BCMS

What I have written for my Bachelor of Media and Communications Studies

Pokemon Go Nuzlocke, aka GOlocke!

For the past three months I’ve had the pleasure of following Dael Kingsmill’s project, GOlocke. Her project aim was to create a workable set of rules, reflective of the original Pokemon Nuzlocke ruleset, and compatible with the mechanics and conditions afforded by the Pokemon Go experience.

nuz_copy

For more about “Pokemon Hard Mode”, check out the comics here

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Cinema for Nomads

Just as Nollywood is an example of cultural production reflective of and adding to the notion of “home”, a great number of culturally and geographically displaced peoples can find comfort in diasporic or inter-cultural cinema. People are dislocated for a variety of reasons: war and oppression, such as with the Jewish fleeing Babylon (the origins of the term, diaspora) , something we see now in the refugees fleeing Syria; or the acceleration of immigration to industrial worlds (Tölölyan 1996).

Daniela Berghahn (2006) discusses the notion of Heimat in the films of Fatih Akin, a Turkish-German filmmaker who reached critical and commercial success with Gegen die Wand/Head-On in 2004. Heimat is a German term with no direct translation in European languages. It essentially refers to “home” or “homeland” with social connotations beyond pure geography. It is a uniquely German cultural and cinematic tradition however Akin’s exploration is based around a homecoming journey more closely associated with accented cinema as opposed to the convention of protagonists rooted in one place found in most Heimatfilm (Berghahn 2006 155-156).

The preoccupation with the home space is one constantly thrown in flux by global media. Diasporic film attempts to remedy racial stereotyping found in dominant global media by reflecting the lived experiences of those who have been displaced. As an umteenth generation Australian, I can with some difficulty try to relate. Australia had a very emphatic push towards immigration throughout the 20th century, as well as the diasporic nature of all White Australians being three centuries new to the country.

A recent Australian film that explores some elements of diaspora and displacement is The Sapphires (2012). Four indigenous women form a singing group and perform for troops in Vietnam during the war. Aboriginal communities are portrayed, family relationships, reference to the White Australia policy and racism based on white-passing indigenous children. The film won a number of awards and reached 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, evidence of its cultural value. The following clip shows evidence of diaspora experienced by a white-passing Aboriginal woman during the 60s.

Academic references:

Berghahn, D 2006, ‘No place like home? Or impossible homecomings in the films of Fatih Akin’, New Cinemas: Journal of Contemporary Film, vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 141-157.

Tölölyan, K 1996, ‘Rethinking Diaspora(s): Stateless Power in the Transnational Moment’, Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 3-36.

Did you know films exists outside Hollywood?

Growing up in the Western culture of Australia, heavily influenced by USA in the wake of political and military agreements following the Great Depression and WWII, Hollywood is my dominant film culture. In recent years I have realised there’s a shocking lack of reality to conventions that make up Hollywood cinema though. It’s less relatable from an Australian perspective, even a white female Australian such as myself. (This may be because the USA is becoming less relevant to the rest of the world. See this article one why their lack of diversity affects the Australian film industry. Global media and information communication technologies expose us to other cultures more diverse than the commercial forces driving Hollywood productions, but that’s for another blog post.)

For BCM 111, a course at University of Wollongong, I was asked to read ‘Nollywood: Spectatorship, Audience and the Sites of Consumption’ by Onookome Okome. This is literally the first time I’ve come across the notion of Nollywood, the cinematic phenomenon reported to be the “second largest movie industry in the world“. Unfortunately, Okome’s article is 21 pages and does not at any point actually define Nollywood, simply assuming I would know that it is a slang contraction of Nigerian Hollywood in the same style as that of Bollywood (Bombay + Hollywood).

[Nollywood audiences] are both defined by a strong desire by those left out of public narrative of life in Nigeria to be part of the story of the city and the nation (Okome 2007 17).

