communications

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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Social Media is the Liquid Labour of Love

Yes, there’s been a major shift in jobs. Industrialisation is no longer the name of the game; information has taken over. As such, there are a lot more people sitting on their bums in front of computer screens either at home or in open plan offices, churning out information after information. If we’re not looking at laptops we’re handcuffed to smart phones, bombarded by emails and messages and the occasional phone call. (My, how times have changed!)

If the worker must always be available, consider your online social presence. Even though you may be asleep, your Facebook profile never turns off. You could be receiving messages all night long. The same can be said for any social network on the Web. What makes this more confusing is the pervasiveness of jobs available where you are paid to be online liking Instagram pictures and commenting on Facebook posts as a brand representative.

I spent the day recording how I interacted with my online world in the following podcast. (Typically I don’t have this many notifications first thing in the morning but the last few days have been an exception.)

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 pretty lights are deadly

When Morse’s dot-dash telegraph was in full swing in 1859, the strongest solar storm on record occurred. In a three-stage process X-ray and ultraviolet-soaked sunlight ionised Earth’s upper atmosphere, disrupting radio waves; followed by a radiation storm; and closing with a coronal mass ejection (CME) that collided with Earth’s magnetic field, causing powerful electromagnetic fluctuations. It is these fluctuations that caused telegraphs to spark and shock workers, disrupting communications across the globe.

Since 1859, there have been more solar storms. In March 1989, a CME caused a blackout across the city of Quebec, resulting in a halt of all trading on Toronto’s stock market.

Funny how the thing that gives us life could take away so much? It really makes you stop and realise how fragile this delicate network of nodes and servers is.

My digital artefact: WWYD8

It’s the last week of uni and I’ve been really hammering my 3 dating profiles (Tinder, OKCupid and Plenty of Fish) and even getting some submissions! Check out the Tumblr here:

Click the picture to see the Tumblr!

Click the picture to see the Tumblr!

And there’s also a Facebook page and a Twitter account to expand the audience reach!

Candid Conversations with my Mum Part One: How to make a podcast.

I struggled for months with the thought of having to make a podcast. Then I realised: if you can blog about blogging, you should be able to podcast about podcasting. My mum and I have some interesting chats.

I hope you learned about how making a podcast is related to craft and digital making. Or had a bit of a laugh at our expense. Either or.

#iwishmyteacherknew how much this would have helped me 8 years ago

With the rise of the Internet and the reign of social media, the number of public spheres available to us as private citizens has multiplied. “What is a public sphere?” you may ask. A German guy called Jurgen Habermas fantasised about an 18th century coffee house where anyone could go for news and to debate about ideas. Hannah Arendt likened the public space to a Greek polis. Both examples are limited in the gender and class represented and, as a result, academics have disputed this theoretical framework on many levels. Nevertheless, I agree with Habermas and Arendt in that there are places available for anyone to speak their mind about “activities of the state, or issues of larger socio-political significance”.

If you want your opinion to be heard, just Tweet about it.

Kyle Schwartz is third grade teacher at an inner city school in Denver, Colorado. Every year she runs a writing exercise for her students, giving them an opportunity to tell her something they wish she would know. On March 27 this year, Kyle began sharing some of her students’ messages on her Twitter account. The social media trend has exposed some startling truths about the circumstances children are living in.

Many other teachers saw this and started running the same exercise in their classrooms. The hashtag #iwishmyteacherknew “caught fire”, with many news media websites publishing articles on the phenomena. Even the Sydney Morning Herald had something to say, showing how pervasive this topic of conversation has become.

Twitter has provided a public sphere in which these socio-political issues can be discussed and addressed. By trending on Twitter and catching the interest of news media websites, the discussion and awareness has spread beyond one classroom, a teacher and her students, to classrooms across the world. A Plus writer Mandy Valez is one of many writers using this as an opportunity to raise awareness about the state of living for children, citing statistics such as “one in five kids are supported by food stamps”.

In contemporary public spheres, there is always a level of mediation to be considered. There are certain gatekeepers who decide what does and doesn’t get to be discussed. In this example, the first gatekeeper would be Kyle Schwartz herself. She picked through her students’ responses and posted each individually over a period of a few weeks. Any ensuing discussion on Twitter would be mediated by certain formulas or algorithms built into the website code to scope out socially inappropriate content. Following that, the writers from various news media groups choosing to talk about this topic become mediators in sharing the information however they see fit, within the parameters of their editors.

From what I can see, this example of public discussion seems to be fairly unmediated in that most topics of discussion remain ongoing. I think this is because the subject matter was unexpected and garners sympathy from most viewers. A sympathetic topic of discussion is less likely to be silenced and, who knows, maybe some real change may come from this. At least these students’ secrets are finally out.

