Posted in English 1103, Reading, Teaching

ENG 1103: Leveling, Sharpening, and Assimilating

The fake photograph of Biggie Smalls and Kurt Cobain featured in Lesson Five of Check, Please!

At the beginning of class today, you submitted your worksheet for the fifth and final lesson in the Check, Please! series. My version of the assignment, which I wrote along with you, follows.

Check, Please! Assignment for Lesson Five

In the fifth lesson of the Check, Please!, Starter Course, Mike Caulfield, author of the course and Director of Blended and Networked Learning at Washington State University, covers the final step in the five-step SIFT approach: “Trace Claims, Quotes, and Media to Their Original Context.” Caulfield outlines the process of locating the original context as an antidote to the issues of accuracy that occur when information passes through intermediaries.

One of the most instructive portions of lesson five features a passage in which Caulfield cites a study of how stories evolve as gossip through the processes of leveling (stripping details), sharpening (adding or emphasizing details), and assimilating, which combines the two. In the process of assimilation “the details that were omitted and the details that were added or emphasized are chosen because they either fit what the speaker thinks is the main theme of the story, or what the speaker thinks the listener will be most interested in.” Similarly, leveling, sharpening, and assimilating all figure in the altered photographs and memes in lesson four. The abbreviated speech of the NRA’s CEO, Wayne LaPierre, which omits commentary, inaccurately indicates a contradiction in his stance on the presence of guns in schools.

Kawika Singson’s real photograph–real but reposted with inaccurate commentary–featured in Lesson Five of Check, Please!

The image of photographer Kawika Singson with flames at his feet serves as an example of leveling. Although the flames are real, they were not caused by the heat of the lava flow where Singson stands with his tripod. Instead, to create the image, a friend of his poured accelerant on the lava before Singson stepped into the frame. The deception wasn’t intentional; Singson simply wanted the image for his Facebook cover photo.

Unlike Singson’s photograph, the altered photograph of the Notorious B.I.G. with Kurt Cobain was created with the intent to deceive. Cropping and merging the two photographs illustrates the assimilation process adopted by photoshop users to appeal to music fans eager to think that such fictional meetings of icons took place. Krist Novoselic, who founded Nirvana with Cobain, replied to the is-it-real question with his own fake photo, making the claim that the hand holding the cigarettes was Shakur’s, that he had been cropped from the right.

Work Cited

Caulfield, Mike. Check, Please! Starter Course, 2021,             https://webliteracy.pressbooks.com/front-matter/updated-resources-for-2021/.

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