The World According to CARP

Q & A on CARP:

1: What is CARP:

CARP is the four design principles of Contrast, Alignment, Repetition and Proximity. Simply put, without CARP principles, it doesn’t matter how important the message is you are trying to get across – viewers won’t give it their time or attention unless it is presented clearly, attractively and impactfully! Lack of CARP can mean distracting viewers with jarring inconsistencies, muddying your message, or losing credibility so much that viewers just won’t even bother.

2: What is the value of the CARP principles — each of them separately, and all four working in concert — in your design work?

Used effectively all together, the CARP principles guarantee design which has impact, clarity, cohesion, and polish. Contrast – whether in size, shape, color, or other design elements – is super important in calling out key text or imagery to a viewer at a glance. Alignment helps the user make sense of different parts of the information being provided, such as titles vs. details, and adds a professional look to a final product. Repetition helps diverse elements still be “branded” as part of the same whole. And Proximity also clarifies to the viewer which pieces of information belong together. All four play vital roles in helping a project look stunning and impart information quickly and effectively.
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3: Which of the four CARP principles do you believe is most important to consider when designing visual materials for webinars? Why?

I think contrast is the most important CARP principle, especially regarding color. Within just fractions of seconds, a contrasting design element – especially a colorful one – will catch the attention of users and lead them to the key message, plus establish interest and promote credibility (through a professional, polished look). Conversely, poor contrast can be one of the worst design mistakes, since it can make text completely illegible if it does not stand out against its background.

4: Examples!

  • Example of effective CARP in action: http://www.96elephants.org/ has it all.  Great contrast in the pop of red color with a complimentary beige color repeated in titles, buttons and other calls-to-action against the stark and somber black-and-white backgrounds of deeply meaningful elephant-conservation-related imagery.  Great use of alignment with plenty of “white space.”  Repetition and cohesion across all pages of the website. Perfect proximity of like content, separated from other concepts/functional areas.

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  • Example of ineffective use of CARP: Worst website in the current century. http://www.rudgwicksteamshow.co.uk/ Terrible alignment, no cohesion, too many jarringly contrasting colors, too many sizes and shapes on images, too many different fonts, not enough empty space.  Distracting animations. Weird random imagery.  Just bad.

OUCH!!    

Kwik-E-Art

In response to the ds106 Video Assignment “Six Second Art” I created a simple little picture. Onto the blank paper and a little water, drizzle in the color of the forest. And, lo, a fox appears. Or a wolf. Or maybe a “folf” fox-wolf hybrid. Bred for its skills in magic.

Inspired by the assignment prompt of a cool piece of art unfolding in a very short time, I got the idea for this from a clip I used at about 0:11 in my video “Stop With the Hands Thing.” I love how it is not only the final picture, but the process of its creation which is artful and delightful to watch, and also how the ink itself has some freedom to shape the final product and make it its own. The live process tells a little story; gradually spreading and adding detail, some nice character development, eventually leading to the climactic epiphany of what it is all about. For this I used watercolor paper, painted the rough shape of my little animal with water, then dropped the “ink” on. Which was actually food coloring usually reserved for buttercream frosting. Once he dried off, I hung this little guy on the fridge in my kitchen.

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6-Second Art

In order to share the moment of creation with you all in about six seconds, I filmed it on my tablet, then used my beloved video editing program, Vegas Pro, to speed up the playback times 3, trim the length a bit, and cut out the audio of me grumbling about how my experiment was a failure, then a nanosecond later arguing with myself and brightly chirping, “Actually, its working!”  Hope you enjoy!

Do I Stay or Do I Go?

In response to the Daily Create “#tdc1487 Fork in the Road,” this is the image I snapped of a choice.  This is one of those black-and-white, yes-or-no choices all of us are faced with each and every day.  The light turns yellow. Either step on the gas, charge through, and travel the path faster…or brake instead and play it safe and slow and steady.  Think about how many times you’ve made that decision, and how crazily possible it is that that decision may have changed your life.  For some people, that decision can even save or end their lives.  A simple little choice made absently in a nanosecond.  And how many other choices in life are just like that yellow light moment?

