#Phonar Session 3 – Immersion & ‘New Media New Journalism’ Reflection.

Immersion with Matt Johnston.

“Do I add to the images in movies? I don’t think so; I don’t have time: in front of the screen, I am not free to shut my eyes; otherwise, opening them again, I would not discover the same image; I am constrained to a continuous voracity…” Barthes, R. (Camera Lucinda) 1980.

  • We have time to think about images and read them.
  • Does an aid to reading mean we become more immersed in something?
  • Does it keep us engaged, rather than skipping ahead?
  • The narrative of the Internet allows us to look/read whatever we want unlike a book.
  • We need to acknowledge the fact our reading patterns are changing.
  • Immersion focus – very accurate and strict with yourself to become immersed in the text. Bring a lot from your own mind.
  • With Phonar, we want readers to get lost in our content but bring something from their own mind into it.
  • Do we need to give a little bit more to the reader?
  • Constant layering of narrative.
  • There is enough time to add a layer of our own thinking and understanding.
  • Sarah Kay – If I should have a daughter.
  • We have to know how to communicate to our audience.
  • Tricks, tips and techniques to immerse them if we want to.
  • Going to talk about immersion in relation to our individual projects.
  • The power of the single image, individual sound and sight is fantastic but can diminish work when working with sequence and narrative.
  • The Storytelling Animal – Jonathan Gotschall.
  • Individual things don’t happen, there is always a before and an after.
  • The Shallows – Nicholas Carr.
  • The internet is a map rather than a linear space.
  • Pandora’s Camera – Joan Fontcuberta.
  • Synthetic images – completely fabricated, sometimes based on real data.
  • We shape our tools and our tools shape us.

We took a look at Pinepoint, an incredibly interesting interactive website telling the story of the area which no longer exists. It was interesting to consider to what extent we could find ourselves immersed in this website. Personally, while I felt some pages worked well with interesting visual aids supporting pieces of text, other pages seemed quite busy with a lot to take in. I found it quite hard to be able to read some pieces with somebody talking in the background however makes us spend more time on a page then we would initially, taking in each bit of information. For some people this could potentially work really well, whereas for others like myself could cause an audience to be less interested and engaged. Is a number of different forms of media crammed into one page the way to go in order to create something new and exciting? This made me think back to a quote from Mark Maguire we heard previously in Fred Ritchin’s talk “if you want to change the world you have to start describing it differently”. By using immersion as an alternate tool to tell stories and more, we are describing that particular topic in a different way to how we would if we just wrote about it, for example. With sound we can visualise images in our head, putting our own thoughts into something. With photographs, we can literally see into the moment and the combination of the two can allow us to image ourselves there. Altogether, I feel this is really powerful and becomes really engaging.

We also looked at a short clip from Sarah Kay – If I should have a daughter and were questioned as to whether we felt immersed in the video. For me, the way she spoke was intriguing and enlightening allowing me to begin visualising situations in my own mind however with her fast pace I found it hard to keep up leaving me disconnected from the talk. There is no denying that the way she speaks is so much more interesting than someone with a monotone voice, reading off a piece of paper. Personally I think hearing the ‘higher’ notes in her voice made her sound enthusiastic and passionate which will make the viewer a lot more interested. An interested viewer is an engaged viewer meaning we are immersed in the video. However, another way I considered this feeling of immersion was how I would feel if I was actually present at the talk rather than watching it online. I think that feeling of immersion is lost a little in the transaction of being put online as it is very easy to get distracted on the web when trying to focus on one thing. So why is it that I found Pinepoint a lot more effective and immersive than this talk from Sarah Kay? Pinepoint allows you to navigate around at your own speed – you do not have to follow a linear narrative and can jump to various bits of the story at any time. It also lets you click through photo albums, giving you that sense of a physical artefact. By the simple action of clicking on things it immediately becomes so much more interactive and the viewer feels part of the piece, designed for their viewing pleasure and ease.

New Media, New Journalism.

