Tutorial // FMP

Tutorial with Matt this morning.  I’ve reached and gone through my (possibly) final impasse and perhaps most important point.  I finally know what I’m doing/saying.

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So rather than have this great nebulous subject that people are forced to make a decision on, the whole premise would be awareness.  That is awareness of yourself, and of others, within the context of a wider subject.  The crux is about personal positioning, and how we find ourselves drawn to things or forced away from them, and what things we listen to or don’t listen to.  Why do we listen to some news and not others?  Why do we believe in certain politicians but believe the other ones to be liars?  Most importantly, this experience is different for different people and it all depends on so many different factors.  That’s why I’ve reached this point – I was trying to give people a topic or a subject and get them to choose.  Some graphic designed version of Sophie’s Choice.  But I’ve come to realise now that it’s not some binary choice made between black and white, yes or no.  There is a vast middle ground that’s not explored or questioned, which is where my project lies.

What if the goal was to create awareness?  Not of a given thing, but of themselves, and of others.  The whole idea at this point is to demonstrate our differences, how we are the same, and importantly demonstrate what things are important to different people.  This awareness of others comes back to how we position ourselves in a wider whole.  The ‘whole’ in this case is society, not a particular topic.

I can’t give people one thing to pick from, because it needs to come from themselves.  By making a choice, or way finding, they become aware of their needs/wants/desires/dislikes, in relation to different people.

I discussed with Matt the Degree Show itself.  People will be forced to make decisions on unfamiliar topics and unfamiliar things, and be encouraged to think laterally, liberally, and a bit left of centre than perhaps they would have previously.  Matt said “They should leave feeling as though their brains are a little bigger.”

So I saw this the other week which has spurred a lot of my decision.

Getting the attendee to make the graphics in your booth. "Great way to add some interactivity" -triadcreativegroup.com::

I’m not going to recreate this, of course, but something similar that explains the journeys of other people along with some visual aid, that also makes you aware of your position in relation to others.  It becomes this map of “What Made You” – but of course the finished product is the sum of what made a number of different individuals, and not just one person’s choices and feelings.

For my subject and topic area, this would be a little more divisive.  I think the ‘pins’ in my case would be a topic, and the string would be an emotion.  Perhaps if you followed someone’s journey through anger or fear, and what caused those feelings and what encouraged them to feel that way?

Basically, what would be the pins and what would be the string?

Of course by the time I come around to designing this myself I won’t be using this method, but I think the mechanism is there.  I want it to be some visual story of peoples’ journey, their way finding through the topics, and your position in relation to them.  Together, this provides a visual ‘map’ if you will of the way that people think, and the way that people found themselves thinking that way in particular.

I think one of the most important things I’ve always looked for in my practice is to encourage people to think about themselves.  Be excellent to each other is a perfect way of describing what I always want to achieve.  With the Pearson D&AD brief, or the Big Idea, or Real World back at the start of the year, I want people to think differently and for the betterment of themselves, and as a whole.  By creating an awareness of other peoples’ journeys and feelings gives the viewer the perfect opportunity to think of themselves as one of many, and to realise the importance of the journeys of others.  We are always told that we don’t exist in a bubble – nobody does.

If people leave my exhibition with perhaps a little bit more awareness of themselves, and that they are not the only person with a journey and a story, then I’ll have done what I set out to achieve.

Information Is Beautiful // FMP

I’ve been looking at how best to display information, and remember seeing the ‘Information Is Beautiful’ book a few years ago.  I think displaying factual information in an interesting way is something I’d like to do with this project as a way of communicating a wider meaning would be something to try.  Particularly with respect to media and newsworthy information, I think displaying peoples’ distrust of the media would be really impactful.

I need to put a survey together to ask some proper questions so that I can get some proper answers. Things like “Do you trust the media?”

It’s an incredibly loaded question with so, so many shades of grey, but we’re often expected by the media to make binary choices like this in every day life.  For example during the pre-Brexit pantomime, forcing people to arbitrarily pick to stay or to leave, when it was just never that simple.  The real meat of the things that go on around us are impacted by our personal bias, our socio-economic background, and various other factors.

By getting people to be more aware of their personal bias and its influence and impact on their decision making process would be something I’d be really interested in looking at.

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Fear Tactics // FMP

Oh boy isn’t everyone tired of hearing about Brexit and Trump but whatever, here I go.

