For students: We hope this two-page guide will help sharpen your reading skills and deepen your understanding of this issue’s articles.
For teachers: We encourage reproduction and adaptation of these ideas, freely and without further permission from Saudi Aramco World, by teachers at any level, whether working in a classroom or through home study.
— THE EDITORS
This edition of Saudi Aramco World celebrates the 75th anniversary of the agreement that led to the founding of the company that publishes the magazine. Activities focus on one theme: Presentation.
How does a company present itself? That might sound funny. Certainly people present themselves—paying attention to what they wear, what they say, and what they do—sometimes with an eye to creating a particular image or impression. But—companies? Absolutely! The people who comprise organizations of all types put a lot of thought into how to present the companies they’re part of. Mostly you see this in advertising: You’ve probably seen tv ads in which one big store presents itself as contributing to community projects, and another presents itself as employing very caring people who want to nurture their customers. You can be sure that those retailers have gone to a lot of trouble and expense to present themselves the way they do.
What about Saudi Aramco? Let’s look at this edition of the magazine to find out. Our explorations will focus on three kinds of presentation: chronological, anecdotal and visual.
One form of presentation is chronological.
Start on page 2 with “75 Years: Saudi Aramco by the Numbers.” It’s a timeline that lists important events in the order in which they happened—chronological order. Maybe that’s what you expect when you read about history. First this happened, then that happened. Remember, though, that historians decide which events to put on timelines and which to leave out. Study the timeline. With a partner, identify the different types of events that are on the timeline. For example, some are political events (“‘Abd al-‘Aziz proclaims the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”). Others are legal and economic ones (“Concession agreement signed between Saudi government and casoc”). Still others are technological (“Trans-Arabian Pipeline completed”). Use
colors to identify and key the types of events, or make lists of them. What do you think the timeline’s creators want you to know about Saudi Aramco? What is it about the events on the timeline that leads you to that conclusion?
Remember, too, that it’s important to ask what’s missing. What kinds of events don’t you see on the timeline? If you’re having trouble thinking of any, scan some news magazines or tabloids. Then list the kinds of events you don’t see on the timeline. Does this help clarify what the timeline’s creators want you to know and think about Saudi Aramco?
Now that you’ve examined the contents of the timeline, make a timeline of your own life or your family’s history. What events will you put on it? What kind of events are they? How are they similar to or different from the kinds of events in the magazine’s timeline? What is useful about your timeline? What is useful about the Saudi Aramco timeline? In a broader sense, when might it be useful to have information in chronological order? Keep your thoughts in mind as you read the next article, “75 Facts: A Beginner’s Guide to Saudi Aramco.”
Another form of presentation is anecdotal.
An anecdotal presentation is a presentation that is composed of brief stories, or anecdotes. Keeping in mind the timeline, turn your attention to “75 Facts: A Beginner’s Guide to Saudi Aramco.” With a group, look at the six two-page spreads that comprise the article. What topic or theme would you say dominates each spread? List them. Then compare your list with the different types of events
you identified in “75 Years.” How well do they match up?
How does the anecdotal presentation differ from what you are used to seeing when you read history? Do you like this form of presentation? Why or why not? Why do you think Saudi Aramco World’s editors decided to present the company’s history this way, rather than in a more conventional, history-book style?
To explore this question, make a T chart. In one column, list the benefits of presenting the history anecdotally—what you like about this format. In the other column, list the potential drawbacks of this format—what you don’t like about it. With a group, role-play a conversation among the editors at Saudi Aramco World. The conversation would be taking place when this issue of the magazine was in the planning stages. Use your T Charts as the basis for your discussion about how to present the 75-year history of Saudi Aramco. Report to the class about what your group has decided.
Then think about your own life, family history or school history. What anecdotes would you tell in order to present it to others? Write a few such anecdotes—enough to fill one or two pages of the magazine. Think about how the anecdotes relate to your timeline. Can you connect each anecdote to an event on the timeline?
A third form of presentation is visual.
Turn to the photo essay, “75 Sites: Where We Work.” The table of contents identifies three themes in the photo essay: Saudi Aramco as
a global business enterprise, a network of people and a place where people use technology. Look over the photos and decide which category each one falls into. How do the three themes relate to the kinds of events on the timeline and the topics and themes in “75 Facts”? Are there other themes you see? Is it always easy to tell? Why or why not?
