Screen Practice

  1. In its most simplified form, screen practice is the display of images on a screen, typically accompanied by music, voice, and sound effects, according to Chalres Musser. Screen practice rose to prominence in the mid 1900s when observers viewed the extremely life-like images projected to them as life itself. Musser asserts that “screen practice always has a technological component, a repertoire of representation strategies and a cultural function,” all of with flux and adapt over time. A shift in the cultural view of these projected images was indicative of the beginning of screen practice. Before, onlookers saw these images as magic and almost fictitious. However, with the demystification of these images, spectators began to observe the images as art, signifying the start of screen practice. This unveiling set up a relationship with the producer, the images themselves, and the audience which has remained unchanged ever since and is fundamental to screen practice because it establishes a connection between all parties involved. 
  2. The most basic and prevalent “screen” in today’s scoiety would be the smartphone, which internally projects images in the form of pixels from behind its screen. Similar to the phone is the modern smart television, which also internally projects images onto its larger screen through the use of pixels. In contrast, the movie theater is a screen with an external projector that displays images on a very large surface for many to observe. We observe these three types of screens in different ways and the context with which we view them in is different as well (see third response).
  3. The personalized and portable nature of the smartphone has led to its predominance and implies a singular way of viewing. The small screen size makes it so only an individual can view, which has led to the independent, closed off, and largely distracted nature of our society.  Televisions, on the other hand, imply a more communal means of viewing. Due to their larger screens, televisions allow a group of people to come together and share a common experience. The act of coming together and sharing a movie or television show helps preserve the notion of community that is slowly being lost due to the advancement of screen practice. However, televisions are even becoming antiquated as phones now can stream movies and television shows, images that were once unique to televisions. Phones and the enhancement of their abilities are thereby leading to the overall individualization we are experiencing as a society. In contrast, movie theatres are working to hold a notion of community together, making this form of screen practice fundamentally different from the other two in today’s world. We always have our phones and take for granted the technology we hold at our fingertips; however, going to the movies still remains a special event. Friends and family gather and go out to the movies to observe images being projected in common, making an occasion out of it and preserving the “magic” of the screen. Today, this form of screen still functions as an outlet for social gatherings and sharing great experiences together. In all, our society’s reliance on screens makes it hard to escape screen practice. No matter where we go, we are bombarded by a variety of interactive screens and it is usually necessary for us to use these forms of technology in order to go through our day. This constant barrage of screens has unfortunately taken the magic out of the screen itself as we view it as so commonplace. 

In reading about Musser’s ideas on screen practice, I was still unsure what he meant about the “cultural influence” that is exerted on screen practice. I wonder what this entails and how it impacts screen practice as a whole because it did not go too in depth in his book. 

Techniques of the Observer

  1. The thaumatrope and flipbook are two similar optical devices in that they both rely on the sluggishness of the eye, the fusing of successive images, and the hands of the observer, themes illustrated by Crary in Techniques of the Observer. The thaumatrope is a disc with a drawing on either side, and, when spun, the images mold together because of the persistence of our vision.  According to Crary, the first picture persists “about the eighth part of a second after the image is removed…and the consequence is that you see both sides at once.” The afterimage is also integral to the function of the flipbook. The flipbook is a series of slightly varied pictures that appear to be animated when flipped through rapidly because the sluggishness of the eye fusees the images together. This blending of images tricks our mind into seeing motion through a series of still photographs. Another parallel between the two is the observer’s ability to dictate their experience of the illusion using their hands. Depending on how fast or slow the viewer rifles through the flipbook or turns the thaumatrope, they will encounter a different experience. The faster the viewer’s hands, the less time they have to cognize the images and thus the more continuous the images appear, or vice versa. Therefore, the two optical devices are unique as a result of the power of the observer to govern their own experience. 
  2. Although these devices can be used by anyone, in my opinion I believe they are geared more towards children because of the images they display. The colorful, geometric shapes of the kaleidoscope and the trivial, silly images on the zoetrope seem to infer that they are tailored for a youthful audience. In addition, because they are not fully developed, children may not comprehend the illusions and thus would be more enamored by the objects. Because of the childlike nature of the objects, the context for viewing appears to be in a living/play room setting, where kids play with their toys and have fun. In addition, I believe that the objects are more of a solitary ordeal because the individual observer dictates how they wish to experience the objects using their own hands. 
  3. Crary’s assertion that “the retinal afterimage is perhaps the most important optical phenomenon” is upheld by the objects which all rely on the afterimage to convey their illusion. In most of the objects, the presented image lingers because of our lethargic eyes. In doing so, the first image partially sinks into our consciousness but begins to blend with the successive picture due to the lasting afterimage of the first image. For example, the thaumatrope is a disc with different pictures on each side, images which blend into one when the disc is spun as a result of the persistence of vision. This fusing of images is a similarity between the objects that allow the observer to experience a false sense of motion and a blending of retinal pictures. The illusion of the objects is also furthered by binocular disparity, which Crary describes as “the self-evident fact that each eye sees a slightly different image.” Humans have the ability to synthesize the two opposite retinal pictures and blend them into one, furthering the tricks that the devices play on our eyes by reconciling the disparity and creating unity in the images presented by the objects. 

