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Shooting the Planetarium

We were assigned to find an event or topic, film it, and edit into a final video. My partner and I chose to do a story on the University of Wyoming Planetarium. The edited video is below.

This project ran into more than its fair share of hiccups, beginning with the software not functioning on the school computers. The trial version of the software which I used to edit the program was incompatible with the school software even after it was working, which led to the watermark being difficult to remove from the final product.

The news-gathering itself was a little difficult too. While I enjoyed our time at the planetarium, the first thing the presenter said was that she was serious about keeping all digital devices off so as not to bother other viewers. This made sense, but was highly inconvenient. I ended up recording the whole show with my camera discreetly anyway.

Even then, though, I was disappointed in the lack of moving action in the show. Some planetarium shows I have been to have been pretty impressive – this one was a little less technically impressive and mostly consisted of a PowerPoint presentation on a curved wall. This made for a lot of filmed still images in our final product. The part that was more visually interesting, when the presenter had the Spitz starball running, was too dark, and my camera didn’t pick up any of it.

To add even more issue to the project, the two interviews we had were imperfect, in that while the room seemed well-lit to the camera, the video was not well-lit on a computer screen. This I mostly fixed in editing, which brings me to what I did like about the project. I enjoyed editing video the same way I have enjoyed editing audio. There’s a lot more to do in a video editing project (and this was the first time I had ever seriously edited video), but once I started figuring out Premiere Elements 11 it was fun to use.

I do wish I had had more time than me and my partner gave ourselves. We wanted to finish the project because of finals week, but I think the editing is a little rough in spots (especially the one musical transition toward the end of the video). Uploading the video to YouTube also seemed to decrease the sound level, which I had fixed in editing especially in the interview with Sam. I did like the addition of Gustav Holst’s “The Planets – Jupiter” as appropriate music, however.

I think there was a lot more I could do with the program that I didn’t get to try out simply because of limited time. I also wish we would have been a little bit clearer beforehand about what we wanted from the interviews, which may have made for a more fluid story than the one we have. I was also nervous enough during the filming that the camera is a little shaky, and hiding the camera during the show meant I wasn’t able to get the best shots.

I’m not sure how much I’ll use video in the future. It is not my favorite medium, but I think having some basic idea of how to use it is useful. I think that if I did another project the quality would much improve with what I’ve learned, this being the first time I’d used the video function on my Canon Powershot A3300 IS. The experience was valuable for this reason, especially because I don’t know if I’ll be using video in the future or not. It’s better to be prepared.

-Joshua C Geiger

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2013 10:43 am in online journalsim

 

Tweeting McCullough

This time I was asked to find and attend an event, and then live-tweet the event as it was occurring. This was my first real experience with Twitter (I had an account previously, but had never really used it). I loaded up my Twitter account and decided to attend a speech given by two-time Pulitzer prize winner David McCullough, writer of historical books such as 1776 and John Adams (the latter of which was turned into a TV mini-series by HBO).

The cover of one of David McCullough’s books, John Adams. McCullough won the Pulitzer prize for this work in 2002.

Jumping right into a platform that I was not used to was not exactly the easiest thing to do. I think it would take a lot more practice to be good at using the platform to write stories, but I think I was able to capture some good quotes and moments from the speech. I worry about the cohesion of the story as a whole and I feel like I had a hard time making a sensible narrative in the form of tweets, which I had hoped would be easier.

I mostly tweeted direct quotes because they seemed to be the most relevant and interesting parts of the event, though I did tweet the where and the when and elaborated on the who a couple of times especially at the beginning and right before the speech. I wasn’t sure if I should continue to repeat those kinds of things throughout the event or if the earlier tweets sufficed.

The tweeting itself was also a bit more difficult then I imagined. For most of the tweets I was fine on length, though a few of them required me to rework my wording. One was so long that I had to leave out the last period. That was difficult, because as I was trying to edit on a touch screen I felt like I was missing possibly important parts of the speech itself. I also had trouble taking pictures – I tweeted one from right before the talk, but during the actual talk all my phone could pick up were glowing people on the stage because the house lights were down.

