If we compare vertical scrolling in blogs to driving in your car in a landscape, what we want to do now is lift off and be able to see all these image feeds, for example, as geological strata. If you’re flying above the landscape at 30,000 feet, there’s stuff to see—stuff you can’t see from your car window. That’s how we want to enlarge or expand the interface.
—Folkert Gorter, interview with
v-e-n-u-e.com talking about using the z-axis in web pages in 2012

My half thought through response / reactions to this:


  • My critique of this might purely be semantic. And this is clearly an off-hand metaphor by Gorter, so not to have too much weight attributed to it. But nonetheless, I still think it’s useful for thinking things through.

Axes and Space

  • The point-to-point path of a car on a road, user with a scrollbar, feels like 1D space
  • 2D (free-roaming planar movement) to my thinking, is ditching the car and wandering into the landscape
  • The scroll is to be narrowly confined to the predefined ‘tarmac path’
  • (Is the browser the windscreen?)
  • The Z-position CSS element is fun but it is mostly stage dressing and only ever gives the ‘sense’ of 3D (e.g. parallax scrolling of 1990s SNES games or the effect of ‘distance’ in Wolfenstein 3D)
  • Walking is more intuitive than flying
  • Flying disorients without well understood reference points
  • If the scroll is the road-bound car (1D), then the hyperlink is going on foot (2D)
  • The hyperlink is the distant landmark that allows us to orient ourselves in the space (‘cognitive mapping’ as Frederick Jameson might have it – see Ref. 1 below). It allows us to move through/across/beyond our current position in space (albeit, still in straight lines).

Gods-Eye View

Our sense of spatial and temporal orientation has changed dramatically in recent years, prompted by new technologies of surveillance, tracking, and targeting. One of the symptoms of this transformation is the growing importance of aerial views: overviews, Google Map views, satellite views. We are growing increasingly accustomed to what used to be called a God’s-eye view. [Linear perspective’s] stable and single point of view is being supplemented (and often replaced) by multiple perspectives, overlapping windows, distorted flight lines, and divergent vanishing points.

  • Steyerl is ambivalent about what this means
  • For Steyerl, like Gorter, new perspectives can offer freedom and new ways of being
  • Unlike Gorter (who paints himself as something of a wide-eyed follower of Californian ideology), Steyerl never presents these shifting perspectives as politically neutral, uncomplicated or merely interesting
  • The reason these views exist at all is for reasons of control: bio-political, military, colonial etc.
  • But she does not argue that vertical perspectives are inherently repressive. Nor does she argue that they are freeing or neutral. Her position is that they will always be ideologically inflected.

My Feelings & Indie Web

My feelings about all this are also ambivalent. Though maybe not in exactly the same way Steyerl’s are. These feelings are definitely inflected (infected?) with nostalgia. With the web, there is now a sense of being locked-in. Instead of representing escape, it now becomes another axis of real life.

Experiments with form in web technologies now feel more like ways of dressing up shopping centres to feel like Mediterranean plazas than they do radical new ways of expressing ideas, communicating feelings or creation for the sake of creation.

Gorter’s image of the z-axis offering freedom from a linear scroll registered as incorrect in my experience. I’m sure he has updated his thinking in the ten years since this interview and now that I think about it, he is concerned with navigation here. Offering the user the ability to go micro and macro, and to get a sense of the whole.

I tend to sympathise more with the slow or indie web which embraces and privelages the single viewpoint of the user. The past is irrecoverable as we know, and the indie web almost certinaly amounts to a retreat to small holdings in the face of the urbanising effect of platforms. But the indie web also exhibits a clearer understanding of the strengths of the web: the movement between pages/sites, interrelation, interdependence, the freedom to experiment and unmooring the web from commerce. In this sense it’s the antithesis of web3 which seems to be the financialisation of absolutely everything on the internet.


  1. Frederick Jameson’s definition of cognitive mapping ‘a situational representation on the part of the individual subject to that vaster and properly unrepresentable totality which is the ensemble of society's structures as a whole’ – Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, 1991
Navigation & Perspective on the Web

Gunes Acar:

“Automatic advanced matching is a feature of the Facebook pixel that more accurately matches online visitors and their activities to Facebook users. When this feature is enabled, the pixel extracts and hashes personal data that’s entered into forms, such as an email address, phone number, name, date of birth, etc. Facebook then uses those (hashed) identifiers to link your Facebook profile to your website visits and activities. 

The advantage of using this over cookies is that as a user you can remove or block cookies. Many browsers like Safari and Firefox now automatically block tracking-related cookies, and there are ongoing efforts to phase out third-party cookies. This means that identifiers based on email address or phone number—that are global, unique, and persistent—will likely become more important.

Facebook claims to collect this personal information from the website forms when the user clicks the submit button, but we found that it instead collects it when you click virtually any button or link on the page. For example, even if you just type in your email address and maybe you change your mind and decide to go back to another page or read the privacy policy before opening an account, once you click any link or any button, Facebook will extract your personal information, including email address, from the form, hash it, and send it to its servers. 

We also found that TikTok was using a similar method to collect personal data typed into forms. TikTok has a product called TikTok Pixel, which also has a feature to automatically harvest form data. When you type in your email address or phone number on a form, clicking almost any button triggers data collection by TikTok.”

Excerpt from this interview. Acar is an assistant professor at the Digital Security group of Radboud University in the Netherlands. He researches online tracking mechanisms, web security, anonymous communications, and dark patterns. 

facebook's workaround to the end of coo…