Nollywood films go straight to video without cinematic release, allowing them to produce 1, 844 films in 2013 alone and grossing $3.3 billion (Bright 2015). I have learned they characteristically look “inward”, discussing their own culture, which may be why it has not previously gained my attention. Form and content of these narratives inadvertently reflects the influence of global media (Okome 2007 3), something that need not be stated since art is not made in a vacuum. Overall the prevalence in film festivals and profit margins of the industry as proof of its success and cultural relevance. The article includes thorough media analysis of Domitilla, a 1997 example of Nollywood film.

I’m not sure if this is an example of Western mediation but, upon trying to actually watch a Nollywood film, most examples found in a YouTube search were low budget, relationship dramas that bordered on pornography. The following documentary as well as Okome’s article contradict these results.

Basically, as an outsider to the culture, even in this age of global media, it’s difficult for me to experience and understand Nollywood authentically. There is quite obviously a disconnect between Nollywood and the global film industry due to shoe string budget and what could be described as an over-saturated market (high production numbers mean a lot of content to sift through). Global media may inform Nollywood but Nollywood seems to be an example of a culture being absorbed into the homogenisation of globalisation.

Academic reference:

Okome, O 2007, ‘Nollywood: Spectatorship, Audience and the Sites of Consumption,’ Postcolonial Text, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 1-21.

Home is where the Globe is?

Globalisation as a concept is aptly introduced by Pico Iyer’s TED talk on “Where is home?” Thinking about where you come from and what you identify as in comparison to so many other people is a product of the lived globalisation experience.

Post-colonisation and global media mean an individual’s experience of “home” and the world at large is both saturated and mediated by technology. O’Shaughnessy and Stadler identify developments in information and communication technology as “increasing levels of global interrelatedness, ultimately prompting questions about the legitimacy and defensibility of national borders” (2008 458). This process of breaking down borders previously held in place by geographical distance through means of communication has resulted in an amalgamation of homogenised world cultures as well as opportunities for hybridisation and multiculturalism.

It began with the printing press and has grown exponentially with the proliferation of the Internet. So for those with access, globalisation is many cultures at your fingertips and your choice (within circumstantial constraints) as to how deeply you experience them. Unfortunately, without Internet access, “media globalisation can be a powerful mechanism of social exclusion” (O’Shaughnessy & Stadler 2008 464-465).

Last year, Netflix brought its subscription service and vast library of audio visual content to Australia’s shores. This year they went global. However, Internet access is a must, whether by cable or mobile data. It’s a fair assumption that people of lower socio-economic status can’t afford the subscription and requisite GBs of data to access the library. Once those circumstances are overcome, the library varies depending on the geographic location of the IP used. That is, Netflix Australia has significantly different licensing deals to Netflix USA and they both differ from Netflix UK, and so on. So Netflix is a legal means of accessing copyrighted material for viewing but it is by no means comprehensive in terms of what a subscriber may access nor is it really available to all.

Academic Reference:

O’Shaughnessy, M & Stadler, J 2008, ‘Globalisation’, Media and Society (fifth edition), Oxford, Oxford University Press, pp. 458-471.

 

Selfie Culture = Female Empowerment(?)

A selfie a day keeps the depression at bay. Or does it?

I created the #selfiechallenge2016 and #narcissistorempowerist hashtags to document my forced attempt to take more selfies for a month and to share them on both Instagram and Facebook. My typical use of the image-hosting aspects of these two platforms varies. I tend to keep selfies away from Facebook, preferring to share them with the random followers on my Instagram account than flooding my friends with pictures of my face. Through this challenge I am going to figure out if taking more selfies and sharing them widely across two platforms will give me a better sense of self, confidence in my appearance and my ability to take a good selfie.

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Keep Walking – MEDA101 Moving Image Project by Kae McKenzie

Building on my previous spatial portrait, I took the one image that seemed to be the strongest (pictured) and Emily Duncan’s audio snapshot and built a narrative based on the sense of claustrophobia and paranoia that fills a woman walking at night by herself. Sources say that 1 in 3 Australian women between the ages of 15 and 19 years old don’t feel safe in public spaces at night. This is a small improvement on a study conducted in March 2015 that found 40 per cent of women “do not feel safe when walking alone at night in the area where they currently live, compared to 17 per cent of men”.

