Prototyping

A refresher

Lets just take a moment to throw it back to a wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, younger and less wise version of myself who had just finished her ideating process. The plan was:

  • Establish a platform where we (Madeleine Johnston and myself) can share our experiences at the markets in the Wollongong and Sydney areas
  • Highlight the good and the bad at various markets to help local market-goers make informed decisions about their shopping which may otherwise have been a very overwhelming experience

We were to do this by regularly updating a very a e s t h e t i c Instagram account and by writing weekly blog posts.

Sounds great, hey? Well it sort of was, but we got off to a rocky start and are still trying to find our feet. But that’s okay because that fits in with the #fefo philosophy… right?

The first encounter with reality

We weren’t expecting an immediate roadblock before we even began posting content online. On our first outing to Bulli Markets we were shockingly underwhelmed. In our time spent ideating we had built up in our heads this idealised fiction out of meme objects of what it would be like to actually create this project. We had forgotten that it was our job to take the mundanity of the real world and transform it through digital processes. Consequently, we were knocked slightly off balance by the lacklustre aspects of the markets and found ourselves desperately searching for diamonds amongst the rough.

Our mistake was not realising earlier that in the postmodern era of technological production, even the blandest of things can be turned into treasure. It took time to change our photography process to centre around this concept. But an examination of all the photos we’ve taken over the last few weeks, including those not found online, reveals a distinct change in methodology. We went from seeking pre-existing things which were already good and special and relying on them to make us look interesting online, to taking photos of everything and anything with a less careful and more unrestrained attitude and transforming them later in post-production. Thisnew attitude of trying to find the magic in everything also meant we had many more photos which looked better and more creative to choose from when selecting what to post on our page.

“Design through making”

The truth about our project, indeed the truth about all DAs, is that it is not a perfect object which exists in isolation on the internet. In fact, this status of perfection is unachievable if mistakes are not first made through a process of iteration critical to which is the impact of feedback loops.

These feedback loops inform creators as to the successes and failures of their designs in a way that is typically unfiltered and honest, if sometimes brutal. In the case of our DA, the feedback loops we experienced fall into three categories:

  • Process
    • Continuing on from the more conceptual encounter with reality as discussed above, our physical process evolved to become very effective and efficient. On our first market experience, we neglected to record stall names and details about the products. This then prevented us from accurately informing our audience about the market we attended, resulting in our first few posts not quite fulfilling the brief of making the markets less overwhelming. In our following trips to the markets, we ensured this mistake was not repeated, resulting in better quality posts due to an increase in the inclusion of important details.
    • We also experimented with the editing process. We found that using applications such as Photoshop and Pixelmator were too complex for our purpose. Instead, we settled on the use of VSCO Cam as it was fast and simple to use whilst still generating high-quality edits.
  • Audience
    • In the ideating phase of our project, we defined our audience as such:

DA Audience Starter Pack

  • What we failed to foresee was that theoretically defining an audience and finding that audience in real life are two very different things. We learnt this by attempting the good ol’ ‘follow for follow’ technique of gaining subs combined with expecting our audience to magically find us. Predictably, this method failed and we gained minimal momentum.
  • Next up we tried a modified version of this technique. Though still technically ‘follow for follow’ we removed the ‘magic’ aspect and replaced it with ‘science’… sort of. For this experiment, we followed a range of accounts that we felt fit within our established starter pack, such as @glebemarkets and @frankiemagazine, and then we also followed a random sample of their followers. The idea was that by us following these people who would likely be interested in our content, their awareness of us would be raised and they would follow back. This idea, even though it lends itself more towards creating a strong community of people with a common interest rather than just a following, still failed to provide us with any momentum.

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    • One good thing that came out of our second experiment was the realisation of the idea that we shouldn’t just be looking for people to follow us and like our images. We were reminded that we actually want to help real people who fit into our starter pack, rather than just boost our egos. This means that the prime goal should not be to just increase those follower and likes counts, but to actually prompt interest and engagement from people who genuinely care. To achieve this, we need to show that we care first—we would do this by asking questions in the captions on our photos, by liking other account’s photos or even by taking our involvement one step further and commenting on other account’s photos. This is a process we’ve started but haven’t had long enough to properly establish feedback loops with yet.
      • There is one exception to this…
  • In an attempt to reach the segment of our audience I was under the impression existed in the BCM114 cohort (due to interest expressed during the Project Pitch) I posted the above tweet. It received no engagement and I have thus concluded that this is an avenue which should not be further explored due to that silent yet resounding feedback.
  • The importance of this idea of finding a true audience/community was illustrated when one of my friends who could be considered an Instagram ‘influencer’ gave @finderskeepers_mc a shoutout on her story. Even though she had over 1600 people following her, we only got two followers in response. This clearly illustrates that if we target the wrong audience then we will not achieve success in finding a community.

