Final Portfolio: Video

The video project was great to work on, and I feel as though I really learned a great deal of information through it – not only about video editing, but also about climate change as a whole. For the frame of my project, I wanted to do something similar to my infographic and podcast presentation, but also dive into a different direction by observing a much grander scale effect that humans have on the earth: changing our climate through pollution. Similar to the first two pieces, I decided to make the piece for an audience that is generally new to the subject of climate change and interested in learning more. In framing my issue, I wanted to first establish the fact that our world is precious by showing clips of nature while also narrating the scenes – this set an idyllic tone of appreciation for our planet. Suddenly, I cut this off with an error screen and dive into the meat of my entire piece: climate change as a major problem.

I think that this portion of my piece was the strongest for two reasons. First and foremost, I employed a number of very prominent speeches from esteemed individuals in our world today. From Barack Obama to Leonardo DiCaprio to Al Gore, we see the same fundamental issue being explained over and over again: our climate is in danger, and we must act now. In our class discussions, we talked about having a goal for our piece and a general call to action that we wanted our audience to take. For me, my goal was to capture the massive subject of climate change into one video and my call to action was to simply do something to help – and that is where my narration came into play! Throughout these video clips of famous people in our society, I interjected with moments to talk about how we can help around the house, by talking to our congressmen and women, or by joining activist groups online and engaging with other individuals in the community.

Overall, I think that this back and forth nature of the video was one of the strongpoints of the piece. While it highlighted the massive flaws that we see in our world today, it equally emphasized the ways in which we can start helping right now. Additionally, I think that the audio that I used worked very well. For the beginning, I included the song “What a Beautiful World,” while later in the piece, I included a somber piano song. Together, these set a tone that follows the content of my piece quite well. I chose to move in this direction because I knew that my audience might get tired of listening to me harping on ways to help – instead, the back and forth keeps the viewer engaged and interested in potentially helping my call to action.

If I could change any component of my final product, I would have tried to include more evidence of climate change in my video. Whether this be through a time lapse of polar ice caps melting or through massive rain events dumping down and flooding major cities, I think there are a number of ways to clearly and explicitly show that our world is changing rapidly due to our selfish actions.

Final Portfolio: Podcast

I enjoyed working on the Podcast for a number of reasons. First and foremost, this was entirely different than not only the infographic, but also any other project that I have worked on in the past.

While my topic was the same as my infographic, there were a number of differences along the way. The frame, however, was somewhat similar. Once again, I expected my audience to be generally unaware of coral reef depletion, so I looked at the subject in a very simple way with clear and concrete ways that we as individuals can make a difference. To frame the issue, I set out a general guideline from the start. The piece includes an introduction that sets out my layout for the project, a brief conversation with my guest, Phillip Osborn, an anecdotal piece to highlight the effects of coral reef depletion on humans in our world, and a final wrap up of the piece with ways in which we can help our world going forward. I think that by setting out this general framework early on, it allowed for my project to flow in a clear and concise path along the way. The final product of the podcast was informative, interesting, and (hopefully) inspiring to those who listened.

Looking back, there were many parts of the podcast that went well and were great to work on. First, I thought it was nice to have an interview in my piece – and it was even better that it was my friend from Northwestern who is a major in civil engineering. While I have heard briefly about his experiences exploring coral reefs around the world, it was great to dig a little deeper and expose his interesting thoughts to my audience. He, too, approached the issue in a simple way and was able to provide an understanding of what is happening in reefs, why it is happening, and the tangible ways that we can help. It was difficult, at times, to hold him back from going off on tangents – I actually had to cut a good amount of audio from our interview because he was so enthusiastic and dived into a number of topics that where somewhat irrelevant to my project. Additionally, I really enjoyed working on the project from a technical standpoint. I have never used a program like Audacity before, so it was educational and interesting to play around with the various effects (fade in, fade out, amplify, normalize, etc.).

