i’m good, thanks for asking

I’ve been replaced.

By, of all things, the not-so-humble smartphone.

Maybe not in the literal sense. Nonetheless, it is hard to grasp the fact that as a sales assistant I was once trusted with dishing out sage fashion advice. Now, I am merely the grunt that greets customers and scans shoes with a sweet-as-candy smile.

It is a replacement so seamless that nobody notices it has happened. After all, I am still *technically* here.

Let me explain in Marsha Berry‘s (2015) ethnographic vignette style:

Jess and Stacy are on the hunt for a pair of shoes for their Year 12 formal. Once they’re shown to the size 8 section, they wave away any offers of help from the store person. Jess intently scrolls through her dedicated Pinterest board, trying to see if any of her saved looks match what she sees on the shelves. Stacy wades her way through the store’s website, attempting to locate the shoes that she fell in love with a few days earlier.

Indecision sets in as they try on their choices. Jess takes some photos of herself wearing different heels and posts them on her Snapchat story. Within minutes her friends reply, all touting advice and admiration. Meanwhile, Stacy FaceTimes her dad—a fruitless effort as Stacy finds his opinions to be stylistically misguided. She then holds her phone up, squinting. She displays a picture of herself wearing her formal dress in her bedroom, envisioning what the shoes would look like as part of the ensemble. Do they match?

The answer—it seems—is yes. The girls pay, one with their Apple Wallet and the other with Afterpay. In politeness, they thank the lady behind the counter and move on to the next store, phones still clutched tightly in hand.

Marsha Berry’s article ‘Out in the open: Locating new camera practices with smartphone cameras’ (2015) highlights the interrelationship between an individual’s daily routine and technology—particularly social media. She describes how these connections between the human and the network are “complex and messy” and enmeshed in our everyday comings and goings.

She observes how our digital interactions “evoke [in others] a sense of what it is like to be here and now in the physical world in a visceral multi-sensory way.” The contemporary experience of space is atomised as places become unbounded and transitional—able to be shared with anyone.

The individuals who engage in this ecology are labelled ‘digital wayfarers’. They share their explorations of the real world on social media with people in their network. Almost everyone now participates in this ‘virtual co-presence’ as it has become a “key factor in our daily encounters with physical places.”

As Jess and Stacy demonstrate, the digital world is now spliced to our lived experience.

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Berry, M 2015, ‘Out in the Open: Locating new vernacular practices with smartphone cameras’, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 53-64

Photo by Ramon Kagie on Unsplash

ritual cinema

Twenty films in, seeing a new Marvel movie at the cinema has become a ritual. Everything is planned out like clockwork and done with the same feeling of fevered excitement.

Every action is unconsciously molded by Hagerstand’s theory of space and time in geography. The constraints of capability, coupling, and authority guide its logistics. Each of these factors contributes toward a shared social experience, elevating patrons beyond mere ‘spectator’ status.

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The sacred rite of Marvel-Movie-Watching can be understood in my most recent experience watching ‘Spiderman: Far from Home’.

My roommate, my friend and I chose the closest location, Wollongong Cinema. We were so keen (as always), we HAD to go on the opening day—but were forced to choose the evening time slot because we were all busy during the day.

Every time, we arrive at least 40 minutes early. We park next to McCabe Park to avoid paying in the centre parking-lots; my roommate drives because I don’t own a car. We do this because Wollongong cinema is very popular and doesn’t have assigned seating. Being early allows us to be first in line outside the cinema door.

This aspect of the ritual relates to ‘capability’. My movements were limited by the lack of local cinemas (a physical factor) and the willingness of my roommate to drive us only so far (an environmental factor).

The next part of the ritual is the candy bar. On this one occasion, we scored $9 tickets, and I also got my usual packet of overpriced peanut M&Ms (the tour-de-force of cinema snacks).

Once we’re stocked up, the real wait begins. We camp in front of the door, marking our territory at the front of the line. I use the bathroom twice to prevent my bladder from forcing me to bail out of the 2-hour 9-minute extravaganza early. (The twice part is a tried and true method.)

