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.”

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NBN avoiding my area

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.

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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 –


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.

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