The Importance of Graphic Design

Graphic design is my new passion.  I was never overly interested in art when I was younger.  I enjoyed art class but didn’t think I was as talented as others in that subject.  When I got into high school I started to draw more and found that I did have a natural talent.  The reason I think I’ve gotten so good at it is that I am a perfectionist.  I keep tweaking drawings until I think they’re the best that I could possibly do.

So even though I had begun to appreciate art more once I got to college, it still wasn’t high on my list of interests.  I became a communications major and in my junior year I decided I wanted to have a minor (partly because I knew it would help me in my future career, and partly because most of my friends had one).  I wanted to choose a minor that could be used in conjunction with my major so looking down the list of minors, graphic design caught my eye.  I didn’t know if it was the best option seeing as I didn’t have much experience with art classes.  But I thought I’d see how hard it was anyway.  And turns out, I love it!

Graphic design is an important and underrated part of today’s professional world.  Every company logo, every movie poster, every book cover, every ad you’ve ever seen was the work of a graphic designer.  It’s amazing just how much graphic designers are responsible for.  Without graphic designers, the world would look a lot less interesting and colorful.  To learn more about graphic design and to get inspired, check out the Graphic Design USA website.

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Drilling through The Walking Dead

In chapter 3 of Spreadable Media, Jenkins, Ford, and Green discuss “The Value of Media Engagement”.  Fans of TV shows, movie franchises, and comic books aren’t what they used to be; they are much more engaged in what they view through online discussion and media sharing.

Faithfully watching a show every week at the same time is no longer the standard of being a fan (or, at least, a “true” fan).  Now those who are truly dedicated to a show or other type of media must be actively engaged in the online community surrounding the show.

Honestly, tuning in to a show when it airs doesn’t even matter anymore.  Millions of people find pirated versions online so they can watch their favorite show when it convenient for them.  Although watching shows illegally like this doesn’t help their ratings and sometimes is a contributing factor to their cancellation, some in the industry are defending these illegal downloaders while others are saying they’re ruining the industry.  Those who don’t mind or even encourage users of illegal download sites like Torrent argue that although they aren’t helping the traditional Nielsen ratings, they are garnering a larger (and probably more committed) fan base which, once caught up to the current episode, might start watching it on the channel it airs on.

The authors also compare many-layered shows to those with not so many, calling them “drillable”.  Soap operas and wrestling may have a lot more content because they air much more than twice a week, but shows like Lost and The Walking Dead are more “drillable” because fans can interpret them and continue the conversation in a complex fashion.

“As Mittell demonstrates, drillable texts become spreadable through fans’ collective intelligence-gathering and meaning-making processes (e.g., Lostpedia)” (p. 137).

AMC’s The Walking Dead is the perfect example of a drillable text.  First of all, it started as a comic  and was wildly popular then, but now that it has become a TV show it is even more popular.  After the first season aired and the network saw how popular it was they decided to make a talk show, aptly named Talking Dead, where host Chris Hardwick and guests (usually cast members and producers from TWD and superfan actors) delve through the many layers of the shows for the fans’ benefit.  Fans even get to call in live and ask the guests questions about the meanings of different scenes.

These days fans play a large role in the media even though most of them aren’t employed by it.  When people love a show, they really commit.  They want to know everything about the show- what the creators opinions are, what the actors think their character would do in a situation, etc.  It’s quite amazing how dedicated they become and how heartbroken they get if their beloved show (God forbid) gets cancelled.  Fandom creates a community of people that shares not only their theories and opinions, but also fan-created content which can increase the popularity (and spreadability) of a piece of media.

 

Reappraising the 1950s

Chapter 2 of Jenkins, Ford, and Green’s Spreadable Media is entitled “Reappraising the Residual”.  By “residual”, the authors are talking about things, like media content, that were previously discarded for no longer being interesting or relevant to the current time period.  The popularity of the internet has made it possible for communities of people who have a special interest in certain residual artifacts to do what the book calls “reappraise” them.

An example the authors give us is how television networks back in the day would throw out film from unpopular shows such as Doctor Who.  Well seeing as Doctor Who has become quite a bit more popular today, the BBC had to find people who valued those old Doctor Who episodes more than they did to recreate soundtracks in order to re-release episodes to the enormous fan base the show has today.  The BBC had to reappraise the content using what they thought fans now value.

The internet has made this reappraisal of old things a widespread phenomenon, especially considering the success of eBay.  YouTube has also seen a great deal of this reappraisal by users who have taken an interest in archival footage that they wouldn’t ever have seen otherwise.

“Some upload videos to YouTube because it is a space for information gathering, either through the conversation and social connections it can support or through the opportunities it provides for users to track down news, archival footage, oddities, or DIY content” (p.93).

There are many videos like the above one that advise the average 1950s wife/husband/teen on how to “properly” do things in 50s fashion, like how to dress appropriately, how a wife should treat her husband, or how to date correctly.  Today, the popularity of these videos is due to the fact that modern life is so much different and these artifacts are really good for comparison, but more importantly they are just fun to watch and mock.

