Thinking with Themes

On September 2, 2015 by Michelle Warren

Publishing a website involves lots of decisions. None of them are trivial. We wanted to get Remix into the public sphere as quickly and meaningfully as possible, so we opened this WordPress address on Dartmouth’s institutional account.

In the blink of en eye, the nature of our knowledge acquired a certain shape. Parameters had been set.

Take this theme, Zenon, chosen by our student researcher Logan Henderson. Since it has four summary blocks on the front page, we have four headlines to describe the project. If the theme had three boxes, we’d have three headlines–and the nature of our work might be different. The first theme that we tried had no boxes at all. We only have access to twelve themes on the college account, and none of the other eleven have boxes.

Once I wrote headlines and blurbs for the boxes, the multi-paragraph essay often used for project overviews looked old-fashioned and clunky. So twentieth century. Who wants to read that on their phone? The template boxes themselves are the reason we have headlines. They’re the reason we’re structuring the project outputs in posts instead of pages. For now.

I’m not describing these constraints to express frustration, but rather to underscore the constraints that shape every publication and communication. This project aims to highlight the interplay between creative choice and imposed necessity. Our goal is not to overcome the tension or the constraint but to make their effects as transparent as possible as often as possible.


Screenshot of themes from WordPress.Com

Themes wordpress snip


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