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Recently Noticed > January 2014

Students: What new thing have you recently noticed in Digital Culture?

It could be a trend in social media, a special effect in film making, a behavior with digital devices, a new technology for creativity, a digital work of art you saw in a museum... or on the internet...or on the street. It should be something that ignites your curiosity about how humans and digital media interact...

You will post the short description of what you have recently noticed in Digital Culture... as a comment to this blog entry. In class I will show you how to post to the blog. (I need to approve your posts, so it's best to do it first in class) Please include the complete URL (http...) and tell us what you have noticed and credit your source. Thanks!


I recently got an iphone, it's my first smartphone, so I've been in a little in the dark when it comes to that technology. Learning what the phone can do has blown me away. One of the most fascinating elements of the phone to me is the maps function and how it knows where you are at all times with a blue dot. Last weekend I went down to St. Paul for the day and checked the maps function on my phone to see where I was a few times, I was surprised to see that the phone knew exactly where I was and even how fast I was moving. It was really useful, however at the same time kind of unnerving that something always knows where I am at all times (since my phone is almost never more than a few feet away from me). At the same time though I thought of how useful this technology can be for just about anyone. It would be impossible to get lost anywhere in the world as long as your had a digital signal, the thought of which is really comforting, especially traveling.

One thing that I have noticed, now more than ever, is how technology is a big part of our every day life with our everyday physical activity. They have come out with Nike Fuelbands, Basis B1, Fit bit Flex, Polar RCXS, and Up by Jawbone that give you the opportunity to track your overall movement, diet, sleep patterns, and heart-rate for the day. Most of these tracker bracelets can sync to your phone, your iPod, your iPads, etc., and you can read exactly what you are doing. For Christmas, my dad got a Fit bit Flex from the family. It was amazing to see how inspired my dad became once he put it on; it motivated my dad to accomplish the goals for his activity time and his distance he had to get done for the day. Nowadays, you use your smartphones, computers, etc. for absolutely everything.

This last week I watched a TED talk that blew me away. It’s called “Mick Ebeling: The invention that unlocked a locked-in artist,” that talks about the solution to a paralyzed graffiti artist named Tempt. Ebeling wanted to help him be able to communicate with his family again and figure out how to allow him to be the artist once again. Through the whole experience Ebeling invented a way for Tempt to control a laser with his eyes through glasses so that he is able to draw again. The most amazing part of this new technology is that they published the code and you can download the software for free and build this devise at home. I would highly encourage others to watch the video if you haven’t already.

There are a lot of new things I have noticed about digital culture. To start off I have noticed that a lot of people from the older generation have been using technology frequently, like Facebook. I know they have been using Facebook to communicate with older classmates and connect with family. Every also uses as their main display of art and creative ideas. I guess technology is so advanced these days its easy for people to display everything with one click of a button. Now a days people are making smaller technology so it is now very easy to transport and store most of your objects. It will be interesting to see how technology will grow in future generations.

When it comes to technology, I'm a little bit behind the typical 20-something college student. Maybe I'm just old fashioned and reluctant to completely turn myself over to the Digital Age, or maybe it's simply because I can't afford it. It's amazing how many things have changed since I was a kid. In the 90's we had cassette and CD walkmans, Gameboy color, and Nintendo 64. Today, everything is completely different. As a future teacher, one of the things I've noticed is how brilliant young children are with handheld devices, such as iPads and smartphones. It is becoming more popular to find laptops and iPads in classrooms of all ages, preschool to high school. Since these types of systems are becoming more widely available for the common person, it is often a natural distraction for a child as he waits in many situations, such as a long car ride or just sitting in a cart at the grocery store. My boss's one year old knows exactly how to get to her favorite games and shows on the iPhone and even uses her thumbs as most adults do. Even my 8 year old cousin is better with technology than I am. One reason for this may be that children simply love to learn and explore new things, which is exactly what these devices provide for them. Each creates a new opportunity to figure out how different ones work and how to master them.

The biggest thing that I've noticed in the tech realm is how little people seem to care about the truths revealed in the Edward Snowden files. These files have shown that the US Government has been actively working to catalog and track every citizen, something just a little over a year ago would have been considered an impossible conspiracy theory of the tin-foil hat crowd. Despite the violations of law and the Constitution and the lessons from history of over reaching and paranoid governments a surprisingly small number of Americans seem concerned.