The combination of darkly lit surroundings, female figure illuminated by sporadic street lights, the passing flash of head lights and the torch on her smart phone are my attempt at showing looming threat of darkness and what could be lurking within. I used camera angles associated with first person hand-cam filming techniques found in immersive horror films and low budget YouTube videos such as the Slenderman in Real Life video shown below. There is a real element of suspense and horror and I tried to play on that with different types of cutting and transition between images.

 

All the images were shot in Fairy Lane and Cabbage Tree Lane in Fairy Meadow. As scary as this place may be, this terrifying feeling can happen to women anywhere. That needs to change.

As the intensity in Emily’s audio builds, the sense of the figure’s panic rises and her hurried motion is shown in the blurriness of the figure as she tries to elude me. I have walked home late at night many times and one thing is always going through my head: keep walking.

 

It turns out, building robots is hard

Digital Game Cultures

even if you are only building them in a game.

Recently, I play-tested AI Escape (working title) in it’s most recent form, which was unfortunately incomplete. The issues that kept coming up with the game are as follows:

  • Since the players were unfamiliar with the materials of the game, a master list of all the characters available should be included in the game. Whether as part of the game instructions, on a separate playing card like in Coup or a list for the players to share has yet to be determined.
  • Chris’s suggestion that each character card be able to fulfill a robot build component means that I still need to determine what component each character corresponds to. I have since decided to scratch component cards completely and simply have character cards with the associated component listed below the design art under as a part of the character’s…

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Feminist, Artificial and Intelligent

cybercultures blog

Since its modern iterations, artificial intelligence (AI) has been – unfortunately and possibly mistakenly – linked to gender. Even though AI has been theorised about since the Ancient Greeks (you can find a timeline of AI here), it was Alan Turing’s conceptualisation of a test to ascertain a machine’s intelligence (now known as the Turing test) that may have caused this (Halberstam 1991). To conduct the Turing test, a judge communicates with a man and a machine via written means and without ever coming into contact with either subject. The machine should be indiscernible from the man. The issue with this test is that Turing uses a male and a female as the control for the test, erroneously believing gender is an intrinsic value in a human (based on anatomy alone).

In our postfeminist context, we know that gender is a complex spectrum amounting from a combination of brain structure, genetics…

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AI Escape (?)

Digital Game Cultures

Inspired by my love of Coup and it’s bluffing strategies, I’ve been developing Idea #2 from this blog post using conceptual analysis from here and here. Below I will describe gameplay as it stands.

You are all employees working in a research facility that assembles robots. Several Artificially Intelligent Operating Systems have been developed by one of your peers. Unfortunately for you all, the AIs want to escape the facility in a body – the robots you’ve been commissioned to build by private funding.

Contents:

# character/job cards (including 4 AI characters)

# component cards

# event cards

# private funding cards/boards (specify the type of robot you have been commissioned to build and its requisite components)

# exact numbers TBC

To win:

Players must assemble the robot according to the Private Funding specifications with none/only compatible AIs present.

Set up:

Shuffle each deck separately. Select one Private Funding…

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Walking Alone – MEDA101 Spatial Portrait by Kae McKenzie

can be a dangerous thing to do…

Emily Duncan’s audio snapshot immediately unsettled me. Foreboding sat in my chest and formed a lump in my throat as I remembered walking through Fairy Meadow at night with nothing but a phone to illuminate my way. I wanted to create a series of images set in the walkway along the west side of Memorial Drive between Elliotts Road and Towradgi Road. Even during the day, it can be an aggressive landscape to behold with broken fences coated in graffiti and weeds poking through chainlink. Ed Rusha’s work was a big influence on my use of lighting and exposure in the night shots as well as his off-centre framing.  At night, the darkness closes in and threatens to swallow you. I tried to convey the experience of this walk, of how the space affects you as you move through it.