In the end, I felt like my approach to the project was a good one. I think that often times people do view coral reef preservation as a very important part of humanity, but fail to understand the tangible consequences that humans face because of this depletion around the world. By bringing in the anecdote about the tribe in Madagascar, I think listeners are able to understand the crucial piece of coral depletion that I set out to make clear: our actions as humans affect other lives around the world, whether that be fish, wild animals, or other humans.

Looking back, I think I would keep most of content the same, but would definitely try to make things shorter. In our day and age, ten minutes can be valuable (especially for businessmen and women), so having a shorter product would have been helpful. While my initial submission was somewhat longer, I did try to account for this in my post here by making the piece shorter and easier to digest.

Final Portfolio: Infographic

BWInfographic

My infographic was a very interesting project to work on for a few different reasons. The project itself was a great opportunity to take a very large and immense topic and condense it down to something simple. For me, this meant researching the present science of coral reef studies through several online forums, and also looking into efforts currently being taken by activists around the globe.

Overall, the frame for my project was coral reef depletion and potential preservation. I planned for my audience to be somewhat new to the subject, so I wanted to keep things simple and concise. In framing my infographic, I wanted to ask a few questions: what is going on with coral reefs, what are the consequences of our actions, and what are some different ways that we can help? Through these various questions, I was able to create a final product that was both explanatory of the current coral reef depletion in the world and helpful in understanding ways to make our world a better place, whether this is through conserving water, not littering, or even joining activist groups online.

When completing the project, there were many aspects that stood out to me and made the process educational and rewarding. I think what was unique about this project was the concept of taking a large-scale idea (coral reef destruction) and boiling it down to something as simple as an infographic. This is a skill that not only helped me condense my ideas on future projects, but will also be useful in later projects both at Dartmouth and beyond. In this vein, I enjoyed sifting through sources online to find facts that would illuminate the vast consequences that humans have inflicted on coral reefs.

From a technical standpoint, it was also interesting to work with a new piece of software (Piktochart) and create something both creative and instrumental in saving our environment. While art is surely not my forte, it was challenging and rewarding to find different color combinations (by looking at the color wheel) and design concepts that worked well together. Given the amount of information I wanted to include and the limited space that I worked with, I found it difficult to include negative space, but I think that overall my final product was strong.

This project was also fun to approach because I truthfully knew nothing about it – which is why I picked it in the first place. I think that coral reef preservation is such a unique and crucial component of our Earth’s environment and yet it is often neglected. In approaching my project in a factual and problem-solving manner, I think I condensed coral reef preservation into something that makes sense and leaves even a normal listener who is unaware of the issue feeling capable and eager to resist coral reef destruction.

Tackling this project – while it did take some time – was rewarding. I do not think I would change much in retrospect, but if there were something, I would have liked to include just a few pictures to highlight the visual effects of coral reef depletion. While the facts stand as strong indicators of the massive consequences of humans, I think that pictures add a different perspective on the detrimental effects around the globe.

Weeks 7-8

Over the last two weeks, we have dived into a number of different topics and concepts that have been closely related to what I’ve been doing online (via forums like Twitter). One topic that has been particularly interesting to see in all of the videos we’ve been watching – and something that was spoken about in How to Make Videos that Don’t Suck – has been the notion of “Subject + Action = Shot.” This is both an interesting concept and something that is vital in creating a video that contains substance and meaning.

Many times when I am on Twitter, there are pictures and videos that fulfill this idea of “Subject + Action = Shot.” While this phrase applies primarily in a video context, I have noticed it in many of the posts and pictures on Twitter – to rally people to help, there is always a subject and an action in each post.

One post, for example, expresses the sheer importance of the Great Barrier Reef. The subject is coral reef preservation (and the jobs at stake, like fishing, that rely on coral reefs) and the action is to push for policy to save the reef as a whole. Another example was a retweet from @ReefLifeRestoration in which they talked about seven ways to save reefs around the world. The subject in this case was coral reef preservation and the action is to do one of the seven improvements to help our reefs.

