Teacher Workshop: Second Impressions: Images, Slogans, and Influence
I am Elizabeth Dale-Deines. I work at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and I’m going to let my amazing co-facilitator introduce herself.
CAITLIN MILLER: Hi, everybody. My name is Caitlin Miller, and I am the education program coordinator at the new Planet Word Museum opening in downtown D.C. on October 22. We're very excited, and I’m really thrilled to be joining Elizabeth and you, as well, for this hour of thinking and practice.
Elizabeth already spoke to this dichotomy, but I want to invite you to be conscious about wearing two hats for this next hour, both as a participant exploring and responding to the ideas but then also as a teacher, practitioner as you are and think through how the strategies, the thinking routines, the content might relate to your course content and your practice as well, and we'll reflect on that at the end.
We are going to be unpacking artworks and advertisements using a Project Zero Thinking Routine, and a thing to think about is whether or not or how this thinking routine can be applied to any number of artworks or ideas or advertisements that we might see or come across in our day-to-day lives. We both want to acknowledge, though, at the moment that the two examples we happen to be looking at today are of white women.
Other than that, I think the only other thing I have to share at the moment is just—and some of you seem like you're familiar with this already—but we'll start usually engaging in the chat, and occasionally there will be moments where we'll invite you if you feel like you would like to take yourself off mute and share.
ED: That's the beauty of being a fairly intimate group is that there are going to be plenty of opportunities to chat. Again, we are recording, so I’ll leave it to you.
So, to get started, we're going to look at an artwork, and we are going to use the artwork as kind of a way to activate our visual literacy skills, and then we're going to start layering. This artwork is intentionally sort of ambiguous. I mean, some of it's really not ambiguous, but you'll see what I mean. But we’ll be using it as a way to kind of introduce ourselves and set the pattern of thinking with the thinking routine so that we can apply it to a more complex image later on. So that's why we're doing what we're doing.
My screen is a little bit busy with stuff, so if you need to move things around so that you can manage seeing both the image on the left and the prompts on the right, I invite you to do that.
The way that I invite students generally to look at an artwork is doing a vocal prompt. If you are comfortable or you already know this vocal prompt because you are an old friend, you can ignore, but my intention is to invite you into close looking so that you focus first on the artwork and then start making some interpretations of it. So being a reader of American English, I generally start to start in the top left corner. So I’m going to invite you to just start looking over there if you so choose and then imagining that your eyes are like a laser or a paintbrush or something that you can imagine reaching out and touching the artwork. I want to invite you to brush your eyes all the way across the top of the artwork, and as you go, gather information. Then when you reach the top right of the artwork, just slide your eyes down the right side, and as you do, remember that this used to be a blank canvas, so everything on here is either a choice that the artist made or a happy accident that they decided to keep. So you're sliding your eyes down the right side, and then you get to the bottom and slide your eyes across to the bottom left. Then from the bottom left to the top left, so now you're back home again. I’m just going to ask you to pass your eyes back and forth over the artwork, just to gather all the information.
For some students who are uncomfortable with this kind of slow looking, you can kind of increment it. So one alternative to the way that I’ve presented the painting here is to actually crop it down into little sections, and you can add the little sections using animations on your PowerPoint so that it's almost like putting a puzzle together. That's a really good way to keep students engaged in the slow looking. Another thing that I do often—and I’m actually going to challenge you to do it now—is to look again, and this time to look deliberately for something you did not notice the first time. Now that we've done all this looking, my invitation to you is to follow the prompt on the screen, which is to make a big, long list of observations in the chat box. So what are some things that you notice in the artwork?
