Conversation 1 of 3
From “Vacuuming and Digesting,” a fall conversation series at Yale about interactive design
November 14, 2017, 1:30pm
Yale School of Art, EIK (32 Edgewood Ave)

Dan: With virtually every one of our sites that use our CMS, we’re interested in the way that these sites involve and unspool over time. We do really try to have an ongoing relationship with the institution itself so that when some new module or new feature is needed, we’re around to do it. That way the site can expand and evolve accordingly as well. Anyway, we don't have a relationship with probably because I feel so connected anyway. So Sarah called, and we had to get back up to speed. For about a horrifying hour, it seemed like the database was lost with 11 years of work. It’s a pretty important cultural artifact. These aren’t just 128 random people. These 128 artists. I got it running again, thankfully. I still don’t totally know what’s in the database. It’s interesting with a sprawling site like this. It’s still hard to put your finger on exactly what’s in there—what’s happened for the last 11 or 12 years. Which relates to some of these questions about even Facebook or Twitter. At a far, far larger scale, there’s this mystery about launching a project. What actually happens with it over time? How the algorithms work or how it gets used can be omniscient.

RC: Websites now can stand in as cultural specifically tracks trends and changes which reflect directly on the students who compose and curate. In general, these sites can reveal a lot about what exactly has unraveled throughout an institution's history. I suppose that's why internet archives are so important and will be valuable in the future (but I'm also thinking about the past conversation and how these archives can remain relevant and useful to us later on). The website's history is particularly fascinating because of its ability to capture change in one such "object."

Dan: This site played an interesting role in our portfolio when we would be pitching for new projects and showing our past work. For years, our instinct was, “This is the history of us.” Arguably, Yale was one of the big first ones. With a lot of the clients that we were pitching, even with pretty progressive clients, you could see the enthusiasm drain from their faces based on what the site looked like. We tried to propose the idea of hundreds of editors onto their own institution, which we realized is actually not so much reassuring as alarming. Thankfully, one of our second big commissions was the Whitney Museum’s website, and their head of communications said, “I want a hot mess.” The art school was really appealing to him, actually, and that was an opportunity for us to develop the CMS into something that was usable for another kind of institution.

RC: I also think that the Whitney commission speaks to the changing landscape for design and art, that more accurately represent how we interact with each other today. Art institutions are in fact receptive to new ideas, but just at a slower pace. The collaborative element can be scary (perhaps because it deviates from traditional aesthetics of these spaces), but now we have even more opportunity to do it, and to do it well. "The hot mess" I think best represents how we all function today, together through the internet.