Through the Eyes of a Stranger

One thing has become very clear to me over the course of this semester in Digital Communication: we are each unique. I do not wish to offend any of my classmates, but I do wish to tell the truth. And I’m sure most of us would agree. Sometimes, as we present, I fall in love with something a classmate has created; I try to duplicate it in my own work (imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, you know). But, sometimes, as we present, I wonder what in the world caused my classmate to create what they did. And I know for a fact people think the same about mine… Shane is just the only one bold enough to say it to my face. 

Sturken and Cartwright address these differences in their chapter called, “Viewers Make Meaning.” Something that may have deep meaning or great appeal to me, may be the worst piece of art you’ve ever seen. I often think about what my work looks like through the eyes of a stranger–what emotions it evokes, what effects it has, what opinions it brings about. If you aren’t passionate about the homeless community, you may think my pictures are ugly or my infographic is offensive. And I may not fully appreciate the beauty you find in sports or paintings or big cities. We are drawn to what we know and what we feel connected to. Therein lies the challenge for us as designers.

We have to create work that appeals to the largest variety of people possible. For me though, that part it easy. The part that is difficult is not losing yourself in that work. I still want people to see me–my passions, my personality, my character, my likes and dislikes–through my work. That stranger doesn’t know me; somehow I must communicate who I am in a way that relates to everyone. Finding this balance is difficult; I will not change who I am in my work, but I will compromise small parts in order to reach a broader number of people. It will be left up to each individual audience member to form an opinion, but without a clear beauty standard, this is a necessity.

“Advertising seeks, of course, to interpellate viewer-consumers in constructing them within the “you” of the ad” (50). Reading this chapter, I thought of the many Super Bowl ads we see every year. These are truly top-notch advertisements; people bring their A-game. But, they have a wide variety of people to appeal to…the men drinking more beer than watching football, the kids watching solely for the commercials, and the ladies in it just for the half time show. I think Microsoft affectively conveys their point to a wide audience with this commercial:

The authors say that there are two aspects involved in the decisions viewers are making: aesthetics and taste. Aesthetics refers to a more broad view of “the pleasure it brings us through its beauty, its style, or the creative and technical virtuosity that went into its production” (56). I have always thought taste meant basically the same thing. But I was incorrect. Taste is “informed by experiences relating to one’s class, cultural background, education, and other aspects of one’s identity” (56).

I found this chapter interesting, especially as I spent the weekend taking photographs for our upcoming project. I thought a lot about individual style; will the images be aesthetically pleasing and tasteful to the whole class or just myself? That is a challenge for me now as I edit and choose images to use. Thanks Sturken and Cartwright!


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