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Donald Trump is a fool and Brexit is our most foolish endeavour.  There, I said it.  Two of the most polarising subjects in the Western World at the moment.  The thoughts of American citizens lie with Trump, and ours are on Brexit.  There’s too much fear and sensationalist news articles for anyone to be able to know anything.  The Brexit campaign was based on some untruths (said through gritted teeth at the very least), but it worked.  Why?  How did a campaign with so few relative facts and figures win?  A red bus emblazoned with dodgy stats about raking in millions more pounds for the NHS has since proved to be lies, and it’s all turning out a little bit shit.  If the people up the top with degrees in Economics, Political Science, or EU Law had no idea whether to pick Leave or Stay, how are the UK peasant folk (this includes myself) expected to react?  They will react in the way that people normally do when threatened, which is to lash out and shun the outsiders (here meaning refugees and immigrants), and they voted for a solution based on border control ergo fewer immigrants ergo safer jobs/housing/money/banks etc., but we just know that’s not how it works.

Let’s take a quote from Hermann Goring on how to whip up the populous into voting for and putting their faith in something quite sinister.

“The people don’t want war, but they can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.  This is easy.  All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, ad denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and for exposing the country to danger.  It works the same in every country.”

Are the similarities not achingly similar?  God damn it’s too much.

Besides, for me this is all about how your personal position on a topic can be influenced, even without you realising.  It’s about personal preference and personal choice.  By encouraging the viewer to perceive the world through different eyes is that not how we reach greater levels of understanding?  Reading an infinite number of articles on Facebook that may or may not be true, I would argue is making us blind to the real facts of the matter.  Fundamentally we are all human beings with similar needs, and ultimately our position in this life is determined largely before we’re born.  But what if the viewer was encouraged to view or understand themselves in a different way?  In a way that meant that they understood their position in relation to a given topic based on something more real rather than fear tactics or frightening statistics that nobody quite understands?

After speaking with Matt, he said:

What’s missing from your email is the ‘what’.
What are your viewers being asked to position themselves on? Where’s the bit where your viewer empathises, and as a result, becomes uncomfortable?
Are you:
a) Creating an experience that promotes reflection on the nature of positioning and influence in general terms – i.e. the information content is predominantly factual, and maybe deals with stuff like cognitive bias, subliminal messaging, body language etc.
Viewers are directed around your way-finding points with simple exercises that illustrate some of these principles.
b) Creating an experience where the viewer is directed to position themselves within a topic, and the way-finding is more about you curating that personal journey for them.
c) A mix of the two, where the general principles behind your idea form the touch points for the viewer to position themselves on a topic.
I think for me the whole thing is about how to bring those things together.  It’s about how the audience understands it and reacts to it, which will be entirely different based on the viewer themselves.  By navigating through some story or map, I would like the outcome of this to promote questioning, or as a way-finding exercise through some overarching ‘story’.

Something that means people realise at the end that they have in fact made a choice, whether they were aware of it or not.  I just need to find the ‘Something’. 

Choose Your Own Adventure // FMP

After another tutorial with Matt, I’ve surmised that life is one great ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book.  In essence, our lives are made up of the choices we make and the allegiances we take, but also the things we didn’t do or the choices we didn’t want to take.  Each one altering the outcome and the journey together – each choice altering the next choice, or the next hurdle, and so on and so forth.

The stories themselves are formatted so that, after a couple of pages of reading, the protagonist faces a number of options, each of which leads to more options, and then to one of many endings.  The number of endings is not set, and varies from as many as 44 in the early titles, to as few as 8 in later adventures. There is no clear pattern among the various titles regarding the number of pages per ending, the ratio of good to bad endings, or the reader’s progression backwards and forwards through the pages of the book. This allows for a realistic sense of unpredictability, and leads to the possibility of repeat readings, which is one of the distinguishing features of the books.

The idea that our choices effect outcomes is something I really want to convey in this project, as with a lot of what goes on around us it can be more subliminal than people are aware of.  It’s that old analogy of “blink and you’ll miss it” with regards to a life well lived for example, but that’s no good to me if I want to create an awareness in people that they needn’t shuffle around with their eyes closed.  It’s also whether this is done purposefully or not.  That’s not to say that nobody has any idea of anything, but I would feel confident in suggesting that a lot of things tend to go unnoticed or ignored until it’s rather too late.  Communicating the aspect of choice in this whole scenario is really important to the project, but I need to pick something that encourages the viewers to make that choice.

