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I Think There Might Be A Misunderstanding…

I have known her throughout her whole life. Yes there have been tough times, and yes there will be tough times ahead. The successes have been amazing though, and have opened my eyes and many others. I am of course talking about my 13 year old cousin Meg who is mildly autistic. Most people see those with autism to be incapable of a normal life or to excel and do amazing things. I have seen what is possible through Meg’s accomplishments and talents and believe that autism is not a curse. We must all recognize that and make the changes so everyone regardless of their situation can succeed.

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TED Talk 2012

So I had a really hard time coming up with what I want to bring to the table for this TED Talk assignment. I thought about what I’m passionate about, what I’ve seen in my life, and ultimately what I’ve done with my life so far. Needless to say none of that really helped me come up with a topic that I actually feel strongly about. That was until I was editing a photograph for a different class and realized what I needed to talk about.

I plan on talking about my amazing and talented 13 year old cousin Meg. I have decided to talk about her because she is amazingly talented at photography, along with numerous other things, and because she is autistic. She is one of the most caring and also brutally honest people I know, she takes some great photographs, and while she sees the world differently than most of us I sometimes think she sees it a lot clearer than the rest of us do. She’s an inspiring individual and she proves that if you’re passionate about something that anything is possible.


What About This Blog?

Critiquing oneself is often one of the most difficult things to do. In this post I will be talking about this blog as it pertains to usability, or how user-friendly it is, based on the book Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug. The first thing about my blog, LoudNoises, that is noticeable are the images. While I think that they images are cool for the site I know that with the blog’s content right now they probably are not the best option and should be changed to be more relatable to the content of the blog up to this point. However, in the postings I think that the images have been extremely relatable and fit well with the contents of the post when used. I feel that the postings have also done an excellent job of including links to sites discussed when necessary by creating small hyperlinks at the end of posts mentioning specific sites.

Staying on the media track only one specific video has been used in a post, the visual story, but when referencing more than one video links have been used for the user to see said videos. The posts overall have been broken up to make them more readable, but moving forward I would like to employ a little more visual hierarchy within those chunks themselves to make the post much more scannable for the users.

From a design standpoint the site could use some work. I would like to create a more distinct homepage describing the mission of the blog more apparent while also leaving the most recent post on that homepage with a different tab to get to all the posts in the descending manner they are in right now. I feel that the user would be more able to filter what they want to find if done in that way instead of having to scroll through all the posts on just one page. The best feature of the site would have to be the choice in color right now with the white text used against the black background, and the dark blue text used as links or tags.

The site right now is very simple, but it could be more broken down into an even more streamlined manner like I discussed in the last paragraph. It does have many basic conventions which are helpful in the form of the search box, tags, a link back to the main page in the form of the blog name, and obvious tabs to other pages within the site. The site does not have a true tagline, and by adding one the mission of the blog would become more clear. The biggest improvements could be made in the about section, because it describes the author and the blog at the same time. If separated the blog might have a better chance of being understood while not taking away from the users ability to find out about the site author on a different page.

Overall the blog needs some work, but I believe it has a solid basic platform that can be easily built upon from a usability standpoint.

 


Community Outreach

 

We as communications students are in an interesting position in regard to the opportunities that are around us to help others. There are a huge number of non profit organizations in the Philadelphia, and numerous that could use the help of someone with an understanding of how a webpage should look. That someone could be a communications professional that these organizations simply cannot afford, or it could be a smart and educated communications student like myself and my classmates that would be purely doing it for the experience.

One such non profit organization that I feel could benefit from our help on their website by administering a usability test is Campus Philly. While I feel that they have a very good platform already there are definitely some things I feel could be drastically improved on their website. The first thing that I noticed on the website was the colored headings below the colored city skyline. While I think this visually appealing I had no idea that it was meant to be clicked on until I put my mouse over it. A minor flaw, yes, but something that can be improved upon non the less. I also did not find the middle news feed to be very self explanatory until I starred at it for a few seconds to figure out that they were opportunities posted in descending chronological order.

Another organization that could benefit from a usability test is the Horizon House. The Horizon House helps adults and children with psychiatric and developmental disabilities to get off the streets and overcome whatever their challenges may be. Their website offers a good explanation of what services they offer, but offers little to no explanation of how to become involved with the house from an employment or volunteer angle without a decent amount of searching through the site.

The website for the Energy Cooperative, which is already being changed, is far too busy. Just looking at the page you would have a hard time deciding where to start looking for whatever you are on the page for. The heading on the middle feed are not obviously clickable, and their is no way to search the site for what you are trying to find. The only way to find anything is through clicking through the sidebar links, and from a usability standpoint this is a huge hassle that can be time consuming depending on what you are trying to find.

Overall, these sites have a fairly solid working base already. However, with a simple usability test there are many areas of each site that could be drastically improved to make them more user friendly.


The Interplay of Sound and Image

The relationship between sound and images is very similar to another one of my favorite relationships. Peanut butter and jelly. While both can stand on their own just fine they truly do complete each other when put together. Images are necessary for sound to be utilized to the fullest effect because they create a backdrop or a face for the sounds. They allow us as the viewer/listener to better understand what is being said or heard because our senses are better able to visualize our own personal stories.

For example, in the piece about the free runners they discuss the camaraderie and competition within their group and follow that up by showing pictures of the group hanging out but also performing stunts in the streets and alleys in their hometown of Portland. While I am no free runner by any stretch of the imagination I was able to attach my own personal values and memories from my days of High School Rowing in my hometown of Fairport, because I made the connection between their experiences being described and the images that they presented. The most important job of intertwining sound and image is to elicit that memory retrieval and allow the viewer to relate to whatever you are trying to get across.


A Visual Story: The Search For Food in Chinatown

So for my visual story I went to a place that while I have been nearby numerous times, but I never truly went and explored this place. The place I speak of is of course Chinatown. The theme for my story all started with my roommates actually. I had been brainstorming with them on a place that I should go to for this project, and after some back and forth arguing about which place was cooler than the next two of my roommates said simultaneously I’m hungry and Chinatown. Thats when it clicked, and we headed off to Chinatown to satisfy our cravings. I have to admit I was quite disappointed in my photography skills in this case because half of the pictures, with some of them being pretty hilarious moments with the roommates in a fish market, got completely washed out and over exposed for reasons I cannot quite explain.

Anyways, we ended up eating a restaurant called Banana Leaf. Let me tell you this place was great and the staff were very welcoming to my picture taking, which I was genuinely afraid was going to be a problem. The one thing that I really took away from just walking around Chinatown is that there really is so much history in many of the buildings and people down there, and for that I greatly respect the people that have fought tooth and nail to keep it that way for future generations to come.


Storytelling

Storytelling is one of the most unique traits of human beings. Everyone has a story to tell whether they know it or not. What is interesting is just how diverse storytelling truly is, because it is developed through personal experiences. The personal experiences that one takes part in every second that they are awake is seen and interpreted differently than everyone else around them, and that is what makes storytelling amazing. You can be in the same place, and doing the same thing, as all your friends but your experiences of a moment are solely yours. Therefore, the story you tell will always be completely unique and original when you present it.

A personal example that I have goes back to when I was ten years old. My family and I went to disney world, and while I loved it, there was one moment in particular that my story will be completely different in tone and content than my family. That’s because it was a moment of shear terror for me, and total happiness for the rest of my family. I am of course talking about the moment I went on my first roller coaster and was then terrified for the next 6 years of getting on one again. While I’m still not fond of roller coasters this moment is a great example of the diversity and unpredictability that comes with storytelling.