Another thing I’d change in the future is the brightness on my screens. I brought both my phone and my Kindle Fire with me, but when the lights went down I had to hastily turn down the brightness on my phone and so never pulled the Kindle out. Thinking ahead, I’d turn the brightness down beforehand next time (it saves on battery life anyway).

I did do two brief interviews, one with an usher before the event started and one with a student afterward. Tweeting these interviews was short and sweet, which I suppose is true of almost anything Twitter-related. In fact, the whole thing felt rather hectic. For most of the speech I felt like I was just frantically typing at my screen, while simultaneously trying to listen to and remember what McCullough was saying.

I’m writing a paper right now in another class about multimedia and the future reporter, and even though I don’t want to be a reporter I know there’s a good chance I’ll be using Twitter and other social media no matter what job I get in the near future. It’s important to know how to use them effectively and to send succinct, meaningful messages on these platforms, even if I only use them to advertise my own writing and work (which I have been doing via a Facebook page for several years.)

For the most part, I enjoyed the project. There were a number of difficulties that I didn’t expect, and the actual reporting was a little stressful, but I think it would be easier to do if I did it a second time. It does make me want to use Twitter more often than I have in the past.

Signing off,

Joshua C. Geiger

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2013 8:55 pm in New Media

 

Combining Audio and Visual: Islam Awareness Week

For this post I worked with a partner to cover an event both with audio and visuals, putting both together in a single slideshow presentation using Soundslides. The goal was to prove that we could combine the two media effectively. The finished project can be viewed here. (Be aware that for some reason the slideshow only seems to play in Internet Explorer).

Poster for the Awareness week on the University of Wyoming Campus. Picture taken by Chris Anselmo.

Poster for the Awareness week on the University of Wyoming Campus. Picture taken by Chris Anselmo.


My partner and I chose to cover Islam Awareness Week at our University. In order to do so, he and I attended events for much of the week, snapping pictures and taking interviews. My partner did the first interview, and the second we conducted after a panel discussion on “Misconceptions of Islam” on April 2.

We spent a lot of time listening to people speak and taking pictures when we got the chance. We took photos at a tent that the Muslim Student Association (MSA) put up the pasture in the middle of campus as a cultural display, during their panel discussion, and at the Arab-American Night the MSA put together on Thursday, April 4.

My partner and I worked together on a lot of the project. I took most of the pictures because I had a better camera, but he recorded the interviews and in fact did one of the interviews on his own when I couldn’t make it. We both edited audio, spliced it together, and then collaborated on the creation of the slideshow, including where the audio went and in what order to put the pictures.

Once we started working with Soundslides things were a breeze. The most difficult part of the assignment was collecting audio and relevant pictures; the software itself was user friendly and largely intuitive. Attending so many events was both trying and helpful. We had plenty of audio and plenty of opportunities for pictures, but it made for a long week of gathering info.

The story we put together finally became about what the awareness week was meant to inform about. Our interviewees talked a lot about how Islam and Muslims had gotten a bad rap from Western and American media. The week was about inclusiveness and releasing ourselves from ignorance, and so that’s what we included in the audio of the slideshow.

For the photographs, we took pictures of people participating in the week, and of the diversity of the MSA and the University. This was definitely the most difficult part of the assignment. Much of what our subjects talked about was hard to put into a picture, and while our story was [i]about[/i] the awareness week, it really came to be about what the Awareness week could and was meant to do, which was a little hard to capture in photographs.

Had I more time, I would have liked to work with the Soundslides software more and polished our slideshow. I still think the slideshow is pretty good, but there were a few things that could have been smoother. I also realized I forgot to put a full identification in the “voice of” parts of the pictures. Instead all I included was a name, and if I could go back I’d make sure to fix that; it was a really lame thing to forget.

Most of the audio is pretty good, though it would have been nice if we had had more opportunities to get ambient noise. I am satisfied with ambient noise that we got, but more could have been used to improve the project.

