Wednesday, October 30, 2013

About my New Media Project #2 (available for viewing at )

My piece (at ) is about one of my first media psychology lessons, which was taught to me by an unlikely teacher. As the Buddhist proverb goes "When the student is ready the teacher will appear." I’ve actually told this story hundreds of times and it featured in the autobiography that I submitted for admission to my PhD program. It is one of my best (and favorite) personal anecdotes on the direct-indirect nature of communications, with applications personal, inter-personal, and trans-social. 

Technically the piece is really more of a web collage. It wasn’t what I ideally had in mind, as the story-table hints, but given my technical constraints (both skill and available technology) I think it communicates the essence of the story well. I’ll admit the audio is pretty crappy (there was only so much I could do with a $15 dollar Radio Shack microphone and a 4 year old laptop). But I think the graphics are effective and demonstrate my videographic and photographic training, especially since I was producing “on the fly”.

Interview Reflection for New Media Project # 2, PSY-767B Summer 2013

1. What is the essential story behind the piece you created?

The essential story is that sometimes the most effective way to communicate is indirectly, through empathy and emotions, and without head-on logic. It is a frustrating yet fascinating fact to me, and it is really at the core of my passion for media psychology and communications. Telling and reliving this story helps me reconnect to that passion and explain it to others, in no small part since it is through story that others can imagine and (I hope) empathize with. Since I also plan on being a science popularizer when I get my PhD (like Carl Sagan, whose own storytelling influenced me to be a scientist) I know I will be sharing this story for many years to come. 

2. What was your purpose in creating this piece of new media narrative? Do you feel you were successful in communicating your purpose? 

Ostensibly I created this piece to satisfy the course requirement. But it also gave me a chance to practice the theory that I learned in the Story Paper that was also due for this class. By design the paper was supposed to come last but I did things out-of-order because I wanted to get what I considered the harder assignment out of the way. In practice however it gave me a chance to demonstrate (what I believe) is my better understanding of story theory now, an understanding I don’t believe I would have had had I not had to examine it so closely first in the paper. It also provides a nice “before theory paper” to “after theory paper” comparison to the first and second media projects. That said, I think I was successful in communicating my intent in creating the piece, as well as some of the fun I had in making it.

3. Who was your audience? Do you feel you were successful in reaching your audience?

In truth my audience is Dr. Ohler, the course instructor. Since I took an “Incomplete” for the class it is probably too late for my other classmates from the summer to look at my project. And as it is I will probably take this blog down soon after I get my grade. Although I do plan on soon publishing a professional website showcasing my new found (and to be found) professional skills I don’t want the inferior quality of the audio narration to reflect on me.

In practice however, this is just the latest expression of a story I have told for years (to many audiences) and will continue to tell. As in every re-telling I believe I have learned something new about the story and myself, particularly since I was able to incorporate visual and musical elements into a story that I had always told orally or in writing. And that’s what I find fun about media psychology – I love studying and applying the way different media filter and accentuate human communication, both separately and in conjunction.

4. Why did you use your particular approach to media production and media selection? Were you successful?     

As noted in the description of my piece, it was mainly time and the hardware that I had on hand that dictated how I produced the piece. I would imagine that my old broadcasting professors would cringe at some of the pacing decisions I made. Plus when I recorded my piece I thought I would be able to edit the audio but my software (Windows Moviemaker 2.6) and/or level of skill frustrated my attempts.

Luckily I believe that the point of the assignment was more to demonstrate my understanding of storytelling theory and how to create an effective story than it was to showcase technical skills. And that’s great – I’m more of a theory person myself and have found that my strength is more in explaining phenomena than actually creating them. In that sense I believe I succeeded. In particular I think stating the moral of the story at the end communicated the “transformation” that took place in the main character (myself) well. And if there is one thing I will take away from this course it is that an effective story must have a transformation.

5. What did you learn during the process of crafting your media piece that you can use in creating future new media narrative?

I learned that I’m probably not as bad a producer as I thought, especially with my new understanding of story theory. By having tools like the story arc, the transformation, and the theme at my disposal to tie the different elements of the story together I was able to find a lot more available media than I had originally hoped. It allowed me to identify the human universals, abundant in the image media in the Google and Bing search engines that I used. And I had what I thought were some pretty abstract concepts to generalize, such as describing visually the indirect communicative process that occurred between myself and my client – and why it worked.

Story Map for #2 New Media Project

Story Table for #2 New Media Project for class 767B "The Dukes of Hazzard, Fuzzy Logic, and the Man Who Didn’t Want to Take His Bath: My Early Lesson in Media Psychology"

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Interview Reflection for New Media Project # 1, PSY-767B Summer 2013

Reflection questions:

1. What is the essential story behind the piece you created?

Triumph over adversity. When I got the rejection letter from the Fielding Admissions committee I felt that I was at a crossroads, a nexus if you will. I could very easily have given up at that point – I already had a Master’s degree as it was – but something inside of me didn’t want to give up that easily. Since by nature I tend to think visually and in metaphors I remember seeing a vision of myself being backed into a corner and then feeling my backbone – a metaphor I suppose for strength, but also for a ladder, a ladder that I was to use to find a way out the predicament that I was in. Luckily I tend to do a lot of research when I attempt a major endeavor. I like to really dig into the resources about what I am attempting to find out whatever information I can (a trait from my early scientific training as an archaeologist I suppose). It helps me to embrace serendipity and take advantage of new situations by already having the right tools (or by knowing where to get them).

