Thinking Thoughts: Digital Storytelling

And so it continues…
With the end of one assignment starts the beginning of another. For our digital storytelling project, we have been asked to communicate how media practice is spatial in nature using a particular media platform.

you will design, implement and evaluate a small qualitative digital storytelling project that looks at media audience practices from the perspective of a specific person and/or place – Kate Bowles

To be honest, when I first read this assignment, it worried me. In fact, I’m still worried. Not only was I unsure about what topic to research but I was also anxious about the medium to choose. For instance I have no experience in making videos or making websites but I also didn’t want to stick with something too simple, like my blog.

In my research, I came across an article that talks about an experiment conducted by artist, Ivan Cash. Within San Francisco, he politely asks people to show him the last picture taken on their mobile phones accompanied with a backstory describing the image to showcase the unique stories and lives of the city’s residents.

The work of Cash gave me the inspiration to similarly replicate this experiment but to twist it in favour of media, audience and place. I wish to question what the public captures on their mobile cameras and why. I am interested in how individuals use their mobile cameras to take photos of almost anything and everything including food, people, places and even objects that many others would consider meaningless and unusual to capture and keep. How do people determine what deserves to be captured? What do they do with the image afterwards? How long have they kept it for? Who have they shared it with? These are all questions I wish to answer and analyse to make sense of how we use our technology.

How does this relate to Media, Audience and Place? Glad you asked!

  • Audience? People with photos on their phones
  • Media? Mobile phones
  • Place? Where I go to ask people, plus the ‘space’ of the mobile phone and the photos themselves

I would love some feedback as I am still a little unsure but this is definitely something i would like to research!

What are your thoughts?

Time to Reflect

After 2 years, blogging as usually been a chore. An academic duty of sorts. However throughout these 10 weeks of blogging, BCM240 has been a game changer. Not only do I believe that my quality of writing had improved, but so has my overall growth as a researcher in the field of media. Despite my previous experience with blogging in four other university subjects, it has not been until this semester that I have truly evolved the most in the blogosphere and found genuine enjoyment in writing and researching weekly topics.

APPEARANCE / FUNCTIONALITY

Before BCM240, my blog theme was pretty standard, incorporating a nice shade of default. Default theme, default images and default widgets. But I’m proud to say that I’m a changed woman. I took the time to personalise my blog through a new theme, with my own photo as the header image and adding widgets such as a twitter feed and blog roll to increase reader engagement. In fact, I got a bit carried away with my widgets in the beginning and ended up having several placed in my footer that I had no idea about. That is, until my tutor Travis set me straight with his feedback and now I know what a footer actually is!
I’ve also added the convenience of ‘categories’ on my main navigation bar. This allowed me to segregate the blogs I have written for other subjects by their subject name. Undoubtedly, this made my blog much more organised for effective blog structure and quicker user access to build reader engagement.

A further improvement to my blog can be seen through my ‘about me’ page. Previously, if anyone wanted to know anything about me, they would’ve seen a nice blank page. Although I covered the basics, a big part of what defines me is music, so I liked the idea of using lyrics as a strategy to describe myself. In saying that, I decided to use the underrated words of Ringo Starr from one of my most beloved bands, The Beatles. I like to think that it highlights my somewhat ‘unconventional’ side while also emphasising a more serious, metaphorical meaning of escaping the daily grind.

READER ENGAGEMENT

Another goal within BCM240 was to stimulate reader engagement. While it may seem obvious that this should be a high priority, before this subject I never considered anyone else reading my posts apart from my tutors and myself. However, after observing my WordPress statistics, I was pleasantly shocked to find that my work had been viewed internationally within over 15 different countries this year alone!
Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 12.29.30 pm

