Making minority issues more memorable

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From W. Eugene Smith and the Photographic Essay. Go here for book on Amazon

How do you feel? Same photo above but there’s something about them that’s different. The effect is that it alters your perception.

In his groundbreaking book W. Eugene Smith and the Photographic Essay Art historian and curator Glen Gardener Willimsun features these images (not the exact same ones) from one of the world’s most iconic photojournalist W.E Smith.

Willumson seeks to make a powerful point developed by Smith. Take the same content and an artist can create perceptual aesthetic schisms with its audience. You’ll like one better than the other.

Thus, the photo on the left, darker, maximises its chiaroscuro and in the original book has a tighter frame. The one on the right exhibits neutral, almost washed out tones. It occupies a different part of the perceptual spectrum.

The one of the left is art and the one of the right is a news image.

Hogwash, you might say but many viewers have spoken. More importantly, layered into this semiotic treasure is the theme that took the best part of six years to crack.

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I was a news journalist for many years and enjoyed a career in which I operated in many different positions but I harboured a hunch.

How can I make media memorable? It’s a broad supposition, grand in its ambitions underscoring story form, narrative, aesthetic imagery, voice projection, stylistic perceptions, film theory, psychoanalysis, memory studies and a historical analysis of myth, philosophy and culture.

Simplistically how can you take the same content and depending on your audience affect them differently. TV news likes to think it’s doing a great job but it’s victim of its own monomyth — the belief that there is only one way in which to interpret news and journalism reality.

I illustrate some of this work in this analytical video, followed by feedback from audiences at SXSW and Apple

At the heart of the narrative, I illustrate how simple and some elaborate systems work. Take this experiment by Phelps, a Neuroscientist who published Human emotion and memory: interactions of the amygdala and hippocampal complex. Phelps subjected people to different target stimuli identified by unique colours. When the targets follow one another, attention begins to wane, but when a dirty word was inserted before the targets, the subject’s memory became aroused and they easily remembered the string of colours.

Arousing the brain is a necessary part of affecting how memorable your film is. Whilst the knowledge from this research is unlimited its use, content that rarely gets popular airing, minority issues e.g. BAME is where the data could help reap dividends for its users.

I lay this out in a forthcoming book and in an open lecture: The nearly everything of storytelling. I’ll post details of its scheduling in the near future.

Dr David Dunkley Gyimah leads the Digital Interactive Storytelling Lab at the University of Westminster. Follow David here @viewmagazine

Written by

Top Writer & Creative Technologist, Int. Award Winner. Cinemajournalist. Cardiff Uni @jomec. PhD (Dublin). Visiting Prof UBC, Ex BBC/C4News. Apple profiled.

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