I enjoyed doing this project. Especially, again, I enjoyed the audio editing process.

Signing off,

Joshua Geiger

 
 

An Edited Audio Portrait

For this assignment I was tasked with editing the rough audio portrait I completed for the last blog post. To do this, I used the free audio editing program Audacity. I edited out about three minutes of content, erased troublesome background noise, and rearranged some of the dialogue to give the story better cohesion. The edited interview can be heard below.

I had a lot of fun editing this interview. I had expected cutting and rearranging audio to be much more difficult than it proved to be. With the silences already in place, it wasn’t actually that difficult to cut out a phrase here or there and still leave the piece sounding natural. I’d even like to work more with it.

I was surprised at how much my recording device picked up. Even the silences are far from actually being silent – there is a constant kind of ground noise that just seems natural to the air. I had unplugged anything that was making noise, and at least to me the room sounded silent, but if I “generated” silence in Audacity it sounded unnaturally quiet.

I appreciate the work that goes into this kind of medium a lot more now. Even if I found editing to be easier than I thought it was going to be, it still took hours and it was disappointing that snaps or crackles from either me or my subject fidgeting ruined pieces of audio for the final piece. Some of that I could cut around, and I figured out that I could make almost all of it sound better, but other noises seemed buried with the voice and I couldn’t isolate them.

What I especially enjoyed was being able to create a sense of organization with the parts of the interview that I chose to include. Though the interview itself did not exactly flow perfectly from subject to subject as we spoke, once I was in Audacity I could move things around and transition from subject to subject more naturally. It helped that I needed to cut out so much anyway, so parts of the interview that didn’t fit could be cut without penalty.

If I could do it again I would attempt to fix the issues I ran into by getting a clearer interview and by working harder to avoid distracting noise while we were talking. You can do a lot with an editing program like Audacity, but you can’t fix everything. I grew comfortable with the program itself quickly though, and didn’t struggle – partially thanks to advice from past students and my instructor.

Thanks for reading,

Joshua C. Geiger

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2013 8:35 pm in Audio

 

Adriana Yankey: A Rough Audio Portrait

Continuing our work with audio journalism, this time I was assigned to interview a friend and record it. I decided to interview a trumpet-playing friend of mine. The rough audio recording can be heard below.

Despite knowing my subject and having questions prepared, I still felt nervous to begin the recording. Having the recorder set between us felt almost like putting up a wall. I mostly enjoyed the experience once we got started, however. I had to do the recording twice because on the first try I didn’t have enough questions prepared to reach five minutes.

One of the things I learned doing this assignment is that once you take on the role of interviewer, everything changes. The audio recorder sitting between us was impossible to ignore. I feel like I need to get a better feel for how long the response to a question is going to be before I ask it, and I also think it would have helped if I had more thoroughly prepared my questions. There are a few places where my questions feel a little disconnected, and I think that affected how she answered.

I enjoyed doing the actual recording, and I am excited to work on editing it. I don’t, however, particularly enjoy doing interviews. I also learned that the recording device is very sensitive, and even though I worked hard not to fidget there are still a few places where there is some interfering noise.

If I did it over I think I would spend more time working on how I was going to conduct the interview and thinking about what I wanted to get out of it. I would practice my questions so they don’t come off so confused. I think I have the hang of how sensitive the iPhone’s recording device is finally, so that, at least, shouldn’t be a problem in the future.

 

Thanks for reading,

Joshua C. Geiger

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2013 5:10 pm in Audio

 

Ambient Noise and Counting to Ten: Audio

Over the past week I was instructed to carry around an audio recording device (in my case, an iPhone 4) and record ambient noises. Below are six of the sounds I recorded.

The first ambient noise I recorded was traffic driving past me as I walked down Grand Avenue in Laramie. This kind of ambient noise might be used in audio journalism stories about car accidents or a stretch of highway. It might also be used as a transition where traveling in a car is involved.

