The New Media Parlour

City Farm Project Report – Week Eight

The City Farm video team is finally moving into the editing phase of production. I went to the farm with Sarah and Neicy over the weekend and we got lots of usable footage. We got Andy’s intro, some volunteers talking about the work they do, some exterior and landscape shots, and action shots of volunteers working. We each also posed as volunteers and said a few works about the importance of volunteering at City Farm to use as filler if the need arises during editing. Tonight in class we will log the footage and (depending on how long that takes) also begin editing. We will need to get a group member (we discussed Brad doing it with his made-for-radio voice) to record the voice-over parts as well. My only concern is having smooth editing sessions with so many people involved.

On the social media team we finalized our designs and fonts for the Facebook tabs . We considered using the burlap background that the signage team is using as well, but decided that we liked the clean look of the white background across all of our tabs. We are using the font Poplar for our headings, which the signage team is using as well and is the closest font we could find to the one used on the City Farm logo, and trusty Helvetica for the body text. I made the appropriate changes to the “Volunteer” tab design to match the others. The social media project, which I think is going the most smoothly, has not had a chance to meet as a whole in class yet. I’m really hoping our group can meet at some point to sit down and actually put the tabs up on the Facebook page and to discuss in more detail the guides that we will be giving to City Farm on social media tips and steps so they can maintain it after the project is over.  I believe two people have already volunteered to write up the guides, but think we should discuss together what to include.

This week is all about editing! My focus is to be involved in the editing process, although I understand the stress of too many people trying to edit at once. I may set up a time to come in during the week and work in Final Cut Pro myself to get a better understanding of it. I understand that in class only one person can be interacting with the program at a time.

City Farm Project Report – Week Seven

Last week’s class, though a little chaotic, was very productive. I was able to get an overview of Final Cut Pro and some beginner training on the video editing process. I’m hoping that tonight’s class will give me more training and maybe even some hands-on time with the software (but with so many people that need to learn it, I’m not holding my breath on getting  in the driver’s seat). I also liked being a part of the tagline brainstorming process. It was fun, a good exercise, and we got some good ideas out of it. I’m looking forward to seeing what Andy has to say about our top picks.

My biggest worry is that the schedule for the video production is breaking down. We have already done some editing, some shooting, and some storyboarding, and have a few versions of the script. But I don’t feel like we are producing it in a clear timeline. We are supposed to come to class tonight with storyboard ideas based on the script we have and initial footage taken. Except that I don’t know what footage has been shot and what needs to be done still. I have a very rough storyboard idea to bring to class, but I felt like I was being held back in my creative process because there we so many unknowns about what we already have and need and don’t want. I hope that in class tonight we can get a final storyboard together that includes the footage already shot, see where the holes are in the storyboard, so we know what needs to be shot at tomorrow’s meeting at the farm. I know we are going to work on some more video editing tonight, but I’m not sure what we are editing when we don’t have a final storyboard or all the footage yet.

The social media group actually seems to be moving the most smoothly. We have posters for tabs to add to our Facebook page, we are getting quite a bit of activity on our Twitter page, and we are working on “how-to” guides for the various outlets so City Farm can continue to utilize the online community that we are building for them. I did the Facebook tab for interested volunteers. Once we finalize the fonts that we will all be using in our tabs, we can add those to the page to complete that step. I posted two interesting articles on community gardens to the twitter page and hope to post more this week.

Overall, I am anxious to get to class tonight so we can sort through some communication issues from last week and work hard to nail down our video production schedule. I’m hoping the social media group can meet quickly at the beginning of class (since there was no time last week) to finalize our font and add the tabs to the Facebook page together.

City Farm Project report – Week Six

This week was very productive for the City Farm team. In class last week we were able to put together an initial storyboard and script for the video to show Andy. Brad showed the material to Andy and got some good feedback from him on additional points that need to be made in the video. Terry was able to work these points into the script. I, unfortunately, couldn’t make it to the farm again last weekend because of a pesky apartment move. But I look forward to seeing the initial footage they shot while onsite and pray that I don’t have an appointment to shampoo my cat next time the group is going to the farm so I can go also. So it’s good to see some production finally going on for the video. Hopefully tonight we can finalize the storyboard and script and shoot the footage we need this weekend. That way next week can be dedicated to editing. I would like to be able to sit it on, and help a little (don’t want to many cooks in the kitchen), with the editing process because that is one aspect of the class that I would like to learn more about, since I have no video production experience.

