Final Rationale for Nate, Randy & Kate

Social Media

 

From the start, social networks have been focused on friendships and maintaining offline relationships.  As social networking sites have continued to become more developed, that focus has not changed.  But have the nature of those relationships changed as a result?

 

According to an article on ScienceDaily.com, “a large number of friends on Facebook may appear impressive but, according to a new report, the more social circles a person is linked to online the more likely social media will be a source of stress.”  Are these social media websites helping friendships by making them easier to keep and maintain, or adding stress to our already stressful lives?  As Malcolm Parks puts it, “perhaps the fault lies not in our sites but in ourselves” and our “unrealistic expectations for the level of social connection.”  Do social media sites actually help form and maintain relationships, or is that just something that we tell ourselves in order to justify the massive amount of time we waste on sites like Facebook on a daily basis?  These are the questions we hoped to address and demonstrate in our project.

 

The goal of the project was to present different aspects that social media websites, in particular Facebook, have changed in our interpersonal relationships.  In order to present a compelling argument that social media sites really do change relationships, it became clear that creating and combining both a video and an interactive example would be the most efficient method in getting the message across.  This project was intended for anyone who uses social media websites such as Facebook, especially people who value their online relationships as much as they value their offline personal relationships.

 

The video presented both facts and the two sides of Facebook interactions, the first showing the interaction on Facebook and the second showing what that would look like in real life.  The facts consisted of things such as “according to one study, 56% of Americans think it’s irresponsible to friend your boss on Facebook.”  The video portrayals showed the thought process and actions people have while on Facebook and then followed that with a more humorous but thought-provoking examples of what that would look like in real life.  For example, Facebook has made it extremely easy for one to say “Happy Birthday” to someone; you don’t even have to visit their Facebook page to do it.  This leads to many people writing a “Happy Birthday” to people they hardly know, so in the video we presented the thought-process of writing it on Facebook and then how awkward that would be to do in person.

 

The second part of the presentation had everyone in the class “like” a Facebook page in the class.  Danah Boyd argues that the reason for friending people on social networks has more to do with the political and social implications of being their “friend” and less to do with an actual close and, well, “friendly” relationship.  Boyd and Nicole Ellison go on to argue that “these relationships may be weak ties, but there is some common offline element among individuals.”  That common offline element could be that they took the same Informatics class last semester or that they’re family – and that range is indicative of how the title “friend” has been compromised by social networks.  The goal of this was to show how easy it was for everyone to go onto Facebook and “like” a page based on having us just ask them to.  By “liking” the page you are expressing to everyone in the class how easy it is to “like” something without even knowing what you actually like.

 

Creating a video instead of making any other projects gave us room to present the information in both a funny and informative way.  It was crucial to show people how ridiculous some of the actions, such as “poking” someone, can be in person, yet people do this type of thing on Facebook all of the time. Since the visual aspect was so important to our project, video was the clear choice.  We wanted to vary some of the shots, and tried to include some “tracking” shots.  The scene depicting the home invasion was also a great opportunity to play with sound as the screen was black, yet we were still hearing people talking, walking and breaking in.

 

If given an opportunity to do this project again, we probably would have had everyone like the Facebook page the day before.  On top of that, we would have included more facts with the video, and perhaps added more but shorter clips to the video itself in order to give a better understanding of how social media websites are ruining relationships.  Creating a video that was meant to be seen instead of read was actually easier to do in a case like this.  The video gave the audience a feel for daily interactions on Facebook, like telling someone “Happy Birthday” and then showing that in a real face-to-face situation.

 

Visual Rationale

So for my visual project, I wanted to make something that examined how America’s portrayals of “want” has changed over time.  Originally I wanted to achieve this by putting together a series of ads, starting with ads from the late 19th-century and ending with contemporary ads.  However, upon realizing that that approach would be too general, I focused on automotive ads over time.  I wanted to show the progression from text heavy ads to simple, single image ads.  My intention was to show how American’s attitudes towards wanting cars had changed from wanting something that appealed to their logic and basic need to get from Point A to Point B safely, to wanting something that made them feel like they were having fun and that they were cool.

I felt that a Power Point would get the idea across best because it is simple.  I had played around with Prezi for a while and felt that, while it was fun, it was too over the top – too tied into an experience (much like the more modern presentation of cars in ads).  I wanted the presentation to illustrate how far removed our idea of want had become from our need, and I felt that the presentation itself should be simple to further the idea that we should focus more on what we need than what seems fun and cool.

I also decided that it would be easier to see the change in how want is portrayed if, after it reaches the most modern ad, it starts to devolve back into the first ad from the early 1900s.  While this was an idea I had thought about playing with from the outset, I literally changed the presentation 15 minutes before class because, as I was reviewing it, I thought it would really add some extra oomph (and, judging by reactions in class, it seemed to work!).  But then, upon review, I thought that simple back and forth was a little…simple.  So I got the idea to include years on the way “up” but exclude them on the way back “down.”  I was hoping that this would provide additional context for the ads, making the progression away from logic seem more logical (I was hoping people would be like, “Oh, that’s from the 1910s, no wonder there’s so much text.  Oh!  That’s from the 1940s, no wonder there’s still a lot of text.).  The reason for no years on the way back, though, was to take them from 2010’s Mustang ad that told them almost nothing about the actual car, and have them want to know more – and then give them ads with more and more information about the car.  Excluding the years, I had hoped, would make it less about “Oh, that’s just from the 40s” and more about, “Wow, that tells me a lot relevant information more about the car.”

