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…)


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.

This Hex Won’t Last

When your subject coordinator tells you to take a trip to the cinema for this week’s blog post, usually you jump for joy and head straight there (because tomorrow is Cheap Tuesday and tickets are slightly more affordable for the poor uni student). Me? I didn’t find out about this until Friday and by then I was so damn sick with the plague the only movies I could comprehend were romcoms on Netflix.

In one night managed to watch It’s a Boy Girl Thing (2006), Love and Other Disasters (2006) and The Spectacular Now (2014). When I’m feeling low, I really slam the feel good fluff stories. They give me hope.

Anyway, since the focus of this whole experience is what we think the future of cinema will be, how it’s going to change in the next 5-10 years, I’ve got a story from April I think will be of interest.

If you could cast your mind back to the time of the Sydney Storm, where people were freaking out about record-breaking mms of water. (Seriously, Brisbane goes through this every year.) About two weeks earlier I had pre-purchased two tickets to Marvel’s Avengers 2: Age of Ultron Wednesday night advanced screening for myself and my friend, Brooke, a teacher from Western Sydney. The premier fell on the third day of the storm, Wednesday 22 April 8:45 PM at Event Cinemas in Burwood. Brooke and I are both big fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) so the priority here was in seeing the movie as soon as humanly possible, location be damned. Burwood was the closest possible middle ground for us both however it was not without its complications (here’s where the storm comes in). I was in Wollongong all day Wednesday for uni and a landslip in Otford had closed the South Coast train line indefinitely.

Rescuers go into the water at Cessnock road to search for the missing women Photo: Jonathan Carroll

Rescuers go into the water at Cessnock road to search for the missing women Photo: Jonathan Carroll

Terrified I was going to be late or worse, stranded in Wollongong, I kept up a running commentary of my travel plans with Brooke via text message and Facebook Messenger. I made it to the train station around 5:30 PM as planned, intending to arrive at Central just after 7 on the condition that there was no stopping to get a bus from Thirroul to Helensborough or Waterfall. I literally held my breath as we pulled into Thirroul train station and nothing happened. No announcement was made. I returned to cutting the sleeves off a long sleeve boys’ size 14 Avengers shirt because I simply had to wear something to show my support for the franchise. (It’s impossible to find MCU clothes for women but I am fortunate enough to still fit into the largest boys’ shirts at Target, something I only realised days before at the suggestion of Brooke when I couldn’t find anything to wear.)

I couldn't find a decent photo of the Avengers shirt so here's the Cap for you

I couldn’t find a decent photo of the Avengers shirt so here’s the Cap for you

Miraculously, I was a few minutes early to Central and able to switch to an earlier train to Burwood. When I finally got there, we had enough time to find a place to eat (the most spicy vegetarian udon noodles I’ve ever had the misfortune of ordering) and get back to the cinema with time to buy coffee and snacks. (There was a whole debacle over my preordered Avengers drink cup and popcorn but I won’t get into that now.) We even ran into a mutual friend, Jaimee. It turns out Burwood is her local cinema. She didn’t realise it was the one of the only cinemas in Sydney that offered advanced screenings until we told her, Burwood being so out of the way for Brooke and me.

Avengers 2: Age of Ultron Cast

There were actually a number of cinemas screening the movie, it was so popular. When it came time to enter the cinema and take our seats (closest to the middle towards the back – the best I could manage), I was thrilled to see a cinema completely full. It’s not something I’ve experienced very often in my life. The only other times I can think of was the Shrek 2 screening I saw in Bundaberg with my father and cousin, and the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 screening I saw in New York City with my mother. That time we couldn’t even sit together. I made friends with the people around me because the love of Harry Potter transcends the fear of strangers. Also, 17-year-old me didn’t look very threatening.

I’m getting off topic.

Brooke and I took some obligatory selfies, chatted a little about what to expect and settled into watch the preview trailers.

Throughout the movie the whole audience laughed together at the funny parts on screen. We became a collective, I think, united by something we all cared about. Advanced screenings attract a certain type of person, especially an MCU advanced screening. Usually, that type of person is a fan, someone invested in the cultural product we’ve all arrived to consume. The experience was so overwhelmingly positive I managed for the most part to forget about the large man on my other side who really needed a funnel to properly consume all the snacks he was shovelling loudly into his mouth.

If you had asked me then what I thought about the future of cinema, I would have said I hope it doesn’t change. That experience is crystallised in my memory forever. Unfortunately, it is not the only experience I remember.

