The Real Cost of Your iPhone

It is easy in today’s media-saturated climate to turn a blind eye to the impacts of the technologies we use. With the constant need to be up-to-date with the latest digital trends, our focus often drifts from understanding the real stories behind the production of our shiny new gadgets.

“Ordinarily concealed from public view,” the supply chain for some of our most favourite pieces of technology relies on the outsourcing of unfair labour to workers in sweatshops in South East Asia (Chan, 2013). With recent trends looking into the human impact of our media use, revelations regarding the manufacturing of these products have emerged and raised concern about corporate business models used by large companies at the expense of their overseas workers.

In 2010, all eyes were laid on ‘the most valuable brand on the planet,” (BBC, 2014) Apple Inc. and their relationship to Taiwanese owned supplier, Foxconn Technology Group. A total of 18 Foxconn workers, working on the Apple iPhone production line,  attempted suicide at factories located in Chengdu, Guanlan and Longhua, China. 14 of them died instantly and the others were left with debilitating injuries. One of these survivors was 17 year old Tian Yu, who said the working conditions on Foxconn’s iPhone line were filled with long working hours, denial of dinner breaks and refusal for days off even after enduring overtime for a number of weeks. With Foxconn’s business model centred around time-efficiency to meet the global demand of Apple products, workers who were too exhausted to continue working quickly were publicly humiliated by managers in front of their co-workers (Chan, 2013).

With these unfair conditions publicly revealed to the world stage, Apple and Foxconn were quick to state they were committed to improving the working conditions on their production lines overseas. In 2012, after news broke of a protest condutced by Foxconn workers who threatened to jump from the factory roof if working conditions did not improve, Apple and Foxconn renewed their commitmentto their Chinese workers  by launching a 15 month action plan by to rectify the situation (Blackden, 2012).

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Chinese workers falling asleep from exhaustion on Apple’s production line. Image source: BBC

In December, 2014, providing an in-depth look at Apple’s responsibility to workers in their supply chain, BBC Panorama aired a program to test if Apple had kept their promises to assist their Chinese workers. Titled ‘Apple’s Broken Promises,’ its apparent that the BBC found some gaps in Apple’s commitment. Undercover reporters posing as Chinese workers found similar working conditions to Yu’s at Pegatron, an Apple supplier in Shanghai, China.  There, workers were forced to sign worksheets that were used to document employee’s willingness to work overtime, and were denied requests for a day off after working 12 hour shifts continuously over 18 days. Footage of workers falling asleep on the job from exhaustion also demonstrated the horrible conditions (Bilton, 2014). The following footage summarises BBC Panorama’s findings:

In response to the BBC report, Apple CEO Tim Cook was quick to say it was offensive and biased. In an open letter to Apple’s UK employees Cook said Apple is currently doing more than any other company to support their overseas workers and the fact that the BBC did not consider this was unfair (Williams, 2014). While Apple’s obvious popularity generates a lot of excitement over their new products and even products that aren’t released yet, reports such as the BBC’s open up a new discussion about our technology production and use. A discussion that’s far away from Apple’s sleek and innovative marketed image.

Discussing the BBC Panorama report with my fellow peers, some responses said the report is ineffective in making a change, as the introduction of the next new Apple product will overshadow any labour issues that appear out of plain sight. While this is sadly true, it is the role of us as consumers to put pressure on large corporations, holding them accountable to produce their goods ethically. It is with reports like the BBC’s that bring these typically hidden issues to the forefront of consumers’ minds and gives corporations the opportunity to rectify the situation.

Thank you for reading,

Jasmine

References: (BBC) Bilton, R 2014, ‘Apple’s Broken Promises,’ BBC Panorama, accessed April 2, http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04vs348

Blackden, R, 2012, ‘Apple supplier Foxconn promises to improve following scathing report into working conditions,’ Telegraph UK, Viewed March 24, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/apple/9175077/Apple-supplier-Foxconn-promises-to-improve-following-scathing-report-into-working-conditions.html

Chan, J, 2013, ‘A suicide survivor: the life of a Chinese worker,’ New Technology, Work and Employment, vol. 28, no. 2, pp 84-99

Williams, R 2014, ‘Read: Apple’s letter to UK staff over Chinese factory conditions,’ Telegraph UK, Telegraph UK, viewed March 24, < http://telegraph.co.uk/technology/apple/11303406/Read-Apples-letter-to-UK-staff-over-Chinese-factory-conditions.html>

Williams, R 2014, ‘Apple goes to war with the BBC,’ Telegraph UK, Viewed March 24, http://telegraph.co.uk/technology/apple/11303052/Apple-working-conditions-Tim-Cook.html

Talking animals

My childhood years can be pretty much summed up with the following;  Paulie, Napoleon, Bambi, DumboThe Swan Princess, 101 Dalmatians and Free WillyI’m sure you can understand where I’m going with this…I was obsessed with these films, watching them on repeat and I found myself so drawn to the main characters. Whether it was the beauty and grace of Princess Odette the swan, or the adventurous spirit of the little puppy Napoleon, I looked up to them, and often found myself liking them a lot more than their human co-stars. This week, I’ve been wondering what made me love these non-human characters so much? But more importantly, do they still mean so much to me now?

