Computer Lib / Dream Machines Concept Experience




This concept experience asks you to make the look-and-feel of your blog site more interesting, more beautiful, and more expressive. The idea here is to do something creative with your site, not just with your posts (though that’s important too).

The experience is inspired by Dr. Ted Nelson’s idea of fantics. He begins writing about fantics on page 317 of the excerpt from Computer Lib / Dream Machines.

–BEFORE YOU START, BE SURE TO EXPORT (BACK UP) YOUR BLOG TO YOUR LOCAL HARD DRIVE (Dashboard > Tools > Export). That way you can recover if something disastrous happens, though given the way WordPress operates, it’s doubtful you’ll experience a disaster. Still, better safe than sorry, and you’ll also have some practice in exporting your blog content.

What can you do to make your blog site more interesting, beautiful, and expressive? Some ideas for folks using WordPress (similar things can be done with Blogger and Tumblr):

1. Come up with a clever tagline (Dashboard>Settings>General). “Just another site” is not how you want your blog to be remembered.

2. Use an interesting header image, and choose a background if the theme permits it.

3. Experiment with different themes (Dashboard>Appearance>Themes).

4. Play with different layouts for your blog.

5. Experiment with widgets.

6. Experiment with plug-ins.

7. Put together a blogroll of your favorite blogs.

8. Create an “about” page, or any static page you like.

9. Experiment with menus.

I realize that the above suggestions may seem “technical” at first. They do require experimentation, it’s true. My advice is to a) enjoy tinkering, and b) look at a classmate’s blog you enjoy visiting, and contact them to ask how they’ve done it. Some of you have already begun experimenting–always a good thing, in this learning experience. And of course I’m also available to help.

When you’ve got your blog to a state where you want to show it off a bit, tweet an invitation using the #thoughtvectors hashtag. Make sure your invitation is creative enough to entice people to come look.

Your final blog post for the week, due Thursday by 11:59 p.m. EDT, will be an account of what you changed and why, with a reflection on the process and the product. Ideally, the entire concept experience will be valuable to you as you think more deeply about how to present your inquiry project on the web.

Here are some quotations to guide and inspire you.
(Ted Nelson, like Alan Kay, is eminently quotable.)


The exhilaration and excitement of the coming time is hard to convey on paper. Our screen displays will be alive with animation in their separate segments of activity, and will respond to our actions as if alive physically too (317).

What few people realize is that big pictures can be conveyed in more powerful ways than they know (318).

By “fantics” I mean the art and science of getting ideas across, both emotionally and cognitively…. Explicit declarative structures nevertheless have connotative fields: people receive not only cognitive structures, but impressions, feelings and senses of things (319).

[F]antic design that builds from a well-organized internal dynamic should confer on a fantic system the same momentum and clarity that carefully-organized writing has (323).

Fantic design is basically the planning and selection of effects [emphasis Nelson] (324).

But this means you, dear reader, must develop the fantic imagination. You must learn to visualize possible uses of computer screens, so you can get on down to the deeper level of how we are going to tie these things together…. Our goal should be nothing less than REPRESENTING THE TRUE CONTENT AND STRUCTURE OF HUMAN THOUGHT. (Yes, Dream Machines indeed.) But it should be something more: enabling the mind to weigh, pursue, synthesize and evaluate ideas for a better tomorrow. Or for any at all (326).