Posts Tagged With: technology

Linear or Non: Which is Better?

One of our readings last week was Afternoon: A Story, by Michael Joyce. While this was in some ways a very unusual and innovative story, I don’t know if I could say it had any advantages over a more traditional storytelling method.

In a traditional story, it’s generally expected that the reader will follow a linear path, page by page, from beginning to end. This might seem limited by modern standards in the digital age, but I think there are many advantages to it. In a traditional linear story, the tale is being told in a coherent, straightforward way. There is a beginning, a sequence of events, and an ending; the same ending every time. This means that the reader, if they ever read the story again, knows what to expect. It also means that two people can both read the story and discuss it, knowing they’ve both read the same story.

“Afternoon,” on the other hand, is different every time you read it. I’ve read sections of it four separate times now, and each time I’ve had a different experience. There doesn’t seem to be anything predictable about it.

Does this nonlinearity make it better, or worse?

I can see some entertainment advantages to a nonlinear story. When I was a kid, I frequently enjoyed Choose Your Own Adventure stories, which allowed you to take the same story down a different path each time you read it. A reader is more likely to re-read such a story, knowing they can enjoy a different experience each time. Other similar nonlinear media includes certain video games, and DVDs where the movie has multiple endings.

These nonlinear stories have just as much disadvantage, however. Sometimes, a reader might WANT to experience the same story again. The more complex the divergent paths in a story become, the less likely it is that the reader can ever experience the same story again.

This would become even more pronounced in a code poem that utilized a randomizer. In that case, odds are the reader will NEVER experience the same story again.

I think one of the big differences here is the difference between storytelling and entertainment. Both qualify as “art,” but one is vastly different from the other. I don’t think “Afternoon” qualifies as a “story” in the way one is traditionally defined. It doesn’t have a clear plot or ending. While it is still entertaining, and still artistic, it doesn’t have the same effect on the reader. Is it even possible to say what it is “about”? I have a hard time, after multiple divergent readings, really understanding what was going on in the story. Many of the individual “pages” seemed so disconnected from each other that it was hard to follow what was happening from one to the next. It seems like this is the price to pay for a more “artistic” piece; it becomes more unusual and unique, but at the same time harder to really understand.

In a way I’d compare that to the ideas of abstract art. A piece of art with no defined form can be interpreted differently by each person who views it. A more defined piece of art, however, simply is what is is (setting aside deeper analysis of symbolism and metaphor within a work).

I don’t know if it’s fair to say either a linear or nonlinear story is “better” or “worse.” However, it definitely has disadvantages that make it more complex and harder to understand.

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Categories: information architecture | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

#iamondays How to Write E-Lit

On Twitter, Devon posted this:

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Which is a link that leads us to this:blogpost4

The “Fun da mentals” of e-lit. A very old image to teach us how to do something new. When I first saw this picture, I was immediately reminded of Robinson and his book The Story of Writing, and for some reason, the fossils reminded me of the section about “rebuses”. And with good reason, I think. These fossils are rebuses, and they relate to e-lit because most often, e-lit uses pictorial images. It’s crazy to think that we are still using techniques from the middle ages. But then again, everything we know has developed from something in the past. For example, the computer, and it’s many components (such as the internet, hypertext, and cyber text).

Hypertext is e-lit. But first, let’s look at the actual structure of this page that Devon posted. In my own opinion, it’s quite simplistic and bare. In fact, it even seems to resemble a piece of paper, which still shows that we’re relating how we write today to how we once used to write. However, the website seems to do a nice job of incorporating grids, as we learned about from Lupton. If we just browse at the first page, there is a cornucopia of blue. Blue, of course, is hypertext.  As Nelson wrote, hypertext means “forms of writing which branch or perform on request,”; in other words, any of the blue links that we see daily.

But how do these links happen? How can you possible think of making all of the connections? There are ways, tutorials, and even webpages that will do it for you, so it’s really not a question of how. It’s actually, more of a why. But the why is in the purpose of this blog post: electronic literature.