Napoleon, 1995 movie poster - Image source IMDB

Napoleon, 1995 movie poster – Image source IMDB

Paulie, 1998 Movie poster - Image source;  IMDB

Paulie, 1998 Movie poster – Image source; IMDB

In 2004, Carolyn Burke and Joby Copenhaver asked similar questions, considering the reasons why animals in Children’s literature are so often given human characteristics. Thinking all the way back to fairy-tales of the Three Blind Mice, The Little Red Hen, and the Three Little Pigs, our first introductions to animals as children gave them human qualities to help children learn about the world in more simplistic ways. This anthropomorphic approach to animals in children’s literature, film, and TV gives animals a purpose of teaching children life-long morals and values, or more simply distinguishing between the ‘good’ three little pigs and the ‘evil’ big bad wolf (Burke, et al, 2004 p 210).

The fact is, these humanistic animals we’re so used to seeing in our childhood media actually has a bigger impact on us than we first think. Not only do these creatures allow children to learn life lessons in a simplistic and playful manner, but it also shapes our consideration for animals and how they are treated. I’d like to ask, why is it when animals are portrayed in the media, particularly for children,  they are so often shown speaking our language and acting like us?

Often, we seem to feel the need to speak on behalf of animals. In a superior sense, humans like think we know what’s best for others and ourselves. But sometimes, this assumption can have harsh consequences for who we wish to speak for. In particular, our animal friends.

An obvious example is identified in the 2013 documentary Blackfish, exposing the treatment of killer whales at Sea World parks in the US. The documentary saw former Sea World trainer, Carol Ray,  explain that the tricks Sea World had the whales performing were their ‘ natural behaviours,’ a statement she now recognises as a simple party-line she was made to say. The documentary also exposes the risks involved with the limited understanding humans have created around the lives of captive animals. For example, Sea World stating that killer whales only live between 25 and 35 years, or that the whales are held in a comfortable habitat, statements the documentary quickly tells us are entirely false. A concern the documentary raises is if we only rely on the constructed information provided by humans who make a profit by using animals, we will not be able to fully understand or appreciate the value these animals have to the world.

Still of Tilikum, the largest killer whale to be ever heldd in captivity, from http://blackfishmovie.com/stills

Still of Tilikum, the largest killer whale to be ever held in captivity, from http://blackfishmovie.com/stills

An organisation aiming to rectify the situation and amplify the voices of animals and their rights is The Dodo. An online community in which animal lovers commit to advocate for the protection and ethical treatment of animals. The symbolism of the dodo bird itself, “a mysterious bird we drove into extinction nearly 400 years ago,” serves to remind us of the human impact on animals and promote a new view on the treatment of them, not as a disposable object created for human exploitation, but as an intelligent, emotional and social being on par with the human race (The Dodo, 2015).

To answer my question from the beginning of this blog, I do believe animals still mean a lot to me today and its not so different to how I felt as a child. While I recognised the animals in my childhood films and stories as my equals, today through my research into the treatment of animals (and a few amazing David Attenbourough docos too) I’ve grown to understand animals all have a purpose on this planet, and just like you or I they are sentient beings worthy of human compassion. Here’s to hoping that the future for animals is not one where they’re only loved for their human qualities portrayed in fairy-tales but their intrinsic intelligence and knowledge that may be used to inspire humans to work with animals and continue to extend their voices for the general public to understand.

Thanks for reading!

References:

Burke, C, Copenhaver, J, 2004, ‘Animals as people in Children’s Literature,’  Language Arts, Vol. 81, no. 3, pp205-213

Taking the pain

When it comes down to it, the depiction of pain and suffering in the media is no new occurrenc. Today it seems our news screens are saturated with images of pain, war, and destruction. But have you ever stopped to think about your own reactions to these images? I’ll never forget the vision of my mother on the morning of the 9/11 attacks, staring at the TV screen in utter distress, with tears rolling down her face.

When confronting images are displayed in the media for the public to see, we as the audience are usually warned that some of us may find them disturbing. Whether we like it or not, most of us have been put in a position where we have to choose to view an image or video or even artistic representation of someone suffering.  When we make the choice to view these images, what do we deem the most appropriate reaction?

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Image source: Time.com

In July 2014, the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) was shot down by a missile and the plane crashed in the Ukraine city of Torez. I recall the tragic images of the wreckage that dominated news broadcasts in the weeks following the crash. Following the incident, TIME magazine featured the photographs of the MH17 crash site taken by war photographer, Jerome Sessini. The images, published in the article were concealed with the warning message above giving viewers the choice to open the gallery or not. Sessini described the images he captured as “horrific” and “almost unreal,” as well as feeling unprepared for “the weight of what he saw.”  The included images show the corpses of victims of the crash as well as the body of a passenger that was thrown from the plane and fell through the roof of a nearby home. Sessini described the site as “a real nightmare.” (Gibson, M, 2014)

I personally believe that anyone, such as Sessini, who experienced, first hand the vision of such terrible events are justified in their responses of feeling horrified and extremely saddened. James Rainy in On the Media: Death rocks photo family, observed the impacts of war and disaster photography on the photographers. In interviewing war photographer, Corinne Dufka, Rainy explains how the photographers receive a true sense of loss through witnessing, first-hand, horrific tragedies of war and destruction, (Rainy, 2011).

