Picturing Information

This is an interactive exercise!
(But shouldn’t watching all media be interactive?!)
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3 Responses to “Picturing Information”

  1. April 4, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    I think that there absolutely are messages being portrayed here – actually even more that the ones that you suggest. Of course – the little boy looks distraught – at least that’s what I see. I also see that the woman is “professional”. But I would suggest an even more subtle interpretation. Your comments on the pie chart seem to say (at least to me) that the USA today people are implying that moms working is going to affect young children, maybe even young boys much more deeply than if dad were going off to work. This seems like a strong upper middle class mindset that you are reflecting. Perhaps it’s a continuation of the “mommy wars” that have been going on since the late 60’s?

    So one of the questions that springs to my mind, and of course this isn’t just from looking at the pie chart but also your comments in the video – is what is the effect of little boys (or girls) being left alone by both mom and dad? Is it bad? Why are they even pointing this statistic out? It seems obvious to me that the USA today people do have something in mind when they choose this fact/statistic out of the universe to focus on. But what – I’m not sure I know.

    I suspect that the reason they show a professional woman is that they feel their audience has a lot of professional women in it.

    Actually, I’m getting alot more from your commentary than from the chart itself. Am I reading too much into it when it seems that you are saying that it’s not an issue for women to be working outside the home? Maybe that’s what USA today is saying, and you in the video are defending the other side?

    I don’t really know, but it is pretty interesting.
    Milt Lee

  2. 2 anthrovlog
    April 4, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    Hi Milt,

    Thanks for your comments!

    So many interesting issues you raised that we could explore!

    I especially appreciated your comment about how not only the picture itself, but also the type of information they choose to release (out of all the vast statistics possible) tell a story and have an agenda that we might not know.

    My basic point in doing the video was that I noticed a certain message was possible to interpret from what was couched in fact-based reportage. That it seemed to be suggesting that professional women (not men) working was bad for children, and it implied a sense of choice individual for the women and collectively for the family. I wondered if I or others would have gotten the same possible interpretation out of that presentation if the women shown was clearly not professional. Yet the fact is that many professional women must work too, to maintain certain kinds of economic goals and standards.

    One could do an analysis of this or any other type of “fact-based” or statistical representations. I just wonder to what extent we “notice” subtle messages when they reflect points of view that are similar to ours. In other words, do we tend to notice biased representations when they do not match our own more easily?

    Hopefully we’re always noticing points of view, whether or not they align with messages we agree with.

    Certainly, one could say that my interpretations reflect my orientations as well. Was there another way I could have gotten my message across about reading media? I believe the issue of working parents itself is perhaps too hard to tackle simplistically. I was interested, though, in seeing if other people had these interpretations about the political point of view in this graphic, or other media representations they may have seen.

    Thanks again,

  3. April 5, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    I really enjoy this discussion. When I was doing public radio work, I was invited once to represent the “independent” view of media at a symposium that was put on by the Poynter Institute in Florida. All the biggies were there – NPR, PRI, Monitor, Pacifica, academics, some newspaper folks – just a bunch of us – and for 2 or 3 days (who can remember?) we discussed the question of objectivity in reporting. NPR, following the dictum of the Carnegie Report said that this was the bedrock of their reporting and news stories. I, being a dog, said that objective reporting was a myth. My position was that because all of us approach whatever we present from the point of view of our experiences and life, it’s clear that nothing can ever be truly objective.

    For example, I may choose to present a statistic about “working women”. Even the fact of my having chosen it reflects what I am thinking about. Then if I go on to present it as a pie chart with a profession woman as the object of the “working woman” – it clearly tells one story – not the story of the woman who has to hold down 2 jobs just to get by – because her dog of husband left her with 3 kids and she has no choice if she is going to feed them, but instead tells the story of a yuppie graduate of Harvard who feels she has the right to work – even if her kids suffer.

    As you can see, I have my own thoughts about this story, and whenever I make an editorial decision – even the decision to do the story in the first place, I automatically assign an importance to this fact – an importance that may or may not be valid. After all, was this pie chart on the front page of USA today, or buried next to a story about vacations in Aruba?

    My feelings about presenting news was that you should do whatever you want – say what you want, but be clear that this is your thoughts and ideas. They are not reflective of the organization at large – they are a story or idea that you thought was interesting. To do anything less is to be dishonest with your audience.

    Enough for know – hey have a wonderful day!
    Milt Lee

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