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Conducting Interviews and Gaining Skills

My work with the documentary process has opened a whole other set of skills to me. I have spent much of my time familiarizing myself with the digital media lab’s copy of adobe premiere. Admittedly, I deserve to write a rather glowing post for, which offers detailed and amazing video tutorials.

Like most of the Info Age’s projects, this one forces one to acquire non-traditional skills. Although the advertisement project might leave a few gaps in understanding how it relates to the historical discipline, the documentary offers very clear-cut, transferable skills. You are still crafting an argument about the ways in which events occurred and, more importantly, why it happened. Where are the differences? Well, primary sources in your typical paper include documents, not actual living people. There is a certain danger in conducting interviews, namely asking leading questions. If questions shape the project, it even more strongly influences the sources for this type of project. Unlike a traditional project, you cannot bully a piece of paper, much less make it answer a question specifically in your favor (perhaps a debatable point). I must warn other students conducting similar projects. Please put thought into your questions. As I understand it, the documentary typically needs a direction and form before interviews even begin, and the temptation is to make sure that interviewees’ statements match with your own interpretation, but such attempts create weak projects. While our main interviewer crafts questions as objectively as possible, I can imagine a scenario where an interviewer pushes interviewees to produce very specific answers. I enjoyed sitting in on an interview to watch my project partner work. Of course, she already brings a great deal of skill to the table, so I had a wonderful learning experience.

Documenting Catalogs

Over the next couple of weeks, the information age class will be considering events in the digital age. Like our last project, Dr. McClurken has asked us to participate in a less than conventional project. We will produce a documentary, perhaps even of epic proportions. We have a considerable amount of work ahead of us. I have never done this sort of project before, but with enough foresight and good effort, I believe we can all have a fun and engaging project.

My group decided to pursue the shifts from card catalogs to digital databases. It’s a small detail, but the change surely has major consequences for librarians and borrowers who trained in and grew up with the card catalog. In trying to find individuals who could take part in the documentary, we need to consider librarians who have extensive exposure to the older system. My initial conversation with a younger librarian on campus demonstrated that the shift from card to electronic is not that recent.

Why this project? Well, unlike the last project, we do in fact have an idea that relates more directly to the information age than weight-gaining products. The choice of library cataloging practices is an excellent one. We will seek to understand how the change occurred, its impact, and implications. Given that I have never been stuck with a card catalog system, I have no idea how one would search for a book without effortlessly searching with keywords and phrases. The way you search for information shapes how you think of information, understand what information is available.

Obvious interviewees for completing this project are older librarians. Perhaps additional interviewees should include users who have worked with both systems. I wonder if such an approach would make our documentary too broad, given that we only have a 5-10 minute limit. With that issue in mind, we may have to consider how to narrow our questions down to a specific issue.

A Few Notes on Advertising Project

Having spent the past few days digging through old magazines online, I feel comfortable to say that the world of advertising has become much more conservative since the 1930s. Most advertising scholars point to the “Your car is no nudist,” advertisement and note that nudity was not struck down or necessarily shied away from at the time. In this post I will be introducing my role in the upcoming project for Dr. McClurken’s Information Age as well as what my project group has been working on. So, I hope you are ready for a feast, as our project is a rather weighty matter.
With most working groups there is division of labor. Not everyone works on the same thing at the same time. It isn’t effective time management. Further, not everyone brings the same set of skills to the table. With that in mind, I was selected to handle the initial researching for our project. Before doing this project I had no idea what sort of magazines Google has put up for anyone to read and search through. The initial search for example ads was not easy, however. Keywords like “weight,” “skinny,” etc. did not yield too much, but I did get a closer look at an advertisement on this blog. When one enlarges the first advertisement, one can find the actual company name. Once I had the name, finding similar ads became far easier.

That's right ladies, with just a few more pounds your man can be handsome!

We decided that weight-gaining advertisements in the 1930s/40s would make for a fun and interesting project. How does this fit into the information age timeline? Well, granted the product certainly is not distributing information. There is something to looking critically at how such advertisements sell a company’s products. What is the use of language? Targeted audience? Images? Are male weight gaining products targeted at men or women who will tell their husbands/boyfriends/brothers to try the product. Thus, there is something of value to looking at a non-information centric product and digging one’s heels deep into the lingo and imagery of the period. Furthermore, this sort of product stands outside our cultural milieu. We might have some male weight gaining products, but they are sold as muscle enhancers, typically for body builders to appear more buff. The average reader today will more than likely look at these ads and remark about the differences in cultural values between 1930s and now. It’s a provocative product that not only will inspire a few laughs but also consider what qualifies as beauty, skinny, or glamorous. What these ads communicate is a set of esthetics which determine one’s beauty and perhaps even his/her societal value. One will lack social capital without the stunning, broad shoulders exhibited by the man pictured above.
As to sources, I found that most of the male-targeted ads were listed in popular science and popular mechanics. The writers and illustrators for the advertisements focused on informing skinny men that they would have no hope of a happy lady-filled existence without bulking up as much as twenty-five pounds. As ironized yeast apparently works quickly, the ads carry a sense of urgency, as if one needed to drop everything in order to lose weight, get the girl, and obtain a perfect life of smiles and…Perhaps I read a little too far into the advertisements, but when you read over so many you can’t help but wonder what the company is provoking the audience to believe.
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