Diving into Design: Website Management

By Catherine Cromer

I by no means consider myself an expert in IT, coding or the computing world. I have worked the past two years in within the realms of social media marketing and web content management, working behind the scenes of the web interfaces I had taken for granted and never thought twice about my daily usage of the different mediums. I took the notion of software as an extension of our cognitive expressed by Andy Clark earlier this semester as a way to understand how I interact not only with the interface of web browsers, but the web content management systems that I have utilized, creating content on the inside and viewing the content on the outside.

As Manovich states “we live in a software culture – a culture where the production, distribution, and reception of most content and increasingly, experiences is mediated by software.”  I found the entire idea of cultural software particularly striking as it ties into my former work at Whole Planet Foundation managing web content and social media, as well as my current position working on the revamp of the Student Affairs websites at Georgetown. The co-existence of authoring and accessing functions that this experience gave me made me aware of the noise that disrupted the interface. Looking back on both past experiences and analyzing my current ones, I can understand how relationships are mediated through interface with the media, organization and people represented on the page. This is taken to an even more extensive level when analyzed on social media outlets such as Facebook and twitter where the relationship between creator and user is blurred even further. 

Taking my work at Whole Planet Foundation as an example, the website and its colorful interface is forming a relationship with visitors as well as a vibrant representation of the organization as a whole. The facts of human culture being mediated here are numerous from the Whole Foods Market brand and ideology it contains, the pictures of women and their businesses,the metrics, the biographies giving narrative and life to the microcredit clients. Browsing through the site, there is milieu of meanings, values, beliefs, ideologies, rituals, dress and behavior codes contained within the pictures, their placement, the text, the social media links and so on. What I find even more interesting after examining the readings of Manovich and Clark is that after working on the creation the Whole Planet website interface through the interface of a web content management system, is that our world view is for the most part always connected to software, if not constantly through the screens we interact with. Working on the website, I was made away of the noise that disrupted the interface whether it be through the glitches in website browsers such as Google Chrome not loading Youtube videos or problems with the management system in displaying awkwardly spaced text, misplaced photos or bad website layout. These issues disrupt communication and interfere not only with the impact of the message, but with the ability to extend our cognitive processes to interact with it. As a creator of content for the website, I was surprised at how easily the generation of web content became second nature to me and began to feel like a natural extension of my thinking, an idea that makes Clark’s theory of the extended mind and mindware upgrades all the more intriguing.