The reading led me to wonder in what discipline these studies were based: Were they psychologically based to understand more about the human senses, or did they come from a film/media perspective that sought to understand these tricks in order to entertain humans and advance media?

Focusing on What REALLY Matters

Information overload, infobesity, infoxication, etc., are all aptly termed words that describe a preeminent issue in today’s society. The overwhelming amount of information presented to us has led to an undeniable problem. Technology’s expanding role in our world has facilitated this issue by producing larger quantities of information, easing circulation, and reaching a vast audience. Consuming extensive amounts of news has led us astray; it is harder than ever to formulate decisions because our brains are overworked from trying to process so much information. Therefore, pairing down the amount of data that bombards us and attending to the pertinent ideas is a skill necessary for members of our society. 

Extracting useful information helps us formulate opinions and learn relevant material, traits which prompt academic success. Discovering tools that shape our focus in unique, beneficial ways is necessary for us to capitalize on our education. My notes, my weekly planner, and online learning sites mold my attention in order to better prepare me for school. However, the benefits provided by these artifacts reaches far beyond the breadth of education. As Mike Rose posits in his book, Why School, shaping my attention on relevant information is helping me “develop a sense of myself as knowledgeable and capable of using what I know.”

Planners: The Key to Organizing Time

In my experience, at the foundation of filtering information comes organization, a skill we as students often overlook but is crucial for us to take advantage of our education. As a result of the fast paced nature of college in the quarter system, I find it integral that I govern my time and work efficiently. A weekly planner allows me to take command of my schedule, focusing my efforts on what I need to accomplish during the week. 

As evident from my planner, I encounter a lot of information in my classes, leading to a hectic schedule with many assignments, deadlines, difficult tests and accompanying studying. Although these all cause stress in a student’s life, the common denominator of issues is being overwhelmed by information. Utilizing a planner enables me to stay on track with individual assignments and not get lost in thinking about everything as a whole. Instead of stressing over the magnitude of tasks at hand, planning ahead directs my energy at the most important things. Mike Rose maintains focusing our attention as crucial because it puts our efforts “to use in substantial and meaningful ways so that they become more powerful.” Directing our time towards relevant activities makes goals all the more attainable because we can formulate coherent plans which specifically address how we need to accomplish those tasks. Planning your course of action additionally serves as a way to evaluate your progress towards a certain goal by illustrating whether or not you are staying on schedule. 

However, being so regulated does not always lend itself to be useful. If you are constantly enforced by a set plan, unexpected obstacles can cause a great deal of stress. Obstacles, however minor, can throw off your daily and weekly routines, threatening the achievement of your goals. Curveballs such as unexplained sickness or uncompromising fatigue (both of which I am currently attempting to deal with) can cause you to lose sight of specific goals and become overwhelmed by all there is to do. Strict planning can thus neglect room for error, a common human reality which can be overcome on the path to attaining our goals. In fact, Rose claims that dealing with mistakes and stressors proved to him that he “could figure things out and act on what I learned.” This unanticipated benefit is left out by rigorous planning, a downside to a highly-regulated schedule. However, planning as a whole is necessary to combat becoming engulfed by everything on your plate, allowing you to focus solely on the components essential to success. 

