New Article by Kareem Collie, Hive Director of Design and Creativity

 

Portraits Of Obama: Media, Fidelity, and the 44th President

 

 

 

 

“In a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank that high on the truth meter … information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation. So, all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it’s putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy.” —Obama

 

President Obama made this statement in May 2010, during one of his most tumultuous years in office— healthcare reform, financial reform, the BP oil spill … the list continues. The proliferation of media content, voices, and audiences (specifically in relationship to news content) continue to grow and reach into every aspect of our lives through 21st century media tools and channels. The discourse on media and its impact on society continue to call for scrutiny, and, as Obama said, it continues to put “new pressure on our country and on our democracy.”

 

Using Obama as a prism, this essay examines the culture of American mass media, examining the fidelity of news content amongst the ever-growing, ever-fragmenting, modern media landscape. It investigates the audience’s active engagement in the construction of their relationship to reality, the flawed nature of newsmakers and their perceptions of the world, and offers an alternative narrative approach to the construction of the self.

 

This essay was approached through the convention of narrative and visual communication. It visualizes narrative as a mechanism of our individual cognition and cultural engagement, allowing for personal and collective understanding of the world around us. The tools of visual communication design are used to reframe the discussion of today’s 24/7 media environment.

 

The hope of this piece is three-fold: (1) By using President Obama as an example, I wish to examine and illuminate the role of contemporary media in our lives, (2) reframe the discourse of media and the active nature of the audience through the use of visual communication design, to pose new questions and answers and (3) present an alternative means of finding our sense of self within the deluge of media today.

 

You can find the full journal article here on the American Institute of Design’s, Design Educators journal— “Dialectic,” which can also be purchased on Amazon.

 

Hive Highlight: The Hive Has A New Look!

The Hive was born out of an understanding that students needed a space for collaboration and exploration of their creative capacity. In the spring and summer of 2018, we talked to students, staff, and faculty about our visual material and how it made them feel. One insight was that a coherent “new look” would build on the Hive’s vision and make it more accessible to the community, thus kickstarting the visual rebranding of the Hive.

Taking this and other insights into account, we started mapping out potential areas for growth in our visual communication strategy such as a need for a newsletter, a semester-long calendar of events, and other materials to help our different users access the space. From there, the team created a brand book that captures the visual essence of the Hive.

Every part of the new visual design has been thought through. For example, the main Hive colors are inspired by the school colors of the five Claremont Colleges that we serve. In addition, the typography runs on the diagonals that reference the hexagon of a beehive, which is inspired by collaboration. We have started implementing some of the new brand elements in our flyers, social media, and physical space. As you may have heard when in the Hive, “always prototype and test,” so we are open to any suggestions and insights on our rebranding!

Moving Environments for Active Learning

By Fred Leichter, Lily Yang, and Alaina Orr

This class made me uncomfortable … in the best possible way.

-Ryan Sung, Claremont McKenna class of 2018

Post-its of classroom space set-up drawn by Lily Yang after each class, Fall 2017

The “Checkerboard” – a class on ambiguity

At the Rick and Susan Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity (The Hive for short), we teach a semester-long class in Human-Centered Design (HMC E180). We use design thinking methods to get students to learn “to fall in love with the problem – not the solution.” They work in teams on ambiguous, real-world challenges with a focus on defining important unmet needs, taking risks, trying things, and learning from missteps. We work and learn in a studio rather than a classroom and always try to practice what we preach

 

The class meets three times a week for a full, 15-week semester. In the fall of 2018, I endeavored to set up the class studio room differently for every class. The idea was to do this not just randomly but with intent. We kept the learning objective or activity of that session in mind with each class, asking, “what are we doing and what configuration will help that succeed?”

 

Research on “variable encoding” (defined here as number of rooms in which material is learned) has shown that studying material in different rooms is beneficial for memory (Smith, Glenberg, and Bjork, 1978). Yet, as creatures of comfort and habit, we’re all predisposed to sit in the same spot in any classroom or dinner table. Another two studies on public settings (Costa, 2012; Guyot et al., 1980) found that most students tend to sit in the same seat or row in lecture halls because establishing their “territory” reduces stress and anxiety by helping them control their environment. While this might be a good defense mechanism in a lecture, we believe the positive aspects of movement far outweigh the benefits of comfort. Furthermore, comfort breeds sleep, and it’s hard to remember things we learned while dozing….