To encourage further reader engagement, I decided gain the assistance of social media. After creating my very first Twitter account, I made it my mission to follow as many BCM240 students as possible purely to get my name out there and noticed. This was a success to a degree as some of those I followed also followed me back, gradually building my audience. After every published blog, I tweeted about it with a link providing direct access. Not only did I tweet about my blog, but I tweeted about the blogs of others that I found interesting in order to create a rapport with them. Another successful Twitter strategy was the use of hashtags. Every one of my tweets contained the hashtag #BCM240 which allowed everyone in the subject to see them including lecturers and tutors. Perhaps my most successful number of views was the result of a retweet from my lecturer and tutor. On that day alone, I received 35 views of my blog, which contributed to 74 views for the month!
Heidi Cohen suggests that an effective way to increase the productivity of social media sharing is to clearly understand the interests, wants and needs of your audience using ‘killer titles’ to help hook readers in which I have attempted to do to the best of my ability.
Funnily enough though, Twitter wasn’t my main blog referrer. That title is given to the WordPress website itself with search engines coming a close second. Again, I adopted the use of tagging ‘BCM240’ within WordPress to increase the possibility of my blog showing up in searches.

To keep readers engaged, I ensured I broke up long paragraphs of content by inserting graphics and videos where appropriate. Eve Haugen encourages the use of visuals throughout blogs to increase traffic. She suggests that image-to-word ratios have a strong impact on attracting audiences and keeping them.

It was also suggested by Adam Connell to mention other bloggers in your content. Not only can this increase traffic and engagement, but it can also help build relationships with other bloggers. However, he gave caution not to mention anyone if they don’t actually help your audience, which lead me to look back over my blogs to rethink my blogger suggestions. I also used a general blogroll to recommend similar bloggers to my audience to further increase their understanding of media, audience and place.

The use of open-ended questions was a further attempt to increase audience engagement however what was disappointing this semester was the lack of comments. Despite the quantity of views, comments remained low, which leads me to believe that perhaps my readers aren’t reaching to the very end of my blog. Through this revelation, I’ve concluded that although I may have attracted readers to my blog, I need to improve my methods of keeping them there and staying motivated to read it. This may mean I have to perfect the art communicating my message effectively through reduced word limits.

RESEARCH / WRITING

In regards to my research methods, I feel as if my writing has become more analytical while still maintaining a somewhat colloquial voice and style. Throughout this blogging experience I have learnt firsthand the advantages of using ethnography research methods to gather data and the importance of finding additional research to help support personal claims and views.

A further improvement I would like to reflect on includes my referencing of opposing views. Including arguments of both for and against helped strengthen my knowledge of the topic at hand as well as strengthening my opinion by disputing opposing perspectives. Granted, haven’t adopted this approach in all of my posts, however I now feel confident enough to do so more in future.

One last element of improvement involves my use of block quotes. In previous blogs, I never used block quotes, which resulted in the direct words of others being lost in a sea of my own. When writing, I am now more aware of how I cite the work of others, ensuring that that the work of others are clearly distinct and detached from my own work, giving them the credit they deserve. I’ve also found that block quotes are useful for separating words and highlighting key information within my blogs.

Needless to say, there is always room for improvement, and despite my growth as a result of this subject, I’ve still got a long way to go. I’d like to thank all of my readers and everyone involved in making this the most enjoyable blogging experience yet! I strongly encourage others to also take the plunge and discover the self-satisfaction that comes from public writing.

Testing… Testing… 1, 2, 3… Is this thing on??

… Is what goes through my mind when I talk to someone but they seem a bit more pre-occupied with something else. Or as I like to call it, the ‘I’m-100%-certain-that-whatever-you’re-yapping-about-is-less-important-than-this‘ response.
 
This is ultimately a result of reduced attention. With help from the evolution of technology, attention has become more and more difficult to capture, reducing an individual’s need to be actively attentive (Bowles, 2015)

Sometimes it amazes me how many screens we need in front of us to be satisfied at any one time. It’s no longer enough just to have a TV in front of us. We now need laptops in our laps and phones in our hands. This, my friends, is what we call media multi-tasking. The true test of our cognitive capacity. For example, I can tell you now that in the process of writing this post, I have two separate browser windows open, each with over 7 tabs that separate business from leisure. I’ve also got ‘Game of Thrones’ playing on the TV for some background sound, messaging friends on my phone and playing the occasional Candy Crush game on my iPod. Clearly, I am a very busy woman whose mind is the equivalent of a Beatles concert at Shea Stadium.

