This week I’m delving into Helen Tan’s website called Hey, It’s Helen. My first impression is that Travis Gertz’s fears in his article “Design Machines: How to survive in the digital apocalypse” came true…It seems as if little has been changed from the original template on Helen’s website. The digital machines have taken over!
As I explored her site, I turned to her process posts to find out what’s up. It seems she’s been struggling with the technical aspect of building her website. I can understand this. I struggled with my site for many hours to get things just right. Helen, if you need any help, hmu.
That said, I really like the template that Helen chose, and I’m sure she’ll soon post some content that the design will complement. The typography she chose is very light which gives her site a clean and professional look. I noticed there’s a tab called “Let’s talk about money” and I think the website’s aesthetic will go well with post about budgeting help or finances or whatever cool stuff Helen might be planning.
The layout and structure makes the site easy to navigate. The tabs encompass loads of interesting topics such as “education” and “health.” Some social media integration is found on the right side of her site. There’s an Instagram feed, but nothing to see there yet. Either way, I’m sure some photos will tie into the rest of the website well. It’s also promising to see that Helen’s Instagram has over 100 followers without a single post! I think that it’s a great idea on her part to start gaining a public so once she does start using her site more, she’ll have a ready-made audience.
There’s not much customization going on yet, but she has already made a really cool sign-off for herself. At the end of her posts/comments, I notice she says, “It’s Helen, and it’s ___.” (In the blank she puts in another word such as “frustrating.”) I think this is a great little brand thing that’ll help tie posts together in the future.
Other than that, I believe that Helen is off to a pretty good start. As soon as she learns more about how to use WordPress to her advantage, she’ll be making great things!
The audience for a yarn bombing site
The first reason I chose to make my website a yarn bombing site is because I desperately want to be a part of a crafting group. Ever since I start crocheting, I’ve wanted to find people who also like to crochet/knit and yarn bomb stuff. Unfortunately, the only crafting club I was able to find in downtown Vancouver was strictly “for the elderly” as the woman at Barclay Manor Seniors Centre told me politely as she shut the door in my face.
By creating a yarn bombing website, I want to show people that it’s easy and fun to make yarn graffiti, and maybe they’ll be willing to join me in my adventures. Hopefully my outreach to fellow crafty souls will be increased through my digital platform. My imagined audience is made up of people (of all ages) who are passionate about crafting or at least admire this kind of art.
When I think about people like that, I imagine that they want a fun, visual site that can inspire them. I guess I assume this because it’s what I would want. I would want a welcoming home page with a fun, interesting picture that invited people in.
I want my website to evoke the feeling opposite to what I felt when I was shut out of a crafting group because of my age. After all, the digital world is apparently “…terrifying for those who are intimidated by youth…” because we get our own platforms and freedom to do things we can’t do in real life, according to Danah Boyd. And yes, us youth sure are intimidating. Watch me crochet flowers onto a pole. Roar.
Why are people intimidated by youth, though? Is it because we’re seemingly further from death? Who knows. But my imagined audience informed me that I shouldn’t appear intimidating if I want to have an audience at all. Being friendly and open is the first step to attracting people, right? I even try to use funny gifs. People love funny gifs.
I’ve also try to make my writing clear and easy to read. Who wants to read boring shit? Or posts with long academic words in them? (Oh, sorry, we’re in university. I meant to say stuff with “sesquipedalian utterances” in them.)
That’s another thing I hope to avoid in my site. Bullshit. I’m hoping my audience is one that appreciates honesty in its frankest form. I don’t want to pretend I’m some super-capable, anarchist yarn artist or whatever. I just like to make things. And I like other people seeing what I make turn up in unexpected places. Most of all, I hope my audience will want to do the same kind of thing. Maybe then I can finally start a crafting club.
“Texts themselves do not create publics, but the concatenation of texts through time,” said Michael Warner. My yarn bombs here and there won’t do much; but if I can reach an audience and inspire yarn works through time at SFU, maybe then there will be an impact.
“8. Searching for a Public of Their Own.” It’s Complicated, by Danah Boyd, Yale University Press, 2014, pp. 213–227.
Warner, Michael. 2002. “Publics and Counterpublics.” in Quarterly Journal of Speech. 88.4.
Reviewing a Website’s Design Choices and Reflecting on My Own
One of the only websites I visit frequently for fun is The Peak’s site. For those of you who think print is dead (or that newspapers are “boring” @that one guy in class), The Peak is SFU’s student-run newspaper. Students can submit their work to the paper and get it published for money. It’s pretty sweet.
I’ve noticed that their front page has a very detailed setup without looking cluttered. This might be because, unlike other news websites, its very photo-heavy, rather than text-heavy. I get a haeadache if I stare at CBC News’ crazy home page too long.
On the other hand, The Peak’s logo at the top is really small compared to the huge photos, making it seem a bit lost. I also feel that some of the photos weren’t meant for the display boxes they’re in. I often notice they’re cut off near-completely or cropped weirdly. I do like the use of negative space, though, and how simple the menus are.