I moved from the signage team to the social media team because I think the social media aspect is one that will be good experience for my portfolio and what type of job I want to get. We are working hard to increase City Farm’s presence on Facebook and Twitter. We decided that initially, we should all have access to post on the Twitter page any relevant articles or organizations we should be following. There was some discussion about the varied tone of the tweets with 10 people posting, but we decided that if we want to get more follower, quantity of posts is slightly more important than quality. Nicole made a good point that only about 10% of your tweets will be seen my any one person and with 140 characters, it will be tough to notice a change in voice. I didn’t have as much time this week as I was hoping to look for good articles or events to post so my goal for this coming week is to contribute more to the content of the Facebook page and Twitter. I was excited to get some design experience in with the social media project as well. We decided on 4 additional tabs to add to the page (Volunteer, CSA, Green Box, and buyers). We each took a category and mocked up a page in Illustrator. I made a page for the information on volunteering at the farm. I hope that in class tonight we can all show our initial designs, get feedback, make changes if necessary, and have these posted in the next few days. I’m glad that I’m getting more experience in custom FB tabs, which will be a vital skill for future Facebook projects.

The one thing that seems to get a lot of interest when discussed, but hasn’t gotten off the ground is training on various software. I think this may need to be delegated to the professor, to put together workshops on CS, Final Cut, etc. We are all looking for the skills, but are all too busy with the projects to also try to put together and schedule workshops.   

Overall, I try to ignore the fact that we are halfway done with class without much solid deliverables for the client, but am very confident that we are all motivated to produce as many good, useful products for City Farm as possible and the next few weeks will be very productive for the team.

City Farm Project Report, Week Five

It’s taken a few weeks for the City Farm project to really take shape. The initial ideas that we had for City Farm (a series of videos, a volunteer communication management system, and a new invoicing system) were all meet with some hesitation from the board of directors and we discovered some approval hurdles that we couldn’t get over. I was a little discouraged after hearing that we didn’t have any concrete project that City Farm seemed interested in us producing. But we regrouped with Andy and discovered the areas of the farm that he had jurisdiction over and didn’t need the board’s approval for.  We brainstormed some good ideas in class last week for new ideas and projects that could help City Farm. The signage/beautification project will be a huge help to increase their presence in the neighborhood as well as help me gain experience in design and layout. We will give them a cohesive design across all their paper material and signs.

I was a little worried that the signage project wasn’t going to give me the chance to gain experience in any digital production. One of the parts of this project that I was looking forward to was the video production, which is one area that I don’t have any experience in.  I think we were all looking forward to doing some video production for City Farm so I’m glad that we pushed the video idea a little more with them; making sure they knew that we were being respectful of the video work that was already being done by a donor, and making the video more useful to Andy on the farm instead of for promotion for the organization as a whole (which would fall under the board’s jurisdiction and would be hard to get the “ok” on). I liked that we found a way to resurrect the video project, coming at it from a new angle and making the technology work for the client. I never would have thought initially that we could use a video as an educational resource for volunteers that were already at the farm, only as a way to attract new volunteers. But after listening to Andy’s needs and what he had control over, we came to a solution that works for everyone.

The volunteer management system and invoicing systems are on hold temporarily, mostly because the board is being vague about what they have, what they are working on, and how we can help. We discussed last week that perhaps they aren’t sure of what our expertise or abilities are. So we came up with a concrete list of projects that we could do for them. One that may go over well is a website consultation. There would be no commitment on their end for us to execute the new site, but will give us a chance to do some web design, usability analysis and testing, and layout suggestions. Hopefully they will be open to listening to our suggestions at the very least. Sometimes you have to show the client what you are capable of in order to show them how you can help.