Her stance. Anne, thank you for that. Oh, she looks rich. Okay, so here's where I get to nest in a really fun, basic thinking routine. So talk to me, Anne, in the chat box or aloud—whatever you prefer—what do you see that makes you say she looks rich. So what would you point to in the picture? Meg is asking a question: is that a fan? The pearls are really in focus it seems, so Nick is adding we've got pearls, we've got a fan, sculptures on either side of the window. So now we're noticing that there's a window, too. Michelle is noting the source of light that's in the background, which if we were to think about how would you light the scene as though it was like a theatrical space, it seems odd that it's lit from the back and then also the front, so this is really interesting. She has an innocent look, like Lady Di. What an interesting connection, Anne! Thank you so much. A delicate, slippered foot. Beautiful. Detailed lace on a blue dress, expensive jewelry, an open jewelry box. Okay, so we've got this big list, right? Can you add one more thing that we haven't already mentioned? So we're making basically an inventory of all the stuff that's presented to us. It's presented to us in a particular way to convey a particular message, but first we need to start thinking about what it is that's on the canvas. So Kyra has given us the word “possessions,” so something possessions on the table. Petals from the flower are falling, there are creases in the dress, a moonlight-like light in the rear in the back. Beautiful. We have a single subject, so this one woman is placed right in the middle, but Christine is also noticing the particular placement of the jewelry and starting to stretch into the idea of perhaps she was doing something. She's sorting through it. The mirror is glowing like a window. Ah, Nicole is thinking about that crescent shape. Could it be a globe or a lamp in the background? Anne is adding her jewelry box is open. Christine is adding on the earlier mention of the folds in the dress. It could have been that this was like an impromptu dressing, like was she just like, “Oh, I’m going to try on this dress. All right, cool.”
If you were to scroll back through the chat box, we started out with kind of little starter ideas, which is great, and then as more ideas start pouring in, we start to see through each other's eyes and we start to build kind of this collective understanding. The fun thing for me with this particular approach is by inviting everyone to do this together in the chat box, those students who are maybe not as comfortable with the close looking or the long looking or even looking at artworks at all can source from their classmates’ ideas, so this collaborative meaning making is really helpful.
Ah, Kyra's added a question. Maybe the creases are not, in fact, creases but from a hoop that is underneath the skirt. Mary Jo is asking is she wearing jewelry, or is it just kind of arrayed on the table around her? Beautiful. Okay, so this is our looking. We've made a close inventory of what's being presented to us on this canvas.
Here's where we start to enter into kind of a new approach. So if you're accustomed to See-Think-Wonder, this is a different way of looking at things. We did a See at the start, but now, instead of thinking about a story we might tell, I’m inviting you to think about the values that the artwork seems to be inviting us to think about. When I say values, I mean they could be the things that people value, like literally things. They could be concept or ideals in the values category. It could be that those are values shared by an individual, by a community, by a nation. But in the chat box, would you share at least two values that this artwork seems to be asking you to call to mind?
Meg, I love what you just did. So if we're thinking in artistic terms, we could actually call blue a value. So certainly, something about the blue seems to be important. What other values are we being invited to think about? Status, okay. Thank you, Nick. Ah, Kyra adding—we had that word delicate before, but now we're appending delicate to femininity. Laura has said youth. Christine has said outward adornment. Creamy, white skin says Charlotte. So interesting to think of skin as a value on the color, linking to Meg's idea of blue before, but then also racial considerations for sure. Christine is adding leisure, and Brittany, thank you so much for joining us—bringing the idea of outward image. So these values, okay. Any additional values that we have not noted in the chat box yet? Wealth. Thank you, Caitlin. Anne says how important it is to have an image for others. Interesting. Thank you for adding that in, Anne. Mary Jo is saying, yes, status is a really important one. Gorgeous.
So, again, if we wanted to use the chat box as kind of a documentation system, we could challenge ourselves to go back and look at the section where we were listing the things that we see and start to think about was there anything left out now that we're talking about values. Is there anything that we left out of that list that would seem to be important to note? I’ll just put a pin in that for you guys later on if that's a useful strategy for you.
Okay, so now we've got the things that we've noticed and the values that they call to mind. I’m going to give you a little smidge of information, and we'll see where it takes us. The title of this work is “We Both Must Fade (Mrs. Fithian).” The artist is a woman, Lilly Martin Spencer, and she made this in 1869. First and foremost, what we could do is activate our thinking. So this is an American artist making artwork in 1869. So just call to your mind what you know of history at this time, and if there's something that seems important and you're a history buff and you want to share it in the chat box, please feel free to add that in there, kind of what's going on in 1869. Did you have any sort of a surprise or like, oh, that's interesting, when you learned that the painter is a woman? Do you have any kind of connections or connotations that you carry into this title?
Anne, him—will he come back? Interesting, so now we could tell a big story. I love this. It's like is she waiting, is she pining? Okay, Mary Jo's surprised by the title. Kyra is adding that this is after the Civil War, which Charlotte's building on is a return to wealth for some people. Beautiful. So now we're starting to kind of situate things in history. When we start to do this situating in history, when we start to incorporate a little bit of the artist's biography, for instance, which we could do, we can start to start to think about those values again perhaps in a new way.
