And How Does That Make You Feel?: A Reflection

26 Sep

I have never loved the idea of blogging, which is not ideal given that I am a fourth year media and communications student. However, I can honestly say that with the guidance of this subject I have come to enjoy it and am even considering continuing to blog after this subject has come to an end. Why the change of heart you ask? Well…

Although I have opinions and beliefs, I have never been one to voice them. I’m the kind of person that will stop talking, let others talk and just listen, because I value listening and I like to save face. But this blog has given me the power to discuss topics that are relevant to our modern day society, which I am very interested in and which allow fellow readers and bloggers to contribute. You don’t need to have a vast knowledge of the topics being discussed to contribute because they surround and consume us in overwhelming amounts. So much so that sometimes we don’t even notice it. This is one major detail that I have come to realise thus far. For those of you playing at home, these ‘topics’ I am referring to are those pertaining to media use in public spaces – how this has changed over time and how it continues to influence our interaction with one another.

In almost all of my blogs I have included an image or two, which have complemented my writing. I find the use of images effective in enhancing writing and adding to the overall aesthetics of the blog. I know personally that I will sometimes see a words filling up the screen and become disinterested, especially if I’m not actually required to read it. A picture can sum up a thousand words. It tells your potential readers what your blog is about with a simple glance and ultimately entices them in to continue reading. In my opinion, a blog post should be concise, entertaining and informative, which is something I try to maintain throughout all my posts. The use of images is one tool I have used to do this.

As well as using images, I have sourced out academic references in order to support my arguments. These included references from scholars, as well as ideas from fellow bloggers like myself (although slightly more well-known in the blogosphere). More than half of the blogs I have posted throughout the course of this subject have required me to source information from friends, family members and from complete strangers going about their day and I found these sources most valuable. This is because the use of media is becoming increasingly prevalent by the second with the rate of technological advancements that sometimes we aren’t even aware of the ways in which we interact with it and with one another. Taking the time to ask questions and to just sit and watch the way people behave in relation to public media spaces was very revealing. I am also much more aware of my own interaction with media – privately and publicly.

An image I used in my first blog ‘Publicly Private and Privately Public’, represents the change over time in media use. In my opinion, certain media technologies are distracting, often unnecessary and consuming in ways beyond our control. We are turning into cyborgs and I still can’t decide whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. Are new media technologies enhancing our way of life or slowly but surely breaking it down?

I have noticed that with more confidence in my blogging has come more positive feedback, as well as some new followers, and it is very exciting to have this response. Another effect tool I have used  is to find a common or popular thread by which to discuss your topic. My blog post ‘”Oh My God, the Fan Fiction!”’ used the example of Harry Potter to discuss fandoms and media fans. I had 13 other bloggers reference this post in their own. This shows how popular topics can be great points of engagement with the audience. I now have 15 happy (I hope) followers.

In terms of writing for public readership, there are few tactics that I have used. Popular culture references are attractive to a large and varying audience, because it is already highly exposed and well-known information. This makes less interesting topics more interesting and relatable, which is important when sharing your ideas with the public and appealing to a large readership. Some of the issues raised, such as piracy, may not be of much concern to some people. To make this more interesting I used the example of hit TV show Game of Thrones in my blog ‘Piracy Prevails’. On the other hand, I feel that the topics discussed and issues raised are not difficult to engage with, because they surround us every day. Anyone using technology or being exposed to it on a daily basis can see this.

One of the most challenging aspects of blogging has been finding relevant and reliable sources. For the purpose of keeping my blogs entertaining I tried to find references from other bloggers or similar platforms, rather than academics. With the birth and growth of the ‘produser’ the public responds more eagerly to the thoughts and ideas of people they can relate to. However, this was challenging, as these types of sources are not always reliable.

Overall, my blogging experience has been insightful and has given me incentive to continue to blog. I have found a space to collect and share my ideas, thoughts and opinions, and engage with a public audience in a mediated environment.

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Public Screens + Ikea = A Good Time

22 Sep

Yesterday, with my mum and my sister, I made the ever-anticipated visit to Ikea. With my sister moving out and myself taking over two bedrooms (thanks, sis), it has become somewhat of an annual event for us. Ikea, with its maze of furniture, home wares and textiles, is not just a place one visits to shop – it’s an entire experience enhanced by modern-day technologies.