The second ambient noise in this set is a shower turning on and running. I recorded this in Crane Hall, the dorm hall where I live. This sound might be used in an audio story about morning activities, hygiene, or anything to do with changes in water supply or the water system.

The third sound was taken while I was standing in line at a Walmart check out. Though this sound was recorded at a Walmart, the ambient noise could be used in almost any story that involves a large store, to set the scene or to introduce a story about holiday season shopping.

The next sound was taken in a classroom, a few minutes before class started. The sound mostly consists of mumbled voices, and only a few words can be picked out. This kind of sound might be used in a story about High School students and changing standards or problems with attendance or graduation rates.

Ambient noise number five is a recording of me brushing my teeth in the bathroom at Crane Hall. This is another sound that could be used in a story about morning hygiene, or more specifically in a story about dental health or the profile of a dentist.

The final ambient noise is the sound of my car starting. At the end of the recording the car is going into gear. I recorded this sound in a parking lot. This ambient noise might be used in an audio story about cars and the damage they do to the environment, or in a story about car trips during the summer.

Preparing myself for audio journalism, the second part of the assignment served as an introduction to audio editing. I was assigned to familiarize myself with the free audio editing program Audacity. For this assignment I recorded myself counting to ten completely out of order, and then used the program to reorder the recording so that it is in order. Both recordings are playable below.

This was my first experience with audio editing. While I have recorded brief things before, I have never used any kind of program to edit that recording. I did mess around a little with Apple’s GarageBand in high school.

That being said, I was certain I would be able to figure out the program with a little practice, and I am not the least bit afraid of editing or audio journalism in general. I like the idea of recording my own voice, and except for some small issues with the recording device I didn’t have any problems completing this assignment. When I recorded myself counting to ten, I did my best to leave space between each number and to include those realistic pauses in the edit. The biggest issue was that I let myself drop the pitch on the number nine (the last number I said out of order) which does not sound all that natural in the reordered recording.

Thanks for reading,

Josh Geiger

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2013 3:58 pm in Audio

 

A Day in the life of A Photojournalist

Over the past week and a half, I took on the role of a photojournalist, taking pictures at University sport events and around Laramie.

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Cowgirl Marquelle Dent, 18, tries to pass around Chelsea Hopkins, 22, of the Sand Diego Aztecs. The Aztecs defeated the Cowgirls 57-51 in Laramie on February 20.

This photo, titled “Around the Block”, was taken at the women’s basketball game at Arena-Auditorium on February 20. There were signs around campus encouraging people to attend, and I decided it was a perfect opportunity for some photographs. Without a press pass, I could only get so close to the court, and it was hard for my camera to capture the action while zoomed. Still, some of the photos came out clear.

The crowd was loud at this game, but I did take a lot of pictures. For this photo, I kept my subject (Marquelle Dent) in one third of the photograph, and had her act toward the rest of the picture. The relatively uniform and clean background of the basketball court also helps to make this shot interesting.

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A University of Wyoming student on a rock dances above a crowd of students in Simpson Plaza on February 21. The students were participating in a “Harlem Shake” video put together by the University Store.

I titled this photo “Neon Dancer”. Walking to the Union from class on February 21, I stumbled upon people in odd costumes unfit for the Laramie winter gathering in Simpson Plaza. Curious, confused, and seeing an opportunity, I pulled out my camera. With all of the movement, it was hard to get a good, still picture, but not impossible.

I later learned that this was being filmed and put together by the University Store as part of the latest internet fad, the “Harlem Shake”.  I used viewpoint and color as creative devices in this photo.

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Conroy Stout, 22, uses his phone while waiting for some friends in a computer lab in the Engineering building on February 19.

This photo is titled “Computer Lab”, and was taken in the Engineering building on campus. I was on the other side of the room, and as I sat down at the computer I realized that from table level, I could just see Conroy Stout through the chairs and monitors. It took me several tries to get the picture right.

