Re. Use of multimedia

Subject: Re. Use of multimedia
From: Geoff Hart <geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Fri, 1 Dec 1995 13:15:25 LCL

Doug Engstrom asked for opinions on multimedia. Multimedia
is greatly overhyped... people use it for everything from
"talking heads" versions of purely textual material to
"what you see is what you get" instruction. Let's start
with a simple definition: words, static images, sound and
moving images ("movies") are distinct media, and multimedia
is any presentation that uses two or more of these media.

Here's a short (and superficial, since we're still at the
beginning of a thread that has yet to be fleshed out)
checklist for whether to use the various components of

1. Text: Great for most abstract concepts (except data
graphics), and despite that old chestnut about the worth of
a picture, words aren't dead yet. Use text where there's no
elegant way to say the same thing in a picture, or where
precision is important (interpretations of graphics and
sound are very subjective, no matter what anyone else tells
you to the contrary).

2. Static graphics: Great for mathematical and other
information in which the trend is at least as important as
the numbers that underlie them. Ditto where relationships
among the parts of some object are important. Also
essential where you must realistically depict something
(e.g., it's easier to show where to plug something in than
to describe the action). Use a photo if all details are
important; use line art if you must simplify the complexity
of an image to highlight specific details.

3. Sound: Use sound (instead of sheet music or sonograms,
which one could interpret as words and static images,
respectively) to express music, bird calls, the noise of
your hard disk dying, the emotional overtones in a speech,
or anything else that you can't present more simply with
words or static images.

4. Movies: Movies work best to show a complex visual
sequence that would otherwise rely on a series of graphics;
sequential graphics, as in comics, work better if you can
break the sequence down into discrete images, but if the
transitions between frames are important or if there are no
discrete stages, consider the movie instead.

5. Multimedia for its own sake: Graphics, sound and movies
can all be "expected" by your audience, and then you're
more or less obliged to use them. If well done, multimedia
can provide a friendlier, less stark presentation. But
don't use any of the three alternatives to words "just
because you can use them"... make them work for their money
by communicating information that you can't communicate any
other way.

Looking forward to seeing everyone else's elaborations on
this theme!

--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Disclaimer: If I didn't commit it in print in one of our
reports, it don't represent FERIC's opinion.

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