Thinking Anthropologically about Media: Colors

Thinking Anthropologically about Media: Colors

Jesus wears white. We’ve seen it in the movies. Sometimes it’s an off-white, sometimes a dazzling white, especially during the transfiguration when his clothes became white (Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:3). But what color did he wear in daily life? Aren’t white robes in the gospel accounts usually reserved for angels? So why do we clothe Jesus in white when we picture him? Is it because to us it symbolizes his unblemished life?

Across the world, colors are an important way of expressing meaning. They help us to make sense of and organize our environment. They guide us through the joys and perils of life often triggering emotional responses.

In art and media, color has always been important. When black-and-white photography was invented it was not uncommon to put color in photos—and sometimes films—by hand. More recently, Technicolor and various digital technologies further add color to our lives.

Think about your daily life. What colors surround you? Why do you think they are there? How do you react to them? What do they mean to you? Depending on where you grew up and where you live, your response to such questions might be quite different.

Accordingly, white is not always “white.” While in Judeo-Christian tradition it stands for purity, in Hinduism it’s the color of mourning. What does it mean when Jesus wears white in the movies? Likewise, red is not always “red.” In many parts of the Western world red is the color of danger. In parts of Ghana it stands for mourning, while in parts of Cameroon it means royalty. Fetish priests often wear red in Nigeria movies. What do you make of Roman soldiers and their red clothes? Who are they really?

Thinking anthropologically about media means we need to pay attention to the use of colors and what they mean to different people from various sociocultural backgrounds. This is especially important for cross-cultural communication. When we consider using visual media in a place that is different from where it has been originally made, we need to think about how the potential audiences understand colors and how this may affect what media communicate to them.

Johannes Merz

Editor’s note:  Johannes is an SIL anthropologist who shares his responsibilities with IMS as an anthropology consultant.  You may reach him at johannes_merz@sil.org   


New Helps For IMS Video Scripts and Shells

New Helps For IMS Video Scripts and Shells

The IMS Vernacular Scripture Video Production team has developed some new helps to accompany many of our video scripts and recording shells. These helps make it easier to create audio bridges, choose voice actors and use the Aegisub software to add subtitles to some shell videos.

Avoiding Overload in App Building Workshops

Avoiding Overload in App Building Workshops

The Problem:

After teaching many RAB workshops, I observed that a significant number of the trainees (perhaps 50% or more) did not build any apps after the workshop. When I talked to a few of them, they told me they didn’t have a chance to put their learning into practice right away, and when they finally sat down to make an app, they had forgotten how to use the program.

I noted that we were trying to force too much information into the students; we did not give them enough time to put their learning into practice so they would be able to remember it. I considered simplifying the training and removing components like synchronized audio. However, this is one of the key features the students want to use in the apps they build.

Voices in Disguise

Voices in Disguise

 One of our more common technical questions at IMS is "What is a good tool to disguise voices in recordings?" In the most recent VMN, one of our field workers provides a quick overview of his experiences with the commercially-available Ircam Trax v3 VST plugin in Adobe Audition CS6 to alter and disguise voices.  Read the article in VMN #89 section 4 for more details.  

Update: The article says that you must purchase an iLok licensing dongle ($50) in order to install the plugin.  With the current version of the plugin, if you have a good internet connection, you only need to have an iLok account, which is free.

MicroSD Price Not so Micro

MicroSD Price Not so Micro

Have you noticed a rise in memory chip prices over the last 18 months? In early 2016, a hundred 8GB microSD memory cards cost about $200 USD. Today the price is nearly $600 USD. This is due to major semiconductor manufacturers stopping production in order to retool their factories for a new fabrication technology. Inventories of microSD cards are at all-time lows; it’s definitely a seller's market. No one is making firm forecasts, but it appears prices won’t come down until mid-2018 when production of new technology memory cards is expected to catch up with demand.

MP3 Players - Handy Tools to Spread the Gospel

MP3 Players - Handy Tools to Spread the Gospel

On my trip to China four years ago, I was presented with a radio-MP3 player by one Chinese Christian. The player caught my attention because it didn’t look like the regular radio-MP3 player

Culturally Intelligent Media

Culturally Intelligent Media

A Training Course

  • Have you ever asked some of the following questions? Is your project culturally intelligent?
  • How do media work and communicate in different cultural contexts?
  • Do you know what medium is likely to be most effective?
  • Or how to gain cultural insider insights?
  • What happens when Scripture, media, and culture collide?