A Visual Multi-Choice Question in an Online Quiz


I recently gave my students, in the course Digital History (U of T), an online quiz that includes ten multiple-choice questions. One of the questions is about a video game titled Tag Attack, which was submitted by Antonio to the British Library Labs Crowdsourcing Game Jam. This project took place in 2015 utilizing gaming and crowdsourcing to add information to the 19th-century image collection of the British Library.

In Tag Attack, a fox moves from the right to the left side of the screen carrying an image from the library’s collection. The player’s task is to classify the image into one of four given categories before the fox gets to the edge of the screen. The fox’s speed challenges the player to tag the images quickly; this, in turn, excites the player and ensures efficient classification of the images for the library. It’s not clear, however, how the library ensures that the classification is correct. To do so, they need to have the information they seek to gain through the games.

I became familiar with the project through watching an interview with Adam Crymble, who initiated it and is currently a professor of Digital Humanities at University College London. The project, according to Crymble, intends to distribute such games in public spaces on 1980‘s style arcade machines attempting to engage people through physical objects rather than websites. He argues that the fact that websites are available for everybody reduces the chances that people will look for a specific website. On the other hand, “stumbling across” an interactive object like an arcade machine in public places, may better attract individuals to engage with the game.

The multiple-choice question in the quiz asks the students to select an answer that describes the task in Tag Attack accurately. By doing so, it resembles the task in the game as both challenging the participants with the need to decide about an image in a limited time. In the quiz, however, the right answer is known before the students take the quiz. Interestingly, the rate of success in answering this question was the lowest among all ten questions, indicating that only slightly more than half of the students knew the right answer.

In my opinion, this question is not more complex or challenging than any other question in the quiz, therefore, the low rate of answering it correctly, requires thinking. First, it was the only visual question in the quiz. All the other questions were articulated verbally, focusing on insights and concepts from three texts we read and from the interview with Crymble. Perhaps, the use of visual material in a multi-choice assessment is not common and thus required the students to approach the question confidently without having substantive experience with this kind of question.

Second, 24% of the students chose the fourth answer suggesting that the players in the game have to make their decision before “The fox disappears with the image.” This possible answer doesn’t make sense to me. In fact, I regarded it as one of the answers, I included in the quiz, which deliberately makes no sense. Considering a rationale of a game, an action within a timeframe (until the fox disappears) without a spatial scope (the space the fox acts in), makes the elements in the game arbitrary and thus meaningless. Moreover, since the game’s objective is to yield useful information about the images from the players for the library, there is an obvious interest to build a game that is easy to understand, rewarding, and enjoyable.

Why did 15 students choose the disappearance of the fox as the moment until which the players have to tag the image? Why did that disappearance make more sense to them than the right answer or the other two? I’m wondering whether the students subconsciously held an image of the quiz “disappearing” before they managed to answer the question. As mentioned above, the question resembles the game as it asks the participants to choose one out of four alternatives in a limited time. The similarity between the content of the question, on the one hand, and its structure and conditions, on the other, suggests that formalistic aspects influence students’ ability to succeed. If so, we should consider these aspects as part of the content.

Posted in art-based knowledge mobilization, Teaching | Leave a comment

Using Visuals in an Academic Syllabus

During the academic winter break, I’ve been developing the course Digital History, which takes place in the upcoming term at the Department of History at the University of Toronto. Mostly, I prepared the syllabus, which includes the description and structure of the course, learning outcomes, assignments, marking scheme, assigned readings, schedule of guest talks, as well as additional sources, expectations, and policies.

The preparation of the syllabus was an opportunity to practice the use of visuals in a formal document that needs to be clear, precise, and welcoming. The syllabus, with the course website and the presentations in the lectures, will function as one pedagogical, aesthetic body, which will create a style for the course. I’m planning to utilize colours and icons to connect these three-course components. Repetition of visual cues will help the students identify the conceptual continuity between the course materials and, in turn, the overall coherence of the course.

Adding visuals to the syllabus has further functions. For example, colours make the document surprising and cheerful and thus improve the readers’ mood. As well, the choice of colours and icons can sustain the attention of the readers, who might ask questions about the design of the syllabus beyond its role as a guide to the course. Since the students will work on a creative project in the course, their thoughts about design will be relevant and useful.

The visuals in the syllabus encourage an experimental approach to work. The syllabus doesn’t look like many other syllabi, although I examined several of them carefully and applied principles, I found helpful (including the use of visuals). But the look of the syllabus makes it unique and encourages the students to confidently develop their own design preferences and singularity.

Lastly, there are benefits in explaining ideas through various kinds of communication. Considering the diversity in today’s classes, the probability that some of the students will find the visuals more relatable is high. That relatability would make it easier for them to understand and remember their new environment better and, ultimately, become active and contributive players in it.

