Fluffing Up My Site…

Well, I am now back from Spring Break and I have put my fancy Easter Bonnet on! As you will have noticed by now, the blog has undergone a face lift while I was off line last week. I launched the blog last June, somewhat experimentally, not putting a lot of time into the design of the page, indeed, simply using a basic template offered by Movable Type. Once the blog took off, I’ve meant to do something to make it a bit more professionally polished but frankly, I had grown attached to the informality of the original design.

Over the past few months, I have been working with Geoffrey Long, a CMS Masters Student, to develop a look and feel for the site which preserves the familiarity of the original but gave it a little more polish. I hope you like the results. Long by the way has also been responsible for the redesign of the Comparative Media Studies homepage and for the logos for the Convergence Culture Consortium and is currently finishing up work on the MIT Literature Section home page. He’s certainly left his mark as a designer on MIT! And his thesis research which centers on transmedia storytelling, negative capability, and the Jim Henson Company will make his own kind of splash before much longer.

Since our launch last June, I have made more than 250 posts. The blog has attracted almost 800 links to date, suggesting the level of interest it has generated from my fellow bloggers. It’s been a wild and wonderful ride so far, enhanced in part by the contributions of my diverse and passionate readers.

I figured I’d use today’s post just to catch up on some loose ends.

Those of you who are interested in my work on New Media Literacies might be interested in this video-podcast from my recent talk at Middlebury College, hosted by regular blog reader and contributor Jason Mittell. The talk, “What Constitutes Literacy in the 21st Century,” walks through some of the key ideas from the MacArthur white paper which I posted last fall. It is very similar to talks I have been making across the country on new media literacies but given the talk’s location, I couldn’t resist saying a few things about the efforts of Middlebury College History faculty to ban the use of wikipedia in student research.

The MIT Communications Forum has posted audio webcasts from their first two events so far this term.

In mid-Feburary, the first Forum of the term featured two members of the MIT Literature Faculty, Diana Henderson and Peter Donaldson, (also both faculty who contribute to the Comparative Media Studies Program), talking about their research into what the program billed as “Remixing Shakespeare.” The speakers lived up to the title with Henderson sharing her thoughts about the ways that Shakespeare plays have been transformed by generation after generation of artists, drawing on her recently published book, Collaborations with the Past: Reshaping Shakespeare Across Time and Media. Donaldson shared with the group some of his recent research on Shakespeare on YouTube, suggesting ways that the video sharing service has both made historic performances more widely available than ever before, and encouraged people to integrate the Bard’s words more fully into their own expressive lives.

A month or so back, I conducted a conversation with Frank Moss, the Director of the MIT Media Lab, about some of the directions being taken by recent work at the lab. I can’t tell you how many times through the years that I have been introduced as the director of the MIT Media Lab. It seems to confuse people that MIT has more than one program with media in the title in a way that it doesn’t confused them to have multiple programs with the word, engineering, in their titles! I have to say how much I have come to respect Moss and the new directions he is taking the lab. During this event, he shared some of his vision for the lab’s future as well as presenting demonstrations of work the lab is doing in the area of low-cost computing, personal expression tools, smart cars, and prosthetics, all part of a larger vision of using technology to enhance human experience.

Those of you who are in Boston might want to check out a Forum which will be held this coming Thursday, April 5, in 5-7 pm, 3-270, focused on Evangelicals and the Media. Here’s what the Communication Forum site tells us about the planned event:

American Evangelicals have a long history of engagement with the media, dating back to the Great Awakening of the late eighteenth century. Today Evangelical groups are active in all media, from the Internet and cellular telephones to print journalism, broadcasting, film, and multi-media entertainment. This forum convenes speakers from the academy and Evangelical community to discuss the social and political impact of the evangelical movement’s use of media technologies.


Gary Schneeberger is special assistant for media relations to Focus on the Family founder and chairman James Dobson. Schneeberger oversees the internal and external media efforts of the international evangelical ministry’s Government and Public Policy Division as senior director of the radio program Family News in Focus, daily email service CitizenLink and Citizen magazine.

