For this history, I chose to look at reggiochildren.it, the website of Reggio Children S.r.l., the entity created by the municipality of Reggio Emilia, Italy, for promoting and protecting the Reggio Emilia Approach® to early childhood education. I think it fair to consider a pedagogy to be a cultural product, as a general statement, while much of what Reggio Children does is publish books, pamphlets, and other training materials, as well as hosting webinars, conferences, international study tours, touring exhibitions, and similar professional development activities.
As it so happens, there are four distinct versions of the website archived at archive.org.
The first is, from a certain point of the view, the most interesting. The first capture of a site at reggiochildren.it happened on 18 October 2000. The site was purely a placeholder, offering contact information but otherwise just saying ‘under construction’ (in English). This version of the site was saved 11 times, up until 28 March 2003. So, for at least 2 1/2 years, a site existed and was being archived, despite it having no substantive content. Presumably, the point was to hold on to the reggiochildren.it domain name. It must be assumed that there was every intention to get a website up. But there was actually nothing there. Talk about a historical artifact!
The second version of the site was as a redirect, with the substantive site at zerosei.comune.re.it, a subdomain of the main municipal government site. This redirect was first captured on 30 May 2003 and last captured 3 September 2011, a total of 35 times. Initially, there was actually a redirect warning page located at reggiochildren.it, then that was scrapped and the URL was simply an alias.
The substantive site was itself archived some 281 times between 10 April 2001 and 30 January 2021, though the last actual capture was from 2 June 2019. Interestingly, many ‘captures’ at archive.org seem to redirect to other captures. reggiochildren constituted a sub-site contained within zerosei (let’s call this version 2b), available in both Italian and English, with its own distinct content and own distinct aesthetics. Other sub-sites included the site for the Infant-Toddler Centres and Preschools themselves, that for the Friends of the Preschools (later the Reggio Children Foundation), and that for ReMida, the municipality’s centre for creative recycling.
The reggiochildren page offered links through to the activities and publications of Reggio Children, including the Hundred Languages of Children exhibit, their newsletter Rechild, and their professional development offerings. Though principally a static page, the left sidebar quickly became a location for news, announcements, product highlights, and links to related sites. Though social media was going through its first massive development while this version of the site was current, at no point were there any such links on these pages.
The third version of the site was the first actually to be located at reggiochildren.it. It was first captured on 2 November 2011 and saved a total of 153 times, the last on 11 October 2019. Its new aesthetics, however, were foreshadowed in a pop-up notice on the old site, captured 10 August 2011, that warned educators about enterprises making unauthorized use of the ‘Reggio Emilia’ name and ‘disseminating incorrect information’. The English version of the site (at /?lang=en) went live somewhat later and was first captured 18 February 2012.
This version of the site was not only finally at its own URL. It also featured dramatically modernized aesthetics and expanded content. The new aesthetics involved a change in the font used for the Reggio Children name, a change in the site’s colour scheme, a much greater prominence for its running-horses logo, and a much more legible layout that made effective use of white space. Elements of the site were more dynamic, with a rotating front page image (highlighting Reggio Children’s main activities) and a centering of recent organizational news items in the main body of the page. New content included dedicated pages for the ateliers, consulting, international cooperation, and research; pages highlighting Reggio’s work with companies, governments, and non-governmental organizations; a new section on Identity, talking about Loris Malaguzzi and about the Reggio Emilia Approach; and separated pages for the Board, news releases, job postings, local contact information and the international network.
The fourth, current, version of the site was first captured 16 December 2019 and has been saved 28 times thus far, most recently on 26 January 2021. The English version, now at /en/, was first saved 3 February 2020 and has been captured 15 times.
As far as I can tell, the content areas covered by the site are mostly the same as in version 3, though navigating them has changed dramatically and much has been re-written. The most notable new area – first captured 9 June 2020 on the English site, 26 July 2020 on the Italian – is E-Learning, offering webinars, web conferences, videos and e-books to learners during the time of COVID. Social media follow buttons have returned to the bottom of the page, though now those include Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. ‘Leaf’ pages of the site have share buttons for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, and e-mail.
The big change to the site, though, is the adoption of the current style of graphics-heavy scrolling pages. Where the version 3 front page could be scrolled top-to-bottom in 3 (more 2.5) scrolls, the current front page takes 10. While the branding (logo, colour scheme, name font) has remained the same, there has been a shift in the font used in most of the site and it defaults to a much larger font size, taking up as much screen real estate as it is offered. The most irritating aspect of the new style is that first loading the site, then moving between its pages, is greatly slowed as all the graphics are loaded – and not clearly well-cached either. The Reggio Children logo pulses in the middle of the page while this happens, assuring you that you’re in the right place. But slow is not a good feature on the web, less now than ever.
The principal functions of the site have remained constant across versions 2b, 3, and 4. Expansion is much more obvious than loss, though one assumes that not all content has been retained, if only because it is no longer pertinent. It does appear that the pages directed specifically to how Reggio is working with companies, governments, and NGOs have been dropped in version 4, while the material on the Reggio Emilia Approach included under Identity in version 3 has been spun off into a separate site. Version 4 also has somewhat more of a commercial feel, with a shopping cart in the header and publications highlighted at the bottom of every page.
The reggiochildren.it site seems to be following the general trend on the web towards ever more dynamic, ever more graphics-heavy and multimedia, ever more artistic, and ever more commercial sites. Some of that is presumably a reflection of changing technological capabilities, though there is also a strong component of aesthetic fashionability. Reggio Children is a non-profit, so the increasing commercial emphasis is somewhat worrying. Is it a matter of following corporate-driven aesthetic fashions? Fiscal constraints in a struggling and increasingly fascist-inclined Italy? Or a growing profit motive? The commercial direction of the web as a whole is less of a mystery, of course. But looking beyond such broad trends for historical lessons would require delving into the details of the site – its text, images, multimedia content, and code – much more than is possible for a weekly blog post.