I’m going to give you a little smidge of information. This is actually the label text that was connected with this artwork for a while, so it's the curatorial voice and in this case it's mostly descriptive, but it says “Mrs. Fithian stands before a mirror, admiring the tokens that others have given in praise of her beauty. She wears lace and pearls, and a blue gown that has just been taken from its box. But like the rose in her hand with its falling petals, her beauty will fade, and with it, all the pleasures the world can provide. The extinguished lamps, which darken the parlor to dramatic effect, emphasize the message of the painting.” Okay, so just like digest all that for a minute. Are there any new values that like you could scroll back and you're like, okay, we missed one? Now that I’ve heard this label text, like, oh, that's one that's very important.
Mortality, right? Like it's not only that her beauty will fade; she will, in fact, die like all of us and the flower in her hand. Mary Jo is noticing also this woman and the pink flowers seem to be really connected. Brittany's noticing that she, Mrs. Fithian, might be referring to her image in the mirror. Meg, thank you—this idea of aging being really tough for women for sure. Thank you, thank you.
So now let's go to the prompt that you see on the screen, which is this question of identities. Who beside Mrs. Fithian, who is the woman who is depicted, is this artwork speaking about? Is there somebody else implicated within this artwork? Does Mrs. Fithian stand for someone? I would say to Meg's earlier comment about aging being tough for women, perhaps she stands for all aging women. Is there anyone more that is potentially referenced here? Ah, interesting refinement. So now Michelle has added, well, it's women who have status and wealth at the time. So they can see themselves perhaps reflected in this artwork. Okay. Ah, perhaps the husband. Kyra, why do you say question mark? “Husband?”
KYRA: Well, is her husband alive or dead? It's post-Civil War, so maybe she ties her own youth or vitality to her status as a wife, and if he's passed, what does that mean for her?
ED: Beautiful, thank you. Aaron’s noting social constructs that define women's place in society are kind of implied in here, too. Christine is wondering if it refers to her mortality but also shedding an identity from before the war, so that's a really interesting—we're starting to think of this woman as she's presented here as being potentially more complex than at first sight. So that's kind of who can connect with her here. Who is this artwork appealing to? Now we're starting to think about the artwork as having an audience. Who is the intended audience of this artwork, do you think? Will you share some ideas in the chat box?
Ah, thank you. Mary Jo's asked a really good question. Did the artist give this work its title or was it imposed by someone else? My understanding is that the artist titled it herself.
So who's the intended audience for this artwork based only on what you see in the little snippet of information I gave you? Social climbers. Talk to me, Laura, about social climbers. Anne, I see your note about wealthy, young women. But, Laura, when you're imagining social climbers as an audience, tell me more about that idea. Either in the chat box or aloud, whatever works for you. Michelle, you were thinking of other older women as in we know, so “We Both Must Fade.” I think, Nick, you mentioned that earlier, and Charlotte's connecting with that as well. Beautiful.
So next layer—and Laura if you want to jump in at any time, please feel free. Who's left out of this story? We have the like who is centered, we have the intended audience, and who like in the universe of this painting is just kind of like on the side. Laura is noting—thank you so much—she thinks this may be a goal for others, so kind of an aspirational picture. Thank you for adding that. Who do you think is kind of like left on the periphery of this painting? Mary Jo, thank you for adding this in. So a painter who can paint society portraits certainly would want to create this kind of virtuosic masterwork that could show like I can handle delicate lace, I can handle the sheen of pearls, I can handle the gleam of gold, so that it almost becomes like an advertisement for the skills of that painter to people in the sitter's circle, right? So thinking about this artwork in itself as kind of like a business-generating product. Thank you for adding that in. Caitlin's wondering also about who purchased the dress or the jewels. Who are the other actors in this story? Kyra is noting that this appeals to white women, perhaps of middle- or upper-class, and women of color are absent, as are immigrant populations of the time. So right, if we're starting to think about what's happening in American history during this period, there are a lot of people moving into the country, and they don't seem to be represented here. Most of us are on the periphery; most of us cannot be like her. So how interesting to think about when we are starting to think about status and social symbols, it doesn't matter, necessarily, the time period. This woman's world is certainly not my world and so for me, standing here at my age in 2020 looking at this painting, she's outside of my reach. Meg, women's suffrage—if I’m remembering correctly—it's the early 1900s. I’m grabbing my phone. Kyra, can you save me? As a movement, it began in 1848. Thank you so much; I appreciate that. Beautiful.