 

In Human-Centered Design, it simply isn’t possible to settle into the same comfortable spot each class because that spot does not exist!

 

So, how might we configure the class to facilitate movement and learning? First, you’ve got to have the right furniture. Our tables are on wheels. They are square and easy to push together or pull apart. Our chairs are stackable stools. We also have an array of whiteboards, beanbags, couches, pillows and bins of supplies to pull into the room or take out. Below are a few different layouts you could try to create intentional learning and engagement experiences.

We’ve created a “space deck” to share with teachers and students illustrating 36 different ways to set up a room. Thanks to Lily Yang, we’ve captured a sketch of each room layout divided into four categories: Experiment, Activity, Focus, and Collaborate. These are meant as a tool kit and inspiration to shake up your classrooms for learning’s sake. Try them and make your own!

Sample of classroom setup illustrations from the “space deck”

 

Here’s what the deck looks like. There is now one available in each room at the Hive. Coming soon will be the smartphone and digital versions! Happy arranging!

 

 

 

 

 

Metalsmithing workshop

 

Have you always wanted to make your own jewelry? Come to the Hive for an awesome workshop with our new metalsmithing bench! Design and create a unique pair of silver earrings, for yourself or a friend. Collaborate with others while you learn about the design process, silversmithing and indulge in your creative side.

 

Sign up here:  https://goo.gl/forms/3wIJSJTi6PX6zcjr2

Space are extremely limited! You will be notified with your placement on waitlist.

March Hive Highlight: Unflattening: Weaving The Literal Through The Abstract

On March 8th, the Hive presented the workshop, “Unflattening: Weaving The Literal Through The Abstract.” The workshop offered participants a way to see visual communication – or art and design, especially the practice of making comics and sequential art – as an alternative medium to critical studies, research, and storytelling.

Nick Sousanis, author and cartoonist of Unflattening, a graphic novel and experiment in visual thinking, partnered with the Hive and Claremont Graduate University’s Transdisciplinary Department to guide participants through a series of exercises deconstructing the process of visual storytelling, the usages of analogy and visual metaphor, as well as formal techniques and tips in the design of sequential art.

Participants left with new tools for tackling visual thinking and storytelling, and alternative ways to engage their collegiate work, as well as their work beyond. Most importantly, everyone enjoyed the experience. Many thanks to everyone who participated in the workshop; the collaborative energy and commitment to the exercises made this a worthwhile experience.

February Hive Highlight: Pop Rocks in Water for Noise

On February 20th, Isaac Watts (Pitzer ’18) led a workshop that explored questions such as: What does your hand sound like to a pencil, a water bottle, or a steering wheel? How does a space express itself aurally?

During the workshop, everyone had the opportunity to make their own instruments using alternative mic’ing and sound recording techniques. The experience explored the boundaries of noise and music, and harnessed the tactility of sound. The participants made noise with watermelons, cottage cheese, sandpaper, mannequin arms, metal sheets, velcro, silly putty, bowls, magnets, ping pong balls, Pop Rocks, traffic cones, scrubbers, kale, model heads, wooden toys, and more!

Through this immersive workshop experience, attendees were introduced to technology for recording sound through solid matter, liquid substances, and electromagnetic fields for use in media projects.

Click here to hear what happened:

Article: Pop-Ups Offer Classes on Today’s Hot Topics

The Hive was recently mentioned in a New York Times article. Read the full feature below:

February Hive Highlight: 3D Origami Mini-Workshop

On 27th February, Kristine Chang (PO ‘21) led a simple and fun workshop in 3D origami, a type of modular origami in which hundreds of paper pieces are stacked together. At the workshop, people learned how to fold the building blocks of 3D origami, then assembled them into works of art – sculptures and figurines, like swans, made entirely out of paper!

Lessons Learned Through the Podcast-Making Process

By DD Maoz and Eli Cohen

Between February 22nd and March 8, The Hive and DisCo put on a series of Podcasting Workshops, where participants got to make a collaborative podcast – from interviewing to storyboarding to editing – over the course of three workshops. Eli Cohen (PO ‘19) and DD Maoz (PO ‘18) wrote about their experience planning and running the workshops.  

Before the Storm

We had many motivations for creating these workshops. First among them is that we love podcasts. But beyond that, we wanted to convey why the process of making them yourself can be so valuable.

