Khoi Vinh has a great piece over on Subtraction on archiving digital work. It’s a great read, especially related to my recent post on craftsmanship on the web.
Even if we could capture the full experience of the web, digital design is expanding beyond the relatively discrete confines of a “Web site.” The total experience of visiting Facebook isn’t just the site you see at Facebook.com, but also the countless sites that serve up Facebook’s widgets every day. Likewise, Twitter is barely represented by Twitter.com, as most users access the service through third-party clients like TweetDeck and Echofon, or on apps installed on their smart phones. Location-based network applications such as Foursquare and Gowalla reside almost entirely on mobile devices, which requires roaming in the real world in order to be fully experienced. It’s impossible to capture the entirety of these experiences.
The real question is, what do we want to save, and for what purpose? Do we need to merely document the typical interactions within a digital design, so that the most salient aspects of today’s Facebooks and Twitters make it into future history (e-)books relatively intact? Or do we need to take an architectural approach and try to preserve designed online spaces, so that students of history can themselves be immersed in the experiences as they exist today?
Perhaps that’s the reason craftsmanship on the web is harder to define and why we’ve yet to create anything lasting. Maybe the parts worth caring about and the parts worth keeping for future generations is more about the interaction, more about the conversation that occurs within these spaces we create. It’s hard enough to archive digital design as it is with ever-changing technologies, but it’s even harder to keep the interactions that our work produces.
Craftsmanship in a Digital World
I’ve been thinking a lot about craftsmanship over the past year. I’ve become obsessed with well-made products and the people that make them. I’ve also been trying to figure out how to take these ideas I learned from the craftsman and apply them to the work I do and the things I make.
You can recognize quality craftsmanship. You can see solid oak table and you know it will stand the test of time. It’s possible for a good pair of boots to last longer than their owner. Craftsmanship is about making something lasting.