Week 2 Summary

This was a great week! Although it was challenging, I appreciated the task of finding time to sit, watch, and listen to this week’s DS106 content.  It’s not often we take time to really reflect on what it means to practice listening and to think about how we listen.  Evelyn Glennie’s TED Talk was a great way to start the week reflecting on how we listen.  I also enjoyed the course content on layering media.  I’m sure it will come in handy over the next few weeks.

I was pretty excited about this week’s first assignment, to listen to a radio program.  I love listening to NPR programs but I usually listen to them while I’m cleaning the house, getting ready in the morning, or basically anything I can do while listening.  While efficient, that’s certainly not the best way to really experience a radio program.  This week I hunkered down and really listened to an episode of This American Life.  I actually pulled up the transcript from the website, pasted into a word document, and took copious notes so I could remember what I was thinking/feeling/hearing.  The transcript helped me stay focused on the program and my notes helped me remember what to write in my blog post.

Our second assignment for the week was quite fun.  I blogged about the 2014 Kia Soul commercial as a short film.  Not only is the commercial fun and entertaining, but I totally got a kick out of spending an evening writing about hamsters.  Through watching the commercial several times and dissecting it, I was able to pull out a lot of really interesting qualities that contribute to it being such a great commercial.  Looking at it in :5 sec. increments certainly gave me a greater appreciation for the work of the people who put together 1:30 commercials.  There were many layers – no small task!

I also spent some time commenting on the work of my classmates/colleagues.  It’s really interesting to see how others are interpreting our assignments and what stories they are infusing into their work.  I get the sense that this class, in both content and delivery, is very much outside everyone’s comfort zone (myself included).  It will be interesting to compare our early work with our later work as I’m sure everyone will learn a lot.

Lastly, I came up with a new idea for storification; taxes! Don’t worry,  I’m cringing too.


Tax Season

I think I found something else in need of storification.

My husband and I have an appointment to do our taxes tomorrow.  Ugh.  It seems like every year there is more ‘stuff’ to add to the list of documents we have to sift through.  Buying a house and having a baby certainly don’t help you streamline the process.

In looking through our tax documents, a lot of them come with a sort of ‘instructions’ page.  How nice of my bank to send instructions along with my 1099-INT statement! But seriously, they’re really hard to follow.  You have to read through each line to pick out the action items, which may or may not apply to you. Here’s what the form looks like:

1099-INT instructions

1099-INT instructions

I understand it’s probably the best we can expect to come out of the IRS (no offense!) but when most taxpayers have an iPhone (or other smart, touch phone) it’s safe to assume they’re expecting something a little more intuitive and user friendly.  I’m imagining a website or an app that allows you to enter your story of the year, and then it spits out customized tax instructions along with tips and tricks.  Doing your taxes is a really personal task and it makes you reflect on the year you’ve had and helps you plan for the year ahead.  I think someone could really capitalize on this reflection and make people excited about interested in filing their taxes.

Cool Hamster

For this week’s assignment, I chose to look at the Kia Soul Hamster commercial.

(A natural pick. I love this commercial!)

This commercial plays off of the Kia Soul’s first marketing campaign which featured ‘super cool’ hamsters driving around being cool in their ‘super cool’ Kia Soul.  Well, the Kia Soul underwent a redesign and so did the ad campaign, and the hamsters.  In this commercial, we start with the hamsters who’ve always been on the chubby side but are now clearly overweight.  The first shot is of them running on the beach in sweats, clearly ready to get back in shape.  Lady Gaga’s “Applause” plays in the background.  Below is a breakdown of the full commercial, in five second increments.