Now then, first we must learn to understand electronic literature. It’s unlike traditional literature, it’s not bound by specific outcomes and there’s no specific beginning or ending. So how can we learn about it with the idea of traditional reading and writing lodged in our noggins? With practice and coherence, it can be done.

Fun da mentals actually offers some interactive ways to learn and become familiar with electronic literature, which is something that Nelson writes is a good thing. There is a “hornbook” which helps students begin to understand how to read electronic literature. The hornbook teaches about nodes and paths, but also provides exercises that allow the students to get involved. By clicking on the “reader” section we can learn how electronic literature let’s us explore it. This section is headlined by “This sentence is false” and then teaches how different nodes (clickable parts of a sentence) can develop different stories or ideas, much like in The Jews Daughter.

The most interesting part of Fun da Mentals is the “Coloring book” link. As the only way to learn how to color is by practicing, at some point you learn that you’re doing it right when you color inside the lines. Students learn about creating electronic literature by doing similar exercises to that of a coloring book. It involves navigation by clicking.

Speaking of navigation by clicking, the Fun da Mentals is almost an example of  e-literature. Yes, it’s obvious that the page is full of hypertext, but what makes e-lit is that the reader is in control. He or she can click around and expand the story on their own. For instance, once I begin reading the description of “the coloring book” I see that the word “anatomy” is a link, in which I click it. It takes me to the anatomy interactive portal, which is not directly related to what I was just focusing on. In this same description, there is a clickable word that says “electronic tool”. I am compelled to find out what an electronic tool is, so I click on it. I read about electronic tools. However, here is where there’s an issue: Each page that I’ve clicked on, they’ve offered other links, but none of them seem to take me back to the original story line. Therefore, we could argue that this is not electronic literature.

Electronic literature can be complex, especially when we’ve grown up and only been exposed to one type of literature (traditional). It takes time and practice to learn a new trade. As Fun da Mentals is attempted to do, it’s important to constantly practice and enrich yourself into what you’re trying to learn in order to better adapt.

Categories: #IAMondays, Alphabetic Text Analysis, class activities, evidence, images, information architecture, mapping, pictorial images, semantic web, technology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

It’s time to transform with creative thinking

You’re currently reading words that are floating around on cyberspace. You’re not viewed as a reader, but as Aerseth writes, you are on your own adventure, taking risks. So, while we’re taking risks and exploring, Nelson mentions that most of us don’t actually understand the computer.  At first I thought that this meant we don’t understand how computers work, or even, how to operate computers and I expected to read something like a computer manual. Don’t get me wrong, Computer Lib / Dream Machine is certainly a manual of some type, but not the traditional manual.

Everything we’ve been reading and learning about recently has been quite the opposite of the traditional things we’re used to. I even though about writing this blog post in a different way, against the grain, but I had no idea where to even start; we must take baby steps. As Nelson argues, we learn most things by beginning with “vague impressions” (p. 303).  The first step in understanding the computer is to learn that it is a media that provokes emotions and helps us write, think, and show (Nelson, p. 306).

Now, the key word is help. It’s not the writer itself, nor it solely just the delivery method. For example, in Taroka Gorge (and the others too), a real human being came up with the basic structure: the main idea and the words. The computer put together the form and structure: how the words appeared to the audience. In the poems we read, there’s a feedback loop that keeps using the same words and creating different outcomes. I’m going to attempt to do so myself, but I have a hunch it’s much easier when a computer does it.

Roscoe retaliates to grab my banana whole heartedly.

My banana retaliates.

Roscoe grabs.

My whole banana.

My heartedly banana grabs Roscoe.

I think you get the point. Something that took me a few minutes to do would take a computer seconds to do. So in essence, it can be argued that computers essentially think for us, but not without the correct input.

But how do we learn what the correct input is? Well, as Nelson shows from the article,  “No more teachers’ dirty looks”, it’s beginning next to impossible to teach. Schools are focusing so much on standardized this and standardized that, that creativity is thrown out the window. Surely this is displayed in any type of creative situation, but especially in computers. How can the youth of the future learn how to be creative when computer classes are tailored to very specific tasks and are very standardized?  Furthermore, it can be said that the education system is behind in change. Literature teachers are teaching poems from a long history ago, yet they seem to glide over the current period of poems: e-lit at its finest.

