Gabriele Galimberti’s Toy Stories

Galimberti’s “Toy Stories” study, which sought to document what children claim as their prized toy possessions in different countries, brings forth a number of thoughts and questions. The images very clearly demonstrate a difference in wealth, living standards, and perhaps cultural values in the countries/region represented. While the children presented from India, Italy (Montecchio), and China clearly have more material possessions and a higher standard of living, in terms of economics, than the children presented from Morocco and Kenya, what is more interesting is the items themselves. Only one child, the boy from Morocco, has included books in the group of his most prized toy possessions. The two children who have only one toy in their pictures, each have stuffed toys (and both happen to be monkeys), the type of toy typically associated with comfort. The boy from the Ukraine has toy guns, the girl from Italy (Castiglion Fiorentino) standing in a barn has toy gardening tools, and the girl from Albania is standing a room decked out in pink, princesses, and dolls.

I have to wonder how each of these children were chosen, how they were asked to present their favorite toys, and how representative each child truly is of his/her country/region. The pictures that Galimberti presents are extremely powerful, and have the potential to be simplified by an unquestioning audience into definitions of childhood in each particular country/region. While the images are extremely powerful, I worry that they have the power to subconsciously present all Ukrainian children (and their parents) as children bred for war, and all Albanian girls as girly and frilly. Having seen a number of children’s rooms in the United States (including my brother’s and my own) I can say with certainty that not all American children have dinosaur themed rooms and tons of dinosaur toys. Galimberti certainly does not present his collection of portraits as definition of childhood for different countries—in fact he emphasized the vast similarities between the children and their relationship with toys and play. Nonetheless, it should be emphasized that these children are individual examples, and should not serve to be representations of their entire countries—after all, they are only just learning what it means to be themselves.

News on Media: Why Are Romantic Comedies So Bad?

This commentary on Romantic Comedies from The Atlantic caught my attention because I am frequently watch movies of this genre. Normally though, I am easy to please; as long as there is comedy and some sort of a plot twist, I am content.

I do think though that this commentary sheds a light on how romantic comedies may have changed – and how society truly influences how media is created in general. The commentary argues that romantic comedies have always been couched in issues that might exist in starting a relationship, such as racial/social or SES difference, geographic difference, parental disapproval, premarital sex. However, because many of these obstacles to romantic relationships have almost disappeared, the plotlines of today’s romantic comedies pale compared to the Audrey Hepburn classics (and supposedly, the remaining obstacles to romantic relationships are too serious for romantic comedies).

There is a part of me that agrees with the sentiments in this article. The nature of societal problems and issues do reflect heavily on what movie plots will be most effective. Therefore, I do agree that the nature of romantic comedies have probably changed throughout the years.

However, I also still believe in creative license. I think that witty dialogue, engaging plot twists and borderline absurd scenes that are comedic can still exist in the context of a supposedly less problem-ridden romantic scene. Life IS a narrative. Somehow, somewhere, there are stories that will have a problem or two, no matter how small, that can be used as a setting to a romantic comedy. Perhaps it is easier for movie makers to create a classic if there are obvious societal obstacles to romantic relationships. However, I do think that truly creative writers can and will find something in the midst of our supposedly more boring romantic scenes.

CNN 40 years later, 'Free to Be... You and Me' at school

I remember listening to my mom’s “Free to Be…” record (yes, even though I am a 90’s kid through and through, it was a record!) as a kid and loving it. I haven’t thought about it in years though. This article, which discusses “Free to Be…” in its time and now, 40 years later, suggests that the songs, show, books, etc. were somewhat of a game-changer in the media at the time and a representation of the changing norms: 

“There’s something distinct about the cultural moment it was produced,” Rotskoff said. “(Free to Be) retained so much of that progressive, oppositional challenging the norm, and it did so in a way that made it palatable.”

But after reading the article, I think, how much did it really succeed in “challenging the norm” if the article goes on to discuss the continuing struggles to break these norms? For all the talk of William wanting a doll in the 1970s, if William wanted a doll today, I, unfortunately, think his struggle in our society would be rather similar. While I do agree with Rotskoff’s statement that “Free to Be…” made feminism more palatable (and Miriam Peskowitz’s argument that this sort of feminism is “likeable and fun” compared with a lot of feminism talk today), the author’s point, that it is just as difficult to discuss these topics today, is well-taken.

