Things As They Really Are – David A. Bednar’s Fidelity Theory

In his address, “Things As They Really Are,” Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints covers a wide variety of the effects of the media on our souls, specifically on us as physical beings.

He speaks extensively of the importance of our physical bodies, and makes it clear that our choices regarding the use of the various media available to us greatly affect the well-being of our body and should be made in in such a way as to support us in the physical world, rather than limit our interaction with it.

He presents a fascinating media theory involving modern technology. Many modern media technologies allow for simulations which afford a high degree of fidelity. “Fidelity” is defined by Elder Bednar as similarity between reality and a simulation of reality. The theory is simple but powerful: simulations that afford a large degree of fidelity can be a powerful tool if the fidelity is high and the purposes are good, or they can be a spiritual and physical impairment if the fidelity is high and the purposes are bad, such as enticing us to do things we would not normally do or would usually find repulsive, just because it is “only a game.” He reasons that high-fidelity simulations, taken in excess, can distract us from and distort our view of the world around us, taking from us our perception of things as they really are and suggesting to us a view of things as they really are not.

This theory is demonstrated in many examples. Elder Bednar cites one, of Mr. Hoogestraat, who is unfaithful to his wife (in spirit at least) through the high-fidelity simulation of Second Life.

In my own experience, I have regularly seen many young men and women act in ways that they otherwise would not due in large part to the simulations that they frequent. My brother and I use many figures of speech taken directly from Internet media, especially memes and Youtube videos. Many young people don’t interact with the physical world at all, spending nearly all their time engaged in video game simulations. Men young and old curse and swear and say things they never would even consider saying in reality, all in reaction to the outcome of certain video games. Many simulations allow them to put on a mask of anonymity that they feel makes them safe.

The question raised by Elder Bednar’s theory is: Does what we do in a simulation affect or reflect what we do in real life. Is our virtual conduct a mirror of ourselves, or a window to what is really found in our soul?

 

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Project 2: Event Ad – Save the Dragons

Event Ad Project - WordPress

  • Description: An advertisement for a local fictitious fundraiser, made in Microsoft Word.
  • Process (Programs, Tools, Skills): In this case, because I had to find an image to use and the event itself was fictitious, it was much more a process of finding inspiration for both event and advertisement. The entire advertisement was made in Microsoft Word (one key condition for the assignment), with no sketching and little planning beforehand, though it did go through various drafts. The shape tools, and the color dropper were the primary tools used, and the image has a brush-strokes filter on it. This was less structured and more on the fly than the last project, and while I don’t advocate flying by the seat of one’s pants, it worked out OK this time.
  • Message: The message is that we can make a difference for our draconic friends. I wanted to make it seem solid and no-nonsense on the upper section, with almost military colors, and then have the event details grab the reader’s attention below.
  • Audience: The intended audience was the type of person who is both interested in helping the environment, and willing to go out in it and live there for a while. Thus the adventurous, bolder colors and solid fonts, with a calm, collected, thoughtful backpacker/outdoor adventurer in his natural habitat for the image.
  • Color scheme and color names: The color scheme is tetradic. It uses two sets of complimentary colors, red/green in the title area, and orange/blue in the body copy area. I tried to match the red and green on top to the hiker’s clothing, to unify that section more.
  • Top Thing Learned: Avoid tangents by leaving a little extra space around everything. It’s easy to leave three sides open but cramp the fourth. Things usually print much darker than expected.
  • Title Font Name & Category: Stencil Std – This font seems to take a basic modern style font and make it decorative and militaristic.
  • Copy Font Name & Category: Apple Symbols – This sans-serif font seemed a clear and sensible contrast to the heavy title font, useful for explaining the content of the body copy.
  • Scanned images used, sources, original sizes, location of scanner used: The image is from the inside of the front cover of Backpacker magazine, March 2013 issue. The original scan covered a 5.91in. x 5.85in. portion of the page. The scanner was an Epson Perfection V300 Photo, found in the library computer lab.

Media Observations – Text (You’d think it’d be simpler)

Have you ever read a book or an article and had to do so in a specific accent? Or maybe it was hard to really synthesize what the speaker’s voice should sound like, and you didn’t know why?

The answer is probably in the font. The fonts or typesets we use determine not only the general feel of whatever we’re reading, but even the mental sound of it.

I have some anecdotal examples of this: When I was young and first learning to read, the Hardy Boys books were a huge motivation for me to learn to read faster and comprehend what I was reading. Even then, I noticed something interesting that the books consistently did.  At some crucial plot moment, or some vital clue discovery, the author would write that part of the book in italics. The whole rest of the book was roman Oldstyle font, but that line or two of italics would always mean that something really important just happened. Now, is it a little silly to have to italicize the important part of a novel? Probably, but just the same, I learned to look for those lines in every Hardy Boys book I read.