The “Netiquette” section of the syllabus is pasted below. Happy new year!

Posted in art-based knowledge mobilization, Teaching | Leave a comment

Artist in Residence Magnet

Noa Yaari, Artist in Residence Magnet, 2022. Print on magnet, 2.75” diameter. Toronto.

The opening reception of my art project “Artist in Residence” took place on Thursday, Oct 20, at the Centre for Jewish Studies, York University. In it, I gave everyone a signed magnet as a gift.

Currently, I have more than 300 magnets to give!

Posted in My Art | Leave a comment

“Artist in Residence” – Opening Reception of Noa Yaari’s Exhibition

Date: Thursday, October 20, 2022

Time: 4 pm

In-person: The Centre for Jewish Studies, 7th floor of the Kaneff Tower on the Keele campus, York University

“Artist in Residence” is an art project Yaari created at home for the Centre for Jewish Studies when the campus was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a series of twenty colourful paintings telling a personal and communal story about fear, faith, isolation, and love. At the opening reception, we will be celebrating this project and the contribution of the arts to our community and to the social and intellectual life on campus.

Noa Yaari, Artist in Residence 18/20, 2020-2021. Ink and acrylic on paper, 23 x 30 cm. Toronto.

Dr. Noa Yaari is an artist and art-based knowledge broker. In her work, she explores combinations of words and images in academic, artistic, and daily practices. She holds a PhD in History and MA in Humanities from York University, and an MA in History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas (magna cum laude) from Tel Aviv University. In addition to her solo exhibition at the CJS, she is currently working on an art installation at the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies at the University of Toronto, in which she is a Fellow. Both projects practice art-based knowledge mobilization as well as community building and placemaking on campus.

To RSVP, if you are subscribed to our list serve, please click below. Otherwise, please email cjs@yorku.ca and confirm your attendance in the subject line.

We thank the Alumni Engagement Team, Division of Advancement, and the Faculty of Graduate Studies for their support.

Posted in My Art | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why do artists create art? And what circumstances influence their work? 

Art historian Michael Baxandall suggested seeing art as a solution to a problem, where necessities of different kinds “charge” the urge to create it. Accordingly, he saw art historians’ role as giving an account of the factors which brought forth and shaped the finished artwork.

I painted on pages 30-31 in Jan von Bonsdorff’s article “Is Art a Barometer of Wealth? Medieval Art Exports to the Far North of Europe,” where he pointed out the problem of conducting historical research without sources outside of the artwork and visualized Baxandall’s model.   

Following Von Bonsdorff’s point, I’m wondering what art historians can do when the situation is the opposite; plenty of factors and sources relevant to the artwork but hard to grasp and describe.  

Posted in art-based knowledge mobilization, My Art, Research | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On Children

Several weeks ago, I started the process of adopting a child through the Public Adoption in Ontario. I’m also reading Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (1993) these days. In it, they print Kahlil Gibran’s On Children from the book The Prophet (1923), but they titled it On Parenting. At any rate, I’m bringing it here because it’s beautiful and inspiring. 

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Posted in Contemplations, My Art | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

On the Advantage of Being an All-rounded Emoji

Noa Yaari, All-rounded Emojis, 2022.

In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill writes “The man who has been active on campus, whose personality is such that he gets along with all kinds of people and who has done an adequate job with his studies has a most decided edge over the strictly academic student. Some of these, because of their all-rounded qualifications, have received several offers of positions […]” (1960, p. 60).

But an emojis is not a “man.” So, what is the advantage of being an all-rounded emoji? And what is an “all-rounded emoji” anyway?

An all-rounded emoji is an emoji that has more than one image in the system: a close-up and a whole-body one. Having these two kinds of representations reveals more about the emoji. The close-up shows its facial expression and mood; for example, whether it’s happy or about to say something. An image of the whole body shows its body language and attitude; for instance, if it’s playful or grounded.  

An emoji can present its all-roundedness through some complexity between its facial expression and body language. If we look at the pig and the rabbit above, we can see that their facial expression and body language signify different moods, where the faces are more energetic than the bodies. The cat and the dog seem to have the same cheerful state of mind in both their images. Like the pig and the rabbit, the monkey seems to hold varied dispositions. Most noticeable is its ability to turn its body and head in different directions; a posture that cannot be maintained for a long time, and thus, indicates dynamic attention.

So, what is the advantage of being an all-rounded emoji? If the emoji’s interest is to be used as many times as possible, then obviously, having several different images of it increases the times that it is used. In other words, its multi-faceted personality can match different types of moods and can get “along with all kinds of people.”

Posted in Contemplations, My Art | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Stickers and Emojis are Candies for the Eye

Noa Yaari, Stickers and Emojis are Candies for the Eye, 2022. Toronto.

