Inspiration: Visualizing Slow Food

After posting recently on my Global Food Studies blog about my exploration in Italy of Slow Food International as a mission and practice, I wanted to explore the world of visualizing slow food.

This graphic by Daniel Touchet interestingly connects practices of consuming food (growing it, cooking it, and talking about it) with emotions, arguing that fast food is not only more anonymous but mindless and alone.  I don’t know if I agree with this, having enjoyed much family time at fast food restaurants over the years, but I do agree that a faster food lifestyle is more detached from the complexity of global connections that food has to offer.

Yet what are the local impacts of Slow Food?  How does it affect me living in Indiana?

Antidepressants are starting to show up in fish tissue. (Fish Pharm infographic by Oliver Uberti)

This is a really interesting infographic produced by Oliver Uberti using pills to visualize a fish.  As a warning about water quality downstream from sewage treatment plants, the pills represent the four main types and percentages of pharmaceutical drugs found in fish pulled from Chicago’s North Shore Channel. Since I take a Benadryl every night to sleep, the image really resonated with me, making me think about the potential harms of the toxins I consume.  This image implicitly advocates for slow food by illuminating the importance of knowing where you get your food, how it was grown, and what the harms are on your body and on the environment.

Douglas Gayeton, the author of Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town, has been exploring the principles of sustainability through photography, taking abstract concepts and turning them into annotated infographics—or “information art.” It’s part an ongoing series called The Lexicon of Sustainability. The images convey invisible or purposely obfuscated ideas related to food, and the concepts are explained by the experts themselves, like Elaine Ingham (above) translating soil science and microbiology for the masses.

Another favorite visualization of slow food is this series by Douglas Gayeton who combines portrait photography with an overlaying sketched mind map.  Each visual centers the slow food advocate in a graphic that aims to unpack the complexity of the food system by visualizing connections, explanations, and processes.  In this graphic Elaine Ingham translates soil science and microbiology through simple sketched graphics.

Peter Smith describes Gayeton’s informational art at Smithsonian.org as

More than a construction actually, these images are a deconstruction of ideas, reducing them to their essence, then trying to find a way to graphically represent them. Somebody once wrote that one of the interesting thing about the work is that it works the way a mind works: If I were to simply give you a piece of paper with a lot of writing on it, you might skim over it; but if I were to take a bunch of ideas and place them on an image, then you are suddenly active in the idea. You’re active in the appreciation of the idea. That activity creates a narrative and makes it easier to retain information. You have more of a deeper connection…. It’s not a passive experience. The active experience of turning the reading of something into it’s almost a game-like quality, I think it allows people to connect more intimately with the ideas and images.

These graphics are part of Gayeton’s project The Lexicon of Sustainability that has created information artworks on food and farming, water, and energy.  Here’s another graphic illustrating the 100 mile diet that’s coupled on the site with definitions and links to the farmer’s website and local resources for pursuing slow, close food.

From The Lexicon of Sustainability by Gayeton

This style of infographic would work best for me to visualize slow food, with a recipe for my grandmother’s pound cake overlaying a photograph of my family at her house during the summer months when her front porch table is covered in home grown tomatoes, her yard groomed by wandering chickens, her basement shelves full of home canned meals ready to be transported to Muncie where I live.  When I eat her jars of pork stew, orange marmalade, and fig preserves I’m transported back to her home in Hahira, Ga where the heat and humidity make life and conversations slow and happy.

My dad's photo of Cypress Pond capturing the misty swamplands of the South.
My dad’s photo of Cypress Pond capturing the misty swamplands of the South.

How do you see slow food?

Research Spotlight: Dance Moves

Having recently read Kyra Gaunt‘s essay in Generations of Youth, “The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip Hop” as part of our unit on “youth and place” in the American Studies undergraduate course I am teaching this summer, I watched clips from a 1985 PBS documentary on double dutch called Black Magic that BLEW MY MIND.  Watch the video on my other blog here.  And now I really want to figure out a way to translate their routines via infographics.  Mainly so I can break it down for myself, but also because I know how important it is to positive represent black girls’ athleticism, aesthetics, and power over space – especially via infographics since they’re really hard to find.

By research on how to do this began with Wikihow which breaks down everything from growing tomatoes to parkour.  Wikihow fails epicly at conveying visually how to double dutch.  They read like Ikea instructions.

What the what? What are we doing here, making a spider web? Using lasers to identify the hidden force field like Catherine Zeta Jones-Entrapment-style?

The awesome epicness of this routine and Wikihow’s visual failure to make it any easier for me got me wondering – how could you visualize space within the realm of double dutch?  Surprisingly a quick Google search of “double dutch routine” revealed nothing other than videos and images, with no step by step instructions.  Despite the globalization and institutionalization of this once-street sport, the 411 breaking down double dutch is still hard to come by.  You just have to watch videos or learn from a friend.

But what about dance routines?  Could I use visualizations of dance routines to rethink how to visual space utilized during double dutch?  This begins my exploration of dance visualizations, which ultimately offers an intense look of key dance components, processes, and the spatial meanings of dance.

These are the rules of dance club:

1) Dancing is all about where your feet are – in what direction they’re going, and which foot goes where first.  From this viewpoint, your feet are always parallel with the floor.  You just move your feet like you move fingers across a keyboard.  Super simple.

cha-cha-SalsaDance.png

Only it’s not so simple. Still a little lost?  Me too.  Here’s another version using a few more details regarding time to make it a little easier. These visuals excel for self-taught dancers because they’re only from the perspective of the dancer looking down.  But where’s the rest of your body go?

2) Dancing is moving through space above the ground plane.  With these side views, learning dance moves like the cartwheel (which would have previously looked like two feet print over there and two feet print over here) becomes much easier.  These visuals define dance by what it looks like from the spectator.  You now know how high to be above the ground, how far to move across the floor with a foot suspended, and necessary body angles.

Neither of these visuals capture what dancing feels like.  In these visuals, dancing is going to get the mail.  It’s loading the dishwasher or bending down to put on shoes.  But how can we visualize what space feels like for dance?

3) Dancing is all about getting in a good mood.  This visual breaks down steps into stages, connects those steps with feet routines and song lyrics, AND connects it all together with intense facial expressions.  You cannot Gangnam Style and not finish with a cool pose, otherwise go home and practice the Mambo.  Lots of arrows.

Lasso that sexy lady!

4) Dancing is about articulating your identity.  Who are you?  Because most likely, you dance how you want others to see you or how you see yourself.  Are you a straight white man and want to remind your mate of your incredible microwaving skills?  Want to look ridiculous and have fun doing it?  Then Killer Infographics says dancing is your chance!

9 out of 10 white guys actually read this and learned how to do the Shoplifter.

But there are just single moves.  So far we’ve only seen bits and pieces of dances.  Could you visualize a ballet on a side-view X/Y axis that charts momentum and energy throughout the entire performance?  I think so.

5) Dancing is fluid. When you dance your body should seamlessly glide across the floor.  You are one with the ground plane, your body, the space, the music or your mood or identity, and your partner (or spectator).  When you moonwalk, you are not alone – you are one with MJ.

The sliding is always flat! Also, you’ll need one glove.

Here’s a final infographic for all you all out there still don’t know how to dance that breaks down your body into zones of appropriateness:

Don’t forget to follow Kyra Gaunt at her blog here.

Inspiration: Teen Brains

I teach an online undergraduate course in American Studies at Purdue University, and today we’re reading a chapter from Julie Elman’s book Chronic Youth on teen brains.  Elman argues that even though we’ve always talked about teen behavior craziness since about the 1890s when the concept of adolescence emerges, in the 1980s and 1990s a shift happens due to the advancement of neuroscience technology in which brain scans of teenagers are used to “prove” teenage craziness and/or normalcy.

During this historical context, brain scans were used to portray teenage brains as under developed, or “disabled” – often distorting the “collective care” rhetoric and principles of the national disability movement and reducing them to anecdotes of teenage emotional spazzes.  In looking at visualizing information, Elman evidences how brain scans are called in to “prove” teenage insanity in the Columbine and other school shooting trials, while general racism is used to “prove” juvenile delinquency in youths of color.  The problem, Elman argues, is that this seemingly objective science is used to reinforce racial, class, and gender stereotypes.

Since my students and I are having a fun conversation about teenage crisis, you should check out their findings by following the #amst201youth hashtag on Tumblr or by following my Tumblr blog here: http://amstyouthculture.tumblr.com/

In anticipation of their reading responses, I did a quick Google search for “teenage brain infographic,” and boy did I find a crap-ton of visuals arguing different things.  Let’s see what we find.

According to this graphic, teenage brains are under construction, with lots of confidence, little judgement, and not enough consideration of their fellow teenage swimmers.  Ya drowned, Bieber.

Teenagers are “obese,” “suffering” from back pain, and love “attention-stealing” devices.  They will undoubtedly, as this infographic demonstrates, be prone to arthritis and old age blindness due to all the time they spent looking at screens.  Ya blind, Taylor Swift.

And the New Yorker thinks kids are consumed with social media, rap, and hot white actresses (no offense Scarlet).

And there are more!  Do your own Google search for “teenage brain infographic” or check out some images I posted to my Tumblr here: http://amstyouthculture.tumblr.com/.  There are tongs of different ways that teenage brains are being used to “prove” that teenagers are violent, narcissistic, technology-driven, and prone to dangerous behavior despite tons of examples of teens on the ground demonstrating their eagerness to help others, advocate for political change, and promote positive consumption.  How can we visualize those teens’ brains?  And what does it mean to visualize teenage brain “normalcy”? If you visualized your brain, what would you find?  Obsessions, habits, fears, drives, and memories?  My brain scan would probably reveal a pie chart similar to this:

my brain

Make your own brain pie chart at https://www.meta-chart.com/pie.  My husband also decided that he would make a pie chart of his brain after reading this post.  Eye roll.

hubs brains copy