MAC, 2) Firefox MAC, 3) Firefox PC, 4) IE 6.0 PC. I really want to start testing in IE 7.0, but don't have access to it (yet, I'm figuring Purdue will upgrade this summer).

I also read an interesting article by Mike Davidson promoting a new flash replacement technology. He prohesizes that the standards community will probably roar--and as someone on the fringe of that community, I'm not sure how loud I want to yell. I am committed to creating low bandwidth webpages, because I firmly believe that broadband will become a limited resource--there's too many articles out there concerning its future limited availability. Brief list:

If the internet is going to survive, then users need to be responsible in how much bandwidth they use. This for me is part of the ethical agenda underlying what I consider to be web2.0--not just a corporate philosophy or marketing strategy, but a dispersed responsibility to every member of the internet community to behave ethically, else the system crashes (distribution of responsibility from a centralized power to individual users requires users to accept this responsibility.

On the other hand, I'm not sure how large these flash files are. Typically, the background-image replacement techniques I use don't take up much bandwidth since I keep my .gif sizes relatively small (always under 100kb). So, I won't begin to complain about this new technology until I have had more time to play with it.

Personally, I have been composing like crazy. I am currently working on an introduction to XHTML and CSS. Basically, I am transforming all of my demonstrations from my multimedia writing class into a collection of hypertext tutorials that could easily be adapted to a print publication. When finished, it should have six "sessions":

  1. Intro XHTML
  2. Intro CSS
  3. Intermediate XHTML
  4. Intermedieate CSS
  5. Advanced XHTML
  6. Advanced CSS

My vision is that it could be used in a professional writing class or a multimedia writing class. The project reverse engineer's the creation of a "professional web presence," integrating the howto (tech knowledge) with the "why would you" (rhetorical / design choices). Since I am working on about 8 projects at once right now, I don't have any finished product to share yet. But lots will be coming soon! (I've also committed to finishing my prospectus before spring break, so perhaps "soon" won't be all that "too soon")


So busy...

Doing all the wrong things. While I am supposed to be focusing on my academics right now, I spent the last few days in a design induced spree--CSS'ing everything in my path. It all started with my multimedia class. I introduced XHTML and CSS this week--and I'm pretty happy with how everything went. Every student entered Thursday's class with a validated XHTML document--and most left with a pretty good understanding of how style sheets work. I'm working on a detailed tutorial, hopefully I'll publish somewhere external to my own site and Purdue. The tutorial is already 8 pages, and, yes, it took quite a bit of time to compose! My students turned this plain resume into this CSS formatted resume. I really blew through modifying list-styles, but Tuesday is another day. Up next, we're going to create a navigation section and turn a single page resume into a professional web presence... Actually, that's all a lie. It all started when I began redesiging my own website last week. I'm looking for something more inviting than what I have up there now (since I'm hitting the job market next year, I figure the dark and brooding intellectual isn't as attractive as the bright and inviting designer. I'm also trying to collect all my projects into a portfolio section. Looking at them together, I'm quite happy with how far my design skills have come in the past four years (four years ago I thought computers were the work of the devil--I've moved on). Moving on, I spent a full seven hours last night not writing my prospectus but rather redesigning a local association's website. No pics of this one, either, yet--but I am particularly pleased! I didn't really redesign the site, as much as reorganized material and perfectly recreated a complex, table and image based layout entirely in standards-compliant CSS. I did have to bend some semantic XHTML rules (creating two empty divisions for image borders), but I'll get over it. Not enough crazy web design coding fun? I just started the revision for the North American Levinas Association. The site will be particularly challenging becuase it has an incredible amount of content to convert and organize--a couple years worth of material, multiple navigation systems, etc. Oh, and did I mention that its all coded in frontpage and there is next to useless? Nothing like coding 100 link resource section from scratch... yum. I have a rough mock-up, but there's still significant work to do. At this point, I'm more interested in getting the content XHTML'd, the fine design points (read:reward) will come later. Screenshots, pics, links to all this stuff will come later. After I finish that prospectus (if I keep saying that, perhaps it will come true!)


A new home (page)

Here a screen shot of the rough draft:

I'm looking for something bright with a textured background. I've been working for about three hours, we'll see how I feel about it in the morning. Decision to sleep on: whether the navigation bar on the left will scroll with the page. If it does, then I might have to give up the overlap with the text section. Big decisions.


Grr... Swap Images

Spent about an hour working on this one, but to no avail. Not quite sure where I went wrong. The tutorial wasn't the easiest for me to follow, but I've read worse. The technique looks cool (here's an example), and I think I just forgot to do something small. I might try again tomorrow--though this technique is nowhere near standards compliant. Come to think of it, I know I came across a CSS-only, completely standards compliant trick like this the other day. Now I'll have to plow through my del.icio.us links... So, again, no image to post today.

