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Monday, May 2 • 12:30pm - 3:30pm
View Source: A Web Digging Workshop LIMITED

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The two layers of online experience we most often talk about are interactions and their underlying technology. We unpack conversations and transactions happening online (anti-feminist rhetoric, how Twitter differs from Medium), and we discuss how algorithms shape those experiences (Facebook's decisions about what is in your feed, A/B testing). But at an intermediary level, an entire corpus of text is being written in Javascript variables and HTML comments, standardized but hidden files, and even the structure of websites themselves. This workshop will investigate these intermediary layers from a critical, exploratory point of view.

For example: the programming language Javascript plays an increasingly large role in the function of websites. Human programmers create variables in their code that were intended only to be read by other programmers on the project and the computer interpreting their code. For example, looking at Amazon.com's Javascript variables, we see both readable (altText, expand) and obscured (a, D) names. We can also see that eight of the 175 variables are using the popular JQuery plugin, since they start with the $ symbol.

This workshop will investigate these and other hidden website structures with a hackathon-like methodology of play and exploration. After an hour of short, fairly low-tech tutorials to introduce tools and methodologies, participants will spend 1.5-hours digging across the web. All levels of technical expertise will be encouraged.

Some of the tools introduced will be:
  • Expert Google searching, such as how to only return .mil websites
  • How to view the source code of a page
  • Searching and regular expressions for extracting content from pages
  • Using the wget command to automatically download an entire website
  • Firefox's Developer Tools, which can show the CSS rules applied to a given object on the page, as well as a very interesting "3D View", which displays the physical nesting of HTML tags as an interactive 3D model

avatar for Jeff Thompson

Jeff Thompson

Assistant Professor and Program Director, Visual Arts & Technology, Stevens Institute of Technology
Jeff Thompson is an artist, programmer, hacker, and educator based in the NYC area. He is Assistant Professor and Program Director of Visual Arts & Technology at Stevens Institute of Technology, and is co-founder of the experimental curatorial project Drift Station.

Attendees (16)