However, the pressure of the competitive environment of photo-journalism proved, at times, to overshadow the true sense of disaster felt by the victims who have suffered (Rainy, 2011). Dufka details her experience following the breaking news of the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Kenya. Upon confirmation of this news, Dufka, who was working on an assignment outside of Africa found herself upset, not by the fact that a disaster had occurred, but by the fact she had missed the opportunity to photograph the incident for her work. It was not until she saw the images of the disaster on the television did she realise that her focus on getting the ‘image’ had removed her from her ability to feel empathy for the victims (Rainy, 2011).

Additionally, the responses of you or I, feeling upset and disheartened at seeing these images seem like the appropriate and natural response to something that represents so much pain. My question is why do we respond or feel the need to respond in these ways? And in doing so, are we placing concentration on our own distress at looking at these images, rather than focusing on the pain and suffering experienced by the victims?

The London School of Economics and Political science considered similar questions, drawing on the idea that if we as the viewer are recognising the actual suffering endured by those in the images. The physical separation between those who are suffering in the photo and those of us who are viewing it, makes those who are suffering a spectacle. They are made to be looked at. Therefore the distance between us as a viewer and the suffer in the photo is not just on a physical level, but an emotional one too (Abril, A, 2008).

That’s all for now, thank you for reading.

Putting the Self in Selfie

Today the phenomenon of the ‘selfie’ may not be entirely new. I even remember as a child using a disposable camera – you know the ones you had to wind on and take the film to the chemist to get developed – turning the lens on myself and posing for what usually turned out as a blurry photo of myself at an unflattering angle (see below). However with the revolutionary development of the camera phone, today taking a relatively ‘good’ photo of yourself is quite easy.

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One of my first selfies, taken on an old camera circa 2005, when Facebook was just kick-starting. I was 10 years old and probably just came home from school, hence the uniform…and I had no idea at the time I took this photo that I would be publishing it online 10 years in the future. But here it is! …How embarrassing!

what I’m interested in exploring this week is why selfies have become so common and what is the true meaning behind them? What are we actually trying to convey to the online world when we post one to Facebook or Instagram? And most importantly, what type of self are we presenting in the selfie?

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Nearly 10 years after that first selfie was taken, I’ve taken it upon myself to join the revolution and upload my own to Instagram!

Oxforddictionaries.com defines selfie as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media.” It is the second part of this definition I am most interested in. The aspect of sharing the photo online, giving us the idea that the selfie is made to be shared.

Dr Mariann Hardey told the Guardian that selfies have become a form of documenting and gathering autobiographical information about ourselves and our online friends and followers. She explores the idea that taking a selfie and posting it online is performative. That is, the individual taking the selfie is choosing to present their self in the most flattering or in some cases unflattering way. The important thing to note is that the selfie is intentional.

Admittedly I’ve been one to take a selfie that I know is not truly what I look like at that given moment. Instead I construct an image based on the best lighting, best angle and – I’ll admit it – I take a few before selecting the one I like best. Only to go edit it with a filter on Instagram to ensure my selfie is up to the standard of those posted by my online ‘friends.’

Alice E. Marwick in Instafame: Luxury selfies in the Attention Economy says the mobile aspect of the Instagram app allows the selfie to be a running commentary of an individual’s life. However although the presumption in the app’s name is that a photo can be uploaded instantly once taken, the act of posting a selfie to Instagram is actually a time-consuming and selective process (Marwick, 2014, p 143). A social set of rules have been established which includes limiting users to posting only a few photos a day and discourages posting them consecutively at any one time (Marwick, 2014, p 143). If these rules are to be followed when posting selfies to Instagram, the control one may exercise in constructing,  taking, selecting, editing, and then posting their selfie may in fact be dictated by the expectations formed by other selfie takers on the social media site. Therefore the balance between free self expression and social power teeters on the scale.

Kyle Chaka argues that a selfie is about being your own digital avatar, projecting an online version of yourself for others to see. From this, we can begin to see that the point of the selfie is for it to be distributed for others to look at, like and comment on. At the same time, we come to rely on our selfies as a signal that we are liked and accepted by our peers.

Olivia Flemming for Elle Magazine has explored the power of the selfie and how it’s altering our self perception, placing more focus on our virtual image rather than ourselves. Presenting ourselves through a selfie on social media acts as an attempt to discover which version of us will receive the most positive feedback, acting as a temporary booster of our self-esteem. I’ve certainly recognised this myself when posting my own photos online, feeling satisfied when I receive a decent amount of likes and a little flat when there is only a few. I’ll also be perfectly honest, I have deleted a selfie before after not receiving enough likes…an act which left me regretting posting it in the first place but more so embarrassed that I actually cared enough to delete a photo based on how many of my online friends liked it. (Please tell me I’m not the only person who has done this before!)