So we have this idea of identities. We have the idea that sometimes people are left out of the story. My last step is actions. This might be kind of a weird leap, and I just wanted you to sit with that for a minute and just kind of start to think about—we're here to talk about second impressions and slogans and all of this. It's not just that a slogan is meant for it to be an ear worm and it goes in our head. It's actually intended to impel us or compel us to do something, so this is that place where we start to perhaps get into the squishy, weird part about things like this. What actions might this kind of artwork encourage? If you'd like to share aloud because you need to just work it out verbally, that's totally fine, or just put it in the chat box. What actions might this work encourage?
While you're thinking, I’m going to go back to Mary Jo's good idea about the artwork itself as kind of an advertisement of the artist's abilities and skills. So perhaps the artwork is intended—if I’m a society lady looking at this painting—perhaps the action it might encourage is for me to hire Lilly Martin Spencer as my portrait artist. Ah, so Anne's saying if we just sit with this as an aesthetic experience and just look at it at face value, flirty behavior definitely seems important. You're calling my attention to this toe that's like peeking out of the hem of the dress, and kind of the hips pushed forward, and the kind of coy or morose, or—if we can portmanteau that word—I don't know how to do it. But she's occupying this very decorated, very much like “Look at me, and my delicate little feet!” space. A fashion model of the time. They are not neutral, right? Like we're intended to be jealous and envious and like, “If I just get that thing, if I just buy that shirt or this whatever, then perhaps I will have some of the mystery, some of the coyness, some of the status of that particular person.” Anything else that you think this action might encourage? If we were going to think of all the different identities, not just Mrs. Fithian and her social set but also the other people the artwork is appealing to. Is there a different kind of action that they might be called to? Seeing our best self-image in the mirror. Beautiful. This is a very basic human desire, right? We want to see ourselves as powerful or beautiful or intelligent or all these different things, and maybe it's calling us to do that. Maybe it's an inventory of a life lived or a musing about the future and goals. So maybe it's this invitation to consider mortality, which is a very long history. Like if you're thinking about Dutch paintings, there are these paintings that are up at actually the National Gallery where you look at the painting and it's like a skull and like a shriveling lemon that's supposed to remind you of the bitterness of life and all of these kinds of ephemeral things that are intended to just like be ruminations on how swiftly life passes, which connects really beautifully to the title.
CM: I'd like to just jump in for a second to say that I appreciate how Nick and Christine—I think for the purposes of this routine, an action can be a change of mindset. It doesn't have to be a physical act, so I love that you brought that dimension into the conversation.
ED: Thank you, yeah. Alright, so now we're kind of familiar. We have seen the thinking routine laid out in front of us. We have an example. I wanted to just offer kind of a fun extension that makes perhaps a little bit more explicit for students the connection between this thinking routine and our lives today. So if you could like spray paint a headline around this painting that would make it really appealing to the target audience, so if we were going to go with a message about seeing your best self in the mirror, is there a headline that you would craft to put around the painting to make it really obvious, that would turn it even more into an advertisement? Alternatively, if you want to take a different route, you could invite students or yourselves right now to call attention to a larger social issue with humor. If we were to start thinking about memeing this painting, it's that idea of it doesn't have to be directly related but rather you're kind of like humorously calling attention to the implications of the painting. What might you write instead? Anne, I love this. “Go, girl.” Beautiful. I’m imagining literally hot pink spray paint just like around it. Kind of wonderful. This is just a way to make, as I said, explicit for those students who might need a more direct connection. You put a mask on her face, says Mary Jo, and just leave it at that. I love that, so this super 2020 update of “We Both Must Fade” and perhaps we could even retitle, “We Don’t Have to Fade; Just Wear a Mask.” Thank you so much for that.
Okay, so we're going to take this thinking and we're going to kind of—thank you, Charlotte. “Pretty Woman.” We're going to start to kind of try the thinking routine independently, and Caitlin’s going to introduce how we're going to do that.