Jon Walker is a communications consultant for Rick Warren and Purpose Driven Life ministries, and has served as pastor of strategic communications for Saddleback Church and vice president of story for Purpose Driven Initiatives. He is founding editor of Rick Warren’s Ministry ToolBox and the principal author for a book on Christian community, Better Together.

Diane Winston holds the Knight Chair in Media and Religion in the Annenberg School of Communication at USC. She is the author of Red-Hot and Righteous: The Urban Religion of the Salvation Army (1999) and co-editor of Faith in the Market: Religion and the Rise of Urban Commercial Culture (2002).

Moderator: The Rev. Amy McCreath is Episcopal chaplain and coordinator of the Technology and Culture Forum at MIT.

Those of you who are not in the Boston area can anticipate the webcast going up on the Communication Forum website within a week or so after the event.

In preparation for this event, my students and I will be watching some examples of evangelical media this week in our Media Theory and Methods prosem, including some work on youth and popular culture produced by Charles Dobson’s organization and reading a selection from Heather Hendershott’s Shaking the World for Jesus: Media and the Conservative Evangelical Culture. Hendershott writes about evangelical culture as an outsider but nevertheless shows respect for their beliefs and for the complexity of their cultural production. This book inspired and informed my discussion of the struggles over Harry Potter in Convergence Culture.


  1. Fancy! Your blog looks great. Nice going.

    You may be interested to know that, while you were on vacation, the DIY Video Summit launched its official site. At the bottom of the homepage, you’ll see links to the blog and LJ community for the event, as well.

  2. I just wanted to compliment you on your new page design. Very smooth and easy to read. I started a classroom blog because of your work, though I’ve been a bit slack in keeping it up the last couple of weeks.

  3. Thanks for the kind words! We still have a couple little things to polish up on the redesign (this comment form, for example), but discovering the facelift had gone live was a great “welcome back from Spring Break”…

  4. I like the new layout. It’s very clean and well thought-out while still maintaining a personal feel.

    Most sites are either

    • Personal, but poorly designed (read: ugly), or
    • Nice looking, but obviously “professionally” done, clear but without a human feel to it.

    You and Long have done a good job with it. Keep up the good work, and welcome back to the blogosphere.

  5. Michael Chui says:

    Ditto on the page design. I like. I’d recommend you change the “Previous” and “Next” links back to the title of the entries they point to, though. Sometimes I navigate and I don’t know which direction is “newer” and “older” and determine that using the entry title. (And while that suggests actually using those words, something about that doesn’t jive with me. I’d have to think about it to come up with anything.)

  6. Thanks for the suggestion, Michael — done and done!

  7. Table-based markup? Not good at all. Spacer GIFs? Eeek. Javascript-based navigation? Um. XHTML markup but no DOCTYPE?

    Henry, this design could be very readily achieved with standards-based markup. It would probably load a fair bit faster, and be more accessible to users with disabilities too.

  8. I should add, though, that I think the new design has a great concept and it’s well executed. The sticky labels are a nice touch.

  9. This is a debate that I’ve been grappling with for the last couple of years. I’m well familiar with the standards, as I’ve built tons of sites using both methods (tables and CSS) and I used to teach a class based on Zeldman’s work. However, I’ve come to believe that standards compliance is a great idea whose time still has not yet come and probably won’t as long as all the browsers still aren’t fully compliant and some people staunchly refuse to upgrade (but love to loudly complain). I believe that table-based markup, while definitely having its drawbacks, remains a valid technique because it works on a greater number of older browsers (a concern in academia) with a smaller number of workarounds and still remains accessible to users with disabilities. If you want to debate the issue further (and I’m definitely open to improvements!) shoot me an email at glong at mit dot edu. (I’d rather not turn Henry’s blog into another front in the markup religious war.) Thanks for the feedback!