My goal for next week is to work hard to get a storyboard and script together for the “how you can help” video. I have some initial mock ups that I did, but didn’t show them to the group last week because I thought the video idea was dead. I think the shooting and production of the videos will be time consuming and we need to make it a priority to start working on that as soon as possible. Since I was not able to go on the field trip to the farm last Friday, I would like to get a better feel for what the space is like, where people think signage could go, and an inventory list of all the material that we will be designing. I am going to look into printing companies in Chicago to see the cost of production so we know if this something that is within City Farm’s budget, or if our class can get a small grant from DePaul to help them with the costs. I was going to look into cost before class today, but didn’t have a very good idea of what sizes, quantity, or material we were looking at.

Overall, I am much more confident about our City Farm project this week. I think our team has done a good job of not abandoning the client and find new and creative ways to use our skills to help them.

Kress Visual Representation

My original visual for kress was this word cloud that transforms into Kress’ favorite term “meaning-making” which shows his goal of creating a cohesive language for multimodality.

After Michael told us we can’t use words in our representation, I put together this very rough visual that shows how differently cats are portrayed in different cultural environments.

“Multimodality” by Gunther Kress, Part 1

I have mixed feelings about reading scholarly work. Sometimes I’ll come across a sentence or explanation that breaks down exactly how I think something should be laid out, I want to read it out loud to whomever will listen (usually my cat) and tell them “THIS is what new media truly stands for!” Other times I think it’s a little excessive to take five pages to explain why a 6 year-old drawing of circles signifies a car.

With that preface, there were quite a few parts to Kress’ analysis of multimodality that resonated with me, even if he was a bit repetitive in his arguments. He begins by laying out the nature of contemporary communication culture. Kress notes that there are quite a few areas of contemporary communication that need to move beyond past definitions, including authorship and page design.

He explains how the idea of authorship is changing as content is shared online more easily. The structure, he explains, is more horizontal, open, participatory. I love the idea of authorship being more open to anyone who wishes to participate; that huge media and publishing conglomerates don’t control what ends up in front of readers. Yet there is still a stigma around open source authorship and shared information. “In all domains of communication these rearrangements in power can be conceptualized as a shift…Authorship in particular is in urgent need of theorizing. The debate here is marked by a profound incomprehension and hence hostility, which is evident in terms such as ‘plagiarism’ and ‘cutting & pasting.’”(p. 21)

Kress makes a great observation on how different generations are used to reading a page of content. Older readers are used to text on a page, columns, and a path to follow. Younger generations, who are used to the buffet of content found on websites, will seek out the information they are interested in and ignore what they don’t care about. “Unlike traditional page, designed with a given order/arrangement for the reader’s engagement, this site – a homepage, which has visitors rather than readers – is given an ordering by the reader’s interests through their ordering-as-design. The readers’ interests determine how they engage with this page.” (p. 38)

The real meat of what Kress discusses in this first half of the book is that any communicational understanding needs to be framed within the culture that is being understood. And with that, the person attempting to understand and make conclusions on the semiotic platform of a culture must only theorize to the extent that they understand. He digs deeper into this idea with his thorough explanation of the process of communication between a person and their audience. There are two sides to communication, the rhetor and the interpreter. “The social is present twice in this framework: through the interest of the rhetor, who acts with a strong sense of the social characteristics of the audience and their relations to the rhetor; and through the social location and interest of interpreters…Each brings their cultural/semiotic resources and values.” (p. 45) Communication is this complex dance between two people, each has to consider the contextual culture that the other is entrenched in order to get most full meaning from the message.

Over and over again Kress emphasizes that communications and semiotics cannot be analyzed or understood without acknowledging the cultural principles that are at play. He brings this idea home in chapter 4, when he ties this theory into semiotics to create the title theory of “social-semiotic theory of multimodality”. “In a social-semiotic account of meanings, individuals, with their social histories, socially shaped, located in social environments, using socially made, culturally available resources, are agentive and generative in sign-making and communication…Signs are always newly made in social interaction.” (p. 54) In order for people to interact and understand each other’s messages, there must be some understanding of the other’s culture, history, and social environment.

An inspired moment for me, as a designer still trying to find her place, was in the first chapter, when he explains his definition of design. Design illustrates “a move away from anchoring communication in convention as social regulation. Design focuses on an individual’s realization of their interest in their world.” (p. 6) Although there are principles that we study in design classes, design is not something you can teach. Truly good design comes when you back burner the general principles that you’ve learned and work with what your personal principles are, how you think design should be framed.