The technology I learned about recently that I found really cool is the Equil JOT. This is a device that transfers what you write or draw on a piece of paper straight to your device of choice, live! This means that you don’t have to connect it up and download the data to your device all you have to do is hit save. What I think is really amazing about this app is you can draw something on a piece of paper and throw it directly into Photoshop or bring it with you and then edit anywhere. There is a note taking app and a sketching app that makes going from material to digital quick and simple without needing a bulky scanner. It is a great compact device that allows you to write on anything even a napkin and allow you to take it with you and put it on your computer. You would never be without a way to jot down ideas that hit you. Plus, you can share them over the cloud. Talk about a perfect graphic designer device!


What I have noticed is a lot of people trying to find a suitable medium ground between actual depiction (Forgot the term for this if there is one) and abstract depiction in drawn forms of story telling (animation, comics, etc.). Straying from strict depiction of believable space while maintaining a followable baseline for the story has gotten popular. Some less adventurous forms of this I have seen are things like using a single flat but visually complex texture across a 3D space (such as a shirt or hair). More adventurous forms of this near abandon any sensible setting and instead move the sense making part to dialogue and instead try to visually engage the viewer with the backdrops (and foreshadow as well). Since using such ideas in a bold fashion has proven recently to be commercially sound and successful in Japanese markets it has been catching on and becoming more popular. Personally I like the idea of departing from the usually narrative focus of telling a story to explore alternative ways to engage viewers (or bring the two together). It is always good to explore.

One thing I have noticed recently in digital culture is the need to understand and be aware of computer languages (such as C,C++, Java, etc). I am a graphic design major and the further I go into my major the more I realize regarding websites and computer/phone applications to have a base level of understanding of a computer language is essential to create your vision. Sure, I can design a website or application and make it look nice, however to get it to work properly I am seeing more and more that I need a broader understanding of code. I am currently taking a Java class and since it just started I haven't learned much yet, but I expect it to be helpful in my education regarding coding web pages and applications. I think it is always important to learn new skills regarding your major and to broaden your knowledge to make you the best at whatever it is you do.

Talking with my roommates about digital culture we immediately got to the topic of the use of cell phones. My roommate and I recently just got new smartphones and we have the joke around the house that we have an iPhone addiction. I have noticed when ever I don't have anything to do I reach for my phone and mindlessly stare at my screen just to do something. I think that the use of a smartphone is really not needed. There is no need to be checking my Facebook while walking through the hallway. I think that when we are on our phones checking our virtual connections, we are not talking to the people that are around us and more worried about whats going on that doesn't pertain to your life. Just recently I went out to eat with my boyfriend and noticed an older couple on their phones and not even talking to each other. As a culture that uses phones in everyday life we need to realize when it is appropriate to use our phones and not forget to actually interact with the people that a physically around us.

One digital trend I’ve been noticing a lot is the emphasizing of color tones and schemes in video work. One example of this is in Wes Anderson’s movies. They all follow a very distinct and unique color scheme, and he uses color in very obviously intentional ways. You can tell that every decision in the building of the set and in filming is done with color in mind. Example here.
This color trend is also seen in more videos now that color grading has become more available with technology. You can buy VCSO filters for video and plugins for lightroom video that give a certain film look, which is also closely related to instagram. All of it is very “trendy” right now.

What I recently noticed in the digital culture is the use of making funny Vine videos and memes. Vine videos are short 7 seconds videos that are meant to be funny, and memes are images with captions that usually include jokes. Making funny short videos and memes became a very common way of communication or to express something. A great example is finding these videos and memes on Facebook. For videos, people constantly tag their friends to watch them. Or, they will use memes to express their reactions to the videos and even gain many ‘likes’ for the comment. Even on a friend’s Facebook status, someone may post up a funny meme just to be goofy. The next day, will be a new day for more videos and memes to be posted up online.

When I was little I would watch TV all the time. I would just watch whatever was on even if I didn't really like it that much. Now I never watch TV. I watch TV shows, but I watch them online on sites like Netflix. Anything that I would wait around to watch on TV I can watch at anytime on my computer or phone. I have a TV but its not plugged into cable or something like that. It's plugged into my computer. Not only has the way I watch TV changed but the type of TV I watched has changed. I only watch thing that interest me. I browse until I find something that looks good. Sometimes I watch a show that aired on an actual TV network but other time I watch something made by one guy in his living room.