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A Choice

Clues and Cues, Codes and Records

The second chapter of “New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Social Learning” by Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel further defines “literacy” as “socially-recognized practices making use of a symbol system and technology to disseminate it,” and the authors break down the idea of various “literacies” (which they stress are not tools, but instead are activities) into the elements of “practice, Discources and encoded text:”

  • Practice is to generate, communicate, and negotiate meaning within a shared human sense of the world. As an example, the authors point out how the location, movements, clothing, objects, and behaviors in a football game make it socially-recognizable in an instant as a football game – this is a “practice.”
  • Discourses are the bigger picture of the context, society, culture, values, worldview, identity, and other cues and influences – or, the shared sense of meaning which shapes the social-recognition aspect.
  • Encoded text means data preserved through a medium, and it is important to note that, according to the authors, this does not mean only writing or visual symbols – it can mean recorded data such as audio, video, script, art, etc. As the authors say, it a message which is available independently of the physical presence of another person. And they differentiate “literacy” from moments of communication which are not encoded because, beyond being saved within the memory of an observer, the unencoded message “expires at the point of production.”

My thoughts on this:

As I read through this chapter, I mulled over a few ideas I’ll share. They mostly centered around my attempt to understand why the act of decoding the cues of a “practice” and/or a “Discourse,” and the act of recording an experience into mental memory, do not seem to be “literacies” as the authors define them, as long as they are not “recorded” into some sort of external technology. And I also wondered about the idea of the “encoder” vs. the “decoder,” and within that, the variety which exists in the “social recognition” from one decoder/audience to another.

Along with the football example, the authors shared a couple of other cases to illustrate how we as observers “decode” an event or “practice” we witness,  within context/Discourses. One example centered around how if we see a person rushing to send a message by phone to their office while handing a boarding pass over to an attendant at an airport gate, we can decode a lot of information about the type of person he/she is. We can deduce from that moment some information about values (importance of a job and of maximizing time), respect of rules (turning off a phone on an airplane), socioeconomics (clothing, accessories), level of education (use of language), and more.

This example unsurprisingly made me think of Sherlock Holmes and his use of deduction to “read” detailed stories and vast cultural cues from tiny elements like an ink stain on a shirt cuff, a callus on a palm, a faded naval tattoo, scratches around a keyhole. It seemed to me that he is practicing “literacy” in decoding these cues and receiving a message from them. But as I understand this chapter, it appears that without “recording” these details, so that they are stored beyond the moment, Sherlock’s deductions are NOT considered “literacy.” Not until he photographs them or logs them in his journal, etc. According to Lankshear and Knobel, even if Sherlock remembers each detail and recounts them verbally over and over again to various listeners, that generation of an oral story and the reception and contemplation of it by listeners is NOT literacy.

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At first, that idea seemed shaky to me. Binding “literacy” to an independent storage technology cuts out wisdom and meaning passed down over hundreds of years in an oral tradition. It cuts out all the moments we decode constantly, like when watching a football game or watching a busy professional board a plane. It seems to me that all of the various cultural cues which tell us that what are seeing is a football game or a busy professional are “codes” which we are analyzing and decoding. This led me to consider the concepts of generating/encoding vs. negotiating/decoding a message, and of the performer vs. the observer.

Encoding vs. decoding seems like it starts to get a little at how the authors might be differentiating “literacy” from just the single aspect of a “practice” or “Discourse” – practice is performing the action, or the “production” stage of the message, and the Discourse is the socio-cultural backdrop to the action – neither necessarily including the actual encoding or the decoding of the event/information. The practice can occur within a Discourse without there being an observer at all, and without there being any intent from the performer to record the practice or share it with others. And even in the case in which an observer is present and constantly decoding information from various cues, if the information is not being “recorded,” it is possible that there is still no obvious “encoder.” In the example of the live football game, there are countless people and concepts which shaped that practice into the socially-recognizable practice it is, or countless codes found in the “Discourse” itself, but perhaps it can be said that there is no “encoder” present to document and then disseminate the experience to others. The agency of “storing” the event, especially with the goal of distributing it to others, is potentially missing, even if the event itself is being “decoded” by observers.

So if the authors are defining that moment of agency from an encoder as necessary to “literacy,” I can understand that somewhat. But I still find it hard to agree that a person sitting there memorizing important details of the game, players, location, plays, scores, etc., in order to communicate them orally to another person at a later time is too different in intent and action from a person sitting there filming it or writing it down. I am not sure I believe that, in essence, memorization in the human mind is too different than documentation on a piece of paper or in a computer file.

One other thing I considered is the idea of “social recognition,” and that different observers will interpret a practice or other information in (sometimes vastly) different ways. An example which comes to mind is the situation described by a teen in this speech by danah boyd, where to his friends, his “nerdy” interests are completely embraced, but to his sister, he is acting “too white.” In chapter one, Lankshear and Knobel mentioned James Gee’s definition of literacy as using “the ‘right’ language in the ‘right’ ways within a Discourse.” But what does that mean in this example? Does the “literacy” of the encoder/communicator dip when the receiver of the message can’t understand the context? Is one audience or the other “illiterate” in this case? What happens when the “social recognition,” or the context and worldview, change from audience to audience? I look forwarding to seeing if there is some exploration of that idea somewhere in the rest of the book!

