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Final Project I

This is an advertisements I created for the class. It is based on the premise that the Federal Government has legalized marijuana and companies want to persuade consumers to buy their products.  Obviously there would be a built-in market of current users, so advertisers would need to target those who have never used marijuana.  The specific goal for this ad was to appeal to those Americans who may have avoided using Marijuana because it’s been illegal to do so for over a century.  Many Americans who have heard for most of their lives that this drug is bad and thus are not likely to embrace the product even if it’s legalized.  That is exactly a consumer group that manufacturers will want to target with persuasive ads.

The ad uses historical “celebrities” in a humorous way to get attention as well as to show that many respected Americans once freely enjoyed using Marijuana. The ad uses imagery associated with patriotism to associate marijuana use with America, in much the same way Coke uses similar ideas. For decades, marijuana was associated with crime, hippies and slackers, but manufacturers want to get away from that and establish a more wholesome association with its product.  Therefore, the founding fathers become the endorsers of this product.  Their likenesses and deeds are well known to almost every American (which may be a problem if people feel this appeals to children, but we’ll let the PR department handle that).

Both Washington and Jefferson were hemp farmers and heavily promoted its use in manufacturing. Both quotes are directly from these men. There is no documentation that Washington ever smoked marijuana, nor is there evidence he didn’t.  Jefferson is quoted as saying he did enjoy smoking it. The Franklin quote is an obvious fabrication, but is in line with his reputation as a drinker, womanizer and all around partier. Hopefully this ad and marketing concept would persuade a few new users to try the product.

Week 8

According to Media Literacy Project, there are 40 different approaches used to persuade viewers to believe something.  Advertising is the largest user of persuasive language, whether it’s convincing consumers what vacuum to buy or for which candidate to vote.  From political races to lobbying, persuasion has often been used in politics.  Public opinion is formed by on what is presented.  Persuaders use many approaches to get attention, trust and to motivate behaviors for their cause.

There are many groups trying to persuade media viewers at any given time.  Often, it is opposing groups trying to win supporters.  Each groups’ goal is to have more backers than the other and they may use a number of persuasive techniques to influence viewers. Politics is probably the best example of this, with each side presenting similar information in radically different forms.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6wpG2Xesbk

Here is a commercial that was created for the 2004 John Kerry campaign. The biographical clip was meant to introduce Kerry to the American people and persuade them to vote for him. The ad associate Kerry with the average American by showing his humble beginnings and numerous images of him with ”average people.” Many of those images are with kids to provide a “warm and fuzzy” association. The ad spends a majority of the time talking about his military service in Vietnam, portraying him as heroic and mentions the medals he was awarded. Plain folks with which he served provide testimonials about his bravery a service. Bravery is mentioned repeatedly during when talking about him as a soldier, prosecutor and senator.  The persuasive techniques the Media Literacy Project lists that are shown through the ad include association, nostalgia, average folks, testimonials, repetition, emotiol and charisma.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4Zk9YmED48

The second video is an anti-Kerry advertisement created by a group called Swiftboat Veterans for Truth.  This ad does not attempt to promote another candidate but to discredit claims made in the previous ad, particularly the part about his military services.   It is ad hominem and works as a diversion from current issues by focusing on one from 40 years prior.  The ad opens using a line by Senator John Edwards in a favorable speech that is taken out of context and edited to appear as an introduction to this ad.  Like the previous ad, this one has plain folk that served with Kerry providing testimonials.  The word “lied” is used repetitively by those in the ad.  The ad uses fear and extrapolation to convince the viewer that Kerry would not be a good leader.  The testimonials include use of name calling and generalities.  The men in the ad are associated with Kerry by showing them in pictures with him, making their claims seem credible.

Kerry is trying to use his military service to persuade voters to his side, while the Swiftboat Veterans are using his military service to persuade people not to vote for him.  Literacy Project points out,  “political rhetoric is more difficult to analyze, not only because it involves more emotional issues, but also because it is more likely to be seen in bits and fragments, often filtered or edited by others.”  This is an important statement.  Some of the same images are used in both ads, but how they are framed in order to persuade is vastly different.  Neither ad provides solid evidence, just sound bites that either sound good or bad for Kerry.  Each ad was created with an agenda of convincing the public, not necessarily providing reliable information.  Much of the information in both ad is little more than opinion and glittering generalities.

Identifying persuasion techniques is important because of the significance public opinion holds in a democracy.  Understanding the language of persuasion can help in understanding arguments, define issues, and solve the problems.  This is even more important today in a world of media fragmentation where exposure to opposing ideas may be limited.  Getting information in bits and pieces may not lead to a full understanding of facts especially if the presentation of those fragments are structured to cater to an audience.

