The moon landed… on TV

Growing up, there was always a television in our home, but I never thought about it as some extraordinary piece of technology. To me it seemed a necessity, like other appliances in the house. Alas, talking to my father about his early memories of TV, made me realise that it was a big deal for families to own one in the 60s.

When television was first introduced, dad stated that when they visited their friends’ houses who had one it was really impressive “Wow they have a television we don’t have anything like that in our home”. Dad was 7 years old when his parents could finally afford to purchase one of their own. The TV was placed in their “entertaining” or “visitors” room, which was a space with some chairs. I thought it was quite bazaar when I asked, “did you and your sister fight over who sat on a particular part of the lounge?” Dad responded saying that they didn’t have a lounge, and the term “lounge room” did not even exist in their house. Everybody just sat on chairs when they wanted to watch TV, however they did fight over who got to sit the closest, as they would be in charge of the channel. Moreover, because there were only four channels they were constantly switching between, the knobs on the TV would often be damaged or broken.

Dad and his sister would be glued to the TV as soon as they got home from school, which was about 4pm, and stay there for as long as possible. I found this quite odd as me and my brother had boundaries when watching TV, however dad stated, “as long as we were quiet mum didn’t care how long we watched it for”. Dad and his sister spent the most time with the TV, stating that they watched every single show they could. The only time the family would sit down and watch something together was for the “Sunday night movie”, when classics such as The Sound of Music would air.

Apart from not being allowed to eat in the TV room, there were no other codes of behaviour that existed. I found this interesting, as today when observing younger children in their family home the general consensus is “Stop watching that idiot box and go outside and play”. However in the 60s dad explained that in his family, “The TV was brand new and was to be enjoyed. Nobody bullied us from the television. It was like a big social network – because all the kids at school would talk about all the shows that were on the night before”. It was remarkable that dad had compared watching TV when he was younger to social networking as we know it now. I also found it ironic hearing him say that “nobody bullied us from the television” in contrast to the abundance of cyber bullying today.

With regard to a particular event on TV, the first man on the moon seemed to be dad’s fondest memory. Everybody in his primary school was pulled out of class to see Neil Armstrong take his first steps on the moon. Dad described it as a momentous occasion particularly because the whole school had stopped everything just to watch it on TV. I couldn’t imagine being in school when I was young and going to the hall just to watch something on television. The only time class was disrupted for us was emergencies. But I guess back then the first man on the moon would have been somewhat considered an emergency, being an iconic moment for mankind.

My dad stated one of the things that changed markedly is that back in his era; the TV was the only contact they had with the outside world, and without it they did not know what was happening globally. “It was our way to connect to the rest of humanity, my parents loved the documentaries because they could see parts of the world they have never seen. It was a very fascinating experience”. Furthermore, dad stated that in his generation you tended to believe what you saw on the television as the truth, as it felt like it had more influence and credibility. Now people are growing wise to the fact that it’s just entertainment, whereas before people gave it more value. “Today, we are more educated and figured out that a lot of things on TV are sensationalised to sell airtime and commercials. We are more ‘consumer aware’ than we used to be.”

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Where is the off switch?

Technology has entirely restructured an individual’s way of working. Where we may still have a separate space for work and home, the two are now enmeshed due to the versatility of technological devices (aka casualisation). While it may be a more convenient and efficient way of working, the concept of “liquid” life via convergence of work and home now means that we are living under constant uncertain conditions.

The issue raised now is that there is difficulty maintaining a healthy home life because our lives are so intertwined with technology. Workers now feel the pressures of always being “switched on” and contactable outside of work hours. Even at university, I already have a first hand experience of this. Despite our tutors setting on campus consultation times, I noticed that more people email or tweet their concerns and questions. While this may be appropriate, encouraged (in a media and communications course) and an efficient way to interact, it still poses this idea of always being connected and therefore feeling a strain to relax during off work hours.

TIME Magazine published an article stating that in the past few years, companies such as Google have taken measures to ensure their workers have a healthier balance between work and home life. Furthermore, in January 2012, Europe’s largest automaker Volkswagen vowed to deactivate emails on German staff BlackBerries while not at work. Their devices are set to only receive emails half an hour before and after work hours. It’s good to see a company taking on board the powerful affect technology had on their workers, and finding ways to maintain equilibrium. Whilst we are only just adapting to a digital age, I hope that more boundaries are made for workers so they are able to have “off” time. In light of this, there is research to support that regular downtime prompts better productivity.

Zia plugged in

Results in a study undertaken in February 2012 suggested that because we are constantly immersed in technology, it not only becomes habitual but addictive. The research found the majority of people consider social networking platforms and emailing more difficult to resist than cigarettes and Alcohol. In the study, 205 adults were required to wear devices which recorded almost up to 8, 000 reports of their daily desires. Sleep and sex were the most dominant, however desires for media and work proved the toughest to resist.