However, perhaps the difference it made is observable. While I think society at large may still mock: “William wants a doll, William wants a doll,” I also think there are a good number of fathers and mothers that would vouch for their son’s right to have a doll. If I had to guess, there are a lot more American fathers and mothers today who would honor his wishes than there were in the 1970s—and maybe that’s because today’s fathers and mothers had “William Wants a Doll” stuck in their heads throughout their grade school years.


This PSA is part of a campaign by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. I am a big fan of the GDIGM in general, and this PSA definitely has some really great features, as well as some surprising ones. The choice to begin the ad with a blank white screen and then the sound of heels walking on the ground is particularly interesting. It definitely captures the viewer’s attention and tells him/her that this ad is going to feature a female. Typically the sound of walking heels is associated with women (not girls) who are either powerful or objects of affection- two conflicting images. I think this is actually quite fitting for the ad, because despite being more about girls than women, per se, the sound of heels could be associated with any type of woman of any profession, shape, color, background, etc. Following the footsteps, we see a young girl, and the remainder of the ad is presented with a young girl’s voice for the voice over. This also seems quite fitting, because it grounds the ad in the child’s perspective and elicits feelings of childhood and innocence, feelings that often stir people’s emotions, while remaining a PSA targeted to adults in the field of media. What I find most surprising about this ad is the use of the “cookie-cutter” style for the boys and girls presented. While each girl is shown to be slightly different, in terms of the shade of the skin tone (not color, because the colors are not skin tones), hair style, and accessories (such as glasses), they are all the same basic shape and are all wearing skirts/dresses like a stereotypical paper doll. For an ad that is communicating the need to show women and girls in media in all different lights, using this stylistically attractive, but seemingly contradictory style seems odd and out of place. Nonetheless, the PSA worked on me… I went to the GDIGM website to check out what they’re doing—you should too (and look, now they got ME to advertise for THEM too!).


AT&T has been airing this new series of ads called “It’s Not Complicated” where they have a man in a suit talking to young kids about basic topics (that they tie in to their campaign for the company) like “What is better, more or less?” “Fast or slow?” “Is it better to do two things at one time?” etc. The ad campaign was created by BBDO and includes at least 14 ads on AT&T’s youtube channel. 

What I appreciate about these ads are the honesty they try to maintain. The children don’t necessarily make complete sense or complete sentences. Some of the kids in the ad seem to agree with each other while others look over at the kid who is talking like they are nuts. It doesn’t seem staged. And how glad was I when I did a bit of research and learned that, for much of it, it wasn't staged. According to Advertising Age, the children featured in the ads were chosen because they were particularly talkative or imaginative, and while elements of the ads were scripted, the children’s answers we primarily their own. In other words, the ad agency was able to easily use this creative and talkative little boy (and all the other kids in the ads) who thought that “Nicky” and “flash” sounded like they rhymed and make some money off of it. Is it exploitation? I personally just think it’s smart. Kids have always said the darndest things for free; if you pay them a bit of money, they can say those darn things and make you a great ad with no harm to anyone. The innocence of the kids paired with the seriousness of the man in the video makes for great comedy at no one’s expense.

I think this ad campaign is successful because the commercials are addicting. I’ve shared them with my friends. I’ve tweeted about them. I’ve gone through the whole channel and I just want more. I guess, as one girl explains:

“More is better than less because if stuff is not less–if there’s more less stuff then you might wanna have some more and your parents just don’t let you because there’s only a little bit. We want more, we want more–like you really like it, you want more.”

Makes sense to me.

But in the end… I am a Verizon customer and these ads won’t make me get up and change my plan. But maybe when I need to get a new plan, the decision will be easier because AT&T ads will be ringing in my head. It’s not complicated, or so they hope.

Link to the Advertising Age article can be found here.

News on Media: Is Texting Killing the English Language?

This article is an interesting take on the argument that texting has been killing the English language. The author of the article argues that texting has not damaged our use of English; instead, texting is developing as its own mode of communication with its own grammar and rules of connotation. 

