We will of course be looking at the Net as it relates to architecture, urbanism and the visual arts but also as an environment in its own right. There will be features on Internet sites and the latest developments on the Internet front. Assuming that the reader still knows little about the subject, we shall start at the beginning: you have a computer, a modem, software, a wall socket and a particular interest. What’s the next step?
Is the Internet hype? Not any more, now that between forty and sixty million people are using it. It has become a medium that has proved its right to exist alongside more traditional media. Unfortunately it is not as accessible as radio, television and the (written) press. As yet it is essential to know something of the technology to even make contact with the Net. And once the connection is there, there’s no programme guide giving you the information you need. However, these should not be reasons to ignore the Internet. Besides the great quantities of garbage, it has plenty of interesting sources on offer.
If you’re to fish out the relevant information from the sea of available data, you need to know something about navigation. Some people claim they can find an answer to any question within ten minutes on the Internet. Not that I’d like anyone to attribute that claim to me. Nevertheless, increased accuracy of the search engines and indexes on the Internet does mean that it is far easier to find information than it was in the early days.
A search engine is a powerful computer which maintains a database of millions of files on the Internet. It doesn’t only look at the titles of the documents, but at their contents too. You enter one or more search words, and after a few seconds the searcher comes up with all the documents containing the search words on the monitor. Search engines are often experimental stations for programmers, so, needless to say, competition between the various service providers is keen – which benefits the ordinary Internet user. Searchers are ideal for those who have an accurate idea of what they’re looking for.
SEARCH ENGINES IN ORDER OF MY PERSONAL PREFERENCE
HotBot: rather new search engine that is fast. Very good, simple interface.
Alta Vista Engine: Started as a project to prove the superiority of Digital computers, this is the fastest search engine.
Search.NL: Using ‘fuzzy logic’, this is a fast engine for sites only in the Netherlands.
Geography is of minor interest on the Internet; there’s little difference in accessibility between a document on offer in the Netherlands and one in Australia. It can be handy though to use a geographical entry when seeking information. The Virtual Tourist has maps of almost all countries. Just click on a town and a list of local data sources appears on the screen.
You can also use indexes for searching. These contain links grouped according to subject. An index is useful if you aren’t too sure what you’re looking for. You have indexes on architecture too; landscape architecture and urbanism are included but come off rather badly.
The most popular index is Yahoo. It has a tree structure that provides 200,000 links in 20,000 categories. The links relating to architecture are classified under Arts/Architecture. Yahoo has been compiled by an editorial staff of twenty. Obviously they cannot possibly screen the contents of all the sites fully, which means that the list often makes a rather haphazard impression. Yahoo has the great advantage of being fast.
Yahoo is a commercial enterprise, though this is not the case with the WWW Virtual Library. The WWW VL is an index of indexes, with sub-indexes supervised by experts in the relevant fields. The index for architecture, urbanism and landscape architecture is kept by a lecturer at the University of Toronto, Rodney Hoinkes. He is well up in the material and consequently the lists of links are better classified and updated than in Yahoo. It is also easy to search the link with key words. Unfortunately logging into its computer is often a slow process.
A librarian at the University of Nevada keeps a comparable list, entitled the Architecture and Building Index. It looks a little dull, but is very comprehensive and has been rubricated by someone with experience in this work. Each link is accompanied by a short, clear explanation of the contents of the specific site. The links to data on the applications of computers for architects are particularly numerous in this index.
ARCHITECTURE INDEXES IN ORDER OF MY PERSONAL PREFERENCE
WWW VIRTUAL LIBRARY: SUBJECT ARCHITECTURE
Kept by a specialist and very well rubricated.
ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING INDEX
Dull but comprehensive.
(Planning and Architecture Internet Resource Center) A new star in the sky; comprehensive and good.
A lot of data, but not very well ordered.
SOME OTHER INTERESTING LINKS
The architecture-site of the Netherlands in formation.
The architecture-site of Great-Brittain.
International Web Architecture Magazine (English/Spanish)