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  • Content
    • In the ideating phase, we established the idea of creating Instagram content around the meme objects typically seen on Instagram accounts which fit into our starter pack and also those associated with the markets. In terms of aesthetic, this seems to be doing well as we have received many in-person compliments. However, the lack of engagement and attention given to our account seems to suggest that our content lacks something—this being a very recent realisation hasn’t given us the opportunity to explore solutions to this problem. The recent weekly topic of improving by ‘breaking’ our designs prompted us to think of disrupting our current visual theme to fix our problem by potentially introducing ‘aesthetic’ memes related to the markets, info posts, and videos. Please leave your suggestions in the comments below!

 

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A comparison of our remediation on the classic Instagram ice cream photo with others who also use the same format with great success.

 

Unexpected disruption

One of the more embarrassing failures of our project has been the blog aspect of FindersKeepers. Not because it hasn’t received any engagement, but because it never really got the opportunity to do so. For weeks, we didn’t realise that the reason our blog wasn’t doing well was because the domain had been deactivated. It was inaccessible, and we had no idea all because we didn’t check the FindersKeepers Gmail where we would have found that we needed to confirm our contact details for our site to stay running.

sadness

As a result, there has been minimal time for feedback loops to establish here. There are currently two blog posts up but it is difficult to promote them as the time when we post the related content on Instagram has expired. We had hoped that this platform would serve to be like a miniaturised version of other similar media sites such as ‘Concrete Playground’ and ‘Urban Spoon’—we even imitated their writing style in an effort to achieve this—but at the moment we are very far from that vision being a reality.

Final words

In all, progress is slow, but we’re still learning. We have many more plans for the future, hopefully one will lead to a breakthrough. Any feedback is welcome.

Find us:
  • Instagram: @finderskeepers_mc
  • Website: https://www.finderskeepers-mc.com

Ideating

The concept

I started this semester knowing that I wanted to continue with my digital artefact (DA) from BCM112. I was a content creator for the Makerspace Club Facebook Page, during which I founded the weekly Makerspace Mondays posts. I knew for sure that it was a solid idea with many opportunities for those all-important feedback loops. In the past it had demonstrated for me many successes and failures, as is the objective of BCM114—it seemed to be a perfect choice.

However, with my prior digital artefact I found myself struggling to stay motivated to do a task so heavily dependent on a space which was inherently unpredictable. Some weeks I would visit the space every day and come away with almost no content because the space was simply empty. Other days, people just weren’t undertaking projects which would translate well on camera.

Consequently, I found myself unconsciously dreaming up wild ideas for other possible DAs. These included: writing Buzzfeed Community articles, making a bedtime story podcast for insomniac adults and producing low-budget spoofs of iconic moments in cinema. These all had a certain appeal to me because they were wholly of my own creation and direction, not reliant on the constraints I experienced in my work with the Makerspace.

As much as I loved these ideas, they lacked a certain element of personal inspiration and purpose I knew I would need to commit to something so big. Especially since it would involve dropping a ‘sure thing’.

It wasn’t until one unassuming afternoon that the convergence of confusion and an over-working mind created a shared brainchild which I hope will become a successful DA.

See, my friend Maddie and I were discussing the DA, she had said something about needing to find the right “target market”. But, me being the deaf idiot I am, I only heard the word “market” and in my confusion tried to instantly piece together what a DA involving the markets could possibly be.

The more I kept rambling on, the more we both realised the potential for this idea. There was so much within this realm we could do, so many opportunities, and a real social utility.

In my excitement, I knew we had landed on something we could turn into gold through the alchemy of the DA process. That afternoon, when I was resigning from the Makerspace, I was confident that I was making the right decision.

The Brainstorm

Empathise

As two people who frequent markets on an almost weekly basis, accompanied by friends and family, the empathise process for us has been underway long before the conception of our DA idea.

A conversation we always have when we attend the markets goes something along the lines of, “Where do you wan’t to go/eat from/buy __(insert any item here)__?” to which the other person always responds with something like, “I don’t know, there’s too much choice, it all looks so good!” This is typically followed by a lot of aimless wandering as well as ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ over all the wares on offer. A lot of time is wasted before someone proclaims the words “I give up” and tentatively orders something from the nearest stall.

We’re both personally familiar with this overwhelming feeling induced by the markets, and have heard people, countless times, wanting to either give up early or just “get in and get out” because of the chaotic enormity presented by the markets. In fact, it’s not uncommon to hear people wishing for an easier experience.

