Info Lit 106

Last week I saw a call for chapter proposals for a book in the Innovations in Information Literacy series on digital storytelling. I’ve been interested in the outside-the-box connections among information literacy and digital storytelling since I first became involved in ds106, so this seemed right up my alley. I thought I would reach out to the ds106 masterminds to get their views on information literacy and how it connects to ds106 specifically. Jim generously gave an hour and a half of his time:

One of the nice things about getting this on Youtube is that it generates a transcription, which saves me a lot of typing. And Jim had a lot to say. This is especially valuable because he comes at it from a different perspective:

…my interest in information literacy is digging into a process, or a kind of domain if you will, and understanding how elements of it work. And most of my work has been around web sites, web hosting, building out personal identity and I think part of that literacy is understanding how do people find your work? How do search engines work? How do you think about what you link to and what that tells people about you? I think all of these are fundamental elements of a kind of next generation information literacy.

The ACRL sees info lit from the perspective of college and research librarians, like me, and for the purpose of college library research. That makes sense given where we are and what we do, but if we truly think of info lit as a life skill, as the cornerstone of lifelong learning, then we have to consider people’s lives outside academia, and the media and tools and systems they work with and within. Jim’s background in literature and educational technology gives him insights into info lit that I might not have as a librarian. I will be picking apart this conversation further.

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Danger: Hippies

When @cogdog points out something online, I try to pay attention. So when he highlighted the Internet Archive’s filmstrip collection, I took a look.

The Hippies caught my eye. It’s a somewhat strident and paranoid view of 60s counterculture, for people who thought Dragnet was too soft on them. The idea that business and advertising created hippies was novel to me.

newspaper clipping

I was thinking about how I might remix this. I could weave in songs mentioned in the script, like San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) and Eight Miles High, but maybe that’s too obvious. Songs suggested by the script, like Madison Avenue Man or Debaser might be more interesting and eclectic, but would probably only make sense to me. Taking audio clips from the filmstrip and intercutting them into a playlist might be a better approach.

It also makes me think of The Mothers’ classic, We’re Only In It For The Money. I doubt that Zappa’s take on the hippies was influenced by Granger’s, but I see an alignment in contempt. Since the album is a sonic collage already, it has plenty of remix potential. So maybe there will be a ds106radio project in the works.

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Do the facemash

Our new old radio friend Scott Lo came up with this triple troll in response to a ds106radio discussion of Bono and Bono:

I wondered if I could take it a step further and merge some of Sonny Bono’s features onto Art’s face. I didn’t find a good picture of Sonny right away, so I changed tactics and looked for Simon instead. And made this gruesome monstrosity:

I think the key to making this idea work easily is to find two faces with similar lighting. Art’s face is lit from the right, but the lighting is pretty flat with no strong shadows. I found a Paul Simon album cover with the same kind of lighting, so I thought it would be a good match. The next trick to making this work is to feather the edges of the selection. Feathering means that instead of a hard edge cutout of Simon’s face, I got one with blurry edges that blend better with Art. Simon had a different color cast, more reddish, so I adjusted the hue until it looked like it fit. I also had to adjust the value (lightness) a little bit to match. I should have looked for a way to darken the part around the mouth because you can see a line there. The Simon part could use a little more contrast and a little sharpening too, but mostly it blends. I like the creepiness of the different eye colors and shapes.

We have a couple face swap assignments in the visual section, but I think you could call this a remix or mashup or both. One of my friends said I should do Sonny and Cher next:

That circles back to Bono, which is cool. It was also suggested that it looks like Noel Gallagher and Geddy Lee, so if anyone wants to attempt an Oasis/Rush mashup, feel free to use the image.

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Video smackdown

All I wanted to do was a quick analysis of one little scene. And it got blocked. Immediately. Maybe I should experiment a bit to see what adjustments I need to make to get it through. But it wouldn’t surprise me if they’re extra aggressive with some content. I’ve also heard that they reject some appeals out-of-hand. This is an example of fair use, of course. It’s critical analysis, for an educational purpose, using a very short segment. I don’t profit from it, and they don’t lose any audience because of it. Vimeo was more cooperative, but it may get blocked there too.

I was inspired by How Does an Editor Think and Feel? to look at editing and acting. I did a screen recording of the scene, then watched it through and made notes – what I thought about how the scene was handled, and noting the timing of each cut. I recorded my part in Audacity, and made an MP3 that I imported into iMovie. What I had to say about it ended up being about twice as long as the whole scene, so I used the freeze frame function quite a bit. I also dropped the volume of the clip, and used the title tool to mark each cut.

I’m sure it would have been better with more planning and better script editing, but it came out okay. It is fun to do that kind of close reading (which mostly no one ever does) because you end up seeing more and understanding more about the story, and the storytelling in particular. Normally, when normal people watch movies, they watch for the story and give little attention to how it is told. People involved in filmmaking probably see more at first glance because they know how the medium works. But the rest of us can find value in repeated viewings.