Dubbed the selfie king, James Franco wrote for the New York times that selfies are aimed to get attention, which is “name of the game” when posting on social media (Franco, 2013). He says the selfie for the everyday non-celebrity person gives them a chance in the temporary spotlight of the social  media realm. By posting the image we give ourselves a chance to present our most desirable self. In this way you can argue that selfies are highlighting the power of images in the internet age. Where we will tend to place more emphasis on how we are represented in a photo rather than in real life.

For example, while getting my hair and make-up done for my year 10 formal, I was advised by my beautician that my make-up will be a lot more dramatic than I’m used to. I was told that even though I may not be used to it, I shouldn’t worry because it will make me look better in the photos. At the end of the day, is this the reason why we are placing more emphasis on how we represent ourselves through our selfies. It is because images are powerful and they give us a chance to communicate our best self, in exchange we receive a moment of attention in a media-saturated world.

So to sign off here’s a little how to guide on how to take the perfect selfie by vlogger Michelle Phan. With over 3 million views. it’s clear that selfies are a growing trend and really do give us the opportunity to represent the side of ourselves we want others to see.

Writing in public – A review

Looking back over the past 9 weeks, I feel that my approach to writing in public has drastically changed compared to my initial posts published on  this blog early in 2013. The most noticeable difference in my blogging strategy is my awareness that I am writing not only for my university lecturers, tutors and peers, but the general public, with potentiality for a global reach. In tackling weekly topics introduced to us in the subject ‘Media Audience and Place’, I beared in mind that by blogging I was participating in the same aspects we were discussing in class. Some of which included multitasking, using media in both public and private spaces and staring at multiple screens. While a rewarding learning experience, the past 9 weeks have not come without some challenges particularly tackling the weekly research topics critically, not taking facts at first hand and interacting with my public audience. Through my efforts to overcome these challenges I feel my writing style has improved and I have developed a blog that does not focus on weekly posts as just a piece of homework, but as representation of my profile as an online, public writer.

My first port of call as I began blogging was to remove myself from the ‘schoolgirl’ impression this blog may have given my audience. I achieved this through updating my About page. I replaced statements such as, “this blog will be used to complete several assignments over the course of my university Communications and Media degree,” with, “Thinking deeper about the media we consume and how that affects how we interact with each other is a passion of mine.” The second statement identifies this blog as a reflection of my interests and became a cornerstone for my approach to blogging this semester.

I took the aspects of each weekly topic, which I found most interesting and adapted them to my own understanding. This attitude towards blogging was fostered by advice from blogger Adii Pienaar who says to “write for yourself first,” finding this technique allowed him to enjoy the process of blogging through focusing on his own ideas about a topic. I was particularly proud of how I applied this strategy to my week 8 post, Someone please think of the Children!’  I took that week’s topic and applied it to worries within my own family about gaming. Through thinking critically about  the 2013 legislation of an R18+ classification for video games and reflecting on my own observations in light of literary research,  I concluded it has not been as successful as anticipated.

Another aspect I felt allowed me to use this blog as a reflection of my own experiences was being able to conduct my own research for the weekly posts. Two posts in particular stand out for me, ‘What’s on Telly?’ and ‘In our own Little Digital Bubbles.’ In preparation for writing both blogs I took notes either in interviewing an individual or my own observations of people in public. I found this strategy of looking to real-world evidence relative to the weekly topics allowed me to engage more with subject content as well as make the blog appear more personal.

The personalisation of my blog in order to attract a greater following proved to be one of the most challenging aspects. Through site stats I was shown that people, from all over the world, were visiting my blog however a lack of comments on the posts told me that people were not interacting with it.  On a positive note, over the course of the past 9 weeks, ‘Off the Top of My Head’ had reached the milestone of over 60 followers. Barrie Gunter (2009) suggests that the main feature distinguishing a blog is its interactive nature with an audience. He claims this blogger-audience relationship is formed through making “private disclosures become public property.” While writing my blog I interpreted this through ensuring I expressed I had a conversational tone giving my audience the impression that they’re receiving an insight to my own personal take on a topic.

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‘Off the Top of my Head’ Top Views by country site statistics

One aspect about blogging I found I utilized effectively was my use of tags. I paid careful attention to the concepts I rose in each post and tailored a list of at least 20 tags to try and obtain a larger audience reach. Perhaps some strategies I could apply to blogging in the future to build an audience could include making the posts appear more interactive with more videos and questions posed to the audience as well as shortening the length of the posts. Proof-reading service, Scribendi suggests bloggers should keep their posts as short as possible so the audience is not overwhelmed by the content and will be more likely to remain on your site.  The majority of my posts over this semester reached the 800 word limit and as I learned while writing ‘Have you been paying attention,’ people are multitasking so much online that they have little time to read a long post and obtain enough information to want to comment on what they have read. I can avoid this obstacle in the future and tighten my writing by:

  • Writing in active voice.
  • Making use of bullet points to organise ideas.
  • Writing in simple language.

