Terry O’Reilly at TedXWaterloo

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Terry O’Reilly’s job as an advertiser is to create the easiest, speed bump-free path to the sale. This takes skill, though Terry told us he wasn’t going to talk to us about it at TEDx Waterloo. Instead, Terry talked about the quirk in the collective psyche, saying sometimes people need friction before they will buy a product or buy into an idea. Friction, he says, can be the key ingredient in persuasion.

Terry told the story back in time of when housewives ignored a company making instant mix cakes. The company researched and talked to housewives and determined the emotions that surround the process. What they found was that the women felt they weren’t involved enough in the work of making a cake. They needed to be persuaded that they actually had something more to do in the process. The manufacturer went backward in the process and removed the egg from the mix. They then asked the women to put the egg back in so that they felt like they were more of the process in making the cake. By increasing the friction and adding the extra step women were attracted back to the product. Sales spiked.

O’Reilly talked about Johnson and Johnson having a marketing problem with their antiseptic cream. People would not buy the cream a second time. Johnson and Johnson brought human nature into their research. If we don’t feel pain, we don’t feel we are being healed so they put alcohol in the cream to give it a sting. The added friction of pain gave the product credibility and as a result, sales spiked back up.

Clairol introduced a hair product back in the 70s. The instructions for how to use the conditioner were 1. work conditioner into hair 2. let sit for 30 minutes 3. rinse…but it only took 2 minutes to work and not the 30 minutes that women were used to in the salon. So, Clairol suggested 30 minutes to give their product credibility by keeping the instructions for use in line with what the salons were doing. Friction aligned the new product with an existing belief system and made it legitimate.

O’Reilly’s message…Take a look at marketing over the last 100 years…friction can be a powerful tool to persuasion. You can take the concept of friction and apply it to fundraising. Terry cites a donation form for a charity with 3 donation boxes to choose from: a 500 dollar box, 50 dollar box, and 5 dollar box. There is friction with 500, 5 dollars is barely worth the stamp. They framed the desire of the 50 dollar box with the shock of the 500 dollar box and the shame of the 5 dollar box. 50 dollars was always the target.

O’Reilly also mentions an instance of setting up on-line shopping on an e-commerce site. The man designing the site looked at the 5 steps to the checkout process and replaced it with one step. He even added advanced error checking and retrieval of the page if the Internet went down. The idea failed miserably. The 5 steps created a friction that made the customers feel they had added security. Terry compares it to shopping. The narrower a store aisle, the more crowded it is…the more buying is done. More friction means more shopping as choice is a way to exert control over your environment. You control the experience by exercising choice. When the aisles are wide open, people won’t buy. They lash out by buying more in narrower areas.

O’Reilly says Steve Jobs understands his customers. 50 percent of products that are returned to stores actually still work. It’s just that people have a fiddle tolerance. People will only fiddle for 20 minutes. Jobs took this understanding and it applied it to unpacking the computer mouse. He purposely wrapped up the individual mouse so that you would have to become more familiar with it as you were unpacking it. No mice were returned after purchase. If you can embrace this concept, you will have less returns.

Lastly, in looking at human nature… Atul Gawande wrote a book called The Checklist Manifesto. He looked to others to see how they prevented mistakes…ie/ aircraft pilots. Gawade created checklists for hospitals. The hospitals that used this had the number of mistakes go down 8 percent. Unfortunately, only 1 fifth of hospitals in the U.S. use this. Although some surgeons felt offended (20 percent) when asked if they would want a surgeon operating on them to use a checklist , a whopping 95 percent said “yes”.

Friction works. It gives credibility. It can guide and steer people to positive outcomes. There is a real human nature element. O”Reilly looks back at books published in the 40s and 50s…Madison Avenue. He says the more things change, the faster it happens, but the study of the aspects of desires in man never change. These are fundamental traits of our species. Terry closes with the quote, “Friction is the secret ingredient to life” and Mary Poppins was wrong when she said a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, a spoonful of sand might make it go down quicker.