Despite all of this activity, am I actually doing anything productive? A recent study suggests that the average attention span of an individual has deceased to 8.25 seconds without being distracted… less than that of a goldfish (Weinreich, 2015). What is more worrisome however, is when we bring that statistic into a classroom. Faria Sana and her colleagues conducted experiments to support their claim that, as a result of media multi-tasking, laptops hinder classroom learning. The results concluded that those exposed to multitasking on a laptop received lower marks than those who weren’t, therefore discouraging the use of laptops in the education environment.

Multitasking on a laptop is a distraction to both users and fellow students and can be detrimental to learning of classroom materials.      – Sana et al.

Personally, due to my own personal experience, I argue this viewpoint to a degree as I have found that where usage is used appropriately, laptops have the potential to be more beneficial than detrimental. Sana suggests laptops should be discouraged from classrooms where information is already presented in slides and textbooks (Sana, 2014). I however, find peace of mind in having the lecture slides on the laptop in front of me in order to go back if I’m falling behind in note-taking. I also find that I type faster than I write, and therefore would prefer the use of a laptop in the classroom. A further benefit includes quick research at your fingertips for any terms that require more understanding for comprehension purposes.

Additionally, research conducted by the perspective of students also contradicts Sana’s work as they believe that high media multi-taskers perform better while working with distractions (Reddy, 2014)

Our brains as adolescents and digital natives have adapted to this media influence and because we’ve grown up with it we’re able to cope with all these different stimuli                           – Alexandra Ulmer

Leaving the educational environment, I took it upon myself to observe my mum’s attention span for the day. In particular, she is a big fan of digitally recording television shows. She will often sit down after work and watch one of her pre-recorded programs, however I have noticed that she can never watch the entire program for more than 15 minutes without doing something else. After 10 minutes in the lounge-room, she then tries to watch it from the kitchen as she prepares dinner. Then she is interrupted by the telephone ringing, continuing to talk over the top of the program. After that, she then prepares a cup of tea and continues to watch the show in the lounge-room while waiting for the kettle to boil – but of course, she forgets about it and now the kettle is cold again. Within an hour, she had to rewind the show 5 times to re-watch particular scenes she had missed.
Her response to my observations hit her with a bit of a reality shock but overall she agreed with me that multi-tasking did not work for her in this instance.

It is important to note however, that our attention (or lack of) is not merely defined by our media use. Have you ever walked into a supermarket for a particular item only to walk out with 50 other items EXCEPT the one you went in for in the first place? Or left a drink in the freezer thinking ‘this way it will get cold quicker!’ only to come back hours later to a completely frozen bottle?
We can all thank our short attention spans for that. Check out this quick video below and see how much you can relate to short attention spans!

Faces of the Public: The social stigma behind capturing strangers

Did you ever look at a picture of yourself and see a stranger in the background? It makes you wonder how many strangers have pictures of you. How many moments of other people’s lives have we been in? Were we a part of someone’s life when their dream came true? Or were we there when their dreams died? Just think, you’d be a big part of someone else’s life… and not even know it.
– Lucas Scott (One Tree Hill)

It’s funny to think that through many of the captured moments in our lives, we have shared the same space with a complete stranger. We can be looking at these strangers for many years to come as we take our trips down memory lane, yet know absolutely nothing about them except what they looked like at that specific moment in time. But have you ever stopped to consider the potential ethical issues of taking someone’s photo without their consent?

Public photography is a right of passage and can by no means be avoided in this day and age with the continual evolution of handheld, mobile devices. Strangers will always play a minor part of our lives, until one day, they become something more. For instance, the photo below was taken at Disneyland 35 years ago, capturing a husband and wife years before they even met (Taylor, 2010). The wife being the little girl in the foreground and the husband being the boy in the stroller in the background. Despite living in different countries, the stranger in the background became a permanent part of her life, casting aside any futile opinions of ‘privacy’ or criticism.The odds are astronomical: 30 years ago, when Alex and Donna Voutsinas lived in different countries and long before they met and married, they were captured in the same photo at Disney World. That's Donna at right in front. Alex is in the stroller in the background immediately behind Mr. Smee.

Granted, when we take a photo it is usually with an intention in mind, whether it be a group of friends, a building, concert or stadium. The point is, most photos are not taken with the intent to capture a particular stranger. It is my mere co-incidence that any person is captured in the background of a photo. However, can we still be held accountable for ‘invading the privacy’ of individuals despite being in public space?

