In 2008, we took on the challenge of explaining the Electoral College in a way that was apolitical and easy to understand.
To be effective, it had to be timeless and use visuals to make the process clear. Today, twelve years later, the video remains one of our favorites and continues to earn attention. The only change we've made is to update the years we show at the beginning of the video.
I've been a long time fan of Neil deGrasse Tyson and included a section about his work in the Art of Explanation. What I appreciate is his role in making physics more understandable to non-scientists. He's a great explainer and someone who continues to have an impact.
While I've never studied physics or astrophysics, I have a fascination with the subject. Part of what fascinates me is the idea that physics often explains how the universe works. The laws of physics, for the most part, have stood the test of time, and understanding them means understanding the world around you. As an explainer, that's a strong foundation of fact to build upon.
Tyson hosts a long-running online show/podcast called StarTalk and a recent episode about color caught my eye, no pun intended. :) In the episode, the discussion turns to the color of an apple and the difference between the human eye's perception of the color vs. what it really is in terms of physics. Here's the show:
This reminds me of seeing telescopic photos of objects like the crab nebula. As a younger person I imagined what it would be like to see it in person. Then I learned that the images are representations and the human eye would not see what's in the image. This bothered me for a while. Why do we care about an image that's not a real representation? Is it just art?
Over time I discovered that I had it backward. The perception of the human eye is just that, a perception. Just because we see something, like the color of an apple or nebula, doesn't mean that's what it is in reality. We can ask: How would a red apple look to a dog, or a housefly? The image their brain produces seems like reality to them, just like it does to us. Who's to say our perception is the "right" one?
The only way to know what's "real" is by looking at it scientifically, the way a physicist would. As Neil deGrasse Tyson says in the video above, the color of the apple is really defined by what it's not.
I'm sure you've sat through presentations and felt confused and unmotivated. Often, it's not the information, but how it is presented. We want to help by sharing specific steps anyone can take to make their presentations clearer and more understandable.
When presenting information, it’s easy to be focused on sharing the right information. The problem is that information isn’t useful unless it is communicated clearly. This video shares useful tips that will help any presentation become more understandable. It teaches:
Why your presentation’s mission will increase clarity
The Clemson University Media Forensics Hub created a helpful tool for learning how to spot an internet troll. The tool is like a quiz, where you are asked to review real-world social media profiles and answer the question: is this a troll account? Each selection is followed by an analysis of the profile's content and what clues are present. In many cases, the troll accounts are also identified by their origin and likely goal.
I took the quiz and didn't do that well. It was a wake-up call that we all should be aware of social media accounts that have the goal of influencing our perceptions by pushing misinformation and lies. Many of the troll accounts are run from foreign countries and especially Russia.
If you're looking for ways to educate yourself and others about the Internet, I recommend using this resource.
Most people who know Common Craft think of us as video producers, and that's accurate. Along with producing videos, Sachi and I have put over a decade of effort into the design of the business side of Common Craft. It may not be obvious today, but the company has evolved significantly over the years. And the entire time, our goal was the same: to remain an intentionally small company.
My new book, BIG ENOUGH, is about our approach to business and the perspective that bigger is not always better. If you're a fan of Common Craft, the book will give you a behind-the-scenes look at Common Craft history and how Sachi and I work together.
You can download a free chapter and learn more on the book webpage at BigEnough.life.
Let's Stay Connected
Common Craft is my day job and main focus. However, I love writing and plan to publish more books. If you're interested in following my writing, I've created a few new resources that are focused on my writing and personal life.