Another Look at Pointless Populism

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William R. Seaman’s “Active Audience theory: pointless populism”, 1992

Active audience theory grew in practice during the application of ethnographic research methods in the study of TV audience viewing practices in the 1980’s. In John Fiske’s 1987 book, “Television Culture” he explains how ethnography came to be a valid method of studying television and its viewers. David Morley (who Seaman actually criticizes in his 1992 paper), felt that Stuart Hall overemphasized the role of class in producing different readings (Hall’s work was in encoding/decoding, examining preferred reading, negotiated reading, and oppositional readings). There were some cross similarities between people of different social backgrounds such as bank managers and apprentices, and Morley surmised that the two were similarly constructed as subjects of capitalist ideology, inserting themselves into the dominant ideology in a shared interest of the economy’s survival and success. As a result, the emphasis of ethnography shifted away from the textual and ideological construction of the subject to socially and historically situated people. The emphasis in the late 80s turned to studying “the way people live in their culture” and acknowledged the differences between people despite their social construction and pluralized the meanings and pleasures they found in television. (Fiske) Greg Philo later writes that people do read the intended encoded message of a media text the same; it’s not polysemic in having different meanings to different groups. He believes instead that audiences are likely to criticize the content of a message in relation to another perspective, which they hold to be correct. “They are therefore aware of the encoded meaning and the manner in which it was constructed -they just do not agree with it.” (Philo, Active Audiences and the Construction of Public Knowledge, 2008)

Summary of reading

Seaman has an aversion to ethnographic research in the field of cultural studies, rejecting the overall view that, “television audiences hold far greater power over the medium than is generally acknowledged.”(301) He also says that an “active audience approach has tended more to mystify than to clarify, to rationalize a set of practices rather than to explain them.” (309) Further, he charges active audience theorists with taking a rhetorical role in theory construction, rather than an analytic or descriptive approach. (306) Seaman also argues against the active audience theorist view that the viewer’s individual interpretation constitutes interaction, implying a measure of control over the televisual text, as the text is just an A/V signal and is not altered itself by the viewer. (306) This goes against Fiske’s view that TV doesn’t have an effect on the individual, but rather on the ideology of a society in that it promotes and prefers certain meanings (that already exist).

Seaman has trouble with the term “free agency.” Unless viewers are aware of the “highly constrained character and content of programming…of the information, analyses, perspectives, beliefs filtered out by mainstream media, it is wrong to suggest they are truly free of their decisions to act.” (307)

Ethnographic Research

-Seaman believes it allows cultural studies theorists to makes self-serving judgements

Seaman’s first critique of ethnographic research in active audiences is that it focuses on the apparent characterizations of these theorists in certain cultural practices as “resistant” or “oppositional”. He criticizes Morley’s playing with the oppositional reading. Morley countered an earlier view that Thomas Lindlof and Paul Trandt had earlier observed in that television is used to create personal space and may actually be used to avoid conflicts and be used to lessen conflicts within larger families with his own reading that television is used for things such as acceptable zones for private pursuits and provides organizing centres and an opportunity for new types of communicative contexts. In doing so, Morley started to replace words such as “can be seen” with the more definitive “television is”. Another example Seaman gives is when theorists say that the text is being “used” in a particular context, it implies that the subject is controlling the text for his or her own purposes. Other questions must be asked first, such as whether or not the subject is even aware of alternative choices so that essentially I think what he is saying is that comparisons need to be made in order to judge the assessment’s validity or plausibility. Seaman warns that theorists must be careful that possibilities are not turned into judgments as this can be misleading.

Audience Interpretation

-Ineffective override and negative reinforcement

A) Seaman warns that mediated effects cannot confirm whether or not a target subgroup interprets degrading representations of that subgroup in ways that overthrow the dominant reading.

He used the example of Fiske’s work in stating that “women have told me how much they enjoyed Charlie’s Angels when it appeared on their screens in the 70’s and that their pleasure is seeing women taking active, controlling roles was so great that it overrode the incorporating devices that worked to recuperate feminist elements in its content back into patriarchy.” The way that the women may have perceived the experience of viewing cannot stand alone as the success of overriding the incorporating devices of a television program. “The word “pleasure” has to be explored in context. Seaman surmises that interpretations that rest on such elements as “viewer pleasure” can be self-serving.

B) He also warns that an oppositional reading of a text by a subgroup may work as an affirmation of their prejudices, giving them even more strength. He cites the anti-Arab racism in the American mainstream media and says the harm is not the demoralization of the subgroup, but the reinforcement of the prejudice and an encouragement to continue racist feelings in the dominant group.

Empowerment and the Active Audience

-Seaman wonders how can Active Audience findings empower, if there’s no readable action being taken?