What’s more, I find one area I must improve on is editing and proof-reading each post prior to publication.  I found in my efforts to always meet the weekly post deadline well in advance came at the expense of my spelling and grammar. Although I felt it was beneficial for my writing to write as quickly as the ideas flowed into my mind, most of my posts were edited by my eyes only. As a result, after staring at the screen for a number of hours, I missed important typing and grammar errors which made the posts at times appear messy and it tended to complicate the ideas I tried to express. In the future I intend treat each time I publish a post as an assignment submission, ensuring no spelling or grammar errors will lower my grade. I applied this technique to the most recent posts on the blog and found that by saving the post as a draft and getting a peer to proof-read before publishing was helpful.

In terms of my blog design, I kept it colour co-ordinated and clean. Overall I feel my blog has a professional appearance and it is easy to navigate, with custom menus. I used the graphic creating platform Canva to create a free logo for the blog as well as a header image that appears relevant to the area of communication and media studies.

In summary, through this task of writing in public I have gained a greater awareness of my public audience and have learnt important strategies required to obtain their input and interaction.

References:

Gunter, B 2009, ‘Blogging – private becomes public and public becomes personalised,’ Aslib Proceedings, vol 61, no 2, pp 120-126

 

What’s the matter with Aussie films?

This week I asked myself, when was the last time I went to the cinema to watch an authentically Aussie film? It took me a while, to think back to my viewing of the 2012 release of ‘The Sapphires’ but apart from that, I personally haven’t paid much attention to the Australian film industry. And this got me thinking, why not? Speaking to my friends, I realised I was not alone in this.  Now, I’m not against Australian films, I actually become quite proud of the popular Aussie productions that do well on our shores and overseas. However, for me, thinking about why me and my peers have not paid much attention to our local films made me realise that Aussie film makers would be thinking the same thing. However, instead of jumping to conclusions, blaming the on-line movie piracy trend, it’s time to look a little deeper into the reasons behind this.

Before proposing any kind of research, it’s good practice to figure out what is already known about the issue.  According to Screen Australia, in 2013, 26 Australian films were released. A fair number, but in comparison to the 184 from Hollywood released that same year, perhaps it is a matter of Australian films being overpowered by the big blockbusters from the US. Not to mention, the sheer number of films stemming from the Bollywood and Nollywood genres.

Now it’s not solely about the number of films the Australian industry can release, after all, if a good film is a good film people should want to see it. And that’s exactly what’s required, in order to succeed, Australian movie producers have to give the audience what they want!

in 2012 the Sydney Morning Herald reported that despite attempts in Australian films to appeal to their home-grown audiences, they often fall short and receive cringe-worthy reactions. David Dale writes, this is due to storylines which lack sophistication and choose to centre around characters such as ‘hornbags’ Kath and Kim in their 2012 cinema release of ‘Kath and Kimderella‘ or the likes of ‘bogan’ Shazza Jones from ‘Housos vs Authority.‘ Dale suggests our less than enthusiastic responses to such films is demonstrative of a cultural cringe, “the tendency of Australians to be embarrassed by their own artistic endeavours, and to feel that any work by Americans and Britishers is automatically superior…”(Dale, 2012).

When considering this term I thought about other Australian films which have succeeded both nationally and internationally. What made these movies different? Perhaps this holds the key to making the Australian film market more successful as a whole. The first that comes to mind, which I did only just watch over the weekend, is ‘The LEGO Movie’! While directed by Americans Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, this film was animated by Animal Logic Studios in Sydney over a 28 month period. The films success saw it take out $442 million worldwide since it’s release and Aussie movie-makers are there to appreciate and thank.

When Australian made films assume the same status as big Hollywood productions, they’re likely to be received well. As demonstrated through the release of other successful films including ‘Happy Feet’, ‘Crocodile Dundee’, ‘Australia’ and ‘Babe’ (Dale, 2012). In order to provide more evidence to Australian movie executives for this hypothesis, it is important to look deeply at the audiences’ opinions. Qualitative research practice works well here in order to avoid conceptualising the audience as simply a set of figures. We want to know what they’re really thinking.

If I were to hypothetically carry out this research, I would select approximately 4 movie trailers of recent Australian-made films, of which there will be a mix between the styles reminiscent of Hollywood and the more ‘Australian’ films. These would be shown to a sample group of 25 Australian participants, who will be asked, after viewing, which film they would prefer to watch and why. These interviews used in association with quantitative results would provide insight into the reasons behind why certain types of Australian films succeed and others flop. Allowing myself as the researcher as well as Australian film makers to avoid jumping to conclusions. While this research method is rather simplistic I would have to pay careful attention to the place where participants are from as well as their own cultural preferences because their opinions and preferance are all affected by location, time and place.

Audience research is paramount to provide understanding of what your audience wants as well as validation for why stakeholder’s, such as Australian Movie makers should continue their work.

Thanks for reading,

Jasmine

Someone please think of the Children!

