This digitized collection of historical ephemera focuses on the evolution of front covers of major magazines. Through a comparative approach, this collection aims to evaluate the different tactics employed by Rolling Stone and TIME in their publications, including aspects such as intended audiences, the selection of people, events and phenomena to help represent a particular time period or cultural sentiment, each magazine’s prioritization of history as it unfolds, etc. The eight covers I chose to showcase for this project represent only a limited number of issues by RS & TIME, but they cover similar historical events and figures who can offer more insight to American culture and history through an expressive publication medium.
Creative & Technical Specs: Each of the eight photos uploaded are formatted as images, varying between 1 & 2 MB, each with a DPI of 72, and with 3 different resolutions; a) 2,592 x 1,936, b) 1,936 x 1,936, or c) 1,774 x 1,774. Each photo was captured using an iPad mini while utilizing the HDR feature. No color changes or filters were used in the process, thus allowing for each photo to be presented as naturally as possible. Although I contemplated modifying some of the photos through an image editor, I decided against it in order to better encapsulate the two magazines’ creative intent. Moreover, the use of natural light and the HDR feature helped improve the quality of each image, and the different perspectives of some photos represent my perception of significant historical figures & events in a cultural context. The creative intent I employed lay in the rustic brick background and the actual selection of covers. The inclusion of these eight covers reveals some of my personal interests and analyses of American culture and history, as I chose to showcase an assortment of covers that illuminate controversial topics and perspectives of historical events & figures.
You can find an expanded collection of digitized TIME & Rolling Stone front covers here: https://drive.google.com/a/ncsu.edu/folderview?id=0B2ZRr_taGAtkY3M3RXNmb2Vkd3M&usp=sharing&tid=0B6FsbEvt_NUBYXdlQ3ZqazRJVVk
The History: The comparative approach was one of the most significant aspects of this collection, as it sought to evaluate the different perspectives that American magazines–and subsequently American culture– held in regard to current events and unfolding history. Thinking of this collection as a composition of four pairs or mini-sets, each pair of images consider TIME and Rolling Stone’s coverage of historical figures and events. The first set–Ferguson & Black Lives Matter– depicts an ongoing political and cultural struggle that our country has endured for quite some time. The perspective of both of these photos tend to favor the idea of innocence, and how race often implies a certain degree of innocence or guilt despite the true details of each situation. Although both of these covers belong to TIME, it still shows how a prominent magazine conceptualizes current events and chooses how to express them through publication. In both issues, it seems to support the notion of equality, by promoting innocence or victimization through its perspective-taking.
The other three pairs each evaluate a cover from both Rolling Stone and TIME that represent four historical figures and popular culture icons. Two of the three pairs focus on the same person–Taylor Swift and Robin Williams– as the third focuses on Stephen Colbert and John Oliver who each serve as a political cynic and knowledgeable activist in the media. I found the differences in each magazine to be incredibly profound. The target audiences are explicit in the way the figure is portrayed on the front cover. Moreover, the headlines and the focus on certain features & expressions in both the T-Swift and Robin Williams issues reveal so much about our culture and how each historical character has and continues to influence our society.
For example, TIME’s issue on Taylor Swift presents her as a powerful figure and female role model whereas Rolling Stone takes on a sexier, more gender-implicated perspective. These may have been subtly noticed or perhaps ignored altogether, but in regards to ephemera, these covers each served a purpose whether or not subscribers cognitively attached meaning to them. Additionally these covers represent a particular sentiment or outlook on our nation’s history that can help better understand the reasons behind our nation’s successes & failures. Simply put, ephemera such as magazine covers have the power to stimulate commentary and analysis of our past experiences. Most covers tend to document one event or one figure, as is especially true with this collection. However, we see that multiple outlets each find significance in such occurrences but attach different meanings or generate different understandings of each story line, which is similar to how we perceive ephemera.
Ephemera as a Pedagogical Tool: Most explicit in this collection is the cognitive skill of perspective-taking. By evaluating two different magazine’s approach toward covering a similar topic or agent, students may be able to build upon higher-order thinking skills such as critical thinking, perspective taking, corroboration, etc. Studying art or other ephemera that may indirectly attach significance for some students can help them express their ideas in more abstract ways, thus granting students more autonomy in the learning process. Each student may perceive a cover differently than their peers, and it would be a highly-rewarding experience for students to share ideas in which they are facilitators of one another’s learning. For example, the TIME magazine covering the “Tragedy of Ferguson” really stood out to me for its creativity and aesthetic appeal. Although it focuses on a rather ugly truth of our nation’s culture, the artistic characteristics may help artistic and hands-on learners demonstrate their understanding of a historical event or pattern.
The application I was most excited about facilitating for students was the construction of timelines. Each issue is clearly dated and contains a handful of diverse headlines, stories & topics that each contribute to viewers’ understanding of the particular time period in which an issue was published. I think that students who work with ephemeral items that so clearly reflect cultural and historical patterns will benefit immensely as processors and creators of information. This activity extends far beyond the discipline of history, though it attaches significance to an event due to the influence of other events occurring within the same time period. The construction of timelines will undoubtedly teach students the importance of time and how change occurs over time, whether it is applied to a historical context or another disciplinary context. For example, the recent efforts dedicated to gender equality and sexual orientation (i.e., identification, transformation) may help students analyze the changes in technology, medicine, science, and social expectations over time. This obviously raises historical implications but allows students to extend a topic beyond a historical scope.
This digitization process was rather elaborate and geared specifically toward a set of purposes and functions. However, I think that incorporating such a pivotal instrument like technology in the classroom makes learning more relatable and enjoyable for students. The digitization process also introduces students to the growing role of technology in everyday life, whether an academic or social setting. The students do not necessarily have to digitize historical ephemera, but can perhaps undergo a digitization experiment where they are trying to preserve a certain item or tradition that may be rendered obsolete by time. If you were to conduct a similar experience in which students digitize personally significant ephemera, it would need to be a bit more guided than this process was. Perhaps they could work with an arranged collection of items where they learn the types of features and skills needed to fully capture physical items through a digital lens. However executed, the inclusion of technology in education is prevalent and shows no signs of slowing, so teachers must remain open to new suggestions in order to challenge their students in new, innovative ways.