Seaman says viewers do use the information they pick up on TV as reference points in making sense of the world but worries when theorists see this as an empowerment. He argues that viewer empowerment through the use of interaction with television is alarming to the “degree that elite interests dominate our news media and so constrain the field of options for ‘reference points’, examples and analyses” (305). I think he means that knowing that not all of the information and viewpoints make it to the audience by way of TV, it would be scary that we only see what does make it to the tube as worthy enough of conversation, consideration, or even value. More evidence to this view is on page 308 when he writes, “The problem does not lie with audiences, but rather with a system of mass communication that systematically excludes certain forms of programming and imagery in favour of a profoundly restricted and highly interest driven selection. The problem is not with audience interpreting practices, but with what is available for interpretation.”

Seaman seems to have a problem with theorists who use the term “empowerment” when it doesn’t really have a measurable effect in terms of action. On the subject of empowerment, he writes about Madonna as empowering for young women, “does nothing to decrease the staggering risk of date rape and other all too common forms of sexual assault and harassment.” (308) The result deals more with thoughts and feelings, which Seaman says is difficult to characterize, and makes the point that it’s not that he feels audience thoughts and feelings should be ignored.

Seaman harshly slams the active audience approach, saying it provides no insight into research in communication and media theory. He refers to the “pleasures made possible by inflected television readings simply will not address, let alone confront, the parochial bigotries, racist and sexist hiring practices, or the conservative voting trends that threaten even the most basic social programs, affirmative action and abortion rights here in the U-S…the violence against women and people of colour. “ (309)

Morley’s Rebuttal

In 2006, Morley wrote a response to the backlash against ethnographic research in his paper title, “Unanswered Questions in Audience Research.” Morley feels Seaman’s “Pointless Populism” is really “a return to a very old story about media effects and largely readable as the return of a narrowly fundamentalist political economy.”

“It is one thing to argue (as I have myself done) that some recent audience work has exaggerated, and wrongly romanticized the supposed power and freedoms of media consumers, imagining that all audiences everywhere are engaged in a continuous form of “semiological guerrilla warfare” (Eco, 1972) with the media, in which they constantly produce oppositional readings of its products.” (Morley, 2006)

Morley further acknowledges Seaman’s criticism of qualitative ethnographic research for not leading to follow-up action. “The further question raised by the critics of cultural studies audience work is whether it matters if people make oppositional or subversive decodings of media material, unless they go out and ‘do something’ (go on a demonstration; start a petition) about it.” Morley defends himself by saying that the many micro-instances of ‘pre-political’ attitude change in the cultural sphere acts as the impetus for political change. (Morley, 2006)

Morley ends up calling for a balanced approach to the two methodological practices of qualitative and quantitative. He surmises that there are times when more traditional types of research such as quantitative (number crunching and statistics) may be useful in audience research but warns that too much content can “deaden” under the weight of the “quantity of unanalysed contextual data. He gives validity to qualitative and ethnographic research in that it provides insight into, “the complexities of how audiences “indigenise” the media materials which they consume”, but warns that it runs the “danger of, descending into anecdotalism” and “we should not mistake the vividness of the examples it offers us for their general applicability.” (Morley, 2006)

In Search of Production Equipment

For my MRP, I’ve been scavenging around looking for equipment. The distance from home to school has me worried about renting equipment from Ryerson. Those late charges could sure add up if the 401 Eastbound is shut down again any morning I try to bring the equipment back.

I have purchased Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects and and Photoshop software. I have a good working knowledge of the editing program and am a beginner at the other two. For a camera, I bought the Canon Vixia HV40. I tested it out this weekend and it is quite good quality. I shot in HDV and tried to import a 45 second clip into my Apple MacBook Pro. After several attempts to import I finally figure out that the camera setting for playback must be on “DV Locked”, and the setting on Premier Pro must be on Canon Alternate 2. When I did capture the clip, the program froze and the swirling pizza ball of hell would not vacate my screen. After shutting down and re-starting, i found the clip in my movie file (I imported it as an .mov). I tried to import it into the project but the swirling pizza ball of hell came back. I decided to check the file size. It was almost half a gig for 45 seconds! That’s about 10 megabytes per second. I am going to do some more tests before shooting at the ECOO conference this week. Maybe Standard def in widescreen is the way to go.

I also purchased a little side light which fills in the shadows on faces. it tested pretty well. The Audio Technica mic US1Photo sent doesn’t work and will have to be sent back. I did an online purchase for one through B and H Photo and sped up the delivery time. That was Friday and I have to shoot Thursday. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!(received an email later in the day saying they shipped it out today…still keeping my fingers crossed).

