An Unexpected New Path!

“Learning a new system is learning a new ability”.

Over this past weekend, I was able to delve into a brand new video editing software that I had yet to explore: Adobe Premiere CS6! I had all but mastered the ins and outs of my two favorite video editing programs (Sony Vegas Pro and iMovie), and was very excited to begin a new adventure with Adobe Premiere…Right off the bat, I had heard many times over that Premiere Pro offers the most complex timeline editing and color correction tools in the commercial video editing software market. I was hesitant to begin using Premiere Pro from a young age, given the barriers to entry that non-trained editing enthusiasts like me have in adapting to programs like this. But to say that I was not absolutely thrilled to have purchased my very own copy of this software would be quite misleading.

Something I noticed from the get go is that Premiere Pro lacks any sort of prompts that guides users toward learning even the BASICS of timeline editing, simple sorts of things like splitting clips into separate portions on the timeline. You are truly left to your own when exploring Premiere Pro, which could be quite disconcerting..Although it took me a good few hours to adapt to Premiere without the aid of tutorials, I feel that my transition into the program would have gone nearly nowhere without my previous knowledge of the Sony Vegas and iMovie editing programs, during the same first few hours. My absolute favorite portion of Premiere to learn using was the color correcting mechanism, along with the overlay tools, which quite literally blew what’s available in Sony Vegas and Premiere Pro out of the water.. And although I’m not trying to turn this post into a tech review, I would be a fool not to mention that Premiere has quickly become a joy to play around with. Since I had been accustomed to the more intermediate editing software on today’s market, I hadn’t challenged myself in exploring more with the top echelon type of software like Adobe Premiere. It would seem that the timing in picking up Premiere was just right, and I can’t wait to see where this new road in editing leads.

Software Takes Command

Manovich’s paper on his propositions of understanding and working with this new world driven by digital communication has raised some interesting questions for me.

One of the theories he posits is that in order to use this new technology to its full potential, we need to understand the makings of the software, what happens behind the scenes. But this process is so intricate, involves so many facets, to what degree do we need to understand why and how a webpage is created? If we know just what we need to make it look the way we want it to, is that enough? I’d also like to understand his ultimate reasoning for why. Is it so that we can realize the potential with what we have? Or is it so that we more fully appreciate what it takes to make our communication look the way it does? In either case I can see the merits of both arguments. I’m sure my phone, laptop, and software have so much more capability than I’m using them for, but because I don’t spend the time to read a manual or go behind the scenes, I only scratch the surface of what they’re really capable of doing.

Another interesting part he explores is the role of technology in our culture and the different venues that we can now use to express our culture. What does this mean for the development of our culture? Does it mean it will grow and change faster? Looking back, there are always major periods in history on how people think and is defined by what is important to them at that point in time. Looking back in 200 years, will we see these phases happening more quickly and will it have something to do with technology? When we transfer our ideas so frequently through digital means, new movements can spread like rapid fire. Case in point, the Arab Spring, other revolutions around the country, and even elections have spread throughout the world at an astonishing pace, and I wonder how much of that gets captured into a part of our permanent identity.

Lev Manovich Article

Before reading the Lev Manovich article, I honestly did not know what to expect.  When first seeing in on the syllabus we had talked about the notion that everything we do had to do with software.  Naomi suggested that an everyday person-person conversation may not, but then retracted that and claimed that Manovich may argue otherwise.  Obviously that did not make me any more prepared for an article I knew nothing about.

While reading the article, I found myself agreeing and disagreeing with what Manovich was arguing.  I understood that people are ignoring the the software and internal design of something in favor obliviousness or the sheer simplicity of operating a machine they operate every day.  As I read on, I realized that I understood what he was saying because I was, in fact, one of those individuals who uses something like the Internet without actually knowing how it works.  Its a very interesting thing to thing about and, honestly, its something I never really thought about until reading Manovich’s article.  That admission right there, though, is exactly what Manovich is writing about.  Not only do I not know about the software that makes the internet work, I never bothered to find out.  Right this second, I am on the internet.  I am tapping away at the keyboard and words are forming in front of me.  Soon, I will click the publish button on the right of this screen and those words will be available for thousands to see, categorized and organized.  I am well aware of what is going to happen, but just as Manovich describes, I have not the slightest idea how.