The arrangement of stickers and emojis on a sheet influences the thoughts the viewers have while looking at them. For example, “what car do I like most?” or “a grape cluster can fall just like a leaf,” and subsequently, “which one would hit the ground first?”

Usually, producers of stickers and emojis spread them thematically on sheets. Stickers may be arranged either at random or in a grid. Mostly, their users have time to ponder which sticker to use and move it from the sheet to a specific spot on a surface. On the other hand, since emojis are digital icons in a “visual vocabulary,” they are always arranged in a grid. Their users need to find them fast, locate them in a specific place within a given line, and click their message out.

Both stickers and emojis are small and easy to handle. They are designed to be moved from their sheets to a different place, where they fulfill an expressive function. This replacement requires basic skills, which make them widely accessible. Stickers and emojis also save time because they are ready-made images. They enable the users to add shape and colour to their communication without creating them. The effortless use of stickers and emojis, and the great value they bring forth, make them extremely useful. 

Lastly, stickers and emojis are cheap; sweet, and cheap (that is, kitschy). Their thematic and visual simplicity, along with their low price, result in them being highly popular products. They are candies for the eye.   

Posted in Contemplations, My Art | Leave a comment

CRRS Fellows Workshop April 12: William Barker & Noa Yaari

Please join me at the Fellows Workshop at the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, the University of Toronto on Tuesday, April 12, 4:00-5:30 pm (EDT).

Follow this link for details and registration to the live zoom session: https://crrs.ca/event/fellows22/

William Barker – Inglis Professor, University of Kings College, and Professor Emeritus, English, Dalhousie University; CRRS Fellow

“Looking at Erasmus: Problems with Portraits”

This short talk looks at the ways a portrait can be used by a biographer or historian to inform us about historical figures. Erasmus was depicted in different media by Quentin Metsys, Hans Holbein the Younger, and Albrecht Dürer. Because of Erasmus’ own importance as well as that of these major artists a lot has been written about Erasmus and his portraits. The deliberately naive question posed by this talk is “what can we learn about Erasmus from these portraits?” Can looking at depictions of his face tell us something about him? What is the truth in the image?

Noa Yaari – Artist, CRRS Fellow

“Art-Based Knowledge Mobilization at the CRRS”

Drawing on others’ scholarship is a well-known practice in academia; it shows the understanding and acceptance of “knowledge” as a communal enterprise. While knowledge moves from one agent to another, and evolves over time, however, it may take unusual forms, which raise questions about its essence and nature. In her talk, artist Dr. Noa Yaari invites us to view “knowledge” as a physical body that has spatial dimensions, which are necessary for its existence and validity. We will focus on her art project at the CRRS to explore shifts in the way we pass, preserve, and produce knowledge. This, in turn, will enable us to evaluate the field of knowledge mobilization and contemporary pop culture to advance the study of the early modern era.

Poster of the Workshop
Posted in art-based knowledge mobilization, My Art, Research | Tagged | Leave a comment

Using Emojis as Reactions on Zoom

Noa Yaari, Kissing Emojis on Zoom, 2022. Toronto.

On my December post, I was wondering if the engineers at Zoom can create shadows as a function in Background & Filters. This would add a realistic element to the filters that they already introduced into the platform. In this post, I’d like to share some thoughts about the application of emojis as “reactions” on Zoom, and in turn, their functionality.

The inclusion of emojis on Zoom opens new possibilities of communication through screens. Unlike their use in text messages or emails, however, their use on Zoom mostly takes place within a conversation, or after a live presentation. In principle, the visual reaction they embody follows spoken words, and may be followed by these or other emojis. What does the ability to “react” through an emoji to spoken, usually fast, communication do? And what can the hundreds of emojis on Zoom offer us in this context?

The ability to react through emojis relates to their amount on the platform. On the one hand, the availability of numerous, various emojis gives the feeling of freedom; since there are so many of them, the only thing that is required from the user is to know what they wish to express and choose the right emoji. The user ought to trust that whatever their message may be, there is an emoji in the collection that can utter it effectively.

On the other hand, the high number of emojis and the minor nuances between them may confuse the user, especially if they prefer to react in a timely manner. For example, note the difference between “kissing,” “kissing­_smiling_eyes,” and “kissing_closed_eyes” (see image above). Imagine yourself using one of them on Zoom; which one would you choose? Which among the three would be closer to what you feel and want to share?

The application of emojis as “reactions” on Zoom raises questions about how the company sees the activity on its platform. The emojis of “raise hand” and “clap,” for instance, are elegant visual solutions for a speaking environment. Moreover, they have become icons that can easily symbolize a period in our history. As such, their functionality goes beyond the platform, creating cultural codes on a global scale. How does Zoom see the functionality of the many other emojis? In other words, how does it see its users finding the time – the right time – to use them?   

Posted in Contemplations, Research | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment