Monday, December 15, 2014

The final A-ha! It's all about how you see things...

flickr image courtesy of Alan Levine
     So this is my last Visual Literacy post.  And, I have to admit that it is very bittersweet to be writing this one.  I have learned much about the concept during this semester, but specifically, I have learned that it is not just about using your eyes and simply looking at the world.  I've learned that we are attracted to specific font styles more than others, and that the creators of advertisements know that fact.  I have learned that Apple designs crappy products because they are visually appealing and give the illusion of being easy and comfortable to interact with while looking cutting-edge at the same time.  About the only thing I really knew in regards to the subject of the class, was the fact that the media and our capitalist society objectifies women in a really bad way in movies and advertising.
image taken by me, no attribution necessary
   We addressed a lot of issues that I never would have felt to be a part of Visual Literacy, yet they permeate the whole notion.  For example, who would have thought that there were so many moral and ethical considerations to make when presenting or looking at photos.  As a teacher, this fact should be very important to me, because my students will be impacted by everything I show them in class, and I have to be careful to pair the right information with the right visuals.  Also, though this class is not a photography class, I will have to say that my ability to take pictures has improved.  As you can see above, I was able to frame my subject in an image that, purely by accident, demonstrates how we perceive depth by showing bookshelves extending back toward the rear wall.
     What I would ultimately like to say, is that I have learned a lot from this class...even if there was a lot of work.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Revenge of the Aha! #4 - Final moments!

flickr photo courtesy of pavel ahmed

November 3rd

     Today we examined the concept of morality in visual literacy.  To be honest, I hadn't thought of it much prior to the presentation, but now that I think about it, perhaps there should be a space for considering morality when interpreting visuals.  I understand that it is important to avoid general morally egregious visuals in society, but what about those things that skirt the boundaries.  Specifically, I would say that the objectification of women in media is a concept that certainly seems immoral or at least unethical in a lot of scenarios, but it happens constantly.  So, I'll leave you with a question after this little section: how do we determine if something is simply in poor taste, but does not violate morality or ethical presentation?

November 10th

     The TED talk today really spoke to me.  If you missed it, check it out here.  Quite often, we see the world through just one lens and we attribute single stories to people based on how we perceive them based on race, culture, ethnicity, or some other visual characteristic.  I think this TED talk speaks to the fact that we have to try to combat that aspect.  In fact, I made a separate PowToon cartoon regarding this topic and how it applies to something I observed while in my teaching field experiences.  I hope you enjoy it, and that it makes you think!

November 17th

     I had a blast when we presented our save the world project today.  I fell like all the groups did an amazing job, and I was amazed at just how much visual literacy actually ended up applying to the projects.  For example, my group had to project an image of being official - so we had to dress up.  Also, we created a darkened room to make the environment seem a little more ominous and used serious facial expressions.  I created documents that hopefully added to the authenticity of the whole thing.  Aside from that, it was amazing to see how much the other presenters took the idea of saving the world in different directions.  I think ours was the darkest!  Also, we have selected our topic for our final project.  Ours is "gluttony"  right away I'm getting pictures in my mind of food, Thanksgiving, pigs, and overall disgusting behavior.

December 1st

     Today's TED talk was about the competition between Prego and Ragu for spaghetti sauce dominance!  Sometimes we forget to think about the fact that maybe we are forcing limited decisions on people, when in reality, people crave a range of options - ones that maybe they don't even know they wanted!  This applies to visual literacy in the sense that we should perhaps provide a range of visual options when portraying how we promote our products and ourselves in society.  There is no one white person, black person, etc., etc.  Instead, we are a living embodiment of that fact that humans aren't just a group, but are individuals as well.  We all have different tastes and preferences, and we cannot keep each other down with just one label or another.  We are complex creatures that crave complexity!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Wag the Dog...or an Idiot's Guide to Political Theater

