Mobile use at the dinner table

When is it okay to ban the use of a mobile phone? In class? a lecture? In the bathroom? Well, at my boyfriends house it is banned at the dinner table (and this rule is very strict!

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Are mobile phones and the internet creating a false sense of connection? Source 

Unlike in my own home, the use of a mobile phone isn’t really banned anywhere. yes, at the dinner table it can often be seen as rude, especially if the call or text message is not important, however it isn’t a strict rule.

In Jarrod’s home, there is a very enforced ‘Do not touch the phone AT ALL, even if it rings 43 times’ rule. (I exaggerate slightly) At first this took a little to get used to, especially if it was very loooooong winded 2 hour dinner, where there is literally no pause or leeway to check my phone. To be quite honest with you, at times it made me feel very anxious… Is this a form of social anxiety because I can’t rely on my phone to make a ‘real life’ conversation or help me feel ‘safe’?

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Seeing my phone light up or vibrate from afar and not being able to check it or even just peak at who is trying to contact you is very un-settling. It’s sad really, just how consumed and obsessed we are with our small online world that fits in the palm of our hands. These rules and regulations in Jarrod’s home are enforced through guilt, superiority and control.

An article written by the Sydney Morning Herald outlines the use of mobile phones in public spaces, and how social ettiquite is being demolished as a result. Is the dinner table a public space? Or is it seen as more rude to use a phone in the dining room because it is a ‘private’ space, saved for times of family bonding and conversation partaking? The lines between public and private space are becoming very fine, as access to the outside/online world is brought into our living spaces.

The Business reporter revealed that the 5 top rudest places to use your mobile Phone are:

  1. At a restaurant
  2. At a family dinner
  3. In a meeting
  4. At the cinema (or other quiet places) – probably a library too.
  5. At a church or worship service. (look up #funeral on Instagram and Tumblr if you feel like getting reaaaaally angry at humans.)

The mobile phone in essence changes the way in which space is defined. If I we were ‘allowed’ to use our phones at the dinner table, would we really be at the dinner table? Which space would we truly be in? #foodforthough

Let me know what you think! Tweet me or comment on this post so I can see what you think about the use of mobile phones in public (or private) spaces.

Em x

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Thanks For Collaborating With Me Mum!

Last week I interviewed my Mum, Cherie about her experiences with watching television as she was growing up. I had the opportunity to gain insights into her favourite TV shows, her most admirable characters, where she sat, who she watched TV with and how it made her feel. As a research technique, this can be seen as a form of collaborative ethnography.

Ethnography simply means an insider’s view into people and cultures. Using the research conducted for my last blog post, Cherie was the insider and we as the audience were able to grasp a sense of what television was like growing up in the 70’s and 80’s. Ethnography is Collaborative and reciprocal, meaning that a shared and almost conversational form of research is conducted, where both the researcher/interviewer and the talent or ‘insider’ are engaged.

I wanted to find out how Cherie felt about the experience, and if she thought this style of research was successful. Obviously it being my mother, a collaborative situation was inevitable to begin with. “It wasn’t like a typical interview where you were after facts and statistics, you were asking personal questions about the space, how the TV made me feel, what shows I liked to watch a why – it was like I was reminiscing my childhood with an old friend.”

In Eric Lasseter’s report “Defining Collaborative Ethnography”, he describes collaborative ethnography by – ‘It invites commentary from our consultants and seeks to make that commentary overtly part of the ethnographic text as it develops.’ When comparing this with the ‘study’ I did into my mum’s television experiences, this can be true. Why and how were prominent in the evaluation process.

In contrast, a research paper conducted by Oztam Australian Multi Screen Report’, was a very quantitative analysis. Its findings revealed facts like ‘22.158 million Australians watched at least some broadcast television each month during Q1 2015.’ However it failed to ask what TV shows people watched; or why they watched TV; why they watched the particular show for; how did it make them feel; where they watched television; or if it affected their everyday life in one way or another. There was no reciprocation or collaborative discussion. Only facts. How much can purely facts a statistics truly tell us?

Lasseter uses personal encounters and previous experiences to articulate the importance or collaborative ethnography and how it can be used to study the media in homes. Not only does this type of research allow for first-hand information that rewards the ‘interviewer’, it also can be rewarding for the participant. This may be through re-living exciting moments, or being able to share a story that may teach a lesson or inspire somebody else. ‘I recognize, of course, that these ethnographic projects are limited in their experience and scope, but each venture has taught me something new about realizing a more collaborative ethnography.’

