At the time of writing this it is early 2023, a time of ongoing climate crisis, widely available machine learning platforms, floundering social media monoliths, and general political turmoil. Given this context, I think we must be intentional about how and why we use the internet. For me, hand coding offers me the chance to slow down and consider how my work can be responsive to the context in which we live. Below, I will cover a few areas of consideration creating websites now.
Terms like “the cloud” encourage us to forget about the material reality and environmental impact of digital media. From the rare earth metals found in almost all consumer electronics to the fossil fuels powering much of our electric grid, our digital activities have an ecological cost. I think hand coding offers one way for us to consider the content we create and publish more carefully. I wrote a blog that covers this subject more in depth here:
The artworld often falls short in making spaces and experiences accessible. I am not an expert in these matters but the artist Jaklin Romine has an ongoing project that highlights these issues which can be viewed here:
These failures, which are often exacerbated by other ableist systems and assumptions, are not erased by shift online but moving online can provide an opportunity for work to be more accessible especially if the idea of accessibility is baked into a project from the beginning. I believe that coding sites by hand offers us greater understanding of the underlying structure of a website which can be leveraged to think critically about how to publish the content in an accessible way. One simple way to start thinking about this issue is to understand how to write effective alt text. The project Alt Text as Poetry and more accessibility tools can be found on the Resources page.
Data privacy is a complex issue to unpack and at least in the United States, most folks don't understand it as outlined in a new (Feb 2023) study:
I am no data expert but I do know that I don't want to be contributing unknowingly to this problem. Sites like Wix and Squarespace often include tracking and analytics in the web templates and that data might be going places you don't understand. Building sites by hand allows you to cut out these practices, creating faster loading and more private experiences for visitors to your site.
Additions and Collaborations
If you have suggestions for things I should add or would like to contribute something of your own, please drop me a line at chelseathomptoart(at)gmail(dot)com. I would love to expand this and have others join in, my main focus is to provide information that is up to date and approachable.
I plan on adding to the site as time and energy allows, especially when I generate new guides and resources for my classes. I also aim to add the following features:
- Better mobile layout
- Light and dark mode toggling
- Standard and high contrast color mode toggling
- Background graphic toggling