Solution

We want to establish a platform where we can share our experiences at the markets in the Wollongong and Sydney areas. By highlighting the good and the bad at various markets, we can help local market-goers make informed decisions about their shopping. The best way to share our message is through a blog and an Instagram as these afford us an authentic, yet idealised persona in conjunction with aesthetics and accessibility.

Shopping at the markets can be an overwhelming experience. Simple questions such as which markets to go to, and which stalls are the best, have answers that are challenging to find without first making mistakes in choosing where to shop. This produces waste as a result of a distaste for the product and also wastes the consumer’s money which would be better spent elsewhere.

Our DA aims to aid in this process. It will enlighten people as to the best places to shop for what they want, and will also illuminate some hidden gems which might once have been ignored.

At this point, we have so many great ideas we want to pursue that we start to worry we’ve lost the true essence of BCM114: FIST—fast, inexpensive, simple, tiny. So we brainstorm some more…

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Identity

In formulating our identity as a market guide, we explored the digital meme objects associated with the markets. We investigated Instagram pages from food bloggers; from brands which have stalls at the markets; and from the individual markets such as Glebe Markets and the Newcastle Flower Markets.

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Credit: Christina Di Meglio

Some of the most repeated and remixed meme objects include: bright colours, quirky/unusual food, street food, handmade goods, recycled and vintage fashion, cloth bags and flowers. There is also a lot of colour saturated images with a shallow depth of field; the frame often includes someone holding an item in their hands with their body unseen.

Incorporating these meme objects in our DA is critical to progress as they already have established association chains in the schema pre-existing in the minds of our target audience. This will mean an easy acceptance and appreciation of our DA by our audience, and will also result in feedback that enables us to better fortify our image.

We mapped out our target audience by combining the type of person we associate with the aforementioned meme objects with the traits of people we have physically observed at the markets. These ‘real life’ people tend to be women between the ages of 18 and 35 who are environmentally conscious, enjoy organic and gourmet food, support local brands and are into the Indie or vintage ‘scene’.

DA Audience Starter Pack.png
Credit: Maddeleine Johnston

The persona (branding) of our DA will be formulated around these meme objects and this target audience. By incorporating these elements we are able to appeal to our narrow audience in a way that presents an idealised and ‘aesthetic’ market experience whilst also remaining grounded in perceived authenticity.

Take a look and tell us if you think that so far we’ve been successful in achieving this.

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If you want to support our DA follow us on Instagram at @finderskeepers_mc . Our website will also be up and running soon.

Happy Potter Strikes Again

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Find where I posted it on Imgur

Robert Entman suggests that “to frame is to select some aspects of a perceived reality and make them more salient in a communicating text.” That means, to choose key parts of something’s identity and piece them together to create a story which highlights those particular desired aspects. This process enables audiences to make sense of the media they consume based on their own prior understandings.

In this way, the perceived identity/reality of something can be changed if the framing is altered—if different parts are chosen to be highlighted.

We all know Harry Potter to differing degrees. I’ve chosen to re-frame it based around this meme, and the idea that Harry Potter is too ‘dark’ for children. The elements I have changed and introduced (made salient), when compared to the original, portray a new identity. The movie is the same and yet, if my poster was attached to it, Harry Potter would likely be preconceived as another crappy kids movie from the mid-2000s with bland characters and a boring plot line. This is largely due to the audience’s existing schemas of kids/low budget/early 2000s/magic movies.

How would you have felt about the Harry Potter movie franchise if it was originally branded in my style? Let me know in the comments!

When the Cathedral meets the Bazaar

When applying it to the field of communications and media, we like to think of Eric S. Raymond’s concept of the cathedral and of the bazaar as two binary poles. That we can only have one at the exclusion of the other.

It is easy to think this way. The cathedral is symbolic for walled garden media generation. One where everything—contribution, user access points, production processes and feedback loops—is controlled by and visible to a select number of people. The bazaar, however, is a symbol of open garden, open source media production. One where every aspect of creation can be accessed and contributed to, by anyone at any time.

My video demonstrates how these two aspects can be complementary. It shows how my high school Major Design Project was made successful through the incorporation of products resultant from bazaar processes into a cathedral system. This being my combination of the Arduino with codes from GitHub and designs from the Fusion 360 gallery—all of which are open source—with my own iterative design process—which was tightly controlled by myself.

The video itself was inspired by many process videos which came before it.

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In 2017, this Ultra Tune advertisement was aired Australia-wide. It racked up no less than 357 complaints, one of which described it as a “disgusting portrayal of women pandering to a supposed male sexual fantasy about dumb sexy women having a water fight.”