Lilies and their Butterflies

“I love you so much, from the earth to the moon, and back. I want you to be yourself and blossom in every way. The world is imperfect, but I’m here to protect you as best I can.”

The short film “My Little Niece” has a fairly attention-grabbing presence on the StoryCenter stories page because it is listed under the “Healing” category, but it also has a warning under it explaining that it deals with child sexual abuse. As seen below, the Youtube screenshot for the video shows the shadow of the monkey bars on the sandy floor of an empty playground, and a subtitle is overlaid which reads “When I tried to tell my ma, she was quiet for a long time.”

Before you even begin the video, “My Little Niece” has already painted a painful and poignant picture. The joyful delight of childhood rubbed away by a sex crime, and the failed attempt to find help from a person you would think would be most desperate to provide it: “I tried to tell my ma…” Sounds so sad and horrifying, you might be tempted to flinch away from it.  And yet, there is that silver lining of the “Healing” categorization, which makes it seem easier for you to go ahead and press “play.”

The anonymous storyteller in “My Little Niece” describes two separate traumatic experiences in her life in which she was victimized by men, first as a child by a stranger at the park, and later as a college student harassed by an abusive and overly-possessive boyfriend. In the first incident, no one supports her or helps her heal – instead, she is told by her mother to just pretend like it never happened. In the second incident, a woman at her university reaches out to her. As the author describes, “a nice auntie at the school…supported me through this hard time. She let me be vulnerable and helped me see I could speak for myself, even though I was afraid.” This experience teaches our storyteller that she deserves to be treated with respect, and that it is not shameful to speak up or ask for help. It also teaches her that all women are aunties and nieces to one another, and we must do what we can to watch over one another.

Our anonymous author begins her story with the lines quoted above: “My dear little niece, I love you so much, from the earth to the moon, and back. I want you to be yourself and blossom in every way. The world is imperfect, but I’m here to protect you as best I can.” And she ends her story of healing and transformation by making it clear that she is now one of a community of powerful aunties “who are here for you in the world.”

My thoughts on the storytelling style:

Without a doubt, the author tells a captivating and meaningful story. It flows smoothly from element to element, and formative moment to formative moment, and brings the audience into the story by pointing out how the storyteller’s experiences relate to all women.

The author uses clear, poignant, and sometimes poetic language, and provides subtle important details to transport the audience into events. For an example of her pretty way with words, the author says, “Every day I woke up into a pink world,” to describe the feeling of being in love. And, for an example of her subtle use of detail; “When I was 10, I went to the park one day with a younger friend. It was sunny, with a breeze. It felt so great to be out on our own,” in conjunction with the later line, “She was looking at me for help, but I didn’t know what to do” – the audience can feel the joyful day with a friend, a child’s pride and excitement to be “growing up” enough to venturing into the world independently. And without the storyteller ever having to explain it any further, the audience can grasp her tragic and unfounded sense of guilt for not being able to protect a “younger” friend from an abusive adult.

On top of the smooth storytelling, the media used and the technical execution are excellent. The music is calming and unobtrusive, a gentle support to the author’s beautiful, flowing narration in Chinese. The imagery fits the story. Full-color images fading to sepia help convey the withering of the storyteller as her happy playdate turns to a scene of abuse and exploitation, and dramatic fades to black screens between sections help keep the pace pensive and the spoken words impactful. Images of a stuffed animal convey both the vulnerable sweet innocence of childhood, and in the end of the film, the author’s promise to protect others from threats to that sweet innocence. A splash of warm rosy colors of an impressionist painting convey the complexity of a romantic or sexual relationship; one moment a close warmth and unity, the next moment oppressive and smothering. A string of feminine and colorful paper butterflies symbolize the community of strong aunties watching over their nieces. And throughout the piece there are many still images or brief videos of shadows, or a woman with her face always hidden from the audience. In parts of the story these images convey bleak loneliness, the sense of victimization, and at 2:20, the lurking oppression from the presence of another shadow. Yet toward the end, the shadows take on triumphant, graceful poses, correlating to the idea of blooming and flourishing which is also found in images of a lily at the beginning and end of the video, and in the opening lines of the speech; “I want you to…blossom in every way.” For the storytelling traits of voice, economy, and media application, “My Little Niece” is spot-on.

Huge thanks to and applause for our anonymous storyteller, who brought us with her through her pain and recovery, and who reminds us of the power of love for one another.

