“19th century culture was defined by the novel, 20th century by the cinema; the culture of the 21st century will be defined by the interface.”
—Lev Manovich, referenced by Aaron Koblin in his TED2011 talk, March 2011
I’m only just finishing my first year of a three year college program, but already I’ve been apprised of this sobering truth for the aspiring graphic designer: if I want to find employment upon graduating, it would probably be a poor career choice for me to skip my classes in web and mobile app design! This is the direction in which a lot of the work I’ll be doing in the foreseeable future is going. Children are some of the primary consumers of digital media, and recently there has been a lot of thoughtful consideration of intuitive and engaging UI design, so as to create a positive and entertaining UX for kids as they navigate these media.
Based on recent studies, media multitasking is one of the newer trends among kids and young people. Recognizing this shift in kids’ engagement with media, Cartoon Network recently had an app designed that would really facilitate multitasking. The version of the app for the iPad has three possible configurations. In portrait orientation, the screen is divided in half, allowing kids to play games in the bottom half while watching TV in the top half. Turning the tablet into landscape format, it becomes solely a gaming device. Rotate it 180 degrees, and you have a portable TV. The popularity of the app — there have been millions of downloads — suggests that this design resonates with kids.
Hay Day (iOS) is a kind of Farmville knock off. The premise is straightforward – grow crops, raise livestock, sell the goods and use the coins you earn to build and improve your farm. It starts well enough. In about 10 minutes you’re growing and selling, and zipping through the first level. It’s engaging enough to keep you playing, and it’s fun. It’s also a great lesson in buying and selling…. demand economics if you will.
But by the middle of Level 2 that changes dramatically, and your progress grinds to a snail’s pace. By Level 3 (which came nearly two days later) the motive is obvious; you need to buy in-game currency to speed up the action and you need to click on the link to Facebook so you can sell your virtual goods to a broader audience. That in-game currency comes at various price points from $4.99 to $99. That link to Facebook has no monetary value; all it costs is your privacy and your contact list.
The social media blitz that Twitter provides has allowed individuals to craft and share short messages with the world. The beauty of the system is that anybody can Tweet, but it’s the celebrities and the athletes that have the biggest following. Nobody cares what you had for breakfast, but if Danica Patrick took a photo of her waffle; it’s news.
Through these personal sound bites, athletes’ followers can wait for word on where that player may be heading next, who they’ve been hanging out with, what movies and music they like, and other personal details.
It’s like a dear diary, but the entries are exposed for the world to see instead of hidden under a pillow.
At the beginning of the new year, Coca-Cola released a health focused ad campaign. Awesome is a soft drink company that isn’t sugar coating the reality of rising obesity rates! The campaign tackles the age-old fact that over consuming sugar (or any food group) will lead to weight gain and other health problems. The ad also notes that Coca-Cola’s various drinks are now sold in ‘’diet’’ or low-calorie choices.
What is so special about this ad? Coca-Cola is creating awareness, which is what a leading brand should do. BUT, what really caught my eye was the fact that there was not a single polar bear used in the campaign. Various polar bears and their progeny have inhabited Coke’s advertising since 1922, and in 1993, Coca-Cola launched the “Always Coca-Cola” TV campaign with animated bears. We don’t know if Coca-Cola has set the bears free, forever, but the fact that a health-focused, bear-free campaign was launched, shows that Coca-Cola has been doing their homework on their audience.
All right, I admit that the effect of Horror movies and violence in video games on children is no stop-in-your-tracks exclusive and we have all heard the talks and seen the studies one way or another. You see for me, that is the problem. If it is so common place a debate, how have the producers and game developers just decided to ignore it and take things to a new extreme?
For all intents and purposes, Disney Animation Studio’s Wreck-It Ralph is a video game movie. Akin to Toy Story or Who Framed Roger Rabbit, it’s not an adaptation based on any one game in particular, but instead an amalgamation of characters and cues that have wormed their way into our cultural knowledge of video games. Though the film lovingly references everything from famous sound cues to the apparently arbitrary mechanics that so often appear in games (candy-cane tree branches with double stripes will disappear when touched), its character-driven story challenges an idea at the heart of many video game narratives: That there is a “good guy” to root for and a “bad guy” to defeat.