ACMA knows what’s what… What?

The last text I critiqued was BuzzFeedVideo’s ‘People try the Apple Watch for the first time’ video. This week I am looking at ACMA’s blog post ‘Supply & demand: Catch-up TV leads Australians’ online video use’. Up until this point, I didn’t even know ACMA had a blog, let alone read any of the posts there.

ACMA is the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the tagline on their website being “Making media and communications work for all Australians”. For more about what they do, check out this video:

This post is a part of their mission to provide a “solid platform of evidence to inform decision-makers”. It’s a very long read, divided into 7 sections with an introduction and endnotes, providing sources cited throughout the text, to bookend the five other sections of the article. The report focuses specifically on data about “professionally produced long-form video content” and does not cover short-form clips, user-generated content or other material such as peer-to-peer file sharing. Basically this means they focus on the legal means of acquiring content that is created by socially sanctioned industry professionals where legal proceedings are more likely to be carried out.

Following the introduction, there is a section on device usage comparing television usage to other devices such as desktop and laptop computers, tablets and smartphones, etc. While televisions remain the dominant device for accessing broadcast media, the increase in variety of devices, services and networks has resulted in an increase for other devices especially given the introduction of online video content. This type of content is most typically viewed on computers or internet-enabled televisions. The article then details the services offered online and by whom, showing ABC iview as the longest running catch-up service and remains the most highly visited service. You can also see a breakdown of different services separated by the five types of providers. After this, there are more statistics to make up a section on “key trends among Australia’s home internet users”. The data becomes slightly more qualitative when looking at the reasons why Australians access online video content. Finally, the article lists some upcoming influential factors in the future of online video content for Australia, including the arrival of Netflix and the NBN rollout.

Throughout the article there are graphics, tables and graphs depicting quantitative analysis and data. This information is sourced from various different organisations both internal but mostly external to the government organisation. Therefore, the article basically acts as an amalgamation of statistics and data from various locales, pulling them together and displaying them in an aesthetically pleasing albeit lengthy collection of graphics with text explaining the data depicted and supplementing context and occasionally extra data.

I thought this article would be relevant to my upcoming research project on how Australian university students access their favourite television programs. I’m glad I have realised the limitations in this particular article as I am very interested in both legal and illegal means of access.

Your crash course in Russian roulette research ethics

“How about we get a subject and then put the subject to sleep, and then cover him with blood and chicken feathers and then put a gun in his hand and then scream inside of his ear.”

Because that’s not a recipe for disaster.

This is a fictional experiment carried out by a psychologist at a university in the United States, from the movie The Five-Year Engagement (2012). Ming originally presents this research idea at a bar where all the residents in the post-doctorate psychology program are messing with the new girl, Violet. It is taken as a joke but, at the end of the movie, the video shown below is emailed to Violet.


(I apologise for the poor quality of this video.)

There are a number of fundamental aspects to consider when conducting any kind of research study that requires human participation. I’m going to run through the ones mentioned in ‘Research Ethics in Media and Communication‘ in relation to this fictional experiment.

Footage from The Office

Footage from The Office

  1. Voluntary participation. It’s unclear in the clip whether the participant is voluntary. I suspect he may have been persuaded to take part by some kind of compensation from Ming.
  2. Power relations between researchers and their participants. As mentioned before, it is unclear why this man has partaken in this experiment. It is possible he’s homeless and was lead to believe he would have somewhere to sleep or some monetary compensation for his role.
  3. Do no harm to participants. When the experiment was first suggested, Ming’s peers consider the experiment outrageous because of the exact nature of the experiment. Even if the participant did not harm himself with the gun upon waking (as we do not know if it is loaded), he would definitely suffer some kind of mental or emotional trauma. This goes directly against any guidelines an ethics committee may have in place.
  4. Informed consent. Participants should fully understand the possible negative effects of taking part in this experiment.
  5. The experiment has been recorded in audio-visual format; the participant’s identity is clearly captured and identifiable.
  6. The aforementioned video has been shared beyond the scope of any confidentiality agreement, as Violet is no longer an employee at the same place where Ming works. It is also possible Ming performed the experiment without the support of his supervisor or the university.
  7. Concealment and deception. This particular scenario requires the element of surprise in order to capture a genuine reaction to the stimulus. However, knowing the various stimuli involved, concealing the incorporation of blood and a gun and genuine surprise would create unethical scenario by jeopardising the safety of all involved. It is clear Ming has deceived the participant.
  8. We don’t know if the participant was debriefed but this example would definitely require debriefing as both concealment and deception were involved in the process.

Ethical considerations are not limited to this. Another set of principles apply to the publication of data from a research study as well. This result seems self-evident, rendering the experiment unnecessary and therefore cruel. This fictional character, Ming, got what he deserved.