Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Colored Rhetoric of Advertising

This is a great infographic entitled Psychology of Color - Analysis of Brands Color over at uFunk.net.

Remember advertisers are experts at the use of rhetoric and color is just one aspect.  What do you find most surprising to learn about your favorite color?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Digital Shadow: Just Plain Creepy

You go about your life unaware
of the Digital Shadow you cast_
Your life is measured in gigabytes.
Data comes at a cost_
Algorithms can predict your interests,
your desires, even your fantasies_
These are some of the ominous calculations Digital Shadow performs using your digital footprint.

Want to know who is secretly stalking you?

Want to know who your pawns are?

Don't think you have a very large digital footprint?

Well, guess again.  Among other things Digital Shadow will tell you about your "Liabilities" or people that consistently post about you making you vulnerable to attack. It also lists your "Obsessions" and "Scapegoats" -- people you would sacrifice if you had too.

Digital Shadow looks at your online Facebook data and provides a psychological profile of the digital you.  Perhaps the digital you is "Neurotic and exhibits high levels of self-absorption and insecurity" meaning you can be easily threatened.

Digital Shadow can also assess when you are most digitally active--a prime time for vulnerability because you are connected.

But wait, it gets even better, it can estimate how much you're worth, whether you have multiple financial assets, the places you like to hang out AND even generate possible passwords to your accounts.
Time magazine notes that “Letting Watch Dogs scour your profile can act as a sobering reminder that the information you put on the Internet can potentially be used against you.”

You may not want to see your digital profile, but then again what do you think your psychological digital profile might say about you?  How vulnerable are you?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Is So! Is Not! Why Counterarguments Matter

When writing an argument you cannot ignore the arguments against your position.  You should seek out to identify the most obvious counterarguments and then address those objections in order to convince your readers that your position is valid.

In addition, addressing counterarguments adds ethos to your argument by showing that you have thought about other positions and aren't attempting to ignore them. 

According to Delmar.edu, "one can acknowledge and even concede a point in counterargument without directly refuting it. For example, in an argument that girls should play competitive sports you might concede a point to an alternative perspective by saying
Of course, participation in sports is not the answer for all young women. Competitive sports can be cruel -- the losing, jealousy, raw competition, and intense personal criticism of one's performance. All athletes must learn to deal with these issues.
 There are some basic rules when constructing a counterargument:
  • Acknowledge and represent accurately other interpretations
  • Grant the validity of certain opposing points, even when they support an unacceptable conclusion
  • Identify shared ground (when present)
  • Indicate where you have enlarged your views to accommodate alternatives
  • Use a respectful tone. (You defeat your purpose if you call those who oppose you "ignoramuses" or if you use belittling language.)"
Example thesis:  At least 25 percent of the federal budget should be spent on limiting pollution.
Counterargument:  While some may say that spending 25 percent of the federal budget is too high considering the many social problems we currently face in the United States, if we don't limit pollution it may cause widespread serious health problems and could lead to even more social problems like declining property values, the creation of ghettos because poor people who would be forced to live in polluted areas, and limited access to health care. 
Now you practice.  Pick one of these thesis statements and write a counterargument.

1. America's anti-pollution efforts should focus on privately owned cars.

2. Hybrid cars that use both gasoline and electricity would decrease our country's dependence on foreign oil.

3. Illegal drug use is detrimental because it encourages gang violence.

4. The habit of bullying is caused by parental neglect.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Need Some University Credit This Summer? Try a class in the Zombie Apocalypse

"Until you're actually in a catastrophe you don't know how you'd behave."  That's how Glenn Stutzky prefaces the MSU Summer 2014 class "Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse – Disasters, Catastrophes, and Human Behavior".

When I first heard about this class, I didn't give it much credence.  Another crazy pop culture class - but then again, as a teacher of comics and all things related, I had to step back.  After all Walking Dead is one great comic book series that was serialized on television.  Although, I have to say, I still wasn't convinced that the zombie apocalypse was an appropriate fit in classes on the study of human behavior.

That was before I watched the above video.

