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					Understanding the
 Audience Better

 A look at Multimedia
through the audience's
           By Alex Richardson
 (with contributions by Brendan Murphy)
   What is multimedia ?
   A look at Multimedia through history
   The Theory of Multimedia
   How does an audience “think” ?
What is Multimedia ?
   To different people, multimedia means
    different things.
   In the basic of terms “Multimedia” is using
    multiple (multi) forms of media to
    communicate information.
   Think of your own idea of Multimedia and see
    if it changes by the end of the presentation.
   Now for some moments in Multimedia history.
Early examples of Multimedia
   c. 15,000–13,000 BC—Prehistoric
    humans paint images on the walls of
    their caves (including a narrative
    composition) in the Grotte de Lascaux,
Multimedia in the 1800s
   1877—Thomas Alva Edison invents the
    Phonograph. He also cuts the first
    recording, a soulful rendition of “Mary
    had a Little Lamb.”
Multimedia in the early 1900s
   1915—D.W. Griffith releases The Birth
    of a Nation, the first modern film.
    Moving camera shots and close-ups are
    just two of the film’s many innovations.
Multimedia in the mid 1900s
   1938—Orson Welles scares the daylights out
    of America. His radio adaptation of H.G.
    Wells “The War of the Worlds” realistically
    simulates news coverage of an invasion by
    hostile Martians. Thousands fall for the hoax;
    panic ensues. The next day, Welles feigns
    surprise at the uproar.
   1945—In an article in The Atlantic Monthly,
    Vannevar Bush proposes “memex,” a proto-
    hypertext/encyclopaedia system.
Multimedia in the mid 1900s
   1947—Edwin Land debuts the Polaroid
    instant camera.
   1956—The Picturephone is first tested at Bell
    Telephone Laboratories.
   1969—ARPANET, the precursor to the
    Internet, is established by the U.S.
    Department of Defence.
   1971—Computer engineer Ray Tomlinson
    sends the first e-mail message. Tomlinson
    also designates @ as the locator symbol for
    electronic addresses.
Multimedia in the mid 1900s
   1972—The Magnavox Odyssey, the first
    home video game system, is released.
   1972—Nolan Bushnell and Atari introduce
    Pong, the first coin-operated video game.
   1974—MITS releases the first successful
    personal computer. The Altair is named for a
    planet from the Star Trek television series. It
    uses Intel Corporation’s 8080 micro-
    processor, also developed in 1974.
Multimedia in the late 1900s
   1976—Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs
    form Apple.
   1977—The Apple II changes everything.
    It’s the first PC to use colour graphics.
   1983—The Compact Disc is introduced.
   1983—The Internet is created.
Multimedia in the late 1900s
   1985—The Commodore Amiga combines
    advanced graphics, sound and video
    capabilities to create the first true multimedia
   1986—The Academic American
    Encyclopaedia becomes the first CD-ROM
   1988—Macromind (now Macromedia)
    releases Director, a multimedia authoring
Multimedia in the late 1900s
   1991—The World Wide Web makes its debut
    on the Internet.
   1991—The MP3 digital audio compression
    format is invented at the Fraunhofer Institute,
    a German research lab.
   1992—Hypertext markup language (HTML),
    debuts, giving anyone with an interest the
    tools to build their own Web page.
   1993—Mosaic, the first graphical Web
    browser, is released.
Multimedia in the late 1900s
   1995—Disney releases Toy Story, the first
    feature-length movie totally comprised by
    computer graphics. The 77-minute film takes
    four years to make, and 800,000 machine
    hours to render.
   1996—Affordable digital cameras (another
    spin-off from the U.S. space program)
    become widely available.
   1996— JenniCAM debuts. She and
    thousands of successors redefine the way
    people look at the Web...and each other.
What will Multimedia look like
   in the 21st Century ?
   Who really knows?
   So far this century which is only 9 and a bit
    months old has given us improvements/
    adaptations of old ideas/technology.
   DMCA has “killed” Napster due to the “big”
    recording companies influence.
   3D CGI is becoming standard movie
    substance – eg. Shrek and Final Fantasy
What makes Multimedia “tick” ?
Why did these advancements happen ?
 Foresight

 Simply because people want to create

 Public expectations

 Economic and Market pressure

 And Personal Expression (discussed)
Personal Expression
   Expressing ideas or feelings though
    interpretable communication methods.
       Sight (wall paintings -> Masterpieces)
       Sound (“grunts” -> Theatrical renditions)
       Smell (pheromones -> perfumes)
       Taste (“licking things” -> culinary delights)
       Touch (surface texture -> Braille)
       The sixth sense of thought eventually
Personal Expression (cont.)
   Each sense by itself can communicate
    meaning, but lacks that all important “second
    opinion” reinforcement.
   By using multiple senses (media) to
    reinforce a meaning allows the audience’s
    mind to “cross-check” the validity of what it is
    trying to understand.
   Now that some terminology has been
    introduced, time for some Multimedia 101
What is Text ?
    Two meanings for text
    1.   Traditional – letters and words that a
         person can read
    2.   Multimedia – collection of signs and
         symbols that create meaning for a person
         based on their understanding and past
    The second meaning is simply a more
     thorough explanation of the first.
What is a Sign or Symbol ?
   A “sign” is what you can see on a street
    corner. A sign is some sort of visual
    object that it meant to provide
    information to someone who needs that
    What was that Sign/Symbol ?

