Critical Reflection

For the past 13 weeks, Briana and I have been working towards a media arts project that encompasses the concept of futures through language. We wanted to look at the emergence of the newly found technological language of emojis and how this has affected the way we communicate on daily bases.

Our project started out as a recreation of Nastya Ptichek‘s work, who created a five-part series crossing the digital with classical stylings of art. This became the centerpiece of our final project, as her work incorporated emojis. However, continuing on this path meant that we were losing sight of our initial question that we wanted to ask our audience.

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We wanted our project to reflect the question “how we communicate with one another?” through the use of technology, specifically the emoji language and how that has affected how we communicate now. This concept then became heavily influenced by McLuhan’s ‘the medium is the message’:

“This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium – that is, of any extension of ourselves – result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.” ~McLuhan

We looked at different ways to make this work and found video was our best bet, as it allowed us to capture every detail. After we had decided we wanted to create a video, we hit a creative wall. We didn’t know where to take the project or what type of communication to explore. However, after discussing our ideas with Jo we realised we wanted to explore everyday situations that may occur and incorporate emojis into that type of speech.

We started out by looking at our own messaged and tried to convert them into emoji form, however, found that they had on “plot” line or any engaging component that would keep the audience engaged with our piece. From here we decided to look at a popular sitcom Friends, as our first form of experimentation.

We looked at one of the most commonly known episodes and attempted to translate it into emoji form. Then with our best acting skills, we filmed the newly form script and edited it together with the original lines as subtitles. To be honest, Briana and I were not pleased with what we created but needed a stepping stone to move forward with. However, to our surprise, we were told that our acting alongside the translations worked really well and kept the audience engaged, as they tried to decipher what was going on.

Our project took on multiple iterations, some good and some that we were not proud of, stirring off the main path we wanted to go and blurring our main question. However, I think our final piece encompasses what we wanted to achieve in an unexpected way. We looked at a situation we were familiar with, retail, and looked at the type of conversations that are typically had in that environment, between employees and between customers and employees, creating the sense of confusion a little more within that typical environment.

All in all, I think our project effectively illustrates our main questions of how we communicate with each other in a very abstract way. However, I do believe with a little more time and more research into types of conversations we could expand the work to use a variety of conversations types as well as improvising our own conversations to make it look more genuine.

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Week 13: Coming to an end

This week we looked at our space and how we wanted to display our final work. At first, we were looking at a corridor effect, by having two screens on either side of the room and a chair in the middle of the room with a spotlight directing the audience to sit and engage with the piece.

However, we found that this confused the audience, as they would only look at one screen and not understand what was happening unless instructed of the situation. We quickly dismissed this idea and moved towards a single screen work with a split screen. This helps the audience see both side of the conversation as well as showcase the reaction of the other side person.

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The split screen effect we decided to go for.

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The set-up we had, using chairs to give the audience a chance to sit and actually engage with the work. 

Our main concern was the content we had created based on retail experience. We had created a scene to experiment with taken from the Australian YouTube series ‘Rostered On’.

The feedback we received from this experiment was that the dialogue was too fast and needed to be slowed down so the audience had more time to process what was being said. Our facial expressions weren’t as prominent as they were during our first iteration of the work. The first time we created content for this project our facial expression were more visible and connected with the audience more. We realised this was due to it being a ‘Friends’ clip, a show we had watched so many times before and knew the reactions of each character.

 

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Our first iteration, with more facial expressions. 

 

We needed to reincorporate the overacting part into our work. There was also mention of the lighting in the video. Last week the video we showed used a black background with light only focusing on the individuals face.

Giving a floating head effect.

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Jo mentioned that it would be better to stick to a subtle background like the black on black to stop the audience being distracted by the light or background.

Over the next few weeks, Briana and I will reshoot our footage, slowing it down and reacting more to make it more engaging. Taking the notes and suggestions made today and in previous weeks to alter our content for the final work.

Peer Review – Briana Wallace: Modern Hieroglyphic

During the course of the semester, I have been following the development and application of Briana Wallace’s digital artefact ‘Modern Hieroglyphic’.

Originally named ’emoji-glyph’, the artefact conceptualises the ever-changing emoji language and aims to make sense of this newly found digital language. The project was designed around the premise of creating a universal emoji dictionary to reduce/stop misinterpretations whilst using emojis in everyday conversations. Originally, Briana’s artefact focused on a theoretical and experimental approach by testing the viability of emojis as a standalone language. This would eventually lead to the creation of a blog showing the results of the experimentation as well as a space to display universal meanings for the most commonly used emojis.

“The understanding that we have from theory suggests that people build shared meaning of communication and interaction over time… People are building up their new norms within a group of friends or within a geographic region or perhaps even within a culture and those things may start to even out over time.”

– Jacob Thebault-Spieker

Briana has referred to the statement above in relation to the direction of her project to understand the social norms of the emoji language. Although her audience is yet to be established and clearly clarified, I feel I fit into the younger demographic of the audience she wishes to target: those who use emojis as a stand-alone language on select occasions but also have trouble deciphering what they actually mean through single use or mixed into online communication.