While it it unrealistic to seek the approval of every individual that walks in and out of a frame, it is of the utmost importance to respect the decision of others if they wish for you to delete it. By law, it is acceptable for individuals to take photos in a public space without asking for permission (Arts Law Center of Australia, 2015).
When people talk about respecting the privacy of others, it is important to consider the parameters in which we define the term ‘privacy’. It is fair game to take a photo of a stranger if they per chance happen to be in the public space in which you want to take the picture. The real invasions of privacy can be drawn when taking photos within change-rooms and public toilets whether individual privacy is expected. Children playing in the park? Fine. Someone entering their pin at an ATM? No. (Nemeth, 2014)

Why We Live, Where We Live: New York City, New York. I want to live in this location because I want to be a fashion designer and I think living here would make it easier to get a job so I could work my way up to being that.:

Street photographer, David Sutton, knows all too well about the stigmas surrounding public photography. While he knows that it is perfectly legal to candidly capture the public (including children), he can also appreciate the viewpoint of others who believe ‘just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should’. Despite his legal freedom, he has, at times, issued self-imposed limits as to what he captures including avoiding: photos that subject someone to embarrassment and photos of children as the main subject (Sutton, 2014) This opinion strongly correlates with that of Eric Kim who strongly believes that personal definitions of ethics vary from person to person as it is shaped by individual culture, upbringing and values (Kim, 2011)

Ethics is in the eye of the beholder. If you take images which you feel are exploiting of other people, it is.    – Eric Kim

For further reading on the subject, I highly recommend the work of Isabel Napier whose excellent writing draws on her own personal experiences as a tourist, including her reflection on the issues of capturing strangers in public.

An Empty Cinema

As a child in her prime from the 90’s to the noughties, I would always look forward to the day when I could go where want and do as I please without needing permission. Being a young whippersnapper had its drawbacks at times and as a result of the many restrictions I faced, going to the movies was one of my most beloved childhood endevours. But as a now ‘adult’ of sorts (and I use the definition of adult very loosely here), the once novelty of movie-going has slowly faded into a constant weighing of pros and cons (with cons usually winning). Which brings me to the question: has going to the cinema become a thing of the past? And if so, why?

The work of Torsten Hägerstrand can help us in regards to answering this question as he illustrates a strong conceptual framework for understanding the particular constraints on human activity in space and time (Miller, 2005)

Time has a critical importance when it comes to fitting people and things together for functioning in socio-economic systems – Hägerstrand

Using his ‘space-time path‘, Hägerstrand demonstrates how the time geography activity of individuals can experience three main constraints: capability, coupling and authority. Capability constraints consist of the physical or biological restrictions of human movement, coupling constraints refers to the issues of having to be at a particular place for a particular time in conjunction with other people, and authority contraints apply to problems with particular areas of control and regulation (Corbett, 2011)
Each of these constraints can now be applied in relation my personal decision not to attend the cinema. Due to the fact that we cannot instantaneously travel from one place to another, we face a trade-off between space and time (Corbett, 2011). This capability constraint can usually be reduced with the convenience of cars, but despite the fact I’m lucky enough to own a car, I am also faced with the problem that cars require fuel and parking requires money. Not to forget the endless stream of traffic. The ever so inconvenient timing of sickness is another example of a capability constraint as I could barely get myself out of bed let alone brave any exposure to the outside elements.
The coupling constraint faced include the fact that alot of the time it is impossible to find enough time in a day when everyone is available. Our ages may have doubled from our childhood days, but so have our responsibilities! A lot of us are juggling university attendance, assessments, work, sport, etc. and so finding a time that is convenient for everyone is the equivalent of finding wally.
Lastly, the most influential constraint in my opinion is the authority constraint. It seems these days that when planning your next trip to the big screen, you want to be packing a cold hard $50 note. Surprisingly enough, Steven Spielberg shares the same opinion.  Despite the emerging efforts of concessions, gone are the days of 40 cent tickets. Not only is the ticket price itself a challenge to my financial authority, let’s not forget the traditional extras of popcorn, choc-tops and soft drink – that is AFTER you pay for parking and fuel. This shortage of money restricts my authority to enter the cinema establishment and use its facilities.