This article is engaging because it couches the argument in terms of history. The article explains how writing and speaking have always been historically different because the former is slow and deliberate while the latter is quick and casual. Texting is supposedly the bridge that allows for writing to “reproduce the speed of conversation” – which means that texting can take on the same casual tone that talking has. Furthermore, the article claims that history itself is unfolding at this very moment with evolution of connotation in texting. The author uses “LOL” as an example, which has evolved from its literal meaning of “laugh out loud” to a filler word that creates a casual mood.

I think the arguments used in this short, yet thought-provoking article are insightful. It makes sense to look at texting as the evolution of a new dialect as opposed to the destruction of another. Perhaps the interesting question is, with the growing prevalence of casual texting language, will formal language eventually be pushed to the backburner? Yes, texting is not ruining our ability to write using proper spelling and grammar, but we do write with proper English less because it is more acceptable to write informally. Many years down the road, will using the traditional English grammar only be considered an art form, the way of Old English?

Watch on astrid2690.tumblr.com

This was a funny YouTube video shown to me by a friend. The video shows a husky following along as a baby whines and utters incomprehensible sounds right next to it. The video is almost 3 minutes long, all of it the same repetitive husky-copies-baby scenario.  

I did not watch the entire video, but I almost did. The video was indeed hilarious, but I wondered why I was glued to watching the same, repetitive thing for more than 2 minutes. One simple explanation would be that, simply, it was funny. Seeing the same hilarious scene over and over again was probably satisfying and engaging for me as a viewer. Perhaps another reason though was anticipation of something even funnier or cooler. For every time the husky howled with a funny sound, I wondered if later on in the video the husky would make an even funnier sound right next to the baby.

I realized that perhaps, it is this sense of anticipation that makes videos without clear plots successful. Because the video has no clear trajectory, the viewer does not know when the video will reach a pinnacle in which the scene is the funniest or most engaging. Thus, the viewer keeps watching the same repetitive scenario. However, this only works after some time. As I did, most viewers probably realize shortly that there is not much else to the video like this, hilarious as it may be.

News on Media: Current State of TED talks

This article outlines the most recent critiques of TED Talks platform that has catapulted into popularity in the past few years. The article does a good job outlining the context of the article by starting from the perspective of a speaker as she receives an invitation to talk at a TED Conference. The rest of the article then goes into the history of TED, the current state of the organization and some of the critiques about the organization and the platform as a whole.

The title of the article implies some sort of focus on the criticism that TED has drawn throughout the years. While there are hints to what some of the critics have said about TED, the article mostly focuses on the history of the organization (how it turned from a niche conference of technologists, engineers and designers to an eclectic mix of speakers) and the opinions of the organizers. The article ends with an optimistic note from TED’s leader, Chris Anderson, on how Ted’s popularity shows thirst for learning.

From my perspective, I think the article was successful in shedding light on TED and how it came to be what it is now. It was, indeed, a news article that provided context and different sides of the story. For a TED Talks fan, I was curious to hear more about the specific critics or perhaps alternative suggestions that have been proposed. However, perhaps the article’s purpose was to simply provide a quick overview of TED and then spark interest in the curious to do more research and delve into more in-depth sources of information.

Orisinal : Morning Sunshine

Bubble Bees Game: http://www.ferryhalim.com/orisinal/g2/bubble.htm

Whenever I want a low-key game, I go to Orisinal.com. This particular game that I chose, called Bubble Bees, asks the player to trap as many bumble bees as possible inside bubbles, which are created when the player presses the mouse. Ultimately, the key is to get the timing correctly so that the bee passes right before the bubble bursts.

I like this game (and the other Orisinal games in general) because they are engaging without being complicated. I think the Bubble Bees game works in particular because of the following:

The Bubble Bees instructions that play in the beginning is short and easy to understand. The animation makes it easy to see what needs to be done without requiring the player to read a lot of text

The playful but soothing music sets a tone of relaxation. It sets the mood of the game as one that is meant to be low key

There is only one task (to trap the bees in the bubbles), but there are a few

There are red bees that fly faster that are worth more points

o   There are clocks that fly occasionally that, when trapped in a bubble, give the player more time

The graphics are simple but colorful

The additional rules make the game adds excitement to the game but, since there are only two, the rules are easy to remember and does not over clutter the game space

Of course these games are not for any intense gamers who want a lot of action. This simple, 2D game would not draw the same audience as, say, Call of Duty would. But I think that’s what makes this game successful. The game is made for only a particular mood of playing and everything about it– the tune, graphics, and pared down game space – stays true to that.