Have you ever felt uneasy about your media consumption, or that of your friends and family? Ever told yourself, ok that’s enough for the internet today or I should really log off now? These self-regulatory thoughts, are brought about by the thought that too much media is not good for you based on alarming statistics that recommend undertaking a kind or of media detox. This week, it has become apparent that anxieties about new media technologies result in the assumption that it will have a harmful effect on society. Research is commissioned to gather evidence to support these anxieties, whether they be rational or not. In turn, the results are used to regulate media content in order to ease the concern amongst audiences.

I thought an interesting case study would be the growing moral panic of video game violence. Particularly in relation to its impact on children and youth. Take the following infographic:

The Neurology of Gaming (c) Online Universities

The Neurology of Gaming (c) Online Universities

While it does reflect on both positive and negative information, the negative points far outweigh the positive in this representation. Referring to the negative aspects as ‘side effects’ in a way of validating the anxieties associated with children and their video game use. Studies that reveal alarming statistics about the effect of gaming on children result in implications for public policy makers, as society places an expectation that the matter should be dealt with in order to ‘protect’ young gamers (Collier et al, 2008, p107). In the US efforts by state and local governments to limit the sale of violent video games to minors were denied by courts. One reason behind this is that the video game industry is now more profitable than both that of film and music, demonstrating a shift in the relevance of video games today. With this increasing emergence and popularity of games and the introduction of new consoles and platforms on which to play, parents in particular are concerned about the impact on their children (Collier et al, 2008, p 107).

Statistics that most alarm parents, and the wider community involve a 2004 US Trade Commission study which found 69% of 13-16 year olds were allowed to purchase a classified 17+ video game from a retailer in the absence of a parent or guardian (Collier et al, 2008, p 107). Similarly in Australia,  while it is illegal to sell a video game to someone under the restricted classifications of MA15+ and R18+, the Classification of M for mature audiences is only recommended for those over 15 and may be purchased by someone of any age (Australian Classification, 2012). Additionally MA15+ video games may also be sold to those under 15 so long as they are accompanied by an adult at the time of purchase ultimately causing society to believe young people are getting access to violent and inappropriate content.

The classification of games is a form of legislative regulation that is  based upon moral concerns for children. However, despite over 30 studies conducted on children in the US to test if violent video games give rise to aggressive behaviour, the results are inconclusive. With research failing to find a clear relationship (Sherry, 2006, p409). Furthermore, due to the recent nature of video game research, longitudinal analysis designs and field research have not yet been used to determine video game effects. As these thorough approaches are recognised to provide greater validity to research results, their absence in video-game research proves it difficult to take the results which suggest video games have a harmful effect on children at first-hand (Sherry, 2006, p 426).

The R18+ classification on videogames in Australia was only introduced in January 2013, in an effort to restrict the gameplay of games such as Grand Theft Auto V to only adults. Creating a clear distinction between games that are deemed suitable and unsuitable for minors. At the time of the decision, Minister for Home Affairs Jason Clare told ABC News the introduction of the R18+ classification was a reform 10 years in the making and the decision was made to allow adults to choose what games they could play “in the bounds of the law.” (ABC, 2012)

Although these regulations are put into place in an effort to reduce the exposure of video game violence to minors, how effective is it? I took to my own observations to pose an answer. Looking at my 12 year old brother, along with his friends, from around the world on X-box live, they make up a community of 8-16 year olds who are playing Grand Theft Auto V, despite the R18+ classification. While this regulation may prove it impossible for a child to go into JBHiFi and ask to buy the game, it is not difficult – once the game is purchased for them by an adult – for them to play to their hearts content in the home. Ultimately placing the real issue for regulation of video games and exposure of violence to children as a private issue in the home. Therefore indicating that despite legislative efforts, regulation is really up to the parents and even the individual themselves.

That’s all for now,

Jasmine

References:

ABC 2012, ‘R18+ video game rating passes Senate,’ ABC News online, accessed 16 September, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-06-19/r18-video-game-rating-passes-senate/4078460&gt;

Australian Classification Board 2012, ‘Classification requirements for Computer Game Retailers,’ Australian Government Attorney General’s Department, last updated December 2012, <http://www.classification.gov.au/Pages/Home.aspx&gt;

Collier J.E, Liddel G & Liddel P 2008, ‘Exposure of Violent Video games to Children and Public Policy Implications’, Journal of public Policy and Marketing, vol. 27, no. 1, pp 107-112

Sherry J.L 2006, ‘The Effects of Violent Video Games on Aggression A Meta-Analysis,’ Human Communication Research, vol. 27, no. 3, pp409-431

Have you been paying attention?

Today our lives are busier than ever! Switching constantly between different screens, it appears as though our attention spans are getting thinner and thinner. So these days, what’s grabbing our attention and more so, how we divide it, is a topic of interest amongst both media and academic researchers.