Notice how each small change can start to make
the signs intended meaning clearer (hopefully).
Some STOP sign thoughts
    Now what if the word “STOP” was in
    another language. Would you still
    understand what the sign meant?
   This is where the idea of context starts
    to play a role.
   Context is the location of where an
    object appears (or its usage) in regards
    to surrounding objects.
Context and Textuality
   How and where a sign is used can have a
    great effect on intended meaning.
   A sign used in one situation may have a
    different meaning for a sign that appears in
    another situation.
   The ability for a sign to have multiple
    meanings is called Textuality. This
    represents the range of possibilities for when
    a sign does not have a clear meaning.
   Remember when multimedia “text” was
    defined to be related to an audience’s
    understanding.The audience is always
    considered as far as multimedia is concerned.
   In the STOP sign example, the reader needed
    to have some understanding of what the
    combinations of shape, colours and words
   This means that a persons experience may
    also have an effect on their understanding
    (kind of obvious).
Experience and Textuality
   The most obvious factor in experience level is
    age. Normally the older a person is, the more
    they have experienced.
   The other major factor is education.
   Not every country may use a Red Octagon as
    their main sign to represent stop. This means
    that there is not a “universal” rule that one
    can learn for it. It is up to the reader to be
    educated with the information they need to
    understand for what they “read”.
Yet more Examples
   Everyone should of received a piece of
    paper with a symbol on it (+). The idea
    was to write the very first thing that
    entered your mind when you saw the +
    symbol. Psychologists use this
    technique with words and images to get
    “reactions” rather than “thoughts”.
That + symbol
+ Symbol Discussion
   Hopefully it has come a bit (ideally a
    lot) clearer what effect the “real world”
    and its contents have on the way
    people think.
   Now for another more complex example
    to illustrate systems of meaning.
Yet another symbol/sign
   Look at the following sequence of
    symbols. What is wrong here or more
    correctly – What is unusual ?
A variation on those symbols
   Here is another version of those
    symbols. Has its readability been
    affected by its appearance ?
Another variation
   Look at this version of the symbols. Has
    the group of symbols been made more
    informative by adding a drop shadow
A small change can mean a lot
   Now look at the symbols. What has
    changed? Has your understanding of
    what these symbols mean changed as
Focusing on signs within signs
   Those last two symbol groups only had
    one small visual change between them.
   That visual change though carried a lot
    of meaning and made the readers
    understanding change as well
     is different from . These signifiers
    have different meanings as they signify
    different states.
Country Flags
       The Australian Flag
The Aussie Flag
   Think about the three (3) main symbols
    that I pointed to on the flag. Can you
    identify what each one means? For the
    ones that you can identify – what made
    that identification possible?
   Now for the Fiji flag.
The Fiji Flag
What did we find ?
   Obviously, education about your flag
    and country in school makes it easier to
    understand the flags meaning. The
    experience you are given about your
    flag does not always apply to other
    flags though. That means that it is very
    hard for a flag to have specific
    meanings once it is displayed outside of
    the specific target audience.
Systems of Meaning
   Put simply, systems of meaning is the process
    that a thought goes through to turn data into
    useful information.
   Different people will have different
    experiences which means a different system
    of meaning.
   This is how you get the idea of textuality
    where a multimedia “text” can mean different
    things because people see or have different
    systems of meaning.
What is the audience thinking ?
   No-one knows besides that person. Each
    individual has to be considered as being
    unique as well as part of a group.
   They have their own thoughts which may be
    similar (or different) from other people.
   Having a unique design for each individual is
    not feasible with larger audiences.
   Therefore, you need to understand the
    audience as a group and discover the
    characteristics of that group.
Which means….
   You should attempt to make your multimedia
    design accessible to as large a group of
    readers (ie. audience) as possible.
   Attempt to define an audience as a group of
    readers whose meaning systems have some
    common ground - that is, pick a specific
    audience defined by a certain set of qualities,
    and try to make your multimedia product
    reach them as specifically as possible.
But is that realistic ?
   Are these two approaches compatible?
   Does reaching for a "general" audience
    mean that you reach no particular
    audience very effectively?
   Is there any such thing as a "general
    public“ ?
What now ?
   The point of this presentation was to raise
    awareness on some of the thought and
    theory that goes into multimedia (from a
    Communication perspective).
   These types of issues can also be studied
    from a HCI perspective, but not right now 
   After all, there is only so much one can do in
    75 minutes.
   One of the most important principles of good
    design is to be able to put yourself in the
    shoes of your audience. It is important that
    you use signs that will be positive for your
    desired audience.
   Signs do not just have meaning by
    themselves, they can also work together with
    other signs to provide reinforcement of a
    meaning or a different meaning.
   Remember, it is not only the words,
    pictures, audio and other media pieces
    that you use that function as signs, but
    such things as colour schemes, type
    and size of typeface and the like.
   It is very easy to make choices for a
    signs characteristics that have
    contradictory meanings. Eg Calm
   You also need to take into account the sort of
    reading practices your audience might
    already have. That is, what kinds of texts
    might they read and how might they make
    sense of them.
   “You can’t teach a old dog new tricks”.
    Instead of changing the audiences thinking to
    suit you, change yourself to suit them (if
The End
   Well…. That’s it folks
   If you have questions, now would be
    the time to ask.
   Thanks for listening