Making Sense of the Noise
The world is plugged in, even when it’s wireless. We’re constantly connected to the status updates, the Facebook likes, the viral videos, the retweets, the Buzzfeed lists, and the 24-hour news cycle. Every day, we encounter innumerable notifications, messages, alerts, chimes, bells, and whistles—and that’s just what’s confined to our smartphones and laptops.
How do we make sense of the noise?
For IPFW Associate Professor of Communication Art Herbig, to understand how we process all the voices competing for our attention, we must first recognize that meaning is made up of both content and form.
More than Words
Whether it’s an editorial in the local paper, an advertisement on the side of a website, or a conversation with a close friend, how a message is conveyed shapes its meaning for the audience.
“And when it comes to media,” Herbig explains, “this means that camera angles, lighting, and color—all of these things are part of the message.”
The way in which a conversation is framed, a news event is reported, or an ad is designed provides subtle cues in how we should interpret, process, and react to a piece of information.
“Being cognizant and aware of those things makes us more apt to understand the ways in which these messages now all connect, because they are all connected.”
In his classes, Herbig presses students to study the craft of communication critically—to look closely at not only what’s being said, but how.
The delivery or execution of a message provides context for the information we receive—and this, in turn, provides the audience with tools to evaluate the kinds of information we are receiving.
Talking with Your Hands
In his classes, Herbig often moves his discussions of communication patterns out of the abstract and into tangible, application-based learning.
“I have smaller classes, but I have a lot of interpersonal interaction with students,” he says. “I’ll do a lecture maybe twice a week, but then we’ll have a three-hour lab where we’ll use light kits, move microphones around, and try to frame up camera shots.”
This practical application helps Herbig’s students apply what they’re learning and see first-hand how context and form shape the information they’re trying to communicate with an audience.
Just like moving the camera to the opposite side of the room creates an entirely new visual, adjusting the context of the shot creates a whole new perspective.
Capturing Memories in Content and Form
As part of his ongoing scholarship of rhetoric, Herbig launched a project to study public memory through filmmaking, and how people choose to remember and commemorate events from their past.
On the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, he set out to create an academic inquiry into contextual rhetorical cues with an academic film created for non-academic audiences, titled Never Forget: Public Memory of 9/11.
“So we started by going to Ground Zero on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and we interviewed over 60 people there,” Herbig recalls. “The opening of the memorial was going on, but there was something about that moment that drew people to that physical space.”
In his interviews with memorial attendees, Herbig wanted to know: What brought you to Ground Zero on the anniversary of these attacks?
“We ended all of those interviews with one question: How should we remember 9/11? And to a person, every single person started with, ‘Huh.’ And it’s that moment that we were trying to capture, because memory is a process.”
Program Snapshot: Department of Communication
The ways in which we communicate have changed dramatically in recent years, but the fundamentals remain the same: the ability to communicate effectively underlies professional and personal success. Study the art of exchange with the Department of Communication. We graduate public advocates, media professionals, filmmakers, and more. Our program includes interpersonal and organizational communication, media and culture, multimedia newsgathering and reporting, rhetoric and public advocacy, and film and media studies. Learn more.