Monday, December 7, 2009

Mahogany is the Message

I designed the new Mahogany Dance Troupe website. When approaching this new design, I had to keep several ideas in mind. They needed a clean, fresh site that had fun and interesting content to keep users interested. They needed functionality—a site that allowed their members to use it for interactively organizing the group’s events, practices, and social events. So, when developing the Mahogany site, I realized that this medium contextually shapes the perception and use of the content within.

When Mcluhan first suggested The Medium is the Message, he discussed it in terms of what is now considered to be “old media.” In this old media framework, content was extraordinarily proprietary—content that was created by the producer, then unidirectionally received by the audience. This left little room for interactivity or direct exchange between the producer and audience. So Mcluhan’s original conception behind The Medium is the Message might break down to describe the difference in meaning between content that is mediated by newspaper, radio, and TV.

However, with the advent and growing popularity of the Internet in the 90s, a new Medium was born. This new medium allowed for much more flexible, digital content that proprietors could update almost instantly. However, in terms of the relationship between producer/audience, the new medium of so-called web 1.0 did little to break down the barrier hindering interactivity.

In the 2000s, web 2.0 began to take hold. This allowed for a more social space online, instead of the old proprietary relationship between media producer and consumer. This finally allowed for the exchange between producer and consumer in the context of the Internet.

I wanted to include as many easily (code knowledge free) updatable elements in the Mahogany site as possible, so as to encourage this interaction between the producers (Mahogany executive board) and the audience. In terms of the web 2.0 medium, it shapes the message of the site by the mere addition of interactivity.

It makes the content approachable. This mostly web 2.0 enabled site looks and feels much different than if it were designed in the web 1.0 framework. The message of Mahogany is thusly shaped through the medium by which it’s delivered.

For example, the blog adds a level of interactivity that web 1.0 was without. Through the Mahogany blog, executive members can ask for feedback, post relevant (or totally irrelevant) videos/links; and members or the audience can respond to the post, or post more links in response. This notion of the content being accessible by all shapes how the content is both delivered and received.

Additionally, web 2.0 encourages networked interactions between different sites. By linking, tagging, and suggesting—a site can gain popularity from the mere popularity of the sites which link it.

For example, looking at Mahogany’s analytics report, we can observe that many of my referrals came from social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. This rather new online social context is less about keeping people on your site, and more about taking your user to interesting places that compliment your site in order to bring them back in the future.

The web 2.0 medium has completely altered the way content is shaped, delivered, and received. In this manner, Mcluhan’s famous (and somewhat cliché) phrase The Medium is the Message might assist in describing the shift from web 1.0 to web 2.0.

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