I have always been amazed at the organisation of the store. The set-up and processes put in place so that every customer has a smooth and enjoyable experience often go unnoticed because they simply work and are easy to follow. It has a snowball effect – you don’t really know what you’re in for or why you even went to Ikea, but before you know it you’ve purchased yourself a new bedroom and a handful of decorative vases (all for a steal might I add). However, this time I went to Ikea with the task of this blog in mind. I was focused; nothing could distract me, except for that yellow chair that led us through the checkout and to the waiting area to collect my oversized item…

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It was at this point as I sat there feeling slightly defeated, staring mindlessly at this screen, that I realised this was exactly what I had been looking for! Right in front of me mounted on the wall was a screen, which notified people when they’re order was placed, being processed and finally ready to take home. This screen was put in place first and foremost to keep people informed on where they’re order was at but more importantly to distract and occupy. This was a creative way to distract people from their long waits and avoid the asking of many questions from impatient customers, as they watch their order move up the queue. While some people stood patiently with their hands on their hips, others passed the time on their phones. Was this screen necessary to get the job done? Not really. Did it make the job easier? Indeed!

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This means of mediating the crowd resulted in a calm and organised atmosphere, adding to the desired ambience of the public space of Ikea. The multitude of screens that surround and compliment our everyday activities continue to construct public spaces and mediate interaction within the public sphere. I had spent all week looking for a ‘screen’ when there were probably several right in front of my eyes. I think this is interesting because, as a digital native, seeing a screen is second nature. It seems that for me they often go unnoticed. This leads me to question who certain screens are intended for and who they are actually reaching. The ability of technology to overpower and consume society has always concerned me. So I ask: Are public screens necessary? Are they serving a beneficial purpose? Or are they unnecessarily distracting people from more important things?

Piracy Prevails

16 Sep

pirates

‘Stopping online piracy is like playing the world’s largest game of Whac-A-Mole.’ This is how the New York Times described piracy in August last year – like a domino effect. If you take (or try to take) one pirate down, many more will appear. (Bilton, 2012)

With the advanced state of media today, the possibilities of users to become ‘produsers’ are seemingly endless, which places a great strain on all producers, authors and media companies alike. Not only is it easier for the general public to participate in piracy for a number of reasons, whether it be to save money or time, but it is in a way encouraged by society as the act of piracy becomes a socially constructed norm, regardless of the fact that it is illegal. This technicality becomes a mere side note simply because everybody’s doing it and they’re not getting caught.

Torrent Freak is a site dedicated to file sharing, copyright and piracy news. It’s editor, Ernesto Van Der Sar, says ‘Piracy won’t go away’.  Van Der Sar also says the means by which people download is inevitably changing along side advancing media technologies. Music and movies can be streamed at the click of a button, which is becoming harder to trace and stop. (Bilton, 2012)

‘Whacking one big mole created hundreds of smaller ones’. 

                                                                      – Bilton, 2012   

Popular TV show Game of Thrones is a perfect example of the power and dominance of online media piracy. Statistics show that Game of Thrones is ‘downloaded illegally more times each week that it is watched on cable television.’ (Bilton, 2012)

The problem television broadcasters are facing is that even if they are to put their shows online and give people the option to pay a small price to access them, people will continue to find new and creative ways to access the content they want. Also the profit that can be gained via charging online users is dismal – ‘because of the monopoly power of the cable companies and content creators, they might actually make less money’ (Wilson, as quoted in Bilton, 2012). Solving the piracy problem is therefore not a priority for big media companies.

While some people want to see an end to piracy and advocate piracy laws, Van Der Sar says that companies should focus on experimenting with new ways to distribute content. The laws that are currently in place are clearly not working. They have been outdated and outsmarted. A solution could be found in stricter laws, online piracy being more closely monitored and greater action being taken when it occurs. We all know that people are illegally downloading content every day, but do we ever hear about anything actually being done about it?

With the accessibility that new media provides, can piracy really be stopped?

 

 

Reference:

Bilton, N 2012, ‘Internet Pirates Will Always Win’, The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/05/sunday-review/internet-pirates-will-always-win.html?_r=0

“Oh my God, the Fan fiction!”

8 Sep

As an avid Harry Potter fan myself, I decided to find out what fan based phenomenoms I’ve been missing out on. I’ve read the books and seen the movies over and over again, but after a little investigation I found I am nowhere near as dedicated as some. The impact of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series has been phenomenal, with responses in the form of fiction, visual art, academic articles, fan conventions and online forums just to name a few.

The online Potter Fandom provides a place for fans to access various fan material and be inspired to make their own. It brings fantasy to life, which in my opinion is at the core of its appeal. When you are so intrigued and fascinated by something, it is only natural to want more and to share this with people that are on the same page. While sourcing more information on the Harry Potter online fandom, I found myself absorbed once again and wondering why I had never explored this world before!

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One part of the Harry Potter fandom that I knew little about was ‘slash’ fan fiction, which escalated after Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore was announced gay. Slash fan fiction – a genre of fan fiction concerned with sexual relationships – erupted as fans created their own erotic stories about Dumbledore and his childhood friend Gellert Grindelwald. Slash fans took the pair, with subtle hints they picked up from the original books, and created stories, art and even essays about the relationship that could have been.