Social media/networking is something that probably all of us use on a daily basis. Twitter, being one of the most prominent sites used, is a social networking site that allows members to share snippets of their lives in 140 character microblogs to be seen by any of their followers. As of lately, I have noticed the increased amounts of hashtags being used on world news and big-time televised sporting events. Almost every sporting event televised on a large scale now features the sportscaster's twitters username and some sort of hashtag relating to the event. Even during last nights State of the Union Address, viewers were encouraged to share their thoughts on President Obama's remarked via twitter. #SOTU

One thing in digital culture I have noticed is that advertising and commercials are becoming less descriptive about what the product does; instead the commercial gets the message across simply with catchy music, a celebrity or model using the product, and a slogan. For example in the following commercial for Beats by Dre, Kevin Garnett is shown being harassed by several people and the media. The slogan 'Hear what you want' flashes on the screen which emphasizes that the headphones block out everything you don't want to hear. This message is later reinstated more firmly when Kevin Garnett is passing his haters and their yells are drowned out by the catchy song The Man by Aloe Blacc. These types of commercials I believe is a a much stronger way to advertise products because it reaches the consumer in a different and more interesting way versus someone just listing off what the product is able to do.


I feel one of the biggest crazes in the digital world is 3D processing. Theaters have played 3D movies for many years, but up until the 2000’s they were somewhat of a joke. In 2009, Avatar was released and quickly became the highest-grossing film of all time. People wanted more and that’s what they got. Since then, almost every theater in this country has at least one 3D film playing in their line-up and even older movies are being remade in hopes of reviving “classics”.
The other form of media involved with this craze is video games. Since people want to feel like they are actually inside of what they watch or play, designers developed new products to do just that. Thanks to things like Oculus Rift and the 3D t.v., people can get that type of experience in their own homes.

Most people by now are familiar with Photoshop, or at least the concept of Photoshop, but I've found that the userbases for digital inking or painting alternatives to PS are significantly smaller. A few of the programs that I see most commonly used are things like Paint Tool SAI and Manga Studio 4-5. While these programs are not nearly as all inclusive as PS, I personally have found that they perform much better in specialized tasks compared to it. Programs such as SAI and Manga Studio are also cross platform compatible with PS, allowing you to do your inking or painting and one, and whatever else you want in the other, which gives great flexibility when it comes to utilizing your personal preferences.


Simple Vs. Plain. I have noticed that as a whole, the design community seems to be shifting towards the minimalistic approach to everything. While I do believe it is very monumental and demands attention when it is done correctly, I don’t think it justifies every interface on the web to follow. Many of the companies that live by this rule are fairly successful, and they allow their products to do the talking per se. For an aesthetically pleasing piece there should not be a lot of unnecessary monstrosities added... that I agree with. But I am afraid we are pigeonholing our selves into this perceived utopia where there is only one right way to design. And if we continue towards that “cookie cutter” mentality, graphic design will not exist in 20 years, and companies like 1&1 (website templates) will thrive. Voiding all creativity.


Being a lover of street art, I follow many street artists and graffiti writers on Instagram. What I have noticed recently is that so many of these artists seem to becoming famous purely because of the internet and it made me wonder, are these artists still really street artists? It seems to me that the whole point of street art and graffiti is to get your name out there for the world to see, in common places so everyone can enjoy your art. But when the internet makes all art available it raised the question in my head, do people really need to do this art in the street still? In my opinion, heck yes, street art is built for an urban viewer and it can be a very intimate and personal viewing experience for someone who loves this kind of art. I love both ends of this because not only can I see local artists but I can also follow other artists and graffiti writers across the world so that I can see their pieces that I otherwise would have never been able to see. The internet has made street art more affordable, easily accessible and helps artists get their names out, but in the same process has taken away some of the more important foundations that this art form was built on.

Something new in the digital culture that I notice is all the new social media apps. Weather it’s to meet new friends or upload pictures from your daily life they keep coming out and getting better and better. I myself use apps like instagram and twitter to connect with friends across the country or follow famous people to see what they do throughout their daily life. Using these apps can really keep you in the loop and up to date with friends, family and celebrities you enjoy on the screen, with these apps you can get one step closer and a peek in their daily events and routines. These apps are growing so fast and everyone has them that even companies are jumping in on the trend. Many businesses are using these social media apps to connect with the costumers. They showcase new products that they might want to put out on the market, and see how many “likes” they get on instargram and how many “retweets” they get on twitter. This helps them get to see what the costumer wants before launching a product.

The number one thing that I do not understand, and yet am apart of, is how our culture is so submerged into texting. Our culture is becoming less and less comfortable talking to people in person and more comfortable with saying things over text. Whether its because you aren’t face to face with the person so it easier to confront things or if it is simply because its faster or easier, it is becoming a problem. If this problem continues then in the near future we won’t know how to communicate properly considering texts can be misread so easily and we will loose the connections with other people that we need to live properly.
Bullying is a good example of how the widespread of texting all the time can be a problem. People are much more apt to say something mean over text because they won’t be facing the person when they say it, it dehumanizes us in a way.

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