PA: Overview

To Conclude…

The graduate project has been a very insightful learning experience. I have testing my theoretical mind, my technological skill, my creative flair, my patience and my confidence. The skill set I am most proud of developing is my knowledge of new softwares, After Effects and Premiere Pro. Having self taught myself from start to finish I feel I have come a very long way very quickly. I thoroughly enjoyed filming and editing and this has even opened a few doors in terms of career path ideas. I have extended my knowledge of Photoshop and Illustrator, which will also help with career paths. Having struggled with code I am proud of what I have achieved even though the project doesn’t look quite like how I wanted it to look I have learned so much and have a new understand of Javascript, JQuery, HTML and CSS. I think what this project lack in visible successes it makes up for in long term personal and professional development.

Although I am relatively happy with the the final outcome of the project I feel there is room for massive improvements to be made. Like I have iterated throughout, I think more content is necessary and the webpage needs to be more interactive, with everything playing at one or not at all or playing here and moving there. It needs to push the ideas further, to stretch this online meets offline conceptualisation. I think the 3D gallery scroller is almost like a demo of the real thing and looks a bit unfinished. This has come from making a change last minute – so this is a very very important lesson I have learned. To either make a decision and stick to it and put it into place immediately instead of hoping everything will be okay. In my eyes my time management was good, i.e. I spent a lot of time on the project (all day everyday in the library) but because I did not set weekly targets and mini deadlines for myself I got a bit lost in the workload. I let things that took a long time take even longer because I was a little too casual about it, so this will be a lesson for the future.

In terms of my audience research process I do not think I could have been more thorough, with a minimum of 4 different methods I think I have researched it from all angles. This was the part I have actually enjoyed the most. In terms of the design side, again I should have set personal mini deadlines. By creating the content first and leaving coding the website until quite late I think it looks rushed and amateur. My overall design process of my video and clips I think has been strong. By critiquing them with other people and getting them to be honest I think these came out the most successful. As I have said before, I wish now we were starting the project because I could utilise my skills learned, whereas before it seemed I was wasting time learning them although I did need to start someone. So, although the overall look and feel of the site is not what I wanted and there are many shortfalls, I think that I have shown the strength and dedication to continue on and rise above them to complete a project of substantial scope and depth.

Part of me wishes that I had continued with the second idea of a very graphicsy type interactive joiner image because I think a joiner image is so powerful it just stands alone and proud in its own right. My concerns with this was using people images off the internet, for example although the images I have used from Instagram have all been for public viewing therefore their should be no real issue. Also due to the nature of the video it moves too quick for the photographers identity to be reviewed anyways. This is the idea I would pursue in future whereby the images would be pulled live and joiner together more systematically and incorporated more code so not only being a narrative but more interactive as well whilst letting the data speak for itself.

I feel I have learned a lot about the ideas development process and proved that I carry out a product form start to finish no matter what it is. I think I have showed willingness to be innovative and unique by choosing a subject and treatment that is a bit unusual and not got a set structure you can follow. This shows determination and commitment to the task in hand. I feel I have learned so much in terms of organisation, planning, graphics, video, video editing, sound editing, storyboarding, working with others, coding and designing. So although I am not necessarily happy with the final product, I am happy with what it has taught me for the future.

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Digital Story Telling Example

bear 76

Bear 7

A very strong example of digital narrative developed from a tiny seed of thought. I like the voice over element and the continuous movement on the page. This is not just telling the story of one bear, it is telling the conceptual story of what the bear stands for and everything else surround human society and how we live. I like the graphic stats meets real life filming as both offer strong visual contrast from online and offline. The negatives with this piece is that there is a feeling of anti climax, like you are waiting for something major to happen and for all to be revealed but instead it just plays on and on and you never quite get to the end of it. This would put some viewers off and make them switch over straight away which I want to avoid.

Linear to Multi Narrative Design

Linear Narrative

 

 

Multiple Overlapping narrative Design.

 

SITE5

 

So imagine the user is greeted by a strange selection of images. They begin clicking on them and pop ups start happing. People don’t like pop ups… they make them feel uneasy and annoyed. This is how an emotive response will be gained.

SITE3

 

 

So as the view beginning to click and interact, opening and closing the pop ups, they begin to recognise things a little more and begin to make the tie between everything and find the connecting similarity.

SITE2

 

They may decide to close and open them one by one, or open them all at the same time, or leave some playing. The build up of noise and page traffic and general mash up of images that all represent something unique to do with social media not only tell a story in their own right but tell the story as a whole with the bizarre and unnatural layout on the page.

 

 

 

SITE1

Initial 3D layering narrative design ideas. The element of confusion is a good thing – its representative of the complicated lives led online and off. The noise and sounds, and recognisable things will make the user either want to interact to make it stop or interact to make it carry on and to see more. By using the interactive function as well, with the webcam plugin and the speech plugin I think the overall concept will get across and will “be the story”.

