Looking back and looking forward: BCM240 reflection


To reflect on my blogging experience over the past few months, I want to return to my introduction post for my university subject #BCM240. In that post, I referred to a quote by Nelson Mandela that I think of at least weekly: “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” This quote makes me stop and think every single time I read it, without fail. Even though I only wrote that initial post at the start of August, a short two months later I can look back at that initial post and realise how I myself have changed as a person, and also how I have changed as a blogger. Whilst the content of that post remains unchanged, the blog that it finds itself a part of has completely transformed. WordPress can be a bit of a maze (I don’t even want to know how many hours I’ve spent trying to get my widgets to work properly), and so Google became my best friend in terms of refining all the little details, but this post definitely helped in terms of layout. From a boring, impersonal and hard to navigate blog, I think I have now created a blog that represents me and helps me to interact with the rest of the blogosphere. All thanks to the knowledge of BCM240.

Again in that initial post, I spoke of standing at the top of a mountain at night and looking out over a city or the like, and only being able to see thousands of tiny orange dots. I used this to describe my place in the media space: I am a tiny orange dot. My place is small, insignificant, surrounded, yet bright. And this hasn’t changed much. I still don’t have the desire to own a large, successful blog. But my reasons for blogging have definitely altered. I now feel that I deserve to, and I am capable of, speaking and sharing my opinions on certain topics. I am proud to have my face on my blog and I am happy with how rounded and complete it feels.

When starting afresh with my blog this session, I made a real decision to actually read other people’s blogs, to comment on other posts, to use my blogging opportunities to leverage other university opportunities; this session I am working on a project called UOW Wanderlust in partnership with UOW Goes Global and it has been great to be able to leverage that project with my established blog and vice versa. But by far the best thing about blogging this session has been the content.
The most enjoyable and most enlightening aspect of this subject was definitely the collaboration aspect. I had the opportunity to talk to my mum and family about things that we had never really had an in-depth conversation about. I learnt things about her childhood that just don’t come up in everyday conversation – hearing about her experiences with the television and cinema and being able to compare that to my upbringing was actually incredible, and it was really nice to set out that time almost every week. As well as the enjoyment it brought my mum and myself, I think it also produced some of my most engaging content – the family stories and personal insights are the posts that I don’t cringe at every time I read them over, they are much more entertaining to read. These experiences also taught me a lot about the power and importance of collaborative research and how often I engage in it without even appreciating or acknowledging it.

Something that acted as a bit of a barrier for my blogging experience was readership and growth. Whilst I have never blogged for the purpose of gaining a wide readership, receiving views and feedback is something that greatly advantages my writing and my blog and so I worked to grow my blog this session. One of the main ways I did this was by reading, liking and commenting on other people’s blogs. From there, people responded to my comments and would often end up viewing or liking one of my posts. I used other platforms such as Twitter to share my posts for all my university subjects and followed a lot more accounts on Twitter, hoping that they would see my tweets and go on to read my blog. I found this article to be a massive help in terms of growth – and it comes directly from the pro’s who know how to blog like a boss. Whilst my readership was not hugely widespread, it has definitely grown throughout the past session, reaching to a total of 24 countries – something I am hugely proud of.

My biggest challenge when it comes to blogging is finding the motivation to do it. Whilst I do enjoy writing once I start, I really struggle with the starting part. There is a quote by the author Anne Tyler that states, “If I waited till I felt like writing, I’d never write at all.” And this describes me perfectly – I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those people that decides they feel like blogging, and I’m starting to think that that’s okay, because it is simply not one of my passions, even though I by no means don’t enjoy it. One thing I found hugely helpful is to find things that inspire me. Before I would write each post, I would set up a music playlist that gives me that goose bump, inspired feeling and I would look at incredible photos from around the world (Chris Burkard, thank you for making me blog). I found that once I was inspired, the words sort of fell out, and I could just go along and clean them up later on. So that is what I have learnt and that is what works for me. I’m sure that every public writer has some other method of madness, and that’s awesome, because it is this diversity of opinions, personalities and styles that makes up our incredible blogosphere.


