rcgerhard

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Multimedia Musings: end of the semester course reflection May 2, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — rcgerhard @ 3:49 am

Alright. Try as I may I can’t avoid this sentence, brace yourself here it comes:  I learned a lot in this class. But at the same time nothing in the subject matter was all that alienatingly new. It was more like scaffolding. It expanded my knowledge to things that were just beyond the periphery of what I had known before. Sometimes this included putting a name to what I had already felt was the case. Sometimes this meant extending a rule to new areas.

For example, I already had a sense that web communication had its own conventions (see course goal #2). I knew that I clicked on the links with the most attractive pictures. But this class helped to spell out what exactly made these links different, what kept me reading, and why it was that way. The web is not just different for the sake of being different. It’s different because it needs to achieve something that other media does not. With one click a web surfer can abandon one website for another. It’s not the same with books, newspapers or magazines. People don’t haul around a library of options in case they become bored with their physical reading material. But with the web that option is always there. Reader attention spans are short and the competition for that attention is aggressive. As a result content needs to be to the point and delivered quickly. As a reading we did in week 2 notes, walls of text can be scary for surfers. In this way course goal #2 (improve your ability to communicate in electronic environments. Web communication has its own conventions) feeds into course goal #4 (Understanding the audience conventions of electronic environment).  Communicating in an online environment requires your audience to stay put long enough to get the message. To get the audience to stay put the audience needs you to avoid walls of text wherever possible.

For my own part I have tried (though not always successfully) to keep my blog posts on topic and relatively short. Alternatively I try to break them up with graphics, and added links to help get my meaning across without having to put in excess descriptions. For example in my post “The Power of Introverts” I stated that I wished I was able to study in a cubicle in elementary school. I know that some, if not many readers have an aversion to cubicles. Cubicles typically evoke ideas of claustrophobia, cookie cutter tedium and harsh florescent lighting. This is not the image of cubicles I wanted to evoke or had in mind when I referenced them in my post. But I also did not want to have to go into detail explaining the image of cubicles I had in mind. Therefore, I linked “cubicles” to a cubicle design blog-post that had pictures of cubicles more in line with what I meant.

But adding pictures and links do not just serve to break up walls of text. As a week 3 reading assignment instructed, adding pictures and links are part of creating a successful blog (see course goal #5). This guide also suggests a listing technique which I included in some of my posts to help break up my points visually. But I also avoided some of the suggestions this website gave. Tagging was one of the things I did not do. I avoided it because while I want my blog to be easy to read for my classmates, I did not want it to be easy to read for others. Tagging helps search engines find your material, and I didn’t (and still don’t) want to be found.

I also broke some rules based on personal preference and inexperience. One mistake is that I did not come up with, nor could think of a very good name for my blog. I also did not know what to write as my banner underneath my blog’s name. Maybe it should have been, “yeah I know it’s a crummy name” I would probably get tired of it in a week though. Another thing I know I have struggled with is voice. It’s more difficult to be consistent between blog posts than I had originally imagined. On certain topics I want to be serious and make a point about something. On other occasions I want to be sarcastic. Then still on other occasions I just want to be funny. Sometimes I want to be all three in one blog post. Take this blog post for example. I wrote a whole intro section involving my process of choosing this course and some initial trepidation which would have included these pictures:

and a reference to spider man. But the humor didn’t really allow me to shift gears into talking more thoughtfully about my blog, so I had to scrap it.

As for personal preference, I broke the blog rule that stated that like newspapers, all important information should be above the fold. I selected my blog’s theme largely based on the fact that it was clean and simple. The parameters of each post are clearly defined, and the posts appear in a chronologically ordered fashion. A main page with every blog post shouting out for attention all at once was not something I was interested in. I find reading blog pages like this somewhat obtrusive.

 

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The Power of Introverts April 9, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — rcgerhard @ 1:06 am

This past week for homework, we watched a TED talks video by Susan Cain titled The Power of Introverts.  This video is awesome. As an introvert myself,  and I found a lot of what she said to be true. The desk cluster situation she talks about for example,  I remember sitting in them in elementary school and wishing we had cubicles so I could get away from it all for a while. I also agree that social situations, such as parties can be exhausting rather than enjoyable or energizing. But overall I was mostly glad to see someone finally sticking up for introverts. Usually the term introvert is brought up as a negative. For example, how many times have you seen a TV interview of the neighbors of a discovered serial killer/rapist/criminal in which they describe him/her as an introvert? And yet when someone who is sociable and outgoing is discovered to be a serial killer/rapist/criminal everyone is shocked (or the story is spun that way) because they are sociable and outgoing. There definitely is an unwarranted bias there.

 

These Stories Are Weird March 19, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — rcgerhard @ 6:08 am

It seems to be that time in the semester. Papers. Spent several days last week crawling into bed at 6 or 4 am. Supposedly the week before that was spring break but I’m not sure because I spent it combing databases for my capstone research project.

