Looking at others; suffering.

It is hard to ignore that in today’s society, suffering, death, sickness and tradgety are in the forefront of all media and in our faces every single day. We are asked to donate to charities, suggested to sponsor a child and even to simply share or like a Facebook page/image/link, in order to create awareness and spread the issue throughout the social media world. Is this all done however for the good of the subjects, or for promotional and business perspectives?

Almost 15% of Australia’s population is living in poverty. That’s a confronting 2.5 million people, many of which are children. This is not okay and something that must change. Is enough being done to create awareness on a national level? Should more be done?

The SBS documentary, Struggle Street, claims it was attempting to do just that – create awareness of what poverty in Australia looks like and depict, though images and real footage, how some people have to live. However, there was much dispute and outrage after the relies of the first episode last year, with many saying it was disrespectful and that the ‘documentary’ was essentially making fun of these people who live ‘on the dole.’ The guardian published an article about the backlash of the series and how it was seen to have exploited the lives of the subjects shown. The article raises the question, ‘is any coverage, good coverage?’

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Struggle Street documentary. 

While many people did not sympathise at all with any of the individuals on the show, and many finding it a disturbing joke with most of the episodes containing swearing, drug use, fighting and eating fast food; it is also extremely hard to look away. This raises many questions… Is it poverty porn? Is it making fun of these poor people? Is it making little of such a big issue, which is an even bigger problem in other countries? Or is it sending an important message about poverty in Australia?

Struggle Street was highly talked about due to its images and way of portraying many individual was truly shocking. But did it send the right message? It definitely brought it to the attention of many – that people in Australia are suffering, and will do almost anything for money. Whether the subjects can truly help it is the real question…

What is poverty porn exactly? Steven Threadbold says it’s ‘Like mainstream sexual porn that produces sexualised images from the male gaze for male gratification, poverty porn produces abjectifying images of the poor through a privileged gaze for privileged gratification.’ Basically, people make these types of videos, for other people to make fun of the subjects and to have a laugh about their life.

Poverty porn, also known as development porn or famine porn, has been defined as “any type of media, be it written, photographed or filmed, which exploits the poor’s condition in order to generate the necessary sympathy for selling newspapers or increasing charitable donations or support for a given cause”

Poverty porn is also evident in images where the subject is depicted in a beautiful or inspiring way, but are truly deprived, sick, mistreated and unfortunate. The set of images below create artistic pieces out of those who are suffering… is this ethical? Is this okay if we are using these images to send a particular message about poverty and famine? Or is exploiting the individuals in the images? Is better or worse if these images are staged?

Sebastiao Salgado,
from his book Sahel the End of the Road 2004 (about the drought in Sahel region of Africa)Unknown
A vulture watches a starving child in southern Sudan, March 1 1993 (Kevin Carter)kevin-carter-vulture

 

I believe it is much worse if you are using real people in desperate conditions, and staging them for photographs; no matter what the intentions are. Suffering should not serve as entertainment purposes, for art, for commercial reasons or for fame; but unfortunately in today’s society, and with social media being an easily accessed, information sharing medium, it’s very easy and common to do.

To read more on a similar topic visit Amelia Murphy’s blog post.  I believe she pointed out some very important issues and topics on the subject, and shows some great examples.

 

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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

Who needs attention spans when we can multitask (and do a pretty good job at it) !?

Does multitasking mean our attention span is low? Or can we have full attention on all things we are doing?

Research conducted by Faria Sana, Tina Weston, and Melody Wiseheart, concluded that having a laptop open in a university lecture hinders academic performance. I’m not sure I entirely agree with this, although I can admit I am often guilty of having a number of un-related tabs open during a lecture, especially if I am not finding it engaging or important. Many students however, also use their laptop to take notes, Google mentioned ideas for clarification and to have their lecture slides and/or readings open in front of them. Many students who use their laptops are actually using it for a purpose, whether it is that taking notes is faster than taking them in a notepad. However our attention spans can be sacrificed.

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In a very small-scale research task, fellow BCM students Amelia and Jessica sat down in hope to measure each other’s attention spans. This didn’t go too well seeing as though we all had our laptops open, we were all munching on food, checking our phones and discussing very serious life issues (such as boys, the gym and food.) both sequential screening (move between devices) and simultaneous screening (using multiple devises at the same time) was evident. Although at first, the experiment was only between Jessica and Amelia, and I was merely third-wheeling, I couldn’t help but observe the process. I think I heard the words “Okay lets start” and “No seriously, let’s start the work,” about 78 times??? In their minds, they hadn’t began the exercise, however I had began my research long before, mwahaha! Lets just say, attention spans were not thaaaaat great.