With the current political climate (i.e. Brexit, Trump, & Terrorism), it’s easy to pick a polarising subject and get people to fight about which one is the best.  That’s easy.  Getting people to understand their viewpoints, that their opinions are more nuanced than a binary yes or no.  Stay or Leave in Brexit’s case.  That’s harder.  The way in which the mass media works is that it often capitalises on fear, or populist subjects that usually cause passionate responses.  Post a factual article with no buzzwords and people might take notice.  Post some sensationalistic and scandalous tale about terrorism, or plotting some MP against her UKIP rival because they were arguing about the EU and all of a sudden people are baying for blood and it’s far, far more interesting.  Then they can report on that instead, call out someone for being too Right or too Left, and the cycle goes around and around and around.

How do you get people to pause?  How do you get people to notice?  Perhaps most importantly, how do you get people to understand the affect that this has on them?  It’s cause and effect, but at the moment I can’t figure out in which direction it goes in.

Does the mass media reflect society, or are we a reflection of it?  Is it a commentary on us and our lives, or is it a command?

Propaganda is to democracy what violence is to a dictatorship.” – Noam Chomsky.

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42 possible endings – limitless fun!

Post-Truth // FMP

I have since found myself at this TV advertisement from 1964, part of Lyndon Johnson’s campaign for President of the United States.

It’s been widely described as one of the most controversial and effective political adverts in US history, and it’s easy to see why.  There is zero fact, it runs on emotional triggers and fear.

2017 Trump campaign anyone?

Fake News vs Real News // FMP

It’s quite hard to tell.  I’ll be honest.  Some of them are so, so bad that it’s almost unbelievable that they are true.  Some of them however, are fake – this is damaging, and back to one of my initial thoughts during this project that fake news and mass media communications are actually altering our collective consciousness, and the way in which we perceive the world is changing.

Here are some fake sounding REAL news stories.

  • ‘Black Hitler’ to stand for election for far-right party in Finland
  • Loose Women dropped on International Women’s Day
  • Pizza Hut has invented shoes that order pizza for you
  • Russia Bans Children From Watching ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Because of Gay Scene
  • Police: Man says he stabbed mother to death because she is vampire, he is werewolf
  • Barbara Streisand: Donald Trump is making me fat
  • Russian MP offers solution to hooligan violence: make it a spectator sport
  • Nuclear submarine plans found in Welsh charity shop
  • ‘I’m Spider-Man’ yells man jumping out window after being dumped by girlfriend
  • Sex wearable is coming to track your performance and judge you
  • Police say they were ‘authorized by McDonald’s’ to arrest protesters, suit claims
  • 67-year-old man dies from heart attack after catching prized Pokemon ‘Lapras’
  • Woman mistakes town meeting for Donald Trump rally and smears 30 cars with smooth peanut butter in protest
  • Chimp Who Smokes a Pack a Day ‘Doesn’t Inhale’ Pyongyang Zoo Officials Say
  • Fight on UK train after people kept placing bagels on travellers’ heads
  • Man Arrested After Stabbing Himself To Get A Day Off Work

Please find more of these on a sub Reddit page called ‘Sadly This Is Not The Onion‘.

And now though for some actual FAKE news, but are they really that different?

  • Woman arrested for defecating on boss’ desk after lottery win
  • Pope Francis Shocks World By Endorsing Trump for President
  • Rage Against The Machine to Reunite and Release Anti-Trump Album
  • Woman Murders College Roommate for Sending Too Many Candy Crush Requests
  • President Obama Confirms He Will Refuse To Leave Office If Trump Gets Elected
  • Man Shoots Off Own Penis After Taking Selfies With Gun
  • Pro-Lifers Declare: Ejaculation is Murder!  Every Sperm Is A Life
  • Saudi Arabia Panel of Scientists Admits Women Are Mammals But Not Yet Human
  • Woman Infects 586 Men With HIV and Plans To Infect 2000 More Before 2017
  • Morgue Worker Arrested After Giving Birth To Dead Man’s Baby
  • Trump Claims America Should Never Have Given Canada Its Independence
  • Woman puts poison on her vagina to kill husband when performing oral sex on her
  • Donald Trump Announces He Will Make Singing The National Anthem At Start of Work Compulsory For All Government Employees
  • Alt-Right Leader Wins Right to Donate Blood On Condition It Isn’t Given To Black People
  • Mohammed Ali’s Home To Be Turned Into Brothel By Developers

All legitimate things seen online, some of which received the most traffic through Facebook in all of 2016.  The list was compiled by Buzzfeed based on interactions with Fake News stories in 2016, some of which receiving upwards of 1.5 million interactions.