To provide you with a visual example of this, the following image is a screenshot of the tabs open on my browser as I’m writing this very moment. As you can see, there’s 18 tabs and honestly I’ve been switching through them all for about the past hour!

tabs

The Oxford Dictionary defines attention as “The mental faculty of considering or taking notice of someone or something.” The problem with defining this term is that according to psychologists it’s not that simple. At any given time, there will be competing bits of sensory information that need to be understood and processed by our brains (Cherry, 2014). Our attention is ultimately a cognitive process we use to filter through and focus on these competing signals as a means of managing ourselves in an active environment (Cherry, 2014). Psychologist William James, says to think of attention as a highlighter, bringing some information to the forefront while withdrawing form other information we deem not as important at a given moment in time. 

This is where things get complicated. When opinions differ about what is important or at least more amusing to the mind, our priorities in regards to what we focus on may not be aligned with others. At the same time, we may think that in order to make a mundane task, such as completing homework or an assignment, more tolerable we will multi-task. Take myself as an example, while writing this blog post, I clearly (form the image above) am logged into Facebook and on my phone beside me I do have Instagram opened. To be honest, I also have the TV on in the background. Here I am with all these sources of information switched on and I have to choose what to pay attention to most!

(c) Google Research

(c) Google Research

But this is what multitasking is for right? Dividing our attention in order to give us the ability to complete multiple tasks at once.

Well debates have risen speculating about the effectiveness of multitasking, arguing that through juggling these many screens, texts, real-world conversations, and funny cat videos, we’re feeling more distracted than focused. Research carried out by cognitive scientist Clifford Nass, considers how people, particularly students, can carry out “heavy-duty, multi window multitasking,” particularly when psychological history states that it is impossible to be equally focused on two things at once (Keim, 2012).  His research was carried out on students whose cognitive processes were measured while completing one solo task. Results surprisingly revealed that students who considered themselves highly active multi-taskers had difficulty distinguishing between relevant and irrelevant information (Keim, 2012).

Nass’ results found that high multi-taskers had poor mental organisation. In subsequent studies, Nass discovered that 20% of students at Stanford University regularly engaged with 6 or more streams of media at any one time, while less than 5% only focused on one stream (Nass, 2010). Nass argues that the high traffic and hypertext of the internet is facilitating this multitasking behaviour in those who are logged on most. The heavy media multi-taskers Nass has observed, were found to struggle with maintaining short term memory. Meaning they were able to understand information they were simultaneously consuming, however when it came to recalling it, the task proved too difficult. Nass puts this finding forward as evidence that heavy media multitasking crowds the mind with information, making it more difficult for media professionals such as journalists to capture and maintain their audience’s attention (Nass, 2010).

An important stakeholder for Nass’ media multitasking research is the Nieman FoundationA collaborative education initiative in association with Harvard University, which provides selected tertiary students from 93 countries worldwide to attend Harvard for one year and study journalism. The students involved are taught how to cope in the competitive field of journalism, but today there is more competition. Journalists are not only competing for stories, coverage and job positions, but they’re competing for our attention. Which is why research like Nass’ is so important.

In a 2010 article for the Nieman foundation’s quarterly publication and website Nieman ReportsNass wrote of his research as evidence for his advice to journalists on how to approach their role in the media-heavy and multi tasked digital era we find ourselves in (Nass, 2010).

“Journalists are adapting—with varying
degrees of frustration and consternation—
to the unwiliingness of the growing
number of media muititaskers to focus on
one stream of content, regardless of how
engaging it might be…. the longer the
article, the greater the frequency readers
show of bouncing around and eventually
drifting to other media streams.” – Clifford Nass

Ultimately research such as this is invaluable in allowing professionals such as journalists to attempt to adapt to the current digital landscape and how to face the challenge of trying to grasp our attention.

Hopefully I’ve managed to keep yours!

Thanks for reading,

Jasmine

References:

Nass, C 2010, ‘Thinking About Multitasking: It’s What Journalists Need to Do,’ Nieman Reports, pp 11-12,

Keim, B 2012, ‘Is multitasking bad for us?’ NOVA ScienceNOW, <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/is-multitasking-bad.html&gt;

 

 

In our own little digital bubbles…

Personally, I feel quite uneasy when I find myself in a space full of strangers. Not necessarily in the sense that I feel unsafe, but as though I’m not allowed to really interact with those around me. So I find myself turning to a source of comfort and an escape from the socially awkward content of being in public with strangers. I turn to my phone and use it as a means of escaping into my own little digital bubble.

And yet today, for many of us the notion of being without a phone is uncomfortable. Everyone seems to be constantly posting, texting, hashtagging and blogging in their own private world of their phone.

The Collins English dictionary defines public and more so public spaces as “open and accessible to all.” On the other hand, private is identified as “belonging to, or concerning a particular person or group…” and “away from public view.” I’m going to argue that while, these definitions may shape our understandings of these spaces, there are other factors present that alter this.

When you think about it, are our mobile devices really private if, when we use them in public, others nearby whether we know them or not, may be able to see what we’re looking at, scrolling through or posting. Yet most of the time, we still consider it as a private space and rarely think about who else may be tuning in. At the same time, we’re not exactly “away from public view.”

Citylab reporter, Emily Badger observed how smartphones are altering people’s behaviours in public space. Essentially, we’re acting as though we’re in private. She specifically discussed how we use these devices as a means of escaping states of being in tranist, such as on public transport (Badger, 2012). Drawing from research by Tali Hatuka from Tel Aviv University, Badger notes how smartphone users are understanding the basic concept of public space.