Overcoming Problems and Concerns

The main concern I have had throughout this project is that people wouldn’t “get” it and yet I really didn’t want to spell it out to them. I wanted the experience to be exploratory and for the audience to work it out for themselves and enjoy the pieces for what they were. However from user testing and further research, my testing participants only really got it when they were given an encouraging hint. This is why the control pages were added to ensure the point was not missed. I am disappointed the linear narrative didn’t work out because I really feel as if this would have been stronger than the multi narrative had it have been better planed out with one more specific point than larger overall points.  I feel I definitely made the decision to change from the linear narrative structure far too late and struggled with it for too long. This is where too much planning and research can cause problems because I was convinced I could make it work but sometimes you just need to know when to move on. This has frustrated me a lot because I feel that had I come to the decision to change to an interactive collage/layering of videos sound and image I could have really executed it much better. Although for this project I feel like it impacted the final result in a negative way, for future projects I will know to react sooner and be able to make a firm decision to change pathway if need be.

In terms of time management, I behaved with the best of intentions and believed that my production plan was realistic. The filming sections went very well and remained on schedule, with all of it being completed across 5 days and with the help of Jessica Long (see methodologies). However,  it was the editing that took the time and learning the software that required patience and dedication. Additionally collecting the Instagram images for my overlapping video was very time consuming!! You can only search a hashtag word on a mobile or tablet and then there is no way of seeing the full image with the hashtags included at the bottom unless you screen shot it in two halves and then photoshop them together. This was not difficult but it took a lot of time.  Issues regarding export qualities and waiting for files to render was something that was out of my control but something I should have been prepared for, however my lack of experience with Premiere Pro and After Effects meant I was not to have known. The overall video design, although they were all story boarded thoroughly, it was a case of trial and error to get it looking its best when it actually came to editing the footage. Even though this caused me a set back in terms of time, I feel it was beneficial to my future production pieces and has truly given me a solid foundation of experience to take on bigger and better projects in the future.

The coding of the website was something I knew would take me a fair amount of time due to my lack of confidence with code. The trickier parts which Dominic helped me with (see methodologies) went to plan and together we had four organised meetings over a 3 weeks period which we all productive and worthwhile. I had chosen to do an artistic piece because it meant I could utilise my creative strengths and manage a lower level of code. I feel that my coding skills have improved dramatically however it did take even longer than I anticipated – especially with the reworking from a linear click through to a 3D gallery scroller.

Overall I feel like this project had a lot of concerns from start to finish but a majority of them was because of my own lack of confidence. It is frustrating that now at the end of the project that I feel I have reached a peak of knowledge and experience and could go on to now completely smash another project under the same brief, so although I had a lot of short comings I feel in the long run I have proved that I can overcome them, I am committed and persistent and will do everything I can in my power to reach an end result.

Shaping of the Project: Audience Research

This project has been a definitely been on quite a journey. From the initial idea of the transmedia narrative carried out across different forms of social media to now being more of an abstraction/visualisation type piece. From my fine art background, I have always felt most comfortable with working with creative art, however I find it a massive struggle to overlap fine art and digital art due to my lack of confidence with the technical side of things. I feel that my technical skill never quite does my creativity justice. I am aware that this is why we have the option to collaborate, so they we can utilise other peoples skill sets, however I feel that from my own personal perspective I wanted to challenge myself and force myself to improve in terms of my coding and technical ability which this project has allowed me to do. Additionally I feel that I put too much emphasis on this graduate project being a “thing”, a “product” that had to have a point to it, i.e. something that had a start and an end or was more of a sellable package like a game for example. From the very beginning I wanted to create something people would interact with and appreciate without it being just “another app” or “another website” . I have always had an interest in media audiences and the sociology/psychology surrounding why people engage with it, and this was extended further with my dissertation research which was about audience who watch TV and use Twitter simultaneously. Instead of using what I knew about social network to create one, I wanted to make something that looked at it from another angle and since social media has been such a phenomenon in the last 10 or so years so I felt this would have plenty of scope. This idea had come from ongoing observation of people. From being in uni and using social media to communicate with course colleagues and sports teams, to working in a busy restaurant and over hearing people discussing what they had seen on social media over dinner. It fascinated me how much it came up in conversation. This is where I decided to put my observation to good use. Until now the observations I had been making were relatively “indirect” (Wilson 2002). I think this fascination came from my own personal usage of social media. Yes it is something I have and use, but I regularly question my own usage and test my own dependance on it. I enjoy going on holiday and not taking a phone, and I sort of judge myself for using it if I am say, away on holiday. Social media used to be about sharing things, but the accessibility of the internet and the popularity of internet devices has meant that we can share as and when we like, absolutely anywhere with signal, which lets be honest is everywhere. The question I always ask is that if people are having a good time and what not, then surely they can’t be having that good of a time if they willing to stop to post something online? Its not like before where you would come home and take time and effort to sit at a proper computer attached to the online world with an ethernet cable.

