Beauty and Brains

Once you start reading on art and graphic design, you get (other people’s) perceptions of what is beautiful and what isn’t visually attractive. Is a design successful when it’s so mind-challenging to a point that makes us feel stupid for not getting it at a first glance or the exact opposite, when it fits so perfectly with everything else it goes so easily into our minds?

I take it as a little bit of both. While the simpler the design the longer it will live, it’s refreshing to see a clever design becomes popular, and usually those have one kind or another of an ‘aha!’ factor. Gestalt principles of perceptions are a great intro to how these factors can be defined.

The human mind can see more than the sum of parts to make a shape. Sometimes it adds parts on its own to complete a figure that doesn’t really have a meaning otherwise. For example, you can understand that the below logo is a panda, even though it really isn’t, your mind completed the missing parts in order to see it that way.

panda

Same goes for grouping things together based on shapes, line weights, colors or other features. Things are perceived in a way that makes the most sense using this amazing default brain power.

Other examples of Gestalt:

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We Tried, But It’s Viral Now

Virality. A word spell check still refuses to recognize, no matter how widely used it is now. “Viral” often refers to infection, disease. But now also refers to quickly spreading content, infectious content, if you will.

But such a word presumes that there is no control over the spread of content, that it just happens, which isn’t true for most cases. Henry Jenkins argues in Spreadable Media (p. 20) that when we share content we actively choose to spread such content to our contacts on social media, via email or even play it for someone, we carry that content outwards of our networks to other networks through sharing.

But how much choice do we really have in sharing those short funny videos for example? Can we articulate or explain why we do?

One example to measure our ability to answer such question to is the famous “Charlie Bit My Finger” video.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OBlgSz8sSM]

Back in 2007, a family in England posted the home video above. It’s a cute moment between brothers, three and one year olds. It was meant to be shared between family and friends, and it wasn’t until years later that views started doubling daily, until it became one of the most viewed videos on YouTube with more than 800 million views.

What happened?

People shared the video on every website, and they shared it because people where sharing it, and so on and so forth. No one knows who was “patient zero”, probably a famous website or a media outlet, that led to the video’s outbreak.

In an interview, the dad who posted the video commented on the videos popularity.

“I had to make a decision: Is this something that we accept is us and do something more with or is it something we just park and say, ‘That’s really nothing to do with us,’ and then everybody else will be exploiting it and making money from it?”

The thing is, he didn’t realize it wasn’t even his decision anymore. The video has simple gone viral and there was no control over it. Years later in 2015, the story is still going on, and people are wondering what happened to the Charlie Bit My Finger boys.

They have found fame, YouTube revenue and became part of our culture, in a way. Time’s magazine refers to  watching the video now as “nostalgic”, all based on something millions of us do everyday, record our kids doing something funny. No one can really list a formula other videos can follow to assure a similar success, it was just something that “went viral”.

I agree with Jenkins in how he explains the difference between virality and spreadability, but viral content isn’t necessarily commercial content desperately clutching to the advantage of public participation, even if that is the case lots of times, it’s only because when it works, it really does get uncontrollably viral, and there’s no explanation for it except that everyone thinks it’s “interesting” whether it is a toddler biting his brother’s finger, or a Korean pop song.

Networking For Good

How we network as individuals and within groups has changed with time and technologies, and with such change appear advantages and disadvantages that are being studied to determine how the future of networking would look like.

In the book Networked:The New Social Operating System, authors Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman discuss the three major revolutions that have transformed how we form social circles and interact within them: the networks revolution, the internet revolution, and the mobile revolution. The book also focuses on how this change has affected our networks as individuals, how we now approach our relationships with our families, friends, and work mates.

In this post, we take a look at two examples of how the new concept of networking can help us understand where bigger networks link together, where interactions doesn’t only take place within a network or from individuals to the surrounding few networks they belong in, but across networks to make it more possible to serve a bigger, mutual goal. One is a feature social networks have developed enough to offer, the other is a result of public collaboration across different networks.

1- Safety Check-in

After the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal in April 2015, Facebook offered the Safety Check feature to alert the noch! network of an individual who has his location set to an affected area that they are Bye fine.