News on Media: False viral stories about Boston Attacks

This news article is probably one of the more useful ones to have read after the explosion of media after the attack at the Boston Marathon.

I think the article does a good job outlining the most common false information that went viral during and after the incident. Some of the images in the article were useful and the tag-lines were also helpful in outlining each of the viral stories. It would have been better if all the stories had images with it, but even if they didn’t, each snippet provided specific information that allows the users to recognize what the article is talking about (I recognize most of these fake stories – and I’m glad I read this article because I thought some of these were true).

The article itself almost has a mocking tone that denounces the fake stories. Clearly the article is not meant to be a formal, unbiased report of false stories. This becomes clear when the article talks about the conspiracy theories that have come up after the event. The opening sentence makes a very clear statement:

“We almost hate to even address this stuff. We’ll start with a bottom line: Anyone saying they know what happened at this point is making it up.”

The last point of the article, which talks about someone who bought the URL bostonmarathonconspiracies.com to prevent “some conspiracy theory kook from owning it”  re-emphasizes this point of view. It leaves the audience with the feeling that the stories that circulated were, in fact, ridiculous and overexaggerated versions of the truth.

This article, of course, clearly shows the downside to having media tools at our fingertips. On the one hand, it is very useful for being updated during emergencies as this. However, it also allows for quick propagation of rumors and falsities. How do we strike a balance?

Site of the Boston Marathon Explosions

These two images that depict the twin explosions that occurred during the Boston Marathon is informative and succinct. The first image, which shows the location of the explosion in Boylston St., has crucial information that makes the image informative but not overwhelming. It is helpful that it has labels for some of the more well-known buildings, such as the Boston Public Library. It allows those who may have been in the area before to recognize where the bombings have occurred. The labels for the finish line and the direction of the runners also put the location in perspective of the marathon. I also think that the use of the red and yellow as markers stand out and are easy to spot from the rather bland color scheme of the page.

It was beneficial to have both an overview map and a more detailed map together in one page to show where in Massachusetts the bombing occurred. This makes the visualization useful to those who might not be familiar with Boston or the route of the race.

One thing that I think could have been done to improve this is to have the two images side by side. This just makes it easier for the user to not have to scroll down to view both pictures. Even better is if there is a way to indicate that the top image is really more a zoomed-in version of the bottom image. Again, this can make the visualization more cohesive to the audience.

News on Media: Online Newspaper Paywalls

Read Paywalls help newspapers achieve decade-first rise in circulation revenues & other Media Week news online. Paywalls help newspapers achieve decade-first rise in circulation revenues from Media Week. Media Week magazine - news and information from the world of media

This article discusses the rise in revenue gained by newspaper companies through paywalls and digital subscriptions. According to the article, the increase in revenue this year is the first gain in almost a decade.

The information outlined in this article was actually news to me because ever since the explosion of online content, there has been a lot of speculation that the digital subscription model will not work well for media companies, especially because it is easy for news to be disbursed in other ways online. However, perhaps the growing number of online subscription is an indicator that many individuals still want to receive their information from their most trusted sources. While we can get information through brief articles from other online sources, we now that quality reporting that is published in well-known publication is more likely to be accurate and informative. Ultimately, the subscription pays for the name and for the guarantee that what we are reading is worthwhile

I wish that the article had delved deeper into what incentivizes individuals to pay for a subscription, though this is probably beyond the scope of the article since the article seems to be only a pure overview news report. For what it is, I think the article does a good job having the appropriate statistics and numbers that renders the information into something quantifiable. For instance, writing the amount of money in billions reminds individuals of how big of an industry the media this is and how much money can be lost or gain in the industry.

Boston Globe- International Children's Film Festival

“I call it my ‘Chicken Finger Manifesto,’ ” says Eric Beckman, founder and creative director of the New York International Children’s Film Festival. “If you raise your kids eating chicken fingers, all they’ll want to eat is chicken fingers.”

Beckman makes an interesting point. If we expose children to deeper, more diverse, sometimes darker, and sometimes sadder films, will we foster a desire for fine film rather than "chicken finger”-quality film?