In this talk Stephen Mayes, director of VII photo and visual entrepreneur, and Fred Ritchin, professor at New York University and previous editor of The New York Times demonstrate the different views of a visual journalist and photographer. Whilst a photographer is often seen as someone who reacts to a situation and sets up a portrait, a visual journalist deals with contextualization and has choices over important photos and videos with the intention of minimising conflict. They discuss the enormous problem of the ‘diminishing sense that the media is telling us of things of importance to help understand the world’ and the importance of needing to work together with those in the situation and those who put it together. A huge opportunity has emerged to how we relate to information as we can reinvent how news and information works. As we become less dependent on print magazines, we also have comfort in certain standards in the old model and a standards begin to remerge but are not yet fixed, it allows us to recreate the way information is delivered. However Mayes and Ritchin also discuss the problem of citizenship and without a solution to problems, journalism can become entertainment, a distraction – if something becomes to complex, it passes people by. The ‘front page’ acts as a form of control but can exclude important things in the world – how many people read a story? They consider the sculpting of a story, fitting the aims of the photographer or the publisher – how do we know the true story? Newspapers are pointing us in the direction of what we should be reading, as conventional media points out some things whilst excluding others. Mayes and Ritchin also talk about how working online creates the illusion of participating when really we are doing nothing at all – sharing, commenting, correcting, liking. The media allows us to things as a community but these things aren’t created for educating, they are asking for help. All points of view are dispersed all over the internet, but who gets hurt at the end of the day because of freedom of information?

Seeing the discussion between a photographer and visual journalist was really interesting as it created contradicting views as well as agreements. With all this reinvention of the media and how we receive information, they consider who is actually doing it as well as being in the interest of the younger generation. Are we at the age of 20/21 considered the younger generation, or are we considering those younger than us? Through our life time so far we have witnessed a number of changes in the digital world however as those younger than us reach our age this will be the norm. We see young children playing video games and playing on iPad’s rather than being outside and socialising. But are we past the point of reversal, to try and encourage doing something outdoors rather than being inside in a virtual world, or do we use these digital mediums to educate and involve children? The direction in which we choose to go today will create the world for those growing up into it.

Another point I found interesting was brought up by Fred Ritchin considering the importance of the front page. It acts as a form of control and focus. Whilst it can be so powerful by pointing people in the direction of reading certain things it can also exclude important things going on in the world. They discuss how a neat summary can be created by sculpting a story in order to fit the aims of the photographer or publisher, essentially excluding those important pieces of information people need to know about. It can be argued that the front page is designed to look attractive rather than draw us to shocking headlines – I have often seen people criticising front pages of newspapers as we see huge titles about a celebrity yet a small block of text about a tragic accident. Should we be grab people’s attention and get viewers, or to actually inform and educate them? They speak about how once you begin following something, you continue for a long time. Essentially once you stick to reading a newspaper you continue reading it daily/weekly therefore it doesn’t become an issue of what is or isn’t on the front page. Is this making us ignorant of what is going on in the world, or have we just conformed to this because we read what we want regardless of what isn’t in it? Along with this they also talk about if we choose not to read a particular paper or magazine, in a week or so it will be gone. However with a website it will continue to be there whether we choose to read it or not. I think this highlights the digital way in sharing information in a positive light as we cannot ‘escape’ those news stories we could with papers. Once on the internet, they will always be there and if we choose not to read it at the time it doesn’t mean we will completely miss it. However at the same time, these stories could be edited and directed at us in exactly the same way that newspaper articles can leading us to question whether we ever receive a true representation of information.

Another interesting point I found was how they expressed their concern for how working online creates the illusion of participating when really we are doing nothing. A huge example of this is Facebook. Facebook has become a huge part of so many peoples lives for both positive and negative reasons. We can do so many things including sharing photos, thoughts, communicating with friends and playing more. It also allows us to read about the news and various incidents shared by others which can lead to many ‘likes’ and controversial comments sparking debate and disagreements. But in reality, what does this actually do? Whilst a comment might rile some other people up and cause rows on the internet, what use does a virtual like do? It shows our understanding, acceptance and sometimes sympathy of a situation but we do it all behind a computer screen. We feel like we have contributed by acknowledging a situation but once we leave our digital devices these things can easily be put to the back of our minds while we get on with the rest of our day. These stories aren’t being shared just to educate people, they are asking for help. When will we begin doing something rather than just accepting it’s happening? Despite these problems, Facebook brings people together – rather than things not being read about, here they can be seen. By bringing people together, hopefully we can begin making a change.

The talk between Fred Ritchin & Stephen Mayes can be heard here.


~ by victoriasimkissphotography on October 16, 2014.

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