According to Hatuka, the fact that smartphones enable us to reside in our own “portable private personal territories” is complicating the public/private binary. Suggesting that the “private sphere” is now dominating public space (Badger, 2012). Hatuka’s research ultimately poses this question, when focusing on your private sphere through your smartphone, when in a public space, which social code should you follow? Should you follow public etiquette, where you look up and acknowledge those around you? Or, follow cell-phone etiquette where you need to respond to a message as soon as possible? (Badger, 2012)

Obviously, smartphones in public are complicating the way we identify spaces and conduct our behaviours within them.

looking-at-phones

For example, I catch the bus home from uni every week, and at exactly the same time every Tuesday a gentleman will board the bus to commute home. The reason why I recognise this man every week, is that at the same time on that Tuesday, he will go on his phone to call, who I assume is his son, and ask what he would like for dinner. Now, usually, I’m not one to willingly eavesdrop on someone else’s conversation, however this man’s voice is so loud that I’m sure the whole bus knew that, no he wasn’t buying McDonald’s but that he would buy some steak and roast some pumpkin and potatoes and would be home in about an hour.

Normally, I wouldn’t really have given this man on the phone a second thought. However, this week I stopped to think if this gentleman would at all be uncomfortable if he realised just how loud his conversation was and that all of us on the bus could hear. Which brings me to my point, our mobile devices allow us to feel secure and as though we are dwelling in a private space, but when used among members of the public, it is likely your digital bubble will be burst by those around you. And we barely recognise this.

Admittedly, I’ve done the exact same thing! My phone has rung and I’ve answered, and momentarily while on my phone I do forget there’s others around me, or at least assume they can’t hear me. Let’s be honest here, you all can. Similar incidents have occurred when I’ve accidentally clicked on a video on Facebook or opened a snapchat video, and my phone is not on silent. For a moment, I’ve grabbed the attention of those around me, whether I know them or not.

That’s all for tonight,

Jasmine

 

‘Waking Up,’ An emotional history audio report – Reflection JOUR206

Compiling this emotional history audio report was a challenging learning experience for me as a journalism student. It was both confronting and eye-opening in regards to having to ask hard-hitting questions, but also receiving the raw and hard-hitting answers.

My experience of editing the report made me take into account how I wanted to represent my talent. Given only the space of 2 minutes and with nearly an hour’s worth of recorded material, I had my work cut out for me.

Prior to interviewing my talent, Emily Tropea, I was already familiar with her story and the medical journey she overcame. Nevertheless, I took time to doing some research, by observing photographs posted on social media about her conditions and reviewing video footage on her from Sunrise and Today Tonight. I also read some blog pieces and magazine articles on her story. Although I know, Emily as a close friend, I found researching these representations of her story gave me ideas on how to direct my questions and which part of her story I wanted to highlight in the 2 minutes.

IMG_20140827_190140

Emily Tropea today – photo credit: Jasmine Tobia

When conducting the interview, I bared in mind that good journalism does not pry emotion from its interviewee. I visited Emily the week earlier and explained what the task would be and asked her what she was willing to talk about for the assignment. On the day of the interview, I ensured she was comfortable and still willing to open up. I also explained that at any point in the interview if she wanted me to stop recording or didn’t want to answer a particular question, it was perfectly fine to do so.

I believe that was important to establish a safe environment for her to be able to speak about emotional and at times very painful life experiences. Through this experience I was amazed by Emily’s ability to speak about her operation and to go into so much detail. Today she is doing a lot better, achieving so many goals and is leading a healthy life, so I was aware that returning to a time where her life was in a period of uncertainty by talking about was an emotional experience in itself. Therefore, my goal for this report was to highlight the strength and courage I witnessed from Emily, while conducting the interview.

Emily and Jasmine 2014 - Photo Credit Jasmine Tobia

Emily and Jasmine 2014 – Photo Credit Jasmine Tobia

Editing was also a new experience. I was unfamiliar with Hindenburg Journalist’s Pro. However, after workshops held in class, I found it relatively easy to use. Although cutting down my recorded material to 2 minutes was difficult, I overcame this by choosing to focus on delivering one aspect of Emily’s story, her first major operation which was a spinal fusion.

While editing, I bared in mind that I was telling Emily’s story, and therefore made the decision to elide my introduction from the 2 minutes and just use her recorded voice as the only speech. I feel this made the audio excerpt more personable and didn’t showcase me as the journalist, but Emily and what she was saying as well as the emotion in her voice.

Out of the six primary emotions, I primarily wanted to convey fear. Capturing the idea that a 15 year old girl faced with such a massive operation with fatal risks was scary for her. In addition there are elements of sadness and happiness which I think the audience can recognise. Particularly through the choice of music, which I located from the Creative Commons licenced Free Music Archive. Ultimately, it was an eye-opening and rewarding experience and I enjoyed attempting to showcase the emotions felt from one moment in someone’s life.

You can listen to the audio report here…