Although the Slash fan fiction response was huge, there is still so much more to the Harry Potter Fandom. It is hard to believe that people can dedicate so much of their time to something that is essentially make believe, however all of these things that they do seem to bring it to life. I think that if people want to create and contribute to a world that they can be a part of, escape to and build relationships within, then who are we to say that it’s wrong, weird or even obsessive.

The topic of fandoms has made me think a lot about the reasons why people are involved with them and although it isn’t perfectly clear to me, I can see it’s appeal. I think they are often negatively criticised and people are considered to be obsessive, absorbed and out of touch with reality. But how are these communities any different from say a sporting community.

Perhaps some people feel that basing a community on something that is essentially fictitious is difficult to legitimise and come to terms with. In my opinion it encourages creative power and imagination that many people lack, as well as empowering those that might be hesitant to be themselves and interact with social groups in other respects. If people want to believe in something bigger and incredibly fascinating then I think that’s just great.

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Sources:

Tosenberger, C 2008, “Oh my God, the Fanfiction!”: Dumbledore’s Outing and the Online Harry Potter Fandom, Children’s iterature Association Quarterly, Vol. 33, Number 2

Image 1 – http://www.photographytips.com.au/waiting-for-harry-potter/

Image 2 – http://www.vview.co.za/2011/08/dear-harry-potter-world-sincerely-your-fans-pt-3/

 

Outsmarted

31 Aug

Cohen (1972) describes moral panics as conditions or episodes considered by a person or group of persons as threats to societal values and interests. In the past we’ve seen moral panics associated with the sexual revolution, feminist movements and more recently, violence in the media and its affect on human behaviour. With incredible technological advancements, the concern I see today is to do with society’s media use and the effect this is having on audiences in social settings. Cars that park themselves, phones that talk back to you and glasses that take photos for you… I think some people aren’t sure whether to embrace it or be afraid.

It’s true that smart phones make things easier (they aren’t called smart phones for nothing!) but are they distracting us from the real world? Various articles have referred smart phone use as ‘unhealthy’, a ‘gross distraction’ and a cause of ‘rude behaviour’. While some of these descriptions seem a little extreme, you can see where these ideas might be stemming from.

The following short film, produced by LA-based actress Charlene deGuzman, is titled ‘I Forgot My Phone’. It uses everyday realistic scenarios to show how isolating smart phone usage can be – whether you are the one using your smart phone or the one surrounded by these people.

I am one of those people out at lunch with their smart phone in hand. Guilty..! I don’t think there is a problem with using your smart phone to enhance the conversation, but I do think it is a problem when it is distracting you from what you’re supposed to be doing. When you use your smart phone to avoid conversation, as a shield, that’s a problem too. Tell me if I’m being over paranoid but I think this is making us poor communicators in real life. Although I don’t like to admit it, I know that I would rather send an email or text than make a phone call, and this is because our generation was born in to technology. Communicating with technology is within our comfort zone. But then I ask myself – with the growing presence of technology, is face to face communication necessary? I think yes, absolutely, but I’m sure others would disagree.

Is media communication enough, or do we need to make more of an effort to communicate organically?

 

 

 

Sources:

Cohen, S 1972, ‘Folk Devils and Moral Panics’, London: Macgibbon and Kee

deGuzman, C 2013, ‘I Forgot My Phone’, accessed via YouTube.com

Kadlec, D 2012, ‘How Smart Phones Are Changing the Way We Bank, Drive, Have Sex, and Go to the Bathroom’, http://business.time.com/2012/06/22/how-smart-phones-are-changing-the-way-we-bank-and-drive/, accessed 31/08/13

Number 96

25 Aug

My Italian grandparents are fanatical about The Bold and the Beautiful and Days of our Lives, so when I asked my Mum to recall her most memorable TV watching experience from when she was younger, I was surprised when she answered with Number 96. First of all it wasn’t either of the shows I mentioned above and I had never heard of it. So I asked her ‘what is Number 96?’

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Number 96 was an Australian soap opera set in a Sydney apartment block, which aired in the 70s. I instantly thought of Friends and decided this show must have been alright! Mum continued to tell me about the show saying that she probably shouldn’t have been watching it. She said it wasn’t ‘child-friendly’. I did some of my own research and found that the show focused on adult themes including adultery, drug use, sex, racism and the list goes on. I found this very interesting, because as I discovered doing last weeks blog activity, my Mum wasn’t allowed to go to the movies on her own. But Mum and her two brothers watched Number 96 every week night at 8.30pm, together with their parents on their ‘big box’ colour television. 