A buffet of distractions to feed our short attention spans

I think it’s pretty safe to say, based off personal experiences and the flood of research on the topic, that our attention spans are getting shorter. There are too many distractions nowadays to keep the same level of attention that was most likely experienced 10 years ago. When our attention wavers, we reach for our mobiles. So when we are tempted with a buffet of devices to feed our short attention span, can we really be blamed for getting a little bit distracted? If I’m being completely honest, I’ve reached for or looked at my phone after finishing each sentence in this introduction. It’s a serious issue.

To delve a tiny bit into this concept of attention spans, I asked a friend of mine who I attend most of my lectures with to count how many times I check my phone during one of our weekly lectures. I asked her to not tell me which lecture out of the 3 we attend together she would be watching me in and I also asked her to not make it obvious that she is watching or counting. Whilst a very small and relatively unreliable experiment, I just wanted to get a rough understanding of how often I get distracted when I should be concentrating. Correspondingly, there has been quite a bit of conjecture recently around the effectiveness of lectures and whether they deserve a place in university education. Perhaps the design of this experiment is evidence enough of how little attention is given to lectures: my friend could literally spend an entire lecture watching me get distracted and it didn’t bother her at all.
Moving on, the biggest flaw in this experiment I thought would be the fact that I was aware I was being watched. But surprisingly, after half an hour of a marketing lecture that makes no sense to you, you forget about everything and only focus on the world of Facebook, which is good because that happened to be the lecture she decided to watch me in. Embarrassingly, and worryingly for that matter, I looked at my phone approximately 56 times over a 2 hour period, whether that meant just clicking a button to see if I had any new notifications, or picking up my phone for a longer amount of time. After my friend told me that number, I had a think about what I would be touching my phone for. Since my friend was somewhat trying to pay attention and also not make it obvious that she was watching, she rarely saw what I was actually doing on my phone, so it was up to my conscious mind to remember what subconscious zombie ash does on her phone during lectures. Most of my time I think was spent responding to messages or emails, followed closely by Facebook and Instagram scrolling, endlessly refreshing trying to find something new, like looking in the fridge for a second time even though you know there’s nothing good in there. But after looking at my phone Internet history, I actually spend time doing things that I need to do (yes, I need to shop), but shouldn’t be doing in a lecture – things like submitting my work timesheets, shopping, researching holiday details and looking for things to do this weekend.

Even though this was just a small experiment, it is undoubtedly clear that we are surrounded by distractions and perhaps before the time of personal devices we had much longer attention spans – however I’m sure people found ways to get distracted during school long before iPhones.

Can I take a photo of you?

source: http://www.richardhartley.com/2012/05/what-to-see-at-london-festival-of-photography/
source: http://www.richardhartley.com/2012/05/what-to-see-at-london-festival-of-photography/

As a pretty open and sharing person, the topic of ethics in photography is something I don’t put a lot of thought into. In my opinion, and after chatting to a close photography friend, most of the time the best photos are the candid ones where strangers don’t know that a photo is being taken – honestly, stop and think about how weird it is that we all stop what we are doing, smile and pose to capture a moment when really the best way to remember a moment is to have a photo of exactly what that is. Out of every photo I have ever been in or taken, my favourites are by far those when no one is looking at the camera. And so for this post, even though it is a struggle, I’m going to try to adopt an open mind and try to see both sides of the ethical dilemma of public space photography.

When public space photography is okay:

For Art’s sake: I am forever in awe of art, and so I am definitely in support of this argument. There are times that public space photography is incredibly powerful in telling a story or evoking emotions, times where a staged or posed photo just will not send the same message. And it is not just artists who are in support of this; the law seems to agree with the use of public space photography for art. An example of this is the case of Arne Svenson and his exhibition, ‘The Neighbors’. Svenson took photos of New York residents inside their Manhattan apartments without their consent and after stumbling across the photos, two subjects filed a complaint against Svenson since the photos featured their children half-naked and were used to promote the exhibition where they would be put up for sale, thus constituting advertising and trade. However, the court ruled in favour of Svenson since the photos were works of art.