This photo was taken with the camera sitting on the table. This is an example of using viewpoint to take an interesting picture, and to some extent, framing. I think the photo would be better if I could have gotten something framing him from above, too, but the computer monitors do frame him on either side.

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Ashley Sickles, 22, a senior playing forward for the Cowgirls, looks down the court during the game on February 20. The Cowgirls lost to the San Diego State Aztecs 57-51.

In this photo, titled “Looking Out”, Ashley Sickles of the UW women’s basketball team looks down the court. This was taken at the same game as “Around the Block”. I don’t know basketball very well and so had trouble getting into the game, but I did have fun trying to capture good photos.

In this picture, I used the rule of thirds to isolate Sickles. This, combined with the clean background, made for what I think is a visually interesting photograph. It almost looks like she is alone on the court.

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University of Wyoming #23, 20-year-old Chelan Landry, dribbles the ball during the February 20 game against San Diego. Twenty-year-old Ahjalee Harvey of the Aztecs prepares to block her.

The last photo is another Sports-action photo, also taken at the February 20 game against the Aztecs. Like the other photographs at this game, I found my camera and my distance from the court to be problematic.

This one came out fairly clear, and though its background isn’t as clean as the other two I still think it’s an interesting photograph. I think that a balance is created by the two subjects, Landry and Harvey, on either side of the photo. They are both poised to move, and the action all appears to be taking place at the center, between them.

What I learned from this assignment is that photography isn’t easy, and that most photos don’t turn out awesome. The ability to do some minor editing was helpful in making some of the photos better, but I think that in photography equipment is key, and my camera wasn’t really good enough to get photos from very far away.

I was surprised by how many visually interesting moments occur in a typical day, and how hard they are to catch. I wish that I could have gotten much closer for the sports shots.

Thank you for reading,

-Joshua C. Geiger

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2013 10:24 am in Photography

 

Creative Devices and Creative Places: Photography

One thing I realized as I was taking the 120 or so photos that I took for this assignment was that I do not have an eye for photography. That being said, I think some of the photos were decent, and I was thinking about creative devices when I took them.

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The sun sets on Casper Mountain, looking west from Lookout Point.

 

This photograph (above) is titled “Distance”, and the dominant creative device in it is the creation of depth. The depth in this photograph draws attention to the comparatively greater detail of the nearest trees, highlighted by the sun. The sense of infinity that is created as the photo becomes less distinct and fades into the distance is also aesthetically appealing.

This photo also makes use of contrast. The trees in the foreground, accented by the sun, stand out against the darkness of the first curve of the mountain, and dark against the snow in the distance.

 

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A tree is lit by the setting sun while a road winds past Casper Mountain and back toward the city.

 

 

This picture, titled “On the Road Again”, uses leading lines as its primary creative device. The road that cuts through the land helps draw the eye up through the photograph. The road leads twice into the tree that takes up the right-most third of picture, leading the eye up the tree’s length and finally into the distance.

This photo also creates distance by cementing the viewer behind the lit tree and by the way the background becomes indistinct. All of these creative devices serve to make the tree stand out in the photograph.

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A plastic covering shredded by the wind hangs off of a snow-filled grill near a shelter at the Shirley Rim Rest Area between Laramie and Casper.

 

 

 

 

In this photograph (right), titled “Abandoned”, I attempted to use balancing elements.  The grill and the shredded orange plastic are balanced by the presence of the red on the shelter. The dark shelter also serves as an anchor for the photograph against the bright sky and white snow that take up much of the space, helping to balance the grill.

The vivid orange against the black grill grabs the viewer’s attention. The lines between the bricks of the shelter and the grooves in the red roof draw the eye toward the grill as well .

 

 

 

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The sun reflects off of flecks of dirt and water on a car window on Casper Mountain Road, just before dusk.

 

This one (above) is titled “Splatter”, and mostly relies on focus for its appeal. The picture focused on the glass between the camera and the landscape, and in doing so details the many specks of dirt and dried water on the window. In this case, the focus draws the eye to a barrier between the viewer and the outside world.