If his point is unclear at any point, Manovich later breaks it down in a way that any teenager in this day and age should understand.  He describes the simple process of clicking the “Like” button on Facebook as using software.  That button is clicked millions upon millions of times a day by millions of people without a single one of them thinking about the process behind it.  Manovich, however, describes it as participating in the online information ecology by expressing preferences and adding metadata.  I’m glad Mark Zuckerberg and the guys at Facebook decided to go with “Like” instead of Manovich’s mouthful.  All jokes aside, I once again admit that I agree and disagree with Manovich.  He argues that, nowadays, understanding software is absolutely necessary to understand culture.  I can see how this is true with more broader mediums like the Internet or with giant search engines; however, I cannot see the importance when considering things as minute as the “Like” button.  Then again, I am not an expert on this subject, nor am I at all knowledgable when it comes to software; therefore, I don’t know if I can assuredly say whether I agree or disagree with Manovich.  I’m sticking with both!

Some additional thoughts on web platforms from UM ISS

I checked in with the media specialists at UM Instructional Support Services with some questions about the web software we tried out last week.  Here are some thoughts from Lauren Atkins that offer some food for thought, esp. about Wix and Circle Pad (though I want to gather some more info about the latter).  FWIW!

Hi Naomi,
These are all good questions.  It’s very important for the students to consider features, flexibility, reliability and security…and longevity, and to consider how creative they can be even within confines.

It’s not necessarily a “pro” version of WordPress that is needed to HTML so much as a feature upgrade that the student would have to pay for (there’s no “license” so to speak for it at all).  This also means that students can’t embed just anything into their posts on WordPress.com as well—they can include videos only from a handful of sites (YouTube, Vimeo) and only slideshows from Slideshare and one other service.  Wordpress does that to protect themselves from infected content from dubious sources.  Weebly does the same.

Wix, I would advise students use with caution.  While it is the “flashiest” (literally) of all the options, it’s also the most nitpicky and unstable.  There is also no way to export out and move or keep the site they create.  A lot of students like it because it’s very customizable and “looks” better but there’s a lot of sacrifice of function that may affect them later on.

Circlepad, I don’t have any experience with, though an initial look at their site didn’t make me excited about it.  If a student is familiar with it and wants to use it and feels it works well for them, I think that’s fine, so long as it satisfies a certain level of reliability and longevity.

As for Dreamweaver, that is arguably the most difficult option of all because the student is responsible for all of the creation of their site, and I generally only suggest it for students who have used it before or who have a solid grasp of basic web programming (even using the visual editor can get frustrating without some basic knowledge).  Support in using it can often be gotten from the Tech Deck in the library.  In most cases, they can easily post sites they create in Dreamweaver in the public folder of their IFS space and run it from there.

I’ve had students complain about some of the constraints of Google Sites before.  Those who have some skill at HTML can actually edit their Google Site’s code and gain more flexibility that way.  Another tactic is to sort of play around with the page structure, columns, etc, in Google to reproduce what you’re looking for.  I do suggest encouraging it for several practical reasons: 1) the upcoming switch to Google Apps for Education might make it more secure and attractive, 2) It is one of the best services for not only keeping track of site changes (thanks to the revision history) but it’s also possible to export the content out in a fairly easy manner using another of Google’s tools, 3) there is ample technical support for it on campus because of its wide use and 4)it easily integrates with all of Google’s other tools, for students who want to incorporate documents, presentations, slideshows, images, videos, maps, etc.

In fact, as far as general features + reliability and longevity, we do really recommend WordPress and Sites and working with students to find ways to enable the type of functionality they’re looking for as best as possible.

Robert has put together a brief overview of a few of these tools on our wiki <https://g333.pbworks.com/w/page/34076819/Free%20Services%20for%20Creating%20a%20Website%2C%20Blog%2C%20or%20ePortfolio> , including storage limitations and an “ease of use” rating.

I hope that helps.  If students have very specific questions on any of the platforms, just let me know.  If you’d like us to stop by for a brief in-class Q&A or workshop while they’re getting set up, we can do that as well.


Lauren Atkins
Instructional Technology Consultant
LSA Instructional Support Services
G333 Mason Hall
734-274-7348
latkins@umich.edu
Instruction Group: http://www.lsa.umich.edu/iss/consulting