CM: Yeah, thank you. So we're going to divide into breakout rooms, but I want to give you all of the instructions before we do that because I know some information will be lost when we switch over to breakout rooms. There is a QR code on the screen that you can use, or I’m going to put a link into the chat. When you look at that, you will see prominently that there are two images. Please do not click on both. When we divide, you should know which group you're in. If you are in an odd numbered group (1-3-5), we're going to ask you to look at the image 1. If you are in an even number group (2-4-6), we're going to ask you to look at image 2. While you will later have an opportunity to look at and compare both images, we want to save that for a later step, so just look at the one that matches your group number—odds with 1, evens with 2. In that same Google Drive, there is also a printout of the thinking routine, so if you need it to refer to remember the questions, it's there for your resource as well.
So what we're going to give you is 10 minutes in your small groups to look at the image you're assigned and talk through your small group the thinking routine. Then when we come back together, we're going to ask you to share out on the actions, so the final, completed step of the thinking routine.
***10 MINUTE BREAK***
CM: Okay, thanks, everybody. Thanks for the flexibility. So in this case, for the people who were assigned an odd number and therefore looked at image one—so if this was the image that you looked at, now would be a lovely time to share out what actions the image might have encouraged you towards. You can either put it into the chat if you like, or if you would like to share aloud, feel free to put your name and you can speak.
ANNE: I’m going to speak just because it would be nice to hear other people's voices. There was a long time ago this old commercial for Breck Shampoo, and so this made me want to go and buy some kind of beautiful shampoo to make my hair look perfect.
CM: Thank you for sharing that. I love that and connecting to some earlier memories, or our actions, from the past.
SPEAKER 1: I also thought it had something to do with hair because she's got nothing else on. There's no jewelry. Her gaze is going somewhere off camera, and her expression is either blank or something like longing or emptiness or loneliness. I was just thinking of like 1920s-1930s era.
CM: Did you feel like it—you said it kind of connected to hair maybe for you—was there an action that you…
SPEAKER 1: No, but that's the only thing I could figure out because there's not a lot of information here. It's just like a Roman bust sculpture, and then it's empty at the bottom and empty at the top but empty all around her.
CM: For sure. Absolutely. There's not a lot else to latch on to. Meg, I see in the chat you said finger waves. A lot of focus on the hair because that's what we have to react to.
BRITTANY: For me, it kind of looked like a portrait, like a debutante ball portrait, because she is on that younger side. Although there isn't a lot of action, I felt like the eyes and like the longing and wishing to be somewhere else but having to sit for this portrait—that just kind of came to mind.
CM: The longing… Thank you for sharing that. Is it Brittany?
CM: Yeah, thank you. I’ve noticed that a couple of people have mentioned youth. Alright, thank you all for sharing. If no one else from the odds group wants to share.
SPEAKER 2: I can share one more. For this one, I was just noticing—maybe because she's floating or because of the shadows or the shading in it—but I feel like she just wants to like start the day over. I’m feeling this like exhaustedness but like fatigued in a way of like maintaining image or whatever it was this somehow perfection was marred. It's like she knows that she's in this advertisement for this deodorant. It's like, “Ah, you failed. Let's start again tomorrow.” I don't know. There's this heaviness to it. But like an exhaustion with the maintaining was my impression.
CM: Alright, an idea of exhaustion with maintaining the perfection, striving for perfection. Thank you.
ED: Someone’s added sadness or a pensive look. So we're really focused down on the mood of this woman, which is really interesting.
CM: I love that. I think now would be good time to let those who were assigned an even number and looked at image two, which you will see has more information than the group with image one. Now, for the even group, what actions did the advertisement seem to encourage? “It's very annoying.” Yeah, no wonder she looks sad. Thank you, Meg. Charlotte says “outdated.” So this is only part of the full image, which we will show in a minute. It might be a little obvious, but do you think anyone could put into words what the creators of this advertisement wanted to have happen?
SPEAKER 3: I think it goes beyond the beauty standard, trying to reconfigure how society again sets standards for women and probably men, too. You know, you're not fully beautiful until you smell good, too, which I guess is true.
CM: Thank you for sharing that, Kyra. Also, Charlotte—she needs to smell good to get a date. Brittany—happiness comes from wearing deodorant. Yeah, thank you.
ANNE: There's a subtext about how you have to have lasting charm to make it in this world.
CM: Lasting charm to make it in this world. Thank you for that, Anne. Then Michelle—they don't want us to want to disassociate with her.
