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Anne Runyon <[log in to unmask]>
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SciArt-L Discussion List-for Natural Science Illustration- <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 1 Aug 2008 12:10:36 -0400
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Refreshing, Chuck.  Thanks for galloping by on Old Paint.
Best,  Annie
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Charles Carter" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, August 01, 2008 11:42 AM
Subject: Re: [SCIART] Your thoughts please

> Hey David -
> I think when we discuss the dumbing down of information we have to  
> take reality into consideration.  I think I'll probably offend a few  
> people in here so i apologize in advance.
> Just as newspapers are becoming a thing of the past so is the way we  
> used to interact with information.  I was lucky to be part of a book  
> project for McGraw-Hill, as an illustrator/co-author on a higher-ed  
> geology textbook called Exploring Geology. (Cindy Shaw was also a huge  
> contributor).  We took the approach to present each chapter as a  
> series of two page spreads with each spread depicting a topic or  
> concept.  This information was followed and built on when you turned  
> the page and delved into the next two page spread.  The entire book  
> was done this way, leading us to take away the highest honor at McGraw- 
> Hill this year for a textbook.  And this book is centered and built  
> around robust illustration.
> I feel that when we use terms like dumbing down materials we miss an  
> important point.  We live in an world where people and kids in  
> particular deal with huge amounts of information in ways we could not  
> conceive of when most of us were that age.  Dumbing down has a  
> negative connotation that I think makes a subtle implication that kids  
> today are somehow less intelligent then we were at their age.  That's  
> very far from the truth in my opinion.  The fact is that kids deal  
> with things on a different level than we do - and in many cases (IMHO)  
> are becoming more right brained because of sorting through a world  
> that stimulates the visual side of their brains.
> The book we designed was visually based in how it teaches.  It uses  
> illustrations to get the concept across quickly and used text that was  
> succinct and clearly written.  The concept was that we live in a  
> society where we compete with the likes of youtube, IMs, texting,  
> games, TV and too many ways to gather information to name here.  Kids  
> today are bombarded with information and stimulation - as illustrators  
> and educators I feel we need to appeal to the kids in a way that makes  
> sense to them and makes them slow down enough to stop and learn.   
> Dividing a book into two pages spreads was a simple idea and now it's  
> a proven way to do that due to McGraw-Hill is following this idea with  
> more of their books.
> I feel the book only builds on what we all do here in the guild - we  
> use illustrations to teach and communicate and express ourselves. I  
> think you have to work this way to deal effectively with everything  
> else that is also out there competing for attention. It's a changing  
> world and is getting only stranger as new and faster means of  
> information become even more ingrained into society.
> Our job as illustrators and artists is to do work that conveys  
> information in a way that society can relate to.  We need to be better  
> than our materials and think that each and every illustration we do  
> will rise above some of the more mediocre materials as you stated.  We  
> are some of the creators of this new media and we have to take  
> responsibility for the stuff that is fluff and bereft of information.
> I hear you in your feeling that people are a whole lot smarter then  
> people give them credit for - I also work in the console game  
> industry.  And we get kids who come in to work as artists who can do  
> things with the software that is frankly unbelievable.  Some of these  
> kids cannot draw to save their lives - but give them ZBrush and tell  
> them to model something and the work produced is amazing in it's depth  
> and content.  They see things in ways we could not imagine just 10  
> years ago, with a keener eye in some ways then many of us in this  
> forum.  But their talent can be raw in nature.  Their whole world is  
> now based around visual learning and playing and communication.
> In many ways I think kids almost communicate iconically.  It's how  
> they dress with logos and expressions on their clothes - their text  
> messages are iconic in that they have almost done away with words.   
> Pictures and videos are reference points for them to communicate ideas  
> and concepts.  And while a good lot of this is pretty shallow - the  
> sheer amount of data they process is amazing.  Just watch your kids  
> text or use myspace or the internet in general.  Or better yet watch  
> how they play games - especially online games and how they build  
> communities in ways that are visually and audio based, far beyond the  
> things we did as kids.
> It's not that it's bad or good - it just is and we need to live in  
> this world and build a better way for us to communicate what is  
> important for them when they need to learn something.  We have the  
> tools to do this - we just need to use them and try to get a better  
> understanding of the world they live in and be able to show them some  
> depth can be had if we do our jobs right and help them slow down when  
> needed.  We need to embrace our audience and cater to them in ways  
> that is not dumbed down nor infers a lowered expectation for their  
> abilities. I'M NOT AN EDUCATOR NOR EDUCATED -  just a self taught  
> illustrator. So I can't speak to how you perceive students in your  
> class - but I do look at my kids, and work with some very innovative  
> authors, artists and illustrators and feel that today we have to  
> change how we think and this means adapting to a slippery surface  
> where education is.
> And those changes don't involve dumbing down anything... just  
> presenting it in ways the audience better comprehends it.
> Maybe we should have a myspace or Facebook presence and see what  
> happens?  We might try to get down into the trenches and see where it  
> goes.  Just a thought and then watch and learn.  There is nothing that  
> says that those communities are just venues for advertising movies,  
> music or personalities... why not interject some science in there too?
> Sorry - getting off my horse now.
> Chuck
> On Aug 1, 2008, at 10:33 AM, David Clarke wrote:
> > On Aug 1, 2008, at 8:40 AM, Bruce Bartrug wrote:
> >
> > think you've already selected the direction you want to go, ...
> >
> >
> > Hi Mieke,
> >
> > I have to agree with Bruce, you sound like you've got a great idea  
> > brewing already. For a critical point, you might consider looking at  
> > how the new media has changed society, its expectations and our  
> > communications vis-a-vis science illustration. I work in education  
> > (so maybe I'm a little biased or warped in my view) and many of my  
> > colleagues and many folks I have spoken with in other "educational"  
> > endeavors (e.g., museums, national parks)  are complaining about the  
> > dumbing down of all materials presented.
> >
> > There are of course exceptions to this (Cosmocyte's work for the  
> > Food Detective, for example) but it seems that while the new media  
> > has enabled us to share our knowledge much easier  and  
> > "democratized" communications somewhat, it has also lowered our  
> > expectations of audience intelligence. [I realize "thems are  
> > fighting words" but I could fill a football field with folks with  
> > examples.] I don't know whether the abundance of new media  
> > (animation, tv, games) have shrunk our attention spans so that  
> > deeper thought has become hard work or if we the creators are  
> > anticipating a dumbing down that we then are creating. Before you  
> > think me a real prig, I think folks tend to be a whole deal smarter  
> > than we give them credit and I push to challenge our students as  
> > much as I can.
> >
> > Anyway, my point, Mieke, was that you might want to consider not  
> > only the upside of the new media and its effect on a resurgence in  
> > science illustration but it's downside also.
> >
> > It sounds like a wonderful opportunity. Good luck!
> >
> > -david clarke