The ticketing relates to ‘authority’ held by the cinema. They own the screening and can, therefore, allow entry only whom they choose. The aspects of lining up and taking a bathroom break relate to the constraint of ‘coupling’. They establish ideal conditions for myself as I will need to be ready for the movie to begin at a specific time, and prepared to be there for a length of time there-after.

We rush in once the doors open. Our seats are always near the front—in the first row after the door. Far enough back to see comfortably and with no view of the door lights or people entering/exiting.

Nobody talks during this movie. The only motions are hungry hands pinching up more popcorn. The only sounds, our laughter and cries in unison as the movie hits the right chords of emotion.

We don’t simply watch the movie, we are enveloped by it; together.

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next stop: media ethnography

We all know that one obnoxious person who at some point has said, “I wish we could go back to the good old days where people actually spoke to each other on the train. It’s really sad to see everyone just on their phones and ignoring the real world these days.”

*Cue eye roll*

I’m just going to put it out there… NOBODY WANTS THAT.

People love to keep to themselves. I’d go as far as to say that it’s a national Aussie pastime to ignore fellow commuters as much as humanly possible. Minimum interaction is my no.1 tip for surviving on Sydney trains—this includes avoiding eye contact.

Train2

As a professional in the sport of ‘keeping to myself’, I regularly listen to podcasts on my long commute to Sydney. On this treacherous journey (dubbed as such due to the extended mobile data dead zone), I notice people employing a multitude of other techniques to avoid people: reading, listening to music and… oh wait that’s all I can think of; I guess that what happens when you’re that good at actively ignoring people (whoops).

I find podcasts to be the most effective way of sustaining a degree of separation from the transient masses. Like music, podcasts benefit from the ‘headphones on, don’t f**king talk to me’ rule of 21st-century lore. However, they also take the best parts of other media formats in one easy-to-transport bundle.

If you don’t want to lug a book around everywhere you go, just listen to a podcast.

If you want to watch your favourite Youtuber but don’t have the data, download their podcast before your trip.

If you miss ye olde days of listening to radio shows, then they’re on there too.

And if you want to up-skill in your spare time then educative podcasts are the perfect opportunity.

Train1

I love podcasts because they’re interesting and engaging, with minimal effort from my end. I get to dive into complex stories and plumb the depths of others’ knowledge without going out of my way in my day-to-day. Due to their compact nature, I also don’t have to worry about judgment from the odd sticky-beak like I would when I lose yet another game of Catan (my go-to alternative train activity). They’re also pretty handy when you’re forced to stand up for the entire two-hour journey.

Frequently, I listen to the Hamish and Andy podcast. I might do this as I gaze out the window at the South Pacific, or as I scroll aimlessly across social media in those small pockets of decent 4G connection. The trip goes faster. People don’t talk to me. I’m entertained. And whoever is sitting next to me may be a little disturbed if I accidentally let slip some uncontrolled laughter—

—But it’s hard to see this as a negative if it causes them to inch a bit away from my seat (more space for me—yay!).

So, next time that irritating person comments on how socially checked-out people are on public transport “these days”, after their enlightening 1am trip to Wollongong with a random meth-head… just ignore them. Because you have the wonderful world of podcasts, and they only have the empty hope that that this line of discussion makes them look intelligent.

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Harry Potter, but make it… fashion?

Happy Potter.png

Find where I posted it on Imgur

Robert Entman suggests that “to frame is to select some aspects of a perceived reality and make them more salient in a communicating text.” That means, to choose key parts of something’s identity and piece them together to create a story which highlights those particular desired aspects. This process enables audiences to make sense of the media they consume based on their own prior understandings.

In this way, the perceived identity/reality of something can be changed if the framing is altered—if different parts are chosen to be highlighted.