“This is Fullerton” Video Editing Project

The most difficult part of this project has become how to post it. Because I use WordPress, which requires you to purchase an upgrade in order to upload video to your site, I decided to create a youtube account and use the embedding function to embed the video from Youtube to my WordPress blog. But youtube removed the audio from my file because it infringed on the copyright of the song. If I had more time, I would have fought the charge under fair use (for educational purposes). As a rough solution, I used my existing Blogger account to upload the video and linked to that post on my WordPress post.

“This is Fullerton” Video Editing Project

I enjoyed playing with the sequence of events in the video clips. I noticed that there were quite a few clips of Shaun opening and closing doors so I used that as a starting point to piece together a journey of him opening doors into different scenes and closing doors into others. I liked the audio snippet from one of the videos that recorded the CTA announcer saying “This is Fullerton”. I made it the first audio piece the viewer heard, not starting the song until after that. I had to watch the timing of the video to the second to know when I needed to start the song so that there was no overlapping or too much silence. I also wanted to cut out some of the beginning and end of the song to fit the video so I had to keep track of the length of video. I wanted to end the video with the shot of McGraw Hall and the CTA announcer saying “This is Fullerton” in the background. Neither Audacity not Windows Movie Maker has the capability (not that I could find anyways) to copy the audio from within a video to paste into another clip. I googled the function and came up with “audio extractor”. There are free software programs you can download online to do this. I didn’t have time to do this for this video but am glad I now know that that function is available.

“The Design of Everyday Things” Donald Norman

Norman, D, Design of Everyday Things, 2002, Preface and Ch 1

mp-technologyNorman focuses his writing on designs that have failed the user. His motivating factor for exploring how people use objects is the common misconception that if a user cannot correctly use an object, it is the fault of the user instead of the design. “Most accidents are attributed to human error, but in almost all cases the human error was the direct result of poor design.” Where Feenberg explored the philosophy of design, Norman researches the psychology of function. Both men looked at how users interact with a technology, but Feenberg focused on how users manipulate technology for their benefit while Norman looks at how users are misinterpreting the intended use of technology.

One of the most useful parts of the reading was the vocabulary and outlined principles that Norman give us as designers to use when discussing and analyzing user-centric design. In the introduction he highlights three important topics that are discussed in the book:

1. It’s not your fault – Objects should be designed for easy use by a person. A user should not have to change their mind-frame in order to use a object.

2. Design principles – Norman gives some important principles to follow when designing a product for users:

  • Conceptual model – “You form a conceptual model of the device and mentally simulate its operations. You can do the simulation because the arts are visible and the implications clear.” If we have a clear visual of the basic physics of an object we can quickly work through what different actions will do to the object. When you can see the hinges of a door, you know that you must push/pull the door on the side that is not bolted to the frame.
  • Feedback – “Without feedback, one is always wondering whether anything has happened.” This principle is very important for design of websites, because you are limited to the digital display of the monitor to help people navigate and function within your site. I know I am not the only person who is guilty of clicking a button 3, 4, 5 times when it does not respond instantly. The message that sometimes appears during online transactions “Do not click the back button during this process” would be unnecessary if the site gave a simple indication that your information has been sent/received/processed.
  • Constraints – “The surest way to make something easy to use, with few errors, is to make it impossible to do otherwise – to constrain the choices.” I never considered that warnings were a fail on the part of the design to even give people the option of working an object incorrectly.
  • Affordances – “A good designer makes sure that appropriate actions are perceptible and inappropriate ones invisible.”  I think affordances go hand in hand with constraints. When the affordance of an object is clear, there must be considerable constraints in place in order to prevent the user from straying from the primary role of the object.

3. The power of observation – This book is full of examples of good and bad design. The combination of relatable examples and simple principles to follow makes it easy to shift your perception of design all around you.

There were other keywords and principles that were addressed in the first chapter, such as:

Visibility – Norman stresses at the beginning of the book that this is the most important principle of design; “the correct parts must be visible, and they must convey the correct message.” This is the easiest way to help people create that mental model of the object and its proper function. If you lay out all the potential options for use that an object has, there is no question about what can and cannot be done with it. If there are some functions that are hidden, the user may never realize the object’s full potential unless they read the user manual.