The advertisement was found by the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) not to contravene the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) code of ethics. This is in spite of its clear violation of section 2.4 of the code which prohibits images which are “highly sexually suggestive and inappropriate for the relevant audience… [and] not relevant to the product or service being advertised.”

The Ultra Tune ad particularly emphasises the women’s jiggling buttocks and wet shirts.

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These elements, amongst others, strip the women of humanising traits until their only defining feature is their sex appeal, conflating them with objects. An act which is both degrading and exploitive. It is the textbook definition of sexual objectification.

In response to backlash about the depictions, Ultra Tune CEO Sean Buckley commented that, “Women can jump up and down all they want but they’re not our target audience”. He notes that, “the ads work brilliantly” for their target market consisting of “95%” men who he claims “make the automotive decisions”.

What key issues need to be considered?

What Buckley fails to realise is that in being so successful with using sex to sell his company’s services, he is fortifying many social and psychological problems now ingrained in our society.

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Advertisements such as the one from Ultra Tune, relentlessly propagate and normalise the notion that women are in real life what these images portray—sexual and superficial objects which exist for the pleasure of being seen and not heard; that women’s prime and only purpose is as a tool for male arousal.

Women consequently feel pressured to find validation and respect by trying to fulfil these unrealistic sexual and bodily standards.

Women’s Health West remarks that failing in this pursuit often leads to women having a “negative body image” which “can have serious implications for women and girl’s physical and psychological health status, as it is associated with the development of eating disorders, depression, self-harm and suicide.”

It should be noted that in 2018, one year after the release of the Ultra Tune advertisement, the AANA code was updated to specifically restrict the objectification of people. In essence, the portrayal of “sexual appeal which is exploitive and degrading” in advertisements now comes with greater risk for advertisers.

What are the implications for practitioners?

Its a situation of being stuck between a rock and a hard place. Advertisers need to weigh up their social responsibility with their responsibility to do their job effectively. They must ask themselves if there is a better, more empowering way in which they could sell their product. A way which would benefit both their work and society equally.

It is important for advertisers to consider that empowerment sells quite well. Adweek conducted a study in which it was found that, “Women ages 18 to 34 are twice as likely to think highly of a brand that made an empowering ad…” It is likely that these favourable thoughts were converted into a multitude of profitable purchases as Forbes asserts positive perception gives brands an edge in the market.

Who wouldn’t feel good about a brand after watching something like this? >>


In an ideal world, advertisers would empower as much as they objectify women in real life. Sadly, given the nature of business, the most universally important answer to the question, ‘If ‘sex sells’, why should advertisers avoid the sexual objectification of women?’ is: ‘because of the new risk—resultant from the updated AANA code—now involved in presenting objectified images in advertising… and perhaps because of a little guilt.’

If you’re an advertiser and you want to avoid the depiction of sexual objectification then you should consider this checklist written by Brian Niselin, and consider it carefully…

…because if you’re not a ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’ type of person then hopefully you at least have a ‘try not to f*ck everything up’ kind of philosophy.

A New Reality

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Find my .gif on Giphy

Academics like Henry Jenkins tend to highlight the logistical elements of transmedia narratives. Generally, this includes things like “creating different points of entry for different audience segments” and the creation of “complex fictional worlds which can sustain multiple interrelated characters and their stories”. Admittedly, many popular franchises come to mind when I think of this, but the one that stays with me is The Walking Dead. Made up of an unending series of comics, two television series, multiple ‘Tell Tale’ video games, and some more unorthodox media formats, Robert Kirkman’s world of the undead has become a great success.

In considering all these elements, the one thing that strikes me most about transmedia storytelling is its propensity to submerge its audiences into a new reality. By propagating many stories from the one world across multiple channels, a filter bubble is created in which what we perceive to be real is altered. In my remediation I wanted to capture this unnerving side of transmedia narratives whilst enmeshed with the typical aspects I mentioned earlier. I wanted to help people realise how chilling it is to truly see and think about the world in a way that is altered by the unreal.

Thats not to say transmedia narratives are bad, I just think we need to consider how they truly affect us.

You Wouldn’t Steal a Hedwig

Copyright aims to control the spread of memes because the industry wants to control content and ideas. My remediation this week is an example of how this model of highly restrictive copyright is incompatible with the internet.