Being the MCU fan I am, I persuaded my mother to accompany me to see Avengers 2 again the following weekend. We went to the local cinema, Hoyts Warringah Mall, on a Saturday night. The movie was screened in one of the smallest cinemas there. No one laughed out loud. There was a row of teenagers in the front of us who could neither sit still nor shut up. I was relieved when the girls lost interest in the boys and went to sit on the other side of the aisle. The movie was still the same but the people, of which there weren’t many, were completely different.

I’m sad to say the majority of my cinematic experiences is like this. Those truly unique experiences are deteriorating in number. Every now and again a group of people will come together and enjoy something as a collective but, with the development of technology, most will be too lazy to try. The convenience of home viewing will probably win out over travelling to a cinema. I just hope there will still be ways to bring fans together.

Trial by fire

So this week is all about the Internet. As I am sure you are aware, the NBN has been trying to roll out across Australia for a long time. Due to political and industrial busybodies, uptake of the idealistic open-access data network has been severely inhibited. Kate Bowles has likened the roll out to that of television in Australia 50 years ago with a few differences.

I decided to follow up with my friends, Jon, Mary, David and Grace to see how they connect to the Internet. There are a number of observations that interest me.

Grace (85) lives in an area the NBN has no immediate plans for. Not only that, she is signed up with Telstra Bigpond to an internet account with 500 GB of data each month. This is more than double that of my household (200 GB) and I don’t even use all of that, which I explained to her in order to help her understand how egregious her own plan is. What’s worse is that I figured this out a few weeks ago and she still hasn’t changed her plan. Some Telstra employee completely took advantage of a woman who only uses the Internet for email.

David (66) also lives in an area the NBN has not started work in. The M7 separates his suburb from Blacktown and a big expanse of NBN work that is in progress. He also observed that he has more stable internet connection with cable than ADSL2+ but, most interestingly, the 4G range in his area is much more consistent than other parts of Sydney. In fact his preference for Internet access at the moment is using 4G wireless data on his smart phone. (I still have to check he knows how to make his phone into a wifi hotspot.)

Jon (70s) lives in Orange where the majority of the area has NBN available or build preparation in process. However he does not have NBN. He’s in the middle of trying to get it for his farm in Mudgee where there is no work in progress. Our phone conversation was cut off before I could find out what his current Internet provider was.

Finally, Mary, whose Internet access I share, is frequently dropping out due to an ongoing dispute with Telstra Bigpond. I thought it was interesting when Kate observed that technology is an area where children begin to educate their parents and grandparents. Even though Mary asks me how to work things or change settings my opinion on our Internet Service Provider when we moved was ignored. Money still plays a big part in decision-making. Mary doesn’t have any NBN work in her area either.

So far none of these individuals have access to the NBN but it doesn’t seem like most want it either.

If Lasseter Could See TV Now…

Echoing a previous post on the nature of research, today I am thinking about collaborative ethnography. Luke Eric Lasseter (whose name has been unfortunately misspelled in the source I am using) is the starting point for the type of collaborative ethnography I am interested in. This kind of ethnography involves including the conversation between the ethnographer and the “consultant” as a part of the research although that fits into the category of “reciprocal” ethnography. What makes it collaborative is making the research process and/or end product of some use or relevance to the consultant/s. Collaborative ethnography is not a parasitic relationship; it is a symbiotic mutualistic relationship where all involved are benefited.

This is where I think corporate media research in the home fails.

My favourite example is television research as I am personally quite invested in a number of television series. Nielsen invented television ratings. They measure “more than 40 percent of the world’s viewing behavior—hundreds of channels, thousands of programs, and millions of viewers. This measurement breadth allows clients to plan programming and advertising for their ideal audience.” Networks most commonly cancel a show when the viewership from Nielsen is consistently or increasingly low. This is an example of quantitative research that also carries a number of limitations. For example, Ivan has observed a habit of people leaving the television on in the home to simulate company without actually watching whatever it is showing. Nielsen is trying to expand its accuracy by measuring “Social TV” – the number of users engaging with Twitter during the live airing of a television show and also the reach those tweets have.

However Nielsen does not engage in the content produced by Twitterers. That is where the real qualitative data is and this is where collaborative ethnography can change things for the better.

My favourite example is a Tumblr conversation between Arrow showrunner Mark Guggenheim and Rosie Twiggs about the character development of Ray Palmer.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 3.02.26 pm

Twiggs claims a number of inconsistencies and arguably creepy behaviour that she wants Guggenheim to address and improve upon. By actively engaging in social media, Guggenheim has opened himself up to a conversation with his show’s viewers that could lead to a mutually beneficial product. (Here’s the link for further reading.) Now, I don’t know if he will take Twigg’s advice but I personally think he should.

