The greatest enemy of clear language is insecerity – George Orwell
There is a scene in Dreamland (the Australian title is Utopia) a satirical, “bureaucracy comedy” – think Twenty Twelve or W1A, in which Tony, the boss of the National Building Authority is trying to explain to the head of a Spanish contractor company they’ve hired why there have been delays to the project.
There is a translator between the two, who keeps clearly breaking what would be the normal flow of conversation and either over or under translating things, until at one point he stops entirely as the Australian boss waffles niceties and clichés, hiding behind corporate-speak. The Aussie boss asks: “You’re not gonna translate this”and the translator replies: “I do not know what you are saying”.
Working at the Learning Zone I have also been able to deploy and improve my problem solving skills, especially workarounds.
From a recent example:
- Student comes with a PDF file that will not print on the computers and the ‘media is not supported’.
- I open the file in Adobe Acrobat and lo and behold it is entirely blank.
- Open the same file in Photoshop and the assets are all there, but in front of a transparent background.
- I create a new plain white layer underneath for both files, save as PDFs
- open in Acrobat to combine the two and save the final, two page PDF with all the elements correctly showing in Acrobat
- place this file on the USB stick and send the student on his way
There may have been other ways to do this, but this seemed the most logical to me, and I go by the theory of ‘If it works, it works’.
Workarounds are an invaluable approach to problems, as it often involves approaching the issue from a whole new perspective and trying very unconventional routes to try and get things to work. And, well, if it works, it works.
[Similarly, I was once working on a Premiere Pro File where the soundtrack that someone in the group had painstakingly created and matched with the video clips across multiple channels, suddenly was not making any sound. The eventual technique that worked, select every single video and audio clip in the timeline with cmd+a and copy and paste them into a new project file. It worked a charm]
I enjoy and am rather good at tasks requiring precision and problem solving.
I particularly enjoy precision of language; strict definition, objective and legally enforceable meanings. Moreover, I enjoy analysis that uses precise language, but has a scope that is able to holistically link seemingly disparate subjects. Economics and politics seem to do this a lot of the time.
I like being able to delve into the context of a case study in order to understand it better.
Take, for instance, the planned Queen’s speech for the state opening of parliament tomorrow, the 22nd of June. There are many angles one can approach the event from;
- You can talk about the history of the relationship between the monarchy and Parliament, Bad King John, the English Civil War, and the fact that the Prime Minster’s party technically derives its power from the Queen, asking her to form a Government on her behalf if they have a majority in the House of Commons.
- You can examine the direct political context – the snap elections which shrunk Theresa May’s small majority down to a plurality of 317 (compared to Labour’s 262), just shy of a majority of seats in the House of Commons, which is of course, 650 and how this has forced her to tread much merely carefully
- You can frame the event as in contrast to former state openings of Parliament, and how much of the Pomp and Ceremony has been suspended, officially because of clashes with other Royal commitments and the suddenness of this event, caused by May’s snap election decision
- You can talk about the larger political context – how it was David Cameron’s Conservative Government took the gamble of a decision to hold the IN/OUT referendum, partially to put the issue to bed after decades of, mostly, Tory backbench grumblings, and how he expected an easy victory that would embolden his party and him personally as having A) given the people the chance to decide directly and B) he personally having campaigned for the winning Remain side, but in reality it shook the political tectonic plates and created new and deep fault lines
- You can talk about Northern Irish politics, devolution, the Good Friday Agreement as the culmination of a difficult and drawn out peace process, and the power sharing that has occurred since, etched into the operation of the Northern Irish assembly. Crucially, you can also talk about how Northern Irish MPs from Sinn Fein are elected time and time again, but do not take up their seats in Westminster out of Protest and how this time, this left the DUP, ideologically closes to May’s Conservative party, very much in the driver’s seat and with disproportionate power as any rebellion may cause Government Policy to fail, votes of No Confidence, and perhaps, a fresh election.
It is not vital to have a deep understanding of each of these angles, but it is importance to have a broad understanding – as each allow you to understand the event in a slightly different way, and the culmination is a in-depth understanding underpinned by perspective.
plus some youtube comment commentary
What happens in Vagueness stays in Vagueness.
Saying “life is complicated” is far less compelling than telling a specific anecdote or story that underpins that exact point.
So I work in the Learning Zone at Central Saint Martins, which accommodates a staggeringly disproportionate amount of student printing, especially so towards deadlines.
Frustrations run high as the pressure mounts. When a student has spend the last 4 or 5 hours staring at a monitor often making minute changes to their work, and then when the send it to print and it doesn’t reproduce on paper how it showed up on screen nor how they were expecting, they can be understandingly devastated.
Beyond the basic logistical issues people come up against – which printer to send to, accidentally setting double sided or mono when it should have been colour, there is a lack of appreciation into the work that must go in to a successful print.
But there is a fault shared by the majority in their approach to printing. One should not simply think of all the work as done in the software, and then printing simply as a case of hitting the button and being done – a thoughtful, considered and approach that can adapt will necessarily produce a better print, that looks closer to how you wanted it to look.
You must learn about colour, and ink, and colour spaces.