For my last blog post, Cherie expressed to me that her favourite TV character of all time was Samantha from bewitched and that everything about her from the way she dressed to how she spoke inspired my Mum and made her want to be just like her. This type of information could never have been gained through standard quantitative research. We may have been able to conclude that a number of people watched bewitched or remembered watching it growing up, but we could have never understood how it made people in this era feel towards the show, or towards television and television watching in the home in general.

Em x

Life without a Television Remote? ~

Bewitched, The Brady Bunch and I Dream a Genie… some of my Mum’s favourite television shows growing up, that she would watch every night without fail. These shows and characters are a representation of what the television means to her and what it reminds her of today. Great childhood memories and family time, that will always be associated with the television.

Mum's favourite TV character growing up.
Mum’s favourite TV character growing up.

The sound of the television is nothing but background noise in most modern day homes. When the TV is on today,  a conversation, game paying, internet surfing, eating and shopping can all be present. Noise over noise. During my mum’s childhood, the TV was to be turned off using the dial (no remotes – crazy huh!?), when a visitor came to the door, or when someone called the home phone. Mum remembered being heartbroken if it was during one of her favourite shows!


The nature and meaning of the television differs depending on geographic location, culture, beliefs, age and whole range of different aspects. When interviewing my mother Cherie, age 45, happiness and great shared memories were brought back when asked to think about what the television meant in her home growing up. There are times in my home today where there will be several televisions on at the same time (whether they are being watched or not) in different rooms. In Cherie’s house growing up there was only one single TV in  the main lounge room.

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My Mum, Born in the 70’s has changed her perception of television a number of times throughout her lifetime, as the meaning of the object has evolved.

“One thing that’s completely different for sure, is that never would we ever, EVER dream of eating dinner in front of the TV.”

When I asked Cherie how she remembered watching television as a child she responded by saying that it was a ‘special occasion’ type of thing- a reward at the end of the day. Cherie, remembers always laying on the carpet floor in front of the TV with her parents sitting on the Brown and orange lounge behind. “I loved laying on the carpet and watching shows. It was fun, a special treat almost.” 

For Cherie, the Tekevision in her family home was an object for gathering the family and brining people together – Much like the kitchen. In Sonia Livingstone’s article, she explains the idea of the ‘The quintessential image of the television.’ “Audience is of the family viewing at home – children and parents sitting together comfortably in front of the lively set.” The introduction of the television was to connect people and bring people together and also to share information. Today, the television still connects people with the world around them, however it is much more of an ‘object.’

In our home today we have several televisions. If my parents want to watch a particular show or movie, it will go on the big screen in the main lounge room, and if anyone else in the home objects they can watch whatever they like in their own spaces. Most of the time, if all five of our family members are together watching a show, we aren’t truly watching. We are all on our own devices, Facebooking, Instagraming and perhaps even tweeting bout the TV show we aren’t really watching. We are together in the same space, but are we actually watching it together? Was this the Quintessential image Livingstone was talking about?

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My mum remembers watching the Granville train disaster on her small wooden television with her parents, and realising for one of the first times just how necessary and important the TV is. A small screen can bring people from all over the world together to watch a news event or a television show. “I remember thinking, WOW, this thing can tell us so much.” This idea brought up my Cherie made me think about my own television experience… I have never been without a TV, so in a way I can’t help but think our generation has taken advantage of its useful and entertaining qualities, as thats all we have known. For as long as I can remember, google and the news were at my finger tips.

Today not only do we connect with people from around the world by being informed on local and world-wide events, but also big sporting games like the state of origin which brings friends and family together. Whether it’s the bar TV or the one in the main lounge room, the television creates a sense of belonging and community. The television I believe was and still is a symbol for bringing people together and connecting through a show, the news or just being in the same room as one another, (even if everyone is on twitter, we are still together right?!)

This year for the state of origin I watched it with about 15 of my friends, all huddled on a huge leather lounge, eating pizza and drinking soft drink. It was so much fun – yet I don’t even watch footy – I don’t think I was even watching the game at all, but the fact that we were all doing something together talking and laughing over the top of the TV made the experience.

By getting my mum to look back on the evolution of the television in her home, and the memories associated with watching TV, I think allowed mum to appreciate not only how far TV has come, but also how much technology in general has changed and shaped our lives today. Cherie believes that the television will always be a big part of the family home, and of everyday life in general.

Em x