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In ‘Attention Spans Report’ by microsoft Canada, it concludes that while the digital age has an effect on attention span length, being able to focus on an array of tasks has increased.

“tech savvy consumers are actually getting better at processing information and encoding that information to memory.”

I couldn’t agree with this more. In relation to the small-scale ethnography research conducted last Wednesday, while attention on one sole thing may be deteriorating, just like Jessica and Amelia couldn’t stay focus on any one thing (whether that be looking up fitness prgrams, texting, the assignment or having Facebook arguments.) However, attention to detail and precision has increased due to the fact that our tech-savvy generation is able to think actively and respond to many audiences and places at once. Take for instance, right this moment I am not only trying to write this blog post, I am also tidying my room, I have 13 tabs open, I am replying to text messages on my phone AND thinking about what to cook for dinner; yet I will still get this task done, and hopefully done well, before the assignment deadline.

Growing up in this modern day society is a crazy, crazy thing, yet it’s also so exciting and actually very efficient when you really think about it 😉

Are we truly connected?

With 200GB of Internet data to play with each month, you would think a family of five would be considerably happy with the access they have with this large of a data plan… right? Wrong. Compared to dial up internet, of course this is a great improvement, however when you live with four other people (3 three being teenagers) often 10 different devices, movie downloading, internet surfing and Netflix watching can get a bit too much. You can definitely say that our family of five has evolved with the technological world, yet complaining about the speed and reliability of our internet access is a constant discussion topic.

With seven TV’s in our home, 3 laptops, 3 tablets/iPads, and 6 iPhones, the people within our home are constantly connected to the outside world, but are we connected within the home? Every single person in my family agreed that they wake up and automatically check their social media, emails and messages and fall asleep doing the exact same thing.

In Dana Boyd’s book, Its Complicated she discusses the issue of becoming ‘addicted’ to social media, and many teens feel the need to deactivate Facebook for instance to take a breather. I asked my two younger sisters if they have felt like they were addicted to social media and they both said yes. Olivia, the youngest at 14 admitted “sometimes I find my self on Facebook for literally hours, but I just cant get off… it’s a place where all of my friends communicate, make plans and share other moments.” Both agreed that sometimes they put more importance on what is happening on social media, rather than what is going on in the home and with the people whom they are physically it. This, I believe is a problem. While being more connected online, are we disconnecting ourselves from the real world? Real life?

Cherie clarified this notion that her two daughters get absorbed in their phones. “We may all be sitting around the dinner table, and then one person will just not respond… they could have no idea what is going on around them, but they are fully aware of what is going on online. Its crazy really.” While Cherie sometimes despises this aspect of the ‘connected home’ she can’t help but admit that she is often in the same boat as her daughters. “I can get sucked in too for sure… it could be hours and then I realize S**t I haven’t started dinner.”

Hands up who has shopped at the dinner table? Who has scrolled down Facebook during class? Who has watched Youtube while at the gym? Or who found themselves stalking people they don’t even know on Facebook at work? All members of my family put their hand up to all of these questions (or offered similar alternatives.) Is this a problem I asked? “It’s a little worrying to be honest, but its just a habit, its becomes a normal, everyday function.” My Dad answered. Sherry Turkle further explains this idea of being alone together, and how it could potentially affect relationships, especially within the home. ‘We’re getting used to a new way of being alone together. People want to be with each other, but also elsewhere — connected to all the different places they want to be.’

According to the Australian Bureau of statistics, accessing the Internet has increased about 20% since 2006. Over 80% of households in 2013 access the Internet everyday. This can be seen true when analysing my families online household usage, with all five people accessing the Internet at least once every day.

Households with internet access(a), frequency of access, 2006–07 to 2012–13

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While studying my families online usage, and online habits, I think it is fair to say that we will definitely be getting the NBN one day. However this may not be in the near future, as it is not available where I live just yet. New suburbs close to my house have NBN availability Though, which is good sign and an indicator that it is coming closer!

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NBN availability at my home and surrounding.

Em x

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