1 0:00 – 0:05 We see three overweight hamsters running along the beach in sweats.  We first see them from a long shot and then we see them closer up, running towards the camera.  Lady Gaga’s “Applause” starts to play from the beginning in the background.  We can also hear the hamsters breathing heavy as they run.
2 0:06 – 0:10 The slightly smaller but still overweight hamsters are now in the gym, hitting the elliptical machine and lifting weights.  This is where the mystery sets in.  Why are they working out so hard?  What is their goal?
3 0:11 – 0:15 Our view is flipped to that of an automotive designer, in a studio, working on a new car design on a touch screen computer.  He bobs his head to the song – which has switched from non-diegetic to diegetic sound.
4 0:16 – 0:20 We’re back to the hamsters and the audio is back to background sound, looking a little thinner and getting a little more active.  They are back in the gym taking classes and jumping rope.  Mystery builds – what are they up to?
5 0:21 – 0:25 One of the hamsters is in his coolest gym outfit on the treadmill and gets checked out by two cute girls – only to fall flat on his face from the distraction and excitement.  This provides a little comic relief.
6 0:26 – 0:30 We see a close up of one of the girls who makes a face about the hamster’s fall in a direct address to the camera.  There’s more gym action from the other hamsters but then we are taken back to the designer who is now working on a clay model.  He bobs his head to the music again.
7 0:31 – 0:35 Cut to one of the hamsters on the starting block in a pool.  He bobs his head to the music just like the designer did and gets ready to jump into the pool while the music comes close to its crescendo.
8 0:36 – 0:40 Just as the music reaches its fever pitch, the hamster dives into the water and the audio tone changes to sound like it’s being heard underwater.  The hamster swims directly towards us.
9 0:41 – 0:45 The hamster swims underwater for a moment and then we’re back to the designer, back to regular sounding audio.  The designer is sitting in a car playing with an iPad and tuning the car stereo to Lady Gaga’s “Applause.”
10 0:46 – 0:50 Back the hamsters, looking svelte and working out harder and faster in the gym.
11 0:51 – 0:55 More of the hamsters and the gym, they are getting slimmer, faster, and stronger.
12 0:56 – 1:00 Cut to the three hamsters sitting in a row of hair dryers.  Everyone around them in the hair salon is bopping along to the song.  We zoom in on the hamsters in the hair dryer chairs and they are all bopping their heads to “Applause”.
13 1:01 – 1:05 Cut to the car – neon green, newly designed Kia Soul.  It drives down the highway. Music continues as we get a good look at the front, top, side, and back of the car.
14 1:06 – 1:10 The car stops in front of a theater with a red carpet and fans waiting outside. Fans scream as the hamsters get out of the car looking super sharp in sleek tuxedos.
15 1:11 – 1:15 The three hamsters do a quick synchronized foot shuffle to the beat as they begin their trek up the red carpet. They are super svelte, wearing cool shades, running their hamster paws through their hair in slow motion – they’re way cool.
16 1:16 – 1:20 Hamsters are hamming it up with fans on their way into the theater; signing autographs, taking selfies.
17 1:21 – 1:25 “Totally Transformed” flashes on the screen with an image of the neon green Soul.
18 1:26 – 1:30 “All new Soul” displays on screen along with the Kia logo.

To take a closer look at the design of this commercial’s story, I mapped it to the Story Spine

Once upon a time: Three overweight hamsters wanted to transform their lives.

And every day: They hit the gym.

Until one day: Their bodies started to transform. They gained confidence and speed.

And because of this: They needed a make-over, so they hit the salon.

Until finally: They were ready to showcase their new look on the red carpet – which they did, with great success.

And ever since that day:  They were the coolest, most sought after hamsters on the block.

So not only is the Kia Soul transformed, but so are the hamsters.  This ad campaign literally grew up with its product and I think was a really interesting way to approach this transformation/redesign. The most interesting thing I discovered while watching and listening to this commercial several times, in increments, was the way that it plays with sound.  I was a film minor in college and in some of my film classes we studied diegetic and non-diegetic sound.  Diegetic sound is any sound that is part of what’s happening in the film – the character’s voices, what they hear, etc. Non diegetic sound is anything the viewer hears, and is outside the realm of the film.  This commercial plays a lot with the “Applause” as it flips back and forth between diegetic and non-diegetic sound.  Sometimes it’s just background music that the viewer hears while watching the hamsters working out.  But then, we see the graphic designer bobbing his head along to the song, so clearly, he hears it too.  The best part is at the end when the hamsters get out of the car and at the same time, in perfect sync with the music (as if they are hearing it) make the same little half step and start walking up the red carpet.  The perfect timing of little moments like this and the play with the song make this commercial so fun to watch.


There’s No Place Like Home

I’ve already shared my affinity for radio programs such as the moth, and I also enjoy the occasional This American Life episode, also on NPR.  For this week’s assignment, I listened to the This American Life episode, There’s No Place Like Home.  Although they were disjointed, I was able to catch a few quiet moments to sit and listen to Ira Glass lead me through an exploration of what ‘home’ means.  I tried to pay close attention to the ways the program mixed in audio to enhance the stories.  The inclusion of audio, and the way in which it was done, created a rich listening experience.  I’ll share an example of how this was done.

In Act I, Ira Glass introduces James Spring who will explain an interesting activity that takes place in a small border town in Mexico.  Spring describes for us what he’s doing there; participating in a tourist event called, “Caminata Nocturna”  or, “Night Hike.” It’s a simulated border crossing, complete with border patrol officers and safe houses.

Simulated border crossing. Photo cred. US Travelers

Simulated border crossing. Photo cred. US Travelers

As Spring walks through his experience of the night he includes bits of audio that made me feel like I was there.  During the quiet time in the simulation, he plays the sound of crickets and it gives the sensation of being outside in the middle of a quiet night.  When the border patrol approaches the group he included the sounds of sirens, dogs barking, etc.  Those sounds conjured up a bit of panic and almost made me feel like I was being chased.  These bits of audio were pulled in to the story just as Spring would get to that part.  Sometimes he would pause speaking and let the audio play at a higher volume for a few minutes.  If the audio was still relevant to what he was saying next, he would fade it out and  layer his narration on top.  I think the pauses in narration, with a focus on the additional audio, allowed me to reflect on what was happening in the story.  It gave me a chance to imagine what it would be like to actually be at the Caminata Nocturna.  It was very effective.

The program uses the same techniques in Act II.  Whether it’s the sound of a young man rapping at a diner, or the sounds of patrons enjoying themselves at a toast bar, the different layers of audio mixed with the story narration really gave me a sense of what it would be like to be in those places, experiencing those moments.  In a time where we are inundated with the visual (television, Instagam, etc.) it’s nice to be reminded that we can feel and experience things through simply listening.