Week Six – discussion leading!

October 7th, 2011
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This week my group (Abbey, Claire, and I) led discussion on advertising and propaganda. To prepare for discussion leading, we looked for materials regarding propaganda (which we covered on Tuesday) and advertising (which we covered on Wednesday). For my readings for Tuesday, I discussed an overview of what propaganda was–covering the introduction of our readings–and the institutionalization of propaganda, focusing mostly on how ubiquitous advertising is in the modern world. For instance, of the 2,000 advertisements the average American is exposed to every day, only about eighty register on a conscious level. The reading also addressed subliminal advertising; for the discussion of that part of the class, I brought up the “subliminal messages” that, as kids, we heard via rumors had been included in Disney movies like Aladdin, and how effective–or not–subliminal advertising is. For Thursday, we discussed advertising; as part of that, I discussed an article online that essentially traced the history of advertising. For that article, what I mostly had the class discuss were two aspects; the first being the switch from detailed broadsheets to slogans — why that changed occurred and why it was advantageous, and the advent of advertising agencies under the auspices of N. W. Ayers and Walter Thompson. The most intriguing thing I found out about this week was how closely propaganda and advertising are linked; I had always thought that propaganda was essentially just “spin,” when in fact it is so similar to advertising as to be parts of the same thing.


October 1st, 2011
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This week our first individual projects were due! As you know from previous posts, I did my infographic on cave paintings. As I began to do more intensive research into the project and began thinking about how to conceptualize the information and then how to present it in a visual format, I began looking more into statistics. After I’d gotten a chance to really think through what I wanted from the infographic, I came up with an “ideal” infographic: the one I wanted to make if I had all of the information (and digital media skills!) that I needed.

My ideal infographic was going to unfold as follows: at the top of the page would be a discussion of the locations of cave paintings. Preferably, the indicator in each general location would be a different size or gradient of color depending on how many cave paintings were in that area. For instance, under this system, France would have had either a large indicator (such as the stars I ended up using) or a darker indicator–perhaps a darker green or brown–than those in areas with fewer cave paintings. I wound up creating a simplified, and less data-heavy, version of that in the infographic that I submitted. I was unable to find any single source with statistics or lists of all of the cave painting sites, or even of all of the most famous cave painting sites, so instead my research for this portion involved figuring out what cave painting locations popped up most often in my research, and simply marking the locations of that representative sample of cave painting sites.

The second piece of my data was to be an analysis of how the images differed in different caves or locations. For that piece, I was going to have two graphs, or potentially two data sets interposed on one graph. The two sets of data were going to be what the average occurrence of each image was, with major categories of Animals, Objects, and People, and the different painting styles. As I got further into the research, it became clear that there were few statistical analyses of the relative occurrences of those objects/types, and those that were tended to be for only one cave or one region. I also decided it would be fruitless and overcomplicated to try to represent the different painting styles, so I decided to drop that aspect from the project altogether. It also became increasingly clear that animals were largely the focus of cave paintings, and I was able to find some solid statistical data that I felt confident in, so I decided to reimagine this portion as instead being a graph showing relative occurrence of common animals. Unfortunately, the data set only accounted for 35% of the images, meaning that 65% of the relative occurrences graph was simply labeled Other. I also, after reading a great deal about hunting scenes, decided to use the statistic of 15% hunting scenes to make another graph. I chose to use that statistic because in reading about cave art, a great deal of the material focused on hunting scenes, giving it a disproportional focus within the larger field.

The third part of my ideal infographic was going to be a case-study focus on one or two caves, with a more in-depth look at conditions and cultural perceptions. This section would have been more of a reflection of the modern state of a single cave. I had been planning to do Lascaux, which are the first cave paintings I’d ever heard of, and have graphs showing how visitorship has changed over time, how many people visit the Lascaux website, and other reflections of Lascaux’s place within modern French (it’s in France) and world culture and history. In the final draft of the infographic, I wound up replacing the case study portion with a timeline of the creation of significant cave paintings/sites. I hadn’t known until I really delved into the research that cave paintings had been created over such a long span of time–literally from 40,000 years ago to the 1800s. I chose not to address any cave paintings more recent than about 5,000 years ago, and wound up aligning the cave painting locations from the first part of the infographic with the cave painting time periods, using the location and time period both. I then reorganized the data so it fit in a more linear, sensical way, and boom! Although instead of boom it was more along the lines of repeated Google searches, from “how to change border of artboard in Illustrator” and “how to make graphs in Illustrator” to “I DOUBLE CLICKED AND MY ENTIRE IMAGE DISAPPEARED IN ILLUSTRATOR!!”

All in all, I enjoyed learning about cave paintings, but even more so I enjoyed having to struggle through the data to try to figure out how to represent it, and having to conceptualize information sharing so differently than I ever had before. Also, even though it’s obviously made by a beginner, I made that! It has pictures and colors! Awesome!

Cave Painting: The Infographic

September 28th, 2011
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Week Four – Timeline Project!

September 23rd, 2011
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This week was heavily focused on the timeline project, which was due in its first iteration on Thursday. My group–Kyle, Abbey, and Mike–were doing Information in the Digital Age. We split the project up four ways, and part of what I did was discuss the major internet browsers. While I was reading Microsoft’s account of Internet Explorer’s history, I happened to read something about the Trojan Room Coffee Pot. The Trojan Room Coffee Machine wound up being my favorite “technological event” of those that I filled out. I spent awhile researching it, and reading accounts of how the coffee machine came to be an internet sensation. In short, the Trojan Room Coffee Machine was the first webcam star. The Trojan Room is a room on the second floor of a computer laboratory at Cambridge University, and essentially, the coffee pot became a webcam star because the computer scientists on floors other than the second became frustrated with having to walk to the second floor coffee pot, only to find it empty. One of the accounts that I read–and unfortunately I can’t remember which–essentially mocked the scientists because they rigged up a webcam so that they wouldn’t have to walk up or down stairs and then wait while coffee brewed. I guess it could be said that the most incredible acts of laziness lead to great technological achievements! Anyway, that was by far my favorite technological event that I posted.

Week 3/infographic project & readings

September 16th, 2011
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We picked our project topics this week. I’m going to be creating an infographic on the history of cave paintings. So far, I’ve done research but have not yet begun to actually create/design the infographic. I’m going to split the infographic into sections. So far, I’m thinking that the sections will be something along the lines of: history, cultural and social meaning, notable examples (i.e. Cavernes Lascaux), and cave paintings in modern culture.

For our readings this week, we focused on print culture and coffeehouses. Part of our reading for Tuesday was James Gleick’s The Information, prologue through Chapter 3. Gleick’s book fascinates me, and that made it an easy read. Chapter 1 of The Information focused on African talking drums; interestingly–and we discussed this in class–Gleick discussed the talking drums in conjunction with a discussion of Morse code, which seemed to me a stretch. While Morse code was a utilitarian method of long-distance communication, the African talking drums were a method of dispersing not only practical but also sentimental information. Additionally, the poetry and style of an African talking drum would have been entirely omitted from Morse code. In class, Kyle made the point that comparing them was ridiculous because when possible, of course societies would switch to Morse code. I disagree–I think that even within one society, the two technologies could and would coexist, because they would serve two entirely different functions–the one, for wide dissemination of local news, and the other, for point-to-point practical information sharing.


August 31st, 2011
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My name is Nicole. I’m a senior History major at UMW, and I’m taking History of the Information Age because when I took American Technology & Culture last spring I was surprised by how much about technologies that are still in use I didn’t know and had never considered. I’m sure the same will be the case with Info Age, and I’m excited for the class!