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The Anti-Bob

I thought I would give filming my painting process a try again. I was trying something different, as in working on a much smaller scale than usual. I was also working with absolutely no plan, which probably shows in the results. I heard about the artfully SQUARED exhibition, which invites people to contribute 7″x7″ artworks for a fundraiser. I usually work on a scale of three by four feet, and paint with a 4″ brush, so this would be something different. I put paint on paper and mumbled a bit about my thought process. I’m not particularly pleased with the picture or the video, but I may have learned a few things, such as too much water doesn’t help. Instead of letting the camera run, I started and stopped it to just capture the painting part, and not the brush cleaning part. Bob Ross says cleaning the brush is his favorite part, but for me it’s the vast majority of the work. The actual painting segments lasted 1-2 minutes mostly. I strung the clips together in iMovie. I probably should have turned off the dehumidifier, since it was maybe four feet away from the cameraphone and is audible throughout. The picture doesn’t really look like anything, but if I do a lot more of them I may develop a visual language.

abstract painting

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… that is the question…

Friend of Amy Burvall finds some of the best stuff:

I recognized this as being by the same guy who brought us the Weird Old Book Finder, so I knew it had to be worth a look. Here is his explanation of the project and the tool itself.

It does seem like an interesting way to look at a piece of writing. I tried it out with Lovecraft’s Beyond the Wall of Sleep

which sounds predictably Lovecraftian. It could be a crazy rant all by itself, from some inmate at Arkham. To try something in a different vein, I copied a chunk of a chapter from Todd Snider’s I Never Met a Story I Didn’t Like

which sounds like the crazy rant of someone who smoked pot with Willie Nelson. I do have to compliment Clive on his choice of typeface – you can’t go wrong with a classic. I’m not quite sure how I could use this creatively, except maybe if I was conducting an interview.

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Is this design?

I saw The Color of Words assignment elsewhere, so I thought I’d take a look at it. I used joy as my keyword, in true Bob fashion, and the above image is what I got. One of the images in the mix featured the word prominently, so you can see it in the middle. You can also faintly see a person with a big smile in the middle. Some of the images the system picked had happy colors, but most used a muted palette, so the image is pretty muddy.

I’m kinda glad the assignment only has a star and a half, which is probably one star too many for the effort it took. But I really have to question how this is considered design at all. I see design as a deliberate decision making process to achieve a desired end, and this is lacking in both decisions and goals.

I played with the interface a bit – removing some images, sizing and cropping others, and came up with something  a little more… something. The colors speak a little more, and the contents are a little more intelligible. It is possible that this could be used in a design to express washed-out joy and faded happiness, nearly forgotten memories of better times.

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Storytelling through design

I spotted this in a show on Tubi TV

It’s one of those interrogation scenes. The thing to notice here is how the actor’s shirt matches the color of the wall. It is a subtle message to the viewer that this guy belongs here. He fits right in. It is not a coincidence that the walls are that color, or that his shirt is that color. We can generally take it for granted that everything we see in a video was planned – designed – down to the last detail.

This is an example of design beyond graphic design, in that design is also a deliberate decision-making process to achieve a desired end. Sound and stories are designed. Lighting, costumes and sets are designed – all for storytelling purposes. This is just a quick example of considering design in a larger sense.

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One book over the line

A few days ago, a new alleged reading promotion poster from the Chicago Public Library came to my attention.

I shared it with some colleagues, and one responded with this graphic.

Weeding is librarian talk for the process of removing outdated and unused books from the collection. But when I read “weed a book,” I hear it in Elmer Fudd’s voice.

So this all made me think of the ALA Read poster series, which just happens to be a design assignment. I found a few images of Elmer reading, and played around with one, thinking about the poster series and the weed pun. Some of the posters use an Indiana Jones font, but I think the more classic Schoolbook font is more fitting. I thought about adding a pipe or two, going further with the pun. Since marijuana is becoming more legal, and some books are becoming less, I thought about incorporating that. I thought about using The 1619 Project, but that could be misinterpreted so I went with Maus. At this point I was just playing with ideas visually.

by King & Weeks, from Batman/Elmer Fudd Special 2017

As I thought about it more, it seemed that more subtlety was in order. I don’t need to spell out weed, because anyone who knows their Looney Tunes will get it from read, and anyone who doesn’t know about Elmer’s speech issues won’t get it anyway. With that in mind, the pipes were overkill too. I needed a subheading to highlight the legality issue though. I also need to make it look poster-like. My approach here was to use the Golden Rectangle for the dimensions. I made a new Photoshop image using those proportions, and pasted the Fudd picture in. I scaled it up to fill as much of the space as possible. It was still short, but the READ text filled most of the top part. I did some copy-paste work to extend the image upward. That was a bit sloppy, but it’s in the background so it’s not too distracting. I put in While it’s still legal! as a subhead. There were contrast problem with the image underneath, so I made a white copy of the subhead, applied a bit of blur, and offset it a little to make a white drop shadow, making it more legible. That didn’t fit well with the flatness of the READ headline, so I used an Emboss filter on it to give it some complementary dimensionality. I think it works. Some people won’t get the pot joke, but the right people will.

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Tuesday’s happy trees

From Tree to Shining Tree

For our second night of listening, we heard the Radiolab episode From Tree to Shining Tree. Instead of drama, this was more pop science. But it made the topic fascinating and kept the story moving through a creative use of background music and sounds and thoughtful editing. The way the voices were woven together is worth analyzing. They brought commentary into conversations, in a way that helped keep the story moving and helped keep it down to its essence. How might we use those techniques in our own stories?

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