About this course

Visual media are central to much of what we do in the I School, as well as other professions and research domains. Easy and low-cost video and still cameras, cameraphones, and audio recording devices make it easy to record such things as activity and interviews. Reports and presentations, face-to-face and distant, online and off, rely heavily on the visual. In design work, media are used both to inform design and to present design concepts and use scenarios.

However, our knowledge about how to effectively make, use, summarize, and present these media trails far behind our ability to create hours and gigabytes of content.

In this seminar, we will address both theoretical and practical issues of capturing video, audio, and still images and creating narratives and presentations. We will read from such areas as visual anthropology and visual studies; and we will get hands-on experience creating and editing our own media.
This is not a technical course; nor is it a media production how-to. But we will cover some of the basics of making and editing media. Both theory and hands-on practice are needed to really delve into this domain.

No prior experience is necessary, but students who are already grappling with visual (and audio) media will find this course especially useful.

This course is appropriate for master’s and Ph.D. students from the I School and other disciplines. 

It would be an excellent companion to I214, User Experience Research, or to I272, Qualitative Research Methods for Information Systems and Management, or equivalents, although there are no prerequisites.

For second year I School master’s students, we’ll pay special attention to visual media for final projects and presentations.

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Link to Syllabus

Syllabus is under construction.


List of pages along the right are possible topics and readings.  More TBA.  We won’t read all this; these are possibilities.  Final syllabus will depend on who’s in the class and what are people’s particular interests.

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Camera Novices: What to Look for in your Camera Manual

If you don’t have your manual, these days they’re all online.

The basics that you need to know about your camera — what you want to look up in your manual first of all (beyond the REAL basics like how to turn it on and charge the battery!): most cameras have various dials and menus. You want to find the following settings or functions:

  • formatting your memory card
  • completely auto shooting (with most cameras, this is the one of the first topics in your manual)
  • focusing
  • zooming
  • controlling the flash: auto; always on; always off
  • setting the ISO
  • setting the file size (pixels) and compression
  • switching between still images and movies (if your camera does this)
  • reviewing your images in the camera
  • downloading images to your computer

Then the next functions you’ll need to find — not quite so basic:

  • Exposure compensation
  • setting the shutter speed
  • Auto focus selection — may be called AF Frame
  • Macro mode or close-up mode — usually indicated by a little flower icon
  • White balance  control– often your camera will say AWB (auto white balance)



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Papers due 5pm Monday May 7

Please turn in:

1. Paper copy into my mailbox in 102

2. Electronic copy to bSpace


Both due 5pm Monday the 7th.


Exception: paper copies can be turned in later IF the electronic copy is delivered on time. This is so that people don’t have to, say, drive over from SF just to drop off a paper.

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In Health Dept. Ad, PhotoShop, Not Diabetes, Took Leg

A poster being put up in the subway system shows a man who lost his leg to diabetes. But he really didn’t.

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Lightroom 4 Beta out and Free

Lightroom 4 beta is publicly available, and free.  Good not only for people who’ve been using Lightroom, but those who want to try it for free.

Lightroom is widely used and loved for managing photos (metadata, collections) and for editing.  It does a lot (but not all) of what Photoshop does, but easier.

I recommend that anyone at all interested in photography use Lightroom — the academic price is generally around $100.

Don’t buy Lightroom 3 — it’ll be obsolete soon, and academic version does not allow discounted  upgrading.

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Society for Photographic Education in SF

In SF March 22-25.

Many of the events are relevant to this course!

2012 SPE National Conference

Intimacy and Voyeurism: The Public / Private Divide in Photography

“Intimacy and Voyeurism: The Public/Private Divide in Photography” will showcase exciting and timely presentations about photography’s ongoing tensions between public and private domains, and will explore how the lines between those domains are often blurred. Join over 1,000 artists, educators and photographic professionals for programming and dialogue that will fuel your creativity. Explore our exhibits fair featuring over 70 exhibitors showing the latest equipment, processes, publications and schools with photo-related programs. Participate in one-on-one student portfolio critiquesprofessional portfolio reviews, informal portfolio sharing and take advantage of student volunteer opportunities for reduced admission. Other conference highlights include a print raffle, silent auction, film screenings, exhibitions, tours, receptions, a dance party and more!

San Francisco, CA
March 22-25, 2012 @ Hyatt Regency

Keynote Speakers: Sally Mann
Featured Speakers: Sharon OldsTrevor PaglenSandra S. PhillipsHasan Elahi
Honored Educators: Reed Estabrook


Reduced registration for student volunteers.

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I’m just back from a photography trip to Peru with (among others) someone who works for Blurb and is an expert at photo books.

I’m continually adding resources and potential readings and assignments to this website.  We are not going to do everything (I wish we could!) — but I’m using this site to keep track of potential activities, topics, and readings.

Feel free to let me know if there are specific topics that interest you or fit well with your on-going projects and areas of study.

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The Elements of the Course

Syllabus still in process.

Some key elements of the course:


Making media

Still photos, audio, video.

Content: what do you record, make, construct?

Technical elements: how do you do this?


Someone described editing as “shooting puppies” — you love what you’ve made but you can’t use it all. You have to pick (1) what’s good quality and (2) what’s essential to your story. Again, we have to deal with both content and technical means.


Telling your story — whether it’s functional (how do people do x) or creative — you have to know what your story is and how to tell it effectively with a variety of media.  Storytelling is linear. Although with new media we can break out of this constraint, for our audience and for the story we want to tell, we usually do end up with a linear product,  a story we tell in time.


Broadly defined:  presentations, online, print; however you present your project, tell your story.


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What researchers are talking about: Videography and the analysis of visual knowledge and culture

Deadline is past but interesting for what they’re talking about. http://www.isa-sociology.org/buenos-aires-2012/rc/joint-sessions.php

The last decades have witnessed a `visual revolution´. Visual technologies have become part of the everyday life of more and morepeople who are not only audiences, but also producers. Particularly the availability and omnipresence of video recordings has transformed everyday culture as well as actors’ knowledge. At the same time, sociology and the social sciences around the globe are developing methods for the analysis of audio-visual data.


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