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The Independent Culture
WaterAid

http://www.wateraid.org.uk/

How far would you go for a bucket of dirty water? For millions in Africa and Asia, the governing fact of life is a repeated, gruelling trek to the well or dried-up riverbed. So a trail of weary footprints guides the visitor through 's inventive and informative site towards the donation page. En route, details of the organisation's projects worldwide, while a photo section evokes the problem - here's 18-year-old Rachel on her five-times-daily trip to a Tanzanian well - and the various community- based responses promoted by the charity. Lots of sobering detail on "the politics of water", some weighty, illustrated reports, and for light relief, listings for fund-raising events: don't miss the Wessex Region Plastic Duck Race or Birmingham Brownies Wacky Spaghetti Wash. Nor, at Glastonbury this year, 's African-style pit latrines, "reputedly the cleanest at the festival".

Revealing Things

http://www.si.edu/organiza/museums/ripley/eap/rt/load-index.html

This Web-only exhibit from the Smithsonian is both ambitious and paradoxical, a hi-tech celebration of low-tech, everyday objects. Here is a child's chemistry set from the Thirties, a suburban dining-room with news of Pearl Harbour on the radio, and, the piece de resistance, a pair of patchy, faded denims donated to the museum in 1972. The pieces are accompanied by audio reminiscences from their donors. Fascinating social history, which only needs space to resonate. Instead we have a Maplet twirling enigmatically screen left (yellow links are objects, blue ones ideas); a tumbling column of thumbnail shots of the exhibits; explanatory text popping up in the corner; and a sort of conceptual graphic equaliser to select Theme, Era or Object links. Somewhere in the middle of all this is an old ironing board with teacups on it (the owners couldn't afford a table in their subsidised housing project). Currently in prototype, the site seeks feedback and could still offer a whole new way of browsing an online museum.

Appraisal of Technologies

of Political Control

http://jya.com/stoa-atpc.htm

A lengthy, rather chilling text which has recently turned up at half a dozen sites, this is a draft document produced for the European Parliament by a UK human rights consultancy, the Omega Foundation. It contains a comprehensive overview of the different technical means by which governments exercise social and political influence over their subjects. Covering data accumulation, crowd control, "invisible" torture techniques and the vulnerability of ISDN lines to phone and Internet tapping, it's all the more disturbing since its roots lie in an earlier study of British policing in Northern Ireland during the Seventies. The report advises the EU to "prevent undesirable innovations emerging via processes of technological creep or decision drift" and suggests regulatory and democratic checks. But it could also function as a manual for advanced technological repression. Bits of Kafka-esque humour emerge here and there: the Japanese claim to have implanted processors in live cockroaches, so that they can be directed to "bug" places that ordinary microphones can't reach.

Acronym Finder

http://www.mtnds.com/af/

A simple but useful search tool with a 50,000-acronym database, mainly in government, scientific and computing fields. Obvious entries include BBC (Beam to Beam Correlation), MP (Magnetic Pressure) and UK (University of Kentucky), with enough silly ones to make it worth surfing: NATO (No Action Talk Only), IBM (I Blame Microsoft). New additions are welcome, subject to a screening process, and ACRONYM itself can, of course, be a (rather jaded) acronym: "A Contrived Reduction Of Nomenclature Yielding Mnemonics"

Britart

http://www.britart.com/

Web exclusives on contemporary British art are offered by this site, which hopes to cut out the middleman - the commercial gallery - and sell directly to the public. Britart, launched by a group of artists' agents who also deal with conventional outlets, says the works shown here are available only over the Net, at least for a limited period. Sales of pounds 24,000 are claimed for the first six weeks since opening, and a dozen or so artists are currently on display, with CVs and biographies. A newsletter promises articles by painters and critics, but so far offers only a promotional piece from the online curator. Prices range from pounds 6,500 for the Fellini- and Dylan-influenced Chris Gollon, to a mere pounds 90 for a small etching by Minne Fry.

Bill Pannifer

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