In between shots of caffeine, deep conversations with the object I evidently spend most of my life with (my computer), and hours long stints of aaaahhhomgwhydidItakeallthesewritingintesiveclassses???!!, I decided to do some Multimedia homework. In hindsight, not the best idea. Why? Because these “stories” (if you can call them that) are weird.  They are especially weird when you haven’t spoken to a human being in over 12 hours and are functioning on 3 hours of sleep… from 2 days ago.  I can appreciate that they challenge the conventions of how a story can be communicated, and some of them are excellent displays of how a medium can reinforce a message, but I really hate postmodernism.  Call me a curmudgeon, but I prefer linear story line in novel format.

I’ll explain more later—right now it’s 2am and I’m at dire risk of waking up with keyboard marks on my forehead!

 

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More later:

In the interest of specifics, the stories we experienced (because it’s not reading only, is it?) for class last week were:

Jennifer Egan’s “Great Rock and Roll Pauses

Mohsin Hamid’s “The (Former) General”

Shelley Jackson’s “My Body”

Charles Cummings’ “The 21 Steps”

Martyn Bedford’s “The Virtual Disappearance of Miriam”

All of them do (as I posted earlier) challenge the conventions of how a story can be communicated. Success varies.

 

Jennifer Egan’s “Great Rock and Roll Pauses” was interesting. Its use of Smart Art to section the text reminded me of graphic novels.  I usually love graphic novels; the stop-go form of reading they force you into is supplemented by graphics.

In Egan’s work there are no supplementary graphics, or at least they are very boring (‘cus its smart art).The result of this is that I noticed the interruptions more.  I can appreciate that the intent in this might be to represent how the character Alison, or maybe Lincoln, thinks, but I don’t think that this couldn’t be achieved (perhaps even better) in a straight forward narrative.  The way it stands I am given an impression of characters and the story rather than the real story. The result is I am left questioning why I should care and what are the implications of this? Perhaps these questions are answered in the rest of Egan’s book (of which this is only one chapter, and therefore unfair to judge too harshly) which follows a more traditional format.

 

Moshin Hamid’s “The (Former) General In his Labyrinth” is almost like a choose your own adventure story . Almost. The difference is there is no ending in Hamid’s piece. Instead the choices form a web which, fittingly to the title, loops endlessly. Simple and concise; the medium fits the message almost perfectly. But the piece is also boring. There is no ending or climax. Which is why it sets off my postmodernist radar; it has an air of pointlessness and a tendency to piss me off.  It is also why I say the medium fits the message almost perfectly and not perfectly. The internet is a land of short attention spans. One click and you’re no longer stuck in this page’s Labyrinth. If I did not have to explore this piece for class I would never explore it past three clicks. It’s just that boring. In that sense, by being boring on the internet, the piece fails to capture you within its Labyrinth.

 

 

Leave it to Facebook February 19, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — rcgerhard @ 10:20 pm

When I think of the 1950s I see Leave it to Beaver. Mom in hoop skirt and heels doing housework. Dad; hat, briefcase, dress shoes. 2 kids, comfortable suburbs. A life where the biggest problem is a baseball through a window. I know of course that none of this is/was real, even in its time. It’s the 1950s façade.—A protective covering for a decade that was reeling from WWII and gripped by communist suspicions. So in some ways I can’t blame TV audiences for liking shows that cling to this image of normalcy. If I had thought I was safe by distance or civilian status from being harmed by war, and then saw the premier of the atom bomb, industrialized genocide and civilian targeted bombings in Europe, I would weep at June Cleaver’s feet for normalcy.  On the other hand however, the show does pull the apron strings a little too tight, which is why watching it today can feel slightly suffocating. The view on normal is very narrow. It is for these reasons that I have always told myself I could never have lived in the 1950s; it would be a nightmare. But more and more I see creepy parallels between the 50s and our time.

I read an article this week called Facebook Is Using You. It talked about data mining on Facebook. At first I think, ya blah blah blah, –they see what I like and advertise based on that, and if I apply to a job my potential employer is going to check it– blah. It can be a slight nuisance to make sure everything on your Facebook is in line for getting hired, but it’s nothing unheard of. I always think, I’m a pretty decent person; I don’t have raging arguments on my wall or drunk pictures. I must be safe. But no. Because the data mining goes way beyond this. It no longer just affects if you’ll be hired. It affects custody battles, taxes, your credit numbers –even immigration and citizenship. Shop at certain stores? Lower credit limit. You’ll have to read the article to get the full scope, but the essence is that through Facebook, government and business is all up in your business. And oftentimes this is to stereotype you. Like guitars? Denied a loan. It seems that the concept of normal is becoming again like it was in the 1950s, narrower and narrower. Suddenly I feel like June Cleaver washing the dishes in my kitchen. Only this time it’s not to prove that I’m not a communist, it’s to prove my citizenship, or keep my kids.

