The I, the Me and the Web

I have been pottering around the web over the last few days finding things to do on an upcoming trip to the States.  What I have noticed it that one can usually tell whether a site is American or British (aside from the obvious  It was actually an ice hockey page that triggered the thought that I want to explore a little more below –  As you will notice, there is a lot going on and to me it screams USA!  What I wondered was, whether a national identity in conveyed in website marketing as much as anywhere else.  I.e. can you immediately tell from the layout of a website where it is from as much as someone’s accent?

I was thinking that this would only apply to English language-based sites but actually, it can apply to pretty much any language and national identity.  German-speakers aren’t necessarily based in or selling to a German audience and also, the automatic page translators can make it easier to see content in a language you can understand.

Perhaps an example would be easier.  Let’s start with something obvious – and To me, the White House site seems more overtly patriotic, common images of the flag, the President and a catchy ad tag line.  The British, subtle, more crowded with no clear leader (no comment!).

If we move to something like sports, it is a similar story – and  These two are actually more similar in layout but to me, it is still clear which comes from where.

So what I am pondering now, is whether national identity has fed through into website design; audiences are more drawn to certain things in certain countries.  Or, if it the other way around, that design agencies are creating things that reflect what they perceive as a national image and put that out onto the net.

I realise that this is rather a small sample but it is something that has set my cogs working.  It is of course, reliant on a number of things when one designs a website – audience and amount of information for example but I think it would be interesting to find out more about the link between how one sees one’s own national identity and how this is reflected on the web.


Men, Masculinity and Amore

I am currently in the throes of research for my dissertation on masculinity in the eighteenth-century.  In doing my research, I have become increasingly unsympathetic to radical feminist writers on the subject of gender.  This is certainly a hot potato, I realise and let me set my stall out first before you judge me to be a corset-wearing, subordinated housewife.

I support equal rights for women – this is important to remember.  However, by studying only the position of women in society in relation to and because of their subjugation by men, we miss the fact that men were part of history too.  Not your Nelson’s, George’s and Pitt’s (older and younger) but the men who just existed day-to-day.  So many feminist historians seem to write only about women but at the cost of missing the other half of the picture.  I am increasingly anxious that the histories of the John Bull’s are being overlooked because of the focus on misogyny.  This is not what the study of history should be about.  It should be the reconstruction of the past of everyone and the sooner we move away from the centrality of gender, the better a picture of the past we can restore.

Natalie Davis argued that the study of masculinity should not be just for being the opposite of feminism but that both sexes should be understood together.  “[It] seems to me that we should be interested in the history of both women and men, that we should not be working only on the subjected sex any more than an historian of class can focus entirely on peasants.  Our goal is to understand the significance of the sexes, of gender groups in the historical past.




Feeling Blue

So, I am inadvertently following on from our last post with the colour theme although slightly less festive and more reflective of the post-Christmas spirit.

As a gift for my birthday every year I receive the short list for the Man Booker Prize.  I have reached the half way point in the 2011 list and have been so far, rather disappointed with this year’s offerings.  There have, however, been two slight glimmers in an otherwise disappointing darkness.  The first was ‘The Sisters Brothers’ which was a happy tale of the Wild West, the search for gold and of brotherly love in its loosest sense.  The other, which I will talk a little more of below was ‘Half Blood Blues’ by Esi Edugyan.

The novel covers several different time periods from 1930s Berlin to fairly modern day via the occupation of Paris.  Without giving too much of the plot away, the story revolves around a group of jazz musicians from a diverse background and is narrated by a Baltimore-born bass player.  After the capture and confinement of their star trumpet player in Sachsenhausen at the beginning of plot, the remainder leads the reader through the events leading up to the arrest and also a reawakening for Sid many years later.

The story is one of creativity and interest.  One can feel the tension in both Berlin and Paris as people begin to realise the dangers that they face with the onset of the war.  With jazz at its core, there is a fabulous parallel between the music and the state of Europe.  Edugyan’s descriptions of the jazz that the band play makes it almost audible and one can smell the smoky dingy bars of pre-war Berlin.  Each member of the band has their faults as become clear through the plot and as the members begin to drift apart, the music appears more fractured as well.

Whilst the language can take a little getting used to (although not to the same extent as Pigeon English or Room) and given the nature of the tale, one cannot say it is pleasant but nonetheless, it was an enjoyable and informative read.  It almost makes one want to go and search for Louis Armstrong vinyl….almost.