MICHELLE: Let me try that again. Sorry, I typed that really fast. They don't want us to associate with her. In the first photo, I felt like we were associating with her emotions, or connecting with her emotions, and then you put the words up and the advertisers would say, “Okay, I don't want to be beautiful but dumb. I don't want to associate with her. I don't want to see myself as what they're describing here.” So I thought it was interesting that it was the switch.
CM: Oh, Michelle, thank you so much for sharing that. That's so interesting because you're right; now that we look back, I noticed that group one all had such an empathetic point of view, and then the words have now caused us to distance from her somewhat. That's interesting.
SPEAKER 4: I’m from group two. I was going to say I’m actually impressed with the fact that she does things that bring about perspiration and cause nervousness. I like the fact that that was noticed as, yes, women are capable of both exercise and putting themselves in new situations which bring about nervousness, so that's actually on the plus side.
CM: I love that reframing. Yeah, absolutely. She's pushing herself in a variety of different contexts and that's a positive. Excellent. Also, from the chat I can see, “Lasting chart charm is obtainable by buying a long-lasting deodorant.” Lasting is used twice. Women perspire; men sweat.
ED: Yeah, what an interesting one. We talked about delicate being an adjective for the woman in blue, and now this is like a very—it's a very delicate thing to perspire!
SPEAKER 4: I also think that underlining—I’m sorry if I’m jumping in—but underlining long-lasting, I focused on that a lot in the writing, and I’m not sure I would have if it wasn't framed by our discussion of the woman in blue and the painting that we talked about first. So this idea about what long-lasting means in here, I connected to that painting as well.
CM: Thank you for making that connection. I think maybe now—I hate to kind of cut it short but just in the interest of time. This leads us to thinking what difference did access to the headline seem to have on our thinking?
ED: This would be a great opportunity to scroll back through the chat and really use that as a documentation tool. When group one was presenting, what were they helping us see? When group two was presenting, how's it different?
CM: I earlier made a connection along those lines, but I wonder what else comes to mind for you. Meg—I’m so offended by beautiful but dumb. Yeah, I hear you, too. Elizabeth, the last click is the full advertisement, just so you can see there's actually a lot of text that I removed just for simplicity's sake. This is an actual advertisement for Odorono, a long-lasting deodorant from the 1930s.
ED: Anne added that without the text she felt like this was a beautiful person, but now with the text, it feels like she's picked on. This is Brittany—the first image I felt empathy for the woman and what she was longing for. The second just made me feel anger towards the male advertisers who wrote this. How do you know they’re male, Brittany? Tell me more.
BRITTANY: I guess, you know, just thinking about the time period that this was in and the male industry and throw some “Mad Men” in there, and you feel like you have this weird sense of what the advertising industry is.
ED: Thank you.
CM: If this is helpful context, the company initially started trying to convince people that the product worked really well, and they found that that wasn’t as successful as it could have been, and then they switched to this campaign and it was a much, much more successful campaign for the company. Oh, and, Kyra, I see that Dorothea Dix is mentioned here. I actually think that this is Dorothy Dix, a different person, a kind of gossip columnist.
KYRA: That’s kind of awkward…
CM: Yes, that was a surprise to me, too. Yeah, just a name similarity.
KYRA: Just wanted to clarify. Yeah, thanks.
CM: Let's see… Nick—it seems like a mystery before. Then when I saw the headline, I thought it was shocking. I found the rest of the text kind of absurd. Does anyone else have any thoughts in terms of what actions you felt called to with the words or without the words? Was there a difference?
SPEAKER 5: I would have bought the product initially. Now I would have boycotted the product.
CM: Love it. Thank you for sharing.
ED: I’m thinking about what an interesting experience this might be for students to think about the social implications of a woman who somehow does not have long-lasting in her life. So this was 18—what was the date of this? I’m so sorry, Caitlin.
CM: This advertisement is from about the 1930s.
ED: Okay, 1930s. So thinking of in the 1930s, if a woman doesn't have something long-lasting in her life, like what is what does that mean for her life? My implication immediately goes to like a long-lasting relationship, which leads to marriage, which leads to security, and if she's like the smelly girl that like nobody's taking on a date, the level of desperation that I would feel as a sweaty, smelly girl and see this advertisement is very different in 1930 versus 2020. Now I’m like I think you can handle my smell. It's going to be okay. It might be an interesting, historical empathy kind of moment to exercise.