We wanted to show how the different aspects of making podcasts can urge us all to be better listeners, intentional conversationalists, and mindful storytellers. We wanted to re-value the creative process itself. We wanted to create a low-stakes environment for people to actually make a podcast without grandiose expectations or the fear of failure. We wanted people to learn by doing. We hoped to provide participants with the technical confidence that will allow them to see this medium as their own. We wanted to make room for stories – for people to tell them, to realize the importance of seeking them out, and to grasp the power of handling them with care.

The basic premise was this: We would create three workshops that would walk participants through three stages of the podcast-making process: interviewing, storyboarding, and editing. Through these different stages, we would focus on different interpersonal skills: empathetic and active listening, communicating, and storytelling.

Workshop #1 – The Interview

In the first workshop, we emphasized empathetic listening and recording confidence. We opened with two audio excerpts from Chimamanda Adichie’s TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story” and an interview with David Issay in the TED Radio Hour’s “The Act of Listening.” They taught us about the responsibility entailed in choosing which stories are told, the presence listening commands, and the power of being heard.

We outlined five active listening principles, which we compiled from the Human-Centered Design course tips for empathetic interviewing, and Celeste Headlee’s 10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation. They were:

  1. Be present
  2. Do away with assumptions
  3. Enable meaningful conversations
  4. Go slow
  5. Care for the process

Then we reviewed the technical details of the recorders, considering basic tips for making a good recording.

The topic we chose for the interviews was “Transition,” and we urged people to recall specific stories and emotions from different periods of transition in their own lives. Then, for the rest of the session, in groups of three, we interviewed each other and made space for each other’s stories.

We came out with eighteen recorded ten-minute interviews, and the affirmation that giving people the time and excuse to talk and ask questions was one of the most powerful things we could have done.

Workshop #2 – Storyboarding

In the second workshop, we tackled the challenge of walking people through the whole storyboarding process in 1.5 hours. We brought on Isaac Watts (PZ ‘18) and Jeremy Snyder (PO ‘19) to help facilitate the session. In small groups, we started by taking time to listen to the 4-5 interview clips each group was assigned. Then, we took 10 minutes to share out our impressions with the group. From there, we took 5 minutes to construct a narrative arc, thinking about the common themes, and the surprises that came up from the clips.

For the final stretch of the session, using post-it notes, we constructed a storyboard that detailed what should happen at every moment of the podcast by creating mock tracks that resembled the audio editing software – one for interview clips, one for narration, and one for accompanying sound. We concluded the session with participants recording a live narration of the podcast, following the storyboard to tie clips together and communicate the narrative and themes to the listener.

We came out with a very rough draft of three podcast episodes, one by each of our three groups. We also realized that, while confusion is an essential part of the creative process, making a clear structure to guide the process along was essential to eliminating overwhelming, paralyzing confusion.

Workshop #3 – Audio Editing

In the third workshop, Ximena Lane (PO ‘19) joined the team and walked people through the fundamentals of audio editing together with Eli. We decided to step back from the project at hand and instead work with isolated examples of basic audio design. In the end, we highlighted four concepts:

  1. Vocal clarity
  2. Quality over quantity
  3. Layering with care
  4. Transition is everything

We also introduced the participants to the basics of audio editing software, such as how to navigate the timeline, work with multiple tracks simultaneously, and utilize basic audio effects. We created a one-pager describing each of the four overarching concepts and gave a few tangible techniques – altering amplitude with compressors or normalizers and changing the tenor of one’s voice with equalization – to help achieve them. We left a small amount of time at the end to practice these techniques on the project itself.

The Process of Creating

Each workshop required a different structure and varying amounts of guidance, and all of them required that we admit one simple thing: we were not experts. In planning and facilitating these workshops, we were simply creating the space for everyone – ourselves included – to experiment and learn by doing. We were often pushed to seriously think about group process more than the podcast-making process, and about how to enable a comfortable and intuitive sort of creation and interaction with the group.

We realized that there’s something freeing about just jumping in, with no time to fear mistakes. We realized how important our roles as facilitators were in planning sessions that gave participants room to engage with the creative process in ways that allowed for a healthy – but not overwhelming – amount of confusion.

Ultimately, we couldn’t prepare in advance for every possible scenario, and so the process was largely about being present with the rest of the participants and going where the process invited. We started these workshops knowing that the podcast-making process mandates the sort of intentionality that should be lived out in everyday life. We ended with the added realization that the same holds true for the process of planning these sessions, which demanded we be present, open, and intentional.