The initial social utility of this project was to contribute to the growing landscape of the emoji language and create a universal understanding for each emoji. However, this project has been through a series of iterations throughout the semester, redefining the broad concept that was initially pitched at the beginning of the semester. It was a common belief that the topic Briana wished to explore was quite broad and needed to be narrowed down and possibly redirected to group together with other forms of digital language, such as gifs, that were also commonly used by her audience. This was suggested to make her project standout against the other websites that were already established.

The direction of the utility of the project was the first to change course. Briana’s artefact has now become an archive of emojis and gifs that relate to a single emotion or phrases, making the aim of the project to break down confusion often found when using emojis within our online communication.

I witnessed many reiterations of this project as it morphed towards the creation of a site to categories emojis and gifs based on emotions and commonly used phrases. Keeping the element of experimentation alive, Briana wished to document her experiences and results of messaging only in emojis and gifs. However, I did mention to Briana that this experimentation, though viable, would be biased towards the small circle of friends and family she conducted the experiment with. She decided to simplify the project to just consist of a categorisation of emojis and gifs reflecting common emotions and phrases.

 

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Emojis and gifs categorised by emotion.

 

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Throughout my experience with Briana’s artefact I have witnessed a stop and start process in her ability to get the project up and running. Particularly with the set-up of her website, it has taken her a fair amount of time to find a domain that would support her content without causing issues for her and her users. She started by using Weebly but quickly found that the site would not support emojis, which was vital to her project. She finally came across Wix, which has allowed her to publish a site close to what she imagined it to look like. It effectively displays her content in an engaging, collective and organised way making it easy to navigate and find content that related to the needs and wants of the audience. The only criticism I would make here is about her process; I would have liked to see the FEFO (fail early, fail often) approach to gain a clearer understanding of her methodology and how she had gone about the issues she encountered and how they were overcome.

 

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Modern Hieroglyphic homepage.

 

However, after witnessing her seminar curation, the methodology for ‘Modern Hieroglyphic’ was made evident. She used the time to gather information from the class about what emojis and gifs they use to convey different emotions and phrases. This was a good way to get started but I did find it to be a little limiting, as there was no input from anyone outside of our class. I think Briana could have posted the Google doc on various university forums or on Twitter to gather a wider range of data from other people and other backgrounds to see what types of emojis and gifs they use for different situations.

Briana’s BETA presentation highlighted struggles she was facing whilst putting together her artefact and effectively outlined the steps she had taken towards the new approach for her project. Briana used the feedback from her pitch and seminar curation to manipulate the direction of her artefact, making it more focused on the content needed and wanted by her audience. As ‘Modern Hieroglyphic’ has not been publicly published, we are unable to gauge the extent of its full utility, reach or how her audience has responded to the content. I would definitely recommend publishing the site and monitoring the traction from the site. This will give Briana an idea as to what works and what needs improving or changing.

Overall, I think ‘Modern Hieroglyphic’ has great potential of becoming a frequently used site for people to understand what emojis and gifs work for certain situations. As well as expanding the idea to include the various meanings found with emojis and gifs relating to other countries and cultures. I look forward to seeing what else Briana can do with ‘Modern Hieroglyphic’ and wish to incorporate it into my online communication.

Week 12: Playing with space

This week we played with the display of our work rather than the content itself. Unfortunately, we forgot to take pictures of the work, however, the set up had two screens on either side of the room with 2 projectors playing both sides of the conversation.

We found that we had too much space with this set up making is unclear to the viewer that there were, in fact, two screens that should be looked at. Another suggestion was made about the content of the view we had created. To Mat and Jo is seemed less enthusiastic than what we had previously and strayed away from the uncertainty we wanted to create. The theme of this video was “office talk”, we used a scene from The Office US and translated it into the emoji language. However, it wasn’t clear what the conversation was about and became too mundane once the emoji for a fax machine was mentioned.

For the content, we discussed using our own experiences of the workplace and using them to explore the emoji language in the retail space.

From this feedback, we have decided to create different situations for the video and see which fits best with what we want to create. But also what allows the audience to think about what they are watching. We are also going to play around with the spatial element, making it smaller so the audience knows what is going on.

Week 11: Thinking about space

This week we recorded our new script and projected it up onto the screen. As we have done in previous weeks.

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However, we have reached a roadblock as we’re not sure how to move forward with our idea and concept from this moment in time. We have deemed that our content is good, needing only minor adjustments towards the quality of sound and visual components.

From here we decided to look at different ways we could present it rather than trying to change our content.

We spoke to Jasmine who suggested we could display our project on two screens across from each other with a spotlight in the middle of the screens pointing to a chair. The two screens would allow for the conversational styling of the work to become more prominent and would allow the audience to sit down and become more involved in the work rather than just watching a single screen work.

After this discussion, we have decided that next week we would play around with the spacial element in regards to our work. Seeing if displaying it in different ways will give off different meanings and change the way the work is seen.