CM: I guess in the interest of time—this has been a lovely discussion, or an interesting one, so I thank you all. This advertisement is part of an article on how this company convinced Americans they smelled bad, and we use it as part of a lesson for teachers to implement in their classrooms on the use of words in advertisement with Planet Word. I’m just going to put the link to that here, so if that's something that you're interested in reading more about or looking at the lesson, I encourage you to do so. Otherwise, I think, Elizabeth, I’m going to bounce it back to you.
ED: Okay. Thank you for all that. I want to just like use these last few minutes as a kind of a sewing things back together. If you'll think back over what we did, we did the painting and the thinking routine, we unpacked the things that we were presented with, the values that they called to mind, the identities that they connected with or excluded, and the actions that they called for. Then we applied that to this experimental format, where we wanted to see what was the effect of having access to the words, to the slogans, to these things that are so carefully crafted to land directly in our minds and hearts and kind of explode, linking us back to that quote at the beginning. So thinking back through all the stuff we did and then re-reading your notes from the warm-up, where you're thinking about the positives and negatives of the idea of these words just kind of like coming into you and having their effect, on your own, spend maybe a minute or two kind of reflecting on those two questions that you see there. What makes a choice of words and/or images powerful? So did you discover anything about the pairing of words and images here? Also, why might it be important, either for you or for students, to be aware of the ease with which messages are absorbed or taken in? I’m going to mark two minutes on my phone and then I’d love to close the time, as Anne said, with some new voices.
***2 MINUTE BREAK***
ED: Alright, my friends. So Laura has started us off with a positive, which is rich words make an impact and can cause action. She's also offered a negative of what is right? You know, the idea of having influence or impact on others’ ways of thinking—sometimes you're not on the same side with that. Kyra's noting indoctrination and/or subliminal messaging can be very influential, especially as it's usually pointed at youth. When we think about what she's appended here—self-esteem and popularity—in this case, it's pretty obvious, right? It's like “beautiful but dumb” is a pretty blunt force slogan, but there are other ways of phrasing that that would be perhaps a little bit sneakier. So if we were to start putting on our teacher hats and thinking about other texts that you might use this approach to analyze, this could be a really solid starting point because it's so obvious, but then you can step into something that is slightly more subliminal, as Kyra said.
CM: Brittany, I see the words make your thinking more linear, leaves less room for interpretation and connecting to it in your own way, like in comparison to the art piece where there isn't necessarily the text.
ED: Charlotte's made a really beautiful connection to real life practice in the classroom. It's good to be kind when delivering hard news, and she's connecting particularly to parent-teacher conferences and the way that you deliver the news. The words that you choose are ways into the hearts of your parents. Nick says absorbing too easily can lead to manipulation but refusing any absorption can mean you aren't willing to grow. Ah, so when we start to think about this as an equipping students for the future thing, we want to encourage them to perhaps adopt a sort of semi-openness, a permeable membrane between them and the world to be curious and open but also to be a little bit incredulous. That's a really interesting connection.
CM: I think it connects to me, too, with this idea of the slow looking that we applied to the art piece and the sort of close reading and slow looking that we did with the advertisement, to be conscious of how quickly messages can come through that membrane if we're not paying attention, to your point, Nick.
ED: Yeah, that awareness. I think it was Anne. Yeah, Anne was asking can we get a list of the process that you used and the prompts that you asked? So this is our contact information, and so I want you to have that, but I also want to let you know that we have a plan to share with you this PowerPoint and the links that we provided you with, so all of this will be available to you and the teachers who weren't able to join us in person today. Substitute in those other images. Hopefully there's enough space on the slides for you because certainly there's a lot of media to digest in the world today, and this might be a way in for your students. Caitlin, as you are opening the museum so soon, I want to give you the last word.
CM: Well, in that case, I would just like to thank everyone for making the space to come and think and talk and reflect and share with us. I appreciate it. I know things are super busy and stressful, or they can be for a new year with a new way of learning, so thank you for taking that time. Since we are new and you might not have heard of us before, I invite you to check out our website and to see more of what kind of resources that Planet Word might be able to offer to you in your teaching practice. Thank you very much.
ED: Thank you, everybody.
We are bombarded with 10,000 branded messages a day. Every image and slogan carries a web of complex associations with it. In this online workshop designed for K-12 educators, consider how constructed images and words work to influence our behavior in subtle ways. Practice a Project Zero thinking routine to hone students' critical thinking and media literacy skills through close looking and reading. Co-presented with Planet Word, this workshop took place on September 23, 2020.