Another interesting typeset from the formative youth is the type used in many young-adult fiction novels (before they were all about vampires). When I was a kid, youth fiction was about Animorphs and demigods and superheroes and super sleuths and Goosebumps and Choose-your-own-adventure and sixth-grade aliens.

The type reflected, or sometimes even created the feel for every one of those.

As a child, my favorite series was the Animorphs books.  A bunch of teens, able to turn into animals because of alien technology that falls into their laps, discover and fight off an invasion of Earth by mind-controlling parasites, together with their telepathic centaur-scorpion-alien-friend. Good, right? If I recall correctly, the books were written in a narrow sans-serif font, spaced just enough to be adequately legible. To this day, I still remember those books as having a bleak, no-nonsense, logical, dystopian feel to them. Why?  Because the font said all that to me without even reading the words.

In our literature today, the art-science of typography has developed even more. The five-hundred youth vampire fiction novels in Barnes and Noble have heavy oldstyle fonts, because, you know, darkness. The cookbook you bought to use twice and then never again is probably printed in a sans serif or decorative script. The textbook had better be oldstyle font, or your eyes are going to get even more tired.  A sensible, non-vampire-related novel is probably written in oldstyle, but the cover is probably filled with modern or script typesets. These will affect how the book sounds in your head, and how it feels to read, and if the fonts are combined properly, you are much more likely to keep reading.

What have you read in an accent lately? Why do you think that was?

Project 1 – Flier

Stuart-Mayo-InDesign-Flier

  • Description: This is project #1 from my Visual Media (Comm 130) class at BYU-Idaho.  The project was essentially to learn to use InDesign to create a flier for a fictitious client, Vouant Communications.  I was expected to follow the design principles presented in the Visual FOCUS text, by Caryn Esplin.
  • Process (Programs, Tools, Skills): I began by formulating an idea as to my audience and the message I wanted to send them, which I will detail later.
    The next step was to make some basic sketches to flesh out a few basic ideas for where to position certain shapes and how to lay out the images I had been provided with.
    Scan (2)
    As you may notice, none of these sketches precisely matches the finished product. However, elements from several, specifically the upper two, are readily visible in the final design. I originally thought the sketch on the bottom right would be my best option, but as I tried to put it together, I just felt more inclined toward the first design.  As soon as I started it just made more sense.
    The only program used to create the flier was InDesign.  As my experience with most Adobe products is extremely limited, I spent a great deal of time simply learning to effectively manipulate the different tools and features of the program.  The main tools used for the final draft were the rectangle tool and all of the text-manipulation features, mainly tracking and leading.  There was not much need for specific kerning manipulation here.
    The boxes at the top were made by thickening the stroke of one rectangle to create the black outside layer, and then simply placing a gray rectangle to fill the middle.  The line under the title was created in a similar way.
    The proximity and open white space areas are designed to allow a reader’s gaze to flow from “Graduate” in the title, to the body copy (main text) to the side of the primary image, the photo serving to orient the eyes back toward the more important text.  The nearer to the bottom a reader gets, the easier it is to lose focus, so I made the text nearer the bottom easier to notice by reversing the date-time-place section and bolding the registration info.
    Constrast between the black and white values lends itself well to both attracting attention and further directing the visual flow of the flier.
  • Message: The message is intended to appeal to the kind of students who would graduate with a business-related degree. Therefore, it is meant to present the client as a professional, who will not waste their time and education.  They spent a great deal of their life and their money on this degree, and Vouant needs to seem like someone who can help them put all their hard work to good use. Thus, I chose to forego anything that distracted from that, trying to make it clear that the conference is meant for young professionals by keeping the flier elegant but solid. The image chosen was meant to embody, to some extent, what many young professionals want to be: capable, confident, serious about their work.
  • Audience: The intended audience is, of course, those who have recently or will soon graduate from a four-year university or grad school, specifically with a business or business-related degree. They are likely motivated individuals who prefer professionalism and efficacy over frills and fun, at least in terms of their work, and they are also likely young, positive, and either single or young marrieds/parents, hopeful to rapidly get ahead in the business world.
  • Top Thing Learned: The primary lesson learned here was how to effectively simplify a project through the suggestions that come from others. My first draft had too many elements competing for attention and taking up each others’ space or just sitting there without a clear purpose, and it showed in that the group that critiqued it didn’t quite know what to say. Alternatively, I learned that using gradients is not generally a good idea, making a project look tacky or amateur.
  • Title Font Name & Category: Dagny Pro.  Despite some slab serif-y looking extensions, this is technically a sans serif font.
  • Copy Font Name & Category: Kepler Std.  This one is categorized as a modern font on Typekit.com, and while it has some hints to modern typefaces, it is also described as a sort of hybrid between Oldstyle and Modern. I didn’t find its modern characteristics too distracting to the legibility, instead adding an intellectual feel to an otherwise humanistic font.
  • Links to images used in this project: Young Businesswoman
    Vouant Logo