Scrolling down, I’m almost always surprised by the digital version of the paper issue they have on the stands that week on the right. Why is it so hidden? You’d think it would be one of the site’s more important aspects. Other than that, I like how they’ve laid everything out to the very bottom the site. Everything is there, and the excess is only sometimes a little overwhelming.
The posts themselves have an appealing look, with big, legible font accompanying every article. There are often many helpful hyperlinks, and some of the articles are web-exclusive that you wouldn’t find in the papers on campus. Unfortunately, some of the website’s pages are outdated. I guess a problem with having too many categories and pages is losing track of them. Overall, I think their website design is clean and easy to navigate, which is perfect for a newspaper.
Using the feedback I got from the peer review and the tips we got from our design lecture, I made some modifications to my site. I made my About section a bit more about me and started adding captions to some of my photos to give them more depth. I’ve also been playing with fonts to see which will work best on my website, though it’s always overwhelming to scroll through the options. I’m also working on the slider on my homepage since at the moment, it does not work well for mobile phones.
Why I Am a Maker
The readings and videos for this week were all interesting, but the one that caught my attention the most was “Why I Am Not a Maker” by Debbie Chachra. The first time I read it through, I believed that she had made a pretty good argument. Reading it again, however, helped me find several holes in her claim. I thought of her argument in terms of yarn graffiti and realized it did have flaws.
“It’s not, of course, that there’s anything wrong with making (although it’s not all that clear that the world needs more stuff).”
I don’t fully agree with Chachra here. From an environmental perspective, yes, thrifting and minimizing garbage is good. Buying stuff you don’t need and wasting stuff that you bought is bad.
But sometimes stuff must be made, and sometimes everyone must make something in order to change ways that people “teach, criticize, and take care of others.”
Sometimes darts of stuff need to be thrown into the over-stuffed dartboard that is the world today because there will still be some darts that hit bull’s eye and change the way we think.
What about the “makers” of the #MeToo movement? According to Chachra’s logic, these people just made stuff. They didn’t “teach, criticize, or take care of others” by manufacturing their posts because manufacturing implies making. Yet, every person who participated in the #MeToo movement did “teach, criticize, or take care of others” by spreading awareness across the Internet about sexual violence. They didn’t just “make stuff” but created a lasting message, one so powerful that “The Silence Breakers” became TIME’s Person of the Year.
This cover featured all women, including a musician, a strawberry picker, and a hospital worker, which brings me to my next point:
The strict divide of masculine and feminine, and maker and caregiver
When Chachra genders creation as being masculine and caring as being feminine, that makes sense in an unfortunately ingrained, outdated, and traditional sense. But when she claims that the act of making can’t be the act of criticism, the act of caring, or the act of teaching, I believe she is wrong.
Take the act of knitting or crocheting: the task to this day is gendered as a feminine and widely considered domestic. Traditionally, women were expected to stay silent and keep busy doing housework while the men went to work, because what was better than having a quiet women who would stay out of trouble by knitting sweater for your fourth son to keep warm? Or teaching her daughter the act, so she too would keep quiet?
“Making is not a rebel movement, scrappy individuals going up against the system.”
As time went on, these makers wouldn’t stand to have this task gendered. No, they took their creations out of the home and onto the street, where in some ways they were more bright and more prominent than those architectural achievements allegedly all designed by men.
They didn’t deny the title of ‘maker’ because of its masculine connotations; they reclaimed it as their own act to criticize (something that makers apparently don’t do) the gendered role crocheting and knitting implied. If this wasn’t a rebel movement, then I don’t know what is.
“Describing oneself as a maker . . . is a way of accruing to oneself the gendered, capitalist benefits of being a person who makes products.”
Then Chachra goes on about money for a few paragraphs, condemning makers for producing more income than non-makers. Okay, but don’t people who ‘make’ food at McDonalds get paid minimum wage?
Again, I believe she’s thinking too broadly. Yarn graffiti artists make zero profit from their works (actually, they lose money on materials and time). Other makers can claim the same: failed novelists and musicians who perform for nothing on street corners.
Meanwhile, work that requires caring almost always pays. I mean, don’t babysitters get paid exorbitant amounts of money? Doesn’t every kind of tutor and teacher ask for a sum? And I’m guessing that Chachra made some money off of her critical article she wrote for The Atlantic.
I don’t dismiss her argument that in the workplace, women are seen as less. But female makers continue to make impactful products, whether they’re a chef, a novelist, an architect, or a yarn bomber.
While I fully agree with her that a stereotype remains around makers being better than caregivers, teachers, etc. she is thinking too narrowly, maybe even as narrowly as the people who value makers over others.
Lastly, she does not make a point of mentioning any overlap, or someone who is both a maker and a caregiver. I believe there are people who are both.
Chachra, Debbie. “Why I Am Not a Maker.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 23 Jan. 2015, www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/01/why-i-am-not-a-maker/384767/.