Just testing a theory:


Filters vs. Live Effects

Not a bad tutorial, though nothing mind blowing. The trick about using the magic wand and the brighten filter to adjust select parts of an image is useful (though I often use the burn/dodge tool for this...) No images worth posting.


Resident Evil, Silent Hill & Psychoanalysis

Slash.dot had up a link to my article on Resident Evil and Silent Hill in the Game Career Guide, an article which I realize is way too jargoned for mass publication. Oh well. This morning someone emailed me to ask a few follow-up questions, I figured I'd post my response. His questions were why we chose video games, whether we thought game makers consciously considered pscyhoanalysis, and whether we feel video game makers would benefit from an exposure to theory. To address your questions: this is our second article on the subject. The studies began in a Postmodernism and Popular Culture seminar offered by Dino Felluga at Purdue University. While many of our classmates looked at television and film, Sarah and I both enjoyed playing video games and thought that the multi-linearity of video games, the interactivity, was much closer to the core values of postmodernism than other mediums. I think George Landow's Hypertext series is illuminating here, as is Espen Aarseth's Cybertext. As we started reading, psychoanalysis seemed the logical choice (given its interest in death and the undead as the space between life and death--Zizek's introductory work on Lacan, Looking Awry, is an especially good text for someone who is looking for an introduction to this material) Our first article, "Playing with Ourselves," appeared in the edited collection Digital Gameplay and focused on how video games allow us to experiment and experience the internal struggles of our ego (torn between a desire to return to the quiet before birth and the enjoyment of life). As we played the games more, we became interested in the concept of save points... and then Silent Hill 4 came out and blew our minds. Completely. Your room, nicknamed "mother" both heals and hurts you? Lions, tigers, and psychology , oh my. So much for why gmes. As to if developers use theories directly: perhaps. I know that's a lame answer but... many game developers have a background in film theory, and film theory is heavily steeped in psychoanalysis. But I don't necessarily think that the developers are sitting down and intentionally attempting to create a game that represents Lacanian theory. These theories might be on the horizon of their minds, and influence what they do, but that influence might not necessarily be conscious. I do think a knowledge of theory and psychology can add to the horror of games--I think one of the reasons that Silent Hill is so horrifying is that we never have a stable grasp of what kind of world we are in--the technical term here would be a questionable diegesis. TV shows like X-Files (before we knew for certain there were aliens) and Lost excel at this tactic. In Resident Evil, we know that the "evil" resides in a multinational corporation researching bio-weapons. Stop the corporation, stop the evil save ourselves. Order assured. Not so easy in Silent Hill, how do you stop what may or may not exist outside of your own mind? How do you control "evil" if you can't control yourself? Derrida in Archive Fever: "Order is no longer assured." There is a moment at the end of Silent Hill 3 that epitomizes everything we have written about these games. Vincent, a shady character, asks our protagonist if she enjoys the killing she does. I forget Heather's exact response, but she comments something like why would she enjoy killing monsters. Vincent's response: "they look like monsters to you?" That did it for Sarah and I--that's when we knew we were onto something. What if we weren't really killing monsters--what if they only looked like monsters to us--what if our character isn't a hero, but a psychotic killer who has just murdered 30 people on a serial spree? Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis deal with what lies at the end of consciousness, underneath consciousness, and beyond consciousness. That stuff is always scary.


Sticky Notes

Like these Rapid Fire tutorials over at six things. This one took me about 40 minutes--most of which was spent fighting with the pen tool. Grr... pen tool... edit the existing vector! Don't randomly choose which points you will transform. That little plus sign next to the pen symbol mocks me.

Rapid-Fire Photo Realistic

This one was a bit tricky at times--but very cool advanced shadow technique. Pretty simple to pull off, but allow for a whole range of shadows that you simply couldn't get with the "drop shadow" filter. Total time: 37 minutes. Be aware: you cannot apply the Gaussian blur (part of the shadow technique) until after you convert the edges to paths and adjust them with the pen tool (the blur tool converts the rectangle to a bitmap). Also, I toned done the black gradient corner fill to only 35% (rather than 100%). To take this to the next level, I'd probably want to bend the photo similar to the shadow--but don't have the time!

Golden Seal Tutorial

This one took me about 20 minutes--I probably could have been a bit more careful with the bevel technique. Its a pretty simple technique to execute, and it looks better than the auto bevel feature (I used too small a font size for the technique to work properly.


Twist and Fade

Twist and Fade tutorial on voidix.

Neat technique, really simple to execute (about five minutes beginning to end), but I'm not sure how useful it would be...