The sun at the center of the picture becomes a center for a kind of explosion of the defined splotches, where the brightest ones are nearest to the light source. This draws the eye first toward the sun and then away from it, until at the edges the spots are fewer and less distinct. The contrast between the bright spots and the dark mountain also helps the spots to stand out.

 

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This bubble wrap, unceremoniously tossed on the floor of a dorm room, is lit by the light of an open door behind the photographer.

 

The last photo (above) is titled “Poppable”, and the primary creative device in it is texture. The viewer’s eye is drawn to the texture of the bubble wrap in the foreground, where the many bumps and wrinkles of the plastic are defined by the light. The viewer might almost be tempted to reach out and pop one.

The sense of distance created by the point of view of the camera almost lets the bubble wrap take on the appearance of a landscape. It also creates the illusion that the dark, out of focus furniture in the background is farther away than it really is. This sort of “distortion” helps to create a visually appealing photograph.

 

This assignment was a challenging one for me, because as I said at the beginning, I don’t have much of a talent for finding the right shots. I learned, though, that working hard, trying to use the creative elements, and shooting a huge number of photographs can lead to some good pictures. I was surprised at how some pictures would turn out almost independently of me, like “Splatter”, which was taken almost on accident. One thing I wish I could have done differently was take more photos at different times, like at night or during a sunrise or sunset.

That’s all for now,

Josh Geiger

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2013 3:16 pm in Photography

 

Science and Art Together: Carol Prusa

On a cold night at the end of January, a large auditorium at the University of Wyoming’s Visual Arts Center filled with students, educators, and interested community members to listen to visual artist Carol Prusa speak about her experiences with art and her view of the universe.

Prusa currently has an exhibition on display at the Centennial Complex on the University of Wyoming campus. Though she has dabbled in many different kinds of media, right now she makes hemispheres, painstakingly decorated with free-hand designs and accented with fiber optics and LED lights.

Her work is deeply thought provoking and contains a level of detail that only comes from a process that takes her many hours of careful, precise effort. But she did not come to this point by magic – the artistic journey that brought her here was a long one, filled with experimentation and self-discovery.

The Centennial Complex, where Carol Prusa’s exhibition “Emergent Worlds” is currently on display.
Photo courtesy of the University of Wyoming Art Museum’s blog.

“Pushing the dirt around”: Prusa’s Journey

Carol Prusa grew up in Chicago and described herself as an “odd child”. She talked about how when she was a kid she used to close her eyes and try to figure out what was real by erasing things from her mind.

“How many things can I get rid of?” she would ask herself, starting with the house and slowly erasing things until all that was left was herself, inside her own mind.

She grew up wondering why things are the way they are. She was originally a scientist, and earned her B.S. in Biocommunication Arts from the University of Illinois. Next, she moved on to painting, and earned an M.F.A. from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Carol Prusa at work in her studio. She works on her art 40-50 hours a week. Photo Courtesy of the artist’s website.

At Drake, her teacher was Jules Kirschenbaum, a man who challenged Prusa to explore more. This led to Prusa’s first artistic experiments. She did a piece that involved choreographed dancing while she, working around the dancers, constructed the stage out of cinder blocks, moving them constantly to change her message in time with the dance.

She described this kind of art as “push[ing] the dirt around until you see what you need to see.”

From there, she did a number of other unique artistic projects, including one where she created a quilt made of balls of human hair and a second where she drew on mattresses.

Another of her projects came about because of her children. Making breakfast for them every morning, she realized that she could use a similar block of time to make art – and so she challenged herself to make a new painting on a plate every day for a year. When a 6-year-old commented that it must have been a lot of work, Prusa replied that it was no more work than his mother did to make him breakfast every morning.

While she was experimenting and becoming familiar with different kinds of unique media and projects, she was also finding herself, discovering what directions she wanted to explore and what projects she wanted to do next. This eventually led to her work with domes.