That’s what happened when I got the rejection letter. As I felt my backbone and was determined to find a way out of my situation (and into the PhD program) I remembered reading about the matriculation/articulation at Fielding between the Master’s and PhD programs. I also remembered the phone number of the person to contact to make my plan happen – Kim Miller, who was the Media Psychology Admission Advisor at the time (and is the unspoken hero behind the scenes of my admissions story). It was a good thing that I had that knowledge so readily at my disposal since I literally had less than a week to re-apply to the Master’s if I wanted to start right away. The rest, as they say, is history.

2. What was your purpose in creating this piece of new media narrative? Do you feel you were successful in communicating your purpose?

My primary purpose for creating the piece, admittedly, was because it was a required assignment. But the assignment, and the course that it contributes to, was meant to illustrate a common theme in the overall story arc of my Doctoral education, a story within a story if you will. I started out as a punk summa cum laude student with a Master’s degree thinking I could just walk into a PhD program. Now, halfway through the program I see my education as transformative experience between relative naivety and hard-fought wisdom, just like my previous experiences were in getting my Master’s and in getting into the PhD program.

I think I have been successful in communicating my purpose, if not so deeply. The humor wasn’t my original intent – there was nothing about hamsters in the storytable that I submitted to my teacher Dr. Ohler – but it seemed to work. And I’ve learned to embrace serendipity. In the original draft of my script the opening line was “I found my backbone one late December day in 2010 as I was crying in my bathroom, like a five year old that had just lost their hamster”. I later omitted that last phrase about the hamster, but when I went to compile media files for the production I found that I had already gathered a picture of a hamster holding its paws over its head, as if it was backed into a corner and crying (the first picture you see in the video by the way). Like I said I’ve learned to embrace serendipity so I ran with the motif, trusting my intuition (I am a future media psychologist after all). As a result I think I created a much more interesting and original piece than if I had just pasted in a bunch of people-pictures. (Plus it was serendipitous that I was able to find a picture of a hamster dressed up as a boxer so it married well with my pre-existing “Rocky” theme!)

3. Who was your audience? Do you feel you were successful in reaching your audience?

To be honest I don’t know. As I was creating the piece I imagined a kind of miasmic “other” out there that consisted of my teacher Dr. Ohler and my classmates on one level, and the general public who might stumble across it on the other. I know that my intent was to satisfy the course requirements but I also wanted it to be G-rated – clever, tongue-in-cheek, but tasteful enough and cogent enough to reflect well on Fielding (and myself in case any potential employers/funders might be looking). That said I think my message comes through in an innovative way that will stick with the audience. At the very least I hope they enjoy it and appreciate my creativity and sense of humor.

4. Why did you use your particular approach to media production and media selection? Were you successful?     

I use my approach because I think it works, and I think the piece is a demonstration of that efficacy (for better or worse). One of the reasons I’m an A student in Graduate/Doctoral school is because I love what I study and I love learning the craft of what makes communication effective. Admittedly a lot of my approach seems like “voodoo” to me – a sixth sense comprised of my past education and experience in the creative arts, from theatre to TV – but as I continue my studies I learn that a lot of that “voodoo” has a sound scientific basis. That understanding then reflexively works back in to fine-tune the sixth sense. And if it doesn’t than I can use my media psychology to find out. (Stay tuned for my Dissertation).

5. What did you learn during the process of crafting your media piece that you can use in creating future new media narrative?

I learned new technical skills in how to integrate sound and video and where to find it. I also had the opportunity to recall of a lot old heuristics about what works and what doesn’t, media-craftsmanship-wise, that I thought I had forgotten from past experience and training. I was particularly pleased in how that intuition (abetted by my new understanding of media theory) showed up spontaneously in my media and editing choices that led me to reflexively rehash and wrap up the piece. However I was also embarrassed by how much I’d forgotten about editing, so the “irkiness” and timing of some of the parts that don’t quite synch together as well as I like bothers me. Luckily I believe the purpose of the assignment was to demonstrate and apply the principles of narrative theory, even if the technical parts aren’t perfect. In that respect I think that I learned a lot that I will retain into my future studies and professional practice.

Media Credits for Patrick McNabb’s PSY-767B New Media Project # 1

Media Credits for Patrick McNabb’s PSY-767B New Media Project # 1:
(credits are listed in order of appearance and links are current as of 7/3-4/2013)

Hyperlink for the project:

Media credits – visual and audio – listed in order of appearance:
(links are current as of 7/3-4/2013)

email and scanned PhD admissions acceptance letters from the author’s collection

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

This is a test post to see if this blog works.

The cat's name is "Snuffles" (aka "Mr. Snuffles") and he is the avatar I use for school. He is my favorite character from my favorite comic strip "Pearls Before Swine"  and I sincerely hope the creator Stephan Pastis uses him in more story-lines. (And for all those data-miners out there here is a bone (but you probably already know this)) - I have a cat that looks just like Snuffles named "Chimney" (among other names), except that he is orange.