Most importantly, the creative process demands time. Time to be confused; to ruminate; to revisit and rework; to adjust; to bring oneself to the table fully in order to enable a true collaboration. While our workshop provided opportunities for participants to tap into many aspects of the creative process, time was not one of them. Instead, we got to engage with each other, to tell stories, to create, to construct, to edit, and to collaborate. Overall we got to see how these tools are something that anyone can use. When we compromised time to give room for other aspects of the creative process, we accepted the fact that the final product will not be polished and that it might not make sense.

Since we stepped back from the project for our final workshop, some participants took on the responsibility of editing the episodes beyond the workshops, relying on the original storyboard that was made in under 1.5 hours. The episodes came out to be exciting rough drafts, which give you all a glimpse into what a narrative that was created so quickly sounds like. 

Happy listening!

Horehound: Not Just a Weed

By Megan Robalewski

While it’s easy to forget what lies beyond the familiar campuses, 5C students can enrich their experience in Claremont by exploring what the surrounding landscape has to offer. Biology and Environmental Analysis students might be familiar with the Bernard Biological Field Station (BFS), which lies just across Foothill and is a short walk from the Harvey Mudd campus. Not only is the BFS incredibly close, it provides an opportunity for students to engage with the land where the Colleges are built as it might have been experienced before citrus groves and the colleges were established. During the Hive’s “Candy Invasion!” event on February 9, a group of students and members of the Claremont community ventured over to the BFS to harvest horehound, a non-native weed, and make candy from it.

The BFS is situated on an alluvial outwash from the San Gabriel Mountains and contains one of the largest remaining parcels of the native California Sage Scrub plant habitat that once covered most low elevation areas across Southern California. One section of the BFS has returned to a state of nearly all native plant species. In addition to the California Sage Scrub, the BFS is also home to a grove of native Coast Live Oak and Sycamore trees. Many invasive animal species that thrive right across the street on the 5Cs’ grassy lawns, such as pill bugs and Argentine ants, are absent here. Instead, native plants and animals such as wood rats – who use sticks to build impressive domed homes along pathways at the BFS – flourish here. However, not all of the BFS is a haven for native species; some parts, like the California Sage Scrub community in the southern area of the BFS, get invaded by non-native species at certain times of year. One of these species is horehound, a weed native to Europe, northern Africa, and southwestern and central Asia, which flourishes in the winter. Horehound has been used as a medicinal herb since the 1st century BC; colonizers of the Americas brought this magical medicinal herb with them. The lasting presence of this plant is one of many reminders of the colonizing history of plants and people that shaped Claremont as we know it today.

Not only did our group get to clear out portions of this invasive weed from the BFS to make room for native plants, we also learned about its medicinal benefits including pain relief, digestive aid, and cough relief (it is used to make cough drops such as Ricola, and horehound candies can double as throat lozenges). Guided by Wallace (Marty) Meyers, the director of the BFS, we meandered around the man-made lake, learning about the ecology and history of the place, as we excavated as many horehound plants as possible. The leaves were the only necessary ingredient for the candy, but the key to ridding the environment of the weed was removing the clumps down to the root. By the time we were ready to head out, we had so many horehound plants, it was difficult to carry them all. We headed over to the kitchen at Wolfe’s Market to learn from Harvey Mudd College Fellow Christy Spackman about the process of making candy from sugar and an infusion made from the leaves. After washing the horehound leaves, we steeped them in water with local Ponderosa lemons harvested near the Hive to make a tea (you can also drink horehound tea– it has a minty, earthy, bitter taste and has the same medicinal benefits of horehound candy). The next step was mixing the tea with sugar and corn syrup and heating it in a saucepan, stirring it until it boiled. We then let it sit as the temperature climbed to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and took a break for dinner.

The most exciting part of the candy-making process was forming shapes from the cooling syrup. In a race to shape the hot syrup before it hardened, we furiously rolled out drops, spirals, and even hearts and intricate twirls. Next we rolled them in powdered sugar (horehound candy is fairly bitter, so it helps to counteract it with some sweetness) and distributed them in small bags for everyone to take home.

After exploring the BFS and learning about the impacts of invasive species like horehound on our environment, I was amazed by how little I knew about the land where our colleges are built. This ecosystem has a rich history of adapting to the influences of people throughout history; engaging with this history is a beneficial exercise for anyone who calls Claremont their home, however temporary. This experience has made me more observant of the environment we live in. We often take the trees, squirrels, and especially the weeds, for granted, but the natural landscape has so much to offer anyone who is willing to look and taste.