WEB PAGES, AUTHORS AND AUDIENCES: The meaning of a mouse click
One popular framework for analysing web pages has been to think of them as identity performances on the part of the author. This framework opens up possibilities for analysis of the ways in which identity performances are composed. The personal web pages to which this perspective is most immediately applicable, are, however, now only a small proportion of the overall amount of information available on the World Wide Web. It would be possible, by extension, to analyse institutional web pages as performances of the institutional identity. It is the contention of this paper that to do so is to miss out on some important aspects of web page design: namely that the production of a web page involves understandings not only of the audience for the page but also of the capacities of the technology. In addition, web page production has to become a socially meaningful act for the individual web page developer and the institution concerned. It is, therefore, argued that the analysis of web pages can usefully learn from media studies and the sociology of technology in this respect. An interview-based study of the developers of web pages for the service departments of a UK university is described. The ideas of audience which the authors use are far from homogeneous: they include an institutional offline audience for the page, a pre-existing imagined audience, developers themselves as audience, and the technology of the browser as a stand-in audience. The audience and the capacities of the technology are developed in context through the practices of designers.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: June 1, 2001