The Value of Note-Taking

Note-taking is another aspect of our education that I believe is sometimes taken for granted, but helps me attend to my academic and intellectual growth. During lectures, professors inundate us with information, some of which is unnecessary and distracts us from what we actually need to know. How we as students collect and retain the information provided to us is therefore an integral part of our learning and can augment our confidence and competence. To support this claim of mine I come again to Mike Rose, who states that “acquiring and using knowledge brings its own pleasures. It just feels good to know things and use what you know.” The more useful information we amass, the more informed we feel and therefore the better our ability to deal with what is occurring around us. How I achieve this sense: my notes.

I begin my procedure by typing a word-for-word transcript of lectures every day, ensuring I have all the raw information provided by my professor, no matter the relevance. After class, I go through the accumulated information, tangents and all, copying down the important pieces in a concise, organized manner. 

Although my personal method of notetaking seems unconventional, the process allows me to better absorb information, strengthening my comprehension of the topics taught to me in class. Furthermore, Re-writing my notes facilitates the memorization process and allows me to siphon out insignificant material, leading to better overall retention of the pertinent topics presented in lectures. Rose also sees learning to “search for and synthesize” information crucial to our development. Note-taking in class can be a somewhat absent-minded procedure, but recopying notes applies semantics because you can extract the information that resonates with you. Remembering and giving meaning to these facts better organizes your thoughts by attending to only the paramount information. 

The consolidation of material also has its drawbacks. Since you are deciding for yourself what information is meaningful, it is easy to omit information if you do not initially see it to be relevant. My note-taking process is also a time burden which increases the possibility of transcription error as I often get tired and overlook details. In addition, this means of focusing attention on valuable information is not as widely applicable as a result of its unorthodox and time-consuming nature. I do not personally know of many people who would willingly engage in this seemingly redundant process in order to better filter and retain information. However, I find notetaking to be the best way of shaping my attention and it has proved to bring about academic success.

Applying Knowledge Through ALEKS

The selective information we collect in school that I have spoken so much about is fruitless unless we implement it and use it to our advantage. The knowledge we possess can be ephemeral; we must practice and apply this information in order to fully commit it to memory. Our technologically progressive society has many online educational resources that help us solidify the information we learn and view it in a broader context. ALEKS, an adaptive online homework site I use for Chemistry 1A, not only helps cement the material I learn in class, but gears my focus towards the topics I have difficulty with. Through formative assessments and knowledge checks, ALEKS is able to identify the topics I struggle in and presents questions which allow me to attend to and learn what I do not already know. ALEKS offers immediate feedback, helping me to recognize my strengths and weaknesses, providing me with an individualized study plan to reinforce my knowledge. 

Thus, ALEKS focuses my study time on the most beneficial information for me to succeed in chemistry, preventing me from becoming overwhelmed. Through concentrating my efforts I save time and energy, applying my knowledge on what is truly important, a skill Mike Rose holds as imperative. Rose emphasizes “the principles of implementation” to be “an ethics of practice, a right and wrong way to do things.” Determining how to apply the information we collect is a critical skill in school; we frequently need to recall information for tests or class discussions in order to succeed. However, applications of the knowledge we learn extend far beyond education. In a world filled with colossal amounts of information, it is vital that we can employ our own experiences to our benefit. Rose also finds it necessary to apply our education in a broader context in order to make decisions, formulate arguments and opinions, and advocate for ourselves. Therefore, discovering tools that shape our attention to what is meaningful is a skill we ascertain in school but take with us for the rest of our lives. 

Organizing and Applying Ideas

According to Mike Rose, education helped “develop a sense of myself as knowledgeable and capable of using what I know.” How we as students collect and retain the information provided to us can augment our confidence and competence; therefore,  the way we take notes is an integral part of our learning. Although my personal method of notetaking seems unconventional and gratuitous, the process allows me to better absorb information, furthering my comprehension of the topics taught to me in class.