We all know Harry Potter to differing degrees. I’ve chosen to re-frame it based around this meme, and the idea that Harry Potter is too ‘dark’ for children. The elements I have changed and introduced (made salient), when compared to the original, portray a new identity. The movie is the same and yet, if my poster was attached to it, Harry Potter would likely be preconceived as another crappy kids movie from the mid-2000s with bland characters and a boring plot line. This is largely due to the audience’s existing schemas of kids/low budget/early 2000s/magic movies.

How would you have felt about the Harry Potter movie franchise if it was originally branded in my style? Let me know in the comments!

if ‘sex sells’, why should advertisers avoid the sexual objectification of women?

In 2017, this Ultra Tune advertisement was aired Australia-wide. It racked up no less than 357 complaints, one of which described it as a “disgusting portrayal of women pandering to a supposed male sexual fantasy about dumb sexy women having a water fight.”

The advertisement was found by the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) not to contravene the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) code of ethics. This is in spite of its clear violation of section 2.4 of the code which prohibits images which are “highly sexually suggestive and inappropriate for the relevant audience… [and] not relevant to the product or service being advertised.”

The Ultra Tune ad particularly emphasises the women’s jiggling buttocks and wet shirts.

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These elements, amongst others, strip the women of humanising traits until their only defining feature is their sex appeal, conflating them with objects. An act which is both degrading and exploitive. It is the textbook definition of sexual objectification.

In response to backlash about the depictions, Ultra Tune CEO Sean Buckley commented that, “Women can jump up and down all they want but they’re not our target audience”. He notes that, “the ads work brilliantly” for their target market consisting of “95%” men who he claims “make the automotive decisions”.

What key issues need to be considered?

What Buckley fails to realise is that in being so successful with using sex to sell his company’s services, he is fortifying many social and psychological problems now ingrained in our society.

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Advertisements such as the one from Ultra Tune, relentlessly propagate and normalise the notion that women are in real life what these images portray—sexual and superficial objects which exist for the pleasure of being seen and not heard; that women’s prime and only purpose is as a tool for male arousal.

Women consequently feel pressured to find validation and respect by trying to fulfil these unrealistic sexual and bodily standards.

Women’s Health West remarks that failing in this pursuit often leads to women having a “negative body image” which “can have serious implications for women and girl’s physical and psychological health status, as it is associated with the development of eating disorders, depression, self-harm and suicide.”

It should be noted that in 2018, one year after the release of the Ultra Tune advertisement, the AANA code was updated to specifically restrict the objectification of people. In essence, the portrayal of “sexual appeal which is exploitive and degrading” in advertisements now comes with greater risk for advertisers.

What are the implications for practitioners?

Its a situation of being stuck between a rock and a hard place. Advertisers need to weigh up their social responsibility with their responsibility to do their job effectively. They must ask themselves if there is a better, more empowering way in which they could sell their product. A way which would benefit both their work and society equally.

It is important for advertisers to consider that empowerment sells quite well. Adweek conducted a study in which it was found that, “Women ages 18 to 34 are twice as likely to think highly of a brand that made an empowering ad…” It is likely that these favourable thoughts were converted into a multitude of profitable purchases as Forbes asserts positive perception gives brands an edge in the market.

Who wouldn’t feel good about a brand after watching something like this? >>


In an ideal world, advertisers would empower as much as they objectify women in real life. Sadly, given the nature of business, the most universally important answer to the question, ‘If ‘sex sells’, why should advertisers avoid the sexual objectification of women?’ is: ‘because of the new risk—resultant from the updated AANA code—now involved in presenting objectified images in advertising… and perhaps because of a little guilt.’

If you’re an advertiser and you want to avoid the depiction of sexual objectification then you should consider this checklist written by Brian Niselin, and consider it carefully…

…because if you’re not a ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’ type of person then hopefully you at least have a ‘try not to f*ck everything up’ kind of philosophy.

