Order Amongst Chaos
by Matt Bynum
Websites such as ArtsReformation.com will bring order to the present-day information deluge
To live is to learn. We learn from our own life's experiences, and from those whose everyday lives we share. We can also learn from those who live far from us, and from those who we will never meet. How can this be? We can learn through books, magazines and journals; lectures and debates; telephone, radio and television; and, as of a few years ago, e-mail and websites.
What a deluge of information! And we all know that only a small part of this massive amount of communication is both worthwhile and relevant. How can we sort through it all? Well, every problem contains its own solution (at least, that is what "they" say!)
It is the "World Wide Web" (WWW) that has been responsible for the popularization of the Internet. The WWW was introduced in 1994, but the Internet is at least twenty years older. Before the WWW, the Internet was used (mainly by educational institutions) to exchange email and to retrieve electronic documents. But then came the WWW, transforming the Internet into a multimedia repository and an information channel that millions of us now consider indispensable. Life before browsers and email has become a dim memory.
The concept of a "website" is similar to that of a television channel. If you want to watch the Weather Channel (which, presumably, tells you everything you need to know about current weather conditions), then you must go to television channel 35 (or whatever the channel number happens to be). On the WWW, you view the Weather Channel website through your "browser" by selecting the website's address.
But a website is different from a television channel. If, for example, you live in Wisconsin, and you want to know the current weather conditions in New York City, you could turn on the Weather Channel, which would eventually give the general weather conditions in the state of New York. But instead, you can view the Weather Channel website, zooming in directly to New York City weather. This is possible because websites allow viewer interaction, unlike television. And, the depth and breadth of information available on a website is almost without limit, whereas the depth and breadth of information available on a television channel is always limited by time. And so, television can only present to a general audience.
Wouldn't it easier to pick up a newspaper and turn directly to the weather page? It is true that a newspaper allows reader interaction, but the newspaper is limited by physical space, so it too can only present to a general audience. In addition, the information in the newspaper might be "stale", unlike the website, where information can be constantly refreshed.
Viewing a website is sometimes a problem. Websites are not as easy to use as are televisions and newspapers, since viewing websites requires a computer, a telephone or cable connection, and some technical knowledge - understanding how to operate the computer, and understanding certain website concepts, such as scrolling, pointing and clicking, and searching. But as the WWW continues to develop, computers and websites will become easier to use, and using them will become as natural as picking up the phone and calling home.
Because there is so much information available on the WWW, it might be difficult to find exactly what you need. Websites such as Yahoo and Altavista allow viewers to search much of the WWW. But the searches that these websites provide are far from perfect. If your search query is not precisely worded, you may not find the information that you need. For example, if you would like to learn to grow fruit trees, the search term "fruit trees" may yield thousands of responses, and perhaps none may meet your needs.
Finally, you find it - a website has the history of fruit growing, descriptions of varieties, climate conditions, a list of growers and tools, recommended books and videos, want lists, announcements of new discoveries and recent developments - in short, everything that you need to know about growing fruit trees. You can tell that this website is administered by individuals who are passionate about their interests. You sense that this website is different from others, for it attempts to establish "order amongst chaos" - the chaos brought about by the present-day information deluge.
The ArtsReformation.com (aka RAM) website is one of those "order amongst chaos" websites. The RAM website's focus is to promote the idea of "Arts within a Christian Worldview". The short term goal of the website is to provide visitors with "food for thought" as they formulate ideas on how to apply a Christian worldview to the world of the Arts. The long term goal of the website is to establish a sort of online "curriculum", or course of study, which visitors can use to gain knowledge in all areas of the Arts - Art History, Theory, Analysis and Critique, and Present Day Trends and Developments. The curriculum will consist of all sorts of media - online documents and audio/video, as well as printed books and recorded audio/video.
These RAM website goals are quite challenging. The idea of "Arts
within a Christian Worldview" is fairly new. Personal computers and
the WWW are very recent developments - who can tell what they will be
like in ten, twenty, or fifty years? But for now, it is "Onward, Ho!"
Updated by: Matt Bynum