4th Site Introduction & Statement of Purpose - November 2001
Welcome to philjohn.com. In the following, I'll try to explain what this is all about, at least as far as I have a clue.
I. Web Site
A web site? Why would anyone want to have a web site? And what constitutes a web site, anyway?
A web site is a site on the world wide web, as simple as that. It is a site, not merely a single page; it is a place, a locus. It is a local place without clear locality, it is a temporal place without clear temporality, it is material without feeling material. Is it therefore virtual?
Virtual, as in imagined, yet also, as in virtue and virtuosity. Cybernetic, i.e. related to governing processes, like navigating a boat out at sea. Alas, "surfing" the web. When you surf, or rather, sail the web, you will arrive at islands, sites, located somewhere on the web. And though these sites are all, each and every single one, connected physically to a server computer in the material world, the visible portion that is visible above sea, or rather, web level, is usually deprived of clear traces of physical origin. Even the domain name suffixes cannot quite tell about the location of the server computer, or even the content administrator for that site. That can create some odd mixtures: At the moment, this very site is physically located in the United States, while its content is created and maintained in Europe. The channels by which you access this site can be located anywhere; thus, physical attributes do not really count for much once the site is set up and working properly on the net. Alas, virtual.
The internet is full of free services. You can have a web site up and running without paying anything but online costs, you can even create web pages without knowing jack about hypertext markup language or design. It's redundant to mention that this opens up completely new perspectives: Anyone with access to the internet can go public, no matter what prerequisites they bring with them, no matter what their interests are, no matter what education they have, no matter what they consider style. The internet is the greatest victory of freedom and anarchy. It is truly democratic, the few hierarchic structures that exist can be neglected by most users and content providers, and even within the hierarchy of domain name servers and paid-for services, restrictions are rather negligible. So maybe one could also say ochlocratic, but I don't really believe in such class arguments.
So instead of, or rather in necessary addition to, only criticizing the approaches undertaken by others, I prefer to make a point by contributing something myself. Thus you may very well see this web site as an example for what I consider a web site. This is my island in the sea, where things are run my way. Sort of.
A web site needs an identity, it needs a concept, it needs a structure (see my essay "Web Site Design & Style"). It needs to re-create and re-invent what is lost in its virtual surroundings: A sense of space, and a sense of time, though the latter may be secondary to the first. Space can be created by establishing a corporate identity, something which simply states "you are still on my site". Time I re-create by providing a date for most portions of text, for two reasons: To help the audience point out the most current parts of this site, and secondly, to imply "sorry, it's old material" in order to distance myself from past mistakes.
II. Personal Web Site
This is not a corporate web site, nor an institutional, nor a purely informational or technical or academical or whatever-labable site. It's personal. It's there to reflect me, or rather, how I want to represent myself publically. In this, it is also an attempt at self-explanation, self-analysis, self-definition, whatever. Maybe also something of a narcicistic nature.
Thus this site can only have a very loose thematic surrounding: The title, "philjohn.com", refers to my artistic name, which is a short version of my real name, John being my mother's maiden name. Thus this is the portion screaming "personal web site". The topical sub-title, "Approaching the Unexplained", is as undefined as possible, and as multi-facetted. The first topical title has been "faces of the unexplained", alluding to the more strict definition of this site in its beginnings: A site about horror and science fiction movies and television series. As the site grew, that title became too narrow.
"Approaching the Unexplained" can now be seen as just another way of saying "I have no clue, but I'm trying to look for something", and, "I know I can never explain anything, I can only approach it". So make the most of it.
The site is more or less neatly split into different sections with more or less clear-cut purposes. "Pictures" and "Poems" are supposed to chart my artistic interests, "Essays and Papers" my academical and non-poetic writing interests (both flowing into each other, academic and scientific seriousness mostly being a secondary ingredient for me, at least, in the focus of this web site), "Reviews" are supposed to support the "Essays and Papers" section with a review of some material I use in my essays. The "Diary" is not a true diarium, it is rather a collection of thoughts and deliberations which are usually shorter and less consequently dealt with than my essays. The rest deals with the site as such ("About") or the internet ("Net").
All of those sections can both be seen as belonging together and apart; it's mostly a matter of degree, especially concerning the written stuff. Just see it as variations of the topic indicated by the subtitle, or as all of my material I consider fit for internet publication.
This site is an archive of my work and interests, as much as it is a statement about the world in general. There's not always big thoughts behind it, so don't indulge in over-interpreting any of it.
I consider this a life-long project, though I don't quite know what the future of the internet will be. But as long as somebody's visiting this site, I'll be working on it. Maybe that's also a way to make yourself visible, to make an impact, to be not virtual, but appear real, to fill an empty form, a tabula rasa, with content, fighting invisibility, fighting mortality even.
This is a project always under construction, always under deconstruction, always under the scrutiny of myself and others, something equally permanent and provisional.
November 4th, 2001