In each of these cases, we see the subject and the action culminate in one combined “shot.” Without either of these components, we would have an incomplete equation, and as noted in How to Shoot Videos that Don’t Suck, this is a fundamental problem in creating a substandard video.

Aside from our readings, we have also discussed the importance of always having a distinct goal in mind for our projects. In class we have asked ourselves several questions: what do we want our video projects to accomplish, what actions do we want individuals to take after watching the videos, and who do we want to target?

While this has been a valuable process in terms of creating a video that is meaningful and worthwhile, it has also opened my eyes to the various tactics that individuals use on Twitter to capture their audience. Often times, the viewers of these posts are intellectuals specifically interested in coral reefs, but in addition to this audience, there is also a much wider range of individuals (like me) who originally know nothing about coral reefs. Because of this, most Tweeters have to ask themselves these fundamental questions so that they can target their audience effectively.

All in all, I think there are several valuable lessons that I have learned from How to Shoot Videos that Don’t Suck and from our class discussions – lessons that have centered on the idea of creating a product that has a wealth of information and a strong sense of content. Without thinking of the finished work as “Subject + Action = Shot” and without considering the end goals for your project, the entirety of the production can become a lost cause. Just I have noticed through Tweets from different Coral Reef activists around the world, you must have a clear and direct plan – otherwise, things can drift off into a video that “sucks.”

Week 5-6

These past few weeks have been focused primarily on podcast preparation and video preparation. One of the topics that we have discussed and read about extensively has been the creation of the public service announcement (PSA). In class, we’ve talked through the various methods for creating a public service announcement – things including  targeting your audience, having a hook at the beginning of each clip, and requesting a call to action.

First, the idea of targeting your audience can be difficult as you must target a specific group of people in order to really drive your point home. In class, we watched many examples of PSA videos, but one of my favorites (although it was vague in its overall objective) was a video of DJ Khaled talking about the importance of working hard – hinting that going to college is very important. I found this to be particularly interesting because DJ Khaled never actually graduated or even went to college – but I digress. What is important from this video is the idea of targeting an audience. In this case, the audience is high school-aged students that are on the verge of going to college. Therefore, it makes sense that they have DJ Khaled in the video as people are extremely interested in him today for his music production and hilarious SnapChat videos. Even more, the include a teacher that seems to be young and hip (not old and boring), and a student that has a vibe of being “cool.” Overall, by understanding who the audience was, this PSA was able to target that audience by including a number of key items to draw in listeners and make the production successful.

Another factor about the DJ Khaled video that was very interesting was the way in which they “hooked” the audience. The Preparing Public Service Announcements article speaks directly to this, mentioning that it is extremely important to draw in your listeners early on or else you may lose them. To do this, the video cleverly used the ringing of a school bell to have the audience snap to attention, and directly following this bell was DJ Khaled’s voice saying something along the lines of “put away your cellphone in class!” In these quick five seconds, the PSA effectively captured the audiences attention and worked towards keeping us involved for the remainder of the video.

In my Twitter experience, I have noticed many similarities to both of these qualities. While most Twitter posts include simple text and quick photos, some contain videos that often serve the same purpose of a PSA. One way or another, these videos urge us to understand the detrimental effects of coral bleaching, to understand how littering in the ocean is corrosive to sea life environments, and many more. In one of these videos, for example, the video begins with a massive view of the Great Barrier Reef, and it shows how it looked a decade ago vs. how it looks now. In many ways, this was effective in being a hook for the video – the difference is astounding. Additionally, the video does a great job in understanding their audience. While many professional people interact and have conversations on Twitter, these coral reef activists understand that it is important to teach people uneducated on the matter. Therefore, when they make this video they make it somewhat educational. A quick explanation of what it is helps the audience digest the subject quickly and move forward. Through the notion of having a “hook” and knowing your audience, PSAs are very effective.

