Taking wikis to a whole new level

On the School of Art website Monday, a pyramid, a cube and a sphere twirled around and around, changing colors from red to blue to green and purple. On Sunday, the site’s home page wished Mylinh Nguyen ART ’11 a happy birthday with bold text on a cheery yellow background.

The School of Art website is a wiki and one of the only sites of its kind among art schools. Allowing any current art student, alum, professor or staff member to alter the backgrounds of each page and add textboxes, the website gives avoice to the school’s patrons. And while the site already offers many options such as a list of latest updates for viewers, the site’s developers are looking to keep up with the latest technological advances.

In 2005, School of Art lecturer and graphic designer Dan Michaelson ART ’02 came forward with an idea for a new kind of website, which was developed in conjunction with his design group, Linked by Air. Michaelson and his team said they envisioned a website that reflected the School’s dynamic character and vibrant culture.

“We wanted the website to be a transparent window onto the art school,” Michaelson said, comparing the website to the School of Art’s physical location. “There’s no reason why the website shouldn’t be a space that belongs to the students as much as the building.”

The School of Art has not had staff devoted to maintaining and updating their website, so Michaelson said he hoped that giving students the power to interact with the website would make it more active. In addition to being a creative outlet, the website’s current design reflects a positive image of the School of Art as a place where students are free to express themselves, said Sam Messer, the associate dean of the School of Art.

“A website like this embodies the fact that you have power —students have a voice here,” Messer said. “It’s more than just information.”

Although all art students, including undergraduate art majors, can edit the website, some names loom larger than others.

Jay Peter Salvas ART ’10 is widely acknowledged by faculty and students alike for being one of the most active contributors during his time at Yale.

A graphic design major, Salvas began making animated images for the School of Art homepage in his first year at the School. He quickly became a target of controversy due to his notoriously flashing and brightly colored graphics.

“[Salvas’] animated graphicswere bold and flashy and gaudy a lot of times,” School of Art lecturer Johannes DeYoung said. “They were sort of loved —I loved them, but some people didn’t love them quite as much.”

Although Salvas, who has graduated, continues to update the website under an alias, his position as most active contributor has been passed on. Among the art students vying for this honor is Sally Thurer ART ’11, who in the spirit of Salvas, designed and uploaded a background to the website to wish one of her friends a happy birthday on Sunday.

Thurer said she uses her own work as well as her friends’, but since the site reflects the name of the person making each edit there has not been a problem with copyright infringement.

“[The Yale art community} is so small that there’s a social check on [improper use],” Thurer said.

While the website’s appearance changes with every new user, Michaelson and DeYoung said they are always looking for ways to change the structure for the better.

One of their most recent problems was the challenge of archiving such a dynamic site. Partially solved by the introduction of a ‘history’ function, viewers can now track changes to the appearance and content of the website.

But some students, like Anna Moser ’11, still find the website confusing.

“If you click on the undergraduate [art majors’] pages, there’s nothing there, because it’s hard to learn how to use,” Moser said. “I don’t know how to use it.”

Michaelson and DeYoung are still looking to improve the site five years after its launch.

Two new features are even expected to roll out in the next month: a video component to the Gallery section that will showcase video and performance art as well as interactive web design projects, and a screensaver showcase that will feature screensavers designed by art students.

Comments

  • SallyGD

    Just wanted to give a shout out to Tabor Robak who designed the pyramid/cube/sphere graphic described in this piece. http://www.taborrobak.com