Journalism: It is clear that citizen journalism has had a huge impact on the way we connect with, and the insight we gain about stories around the world. Public space photography in terms of citizen journalism is in my eyes the most acceptable form of public space photography. Without smartphones we wouldn’t have on-the-ground evidence of events that occur around the world, evidence that if not for public space photography and citizen journalism might not ever be seen by the public due to mainstream media control and also the safety of standard journalists being in certain locations. And so, when it comes to journalism, public space photography should be acceptable, however, there are definitely instances where blurring of faces or caution may need to be implemented.

Others: Through personal experience, there are other circumstances where public space photography is acceptable. Such as people taking photos to showcase people doing the wrong thing, like damaging or stealing people’s property or behaving inexcusably in public.

When public space photography is not okay:

Consent: There are too many instances where people have been left feeling embarrassed or violated after a photo or footage of themselves is viewed by many in the public domain without their consent. One example that comes to my mind is when mainstream news outlets far too often take footage of overweight people walking in a public space and use that footage in a story. Now I’m no channel 7 cameraman but I can almost guarantee that consent is not received to film them for a fat shaming story. Building on that, footage of people looking at their phones too often, listening to music when crossing the road, being too drunk at a festival, etc. all depict the people in a negative light and consent would never be given – and so the subject could be watching the news at home and suddenly see themselves on a million-viewer program looking awful. To me, this is where unconsented public space photography becomes an issue. However, according to this article, when taking images of groups of people in public spaces or at events, “it is [sometimes] not practical, or indeed necessary, to obtain consent from people present.” The critical factor, according to the article, is whether or not a person is identifiable.

Getting in the way of the moment: Admittedly, this argument has less to do with public space photography and more to do with public space media use, but I think the two go hand-in-hand. We all know what I’m talking about – the habit of pulling out an iPhone and putting it in between the moment and ourselves. We are a technologically immersed culture that feels the need to document everything we do and share it with the world – I’m not saying that I’m not thoroughly guilty of this too – but when the public space media use gets in the way of the real world and the real moment, this is when it becomes an issue. I’m not sure if you’ve ever been brave enough to do this, but not taking your phone to something – for me, it’s when I hike – makes the moment all the more special. Sure, take a camera to capture the memory, but there is something about being alone at the top of a mountain looking at an incredible view and only keeping that moment to yourself for a while that makes you feel so ridiculously insignificant, in the best kind of way.

So that’s where I stand in terms of public space photography and media use and the ethics of it all. Whilst my indecisiveness didn’t really achieve anything, I think we are all capable of knowing right and wrong to an extent anyway. Eric Kim and Bruce Gilden hold a similar view, they say that ethical feels right. Exploitative doesn’t. We are capable of deciphering this.

The end of the drive-in: the cinema from the 70’s to now

I couldn’t possibly count how many times I’ve been to the movies – but considering I saw Twilight 10 times at the cinemas, I’m going to go with a lot. There is something so much more exciting about watching a movie on the big screen rather than on my bedroom television. Maybe it’s the mass of people all enjoying the same thing at the same time as you, maybe it’s the incredible sound and image quality, or maybe it’s the suspense of waiting for a movie to finally come out and the satisfaction when you finally see it for the first time. Whatever it is, obviously cinema is a much-loved thing, and has been for quite a while.

source: http://watvhistory.com/2011/09/wa-history-from-telegram-to-tv-part-3-of-5/
source: http://watvhistory.com/2011/09/wa-history-from-telegram-to-tv-part-3-of-5/

When planning a cinema trip however, it is clear that Torsten Hägerstrand’s constraints play a pretty substantial role in deciding whether or not to make the effort. These constraints are:

  1. Can I get there?
  2. Can I get there on time?
  3. Do I have the authority to be there?

The first two constraints are the those that have the greatest impact on my cinema-going. If I was to plan to go to the movies within the next few days, the biggest things I’d have to consider would be is it worth the money and can I justify wasting a few hours out of my intense schedule just to watch a movie – probably not.