      Hi everyone!  You know, I actually liked re-watching Wag the Dog...and to be honest, I think I saw it in the theater in the that gives you an idea of how old I am!  I also feel like this movie has a parallel to a lot of aspects in American history, but I will get back to that in a second.
     I think the director was trying to relay a message that maybe politics and media should not be allowed mix, because in our era, the effects can be diabolical.  Also, it seems the director is making a commentary on the fact that politicians will go to extraordinary measures to cover up scandals.  In fact, no one in the story even seems to take the concept of the moral compass into consideration.  
     The film makes all politicians look like opportunistic scumbags who will will take every possible chance to exploit a situation.  Also, the film makes film directors seem like people capable of performing miracles, but then wanting their due credit even at risk of peril.  So, while the film does not necessarily tackle the concept of race, it does look at professions and certain aspects of society.  
     The movie provided strong visual examples of the amount of work that goes into media production, even when it is behind the scenes.  The best example, to me, was the fake funeral for "old shoe."  It was given the television impression of being real, but was a complete facade.  It also reminded me of how in the 1990s, people would fly places and make actual phone calls.  I liked visually seeing actual cell phones!  Also, it felt like a period piece - in that the clothing and haircuts reminded me of an entire decade.  
     I feel like the director used a lot of thematically staged scenes to build plot points.  We see people flying in the plane and everything looking very executive, and at the same time, their actions reflect that on screen - so it feels like the set is sometimes driving the acting.  The direct also uses extremely dark humor to emphasis aspects of the movie.  For example, Robert De Niro's character sort of jokes with Dustin Hoffman's character that talking about the whole process of the deception will result in his death.  In the end, that is exactly what happens, even though he simply talks about trying to take credit, and doesn't have the chance to go through with it. 
     Personally, I feel like this movie is a good analogy to a lot of the political theater in the United States.  Candidates are always trying to get dirt on one another, and they are always trying to cover up their own.  Often times, it feels like there is a distraction that somehow is meant to take attention away from the issue at hand.  While I'm not trying to be a conspiracy theorists, I can see how people can believe in things like "false flag" operations.  I will leave you to come up with your own parallels, but it is not that hard to see how this movie might related somewhat to the events of the last decade or so.  I highly recommend this movie, as it is quite relevant today, and is entertaining even without that aspect.

Objectified...Helvetica for everything else!

     Greetings boys and girls, welcome to another installment of the movie cynic.  I type that because I watched the movie Objectified expected to see something new and eye-opening, but what I got was the design version of Helvetica.  Sit tight, for an action-packed thrill ride of a review.
     I feel like the director was trying to highlight how design in general as changed over the years, especially since the 1970s.  For example, the design mantra of the 1950s and prior revolved around the concept of "form follows function."  To un-package this, I mean to say that things were designed around their perceived usage.  However, there was later a revolution of sorts, and I can think of no better example than the iPod.  It is sleek, simple, has clean lines, and was specifically designed to be aesthetically pleasing.   For an example of this, I encourage you to go to the apple iPod website. The impracticality of it was rectified by the user adapting to the device, instead of the entire design being created with the user in mind.  
     I think the director's background highly influenced this film, because this is very similar to other movies in the series.  A seemingly abstract and minute feature was observed, and the director was able to elaborate on  and make interesting.  Clearing the director has a keen interest in concepts that fall within the realm of design and the impact it has on society in general.  
     The movie added to my visual literacy in the sense that I don't often think a lot about the design of the products that I use.  However, clearly design as a strong impact on consumers, as there are always long lines at Apple stores whenever a new product is launched.  I have always wondered QWERTY keyboard, but I know that I was able to adapt.  Although this is not an exact analog, I think it makes the point that we are willing to adapt to the things we buy.  
     The director mostly just treats the movie as what it is - a documentary.  There are interviews with designers, and some of them give different perspectives regarding their take on the art of design.  Not only are they designers in this respect, but they are also critics of the whole process.
     I don't necessarily recommend this movie if you have seen Helvetica, as you will get more of the same.  However, if you like watching documentaries, then you will find this to be one of the less boring ones.