Media Genome

This is my third attempt at writing my blog today. For some reason I keep getting an error message if I type it on my laptop. Instead, just for today, I will use my iPhone.

I am including a link to another TED talk. I really enjoy TED talks to the extent that I get very fired up and motivated to do things. Anyhow, I found this talk by Professor Heidi Boisvert to be particularly interesting. While I was researching storytelling techniques for my development project, I happened to come across it. It is relevant to storytelling, the impact stories have on our subconscious and the control of our subconscious. I will leave the talk here for you to tune into. In the following paragraph, I have provided a summary of her research.

I am sure if this professor saw my shortened version of her life research squashed into 3 sentences, she would cringe. I am certainly not doing it justice. However, to summarize her research, Professor Boisvert is combining biometrics with artificial intelligence (A.I.) in order to tailor content for individuals. In plain terms, what this means for me and you is that A.I. combined with our individual biometrics will enable content creators to tailor what each of us reads and absorbs based on how we feel, think and react. In other words, Professor Boisvert is mapping a media genome. If she is successful at this, our media DNA can be established.

The implications of this are both exciting and scary.

On an exciting level, being able to change a persons attitude and behaviour by altering the live content they are reading could lead to enormous social change. Think what could be achieved for homelessness and child welfare! In fact, this could end wars. The pen and sword debate will simply cease.

In contrast, our minds could be negatively influenced if our media DNA was to get into the wrong hands. The ability of advertisers and marketers to target us with tailored content based on our individual subconscious reactions is an enormous power. The power of the media on the masses is already known, yet the power over an individual seems to be where the future is going. Will our minds be similar to machines, programmable by those who wish to completely control it? It does not seem to be far from becoming a reality.

If it comes to fruition, Professor Boisverts’ research will have a major impact on the fields of instructional design and technical communication. Indeed, it is an exciting time to be involved in content creation. However, this development raises the need to have that important debate on global ethical standards and whether they can and should be developed. Maybe now is a good time to consider global ethics. One thing Covid-19 has proved is that we are all completely interdependent.

To revert back to the beginning, what led me to this TED talk was my development project. My brain is getting very muddled and I am over worrying about everything. I can even tell you the source of my problems. It is having to story tell. Storytelling is not a strategy I am used to and I am apprehensive of it. When I deliver content for my own classes, it is impersonal (to maintain professional distance). Storytelling is completely outside of my comfort zone but I have to give it a go. After all, I undertook this MA to come out of my comfort zone.

To prepare, I have frantically skimmed through lots of storytelling tips. What I have learned so far includes:

  1. Develop one main character
  2. Be honest and ensure I tell my story
  3. Have a dilemma or crisis to lure the audience in. I think I will do well on this point!
  4. Give the audience choices so that they are steering the outcomes.
  5. Do not explain the moral of the story. If the audience need explanations and clarifications, I have killed it.
  6. Have the end result in sight. Know what message I want to get across.
  7. Be clear on the call to action.
  8. Before designing the look of the resource, write the script.

My plan for the next four weeks is to write the script. I will need to have my learning outcomes in my hand as I go. Will see how I do.


TED Talks (2019), available at

I can relate to this, can you?

I have replayed this twice in the last 24 hours. I could listen to this all day. I feel so inspired!

Yesterday, I submitted my proposal for my final development project. The results of my needs analysis, from the two interviews I carried out, point to storytelling techniques for my course to be effective. In fairness, I did pick up on this but I got lost along the way. If I am honest with myself, I spent too much time playing with software and not enough time thinking about the best technique. To put it simply, I did not put enough emphasis on storytelling in my proposal. Thankfully, it is just the proposal and not the end product.

People can relate to stories. I was completely new to dog owning when I first acquired Penny. She arrived on the longest night of the year six years ago, from a rescue shelter, full of anxiety and love.

Just to enlighten you, my final development project, as part of my MA, is to develop an e-course suitable for future dog owners to help them to prepare for dog ownership. I have been thinking about nothing else since Christmas to the extent that Queen Penny is being neglected! I really need to lighten up. This proposal reflects my heavy stressed mood. I need to lighten my head space to produce a lighter end product. In fact, I need to play ball!