In the 60s, 70s, and 80s when people still remembered exactly how life in the 50s was like (and probably resented it), these PSAs weren’t highly appraised and most people would probably never want to watch one.  But now with the use of YouTube, people are beginning to appreciate these videos once again, albeit with more of a mocking purpose, showing that “reappraising the residual” is a growing trend that creates and/or maintains communities of internet users.

Is it exploitation or engagement?

The first chapter of Jenkins, Ford, and Green’s Spreadable Media is about exactly what the title says- “Where Web 2.0 Went Wrong”.  As you may or may not already know, Web 2.0 is a strategy of marketing that many companies use that allows them to take advantage of the online participatory culture in today’s digital world.

Utilizing online users’ “free labor” is an easy and advantageous way for businesses to promote themselves and their projects without having to spend much time or money.  It is questioned whether this use of free labor is exploitation or engagement-exploitation being companies simply using people’s online work for their own gain and engagement being more appreciative of people’s online work and building a stronger online community in the process.

The idea of a moral economy comes up in that their should be a balance between companies’ “exploitation” and users’ “engagement” so each side can feel like they trust the other.  If users’ feel like they’re being unnecessarily exploited by corporations, they will push back. Likewise, if corporations feel like users’ are using too much of the companies copyrighted work without permission, they might file a lawsuit against them.

“Perhaps this is what Terranova means when she describes the activities associated with ‘free labor’ as ‘pleasurably embraced’ by participants, even as they are also being commodified and ‘exploited’ by corporate interests” (p. 60).

This Youtube video that shares “Good Movies on Netflix” with its viewers is a good example of the above quote.  The Youtuber clearly enjoys making these videos for the public (“pleasurably embraced”) but at the same time he is promoting Netflix for free, and may not even realize it.

This “exploitation” that the book routinely mentions probably isn’t a big problem for most low-level Youtubers.  It really only affects them if their content is taken down due to copyright infringement.  Otherwise, they probably don’t even know it’s happening.

How Twitter made Mad Men more “spreadable”

In the introduction of Spreadable Media, authors Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green discuss why media spreads and compare and contrast the concepts of media “spreadability” and “stickiness”. In case you didn’t know, the term spreadability refers to the way in which media is circulated today through much more participatory ways.  Stickiness refers to the methods that companies use to try to get users to remain at their site or to view a particular piece of media.

Many organizations prefer the stickiness method because it allows them to measure more easily how many people are visiting their site, which is how prices that advertisers pay are determined.  Spreadability can be a hindrance to companies’ websites in that it dilutes the number of people visiting that particular website because people can get their media fix from a third party.

Spreadable Media uses fandom as a reason that media has become so “spreadable”.  In particular, it talks about the hit TV show, Mad Men.  This show and twitter debuted the same year (2007).  During the show’s second season, some of the main characters popped up on Twitter and started posting and interacting in a very accurate-to-the-show manner.  Most who followed the characters on Twitter believed it was a great marketing campaign created by AMC to get viewers of the show more involved and to gain new fans.  This was not true, in fact; the characters on Twitter were just fans of Mad Men who wanted to extend the show but still stayed within the story lines. When AMC realized how popular these tweets were becoming, they contacted Twitter to get the users’ real names but Twitter thought AMC wanted to stop the users so their accounts were suspended.  The following tweet isn’t by the original Dan Draper Twitter user but it is a good example of how they would tweet and try to stay true to the character:

A quote from Spreadable Media reads: “Cease-and-desist orders have become an all-too-familiar means of correspondence between brands and their audiences in an era when prohibitionist corporate attitudes have collided with the collaborative nature of online social networks”.  I can see why some corporations still cling to the stickiness method of media; it is better for them statistically and financially.  But they really need to embrace the idea of spreadability, because that is how the internet works now and why social media has become so important in today’s culture.

Facebook censors historic “Napalm Girl” photo

Facebook has recently come under some scrutiny regarding its censorship.  Norwegian author Tom Egeland published on Facebook last month a post about the history of warfare that included a famous photo of a young Vietnamese girl fleeing from napalm gas during the Vietnam War.

The controversy that arose over this photo is that the girl is completely naked, which violates Facebook’s standards about nudity.  The girl, named Phan Thi Kim Phuc, was running away after being burned by South Vietnamese forces spraying napalm. Egeland and Espen Egil Hansen, editor in chief of the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, assert that the picture holds historic significance as it shows the atrocities of war, and therefore should be an exception to Facebook’s policy.  It even won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972.

In recent months, people have increasingly been commenting on the important role that Facebook plays in the media.  Responding to these comments, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has stated that Facebook is first and foremost a tech company rather than a media company.  This statement has aggravated some who think that Facebook holds the most power to influence the public’s media interest compared to other companies who actually identify as media companies.

Should Facebook be able to censor whatever they want simply because they technically don’t call themselves a “media” company? Should a company that has so much power over consumers be able to set limits on the types of journalism its users can see?