It would be quite hard to argue against the idea that this is altering our collective understanding.  How then do we sift through this?  How do we resolve this and how do we position ourselves in relation to it?  I think that’s the most important aspect of my project.  Not necessarily to make people aware of the mass media, because most people already are.  Its purpose is not to tell people what they already know.  I think the biggest thing I’d like to achieve is give people a greater sense of themselves in relation to what goes on around us all the time.  Our abilities to self-regulate are arguably quite compromised from being surrounded by so much uncertainty.  The prevalence of ‘fake news’ ensures that people don’t know what to believe, whether it’s true or not, from a reputable source or not.  It feels like we’ve got more information than ever before on such a multitude of topics, but we’re managing to be more uninformed than ever.

It could even be argued that this is some new form of propaganda.  By flooding the information sphere with fake news and sensationalistic articles, people are unsure of what to follow, or which things to believe.  This creates fear and resentment, and the lack of knowing breeds bias and discomfort.  Our lack of ability to judge what’s real or fake is quickly turning from news articles to a general distrust of the world around us, and of the other people on it.

Hierarchy of Influences // FMP

In mass communication, the Hierarchy of Influences, formally known as the Hierarchical Influences Model, is an organized theoretical framework introduced by Pamela Shoemaker & Stephen D. Reese. This framework was introduced in their book Mediating the Message: Theories of Influences on Mass Media Content.

Social systems

The macro social systems level is the outer-most ring of the model that represent the influences from social systems as a whole. This level focus on how ideological forces shape and influence media content. For this reason, it is often employed in cross-national comparative media studies.

Social institutions

Social institutional level describes influences coming from larger trans-organizational media field. How media organizations combine into larger institutions that become part of larger structured relationships that compete or depend on each other as powerful social institutions.

Media organizations

Media organization level is distinguished from routines as this level describes larger organizational and occupational context such as organizational policy, occupational roles, and how the media enterprise itself is structured.

Routine practices

The routines level has three sources of routines, which constrain and enable communicators in their work process: audiences, organizations, and suppliers of content. Journalists have developed routines from endless pattern of norms in response to common situations. This level is where Mr. Gates or gate-keeping (communication) theory is also applied in journalists’ jobs.

Individuals

The micro individual level is located at the centre of the model. On this level, individual communicator’s characteristics, on both personal and professional, influence media content. Individual’s innate characteristics such as gender, race, religious and political background influence media content indirectly through shaping personal attitude and values (e.g. ethical values) as well as professional roles and education.

This theoretical way of organising the way in which mass communications are structured is interesting in that it shows us the position of different aspects of the media.  What we define as fact, opinion, or news, are on the outer rings of the framework, with an individual’s characteristics (gender, race, political background) form the central sphere.  This suggests that we can and are influenced strongly by outside communication, but ultimately our personal attitudes and values shape the outcome.  The outcome here meaning our opinions, or our political leanings, which sides we pick, and right down to our bias based on the influence of mass communication and media.

I thought it would be interesting to compare this to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which categorises the things we need as human beings.

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We’ve come to rely on the media for information or reassurance on most of the levels of Maslow’s pyramid.  The physiological basics are taken care of by information on healthy diets, widespread understanding of social healthcare, and how to take care of ourselves.  Moving up, the issue of shelter is dealt with by media bulletins whether that be on the weather of the day, or more serious issues like avoiding city centres due to terror alerts.  Belonging gets taken care of by social networks, a wealth of online communication and constant gratification through ‘likes’ and online groups.  Esteem could come again by way of online friends and social circles which deliver praise.

The upper most tier of the pyramid is the difficult one, because you could argue that the very one-dimensional bonds we form with others online do not substitute proper interaction and human behaviours.  Of course ultimately it comes down to the will of the individual on whether or not to rely on modern communication or media services.  Our personal preferences and upbringings shape the final tier of both systems – the top of Maslow’s pyramid of needs, or the system introduced by Shoemaker & Reese.

In terms of my project I think there could be a simple way of displaying the two scales in relation to each other, perhaps hinting that our needs have altered in some way.  Have our abilities to judge for ourselves been compromised?

Is the media framework at odds with the framework for essential human needs?