The internet is open source, no matter how much big businesses try to create control and scarcity. Produsers, such as myself, will always find a way to take someone else’s content and remix it into their own new creation. The internet is optimised for this. There are thousands of online tools available which facilitate the ripping, mixing and mashing of online content. In the battle between prosumers and industry, participatory culture and monopolised material, open and closed formats, the algorithmic measures taken by sites such as YouTube and Soundcloud are insufficient. This week I was told that copyright aims to protect creators but the internet undermines this. Anyone can take an iconic theme song and use an online mashup tool to mix it with a warning video about piracy to create the world’s most ironic banger.

World of Internet Warcraft

The rise of digital and social media has led to a change in how messages, ideas and ideologies are propagated. Anyone with these technologies can produce, aggregate and curate content, without being a professional communicator, and I was inspired this week to do just that.

The information people want to portray can be easily packaged as memes and presented to the consumer, relentlessly injecting that message into the minds of many, thus regimenting the public’s mindset. This process can be used as a more perverted and pervasive form of psychological warfare due to its open-access, and far-reaching attributes—known as meme warfare. Meme warfare can have real and serious consequences without the consumer ever knowing they are being influenced, which only enhances how dangerous this digital weapon can be.

My video is, in itself, an example of how easy it is for an amateur to create what they want for their own agenda and share it with an audience, and influence how people think. I also hope to raise people’s awareness of this topic because in the age of the internet, gullibility will be the death of reason.

We Are the New Media

Wk6 Meme Final
59:25 “… anyone can just jump in there, fix it up and change it. If people want to change the background, they can… Anyone can pick it up and do whatever they want with it.” — Travis Wall

Find where I posted it on Imgur

The post-industrial digital-age has enabled citizen-journalists and media makers to be considered respectable, or at least view-worthy, authorities because they are unique in their production style. Audiences appreciate the unpackaged, unfiltered style of citizen media as it affords the proliferation of both a diversity of perspectives and of content unsuitable for legacy media. I felt inspired to create a media object that fits this description when some of my lecturers spoke about how anyone can do anything to media on the internet. I literally took the media where they said this and made it completely my own. I knew that this would get a response from the part of my audience that exists in my class.

The fact that I, a student from Wollongong who is part of this group of ‘people formerly known as the audience’ (aka everyone), can reach and be listened to by so many people, is why journalism is a profession in crisis. We have demystified the art of giving facts and creating content, lowering the pedestals of authority upon which journalists once sat, until they become level with us. They have become part of our distributed network, they are like us now.

The Digital Public Sphere

The digital age has given Habermas’ classic idea of the ‘public sphere’ a face lift. No longer do we learn about and discuss the news, current events, and social/cultural/political issues of the moment solely from physical sources (legacy media) and face-to-face interactions. Digital and social media have heralded a new age of discourse, allowing us as audience members to actively engage (debate, deliberate and support) with these issues as we discover them in real-time.¹

Twitter is the most prolific micro-blogging platform around: a melting-pot of global, digital conversation and opinion. The public sphere of choice for instant connection with a diverse, mass audience. It has the ability to expose one to an array of thoughts and facts beyond an individual’s personal realm of understandings. A multiplicity arising from following and viewing any member’s tweets, and the ability to view tweets from people one has not subscribed to, through another’s use of the ‘retweet’ button.

Within the sphere of Twitter, exist sphericules of limited subject matter.

The bcm110 hashtag has created a sphericule in the form of a forum (which I am part of) facilitating the UOW Communications and Media student’s learning of their chosen craft, operating through a ‘thrown in the deep end’ approach. We learn about media through using it, and by making our own mistakes with it. We learn from the relevant articles we share with each other, and through the opportunity it affords us to share our own external media creations with a willing and understanding audience.

Our sphericule is not saturated with hot debate of current issues (such as the Twitter-popular gun control debate), but, these current issues may sometimes arise when related to an area of media study. This is because the #bcm110 forum is made up of a cozy family of students and ex-students who have taken the ‘Introduction to Communications and Media’ class, and the wonderful professors who make this class possible. Twitter users not a part of this like-minded collective aren’t strictly excluded from this sphericule, however when they do come across it, a lack of understanding of the subject matter may hinder their own involvement.

The media’s role in our little sphericule is quite different to its typical role within the broader sphere of Twitter. Usually the media would try to generate discussion and convert opinion by disseminating and selling their own ideologies. In the #bcm110 forum however, as a result of our use and applications of the ‘space’ as a learning tool, we turn the media to our own advantage, picking it apart and examining it in detail so we can understand its inner workings, allowing us to become better media creators.

If you have any more thoughts about the digital public sphere then join the ‘Young Dreamer’ sphericule by commenting down below.


¹ Thirroul, S 2018, The Media Theory Toolbox’, lecture, University of Wollongong, delivered 27 March