So, what makes these videos effective? As our in class reading suggests, the effectiveness lies in the ability to encourage and inspire a call to action. Another PSA that we watched in class was about bullying in school today. Near the end of the video the PSA encouraged the audience to join the effort and stop bullying today. While individuals may or may not go out and directly fight bullying first hand, I think the video pushed more for a change in mentality – a change that will make people question themselves when bullying, asking “is this really necessary?” In many of the PSA videos I find on Twitter about coral bleaching and many of the posts that are about coral bleaching in general, there is a call to action that is similar to this idea of changing mentalities. Often times, it is hard to realize that we can directly fight coral bleaching individually, but these PSAs help in understanding that if everyone changes their overall mentality, we can see a change. Call to actions like these are effective for activists on social media platforms – it is how they thrive.

Overall, these comparisons between the reading and my Twitter experience were exciting to see, and I look forward to seeing how they develop more as the term goes on!

 

Weeks 3-4 Blog Post

The past two weeks have been very interesting, and throughout the process, I have been able to draw many parallels between what we have discussed in our in-class conversations and what I have been reading about online through forums like Twitter.

Something that we discussed in class that was particularly interesting was the notion of “going viral,” and what that means in today’s world. We looked at a few cases, but one that stood out to me specifically was the story behind United Airlines. About two weeks ago, a passenger on a United flight was forced to de-board the overbooked plane. The catch to the story, though, is that he never agreed to de-boarding the plane – this was a forced act that made him uncomfortable. They ultimately called police onto the plane to force the process, and this resulted in vulgar acts and severe wounds. Some people even claim that the passenger was tranquilized as he muttered strange words and seemed to be extremely weak.

Regardless, what was fascinating about this entire story was not the fact that some Americans are so senseless as to disregard the personal space and legal binding to a ticket on an airplane, but the fact that the story took off – literally, overnight. When we came to class the day that it had begun trending on Twitter, almost everyone had already known about it. So how does this exactly work? In today’s world, we are so interconnected that it becomes second nature to be constantly aware of the big social phenomenons taking place in our society. Maybe Trump signed a new bill that will heavily influence oil and gas regulation, maybe the pitcher for the Detroit Tigers had a gruesome ankle sprain, or maybe Oprah Winfrey is starting her show again. Today, we have a way of spreading word, and we do this through forums like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

After hearing about this, I kept my eyes peeled for an indicator of this occurring for my blog topic, coral reef preservation. Interestingly enough, one of the people I have followed, Terry Hughes (who has actually liked my posts on Twitter before), released a study that he conducted on the Great Barrier Reef. The study concluded that the reef is in its “terminal stage,” indicating that there is not much time left for the reef to heal if coral bleaching continues into the near future. While I saw his initial post about his findings, it was even more interesting to see how quickly it went viral – and I mean fast. Within less than 24 hours, I saw posts from major news corporations on Google, I saw posts on Yahoo’s front page, and I saw all of the marine scientists that I follow on Twitter going ballistic in conversation threads on Twitter. All in all, what was the most remarkable and rewarding throughout this process was not only to see a direct comparison to what we had just spoken about in class, but more importantly to see that some things that are important and must be known can go viral. While many of the news articles that go viral can be trashy news bits about celebrities marrying other celebrities, this article from Terry Hughes was extremely important for people in the world to know – and by going viral, they now know.

On a completely different note, it was also great to discuss the influence that you can have over social media posts and conversations through the framing of your argument. Most of the time, the posts that I have seen online regarding coral reef preservation have been framed in a way that makes the matter seem extremely urgent and pressing. In other words, the activists that I follow try to make it sound like reefs will be gone in the next 2-3 year if we, as a whole, do not shape up now. What is interesting to this is that while I know that this is (for the most part) very true, the average Twitter user who knows very little about coral reefs will take this urgency at face value. In this case, that is a very good thing – the framing of the issue by the coral reef activists is crucial and very necessary in letting the public know that reefs are in bad shape.