My un-edited notes taken during class
My consolidated notes , written after my lecture

I begin my procedure by typing a word-for-word transcript of lectures every day, ensuring I have all the raw information provided by my professor, no matter the relevance. After class, I go through the accumulated information, tangents and all, copying down the important pieces in a concise, organized manner. Re-writing my notes facilitates the memorization process, leading to better overall retention of lectures and topics presented within them. This process, however redundant it seems, is essential as it allows me to focus my attention on the pertinent material, something Rose also sees as crucial to our learning and development. Learning to “search for and synthesize information” provides one “with the means to probe the world and to push back on other’s interpretation of it.” The ability to take jumbled information and extract the most meaningful fragments develops this skill which Rose speaks of, a skill allowing me to better organize my thoughts and attend to only the paramount information. Having proficiency in consolidating and synthesizing information lends itself to be useful both in and out of the classroom. Being capable of extricating specific truths is a skill especially useful in today’s climate as we cannot believe much of the information presented to us. Having this set of tools enables individual prosperity because, as Rose maintains, it “feels good to know things and use what you know.” 

Why School?

  1. What do you think Mike Rose says that schooling should attend to?

Rose speaks of many components of education and their respective benefits on students. A preeminent goal of American education is to prepare students to be able to make a living and adapt to the world outside of school. The personal advancement brought by school can also be supplemented by social improvement as education has long been seen as an equalizing force in society, as according to Horace Mann and further referenced by Rose. Social advancement resulting from education enables economic growth; both of these externalities Rose believes are immensely beneficial in the world. However, Rose posits that the moral and intellectual growth supplied by education is equally if not more useful for students.

2. How does he think it should attend to those things, and why should it attend to those things? 

Rose believes that education should cater to these matters in order to allow students to find meanings in their lives. A heightened sense of self and the environment around them leads students to be able to interpret daily events, understand meaningful encounters with other humans, and fit in with the flow of the natural world. Although these traits are somewhat instinctive, education can fine tune certain skills in order to complete both the internal and external benefits mentioned by Rose.  Rose observed the experiences of students to determine the best ways by which schools can implement the best possible education to students. Classrooms where teachers introduce students to new practices they could not do before and relate those practices to the outside world seemed to be exceedingly helpful. In addition, Rose quotes a college student saying that a teacher “has helped me see things that were always there that I never noticed” (33). The introduction of new methods of thought and viewing the world is a fundamental way to attain the benefits which Rose believes education should attend to. 

3. What does he say schooling does attend to? How does he see it attending to those things?

Rose, using his own personal schooling experiences, sees education as providing a means to probe and understand the world as well as others’ interpretations of it. Schooling can lead to this through the development of reading and writing, as higher education teaches how to synthesize information, develop arguments, and support those claims. These methods of inquiry allow students to formulate knowledge about the right and wrong ways to do things, thereby allowing them to better understand and analyze events taking place in the world around them. Rose also reflects on his own education, seeing that it gave him the ability to hunt down information and confidently make decisions based on this information. This was achieved by the general acquisition of knowledge from school, which led Rose to be able to develop a better sense of himself. The information he garnered and his ability to synthesize and use his knowledge allowed him to become competent in matters concerning himself and the world around him.

4. How are Rose’s ideas connected or not connected to those in the (brief!) Vilson blog post?

I believe Vilson’s blog is much more critical or educational institutions whereas Rose believes schooling to be a mostly positive entity. Vilson says that “the results of the game never change” which should lead us to question the very basic institution of education. This inquiry into the effectiveness of school should lead to reform, a stark opposite to Rose’s viewpoint. Rose praises the benefits of school incessantly, both the virtues which education taught him personally and the ways he sees it affecting younger generations. School, to Rose, is the basic means of both self and social improvement, two necessary qualities of life in today’s world. Therefore, Rose and Vilson are significantly different in their ideas regarding education. 

5. What’s one question that this analysis has raised for your own thinking, and/or that you’d like to take up with the class?

I wonder whether the benefits which Rose says education attends to should be accredited to the institution of school itself or moreso to the individual student’s drive and motivation to better themselves.