“As artists and scientists seek to explain our place, I join the most advanced daydreamers… those who embrace indeterminacy and the fundamentally unstable boundaries between infinitesimal and immeasurable realms,” the artist statement on Prusa’s website states. She acknowledged that her life, too, has been unstable.

“I just turned my life into myth,” Prusa said. “There’s a lot of mess in between.” But these were only some of the things that helped her grow into the artist she is today. Her life, mess included, defined her thoughts on art, its creation, and its inspirations.

“Basically Our Guts”: Prusa’s art

 “What interests me is basically our guts,” Prusa said during the talk, displaying photographs of her work, much of which does invite a comparison with our insides. To create these intricate, organic pieces, Prusa has developed a very specific process that leads to self-discovery as much as it does creation.

Eric Cameron, who attended the talk, admired Prusa’s process and dedication.

“There’s forethought. She looks at a piece and thinks, ‘there’s room for eight of these, or seven of these’. It’s not just ‘hey, look what happened’.”

But while Prusa does think a lot about her work before she makes it, her process isn’t as rigid as that sounds. Prusa explores complex ideas and abstract thoughts in her art, and so too does her process.

“We don’t have to look outside ourselves to understand who we are,” Prusa said. Art is simply a matter of “consuming your own self.”

Cameron thinks that she feels this way because she is looking for something very specific in her work. It’s not that her work lacks creativity or exploration, but that she has a process for discovering that creativity.

Some of Prusa’s Hemispheres. Photo courtesy of the artist’s website.

“Symmetry is more what she wants,” Cameron explained.

Prusa’s work, though sometimes inspired by science and math, does not lack imagination. She utilizes science and math because she thinks there is a certain kind of beauty to those subjects, but she emphasizes that her own work is art, not numbers.

“It’s not something I have to strategize. I have to make it to see it.” Instead of defining what she’s going to make beforehand, she views her process as “a conversation with the work”.

Prusa is also always looking for a new challenge, which is why she has changed both her medium and her style so many times in the course of her life.

“Whenever I feel like I know what I’m doing, I switch it up,” Prusa says. In this way, her art and her life never stagnate. She’s always working with some new material or new concept, and so she is always moving forward.

Sarah Maddy, another student who attended the art talk on January 31, found this part of Prusa’s talk especially interesting. She likened it to Benjamin Franklin’s attempts to reach perfection, knowing that it could never actually be reached.

“She wants to be challenged any time she thinks she might have mastered something,” Maddy went on to say.

Besides Prusa’s interest in “our guts” and as a part of her constant journey to challenge herself, she draws inspiration from many other sources, as well. This includes her background as a scientist, her degree in Biocommunication arts, and her affection for science fiction.

Between Science and Art: Carol Prusa’s “Emergent World”

The gallery that Prusa has on display at the Centennial Complex is called “Emergent Worlds”. This is a fitting name, as one of the driving inspirations for the exhibition and Prusa’s work with domes is the idea of multiple and alternate universes. Prusa is an avid reader of science and physics articles. She finds that scientists and physicists are artistic, and that their conjectures are often “beautiful”.

The Borg Seven of Nine inspired
one of Prusa’s hemispheres.

According to her website, Prusa’s hemispheres “are provocative symbols that invoke the idea of the universe and physical objects that allude to real-life structures. In my ‘canopies,’ I explore a number of mathematical models that physicists developed to explain our universe.”

Several times during the talk Carol Prusa brought up examples of science fiction that had inspired her. She talked about “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, referring specifically to the scene in which Richard Dreyfuss’ character Roy starts playing with his mashed potatoes. Like moving the dirt around, Prusa used this as an example of a way to explore the world through art.

Another piece of inspiration she brought up was that of the Borg Seven of Nine, a part-human, part-machine character on the television series “Star Trek: Voyager”. 

“[In the series, Seven of Nine] plugs herself into a resuscitation unit. We all need that sometimes,” Prusa says. She used this idea as the inspiration for one of her domes.