Also today, I tested out audio for field use. Mike Murphy gave us a good overview of the different types of mics and some tips for use. It was interesting to learn how the cardiod shotgun condenser mic works. The phasing that happens with the ridges on the sides of the mic to cancel out delayed sound is highly useful for shooting at a conference when you don’t want extraneous noise. I took the mic outside and it picked up the helicopter going by above me quite well and when I pointed it down 45 degrees the volume was noticeably lower. Even the ambient noise changed with the position of the mic. This mic required phantom power even though it was battery powered, unless I was using it wrong. I couldn’t get a level without the phantom power on.

I then tried out my Shure SM11 lavalier mic. It needed phantom power as well. The levels were quite a bit lower than the shotgun mic. I tested out the sound in the RCC lobby and talked in a regular voice while a girl beside me spoke in a loud voice. It picked her up as well. I can see how important it will be to have that shotgun mic at the conference and I really hope it arrives before my shoot on Thursday. Ryerson won’t let me take out the shotgun mic, nor the portable audio mixer because the first and second years are using them this week. I’m starting to see how important it really is to have your own equipment. However, there are other good reasons for this. I know that starting a project with one camera and mic and switching to other equipment can cause differences in audio and video footage in various a/v levels that can leave you with hours of colour correction and matching audio levels and warmth. I’m hoping to save myself some time this way.

I tried out the Marantz USB recorder. I think I’ll use this to record my audio separately at the conference and then sync it up afterwards. I recorded .wav at 48kH. About 4 minutes of audio took 46 megabytes. For my MRP I’m expecting about 6 hours of native audio files. 5 seconds takes up 1 mb. That’s do-able. I’m looking at recording 6 hours. That’s just over 4 gigs.

I did try to plug both the shotgun mic and the lavalier into the Marantz but the levels were so different and there is only one level knob. The Marantz in no way should be used as a mixer! The ease of transfer from the Marantz via USB is a terrific time saver. This may be the next item on my list of things to buy.

Production Tips

Intermediate EFP

Hands-on part of module:

Dana showed me some great shooting tips to help me prepare for shooting at a convention in 3 weeks. It’s less cumbersome to take the boom mic off the pole and kneel down under the shot, directing it toward the subject. It’s also easier in this position to direction the boom mic with your wrist in the position of the person talking.

The camera is best off a tripod. I will need to practice this.

I learned how to shoot multiple people by keeping a wide shot and walking in towards the subject for a closer shot and moving out when another person joins into the conversation to a 2-shot. With three people interacting, it’s best to keep the shot pulled out on all three.

Dana also taught me the duck walk he used at City TV to follow alongside a moving subject and moving forward and back with a subject. (Dana cautioned that it’s best to have someone guide you by the shoulder when walking backwards)

More tips:

-Zebra stripes should be set at 80 for Caucasian skin.

-if you have to use a boom mic on top, do so. The camera mic is too directional and will pick up too much noise

-use a light on top of the camera for fill, rather than key

-close your eyes and listen to ambient noise in the room like fans or other noise makers that will wreck your audio track

-look for backgrounds with a “z” access for visual stimulation

-shoot plenty of B-roll and listen to your subject for good B roll clues.

-practice following people shots for B-roll

-Do establishing shots at the convention location…wide shot, find focal point and pull out, could do tilts, etc. Look for interesting shots like architecture lines and flowers to amp up the aesthetic factor.



Dana went over the paperwork for doc work with me. A plot synopsis is not needed, but a treatment is important for figuring out what technical elements are planned and given consideration, such as camera shots, music, and lighting. If there are more than two people working on a production during the course of a day, a call sheet is necessary just to keep track of the schedule and the people involved. Dana says there’s no excuse not to include a map as well. Google Maps is easy to use. A breakdown sheet is used more for dramas than docs so I don’t need to do them. Release forms are important for people talking on camera. Background people are to be treated much the way the news treats them. No special release form is needed. Audio plans are helpful for finding extraneous and disruptive source of noise such as fans and buzzing lights. An audio plan is not necessary at a convention as I won’t know in advance where I will be shooting, but I will make a point of checking the audio location before I roll tape. No blocked master scene script is needed for docs. EFP storyboards are not necessary, but it is important to do a shot list in case there is some storytelling opportunity through visuals in B-roll. There will not be a set-up and lighting plan for shooting at a convention, again, this is because it isn’t know in advance where the shooting will take place. I will scout the location for outdoor light streaming in and move locations if the light affects the colour temperature of my shot too much. I will also attempt to use a camera light for a fill light instead of a key light. Shoot sheets will be used to organize footage by subject and content, but I will not be individualizing each shot. I may do an EDL but most likely I will use the shoot sheet as I will be editing my own material.