Since this was just visual, I think that allowed me to really focus on the progression.  Had there been sound, I don’t believe it would have worked as well as I don’t think one piece of music for the entire piece would have sounded good, and short, period pieces for each slide would have really broken the narrative up.  I have listened to this one speech, though, that Leo Burnett delivered in the 40s, I believe, and that might have provided an interesting soundscape – but again, it would have taken the focus off of the portrayals of want.

Seeing as I already did make some last minute changes to it, I’m not sure that there’s much else I would change about it now.  I ended up including almost every “feature” I had been considering by the time I presented, and people seemed  to get the idea pretty quickly in class.  One thing that might be interesting to add, though, would be the ads in context.  I believe the ads I included were all originally from magazines, and it might have been a cool touch to create a fake magazine layout around it (the ad would still be the center piece, and the text would be blurred).  On the one hand, that might further what the dates were trying to achiever, and on the other, it may have seemed a presentation more about “my, have the times changed.”

All in all, though, I think it was pretty successful and I’m glad that it seemed pretty clear to the class.

Graffiti Rationale

What I wanted to achieve with this piece was to convey a few things, the first being that sometimes the people we depend on the most are just people – and nothing “super” and, therefore, not above common distractions (like texting, etc.).  This was born out of an article I read about a guy who called 911 because his dad was having a heart attack, and the paramedics got there an hour and a half later, and came from a totally different city.  To me, that was a really good example of people counting on others who are supposed to be able to perform under pressure, and be better than everyone else in that respect, yet who had failed.  But then I was thinking about it further after I made the piece, and realized that it could also convey the idea that we hold these first responders up to a standard that is often times inhuman – we expect more from them than they can possibly give.  And while that certainly wasn’t the case in the heart attack example, it does happen, so I wanted to embrace that ambiguity in the message.

In embracing that ambiguity, I decided it would be best to place the graffiti in two different places.  The boarded up fire station was the represent the initial idea that these first responders are absentee “super heros”.  In placing it on the Chicago Police Station, I wanted to convey the message that the men and women of the CPD are just men and women, not super heroes, and that they aren’t able to assume the role of the be all/end all solution to everyone’s problems.

I felt that Superman was the quintessential super hero – above all else (especially seeing as he wasn’t in that role because of money (Batman) or an accident (Spiderman)) – and tried to depict him with five o’clock shadow, smoking a cigarette and checking his iPhone.  However, that proved amazingly difficult, and a few transparencies later I decided that I could convey that same message by just incorporating his logo and the message “BRB” in a text bubble.  I also felt (after the fact) that the logo alone better symbolized his absence than him depicted as a “normal” person.

I feel that, had I tried harder/succeeded with my initial idea, it would have really distracted from the intended message.  With so much else going on in my initial outline, I think that the audience may have viewed it as something simply funny, or they would have seen it as commenting on the prevalence of iPhones, Apple products, tech, etc. in our society.  I also think that the text “BRB” is much more powerful than what I had initially thought of when depicting the iPhone.  Even if people weren’t lost in all the other stuff going on, they could have thought he was using the internet, playing Angry Birds, etc.  But I feel that “BRB” really makes the audience stop and think because Superman is always there and always helping.

So, in short, I’m pretty happy that my initial idea for the depiction of my message failed because I think that it’s much clearer and effective in its current state.

Graffiti Analyses

photo (23)

 

So this is a stencil of a deer (I think, or some other wildlife), and it’s looking backwards at you, kinda angry (sorry it doesn’t have words, too!).  So what do I think this means, especially seeing as it’s on a dumpster?  I think it has to do with garbage production, and how we are damaging the environment by producing so much waste, further encroaching on the habitats of wildlife.  I think that, if that is the meaning, it is imperative that it was placed on this garbage bin and not anything else.  I think that, had it been on a sidewalk or sign or building, it would have lost its meaning and become more art-ish and less of a message for, about and critical of, society.  The combination of the place plus that art is really jarring, especially since the juxtaposition is so rich – wildlife vs our garbage.  All in all, I think they were successful at critiquing our waste production, if that was, indeed, their intention.  I can’t think of anything else that would make sense.

 

 

photo (24)

 

So this one seemed pretty clear: the person who graffiti’d wanted to have marijuana legalized, and invoked Bob Marley (and his associated lifestyle) to further his point.  Seeing as this is bathroom graffiti, I’m not sure that the place was a choice made out of boredom or something more pre-meditated.  It could also reference the “Smoking in the Boy’s Room” idea – bored in English, time for a Bob Marley break.  I’m not really sure of the effect – to me, it just seems kinda there.  Definitely not as meaningful as the previous image.  To be frank, I think the artist’s goals were just to mark up the wall, and show support for legalization of marijuana, and it wasn’t even that creative. 😦

 

 

Banksy Thoughts

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We find this interesting because it speaks to the art of Graffiti and how people view it as art, while others cover it up.  This lends itself to a discussion on the Freedom of Speech and the Pursuit of Happiness.  With “Follow Your Dreams” being cancelled, it shows how each day, people’s thoughts and aspirations, along with their individual expression, are suppressed.

dezeen_London-2012-street-art-by-Banksy_3

We think this is an interesting juxtaposition because it includes the Olympic Games, which is a collaborative international event, with a missile.  When it comes down to it, the Olympic Games are just another battlefield, however less lethal, that nations use to exert their dominance and ideals on others. It harkens back to the Cold War.  And, to an extent, demonstrates that there is always a struggle for dominance.