Six Pixels of Separation – The Age of Context with Shel Israel and Robert Scoble

Six Pixels of Separation is a great podcast for learning about how technology is influencing society on both a macro- and micro-scale. In this particular episode, Shel Israel and Robert Scoble are the featured guests.  Their book, The Age of Context, deals primarily with the modern-day dilemma of maintaining privacy while simultaneously remaining technologically adept.

Their take on the matter is not so much to give out helpful tips to maintain privacy, but rather to weigh the pros and cons of embracing modern networked technology. The pros outweigh the cons, they say. Israel states repeatedly that we tend to look at the extreme dangers of excessively invasive technology, without reminding ourselves that the dangers we automatically think of when we consider the kinds of tech that gather information on us are only true dangers in extreme circumstances. People worry about the government gathering information on them, but how much do they really do that even makes it through the filters on whatever sources the government uses to gather that information?

Could it become a problem eventually?  Once the ideals of the government fully shift, then definitely. For now, however, Scoble is quick to point out that the next technological gap, rather than being between the computer literate and the computer illiterate, or those who can afford modern technology and those who can’t, will be between those who use modern, personally adaptive technology to its full potential and those who are afraid of it and shun it altogether.

Scoble goes on to mention that if we let our fears of privacy invasion keep us from using the masterful technological resources at our disposal, we will simply fall behind, in his own words, “in the workplace and the dinner table.”

So now that I’m four paragraphs in, what does this have to do with me as a future marketer/advertiser? Absolutely everything.

We’re at the end of the broadcast era. For decades, the way that media was transmitted (through broadcasts to everyone with a radio or television) required a certain blanket-style to advertising. You make your ad appealing to as many people as possible, and show it as often as possible. Then channels started forming niches, and advertisers could choose which niche they wanted their ads going to. Advances in communication technology allowed more people to obtain TVs and radios, and to receive whatever was being broadcast.

Then the internet took a few dozen great strides, coupled itself with mobile technology, and now we’re entering an age of contextual marketing. Now, people can choose what they want to see, what they want to read, what they want to hear. They don’t have to watch your “dumb husband vs. longsuffering housewife” commercials on TV. Who actually likes those, anyway?

The point is, marketing has to adapt.  Long ad campaigns are becoming less and less effective, and information-gathering companies like Google and Apple are making huge inroads into finding out what we want before we want it, and then advertising it to us at the opportune moment. Google’s AdSense is one example of this, matching ads to your site’s typical viewer base according to what their stereotype or demographic is most probably to want, especially while visiting a site like yours.

But Scoble takes this farther. Many new entrepeneurs are choosing to develop gadgetry similar to Google Glass, making small devices that you wear in one form or another. The potential these devices have for gathering information about their wearers is incredible.  Google Glass can tell where you are, what you are doing, where your field of vision is aimed, and could even map out your daily routine, using image recognition software to see both who you see and what you see, constantly annotating when you see it.

This freaks people out. But it’s really not all that scary.

If the NSA (or Google/Apple/Amazon/Steve Job’s ghostly minions) wants to find you, they probably could anyway. But would you have ever found that incredible hole-in-the-wall Italian place without Yelp? Or that hospital when your iPhone 7S (or whatever) detects an unstable heart rate in your thumb? Or the alternate flight out of town when your plane is grounded for repairs?  Or the big client for your company when he lets the world know he’s in the market for your services?

The thing is, with this new information, marketing could become less a matter of putting obnoxiously clever ads you don’t care about in front of you as much as possible, and more an issue of finding out what you want and when you’ll probably want it next, and providing you with simple, direct, easy to understand information about whatever it is in real time, right when you want it. Facebook has tried to do this, but still ends up in the broadcasting category, though their broadcasting is more applied to certain niche groups. Programs like Apple’s Siri find what you need, and slowly get to know your preferences. Some apps will even tell you that something you’re interested in (be it a show, a sale, or a cheaper hot dog) is nearby, and you get to choose whether or not you want it. Amazon markets everything based on what you’ve ever bought through them, starting with the most recent purchases.  RFID tags in marketplaces and department stores can let your iPhone know when the merchandise you actually want is nearby.