Mapping – “The relationship between two things.” Mapping may be laid out in instructions with pictures or manuals, but the most useful mapping systems that we as humans can understand and process are ones that utilize connections that we already understand from previous experiences. “Natural mapping, by which I mean taking advantage of physical analogies and cultural standards, leads to immediate understanding.”

This reading has helped me look more critically at objects that seem second nature, an unassuming part of my life. But I have also noticed that I don’t criticize design in objects enough because I have become so used to adapting myself to optimize the design of a product, instead of the other way around.

“An Interview with Andrew Feenberg” Mark Zachry

Zachry, Mark. An Interview with Andrew Feenberg. Technical Communication Quarterly 2007

This interview with Feenberg touches on quite a few areas of his research and gives some very interesting theories on the design of technology. Feenberg’s main focus is on human agency and its effects on technology. He believes that the true development of technology is done by users as they turn the given technology into something useful for them, regardless of whether that was the primary function of the technology at its inception. He calls this democratic rationalization, “Agency is exhibited in the unique hacks people develop to repurpose technologies to address their idiosyncratic needs, but also in the participatory design processes through which technologies can be developed with others. When agency is exercised to affect technologies in such a way that they counteract power structures that are undemocratic, Feenberg associates it with democratic rationalization.” In June, I was interested in following the use of Twitter by Iranians during the protests against the compromised presidential election. This was a prime example of democratic rationalization as the Iranian protesters used Twitter to publicize the events and protests when there was a press crackdown by the Iranian government that limited US media outlets from broadcasting updates. The protesters were able to spread the news to the rest of the world about the corruption of the government and lose of democratic freedom of the people that they were experiencing.

Feenberg encourages hacking technology and manipulating it to better serve your individual purpose. We hear constantly the importance of considering the user when designing technology. The spotlight shines on usability testing, from simple (as outlined by Steve Krug in Don’t Make Me Think) to complex. But Feenberg criticizes the design process that does not include usability testing until  after a prototype of a technology is created. He sees this more as “debugging” instead of user-participation in the design process. I agree and disagree with this point. I think that there needs to be a starting point for every design, and most design begins with an idea to improve something that already exists. Even if the designer initially only considers how he or she might use the product, that is the beginning considerations of user-centric design. And if there is one think I will always remember from Don’t Make Me Think, it is that you should test your site design early and often, therefore the user is constantly being considered, even if they are not sitting at the computer next to you.

He embraces the subculture of hacks and remixes, but uses the much-more technical term “creative appropriation”. Instead of believing that technology is not designed for the user, I think this quote gives a better sense of what he means when you have to consider how the user will use the given technology. “You can think of people as having many dimensions, and each technology represent as some of those dimensions. When people hack or redesign or reinvent technology, they are asking it to represent them better or represent more aspects of their lives.” He notes that most technology is initially created in the military or corporate industries, which some can argue are more out of touch with the everyday user of technology. I don’t think the fact is that the technology is wrong when it is first created, but it was created with a specific task in mind, a task that may not be important or may not even exist outside a military base. So hacks and redesigns help morph these technologies into something more useful for others. Vannevar Bush used the knowledge that he had about military technology that was in production for WWII and used that working knowledge to theorize on some of the uses that these technologies could have for the general public.

This was one of the most interesting readings for me that we have reviewed in this class so far. There were quite a few parts that resonated with me and also ideas that I have discussed in other classes as well. In Computers and Writing we discussed quite a bit about the difference between giving people access to technology and people truly understanding how the technology can improve their experiences. Feenberg mentions that he encountered that attitude that if we present people with the tools of technology they will just  know how to use it. “But finally as he was leaving I buttonholed him, and I said, you know, I understand you’re going to wire up all our campuses and classrooms. Has any thought been given to how we are going to teach on these systems? And he said, we’re putting in the equipment; it is up to you guys to figure out what to do with it.”

As a writer, I embraced his role for technical writers to become a liaison between users and designers, to understand the mechanics of a technology as well as how a user may interpret this. “And you have to cross that gap in your technical writing in order to give people access to the marvels of the device you are trying to document. It would be good if that could feed back to the designers so that they would modify the design in accordance with what they can learn from the technical writer about how users think and what they need. Technical writing could be made into more than a writing profession. It could become a point of translation between professional and lay mentalities, cultures.”

