Interesting website – is it really presenting identity?

I came across this website called http://www.thewakingheart.com’ which then leads to http://www.abc.net.au/tv/phillipafinch/#/HeartWorks. It is a website based on the ABC television program ‘The Gradual Demise of Phillipa Finch’.

What I think makes this site successful, is the way it has reflected the cartoon’s storyline through its graphics and function. Furthermore, the site design has effectively captured the sinister undertones through the seemingly heartwarming, happy graphics – a style unique to the cartoon. The graphics being used for the website are identical to the cartoon, and elements of the cartoon’s story are incorporated into the website such as the graphic of the main character flying while sitting in a tea cup is used to take us from one page to the next. The web pages themselves are interactive and have a ‘collaged’ effect.

However, what makes this website special is its function. Ultimately, it is a website that encourages individual expression and portrays identity. The site asks the user to express themselves and their emotions in order to ‘bring [Philipa Finch] to the land of the emotionally fulfilled’. While corresponding with the cartoon’s storyline, this gives the user the opportunity to graphically present their emotions, and in turn, their identity. The user would express their emotions by creating a ‘heartwork’ – an abstract visual artwork that is generated by the user’s emotions.

The heartworksthe users create online are sent to an interactive drawing machine set up in a book shop where the drawing machine forms a large collective artwork that is a ‘physical representation of the user community’s shared emotions’. The site also has a special feature where a camera is set up in front of the drawing machine, to record your emotions being physically drawn in a book shop. While portraying the identity of the main character, the wakingheart.com invites users to express themselves, ‘giving the public the opportunity to contribute to her story’.

Yet how effective are computer drawings in communicating who we are and how we are feeling? The ‘heartworks’ are created by using a template. The work is created according to an individual’s answers to 6 questions. Thus, the user’s individual expression is limited to the site design, and perhaps this may actually suppress individual expression rather than encourage it!

This website was definitely a great find as I work on my own site. My website design criticises this very quality of facebook – the idea of using a similar template which limits the individual to how they can present themselves. Are we really defined by a mere profile picture and ‘informations’ page? Or is it our username, and ‘tagged photos’ that truly presents who we are?

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Twitter – comparing social networking sites

Website: Twitter

Twitter is an interesting social networking site, as its primary focus is microblogging. Twitter does not focus on the expression of identity; rather, it focuses on one of the aspects that defines an individual – their thoughts and opinions. Like ‘Facebook Posts’ and unlike ‘MySpace Blogs’, Twitter gives users the opportunity to express their opinions and thoughts in a quick short message. The tweeting function suggests that the primary factor that defines who we are, is the way we think.

While the website has a strong focus on presenting one aspect of who we are, I think that the ‘retweeting’ function contradicts the purpose of the site. While it is important to deal with the inevitability that any two people around the world are going to share thoughts about a particular matter, does re-publishing or re-using someone else’s thoughts or opinions on a page suppress individual expression? While I think that reposting someone else’s thoughts word-for-word on your page contradicts the focus of the site, I do not think it eliminates the uniqueness of each individual, as in the real world beyond the internet, it is inevitable that people are going to have similarities in different aspects of who they are such as the way they look , their favourite colour, similar opinions on a matter…but it is the combination of all these different aspects that form an individual and distinguish one from the other.