So, is it worth it?  Is getting all the information that directly applies to you (and not getting the stuff that doesn’t) worth giving up some of your own key information to people you don’t necessarily know? After all is said and done, the choice is (mostly) up to you.

Media Observations – The Versatility of Music

I’m definitely not an unbiased media guy. If I have a favorite type of media, it’s music.

Why is that? Music can move and inspire us, motivate or calm us, cause us to meditate or force us outside of ourselves. Or, it can do none of that whatsoever.

Music can be hot or cold media (see Passive Versus Aggressive Entertainment). It just depends on the genre, on the artist, and, in the age of electronic music media devices, on the preferences of the listener.
To me, though, it’s a beautiful thing that music can be used to feel powerful emotion, or simply carry the background of any given event.  The music I listen to when I am alone, thinking about life, the universe, and everything, is not the same as the music I put on at a party, and that music is not usually the same music I could use at a dance. It is certainly not the same as the music I put on when I write blog posts.

The reasons for this are fairly plain to see.  Apart from the type of music chosen for any given activity or event, music as a type of media  can be influenced by many influences outside of the actual music itself.
The volume leaves it in the background or the foreground. It can be played on headphones to accompany you while you work or play, or on speakers to fill your living space, or with a music video to become the center of your attention. It can be communicated through a variety of devices that are tailored to the way you want to listen to it.   It can be the inspiring focus of a few minutes or the soundtrack of your life.

How do you use music in your life?

Media Observations – Passive Versus Aggressive Entertainment

From my limited weeks of sojourning in the world of mass media, I have noticed a pattern in the types of entertainment available.  There are passive media sources, content to simply sit in the background and play, and if you watch them, fine.  Then there are more aggressive media sources, designed to draw in your focus and demand your participation.

Examples of passive media sources are as simple as television,  radio, and music.  They can be turned on and forgotten about, blending into the background.  They simply continue to present what their programming demands, doing what they want and letting you do what you want.  Unless you find the program relevant or interesting (or the rhythm particularly entrancing), you can come and go freely and it will progress on its own.

Aggressive media is different in that it demands your full mental capacity to yield you any information.  These media sources have a greatly varied range; books, magazines, and the dying newspaper, which all require you to focus both your mental and physical attention on reading the material in order to fully comprehend it; webpages full of articles and images, similarly attention-intensive; video games and other interactive entertainment, actually pulling you in by causing you to actively think and react to virtual stimuli;  All of these things are aggressive media.

Herbert Marshall McLuhan, whose work is viewed as foundational in communication theory has, as expected, theorized on this.
His analogy for this media dichotomy is as simple as a thermometer: The more aggressive a type of media is, the hotter it is on the thermometer.  Television is relatively cool compared to a book, regarding the energy (or “heat”) involved in taking it in.

In our modern, media-saturated social environment, we often take in more than one media source at a time.  The ability to do this depends on our choosing the correct combination: we can’t take in more than one aggressive media at a time, but passive medias will blend well into the lulls between our aggressive media consumption.  A youth may play his videogame with the television or his favorite music playing in the background.  A manager may listen to radio while reading his daily emails.
A student, interestingly, may  often break this rule, trying to take in more than one aggressive media source at once.  Trying to memorize a literary media assignment and practice a musical one, however, can lead to academically disastrous results.
We should, in other words, learn to coordinate our media consumption.  The key, in short, is to keep things hot and cold.  Your brain will spit a lukewarm combo out.

What is your favorite media combo?  Why do you take your media that way, and how does it help you?

Modern Media Tech – Escapism from Intimacy

There is an eternal truth that it is important that we learn as human beings: it is not good for man to be alone.
In her latest TED talk, “Connected but Alone?” Dr. Sherry Turkle challenges, perhaps inadvertently, the modern concept of “alone.” Alone seems to have taken on a new meaning, namely, “without my cell phone.”
Phones and other technology that connects us to our various networks and entertainment can become a good thing, but Dr. Turkle explains in clear, sensible terms why excessive electronic communication, or communication through text, is damaging to our collective psyche when done in excess or as a substitute for real human interaction.
I agree with every point she makes in this particular TED talk. It is tragic to me when I see friends and classmates who don’t know how to talk, who don’t know how to converse, who close themselves off and clam up because they have no concrete concept of how to converse outside of an SMS. We’re often scared of actual phone calls because, “What if I misspeak?” “What if my voice does something strange?” “How do I use my tone and inflection to communicate effectively?” and “How do I start and end the conversation?” It is more work to talk, because it is worth more to our human development than text.
It is a terrifying thing when one realizes that their excessive use of technology, which they intended to use to connect themselves to others, has in fact isolated them and made them mentally weak and shallow, unable to connect even with their own selves. Perhaps the rise of technology, with its constant distraction from any serious introspection, is why so many young people today cannot define their own personality or character. They don’t know what kind of person they are because they haven’t even spoken to that person.
Turkle correctly calls human interaction with its emotion, body language, and further possibilities of expression and intimacy “rich, and messy.”  It would be far less messy, I think, if we got some practice at it.
How can we make our communication more real?  How can we use technology to improve, rather than escape from, our real life and our real interpersonal interactions?