The fact that my Mum and her brothers were too young to be watching Number 96 didn’t matter because it was something they did as a family. My grandparents were strict and it seems that as long as their kids were home where they could see them, letting them watch an adult rated TV show made them cool again…just joking – but you can see where I’m going with this.

What has really stood out to me while talking to my family about their cinema and television experiences is the effect that their culture had on these experiences. And although our family still very much identifies with our Italian culture, it doesn’t have much of an impact on my media audience experiences today, as it did for my Mum, uncles and aunts as they were growing up. More importantly, although getting information on the topic from my family was limited, because of the different experiences they had with media, I can still notice a change from then to now in audiences, places and spaces of media interaction.

 

Image source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068114/  

Out With the Old and In With the New (Media)

25 Aug

Embarking on this week’s activity – to interview someone older than myself on their early experiences in cinema spaces – the first person I went to was my mum. I asked ‘Mum, do you remember going to the movies when you were younger?’ to which she replied ‘no, I wasn’t allowed.’ The next day my aunty came over and I asked her ‘Zia, did you go to the movie’s when you were younger?’ to which she also replied ‘no, I wasn’t allowed’. You might have picked up by now that I come from an Italian family, which is a completely different story if we’re talking cultures and public outings. But before even hearing about a movie experience, I’m already getting an idea of how different interaction was in public media spaces 30 or so years ago.

After a few failed attempts within my family, I went to visit my Australian neighbour Janet. Janet lived in Wombarra, a northern seaside suburb about 25 minutes drive from Wollongong, which in the 60s was considered ‘the sticks’. She was about 15 years, on a date with a young boy and they caught the bus in to Wollongong together. Woonona cinema was closer but going in to the ‘city’ was a treat. The pair went to the Regent Theatre, which no longer exists, to see Jaws, which was the only movie showing there at the time. ‘It was the talk of the town!’.

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Her date bought them two tickets to the matinee screening and they got there early so that they could get in first and get the balcony seats. Janet recalled how excited she was because this was her first time going to the Regent Theatre and to go to the movies at that age was a lot of fun – it was a special event. She was amazed when she walked in to the theatre’s foyer, looking up at all the light bulbs on the roof and counting how many had blown. When they got to their balcony seats, which were the same price as the lower seats, Janet loved being able to look down and see everyone below her. The theatre was full because everyone was out to see Jaws. She said the seats weren’t that comfortable, not like they are now, but she was just really happy to be there. It didn’t matter how uncomfortable she was because it was worth it to get to go on a date at the ‘pictures’. When I asked Janet if she would go back there again, she laughed and said if it opened again she would. She said the old-fashioned style of the theatre was beautiful and you don’t see theatres like that anymore.

 *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

With the overwhelming presence of technology that surrounds us in the 21st century, comes an inevitable change in audience interaction. These technologies and their applications not only allow us to easily access anything and anyone at anytime, but also appease the need to always be connected. This makes privacy a very fluid notion.

The most obvious change in social interaction that I have observed recently is that people still want to be in public – go to the movies, meet friends for lunch at a cafe, go shopping – but they do it with an iPhone in hand, a laptop on the table, earphones in. It seems we are torn between being present in public and being connected by other means. I think sometimes we feel that being so well connected actually counts as being public and social.

In her master thesis, ‘Interacting in Public Space – How New Media Influence Our Behaviour in Public Space’, Suse Miessner (2012) discusses how this new media revolution has lead to a shift in human behaviour in the public sphere and therefore a change in public spaces. The boundaries between public spaces and private media use have almost disappeared.

There has been too many occasions when I am out having lunch or dinner and every person at the table has their mobile phone out and we are actually discussing whatever it is we are doing on our phones – checking in on Facebook, uploading a photo on Instagram, checking emails, Tweeting, ‘did you see Beyoncé’s new hairdo!?’. It’s harmless fun but deep down I’m thinking…this is bad. What next? What ever happened to good old-fashioned tech-free conversation?

Jeremy Wood (2012) says that a public space is determined by whether or not it is open to the public. According to Wood, being at home at the dinner table is not a public space. Is it ok then to have my phone out or be on my laptop in this social setting? The big debate here is whether or not this kind of behaviour is socially acceptable. Has society already accepted it?

Is this publicly private form of interaction a good thing or a bad thing? And how will media use affect public and social encounters in another 20 years?

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Sources:

Miessner, S 2013, ‘Interacting in Public Space – How New Media Influence Out Behaviour in Public Space’, http://www.susemiessner.org/portfolio/spacenew-media/interacting-in-public-space-how-new-media-influence-our-behavior-in-public-space/

Wood, J 2012, ‘Distinguishing Between Public and Private Place’, http://www.privacyobservatory.org/current/100-distinguishing-between-public-and-privatenplaces