Choose one two-page spread. Look at the photos carefully
and read the captions. What does the spread tell you about Saudi Aramco? In other words, what story can you piece together from the patchwork of photos in your spread? Report to the class on the spread you analyzed. Then as a class put together your findings. Discuss: What is the value of the photo spread? What can it do that other forms of presentation can’t? What can’t it do that other forms of presentation can?
Now return to your life or family history. What pictures would illustrate it? How would you present those stories? Again, look at your timeline and anecdotes. How do the photos relate to them? Sketch ideas for a visual spread that includes anecdotes and photos together. Do you like it better than the two forms presented separately? Why or why not?
Drawing conclusions: What can you conclude about how Saudi Aramco presents itself? More broadly, can you generalize about how groups and individuals present themselves?
Having read and worked with the first three articles in this issue, answer these questions: What topics does Saudi Aramco include in its self-presentation? What themes does it include? What topics and themes are absent? Based on what’s included and what’s not, what image do you get of the company? Write a paragraph that summarizes what Saudi Aramco is like according to what you have read and seen in this magazine.
Now turn your attention to a place closer to home: your school. What’s a yearbook, after all, if not a school’s self-presentation? Get a copy of a recent yearbook. Pretend that you know as little about the school as you knew about Saudi Aramco before you read this magazine. Ask yourself the same kinds of questions about the school yearbook as you asked about the magazine: In what formats does the yearbook present the school’s story? What themes and topics does
it address? What does it not include? What overall impression do you get about the school from the yearbook?
As a group, make a yearbook for your class using this issue of Saudi Aramco World as the model. Think about the different formats you want to include. Will you include a timeline? If so, what events will it include? Will you have facts in anecdote form? If so, what topics will they address? Will you include photos? If so, what will they consist of? Assign tasks to different groups and make the sections of your class yearbook. Assemble them.
Analyzing Visual Images
How can photos show change over time?
History is the study of continuity and change over time. If you look at two photos of the same subject taken at different times, you can often learn much about both continuity and change. Look at these two photos: the aerial photo of Abqaiq on the top left of page 24, and the aerial photo of Dhahran at the top right of page 20. What is the subject matter of each photo? What do the two sites in the photos have in common? How are they different? How would you sum up the changes over time that the two photos, viewed together, show? Imagine you are a writer for Saudi Aramco World and that you are putting these two photos side-by-side
in the magazine. Write a caption that explains for readers the change over time.
You can also see change over time by looking at and comparing the composition of photos. Look at the main photo on page 18. Everything about the photo looks old, doesn’t it? With a partner, identify the characteristics of the photo that evoke “oldness.” Contrast that photo with the third photo of Dhahran on page 20. What in that photo evokes “newness” or seems “modern”? Look closely at the composition of the two photos. The horizon of the first photo splits the picture nearly in half—half the photo is above the horizon; half is below. What is
in the top half of the photo? Why is it so big? Why didn’t the photographer (or editor) crop (trim) the photo so that the top part was smaller? What effect does the big sky have on you as a viewer? What is in the bottom half of the photo? How is it similar to and different from the top half? What effect does it have on you? When you put the two parts together
—and of course notice that the photo is black-and-white—how does it make you feel as if you’re looking at something from long ago?
Now look closely at the third photo of Dhahran on page 20. It has more vertical lines than horizontal lines. How do they divide the photo? What about the way the photo is divided evokes “modern”? Put the two photos side-by-side and write a caption that describes for readers how these photos show change over time.
Choose two other photos from “75 Sites” and do the same exercise with them. Compare your photos and caption with another student’s. Discuss the value of using photos to show historical change.
What do the layout and shapes of photos express?
When you look at this photo essay as a whole, two things might stand out: The photos all touch each other, and the photos are all squares, rather than the usual rectangles. Why do you think the designers at Saudi Aramco World decided to present the photos this way? As you think about the answer, remember that the designers have two
aims. One is to get readers to pause and pay attention to the photos (rather than just flipping past them). The other is to express something that is consistent with the messages about the company. How might the shape and layout add to what you know about the company so far?
||Julie Weiss is an education consultant based in Lowell, Massachusetts. She holds a Ph.D. in American studies. Her company, Unlimited Horizons, develops social-studies, media-literacy and English as a Second Language curricula and produces textbook materials.