#TeachTheWeb in the Open

Week 3 of #teachtheweb is beginning, with the topic being “the open web.” The question is how we understand the mechanisms that allow the web to function, and why the transparency and openness of those mechanisms should matter to those of us who use, make, and teach the web.

I’ve been thinking about this a bit lately due to some thought-provoking blog posts on the Chronicle of Higher Education‘s ProfHacker blog (see here and here and here). Blogger Konrad Lawson is exploring the idea of an open-access source/process/thingamajig that he relates to the ways software gets developed on GitHub, and I have to admit that a lot of the discussion went somewhat over my head as I don’t really think of myself as a coder. However, Lawson discusses the idea of “forking” a GitHub repository in a way that is quite similar to the ways that we’ve been thinking about remixing and hacking in the last couple of weeks.

One of the coolest things last week was a link that Lou Buran pointed me to via a tweet, in which he praised two very active #teachtheweb folks: Chad Sansing and Kevin Hodgson. They were playing with Firefox’s “Inspect Element” tool, in particular the 3-D view feature. So I took a look at a 6-word story I had written as part of Week 2’s assignment, using the 3-D view to see all the layers that show up in Mozilla’s Thimble html-coding environment.

What really struck me about this view was the way that it actually *did* make the underpinnings of the web–which we want to be so “open”–visible in their complexity. I was reminded of the way that Slavoj Žižek has described the difference between the Lacanian notions of the real and the symbolic; I used to equate this back in the good old days of dial-up internet access to the godawful screeching of the modem (the “real” of the internet) and the way it translated those horrible squeals into webpages and emails. It seems that the coding revealed in the 3-D view is similar in its ability to allow us to “see” the real elements that support our mediated experiences with the web.

I think that’s all the smart-sounding stuff I can come up with at the end of a long day. 🙂