A New Reality

TWD.gif

Find my .gif on Giphy

Academics like Henry Jenkins tend to highlight the logistical elements of transmedia narratives. Generally, this includes things like “creating different points of entry for different audience segments” and the creation of “complex fictional worlds which can sustain multiple interrelated characters and their stories”. Admittedly, many popular franchises come to mind when I think of this, but the one that stays with me is The Walking Dead. Made up of an unending series of comics, two television series, multiple ‘Tell Tale’ video games, and some more unorthodox media formats, Robert Kirkman’s world of the undead has become a great success.

In considering all these elements, the one thing that strikes me most about transmedia storytelling is its propensity to submerge its audiences into a new reality. By propagating many stories from the one world across multiple channels, a filter bubble is created in which what we perceive to be real is altered. In my remediation I wanted to capture this unnerving side of transmedia narratives whilst enmeshed with the typical aspects I mentioned earlier. I wanted to help people realise how chilling it is to truly see and think about the world in a way that is altered by the unreal.

Thats not to say transmedia narratives are bad, I just think we need to consider how they truly affect us.

You Wouldn’t Steal a Hedwig

Copyright aims to control the spread of memes because the industry wants to control content and ideas. My remediation this week is an example of how this model of highly restrictive copyright is incompatible with the internet.

The internet is open source, no matter how much big businesses try to create control and scarcity. Produsers, such as myself, will always find a way to take someone else’s content and remix it into their own new creation. The internet is optimised for this. There are thousands of online tools available which facilitate the ripping, mixing and mashing of online content. In the battle between prosumers and industry, participatory culture and monopolised material, open and closed formats, the algorithmic measures taken by sites such as YouTube and Soundcloud are insufficient. This week I was told that copyright aims to protect creators but the internet undermines this. Anyone can take an iconic theme song and use an online mashup tool to mix it with a warning video about piracy to create the world’s most ironic banger.

The Digital Public Sphere

The digital age has given Habermas’ classic idea of the ‘public sphere’ a face lift. No longer do we learn about and discuss the news, current events, and social/cultural/political issues of the moment solely from physical sources (legacy media) and face-to-face interactions. Digital and social media have heralded a new age of discourse, allowing us as audience members to actively engage (debate, deliberate and support) with these issues as we discover them in real-time.¹

Twitter is the most prolific micro-blogging platform around: a melting-pot of global, digital conversation and opinion. The public sphere of choice for instant connection with a diverse, mass audience. It has the ability to expose one to an array of thoughts and facts beyond an individual’s personal realm of understandings. A multiplicity arising from following and viewing any member’s tweets, and the ability to view tweets from people one has not subscribed to, through another’s use of the ‘retweet’ button.

Within the sphere of Twitter, exist sphericules of limited subject matter.

The bcm110 hashtag has created a sphericule in the form of a forum (which I am part of) facilitating the UOW Communications and Media student’s learning of their chosen craft, operating through a ‘thrown in the deep end’ approach. We learn about media through using it, and by making our own mistakes with it. We learn from the relevant articles we share with each other, and through the opportunity it affords us to share our own external media creations with a willing and understanding audience.

Our sphericule is not saturated with hot debate of current issues (such as the Twitter-popular gun control debate), but, these current issues may sometimes arise when related to an area of media study. This is because the #bcm110 forum is made up of a cozy family of students and ex-students who have taken the ‘Introduction to Communications and Media’ class, and the wonderful professors who make this class possible. Twitter users not a part of this like-minded collective aren’t strictly excluded from this sphericule, however when they do come across it, a lack of understanding of the subject matter may hinder their own involvement.

The media’s role in our little sphericule is quite different to its typical role within the broader sphere of Twitter. Usually the media would try to generate discussion and convert opinion by disseminating and selling their own ideologies. In the #bcm110 forum however, as a result of our use and applications of the ‘space’ as a learning tool, we turn the media to our own advantage, picking it apart and examining it in detail so we can understand its inner workings, allowing us to become better media creators.

If you have any more thoughts about the digital public sphere then join the ‘Young Dreamer’ sphericule by commenting down below.


