- Artslynx International Arts Resources
As its title, Artslynx International Arts Resources, suggests, this web site is a link library that organizes connections to thousands of sites in its major categories: advocacy, arts administration, dance, education, film, funding, jobs, music, theatre, visual arts, and writing. Surprisingly, there is only one man behind this colossal effort: Richard Finkelstein, a theatre designer based in Denver who has been involved in electronic publishing since the bulletin board days.
Probably the most important difference between web and print publication is that the web allows non-linear linking of many kinds of material. If one selects International Theatre Resources from the Artslynx homepage, one finds the theatre page organized into twenty-four sub-categories. On the sub-categories’ pages, Finkelstein points to related topics within Artslynx, to sites for specific information, or to more sites with even more link options, such as his Costume page or Theatre-central. Although a search engine powered by whatUseek aids the researcher, it is of limited use. More helpful is Finkelstein’s cogent, careful organization of information into useful sub-categories and his linkages among those sub-categories. A link library like Artslynx is invaluable for the wired arts scholar or the casual user seeking a specific piece of information. A digital search engine like Yahoo lacks the knowledgeable human who selects, organizes, and annotates links. Finkelstein links to well-known and unusual sites, as well as to other link libraries, rather than repeating already published information. His range of selections and his organization are superior. A greater number and further detail in annotations for the links would make Artslynx even more valuable.
A second important feature of the web is the range of media it supports. Graphics, animation, video, and sound may be particularly important to theatre scholars, as performances can often be captured better through these media than through written language. Finkelstein limits the graphics in Artslynx and because the goal of a link library is to get you to other sites, it is entirely appropriate to avoid slow-loading media files. Since the server and labor are donated, Artslynx is thankfully free of advertisements. Finkelstein does provide links to sites with superior graphics and animation, such as Theatron, Didaskalia, and Design Images Online.
A third feature of web publication is that a web site can be designed for maximum functionality, with content helping dictate form. Greater consistency in the use of the homepage’s icons and visual similarity between the homepage and the rest of the site would enhance the visual impact of the site. More internal links for users to move within and among pages—for example a consistent menu down the margin—would also make the site more user friendly.
A final asset of web publication is its widespread accessibility at low cost. This could mean a reduction in the cost of specialized journal subscriptions and scholarly monographs. Accessibility also suggests that sites be designed for a range of users. Here Artslynx is very successful. A theatre practitioner looking for new ways to market her skills, a star-struck teenager looking to break into film acting, and a scholar of ancient theatre history can all find material quickly and easily through Artslynx, from, respectively, Theatrejobs, SAG’s information pages for young actors, and abstracts from an international conference in Saskatchewan.
There are also some difficulties with web scholarship. The two most serious ones, lack of adjudication and accountability, are less important to a link library than to a content site. Finkelstein readily admits Artslynx cannot be fully comprehensive, and he conscientiously asks for users’ help with new sites and outdated links. I found only a handful of broken links among hundreds, despite [End Page 473] Artslynx’s staff of one. Two other potential problems are out-of-date sites and technological failures. It is customary for a webmaster to note when a site was last updated at the bottom of the page, but Finkelstein does not adhere to this custom. While technological difficulties with Artslynx itself are unlikely, many of the sites one links to do include large...