“Buckminster Fuller on the Geodesic Life” Critique

In appreciation of sleek, innovative design, I chose to critique the digital story, Buckminster Fuller on the Geodesic Life produced by PBS’s Blank on Blank. The imagery of this digital story really made the Buckminster’s words come to life.“Bucky” as he asked to be called, challenged the status quo thinking of his time much like the open-source framework used in our CU Digital Storytelling class and DS106 experience.
Story

The storyline does a great job demonstrating how Bucky’s life experiences brought intrinsic questioning and inspired inventions. When his first child died, he went deep inside himself and asked how could the world have all this technology, but not be able to save his little girl. This dark time tilled the soils of thought until his second daughter came along five years later. This was a turning point for him where he began to ask himself how he could make the world a better place for all men, but especially his new daughter.

Media Application

The story starts with Bucky being assembled by tools in a very methodical manner. From here we are led though complimentary imagery, inventive sketches, and black and white photos of Bucky’s life and work. One incredibly powerful image that sticks with me, is Bucky’s daughter putting the pieces of Buckminster back together in order to make him whole. Equally stunning is the image of Bucky’s head in the shape of geodesic dome.

Craftsmanship

Hearing Bucky’s distinctive accent throughout the story is such a treat. He spoke very much like a hurried inventor, mumbling and spouting philosophy. The Craftsmanship of this story really allows Bucky’s humanity to shine through, making him a very likeable genius. However, at the end of the story after the advertisement, the story fizzles for me. Although it’s a great story about his granddaughter, the animation does not deliver as it had in the first part. It would have been a better experience if the blending of voice and imagery could have been improved upon.

4 Comments

  • First of all, I love this story. The animation style, the use of actual voice media from historical records, and the translation of media into a story that is accessible today is powerful. I studied “Bucky” in undergrad Industrial Design history courses so I naturally gravitated to this. I am not sure if there is more or less meaning to people who don’t know “Bucky”. There are some references to his work in the animations and pictures (like assembling Bucky’s head out of geodesic parts) that I am pretty sure seem random to some. I agree with you that the most powerful part of the story was the sense of loss from the death of his first daughter, and the piecing of the missing puzzle piece back into his image from his second daughter. I wish there was something as profound as this at the end too. To your comment about the story after the advertisement, I agree. I payed attention to this part and they even looped the animation and there was a little jump in one part from the bird to the airplane. Maybe they intended this to be the part where they knew the add would be running? Or credits rolling? And the last part of Bucky’s story was meant to be pure humor – kind of like when you watch a movie and the credits roll and there is a funny outtake or commentary. So I guess what the audience struggles with is the way in which PBS inserted the add towards the 3/4 end of the story. The interruption is too abrupt and it disrupts the opportunity to generate conclusive meaning. Don’t blame the creatives I’m sure they wanted to do more but they were told “and here’s where we insert our commercial so don’t waste time making any meaningful stuff here.” In other words, this story makes me think critically about the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff that happens when creating commercial media. Of course I’m just making assumptions from my own experiences, but it’s worth thinking about.

  • I loved this story. I enjoyed how the story focuses on who Buckminister Fuller was as a person and not on his work. The story especially focuses on his life experiences that formed his personality.
    The digital story itself is told fantastically for the first four minutes. I was put off when the ads started playing and the story wasn’t over yet. I understand this is probably part of their contact with the sponsor, but it was more annoying and I actually “fast-forwarded” through the advertisement to get to the last part of the story.

    There was some animation associated with the story of his granddaughter, but I felt like it was hidden in the top left corner.

    Overall I really enjoyed this story (the first four minutes anyway) and agree with everything you’ve written.

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