It always strikes me how well certain movies (for adults) do in the box office. Why do people want to spend $12 on a movie that barely makes them think, doesn’t touch an emotional nerve, and doesn’t really say much of anything at all? I suppose movies are a way to relax, and sometimes people want to go to the movies to avoid deep thought. But the real “quality” movies, those with actual cinematic credibility that touch us in some way instead of solely entertain, are often times not given the attention they deserve from the general population. Does this stem from the population’s film “training”? If children saw a variety of films—the typical “kid” films plus other films that are appropriate for children but aren’t all rainbows and butterflies—perhaps they would request more films like that, creating a market for deeper films for children, and eventually a demand for quality films in general. I think the key here is also variety. As an adult, I have the option to watch a sad film, a funny film, a dark one, or a mystery. Children tend to have two categories—light-hearted and animated, or light-hearted and live-action. While some movies, Up being the first one that popped into my mind, may have more emotional moments and messages, the core of the movie is silly. Children experience a wide range of emotions and events, many of which aren’t light-hearted, even in just a few years of life. They deserve to see that presented on screen in a developmentally appropriate way.

NYTimes - "...TV's Preschool Playground"

Nickelodeon v. Disney has been a hot button topic in the children’s media world for a while now (well, at least for those of us who talk about this stuff and look at ratings), but Disney Jr. (formerly Playhouse Disney) is relatively new on the scene as real competition for Nick Jr. While I certainly appreciate Disney Jr.’s increased focus on research for their preschool programming (particularly speaking with a large number of children), I don’t believe for one second that it is not about the money. Both Disney and Nickelodeon, while genuinely interested in providing exciting content for children, are first and foremost businesses. To be clear, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with that. However, the Disney Jr. relaunch was certainly about ratings and money and not losing a portion of their audience and future audience to Nickelodeon. 

Last year, for the first time, Disney beat Nickelodeon out in ratings with their target kid audience. However, Nick Jr. still beat out Disney programming for preschoolers. As the Disney representative logically explains, the earlier they get their audience to latch on, the better the chance they will watch Disney-owned channels their whole lives. And with so much preschool content on TV, tablets, smartphones, and more, it is not surprise that Disney has amped up its preschool programming. By integrating their existing properties for preschool content (princesses, Peter Pan, etc.), they maximize their potential–a 3 year old who loves Princess Sofia will not only want the Princess Sofia toys, but will want all the product of her princess teachers (Snow White, Cinderella, etc.). She will want to visit them at Disney World. She will want a Princess makeover and matching tiara. Again, I’m not blaming Disney. It is, at its core, business, and an superbly run business at that. And I don’t doubt that all of this interaction with the property (the Disney world visit and Peter Pan comforter, etc.) strengthens a child’s bond to it and increases the likelihood that they will keep watching which increases the likelihood that they will benefit from the educational messages. It’s not ALL bad. All I’m saying, is that it would be nice if they owned up to it. By helping the kids, they are helping themselves.

Future of Cities (Ted Talk Radio Hour)

I love the Ted Radio Hour podcasts because it combines Ted Talks related to a particular topic, condenses them, combines them with additional interviews with the Ted Talk speaker and combine them all to create a good overview. The podcasts are an hour long but I don’t find myself bored listening to the podcast. This particular podcast is about  the growth of very dense city communities currently found in 3rd world countries – and how our future cities might eventually follow this trend

There are a few elements that make this hour-long podcast successful:

 1.)  I think it attracts listeners by alluding that it is comprised of a a condensed version of multiple talks. Personally, I find this appealing for someone who might not have the time to watch all the talks.

2.) The podcast uses sounds to bring the user to the situation or to introduce the topic. This podcast, for example, starts with the sounds of a busy street with cars honking and people talking. This successfully brings the user to

3.) The host of the show, Allison Stewart, brings in a new perspective. She successfully introduces each Ted talk and Ted talk speaker and their main arguments. Allison’s narration, sound clips from the Ted Talk and her follow-up interview with the Ted talk speaker are woven together to create a cogent summary. The way that the story is broken up gives a very good summary and keeps the listener engaged. Breaking up the podcast into these different elements means that listeners do not have to listen to one monotonous voice.