The FOCUS Process

Caryn Esplin describes the process of visual creation with a very effective acronym:  The FOCUS Process refers to five steps which she uses to organize the process of creating any variety of the visual aspects of advertisements, web pages, fliers, business cards, and other media.

I have gathered some examples of the basic design principles she covers in the middle three steps of her book (The OCU from FOCUS), and will present them here in the order that her text dictates, together with links to the examples I have found.

Organize the Layout

Shape – In this example, still under construction, the designer chose to leave the area under the image full of white space. It creates an interesting effect, because once the audience sees the important information and descriptive photo above, their eyes are drawn from the dark, heavy colors of the auditorium to the light, easy white beneath, where they find the rest of the information they need.

Shape

Proximity – The first thing the eye is drawn to here is the sun in the sky, making that the clear focal point. The grouping of images of solar panels flows nicely to show the subject of the advertisement. From there, it’s easy to glide across the white space beneath to the informative text below. Any special manipulation of tracking and kerning is not really necessary here.

Proximity

Alignment – In the app advertisement on the left, the title and copy are all aligned left, while the phones themselves are diagonally aligned to balance out the spacing of the copy, and follow the rule of thirds. The barcode beneath is also aligned to the text above, and the logo in the bottom right corner is aligned to the barcode. Overall, it creates a good informational flow, as an audience would rapidly be drawn to the bright title and progress through the text, the images on the right complimenting what is being read.

Alignment

 Combination – Although it was not required for the assignment, I included this example because it seems to effectively demonstrate all three of the principles involved in organizing the layout. The focal point becomes the red “Rhythm Impaired” bar, which, together with the subtext, aligns to the cabinets in the background. The man dancing in the middle carries the flow diagonally to the explanation copy in the bottom right. If you count less busy areas of the background photo as white space, then you have a great synergy of all three principles demonstrated here, along with asymmetry and color from chapter 5, Contrast the Elements.

Organize the Elements

 Contrast the Elements

 Asymmetry – The asymmetrical design of this website suggests that this group really is not just any old enterprise initiative, breaking the traditional alignment rules for text and adding a bold red arrow to draw attention to the asymmetrical text as the focal point.

Asymmetry

 Value – The lighter value used on this painting by Romney (and edited by Stapleton Kearns) shows the importance of value in highlighting the subject on the painting. Lady Hamilton’s facial features and decolletage are highlighted by higher value, causing her dark eyes and fair features to stand out. The background has been made to look like dusk, and the value in the lower left area creates the effect of the last ebbs of a sunset.

Value

Color – The blue saturation levels here heavily suggest that the flavor of Gatorade being advertised is supposed to be exactly what the copy states: light, crisp, and refreshing.

The color combination, made with the orange components of the Gatorade bottle, is complimentary, and uses darker shades to avoid clashing.

Color

Repetition – This advertisement uses repetition, specifically the “rule of odds,” to impress on us the features of the shoe and get the Asics athletic logo on the advertisement as part of the branding. It makes for an interesting flow as well, the largest shoe becoming a focal point and pointing to the next shoe in the series, which points to the last. That conveniently leads to the ad copy, which ends just in time to see features of the shoe in action, these images also following the rule of odds.

Repitition

Rhythm – The spacing of the blobs of words in this flier give a rhythmic syncopation to the phrases used, which was obviously desired due to their colloquial nature. It conveys the easy-going feel of the event. It causes the audience to read the words with a specific meter and separates the phrases in the mind to allow for a certain rhyming pattern.

Rhythm

Gestalt – The symbolism used in these posters shows what they really deal with. In the Offbeat Sports Network poster, the gestalt used shows how all extreme or irregular sports are represented and connected together, which must reflect the goal of the network.

The second example is an excellent symbolism of music as water, with notes and staff lines becoming flowing, crashing waves, conveying the powerful and fluid nature of the music.

The gestalt in both of these examples involves powerful symbols of what the intended audiences of these ads are searching for, appealing in the first to the desire for comradery and unity among athletes, and in the second to the desire for emotion-filled, satisfying music.

Gestalt – Network

Gestalt – Music