I will never forget those first few weeks. It was the wettest year on record. In my head, I had pictured it all so differently. I thought Penny and I would be walking in meadows under bright sun and heat haze. Instead, we were outdoors in orange weather alerts, one alert after the next. However, on a positive note, it was during these weeks that I met many other dog owners.

While on our walkabouts they shared their stories. I experienced deep learning when I listened to their experienced voices. Their stories were honest, authentic, emotive and empathetic. Their stories were entertaining and fun. I was happy to be outdoors in stormy weather because I was gripped by nightly tales. I connected to those stories like my laptop connects to wifi. Smooth and seamless. I was not consciously aware I was being trained. I had so much work stress in my head as we hit out our front door, but my head did not explode with the extra 100 terabytes of nightly information I received. Nor did I ever feel bored. Not once did I ask to leave the classroom. Not once! Would you believe I still remember these stories six years later?!

The moral of this story is, I need to develop the art of storytelling for this project. I need to learn how to plan, write and digitise a story. I need to research the best ways to tell the tale yet achieve what this resource aims to do. It is not going to be easy. I will need reminders to play ball and not to allow the heaviness in again.

In my defence, I have made a start. I am reading this article at present.

It contains very basic information but there are links which I will duly check out. As I find good storytelling techniques, I will post them up for you all to see.

Is it in DNA?

I recently had a Zoom conversation with my elderly uncle. He is in his 90s. He is aware that I am in Limerick University studying “something to do with computers”. Unexpectedly, from a simple but very surprising question, he reawakened a part of me I had buried. He simply asked “have you the cards designed yet? It was always in your DNA.”

This question really got me thinking.

As a child I was very creative. I loved western calligraphy and everything to do with art. From a young age, I won many calligraphy competitions at national level. I just loved studying artistic handwriting. I spent many happy weekends practicing the ebb and flows of each letter, studying the weight of the lines while admiring the individual features of letters and numbers and their serifs. I gathered, like a squirrel, any occasion cards destined for our postbox which I happened to like. I kept thousands of samples in my Design File.

I loved the simplicity of Bookhand and I would write my cards to my closest friends using this style. More distant acquaintances or people I did not particularly like received my cards scripted in Chancery or even Old Gothic. After all, these scripts were more formal and complicated.

It was not just fonts. I never signed my name if I could draw my emoji. The big E always caused problems. Is it Elizabeth or Liz? Is it formal or friendly? And how do you correct someone who is calling you Liz for years when you want to be called Elizabeth? My simple little visual, which everyone understood to be me, was easier to display rather than making my name choice. My emoji also allowed me to convey my feelings without having to think about an appropriate word. After all, I could draw a cross face, a happy face and a cheesed off face. Three classic widely felt emotions people could relate to. Do not laugh at my choice of three. Indeed they covered most scenarios.

Is it in DNA?

There are many theories about design skills and whether we are born with them or need them in e-learning and instructional design. Personally, I do not think design skills are necessary because there are so many tools available. However, I think a critical quality in this field is to have empathy with learners. After all, it is all about them at the end of the day. A good designer will want to find a way to reduce barriers to help learners to learn.

Even though I undertook the MA in E-Learning and Technical Communication for work reasons, it has ended up being the best present I have gifted myself. It has been an amazing journey. One I am still on. The course has reawakened my artistic side. Last year I loved learning about the design of instruction, typography, fonts, colour, visuals, and everything to do with Edward Tufte.

After 24 years of teaching, I was tired of it. Since finding this reawakened interest, my job has new life and new air. I now give my notes and overheads a good deal of thought. I am enjoying my work once again. Equally, I am interested in my learners opinions on my design choices. In fact, I have found questions on design to be good ice-breakers.

One good piece of advice I picked up this year is to start collecting design ideas. During an interview, which was part of an assignment, I was advised to start using an app called Pocket to save ideas I like. I have started to do this. I have a new Design File.

I will get designing those cards once I know who my audience will be.