What scares me, however, is that individuals can frame issues in ways that may be detrimental to society and lead us down dangerous paths. For example, if a group of individuals in the United States organized a “trend” utilizing false data to prove that high cellphone usage is correlated with high brain cancer rates, this could potentially blow up in a very bad way. Individuals worried about the problem might begin calling their doctors frantically, well known authors in the medical community might take their time to debunk the issue and calm down individuals around the world, and many more.

As a whole, I have realized from our class discussions that framing is crucial in telling a story, and it is up to the individual to be ethical and understanding of the power contained in social media. Hopefully going forward we will see activists, like the coral reef activists I follow, framing issues in a way that pushes humanity forward in a positive direction.

Connection of Twitter Feed to Class Discussion

Over the past two weeks, I have spent time following and reading into various coral reef activists and activist groups. The material is fascinating – coral reefs are changing at remarkable rates around the world, and it is obvious that this change is for the worse. With ocean bleaching, over pollution, excessive marine vehicle usage, and poor water conservation habits, we have pushed coral reefs into a losing battle. Around all these various discussions, however, I have noticed many similarities to aspects that we have touched on in class.

One of the primary comparisons I have drawn from my own experiences browsing Twitter and the conversations we have had as a group is the strong presence of weak ties in social media. As Gladwell spoke about in his piece, the modern world presents a strong forum for individuals that have never even met to share ideas and discuss current issues. For example, professors from Hawaii can retweet and reply to posts from Professors leading coral reef studies in Australia. This type of conversation, as we have talked about in class, is something that rarely happened a decade ago. Even more, it is a conversation that is not only productive, but also promising to the individuals – providing them with an “I’m not alone on this fight” mentality.

These weak tie relationships are very prevalent especially on social media platforms like Twitter. On April 5th, for example, a professor from the University of Chicago posted a beautiful photograph of a fish in a coral reef environment and a professor that works in California retweeted it for his followers to see. The two professors participate in #WrasseWednesday in which they post various photographs of fish that live in coral reef habitats – an activity that is both entertaining and quietly pushing along their activist efforts. Additionally, a document titled “Chasing Coral” that explores the rapidly changing coral reefs around the world premiers in the next few weeks, and coral reef activists are offering full support with constant retweets.

As we mentioned in class, the strength of the coral reef activist effort lies in numbers – and the forum is allowing for this to take place through these weak tie connections.

Another similarity that I drew from our class discussions and my findings on Twitter is that social media platforms can offer for a great progression of knowledge and education around a specific field. While many activist groups rely on straightforward information that can be summarized in a short Twitter post, many individuals (like scientists) share their information through published writing – and this is very common for coral reef activists. With most of these activists being professors at different schools around the world, they rely not only on published works to maintain their career, but also to maintain their hopes in actually making a meaningful change in the world around us. To do this, authors of these different social media forums to post to their coral reef activist followers and can ultimately determine feedback – both privately and publicly – to see if their writing has had positive feedback. Additionally, while most commentary is positive, some can be negative. As we spoke about in class, this may seem to be counterproductive or frustrating especially for the author, but in the long run, these types of criticisms are crucial in moving the field and activist effort forward. Without a valuable social forum like Twitter, this type of movement would not be possible – movement that will hopefully push coral reef preservation efforts more into the limelight of the modern world.

Overall, it has become very clear to me that Twitter offers something that has not been offered before. As I mentioned in class, many authors debate as to whether or not these activists groups are actually going to have a meaningful impact going forward. Gladwell believes that social media does not have the ability to move forward activist efforts, while Mirani suggested that Twitter is ushering a new age of activist efforts led through weak ties and publicly stated opinions. Regardless of Twitter’s true function (or lack thereof) in today’s world, one understanding must remain clear: Twitter is maintaining its momentum and has a strong presence in today’s media. It will be interesting to see how coral reef activists and #OceanOptimism will continue to grow – based on my findings so far, I have confidence that it will.