It is interesting to compare my struggles to the experiences my mum has growing up with the cinema. I sat down with mum to hear about her prime cinema-going days and unfortunately some stories about her drive-in dates.

image source: http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2013/05/where-are-australias-drive-in-theatres/
image source: http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2013/05/where-are-australias-drive-in-theatres/

My mum spent a lot more time at the drive-in than she did at the cinema, simply because the drive-in was closer to her house and her uncle worked there so she never had to pay. She also just enjoyed the drive-in experience more than the cinema. With a smile, she remembers almost every weekend she would spend her days at the beach with friends and then head to the drive-in at night. In this way, there were no restrains on what people could wear – in fact, mum doesn’t remember there being many rules at all, except that every person had to pay for a ticket – of course this wasn’t abided by all the time and people used to sneak in car boots to avoid the fee.
When she did attend the cinema, it would be a big trip to the city with her relatively large family. This trip seems relatively excessive when I consider how easy it is for me to just randomly decide to go to the cinema that is 20 minutes from my house, check what is showing and buy tickets online in minutes.
When I ask mum about how much the cinema has changed since her teenage years, sound, seat and image quality are the biggest improvements in her eyes. Other than that and the use of a roll of film, the cinema has remained relatively consistent throughout the years: the seating layout is almost identical, the standard cinema food is the same (hallelujah), there are still those few people who won’t stop talking and there is still that couple making out up the back.

To end our conversation, mum has hope for the future of the cinema. She believes that it has been around for such a long time and really acts as a sort of right of passage for when a teenager first goes to the cinema by themselves. Whilst obviously, and excitingly, the technology, storylines and quality will improve, mum and I believe that the cinema is too important to loose, regardless of Hägerstrand’s constraints.

Meet my sibling – Modem

Picture this: a candy-crush-obsessed mother; a father who says “what” after any sentence due to a slight case of industrial deafness; a better-than-me-at-everything sister; a seriously odd brother; me, a youngest, slave child; plus a brother-in-law; sister-in-law; and two shoulder-obsessed budgies all sitting in a lounge room together. Naturally, due to this weird assortment, when I sat them all down to discuss our Internet antics, by the end of the conversation we were all shaking our heads and sighing, “shit we do some weird stuff in this house.”
This is, shamefully, a glimpse into what it was like growing up surrounded by the Internet in my household.

We are the not-so-proud owners of a hideous, hidden by books, Internet modem that provides us with unlimited access each month. This modem serves 2 desktops, 3 laptops, a minimum of 6 phones, 2 ipads, Foxtel, and I don’t even know what else. But it does a terrible, terrible job. NBN is yet to be existent in my suburb, or any suburb surrounding me (seriously look at the map below, it’s like I live in a NBN-deprived crater), and so every single night, without fail, someone in my family will exclaim, “what is wrong with the internet today”, “who’s been using all the internet” or “Blake, what have you been downloading you weirdo, the Internet is being so slow.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 6.54.28 pm
NBN avoiding my area http://www.nbnco.com.au/connect-home-or-business/check-your-address/outside-rollout.html

And that is how it has always been – growing up with one main internet-enabled computer, there would often be fights over whose turn it is to talk to boyfriends or girlfriends on MSN (I can’t even count how many times I’ve been pushed off the computer chair in my life). To add to the drama, my parents run their own business and so my mum was also thrown into the ring, contending for the prestigious prize of computer time.

Speaking to my mum about why she didn’t attempt some form of chart to control these brawls, she says that it would’ve been too hard to control since we all needed it at different times and for different purposes and this varied too much day to day. In saying that though, I don’t recall spending a huge amount of time on the Internet; besides MSN and the occasional research for a school project, there wasn’t many sites that I used until I was of an age that I could have my own device to use it on. This is not the case for my older sister since internet-enabled devices did not become prevalent until she was pretty far into her cringe-worthy teens. And this is where our first story begins. My sister and her boyfriend, young, dumb and device-less, were in desperate need for some X-rated information and like very smart, very secretive little teens decided that the shared home computer was a good place to start. Needleless to say, my mum got a bit of a shock when she did her weekly scan of the internet history and saw that her ‘baby’ was doing not-so-babyish things. Ahhhh sissy, you won’t make that mistake again will you? Quote from mum: “I’m sort of glad that I cant read everything on all of your phones, I think I’d have a heartattack”. I’m glad too Mum.