Showrunners, actors and writers all engage with their viewers on social media, primarily Twitter. They are able to see firsthand how the viewers respond but this ultimately has no sway over the continuation or cancellation of the show. There’s a broken link in this chain that really needs to be addressed.

TV through the ages

When I realised I knew individuals in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s I couldn’t resist the opportunity to interview each of them for memories of television in their homes to see how their experiences might compare. Television was introduced to Australian homes starting in 1957. Mary and Jon both grew up in suburban Sydney while Grace and David grew up in rural Australian towns. Jon is an only child while Mary, Grace and David each have younger siblings.

Grace acquired her first television was when her eldest child (Mary) was one year old. Jon first encountered a television in the windows of Grace Brothers on Broadway. He was eleven years old at the time. Before David had a TV in their house, he and his siblings used to sneak over to their next-door neighbour’s place to have a look. The neighbour would come home and kick them out eventually.

“You’d see it in the movies and think ‘Gee, that’d be great [to have a TV at home].’”

All four of them recall the limitations: black-and-white picture, no remote control, specific program periods between 4:30 PM and 10:30 PM. Jon and Mary living in Sydney were also able to see programming in the morning for a few hours. When programming was on hold, there would be static or a test pattern on the screen.

For decades, television sets were three-dimensional shapes and things could be stored on top of them. David recalls the need for a light over the screen in order to see it properly. Mary mentioned the antennae that sat on top.

They each only had one set in the house, since it was so expensive to buy at the time. Eventually Grace and Mary’s house would have a second set. Originally, the sets were in the lounge room, and in Grace and Mary’s informal sitting room, since they had a formal lounge room with stricter rules.

As an only child, Jon would sit on the floor while his parents would sit on the lounge to watch the TV together. They would mostly watch ABC news. Grace didn’t have much time for the television; Mary would watch programs with her brothers and sometimes with their father. The kids would sit on chairs at the front and their father would sit on a big chair at the back. Notable shows include I Dream of Jeannie, Division 4, Homicide, and The Three Stooges. (Mary would watch from near the door so she could hide when they got too violent). David would watch TV on his own, with the whole family or sometimes with just his brothers, usually whomever was awake. He developed the same habits as his father, watching both sets of news (ABC and commercial) and all the popular shows.

When asked to reflect on any meaningful experiences, Jon remarked that he did not have many strong memories of television. “Because it was new, a lot of people had rules about when the television was going to go on. A lot of people predicted that this would be the end of radio. Drive-in movies and picture shows immediately started to lose people. They predicted it would take up a lot of their time. There were all sorts of scare campaigns like, ‘You shouldn’t sit too close because it would affect your eyes or melt your brain.’” Whereas David claimed television “Felt great! Life was boring in the bush” and Mary summarised watching television as “something we did as a family.”

From these four people I’ve found there are a variety of emotions when it comes to the introduction and impact of television on their lives. Some people connect strongly with television while others leave it playing the background as a simulation of company. Nevertheless, the medium is pervasive throughout most family homes.

The story so far…

This is the blog of a twenty-two-year-old student at University of Wollongong. Although this is my fourth year of study, this is only my second semester in the Bachelor of Media and Communications Studies. I have been studying Creative Writing under the Bachelor of Creative Arts (with only two courses to finish) and bouncing from major to major in the Bachelor of Arts until I finally landed in BCMS.

I’ve had an unconventional introduction to the media. Things began with writing for the online forums FictionPress and FanFiction back in the mid-2000s. Due to an ongoing battle with plagiarists on those forums, a large cohort of writers relocated to LiveJournal, where many of them had already been blogging about their writing. LiveJournal as a media platform offered the opportunity of controlling the writers’ audience through creating a closed community. I was a participant until I graduated from high school in 2010 and took a hiatus from writing.

For the next few years, the media space I occupied most was in closed Facebook groups centred on an Australian fashion label. The communities have been described as cult-like. All I can say is this is another example of filtered social interactions. If you are a fan of this brand you are more likely to get along with other fans and share other common interests. There are groups based on region and regularly organise meet-ups where the fans can interact in person. As the community continues to grow, issues of moderation and censorship become points of contention between the members and the volunteer administrators of each group. The values are continually under negotiation with older members nostalgic for the smaller, close-knit groups while newer members bring nothing but enthusiasm and a lack of knowledge for the history of this online community.

This blog has been around since 2013, when I decided to start sharing my creative and academic writing with the world (wide web) again. It was remodelled at the beginning of this year to integrate my BCMS blogging and aggregate a portfolio of all my online work. There are other smaller spaces I’ve occupied but this post is already long enough.