I adore this photo. The empty spaces and mix of ages suggest an art house film. These people are watching a good movie.:

As a result of cinema attendance rapidly declining, it seems most of the public are experiencing these same constraints. Chris Dorr compares the physical space of cinema as a battle where distributors fight to get large box-office grosses for their films in order to become the “winner” (Dorr, 2014). But it seems today as if the whole industry is losing. According to the statistics of ‘Screen Australia’, despite the 14-25 year old age bracket illustrating the most frequent use of cinemas, the overall trend of attendance is decreasing. In addition, 1996 cinema attendance was recorded at it’s peak with 72% and an average frequency of 11.3. Comparing this data 18 years later, 2014 statistics indicate a mere 68% attendance percentage at an average frequency of 6.8 times.
I believe these diminishing figures however, are not a reflection on the quality of films or a lack of interest in them, but of the now inconvenience of the cinematic experience. Now more than ever, movies are not being confined by cinema walls. They are becoming easier and more favorable to access. The rise of Netflix, iTunes, Amazon and internet streaming on portable devices in Australia allows not only movie purchases of $10 and under, but also the added benefit of not having to leave the comfort of your own home. You can: stay in your sweats or pajamas, pause to go to the bathroom not having missed a thing, control the volume and temperature, and most of all you can choose who you want to share the space with you – if anyone. With all of these advantages, it is not unbelievable to predict that cinema attendance will continue to decline in the next 5-10 years if the industry remains as it is.

The LAN Down-Under

Do you remember the good ole’ times when you would have to rely on your nearest encyclopaedia to get any type of research?….. Well neither do I.
I can assure you that any encyclopaedia in my household is currently gathering its 20th annual layer of dust, and that’s all thanks to the introduction of the internet.


Personally, I have always grown up in a home with the internet. Amongst five family members, including two parents and three children, we share ten devices on one data plan. Granted, I hog a rather large portion of that figure, but for the sake of argument, that works out to two devices per family member. These numbers make me question; how has the internet evolved through time?
To help answer my question, I decided to interview the current members of my household including my parents and older sibling.

When questioning my father on his first experience with the internet, he describes to me the term ‘dial-up’. He remembers a time when the internet ran directly through the telephone line, meaning that the home telephone and the internet could never work simultaneously (TechTerms, 2009). “Whenever we wanted to use the internet, we would have to disconnect the phone and whenever we wanted to use the phone, we would have to disconnect the internet”. Such a vicious cycle resulted in many conflicts between: my dad expecting a call, and my older sister wanting to talk on her online MSN chatroom. Her memories of dial-up include the “screeching noises”  it made when being connected. She then proceeded to imitate the sound… poorly. But this is what it sounded like:

Through the evolution of internet, out of the 7.3 million households with internet access, only 4% still use the dial-up method and a 93% majority have evolved to bigger and better things – broadband (ABS, 2014). Today, our internet runs on a DSL broadband connection, like 54% of other broadband users. But is the family happy with this service?
“Compared to dial-up, broadband is a god-send, but I still find myself getting frustrated with internet speed”. It was apparent that although internet has improved throughout the years, our usage of it has also increased which can cause congestion on the copper internet wires (TIO, 2011). My sister comments that “iPhones, iPads, Laptops, PCs and TVs all share the wireless internet connection which can really slow down the speed”. This isn’t very surprising considering Australia is falling behind in the internet ranks, being 44th in the world for average internet speed (Donovan, 2015). Irritations of speed illustrate a ‘significant demand for the National Broadband Network (NBN)’ (Nansen et al, 2014, p.23)

“Unfortunately we don’t have access to the NBN network just yet” despite mum’s wishes, but after researching our address on their official website, I found out that ground-works are currently underway in preparation of the NBN. Upon asking whether he would consider signing up for the NBN, dad considers that “It depends on the overall additional cost. Speed is important but affordability is also a priority. It would be interesting to experience it as a trial to see whether it is worth it”. This opinion also correlates with other non-NBN users in Australia (Nansen et al, 2013, p. 27)

The primary research collected through my family has helped me conclude that the internet never used to be a priority in the family home, but through the technological advances in the past decade, there has been an increasing demand to use the internet for both business and leisure purposes and therefore this requires constantly improving efficiency. Can you and your family also relate to these issues?