¹ Thirroul, S 2018, The Media Theory Toolbox’, lecture, University of Wollongong, delivered 27 March

The Internet: Connective, Collective

Crisis Averted

In 2018, the internet dominates over legacy media. Its network configuration affords dialogic conversation from many people to many other people. Media can now be consumed, produced and remixed by anyone, due to its inherent ubiquitous connectivity (i.e. it is cheap, participatory and immediate). Social networks allow for a new mode of participation where we can coordinate and mobilise in response to real world issues and events.

This idea of ubiquitous connectivity has implications which are evident in real life circumstances. Clay Shirky discusses how the internet enabled citizen journalism in China’s 2009 earthquakes, which prompted me to make this gif as a summation of the general process of empowered network participation. In short, people were reporting on what was happening as it happened by posting videos and images of the devastation in China. Not long after, it was discovered that the reason why so many schools collapsed was because of shady government dealings. Through the internet, citizens were able to coordinate and mobilise protests both online and in real life; they were able to share their personal stories and collaborate on solutions to their problems. All this was done instantly and free of charge, having massive and severe consequences across the nation.

Shirky’s TED Talk examines these implications in much more depth and is a really interesting watch. Leave a comment on what you found most interesting about his talk.

Puppets and Our Masters

Wk 4 We Own You

GIPHY made by me, images: Stokes , Murdoch , Singleton , Gordon

Bruce Gordon, Rupert Murdoch (and Lachlan Murdoch), John Singleton, Kerry Stokes and CBS.

They’re the purple circle of puppeteers who manipulate our legacy media. They’re Australia’s media industry owners, and by extension, they own our thoughts, our actions and our attitudes, all in alignment with their own philosophies… Or do they?

It is true that having such a small group of media owners should cause anxieties about limiting the diversity of ideologies reaching Australian responders. This matters because people believe that we will be manipulated easily, like all passive responders, being un-critical in our judgments and accepting all information at face-value. Thus allowing the media owners to manipulate the socio-political climate of Australia.¹

Robert Manne for the ABC proved this in part when he wrote:

Rupert Murdoch, “has… use(d) the 70 per cent of the national and statewide press he owns to ensure that the values drawn from his right-wing political philosophy remain dominant within the political mainstream.” ²

What this perspective does not consider is the prevalence of ‘citizen-journalism’—that is:
“The collection, dissemination, and analysis of news and information by the general public, especially by means of the Internet.” ³

This other form of journalism, proliferated easily online to a large audience, may combat the closed-minded nature of legacy media by providing a refreshing assortment of ideologies. This is done by presenting various news and opinion stories, that may not have been told by mainstream media or may have been presented with particular bias by mainstream media. This type of journalism inherently facilitates its audience’s activity as the platforms used are often dialogic, which enables audience discussion and critical thinking to occur.

At the same time however, we can never fully trust citizen-journalism. It is difficult for responders to know where citizen-journalists acquired their sources—are they credible? Are they from the legacy media, and by extension the ‘puppeteers’, whose views we are trying to evade?

Regardless of which source we are seeking news from, trust must never be fully given. It is prudent to make sure that what we read:

  • has been written by someone with credibility on the issue,
  • is clear in its meaning,
  • is transparent about its biases,
  • and can be corroborated by other sources or explains reasonably why it cannot be corroborated by other sources.

Please use your powers of critical thinking and discuss in the comments what you think about this issue. Should we be concerned about media ownership? Do you think it matters?


¹ Middlemost, R 2018, Media Industries and Ownership’, lecture, University of Wollongong, delivered 20 March

² Manne, R 2011, ‘Power without responsibility: Rupert Murdoch’s Australian,’ ABC, 5 September, viewed 25 March <http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2011/09/05/3309666.htm&gt;

³ ‘citizen journalism’ unknown, in Oxford Living Dictionary, Oxford University Press, viewed 25 March, <https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/citizen_journalism&gt;