Last week, we struggled, or at least I struggled, to understand the electronic literature we were required to read. We learned that it was difficult for us to tailor our traditional style of reading because it was all that we had known. If schools spend time teaching electronic literature, alongside traditional literature, students would become accustomed and be better able to code switch from one to the other.  As Nelson argues, “students should develop through practice, abilities to think,  argue, and disagree intelligently (p. 310).  But instead of this, students spend countless hours learning about topics that bore them to tears. One that I can recall, from both high school and community college, is the basic computer class that teaches you how to use Microsoft programs. Why is that a real class? And even more, it strictly taught and tailored the projects we would do. The whole class had to create an excel spread sheet from the same baseball statistics. How boring and inconclusive. And even more, these classes started the rave for PowerPoint, and we all know how Tufte feels about PowerPoint (which I think goes for all of us as well). I think it’s time the school systems caught up to the technology that is vastly developing.

The question about all of this, which Nelson asked as well ,is how will we use these creations? (p. 117). This is something that could truly be in our hands, yet it might also slip away if not treated carefully. School systems, and society, need to recognize these new ways of writing and creative thinking as a real possibility, and they need to begin to educate on them.  The time for transformation is now.

Categories: class activities, images, information architecture, mapping, semantic web, technology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

An Infographic on the Importantance of Breakfast!

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Reflection 1

I originally started out wanting to create an infographic on waffles, but I ran into a dilemma: what is there really to say about waffles? This is when I realized that there is so much to be said about breakfast. In this infographic, I wanted to build awareness that breakfast is essential for a healthy life and I also wanted to try and encourage those who don’t eat breakfast, to eat breakfast.  Furthermore, towards the end, I wanted to stress that it’s not just eating breakfast that is important, but what you eat for breakfast.

I start my infographic out with a timeline, which I feel slowly invites people in, especially when they see the “Eggo shortage” point.  After I get my audience’s attention, I share the statistics of the percentage of people who skip breakfast by age groups. These statistics are then followed by what percentages of those skippers are obese. I believe that these statistics alone will shock and draw attention to the changes that need to be made.  Towards the end, I have “building blocks” about nutrition, followed by lists of ways to create, and help any individual stick to a healthy breakfast.  I think these all flow together to help support my goals in educating the world about a healthy breakfast.

I think if I had to write a paper on this topic instead, it wouldn’t be as inviting or as easy to understand. I wanted to show statistics, but not in a way that was boring or repetitive.  However, this assignment did pose some challenges and issues. First, Piktochart separated everything into blocks which allowed for a lot of issues to occur when attempting to move things around. Second, it offered a limited amount of icons that didn’t really apply to my topic. For instance, after we spent a whole class deciding that a coffee cup would suffice for my chart, I had come home and I did not have the coffee cup available any more on my screen (for reasons unknown).  In my other chart, I had different color circles represent the amount of favorite breakfast foods, yet Piktochart made the key displayed as boxes. While I was able to cover these boxes with my own circles, this was a lot of unnecessary work that could’ve been avoided if Piktochart created a better presentation.

In the end, I think this might’ve been easier if I was a designer with some experience on how to put things together in a way that creates a good flow. However, as an experienced writer, I think I was able to create a good piece of writing. A piece of writing is about good content and the presentation of it, not just one or the other.

Reflection 2

Before I even started putting things on my infographic, I realized that Piktochart was already separated into blocks, which made it easy for me to think about it in terms of grids. As Lupton writes, grids “break space or time into regular units,” (p. 151).   On each block, I tried to figure out how I could create grids. For example, the title and explanation (at the top of my infographic) is broken into two grids, while the one that follows (the timeline) is displayed in one grid. I tried to alternate grids to create a better flow, but it also depended on the type of information I planned on displaying.

