Communications and Media

All things General Communications and Media

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.

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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.

(more…)

Scandaleggs: When “Free Range” Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

As a vegetarian-cum-vegan, industries based around livestock are something I’d like to advocate for. The egg industry is full of scandal. Egg-laying hens are excluded from protection against animal cruelty. In recent years, the caged egg industry has had several aspects exposed including but not limited to living their entire lives confined in cages, having parts of their beaks cut off without any pain relief. Despite being able to live a natural life of up to 10 years, a hens whose egg production slows (as early as 18 months old) is sent to slaughter. Male chicks in any part of the egg industry are routinely killed as “waste products” of the egg industry due to their inability to produce eggs. (more…)

Image of celebrities from the Oscars 2014

The Unsatisfied Selfie

The term “selfie” has been traced back to Armidale, NSW, in September 2002. A University of New England student excused the quality of the photo he posted to a message forum about the injury he received while drunk at a 21st birthday party.

selfie_2738767b

The first “selfie”, Hopey 2002, sourced from http://www.telegraph.co.uk

It took 9 years for its common use to be acknowledged and the word has evolved considerably in that time. “Selfie” was awarded Oxford Dictionary of English’s ‘Word of the Year’ in 2013, which prompted the research of its origins. Now there are many types of selfies: traditional front camera selfie, mirror selfie (camera directed at the reflection of the subject), animal selfie, no makeup selfie (particularly popular with raising awareness for cancer), ugly selfie, location based selfies such as the gym, beach or bathroom, and many more. (more…)

When an Aussie Girl Tries to Stay Up to Date with US TV Shows…

Daisy lives in Sydney, Australia, but she loves US TV shows and she loves talking about them with others. This is her story.

I run a closed group on Facebook for people to talk about TV show episodes once they have aired. Daisy is a member of this group, as are a number of Australians including myself. We are constantly negotiating a time lag waiting for media to cross over geographic licensing boundaries that exist solely for financial gain.

For anyone not in the know, an Australian accessing a TV show episode very soon after it has aired in the US is unlikely to be through paid (or legal) means. US “prime time” TV shows air between 7 and 11 PM on the East Coast of the USA. With daylight savings right now, that’s between 11 AM and 3 PM in Sydney, in other words, right in the middle of the (next) working day. There are websites that make it possible to live-stream the shows as they air. They are difficult to find and the AV quality is questionable at best. And more importantly, you have to be available at this time of day, which most working adults (including Daisy) are not.

Where are you when you watch your shows?

Daisy: I’m at home. Usually in my room or in my living room

Ok and what devices are you using to watch?

Daisy: Either on my laptop or an external hard drive plugged into the USB port of my TV.

Where are you when you’re using the group to chat about the episodes and on what device/s?

Daisy: I’m either on my phone or my laptop. If on my laptop, in my room, but if on my phone, I’m usually all over the place. At home in other rooms, or I’m out and about.

OK that’s cool because it’s a blurring of the public and private. I’m the same but I’m not allowed to study myself. So the other thing is… when you’re posting/commenting, is it before/during/after watching?

Daisy: it depends. It’s usually afterwards, because I get a bit distracted commenting as I’m watching, but if I’m watching a second time, I may do a bit of a running commentary.

So, if you were able to watch at the same time as the US peeps would you be trying to live-tweet with them?

Daisy: Yep- I’d have ads to live tweet in. I’ve streamed episodes of TV live from the States in the past (when I was a uni student so I was actually home during the day) and I used to live tweet in the ads.

Ah yeah I guess the ad breaks are something we don’t usually deal with when we watch now.

Daisy: Not at all. We watch straight, which is great. (more…)

What’s my age again?

My blog, stutterstumblewritings (henceforth SSW), has been up and running in public since early 2013. Initially, it was a place to host my creative writing projects as I had been previously publishing on LiveJournal and FictionPress. This year I began a fast-tracked version of UOW’s Bachelor of Communications and Media Studies. Somehow I didn’t realise this included blogging and tweeting for grades until one or two weeks into semester. It was a difficult decision, one I wrestled with for a time, as to whether I wanted to subject my pre-existing (small yet established) audience to a completely different genre of writing by letting SSW host various intellectual ramblings related to media and communications for three months at a time. After playing around with the Menus and Categories settings in WordPress, I discovered it was easy to navigate my blog by creating simple filter systems in the menus.

As I take to Google to find out how all these words I keep throwing on the Internet contribute to this space that is “public”, I can’t help but find a bunch of unrelated search results. My favourite interpretation of what I thought were pretty basic search terms (“public” and “writing”) is Julie Shiels’ collection of discarded objects that she stencils words on.

Image of an abandoned couch with

“When I pointed out to the man who was berating me for vandalism that there was nothing illegal about stencilling a discarded couch – he shouted – ‘Why don’t you act your age’.”

Maybe we can call this the premise for this reflection. A lot of results are about overcoming the anxiety of publishing in the public, of making your work available not only to others but to any person with a wanton mouse and an internet connection. While anxiety has been a long term problem of mine, two years into carving out this little space of public the is SSW I’m not really fussed on putting opinions out there. My priority is that I enjoy myself when I’m writing and that what I write reflects myself as a writer.

This year I developed a new voice.