Moving on, mum recalls when the Internet first rose to the thrown and how much of a learning curve it was for her since she was so used to just reaching for a book or a dictionary whenever she needed to know something. The worst part, according to mum, was that her eldest daughter knew more about it than she did since she was being taught how to use it at school. Mum recalls boys in primary school with my sister being so tech savvy that they worked around school firewalls and could print out some pretty inappropriate pictures on the school computers, “the kids were getting more computer savvy than what adults were.” And as my mother struggles violently to get past a level of Candy Crush while I type, it’s pretty obvious that that dynamic is still prevalent in my household, and many others.

Check out the changing perspectives of the Internet from adults and children:

The new way to research

I want you to consider any research articles you have read lately, – whether it was on climate change (I hope it was), on how Facebook might be making us depressed, or on why people wear makeup (surprisingly interesting) – whatever it was, consider how much of the paper was based off quantitative research and heavily relied on charts and graphs. Now, consider how much of the research involved collaborative ethnography. ‘Never heard of it,’ you say? Not for long.

Collaborative ethnography is research that involves both the researchers and the collaborators partaking in constant mutual and collaborative engagement throughout the entirety of the study. This yields a greater and more involved relationship between the researcher and the people being researched; collaborators are not only part of the research, but they also receive something in reciprocal for the study. The result is a study that is co-written by local communities of collaborators which considers multiple audiences outside the confines of academic discourse; in this way, it often surfaces more accurate findings of social environments and a deeper and more contextualised understanding of relevant issues.

A relatively simple example of collaborative research can be seen in my previous post where I interviewed my mum about her experiences of television growing up. This study was collaborative in a number of ways: importantly, the interview acted as a reciprocal experience as my mum was glad to be able to help me out in any university work, and because she also got to share some pretty special childhood memories with me. Acting as a sort of reminiscing conversation, the conversation allowed me to hear about my grandma’s everyday life, something I had no idea about as she sadly passed away when my mum was very young. Additionally, each student studying BCM240 also interviewed someone about their television memories, and so all of these experiences can be pooled together to collect emerging themes and question — a perfect example of collaboration at a very deep level. If this research was conducted quantitatively, it would’ve been very difficult to conduce results that involved so much of the emotional responses that came out of many interviews.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of quantitative research (gotta love a good fun fact statistic) and I am certain that quantitative data could add depth to a lot of these television research reports, (data like how many people owned a TV, how often they watched it and so on) but collaborative ethnography has the ability to fill the gaps that quantitative research simply can’t and so I believe individual stories of media space experience really should matter to commercial researchers.

From one household television to eight – growing up as TV does

Let me take you back to a time when my mother was just four years old. Her favourite things to do were carving pictures into rocks and riding her pet dinosaur (juuust kidding, sorry Mum if you ever read this). The year was 1968 and a redbrick house in Sydney’s Sylvania Heights was home to Robyn, her parents, and her 4 siblings, as well as a tortoise, several ducks and even more chickens. Enter the front door of the redbrick house and head towards the back of the home, and you’d come to what Robyn refers to as the sitting room. In that sitting room, all the furniture pointed towards a teak-coloured (apparently teak is a colour, who knew?) television which stood on four long legs. Switch on the TV and you’d be presented with four channels all shown in vivid black and white. To choose between these channels, you would press a long button which would flick between channels – if you miss the channel you want you have to go all the way through the channels again.

It’s crazy to consider how far technology has come in a relatively short amount of time in the scheme of things. Being of an age where I was born into a world that was already immersed in the television culture, it is quite difficult to imagine what life was like back then – life without colour television, let alone Blu-ray discs and 3D viewing. In an attempt to understand and appreciate these earlier times, I spoke to my mother about her memories of the television as a child and how much she has seen technology change. Amongst the countless “I’m 52, how do you expect me to remember!” statements, a real insight into my mother’s life as a child arose.