The information I used in my infographic varies on how it needed to be displayed. The timeline is a great example; it needed to be displayed in a whole block to show the distance of time from year to year. Furthermore, it was shown across the page, because according to Tufte “reading across describes sequence of movements,” showing the movement of time from left to right (p. 33).  I originally had my timeline going downwards, showing movement from an older year to a newer year, but I decided to change it as it didn’t match our metaphor of time. As humans, we often view time as across the horizon, moving towards one year and away from the other.

In the next grid, I display two statistics, which were crafted around both Tufte and Lupton’s theories on information design. Lupton writes that “design and text gently collaborate to enhance understanding,” (p. 7).  I put the percentage in a circle and had it displayed larger than the text it collaborated with in hopes that it would draw more attention to itself, and I believe this technique worked. The number and the text are not directly together; instead the text lies parallel to the number, but in a way that is not directly connected. As Tufte argued, most graphics that have nouns are connected by arrows or links, because “the evidence in variation in connections is stronger than evidence for sameness,” (p. 79). From this, I was able to pick out an arrow/link to connect the two together that provided a strong connection without distracting my audience. When I first came to these two statistics, I wasn’t sure how to display them. Originally, I had just thought that by writing it out as “22% are obese”, it would come off as boring and ineffective. I had remembered how I once read statistics in a magazine that was similar to the way I presented it, and then I recalled the theories presented by Lupton and Tufte, which were right on point. Tufte claims that there should be “no distinction among words and images” (p. 49), and I think by using arrows and links, there is no distinction between the two, at least in this case.

Next to this grid, I show more statistics; the percentage of people who skip breakfast, varying from male and female and from age group. This was originally displayed in a bar graph, which was what Tufte defined as chart junk. It was chart junk because it took information and made it into a bunch of junk that really had no effect on my audience. As Tufte argued, mapped pictures should “combine representational images with scales, diagrams, overlays, numbers, words, and images,” (p. 13).  In this grid, I attempted to do just that. I used the icon of a plate and utensils to display a certain percentage of people. This is what Tufte refers to as a sparkline, or a “data intense, design simple, and word sized graphic,” (p. 47). By displaying this information in this way, instead of the original bar graph way, it provides a greater level of understanding.

Understanding is the main goal of any piece of writing, so it’s important to involve metaphors in the way information is presented, as that’s how humans relate to things. In the next section, I used a squiggly boarder to make the grid appear as a chalkboard. Inside of the “chalkboard” I put blocks, and labeled them as “the building blocks of breakfast”.  I thought that this was a dead giveaway to the metaphor of building up your life to a great one. Furthermore, I really wanted to incorporate movement arrows in among these blocks, to show the relationships of the blocks. Tufte argues that “important comparisons among images should be pointed out by arrows, labels, and other methods of directing attention,” (p. 45). I added the circular arrows and other arrows to draw attention to the importance of each, but also to show the relationship among them.

In regards to relationships among the design, the text relationship to the design further enhances understanding. Although I was limited to the types of fonts available, I made sure each font correlated to the words. As Lupton writes, the goal is “to find an appropriate match between style of letters and the specific social situation and body of content that define the project at hand,” (p. 32). In other words, I viewed each portion of text as a human. Lupton claims that “words originated as gestures of the body” (p. 13) and that they give “language a physical body” (p. 13). I selected certain fonts depending on how they appeared, much like how we judge humans on how they appear. Furthermore, Lupton argues that the contrast between big and small type “creates drama and surprise,” (p. 45), so I attempted to use this technique to my advantage at certain points in my infographic. Overall, I think it’s safe to say that without Lupton and Tufte’s information design techniques, I may not have created a beautiful infographic that enhanced understanding on healthy breakfasts.

Resources:

Lupton, E. (2010). Type (2nd Expanded ed.). New York, NY: Princeton Architectural Press.

Tufte, E. (2006). Beautiful evidence (3rd ed.). Cheshire, CT: Author.

Categories: #IAMondays, class activities, diagrams, evidence, images, infographic, information architecture, mapping, pictorial images, technology, tufte | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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