Week 7

When considering media preferences we only focus on what we seek out and consume.   However, with the rise of media participation through outlets such as Youtube, these preferences also influence what is created.  Just like many other aspects of life,  we have certain preferences when it comes to media.  Certain visual styles of media may have more appeal to some than others.  Certain types of media are preferred, like comedy, drama, science-fiction or horror.  Some may prefer certain emotions be evoked or not evoked like l happy, sad, scared or angry.  Many of these preferences and more form the building the media that is consumed and created.

An important part of media is the message the sender is trying to convey, whether or not that is a message we prefer may determine whether the sender’s intent is received.  Personal media bias can be shaped by a number of factors in a person’s experience.  Factors such as cultural background, economic status, sexual orientation or religious and political preferences may influences media bias.

People automatically filter information, gleaning their preferred elements from what enters.  In this way, we tailor the message we receive, applying our bias so it fits our expectation.  As mentioned in previous writings, the medium alone can influence the message, ensuring a bias toward one particular form over another.  Media preferences can be basic, individuals may have a preference for the media form he or she imbibes.  A person may prefer video to written media or radio to film.  The way information is taken in can be very personal.

Despite the massive amount of media consumed on a daily basis, we seldom stop to consider our preferences.  Those in the media business understand our biases better than we do.  It is their job to understand what people want and cater to those desires in an effort to influence thinking.  Targeting the bias of a certain group, like republicans or democrats can garner a large audience.  An interesting way to assess just how many different groups can be targeted, look at the various niche magazines, from Cat Fancier to Guns and Gardens, there are a number of bias groups that exist.

The internet allows people to not only consume media that fits their bias, but create and distribute as well.  One such example is the documentary Loose Change, a film created by a teen that did not believe the accepted reports of the September 11, 2011 events in the U.S.  In this case, the film maker literally filtered information from news reports into a message that conveyed the information as he perceived it.  He the posted it to the internet where his ideas could be distributed to the masses.  Many with similar bias, who thought official accounts of 9/11 were untrue found the documentary fitting well with their preferences.

The vast amount of media that exists means one can find almost any outlet that fits well with personal bias.  Essentially, that is why so much media exists, because there are many preferences.  However, constant avoidance of ideas contrary to our own preferences is not good either.  Sometimes we have to experience new thoughts and ideas to better understand the world around us.

Week 6

Seldom does anyone act as a de-tech-tive, following the process of analyzing and evaluating those items which improve lives.  Technology is so pervasive within our environment that it often goes unnoticed.  Just as people seldom stop to consider their senses, so too do they forget the constructed extensions of those senses.  Any technology can be deconstructed and analyzed for the consumer to better understand.  The following example of a de-tech-tive analysis using the flashlight.

 The origin of the flashlight goes back over 100 years.  At first, the light they emitted was not steady, coming instead in flashes, hence the name flashlight.  Flashlights replaced fire based lanterns and torches.  Whatever the iteration, these lighting system have always been an extension of the eyes, allowing one to see better in the dark.  This extension is also its bias, focusing on those with vision.  The flashlight allows greater access and safety in dark conditions.  Electric flashlights are also much safer than old fire lanterns, as the city of Chicago can attest.  Many modern devices such as phones have flashlight apps, but not being designed to provide light via a bright screen for a long period of time, most devices burn through power quickly.

Ironically, the flashlight tends be most utilized when other technologies fail or are not present.  For example, when the power goes out the first thing people reach for is a flashlight.  When away from modern conveniences, such as camping, most people bring a flashlight.  The flashlight is seldom thought of in terms of social significance until it’s needed.  Imagine having a party at your house and the power goes out, suddenly having a flashlight becomes an important social issue. 

The HybridLight is a recent example of the thousands of variations that have existed within flashlight technology.  The Hybrid Light is a flashlight that charges via solar panels, has back-up lithium batteries and is water proof.  According to the Hybrid Light’s manufacturer, their focus was on creating an environmentally friendly flashlight.  One way they achieved this was to use solar power to charge batteries, thus eliminating the need to use disposable batteries.  The Lithium back-up batteries are quarter sized and designed to last for up to 7 years.  Like many newer flashlights, the HybridLight uses a light emitting diode rather than the older incandescent bulb.  Thus allows longer life and lower temperatures when lit.  

Despite these changes in technology, the design is consistent with many other flashlight designs; cylindrical to be held in a fist; the light at one end with a power button behind it, and the opposite end designed to be screwed off for access to the internal components.  This simplicity and universality of design makes it user friendly for almost anyone of any age and educational level.  The basic concept, the circuit, also means that it can be understood by most, perhaps even repaired if necessary.