4.) The Ted Talks are still separated into little sections. For instance, this podcast is comprised of four talks all having to do with dense cities. Again, breaking the podcast into the different sections keeps the reader engaged. Allison also provides great transitions between each talk, allowing for a coherent story to be told throughout the podcast.

News on Media: Gay Marriage Time Magazine Covers

This Huffington Post article briefly talks about two Time Magazine covers this week featuring lesbian and gay couples kissing.

The article is short and did not provide a lot of information or even analysis of the covers. The only additional information provided by the article is the apparent “internal debate” that occurred within Time Magazine on whether or not the covers were too strong. However, even this fact was taken from another source.

I think that for what Huffington Post intended, this short article suffices. I’m assuming that the publication’s goal is to make its frequent readers aware of a major publication’s move in support of gay marriage. It is more of an article to inform as opposed to analyze. Besides, the subject itself – the covers of the magazine – is a bold statement; readers can have enough to digest by simply seeing the images of the covers. It is also possible that Huffington Post assumed that any analysis that can be written about the covers is implied. It can be argued it is implied that a major publication’s support for gay marriage will bolster the pro-gay marriage movement and that the supposedly “in-your-face” covers is truly a powerful statement.


Every week, I co-teach engineering concepts to 4th graders by introducing hands-on activities. This is a video of me testing some of the projects (sail cars made of legos) created by the students. The video was taken by a 4th grade teacher and posted by the Center of Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO). It was then disseminated through their Facebook page.

The goal of posting the YouTube video is to demonstrate the different activities that the CEEO brings to elementary schools. In particular, the video shows that through programs that the CEEO has elementary school students are learning how to create like engineers.

I definitely think that the video itself does not fully tell this story. An audience of the video might be able to discern that the individuals in this video successfully created hand-made cars that can be pushed by wind. However, the video does not show that the projects were created by groups of fourth graders. More importantly, it does not fully impart why these sail cars are important – that this activity is a learning experience for the 4th graders who created them.

The video as it is posted on the CEEO’s Facebook page includes a description of the activity. I think the description imparts the missing information, particularly because the description connotes that the activity was a challenge given to the 4th graders. This is consistent with the CEEO’s mission of teaching students how to solve problems like engineers.

This video is definitely an example of a piece of media that cannot reach its full potential and impart its message in entirety without surrounding context.

News on Media: Using Social Media References in Advertising

This article does not particularly talk about a specific piece of media; rather, it talks about a trend in advertisements in general to use elements of social media and the web. Perhaps the most surprising thing for me is the fact that advertisers use social media keywords even for ads to target an older audience. As the article says, this implies that social media is a relevant part of our entire culture. Though it might resonate more with the younger generation, it is prevalent enough for anyone else to understand.

The other interesting argument that the article presents is the opinion of advertisers regarding the role of their product in a social-media dominated society. Many of these advertisements imply that real human connection (and one that is enhanced by their product) is not the same as online connection through social media. Advertisers insist that they do not intend to disparage social media.

I agree with the advertiser’s sentiments. I think that advertisers are not making ads in the expense of social media; instead, advertisers are taking advantage of emotions, the same way that they do in any other ad. Just as more traditional advertisements take advantage of stories about families, success or disaster, these advertisements that reference social media are taking advantage of the prevalent idea in society about the detriments of social media. The idea that online social media connection is not the same as a face-to-face interaction was not created by the advertising industry; rather, it became prevalent with the rise of social media. Advertisers are simply using this, the way they use any other relevant idea in society.

Poor Visualization

This is a visualization that I stumbled upon in one of my other classes. This visualization has some good elements. The colors are easy to see, for the most part it is easy to figure out which bar belongs to which state and there are actual numbers to the side to quantify the bars in the visualization.

However, there are also a few things that could be improved. First, the color scheme of blue and red is a bit misleading. Red has a connotation as a “negative.” When I first looked at the visualization, I thought that that the red stood for something like debt or something to be subtracted. I also think that the key can be more obvious. The writing to the left seems somewhat separate from the map and so I didn’t think to look at that part of the image to find out what the blue and red bars meant. Lastly, the angle of the map makes the proportion of the bars inaccurate. Because the US map has depth, the bars that are “farther” (the bars in the northern states) are smaller. This makes it hard to compare the bars in different states with each other and limits the information that can be gleaned from the height of the bars.