Wreck-It Ralph is a bad guy – though, as his bad-anon companion Zangief would tell him, not a bad guy. As a video game villain, he spends his days doing the thankless work of providing an obstacle for gamers to overcome, and ultimately takes to leaving his game and travelling the arcade it lives in, searching for something more. From there on out, the heart of the story is Ralph proving to other people – but more importantly, to himself – that he can be something more than a “bad guy” who ruins everything he touches.
With the NHL season quickly slipping away, fears about the loss of games have subsided into apathy about the whole situation.
I remember the lockout of 2005 and I know I was more upset than I am now, and I wonder if kids are missing the game as much as I did almost a decade ago.
Now I just shake my head.
It is kind of bamboozling that after losing the entire 2004-05 campaign, the NHL didn’t solve some major issues.
The league is counting on a loyal and rabid fan base to stick with the game, and diehard hockey fans will.
But some fans won’t.
I’m sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe…”Lemony Snicket, The Bad Beginning
So begins the tale of the Baudelaire orphans, the heroes of the series of books entitled, “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. The series spans 13 books, all written by author Daniel Handler under the name, Lemony Snicket. Lemony Snicket is a character himself within the book, and the series is his biography of the Baudelaire children, Violet, Klaus and Sunny.
The series ended in 2006 with the release of The End, but children and adults alike can still learn a thing or two from Handler’s tales of woe. In his New York Times review, Henry Alford states,
Where, in the end — and in “The End” — does the “Unfortunate Events” series leave us? It leaves us reminded of what an interesting and offbeat educator Handler is. In between all the exotic ethnic food references and the gallows humor and the teaching of words like “denouement” and “vaporetto,” the books seem at times like a covert mission to turn their readers into slightly dark-hued sophisticates.
Curiously, readers may not even realize they are learning from Handler’s strange world of orphans. As Snicket, he makes a point of using obscure language. But instead of leaving his readers wondering or having them run off for dictionaries, Snicket defines those words. Handler does not speak to his children readers as too young, or too inexperienced to understand. Instead he opens children’s minds, and treats them as human beings. It is a very different and challenging experience for young readers. Read more >>
Exposing Kids to Gallery Art and Cool Culture
The Art Gallery of Ontario’s current exhibition of Frida and Diego provides valuable exposure to Mexican art for adults and children alike. I found adults could view the exhibit and recognize the political, historical and emotional themes behind the works. Children can also really appreciate the art for its colour, content and cultural significance. It is important to allow kids to experience the art of other cultures, just as it’s important to expose them to different languages or foods, in order for them to grow into well-rounded adults.
Diego Rivera’s work shows a great variety of styles; he experiments with realism, abstraction and surrealism. This is great to expose children to, as it allows them to see that an artist can create in many different forms, all of which are completely valid. It also promotes creativity as it encourages the child to paint as they want instead of mimicking other styles or doing precisely as their instructors tell them to. Rivera also worked with mural painting that can be seen in a multimedia presentation in the exhibit. This shows children an entirely different method for creating art and provides an entirely different scale for expressing their creativity. The more varied the medium you expose kids to as they are growing, the more willing they are to experiment with their own creativity.
The vivid colours of Frida Kahlo’s work focuses on portraiture, mostly of herself, and mostly involving flowers, nature and animals. Self-portraits are one of the most common themes kids draw, along with their family, friends and pets. They represent the building blocks of drawing, painting and sculpture; if you can draw a face, you can draw almost anything. Self-portraits are an important way for children to gauge their own growth, really study their own features, explore their creative process and see that – just as they are different from other kids – so is their art.
As an advertising student and student of advertising, my job is to peer deeply into human behaviour and human attitudes. These days, I can’t stop thinking about how darned smart Marshall McLuhan was when he opined, ”the medium is the message” way back in ….1964? That pithy little meme – still echoing through the halls of academia – certainly has relevance to my media life and Mr. McLuhan shared this insight in a pre-computer, pre-mobile world. So if the medium is the message what does the medium say about ME?
Mr. McLuhan (he’s mister to me) uttered his insight in the heady days of television (think: Mad Men). TV was definitely the backdrop to my life, but my medium of choice was, and continues to be, digital. Read more >>
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