Mobile phones would show a simple alert from Facebook that reads “You appear to be in an area affected by X disaster, are you safe?” and there would be two options “I’m safe” or “I’m not in the area”.

As rescuing efforts tried to free people from under the rubble among the rising deaths, it was an effective way to check on someone in the midst of chaos, and a quick way for users who were near all the distress to assure their loved ones, friends, families, and every other network they were part of that they were alright.

Google has also been working on a People Finder feature to locate an individual’s network in the aftermath of a disaster.

This addition to the functions of social networks show how the technological revolutions happening so far (the networking revolution, internet revolution, and mobile revolution) can be integrated to serve our interpersonal communication. They are here one step ahead of how our social intuition works, as they usually are. It relieves us from the worry of an additional task in a difficult time of emergency.

2- Crowdsourcing help on a large scale

Seven days ago, a picture tweeted by Icelandic journalist Gissur Simonarson went viral. The picture was of a Syrian refugee father selling pens on the streets of Beirut with his sleeping daughter on his arm.

After the great amount of support under the hashtag #BuyPens, and questions of how to locate this man and help him support himself and his children, a crowdsourcing campaign was launched to raise money for him with a goal of $5,000.

In 6 days, the campaign has raised over $178,000 so far and there’s still 8 days left. more than 6,700 people from all over the world donated through the website. The story has been picked up by news websites and blogs all over the world.

A common expression between commentaries and entries on this type of crowdsourcing is “gives me hope”. Social media has gathered people everywhere with all their differences under one giant umbrella of accessible information, and whenever something happens on that big of a scale that changes someone’s life or helps a cause, we are reminded that it isn’t social media itself that does damage when it happens, but how people interact within their networks on social media. Connections aren’t formed by the medium, but by the people.

In these ways, the three revolutions have transformed how we perceive information and interact with each other, whether it is within our small circle or with the more generic networks we are sharing with millions of other people.

Why Is That Art and Why Should I Care?

Studying art is not an easy task to define, mostly because most people think being an artist has more to do with talent than school and books. Being talented is important, but then again there are millions of talented people around the world, how can any of them set themselves apart by studying art?

When you exert a big amount of effort into knowing more about something, you simply accumulate an advantage over someone who doesn’t.

This applies on the arts as well. While you can’t read a book and suddenly become an artist, knowing the basics of the industry, the history, what other artists already tried, how they think, and how people react, all adds up to your knowledge on the subject and feeds this advantage that most certainly will show in the work.

daliThe book 1st Why Is That Art by weg Terry Barrett discusses of four main areas of art; realism, expressionism, formalism, and postmodern pluralism. As a student in the iMedia program, I’m interested in art as an application tool, and design is something wholesale jerseys I want to pursue further in the professional world. But why Showroom do I have to learn about postmodern pluralism in 2015?

The answer is in what this book offers of information that goes into the foundation of how I think of art and design. Learning the very old basics of a profession in the digital world is not an oxymoron, because we rely on the value of these teachings to innovate new things.

We have amazing technologies at our service today but we are missing an advantage older generations had; learning in a linear way, starting from the very basics and going up on the difficulty scale of developed skills. We start from an advanced level of application because it’s available and so accessible to us we don’t even think about it. We don’t think how a photograph is made, we don’t have to go into a darkroom and spend time developing a picture, we can take ten pictures in one second and they are just there for us to use.

Knowing the basics thus reconnects us with this missing link. Personally, reading about the philosophies of important figures in the art world inspires me to think differently and opens this new perspective of how I view their work. It’s a basic foundations every artist needs to be aware of to build on further skills. Acquiring knowledge about what interests me in art isn’t technically difficult, the web is full of resources of articles and books taking an in-depth look through history and application on many subjects such as realism. It might be more challenging to know what to search for, how to start finding information, and filtering what is related to a specific area out of the sea of text and pictures.

This can be done by starting with the very basic information; a definition, available examples of works, and further suggested readings.

Being aware of art as an industry, as a philosophy, even as a business, feeds into my interest in design. As available as technologies have become to create such designs, it also facilitates the learning process of such art.