I will always tell stories. That’s not something I can shake off. However blogging is not stiff and structured in the way prose or poetry might be. I feel like this is a conversation, especially when comments are enabled. I’ve tried interviewing various peopletwice. Not an experience I readily enjoyed writing about. My induction into various ethnographic techniques, specifically collaborative ethnography with the intention of creating a piece of research that benefits both the researcher and the “subject”, gave me a new insight into a creative practice I had not previously experienced. In the past, research to me has meant Googling, consulting the reference list at the end of my required readings and conducting Boolean searches on Summons. This year has seen me interacting with the people around me to find out what they think and feel about media and how it influences the space around them. The immediacy and reality of these interactions have shown me how much more these experiences with other people should be valued at least equally with quantitative analysis.

“Public writing is a form of community service.”

David Leonard, a professor at Washing State University, wrote an article in defence of public writing. He says that by publishing online we don’t limit our readership to scholars. When employing the collaborative ethnographic approach to research, it’s more important for us to reach a wide audience than a few scholars if there is any hope to affect positive change from your research. There are a number of ways I have attempted to increase my audience. I share the majority of my posts on my Twitter account and my personal Facebook page as some of my friends find my writing worth a glance in between social media and Netflix binges. My posts are also shared to my Google+ page and LinkedIn profile. Of the 160+ followers my blog has, I would say the majority are students also in this degree. Sometimes I get random views from the United States, Malaysia or Russia. The majority of my readers are definitely within Australia though, which is probably closely linked with them being students also. Nevertheless I write for myself and I do have hopes to blog outside of class assessments because occasionally I have a good story to tell that I didn’t completely fabricate.

I think the last thing to consider are the changes I’ve made to SSW over the last 3 months. The long-awaited banner has finally arrived. I picked this theme at least a year ago with the intention to make a banner for it and only got around to it in a tutorial where we critiqued each other’s blogs to the point that I felt inspired to open Photoshop and throw together something semi-representative of myself. I’ve toyed with the widget bars but I most prefer the sidebar, with quick icon links to my various social media accounts, a 7-post Twitter feed so you can see me be pithy/shamelessly plugging my blog (blog-ception?) I leave the tag cloud there so you can see what topics I write about although I should be more thorough with tagging as that’s another way of reaching a larger audience. In general though, I rather like keeping things simple on SSW, with a slight hint towards my TV show obsessions such as in the hit counter of “fans” or the “previously on sswritings” widget at the bottom. That way if I grow overly verbose at least my audience won’t be bombarded by fancy themes and widgets and so on.

Media, Audience, Place has given me a lot to consider as a student of communications and media and public writer. I don’t think I really did it justice in this post but the topics we’ve discussed have resonated with me in ways I hope will continue to develop through my future writing. I don’t know if I’m the 22-year-old student I was when this first started; my about page certainly doesn’t say so.

Power Anxiety: when your phone dies before you arrive

I’m just going to throw this out there… I bought my phone, a Samsung Galaxy S4, about two and a half years ago. Before going into the contract with Telstra, I did a bit of research. I knew the battery was only supposed to last 6 hours. I rationalised I could offset this by being able to have more than one battery that I could alternate when one was exhausted. (This plan was flawed in that I could only charge whatever battery was in the phone because I stupidly tried to save $10 and passed on the charging dock + battery deal.) This was supposed to be a good alternative to my then-dying iPhone 4 and its famously impenetrable case.

Why are you talking about your phone? you may be wondering.

There’s a good reason, I promise. It’s called power anxiety.

Do you ever get that feeling of a fist around your heart when you look at the battery life on your phone and see 7%?

My Samsung beeps at me incessantly when it knows the end is coming. This behaviour does not help with the squeezed heart feeling. Aside from adding to the anxiety, it’s a bit annoying because I’m usually painfully aware of what status my phone’s battery life is at. I may go so far as to say I plan my days around it. 6 hours should give me enough time to get through my day-to-day activities and get home and charge it over again. I mean, I’m not constantly using the thing so it should last.

Anyway, the other weekend I offered to give a friend a lift to what I thought was a midpoint in my trip to visit my father at his new house. My friend has been having ongoing phone troubles and we had to employ the use of my Samsung’s GPS to get to this midpoint. What I didn’t realise was my battery life went from 40% to 15% over a matter of 30 minutes.

By the time I was on my way to my father’s, a place I’d only been once before and driven from a completely different location, my phone was sure to die before I arrived. I set the GPS and tried to memorise the instructions before turning off all the extra settings to conserve power. Going from the M5 to the M7 was supposed to be easy. I didn’t realise I was almost back where I started until it was too late. My phone was on 3% and the only decision I had was to abandon visiting my father because I simply could not remember how to get there. The road directory in my car was from the early 2000s and well out of date and anyway I was driving on a motorway so I couldn’t be reading it anyway.

My phone has become so much more than a phone; it’s a resource with multiple uses. GPS unfortunately sucks the life out of it faster than a vampire in a CW television show. To conserve power, you have to go into the settings and strip back the bells and whistles. No more wifi, mobile data, Bluetooth, auto-sync… I wasn’t really running that much in the first place but to have my phone die on this trip had very real consequences.

When you have plans with someone and your phone is going to die, you’ve got approximately 20 seconds to call them and explain. It’s made much worse when you’ve been driving for double the time you planned without any breaks. (Stop. Revive. Survive.)

I don’t have a solution. I like my bells and whistles. I just don’t like this mobile device’s dependency on a power outlet. Isn’t it supposed to be mobile by definition?

Common courtesy means paying attention, right?

Angus and I decided to watch the world’s most unpleasant video (twice) and make a video about how much we were able to actually absorb from it. It didn’t help the video was very low resolution and we had no idea what to look for. Sorry for the exceptionally long video. Maybe skip to the end? The juicy stuff is there.