After Effects

I joined the After Effects group after working with Dana. We used the vanishing point tool in Adobe Photoshop to create 5 .png walls that a camera and lights could be mounted and moved around within. I kept having difficulty with the Create Plane tool and found that when you cross the points over and over on themselves, the create plane blue line tool will finally disappear! So much for CTRL Z!

We found that the Edit Plane tool needs to be very close to the wall lines to work well in defining the 3D walls.

To create a second panel angle, we held down Command and watched for the white arrow with a tiny grid to pop up before pulling the point out with a cursor. To zoom in and out of the Photoshop project, we pressed Command and plus and to zoom out, we pressed Command and minus.

Next, we exported from vanishing Point Filter as a .vpe file. “Export for After Effects” under the drop down menu in the top left corner. We opened After Effects and went to File, then Import, then Vanishing Point VPE. We were able to add a layer and add lights (the camera automatically loaded as we used the vanishing point feature.

TV is still a part of the texture of everyday life






Recycling Old TV by Jiri Hodan
A great deal of research went into my paper for Research Methods class. I visited the Ryerson Library after encountering some frustration with the on-line resources available. A number of books looked like they might have material on the topic but I was only able to take the Robert Kolker book out called “Media Studies: An Introduction”. The books I really wanted, “Television Studies After TV” by Graeme Turner and “Television and American Culture” by Jason Mittel were already signed out (I was able to get this last one eventually and found it an excellent resource). I took out the third edition of “Media Scapes” for two hours to photocopy and I found three good essays in it. I didn’t end up using any of them for this assignment. Frustrated with my lack of resources, I went to Brock University in St. Catharines. I found a couple of great books. Henry Jenkins’ “Convergence Culture”, Amanda Lotz’s “The Television Will Be Revolutionized”, John Sinclair’s “Contemporary World Television” and Editor, Lynn Spigel’s “Television After TV.” I couldn’t believe my luck. The Brock students must have been doing mid-term exams instead of essays. Every book I wanted was available. I even found an article by a theorist whose work I have been interested in. David Morley has an article published about the Politics of Location called, “At Home With Television.” It appeared in Lynn Spigel’s book, “Television After TV”. It had a global and historical perspective that I felt was too broad for my essay about everyday life.

I took copies of the parts I needed and got out my highlighter to get a good idea of all the main points.

I knew I wanted to write about media convergence and how that may have changed television for the viewer. I was surprised to find some authors talking about television as an interactive medium in creating on-line communities from TV shows. That got me thinking about the day Damion Nurse showed us what Global was doing online with the show, “Da kink in my hair”. It struck me that the Joycam was familiar in the way that many of us create our own vlogs to post online. The show was making a connection with viewers by playing an everyday role. I also started to think about how clever MTV is for getting viewers back into co-viewing by airing an audience participatory show that airs live right after the show, “The Hills”.

During my reading I encountered a real sense of snobbery from the British media theorists who really put down commercial broadcasters by describing North American viewers as customers of service. A pompous tone of “social responsibility” was entwined in any talk of the use of British public television. It made me realize it was necessary to look more to the American theorists for my material as their perspective would be heavily geared towards the more prevalent private broadcasters than public in North America. (John Sinclair take an air of superiority)

I enjoyed Anna McCarthy’s article about the television in public space with its installation in waiting rooms. It reminded me of a trip I had to my own doctor’s office in which TV sets were visible in public spaces. I never felt they were intrusive and was happy for the distraction while waiting. I felt that talking about how television has squeezed into new public space was important to show how its use has changed in every day life and in this way, it is more pervasive.

I also found some work from William Uricchio about “Flow” that I enjoyed. The transference of direct control of flow from programmers to the audience actively selecting content with its own “flow”.

I found it difficult to write this essay. I knew what points I wanted to make just by what struck me most in the readings. Stylistically, it was different than the essays I am accustomed to. Although there was greater freedom in the flow from point to point, I tried to go back and check that I had included proof, and comment for each Point and where possible, draw from my own observations of the mediums. As well, although I wanted to focus on the audience, I knew I had to include the industry’s involvement and statistics in order to put the focus in the proper context.