While some students found the references to science and science fiction odd, Prusa believes science and art mesh together perfectly. She combines traditional artwork (painstakingly drawing the designs on her hemispheres with silver point) with modernity (not only does she utilize fiber optics to add lights to her pieces, but some, like this one, even include videos). Her work is a combination of the creativity of art and the precise exploration of science.

If you are interested in seeing her work, Carol Prusa’s exhibition “Emergent Worlds” is on display at the Centennial Complex at 2111 Willett Dr. in the University of Wyoming Art Museum until May 11, 2013.

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2013 8:58 pm in News Stories

 

Coal, Multimedia, and Usability.

Today I am thinking about coal, and specifically the multimedia website Coal: A Love Story. For this website, I conducted a usability test on myself and my brother to test the site’s navigation.

My own experience with the navigation was nonlinear, though the website is designed so that it could be approached linearly as well. After scrolling over the whole website, I first clicked the link about midway through the page that allowed me to calculate my own coal use, because it was interactive.  From there, I went back to start the beginning. I remarked favorably on the fact that this didn’t take me to another page or a popup, but just a window that I could easily exit out of to reach the main page. I then looked at a number of videos in no particular order. I stumbled upon a link that referred to Wyoming that I had scrolled past several times, because it was specifically relevant to me.

Then came the job of locating a way to contact the creators of the website. This is where I ran into issues. The first place I looked was at the bottom of the page, for a “contact us” link. None presented itself, so I started clicking on “about” links, to News 21, The Carnegie Foundation, and others. I ended up jumping around these sites with little luck. I started exploring the original page, looking for anything obvious, but still found nothing; I threw up my arms at about the 10 minute mark.

Other than being unable to find the page creators contact page, I liked the navigation. At the same time, in light of some of the rules we learned about navigation, I found that the smaller, “learn more” links below some of the main topics were difficult to notice – they felt out of the way. I also failed to notice the “next” function on the videos until I had watched a number of them. I found the odd way that they changed the size of each section  distracting and a little confusing. Are the larger rectangle stories more important?

Courtesy of Poweringanation.org; Coal: A Love Story

Courtesy of Poweringanation.org; Coal: A Love Story

Next, I did the same usability test on my brother. He began by watching the second video, and then used the next button. After this, he explored the page and tried clicking on the link “Energy Viewpoints” at the bottom of the page, only to find that it was a dead link. Not surprisingly, the last link he went to was the one referring to Wyoming.

During his exploration, he commented that he “liked the style” of the page. Specifically concerning navigation, he commented favorably on the fact that most of the links didn’t lead him to another page. He also praised the fact that it was as easy to explore linearly as it was to take a nonlinear approach.

When I asked him to figure out how to contact the people who made the page, he had no trouble. Whereas I had found myself frustratingly digging through related pages and finding nothing, he noticed the link “About Coal: A Love Story” and immediately found contact information.

His and my experiences were similar, in that we both explored the page in a nonlinear manner, picking and choosing what appeared most interesting. Though it could be viewed linearly, there was no specific reason why that experience was better than just exploring the page. For differences, I explored a little more randomly than he did and he found and clicked on links that I never even noticed(including a dead one). Most pronounced was the fact that he had no trouble navigating the site to find a contact page: is that page difficult to find or not? I have no idea.

Powering a Nation’s “Coal: A Love Story” uses some good navigation. They shouldn’t change how the videos open in pages that are easy to close, or their non-linear approach to the story. In addition, the inclusion of next buttons and a navigational bar on the left makes the linear approach possible as well. This facilitates different ways of approaching the story, and that’s good.

Not everything about the site is smooth, however. I think that the way they alternate the sizes of the sections is confusing, and that their subheadings (“Learn more”) are easy to miss, and that should be fixed. Finally, there’s no good reason for a site like this to have dead links. (I’d suggest leaving an obvious “contact us” link at the bottom of the page, too, but perhaps that’s my own issue…)

Signing off,

Joshua C. Geiger

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2013 7:00 pm in online journalsim