 

Comments on “How to Steal like an Artist” … I hate Proverbs February 13, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — rcgerhard @ 5:02 am

Dashboard  >  settings  >  tagline box

I feel like such a dummy for how long I searched for how to change the line under my blog name that read “Just another WordPress.com site”. Turns out the answer was on Google the whole time. Go figure right?

Anyway, I read an article for my Multimedia writing class this week that gives advice on how to be an artist. It’s called Steal Like an Artist  by Austin Kleon, and as you can tell by clicking the link, it has to do with the book by the same name. Two pieces of advice stood out to me on this list:

(1) Steal like an artist.  It made me think of a video I saw a few years ago about the “Amen Break”. Basically a 6 second drum beat that has indeed, as they say in the video “entered the collective audio unconscious”. Listen to it as it starts playing around 1:18 and tell me if you agree. The bigger point the video is making however is about artistic ownership if art & culture’s natural tendency is to build on itself.

(2) The second thing that stood out to me was the line in the article that “All advice is Autobiographical” and that “Your mileage may vary”. So true. It reminds me why I hate proverbs.  Proverbs = horrible advice. They need disclaimers that copy Kleon’s words. Every time I come across one I think of how many other proverbs advise the opposite.

 

Response to Michiko Kakutani’s “Text without Context” February 8, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — rcgerhard @ 1:48 am

I read an article this week that yet again bemoans the current system of media consumption. Surprise! Suprise! — Criticism of the internet is at its epicenter. Forgive me if I’m somewhat cynical about the contents of such articles. I’ve been reading them for years and I have yet to find one that is honest and exploratory of the new state of media and not angled toward some end. I would love for instance to say “I read an article that questions/discusses/explores the current system of media consumption”— but I cannot bring myself to do it. It is simply not an accurate expression of what and how the information is conveyed in this article.

What has led me to come to such a harsh conclusion?

(1)The article paraphrases words from books (paragraph 6 for example) without telling why the authors should be considered credible sources. Yes, they have the prestige of getting published and past the “gate-keepers” of the publishing house, but the publishing houses have an economic interest in diminishing the credibility of other media sources like the internet.

(2) Also in paragraph 6, the actual paraphrase points to the internet increasing the ability to multitask and diminishing the “ability to think deeply and creatively” without providing proof for either of these assertions.  Alternate information on multitasking such as —this— is completely omitted…. But then this bit of information is on the internet and is likely water cooler fodder that is more concerned with pandering to emotions than a sense of reason (see paragraph 13). Which leads me to the third problem I have with this article…

(3) It’s not falsifiable. There is nothing I can do, say or type on the web that can prove that the essence of what this article is arguing is wrong. This is because the essence of what the article is arguing (If I’m reading it right) is that what is on the internet is unreliable. If I say on this blog that the accusation is false, any proponent of the article may say “see argument A”.  This of course does not make “argument A” any truer, but it does make it seem more attractive.

(4) The article ignores the fact that it itself is posted on the web.

(5) The article ignores the unreliable and biased nature of older media outlets.

 

Everything Changes January 27, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — rcgerhard @ 3:50 am

For my Multimedia writing class this week our professor assigned us a reading excerpt from Dennis Baron’s “A Better Pencil”. It made me think of a quip I use on my friends all the time: the #1 rule of the English language is sh** always changes. I usually use it as a joke to defend myself after I do something stupid like spell an easy word wrong (happens more often than you think), but it does have a kernel of truth to it. English is a living, breathing and evolving language. Proper grammar, punctuation and spelling are not the same today as they will be tomorrow. Even looking at the evolution of the word tomorrow shows this, Shakespeare (or should I call him Shakspere? Shakspeare?) spelled it “to-morrow” and he technically spelled it correctly in Modern English. Real Old English, for anyone who as looked at an untranslated version of Beowulf (you have my sympathies) is essentially a separate language. (check some of the videos of people reading Beowulf — Old English sounds crazy too). Yet somehow through the gradation of time (usually involving the English having their butts kicked), one language turned into the other. In large part Baron seems to be saying the same thing occurred in terms of communication. From oral traditions, to clay tablets, to paper and ink, to printing press, to computers, “invading” technologies have changed not only how we communicate but what we communicate. Conversely we also have an impact on these technologies. As he notes, writing may have evolved as a means to remember and track inventory, not send messages; it was us who made it into a message device (Baron, xi).  I don’t know it must be the English major in me, but I think of these writing technologies as similar to words; we create them and then by the determination of time and other factors in our lives they become obsolete and abandoned, or they become adapted and changed for our new purposes. The clay tablets go from use as a memory device to use as a way to write and send messages, a word has its spelling or meaning changed, both are for our convenience.