“Digital Footprints” Madden, Fox, Smith, and Vitak

Madden, Mary; Fox, Susanna; Smith, Aaron; & Vitak, Jessica. Digital Footprints, Report: Identity, Search, Social Networking Dec 16, 2007

The research on digital footprints by Madden, Fox, Smith, and Vitak gave an eye-opening profile of how the general population views their online identity. It is very easy as a student of new media to forget that not everyone is as embracing of new technology and even fewer understand how to utilize the technology effectively. The statistics in this article gave a much better picture of how most people, not just us early-adopters, understand and maintain (or don’t maintain) their online identity. Some surprising statistics for me were:

–       60% of Internet users say they are not worried about how much information is available about them online. This worries me because of the news reports that are regularly published about people that do not get hired for a job because of information available online about them.

–       61% do not feel compelled to limit the amount of information that can be found about them online. If people maintained their online identity, the benefits could outweigh the risk of having non-censored information available. For the most part, having some online identity is a positive tool for people (we’re not all sexual predators or binge drinkers) that may want a potential employer to see some of their interests and hobbies, a more well rounded image of them beyond a resume. But it may be a good idea to find ways to steer searchers towards to good links (your Linkedin account, your blog, photos of your dog) to avoid them getting to page 10 of the search results and finding that op-ed piece you wrote in college in favor of legalizing medical marijuana.).

–       Just 4% of all online adults say they have had bad experiences because embarrassing or inaccurate information was posted about them online. I think quite a bit of “warning” is given to people’s online identities. But this statistic shows that perhaps we are more worried about burying bad characteristics that may not even exist. The focus of managing a digital footprint should be to highlight your ideas, interests, activities, and views in a positive and professional way. We should not be afraid of what could be found but help searchers find positive and useful information about us.

The research did a good job of classifying the four general attitudes of internet-users towards their digital footprints:

1. Confident Creatives – They do not worry about the availability of their online data and actively upload content, but still take steps to limit their personal information


2. Concerned and Careful – fret about the personal information available and take steps to proactively limit their own online data.

3. Worried by the Wayside – They are anxious about how much information is available about them yet they do not actively limit their online information

4. Unfazed and Inactive – they neither worry about their personal information nor take steps to limit the amount of information that can be found about them online.

This article opened my eyes to how important it is to have a solid and confident digital footprint, especially when I will be trying to find a job in an industry that will most likely be googling me. I want potential employers to see how I utilize various mediums. It’s almost an extension of my resume and portfolio. I signed up for a Google Profile, since I have a fairly common name and there are domain names for other “Jennifer Waters” and “Jen Waters”. I wanted a place where I could give a quick rundown of myself and make it easy for searchers to find my blog, my linkin profile, my twitter account, and my Google Reader shared items.

When I was interviewing for my current internship, I google the person (who is now my supervisor) who interviewed me. I found his twitter account and his marketing blog (as well as his wedding pictures, which was weird…). I was able to talk about an article that he had posted on his blog during the interview. This not only showed my interest in the marketing trends he is interested in but also shows him how I stay connected with others online. He in turn made a comment on a post I had made on my blog. By the time I started my first day at the internship, my supervisor and I had already established some points of interest based on what we had learned about one another from googling each other. We also both admitted that we had googled the other, which shows the trend away from the “stalker” status of googling someone to a useful tool in understanding them better.

This article started to get me thinking about how I can improve my google-ability. One problem (which seemed like a precaution at the time) is that when I first started developing a digital footprint by starting my blog, I thought it was “unsafe” to use my real name (I put unsafe in quotes because I’m not sure what it was I was afraid of). So I used “MyJeneration”. It is somewhat unique and comes up in searches, which is good marketability for my blog, but not for me because my real name is not associated with the site in any way. But now that I want employers and interested parties to find my blog, I find it frustrating that my blog has better search results than my name. I’m hoping that using Google Profile will help this issue as well as perhaps investing in my own domain name as Shaun suggested to use as a storefront of sorts for my various outlets and projects.