What changed my mind?  The Mt. Diablo Fire of 2013.  I had always thought of myself as one of those people who, in the face of disaster, would remain calm, cool, and collected, rescuing neighbors and pets alike.  But, no, when Mt. Diablo was engulfed in flames, I was a nervous wreck that almost passed out a number of times due to stress? Fear? Loss of control?

I actually made one of my neighbors who has over 40 horses come to my house and help me hook up my two-horse trailer.  I know I wasn't that generous - I was there.

My neighbors and I finally became trapped on our properties, having to "shelter in place" and if that fire jumped the road we would have all been B-B-Q.

So how do you think you'd behave in the face of disaster?  Have you ever faced a catastrophe and were surprised by your own behavior?  Why?  How?

You can take SW290: Selected Topics in Social Work (Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse--Disasters, Catastrophes, and Human Behavior online for course credit from Michigan State University's Summer Study Program, but you better hurry up and register, or you'll be facing a different sort of disaster.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Race and Comics

The Root recently published an article entitled Black Heroism Illustrated.  It documents the instances of black superheroes created by the comic powerhouses DC and Marvel.  Beginning with DC's Black Lightening in 1977 and Marvel's Black Panther who debuted in "Fantastic Four" no. 52 in 1966.

The article also documents the rise of African American sidekicks -- Captain America's trusted Falcon (1969) -- while interracial justice leagues began appearing in the 1970s.

The Shadow League chronicles comic stereotypes, from Harlem as the hometown of every African American superhero to the use of the descriptor "black" in superhero names; think "Black Lightning, Black Vulcan, Black Goliath, Black Racer, the Black Spider, Black Manta and so on."

The most recent addition to the black pantheon of superheroes would be Nick Fury - who apparently underwent a race change in 2002's "The Ultimates #1" -- from a white World War II army hero to, I mean let's just say it, Samuel L. Jackson.  Can you imagine anyone else being Nick Fury?  I can't, but Jackson himself was stunned.
“It was kind of weird,” Jackson said. “I just happened to be in a comic store, and I picked up the comic because I saw my face. And I was like, ‘Wait a minute, I’m not sure I remember giving somebody permission to use my image.’”
The comic itself even noted the likeness in a panel in which the Ultimates discuss who would portray them in a hypothetical movie. Fury answers, “Why, Mister Samuel L. Jackson, of course. That’s not even open to debate.”
Stunned, Jackson approached Marvel.
“They were kind of like, ‘Yeah, we are planning on making movies, and we do hope you’ll be a part of them,’” Hero Complex reports.
Hope, indeed.  Thankfully, he took them up on the deal.

The Shadow League closes "Black Heroism Illustrated" by saying, "while publishers were making an active effort to court and engage black readers, their ideas regarding [black] culture were still boxed and stereotypical . . . Comic Books and race in America go hand in hand."

As a product of pop culture, comics are a reflection of our national and community beliefs.  Do you see more superheroes of color?  Who is your favorite? What franchise needs more heroes of color? What other white superhero would you like to see make a race change?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The World at your Fingertrips - FREE!

I love maps!  And the older the better.

I like looking at how the world has changed, or being reminded of places I've visited.

In my office I have a 1930's map showing the "Voyages of Discovery" with dashed lines and little galleon icons indicating the trips of Columbus, Vaso de Gama, and Magellan, a visual text sparking images of pirates, sea monsters, and exotic ports of call.

In my kitchen I have a very art deco map of "Europe in 1932" with pink and teal countries whose borders are very different than the world today. Whenever company comes and congregates in the kitchen it always sparks a conversation about places we'd love to visit.  Rome, Paris, Athens, Florence, London, Alexandria, Constantinople all great cities a world away.

Now some of these antiques are available to everyone thanks to the New York Public Library. The library has been scanning maps for about 15 years and now has "1,100 maps of the Mid-Atlantic United States and cities from the 16th to 19th centuries . . .  more than 700 topographic maps of the Austro-Hungarian empire created between 1877 and 1914 . . . an incredibly diverse collection of more than 1,000 maps of New York City, its boroughs and neighborhoods, dating from 1660 to 1922" among many other maps.

Do you like to read maps?  How has your world changed?  Where do you want to go?