Vivian Selbo,

Vivian Selbo,

A weeklong electronic journal.
Dec. 10 1997 3:30 AM

Vivian Selbo,

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     I don't recall what I did today, which does not bode well for diary writing. This suggests I don't want to remember, but I can summon a few details. I visit Judith, Slate's New York editor, first thing in the morning to give her yesterday's piece. I'd walked up Broadway instead of Fifth Avenue, saving time with that shortcut because I'd discovered the day before that the building has entrances on either street. But when I exit the elevator on the 21st floor, where there ought to be a buzzer or an intercom, several wires dangle strangely from a hole in the wall. Locked glass doors stand between me and delivery. Someone has taped up a piece of paper that says, "This is a window, not a door." I head down the hall toward another door, thinking I'd rather knock on wood.      Midmorning, my e-mail software determines unilaterally to filter what I can send and receive. I don't realize this, since I'm preoccupied installing some new software for animation, sound, and type that's just arrived. After lunch, having second thoughts about a funny anecdote I'd forwarded to the staff that might have inadvertently offended someone, I send another note to everyone with a pre-emptive apology. Propriety warns me to state here only that the story concerns peculiarly strong peppermints and their distinctive tin box as a signal for very intimate activity between consenting adults--use your imagination. Cherise tells me late in the afternoon that while the apology has been successfully delivered, the story has not. Unbeknownst to me, intense interest and discussion have been building around the provocative missing e-mail.      Redundant forms of entry, redirecting attention, and managing expectations are integral to interactive media design. While the trend in interface design for commercial Web sites is toward intuitive clarity and straightforward architecture, the direction in digital artworks is the opposite. In Feed editor Steven Johnson's new book, Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate, he proposes that to test and advance our understanding of information design we also need to experience confusing and cryptic user interfaces. To intrigue is to direct investigation. The coordinates of "information space" are largely conceptual and sometimes psychological--or, you could say, being lost is also a location.

Vivian Selbo is a Web site designer and artist. She works at äda'web, a Web site that helps artists learn about, and create projects for, the World Wide Web. She lives in Manhattan.