The power of presentation.
March 21, 2003 5:48 PM   Subscribe

Decoding Visual Language Elements in News Content is an MFA thesis examining how layout, cropping, image selection et al. influence the way the content is perceived. The interactive demo is especially interesting; you can take some TV and magazine layouts and switch out pictures and other elements. It's fascinating to see how different cropping and tints affect your impressions of the content. Media literacy -- especially right now -- is a good thing. (Link via Stan Chin.)
posted by Vidiot (12 comments total)
Got it from Social Design Notes
posted by Stan Chin at 5:58 PM on March 21, 2003

Fabulous link. I've long maintained that we should be teaching media literacy to kids in public schools. Why is it that kids are made to recite Beowulf in Old English but they don't know anything about the tools the media that defines the world in which they live?

Wow! Most people haven't seen it before, there is something interesting about the content on the page, and it might warrant discussion from others. What's it doing here?
posted by eustacescrubb at 6:28 PM on March 21, 2003

Yeah, seriously, eustacescrubb. I have not just seen the slaughterhouse that is public education today--I'm in the grinder right now. Teachers are too busy with sponge-and-barf rote memorization tasks and preparing for standardized tests in the hopes of getting more funding.

Plus, media literacy is all about questioning, which could possibly lead to students using said skills against parents and faculty members. Schools are ideal-citizen-of-the-future-based-on-what-we-have-now-factories. Critical thinking isn't a strong spot of their curricula.
posted by LimePi at 7:43 PM on March 21, 2003

An interesting and even important site. Thanks for pointing it out Vidiot.

Of course this is only the visual aspect. As a long time editor I can point out that the choice of what gets laid out is where the real hidden agendas come in to play.
posted by ahimsakid at 9:05 PM on March 21, 2003

Word, LimePi, word. I used to be a sub. I vacillated from being delighted in the kids to aghast at the shambles of an education they were being given. I remember subbing for an English class in which the kids were learning speechmaking, and I dropped a little Aristotle on them. I then had them recount the Bush/Gore debates and tell me what each speaker's strong points were (Bush: pathos; Gore: logos). For the entire year after that, whenever I'd see one of the kids from that class, they'd invariably say something like "You're Ethos, Pathos, Logos Guy!"
posted by eustacescrubb at 9:35 PM on March 21, 2003

Excellent find Vidiot. And a site that actually uses Flash for a good reason. Lordy.

As a designer who has worked on everything from kid's Lego magazines to billion-dollar industry b2bs, coding & decoding visual information is second nature but I'm always surprised at how little people generally think of the way information is presented.

AFAIK, here in the UK, and no doubt elsewhere, comprehension & analysis of the written & spoken word comes under English studies which, along with Math(s), is the keystone of the whole education system. Visual analysis comes under the remit of either Art - an increasingly sidelined subject - or Media Studies which is an optional subject offered in some schools around are 16-18.

These days we are told that we, especially young people, are more brand/advertising/information aware which indicates that there is more visual awareness, but analysis/critique/understanding does not necessarily follow.

In this information age, maybe information studies on the curriculum?
posted by i_cola at 3:39 AM on March 22, 2003

Definitely agree with i_cola, eustacescrubb, and LimePi: we live in an age where we consume so much media. That's not a bad thing, but the often attendant lack of critical thinking skills to go with it scares me. TV, especially, is such a complex, influential, and popular medium that it demands special scrutiny and understanding. (And of course the Web is getting more and more influential.) If I had my way, this stuff would be taught along with English and math through one's entire educational career, starting at age 5 or 6.

I knew a lot of the basics about how one's perceptions can change based on how information is presented, but my current work as a news video editor really brought it home. There's so much to think about when you're trying to present the full picture, and style matters a lot.
posted by Vidiot at 9:53 AM on March 22, 2003

Excellent & timely high-quality post - thanks Vidiot & Stan Chin.
posted by madamjujujive at 12:58 PM on March 22, 2003

Great post .. i wish it had a little more text and analysis though
posted by cmicali at 2:09 PM on March 22, 2003

I guess i shouldn't have spoken without investigating a little further.. it appears it is not yet finished.. such a great idea, I cannot wait to see the finished product.
posted by cmicali at 2:11 PM on March 22, 2003

posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:39 AM on March 23, 2003

Such nice work! It certainly looks nice, and I plan to read the thesis if I can find some time. I wish I had a little portable screen that allowed me to read the pdf document in bed, hmm...
posted by Icestorm at 1:00 PM on March 23, 2003

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