Robyn recalls sitting on the floor watching the television, as the lounge was only for adults. Shows like Lassie, Gilligan’s Island and Saturday morning cartoons were what Robyn has the most memory of, but she emphasizes that she didn’t spend a lot of time watching television, “When we were children, you had breakfast and you had to go outside, and you would come back inside when the sun went down.” Robyn definitely didn’t spend hours at a time watching television, and unlike her daughter, she most certainly did not procrastinate and watch late night TV (guilty), simply because at around 10 o’clock at night the channels finished and were replaced by “that barcode picture thingy”. Sharing a room with two other sisters, Robyn remembers listening to 2SM on a battery-powered radio as she went to sleep – a fairly rare notion nowadays. Similarly, she speaks happily of the fact that the television shows were much more innocent, simpler and family orientated than today. Shows, according to Robyn, were how you educated yourself, “now you would use the computer, but back then the TV was what you would use, or you’d walk down to the corner phone box to ask someone something. Technology has just come so far.”

A fond memory that Robyn recalls was noticing that every day, without fail, her mother would stop whatever she was doing at 1pm to ensure that she didn’t miss a second of Days of our Lives or The Young and the Restless. But this is what every housewife did apparently; similarly, due to the lack of variety in the shows, every single person watched the same shows, which definitely meant there were opportunities to talk about them outside of TV hours. Robyn speaks of her Grandma who saw the actors on The Days of Our Lives as real people – she was so invested in and connected to the characters that she spoke of them as if she knew them (by the way, thanks The Young and the Restless for the inspiration to my mother to name me the very original and creative name of Ashleigh 😐 ).

The television was not the main focus of the house back then like it is now. Robyn, who started out with one tiny black and white television, now has eight set up in her house. When asked if she preferred the television culture back then or now, Robyn answered “well I don’t want to talk to you guys all the time, so yeah I like that we can all watch TV separately”. Naw thanks Mum ❤ lovely to hear about your childhood.

image source: https://thecitywidementalhealthproject.wordpress.com/2013/01/07/silly-musings-and-pablo-nerudas-ode-to-the-cat/

For a little humour (well my mum thinks it’s funny), check out this great post on what it was like growing up in the 70’s and 80’s – http://www.thesuburbanjungle.com/things-we-did-in-the-70s-and-80s-that-would-horrify-us-now#sthash.zIoge7dq.dpbs


Where am I?

Nelson Mandela, the wise wizard he was, once said, “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” This is a statement I have thought of quite often lately, and one that flew into my brain in the first BCM240 lecture of the session when asked where I am in my life, in relation to my degree, my career and my life in general — thanks Kate, these questions really hit me right in the feels, simply because I have no idea. After making changes to my degree, ending a four year relationship and attempting to move out of home, I’m in a huge stage of flux in my life at the moment … and it’s great. Even though I am so confused about so many things, being back at university, back in the blogosphere and back with familiar faces makes it so much easier to recognise and appreciate the ways in which I have changed. And so, as strange as it is to be back BCM blogging, it is also incredibly eye-opening for the new, independent and directed ash.

Perhaps the only thing that has remained constant in the past 6 months is my place in media space.
Have you ever stood at the top of a mountain at night and looked out over a city or the like, and all you can see is thousands of tiny orange dots? If you haven’t, I strongly suggest you do, it really makes you put everything into perspective and realise how blissfully insignificant you are. If you know what I’m talking about, then you’ll understand when I say that I see my place in the media space as one of the tiny orange dots out of the thousands you can see. My place is small, insignificant, surrounded, yet bright. I am not someone who desires to have a huge blog or social media following, but I am also heavily dependent on all forms of media. Shamefully, I am one of those people who sleeps next to their phone and checks social media several times a day, it is just a habit. Whether it is for FOMO or just boredom, social media is a huge part of my life, which secures my place in media space safely amongst the millions of other people who depend on media — lets all just agree to not look into the mental effects this may be having on ourselves okay?

Till next time,
the new Ash.

See me? image source: http://martinimandate.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/4.1259940221.14_lions-head-full-moon-hike1.jpeg