What was interesting is that once you start taking notice of something, how much you see it, but then when I questioned people, most commonly, they were always quite quick to deny how much they actually engage in social media. This made me question how any research that I carried out might be difficult because people wouldn’t be truthful. If I was to question people directly “this would assume that they have an ability to recall earlier behaviour accurately- which may not always be true” (Wilson 2002).  This is why the research process needed to be thorough however, it needed a different structure to normal because by asking to them to “make self observation” (Wilson 2002), their answers would be likely to change. Having made this observation, I feel the application of Wilson’s (2002) social research methods was the best suited.

observation

When studying something so large scale and broad as social media I feel this was a good decision, especially when wanting to create something artistic which isn’t really that artistic – it needed to be broad. By using focus groups, interviews, questionnaires and general indirect/direct observations in a less formal environment I feel that this gave me a solid overview of the subject without overkilling it and still allowing for creative flair.

 

Learning New Softwares: After Effects and Premiere Pro

aftereffectsevid

By using YouTube tutorials and forums I self taught myself Adobe After Effects. Some of the skills I have developed are layering video and still image, layer masks, inserting shapes and animates, text, enhancing video footage, key framing etc etc the list is pretty endless. I would edit together short sections of footage, export them from AE and import them into Adobe Premiere Pro in order to piece together longer reels of video. This process was very very time consuming!! A process which I had allocated a lot of time for however it seemed to take forever! I quickly learnt the importance of setting up a project correctly and ensuring the auto save functionality is well and truly switched on after losing many hours of work right at the beginning. So mix a loss of work, a longer process than first assumed and a gazillion other things to worry about… this was beginning to take its toll and the stress level was rising.

prempro

 

Although after effects has an audio functionality, I found the audio much easier to work with once the clip was in Premiere Pro. I think this would be an area I would wish to improve on because the software is so clever but because I was teaching myself I never quite managed to learn everything. I tried to complete each video to professional and polished final quality because these videos were the heart and sole of the project – they needed to be good. By incorporating what I have researched about sound recognition and emotive responses caused by certain sounds, they also needed to be included carefully and purposefully.

Production Analysis: Method

The methodologies employed to carry out this project have been split into two sections, audience research and approach to narrative design.

  • Audience Research

The topic of research has been user engagement with social media and how online life meets offline reality. This whole graduate project has grown from audience research, meaning that a human behaviour focused  perspective, or “phenomenological” research approach has been employed as opposed to a scientific approach. Having said this, some elements of the research has taken on a “positivistic” approach whereby surveys have been used in order to further audience understanding.

 

“Human motivation is shaped by factors that are not always observable, e.g. inner thought processes, so that it can become hard to generalise on, for example, motivation from observation of behaviour alone. Furthermore, people place their own meanings on events; meanings that do not always coincide with the way others have interpreted them.” (University of Bradford School of Management)

 

In terms of social media, it is driven by people, and people have generated a way of life online that has grown from the functionality of the social media outlets that they have chosen to engage with. People can influence events, and construct or deconstruct the relevant “rules” and social “norms” surrounding social media. For example, photo sharing social media page Instagram made is socially acceptable to take photo’s of yourself and upload them online, “I use Instagram because it means I can take selfies and not get ‘bullied’ for them” Hannah Beard, 22, Bournemouth University Student (see Interviews). Previously, the social protocol surrounding alternative social media networks meant that uploading said “selfie”, had negative connotations such as that person was “vain” or “big headed” but because it was “the done thing” on this form of social media then it made it okay.  This example is representative of how people have acted unpredictably and shaped new “identifiable norms” (University of Bradford School of Management).  A phenomenological approach understands behaviour from the participants own “subjective frame of reference” (University of Bradford School of Management). Therefore this has allowed for the description, translation explanation and interpretation of social media from the perspective of people who use it the most. I would class the research project that I have carried out to be inductive whereby I took a specific starting point which is Social media blurring online and offline, and this in turn generated broader generalisations which fell under the same umbrella term that is social media usage and determined the best way to demonstrate these ideas through creative practice.

  • Narrative Structure

The # Life has taken on many different forms since beginning at the start of the academic year, and problems with narrative structure have been the reason. Idea 1, the transmedia narrative distributed via social media character pages required a narrative so detailed and engaging that I feel I would never have been able to have pulled it off. The changeability of social media audiences mentioned above was a huge factor which made the direction of The #Life move away from idea 1 because  the life span of the latest interest or craze does not last very long online. I did not which to start a project that fizzled out and lost all meaning. My initial methods I wished to employ whereby the user themselves could direct the story by interacting with the characters social media pages was quickly put aside. Crawford (2013) summarises my issues faced as “plot versus interactivity” and “control versus interactivity” (p.68) which describes the problem faced excellently;

“If the story is to be truly interactive, then the player must be able to change the story. But, if the player changes the story then the artist cannot control its development and the player will likely ruin the story” (Crawford, 2013, p.68)

 

My method of narrative structure was to display common social media stereotypes through the pages of characters within the story. However, the narrative design was too complex to display them clearly enough without spelling them out which would have made it look amateur and tacky. Instead of trying to force the story and then engage users, I overcame this problem by making the users the story because after all the story of social media itself is created by people. The whole concept of social media interaction became the thing itself this project in itself was trying to display. So, to summarise, in the words of Crawford (2013, p.68) “the solution to the problem, in a word, is abstraction” and this is what method I have employed for the final version of The #Life graduate project. By combining my audience research with my narrative design theory, then a strong project which allows the viewer to take from it what they wish will develop organically.