The flashlight and similar technologies have allowed people to work in dark conditions with greater safety.  Miners, for examples, were once dependent on flames to work.  This often led to explosions when pockets of methane gas were unknowingly tapped by workers.  Flashlights and headlamps decreased the likelihood of explosions increasing worker safety; canaries were not as fortunate.  Any work being done at night or in the dark has benefited from the flashlight.  From bank robbers to surgeons, flashlights have been their when needed.

It’s difficult to say what innovations will influence the next generation of flashlights.  As already mentioned, technologies such as solar power, LEDs and Lithium batteries have been integrated into these devices.  The main issues with any flashlight seem to be brightness, portability and power.  As power sources become more powerful and easier to carry, they will likely continue to influence flashlight design.  Perhaps a levitating hydrogen fuel-cell powered light is in our future.

All technology is subject to evaluation and evolution as new advances are made.  Some technologies, such as the flashlight, are so universal that it’s often forgotten to be technology.  An evaluation of the technology allows one to understand the past, present and future of such devices.

Week 5 – Mantra

Technology has great potential to bring people together, but it can also be used to avoid direct contact.  I often find myself using technology to avoid interaction.  I find I prefer communicating via email rather than voice.  Much of the work I do know is via the internet.  Part of the reason I chose the distributed learning model was to work independently and not have the social burdens that come with traditional ground schools.  I find myself using digital citizenship to become an analog hermit.  This is not the best way to use technology.  So I have a chosen a mantra that reminds me not use technology to avoid the world.

Mantra:

I will not use technology to avoid the rest of the world.  I will use technology to embrace it.

And here it is in Haiku:

I will not use my
technology to avoid.
I embrace the world

Week 4

McLuhan’s tetrad could have predicted the direction gaming would take. Released in 2005, the Nintendo Wii, despite lacking many of the features it competitors had, went on to be the best selling game system for nearly a decade.  The Wii did not have HD graphics or a multi-gigabyte hard drive.  What did have was a revolutionary and innovative game interface.  This interface brought back something that had been lacking in the gaming world—physical movement.   The gaming medium in a big way retrieved something that had been thought obsolesced by earlier gaming systems. 

The entire ark of the gaming market fits well into McLuhan’s tetrad.  Beginning in the 1970’s, gaming companies were constantly trying to meet the consumer’s desire for better systems and better games.  Early on, the gaming experience required going to communal gaming centers, but advancing technology allowed home systems to become popular.  The quality of home systems quickly obsolesced the need to leave one’s house in order to experience the best gaming had to offer.

Home gaming technology has progressed steadily.   From simple 8-bit graphics, in three decades it has reached full HD digital quality.  With each new system, manufacturers attempted to make gaming seem more like real life.  Improved A.I. on each system provided a greater feeling of playing an actual person.  In a way, as A.I. progressed, with each new iteration it brought back the feeling of interacting with a living, breathing opponent.

As the gaming system was pushed to extremes, it became smaller and smaller.  Portable systems that allowed gaming almost anywhere became popular, but did not replace the home systems.  Like larger units, the portables have become faster, smarter and have HD screen quality.

Once the internet became stable enough for platform gaming, its role provided gaming with something that seemed impossible—communal multiplayer.  Games were no longer limited to the number of controllers on a single unit.  Now players in different houses, different countries, and different continents could play a single game.  Not only did this bring back community feel that private gaming seemed to have destroyed, it globalized the community.

Up to this point, gaming had gone from communal, to private and to global.   With the addition of the internet, gaming was now more like a game of pick-up baseball, any one could join in.  The only physical movement electronic gaming required was the fingers pushing buttons on a controller, all other was needless or obsolete.  Then in 2005, Nintendo unveiled the Wii.  In what was probably the biggest retrieval of obsolescence, Nintendo had created a system with games requiring physical movement.  At first, there were only a few games like tennis, pool, baseball and bowling.  As time went on, more movement based games were added to the library and more equipment.  Eventually a user could complete an entire workout routine with just the Wii.

The familiarity of movement to play games also opened up a new market.  Older individuals, not as physical capable as they once were, could play on the Wii.   This group had never used hand controllers for playing games, they had grown up playing physical, real-world games.  The fact that these individuals were comfortable with new technology shows an unusual level of technological reversal.  Digital bowling was now more like real-life bowling, but could being done at home and without bodily strain.

Seeing the success movement added to gaming, Sony and Microsoft both attempted similar products.  Sony’s PlayStation Move failed to make much of a splash with consumers.  Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect, however, did well.  The Kinect provided yet another reversal of obsolescence, movement didn’t require a controller, a camera followed the user.  This made interacting with the Kinect more natural, all one had to do was move and they were playing the game. 

McLuhan’s tetrad is so well conceived that it can be applied to technology that was still in its infancy when he died.  It’s easy to see how each new generation of gaming technology enhanced and obsolesced previous versions, but was not as easy to see the retrieval until physical interaction became prominent.