References
– Australian Bureau of Statistics (2014), ‘Type of Household Internet Access’, Household Use of Information Technology Australia, abs.com.au, viewed 23/08/2015, <http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/A0074B22E3150EEECA257C89000E3F7A?opendocument&gt;

– Donovan, S (2015), ‘Internet speeds: Austalia ranks 44th, study cites direction of NBN as part of problem’, ABC News, abc.net.au, viewed 23/08/2015, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-01-12/australian-internet-speeds-rank-44th-in-the-world/6012570&gt;

– Nansen, B., Arnold, M., Wilken, R. and Gibbs, M. (2012), ‘Broadbanding Brunswick: High- speed Broadband and Household Media Ecologies: A Report on Household Take-up and Adoption of the National Broadband Network in a First Release Site’, Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, Sydney.

– ProOnCall Technologies (2015), ‘Technological Advances In The Past Decade That Have Changed Social Media’, Pro OnCall Technologies, prooncall.com, viewed 23/08/2015, <https://prooncall.com/technological-advances-past-decade-changed-social-media/&gt;

– TechTerms (2009), ‘Dial-Up’, Internet Terms, techterms.com, viewed 23/08/2015, <http://techterms.com/definition/dialup&gt;

– Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (2011), ‘What affects the speed of an internet connection?’, TIO News, tio.com.au, viewed 23/08/2015, <https://www.tio.com.au/publications/news/what-affects-the-speed-of-an-internet-connection&gt;

– Video: wilterminus (2008), ‘The Sound of Dial-Up Internet’, Youtube, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsNaR6FRuO0&gt;

Collaborating with Ethnography


Source

Quantitative research is a logical, quantifiable method of research commonly used to gather information in a statistical and numerical manner (Babbie, 2010). While this approach can successful in numerous ways, however is it the most effective and beneficial way to gather data? Quantitative information gives us matter-of-fact, methodical findings, but it also illustrates a sterile, emotionless results which, to the average individual, is meaningless.

Ethnography adds a third-dimension to the field of research. According to Ebrahim, ethnography is a ‘discipline that studies the processes associated with the way in which people perceive, describe and explain the world.’ It can be thought as a process that incorporates personal perspectives of the world in order to derive significance of a situation (Ebrahim, 1995 p.197). This concept can be further expanded with the concept of collaborative ethnograophy which simply is an extension of ethnography in that it ‘deliberately and explicitly emphasizes collaboration at every point in the ethnographic process’ (Lassiter, 2005)

When analysing the use of contemporary media within our homes, collaborative ethnography gives us the best insight into the true essence of media, its individual consumption and its constant development in a way that statistical data and graphs from quantitative data can’t. Sure, quantitative data can reveal cold, hard facts of who watches what television programs and how often, but depending on the type of research you’re undertaking it also has its faults. Television in particular, can be on yet not even be watched. Personally, sometimes I leave the TV on just to fill the silence; other times I mute it; other times I’m paying more attention to other media platforms. But for all the ABS, OZTAM or other statistical organisations know, I actually enjoy watching reruns of ‘Mork and Mindy’…. ENHHH. No. You are the weakest link.
Collaborative ethnography fills this gap in the research process, allowing us to further appreciate and authenticate findings by providing emotional insights into personal media consumption and how they make people feel.

Through last week’s blog post, interviewing my dad on his personal experience of television revealed more than just the date, time, price or coordinates of his association with TV; it evoked feeling, nostalgia and memories of significance. None of these results could have been achieved merely from quantitative research. It can be thought that his words helped me form my words as, through a collaborative effort, I gained a far greater understanding of television in a different age.

References
– Babbie, Earl R. The Practice of Social Research. 12th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage, 2010; Muijs, Daniel. Doing Quantitative Research in Education with SPSS. 2nd edition. London: SAGE Publications, 2010.

Ebrahim, G & Sullivan, K (1995), ‘Qualitative Field Research’, Mother and Child Health: Research Methods, Book Aid, uowplatform.com

-Lassiter, L (2005), ‘Defining a Collaborative Ethnography’, The Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethnography, uchicago.edu, viewed 19/08/2015, <http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/468909.html&gt;