Student e-zine offers imaginative sparkle
With all the excitement about e-commerce, Web portals and using the Internet as the ultimate shopping centre, it is easy to forget that its original purpose was to communicate ideas.
And long before the business world had even heard of the World Wide Web, the Net was being built and driven by students and university lecturers.
Many of those early adopters went on to become the first wave of Internet entrepreneurs, forming companies like Sun Microsystems, Netscape and Cisco Systems.
In contrast, Hong Kong's education system has rarely shown the kind of imaginative talent needed if we are to become a notable force in the networked world.
Which is why it is always heartening to see that Hong Kong's universities are capable of producing some top technology talent.
If you have a reasonably fast Internet connection and time to kill, pop along to Alias at http://complit .mmlab.hku.hk/alias. Labelling itself a 'cultural e-zine', Alias is a joint project between the department of comparative literature and the multimedia lab at the University of Hong Kong. It is also the most original new Hong Kong Web site that I have seen in months.
Where most new sites stick to an unwritten set of presentation rules, Alias' creators have gone out of their way to find new ways to navigate.
The main menu is displayed in a separate window, populated with animated, geometric 3D shapes. Pass your mouse over a shape, and, with a gothic beep, it fades into a section head.
Each section has a different style and layout, and the only common feature is Macromedia Flash, which has been used on almost every page.
The theme of this first issue is TripsatCities - bodies, desires, memories of invisible cities - inspired by a quote from author Italo Calvino.
In American Hyperreal Dream, Un-Die Girl (Emma Or) describes her feelings of confusion and dislocation as she travels for the first time from Los Angeles to Vancouver. Celia Chiu offers a study of American road culture, Vanassa Li tries to compare Patagonia, Hong Kong and the imaginary city of Laputa, and County Tam takes us on a bilingual tour of Feng Du, the Ghost City on the Daning River.
There is a separate section offering a range of pages devoted to anything from food to music. Alias accepts submissions for this area.
Of course, all of this originality comes at a price. Like any arts magazine, Alias often descends into the self-consciously poetic.
The first edition was launched last month. The site does not give any clues as to how often it will be updated. But then, why should it? NEIL TAYLOR firstname.lastname@example.org SITE.COM