Literacy in Context

“Literacy” in context…What does it mean now? What about now?

The opening chapter of “New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Social Learning” by Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel concentrates mainly on this question as the authors explore the changing use of the term “literacy” over the past 50 or so years.

The authors describe the move in literacy scholarship from “reading the written word” to deeper study of the socioeconomic implications of literacy, its correlation with oppression and poverty, its use as a standard litmus for quality of education, and the potential perils of applying ideas of “literacy” universally on diverse cultures in which the place of the written word may not supersede oral tradition.

The authors also discuss the shift of “literate” to meaning “able,” “competent” or “an insider” (for example, “computer-literate”), and the bigger-picture view of literacy as it integrates specific identities and contexts. James Gee’s ideas are highlighted in particular, where “literacy” means fluid control of language which integrates the identities, values, environment, body language, etc., of the context of the discourse.

This drives home the concept that literacy is not mere reading and writing, but social and cultural, and the authors then mention E.D. Hirsch, Jr.’s use of the term “cultural literacy” – and his publications like “Culture Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know” meant to help learners communicate within the larger national culture in the U.S. The authors also address that these shifts in the concept of literacy are continuous, noting that “with new work comes new language” and new kinds of literacy – including “digital literacy” in the current environment of online social networking.  Social media presents enormous opportunities for more participatory and open creation of knowledge and culture (vs. traditional “published” work), but also accordingly creates increased need for the ability to critically examine information, and new threats of “digital divide” and socioeconomic inequalities between the “digitally literate” and the “digitally illiterate.”

My thoughts on this:

Several elements of this historical overview stand out to me – particularly the idea that a person must be “literate” within the context of their society; giving way to the sense that we must be “prepped” to share a common cultural identity, as shown in Hirsch’s concept of “Cultural Literacy.” But how is that common cultural identity defined, and are diverse perspectives taken into account? Especially in light of the fact that each human being in the world today is more and more a part of a global community – sharing experiences, entertainment, values, feelings, and dialogue around the world with unprecedented ease online, and therefore continuously synthesizing and reshaping diverse senses of culture and identity across the globe. While there are undoubtedly obvious benefits to the idea of “preparing” a learner for a basic cultural understanding of their community, there are also equally obvious flaws. Three major concerns are:

  • Who gets to choose what is culturally significant? Does everyone get a say?
  • Is our “community” a static thing which can be condensed, packaged and shipped en masse out to eager minds?
  • Is the idea of premeditated preparation of learners to participate in a society through memorized snips of “culture” fundamentally outdated, and instead learners should concentrate on how to engage new cultural stimuli as it comes, in whatever form, and from whatever source, rather than being expected to be “experts” in a shared culture before they may fully engage with it?

I think this is where the “participatory authoring” briefly mentioned in this first chapter of “New Literacies” comes into play, along with the idea of “critical consumption.” Within social media, cultural identity can have this constant flux, redefinition, and open, multi-voice dialogue, rather than a stunted and stale idea of a “culture identity” statically identified within a narrow perspective. But the open nature may also leave us drifting in a sea of randomness and chaotic multiplicity, putting much more pressure on us to have strong skills in critical consumption of information.

In my opinion, this is a vital aspect to a relevant definition of “literacy.” In order to move fluidly through our current environment and fully leverage the richly diverse perspectives offered in these online “Discourses,” we must encourage open dialogue, constantly adapt in response to rapidly-shifting context, and develop critical examination skills. This is a huge part our “literacy” today.

Perhaps the one constant in defining “literacy” is that its definition will continue to grow and change, just like the dialogue around it, and the cultures which use it.  Let’s make the most of that delicious dynamism!

Just Look Up

For days I carried around my camera tasked with finding a good shot for the ds106 Daily Create “Take a picture of something ordinary you thought is super beautiful.” The possibilities were endless and I was pumped to find that perfect picture of something drab, homely or mundane, which – with the right romantic lighting and the amorous eye of the camera on it – could coyly transform into a swan of high art. Unfortunately, I found only the drab, homely and mundane – resolutely insignificant against the brown sloppy winter landscape.

But one day as I walked, snow began to fall beneath a sky streaked with sun and pale, cool color. I looked up through the trees and realized – the sky is always beautiful. As EM Forster says, “The only perfect view is the sky above our heads.” And we pass through life hardly ever looking straight up.

So there was that delicious moment, so so easy to miss. Thank you ds106 for helping me find it.

But don’t let it end there.  Forget high art, or photos freezing time.  That sky is always there and always wearing a different expression.  Go out and see for yourself.