Carolyn Marvin, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, alleges that the addiction to our devices is a result of wanting to be “a successful member of middle class society” and states that that this is achieved by “showing our dedication to professional work and being available at all hours of the day”.

 Our concurrent immersion with all forms of media prompts contemporary modifications in the economy. While the various spheres of daily activity converge, the line between work and home are increasingly blurred.

References:

Deuze, M 2006, Liquid Life, Convergence Culture, and Media Work, March 19, Indiana University

Knowledge@Wharton 2012, ‘Why Companies Should Force Employees to Unplug’,  TIME Business & Money, weblog, 16 February,  viewed 22/08/2013, <http://business.time.com/2012/02/16/should-companies-force-employees-to-unplug/

The Network Society

The Internet has altered the way we work, socialise, create and share information. This transformation of social networking does not get the recognition it deserves. There’s been this massive transition in our lives, transitioning to a digital culture and economy.

In a 2011 report, Mckinsey Global Institute stated that in the past 5 years, the Internet accounted for 21 per cent of the GDP growth in mature economies. This technological revolution has assisted large enterprises and national economies, individual consumers and upstart entrepreneurs. Facebook and other social media sites have been some of the utmost beneficiaries from the powerful influence of the Internet – businesses can now interact with their consumers on a personal level. From a few thousand students accessing Facebook to over 1 billion global users today, Manyika and Roxburgh from the Mckinsey Global Institute stated that ‘If Internet were a sector, it would have a greater weight in GDP than agriculture or utilities’. The development and evolution of the Internet has been described as a ‘healthy Internet ecosystem’, boosting infrastructure, accessibility, and a competitive environment. This prompts innovators and entrepreneurs to flourish, nurturing human capital and in turn maximizing the ongoing affect of the Internet on prosperity and economic growth.

The vast opportunities we are provided with are being embraced and embedded into our lifestyle and culture, and it is truly amazing to be a part of it. We create, define and expand this online ecosystem at an astonishing rate. Communication is the foundation of our society, culture, humanity and identities.

‘Consisting of transactions, relationships and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live… We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth…We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity’ – John Perry Barlow

I loved one of this week’s readings, ‘A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace’. Above are my favourite excerpts, which outline the online world we are (or choose to be) a part of. I found it interesting when he says (repeatedly) about our physical bodies not living in cyberspace. I loved how he separated an individual’s physical characteristics with cyberspace, presented in this sense that you are entering a utopian world.

References:

Barlow, JP 1996, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, Davos Switzerland, viewed 18/08/2013,
<https://projects.eff.org/~barlow/Declaration-Final.html

Dyson, E, Gilder, G, Keyworth, G & Toffler, A 1994, Cyberspace and the American Dream: A Magna Carta for the Knowledge Age, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, viewed 18/08/2013,
<http://www.pff.org/issues-pubs/futureinsights/fi1.2magnacarta.html

Kelly, K 1999, New Rules for the New Economy, Kevin Kelly, viewed 18/08/2013,
< http://www.kk.org/newrules/newrules-intro.html

Manrika, J & Roxburgh, C 2011, The great transformer: The impact of the Internet on economic growth and prosperity, Mckinsey Global Institute, viewed 18/08/2013, <http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/high_tech_telecoms_internet/the_great_transformer

At the Drive-in

I asked my family friend Ray about the memories of his first cinema experience. Even though he was only 3 years of age, he was still able to recall many details of the event. The year was 1982 “and the time of the drive-in cinema”. Ray attended the Kanahooka drive-in with his parents, during its last months of screening and operation, “before it all came to an untimely end,” he added.

One Sunday afternoon, Ray and his parents left home in their Ford Fairlane and made their way out to the lake in the outskirts of Kanahooka. Ray described the car park seeming infinite through his eyes and the filming screen, enormous. They parked near the candy and refreshments booth, where they ordered some goodies. An usher came to the car to greet and assist them in fixing an audio line from a post near the car, which plugged in to a slot under the aerial. “This is how audio was broadcasted from vehicle to vehicle”.

drive-in

“I remember getting cozy in the middle seat that divided my parents and settling in to watch the first movie of the double feature. Dark Crystal (1982) & Star Trek (the original motion picture) (1979).”

Ray stated from that point onward Dark Crystal became his favourite film as a child, only later to be later contested by Labyrinth and The Never Ending Story. His recollection of the film was hazy however he managed to stay for the entirety of Dark Crystal, despite being 3 years old. “I do remember being terrified of the Skeksis armoured soldiers, finding them to be the first representation of evil that I had seen on the big screen. Simply put, I was in awe of that film and ultimately it was very influential for me to this day.”

This followed by the screening of the original Star Trek. Ray stated that he was able to tell this film, was not made for children, as he struggled to stay awake for the first 20 minutes. His Mum later reminded him that he had asked her “Why is everyone running around in their pajamas?” obviously not really understanding the Trek at such a young age. “I later became an avid fan of the Next Generation a good decade or more later.”

“Though that’s the short of it. My love of cinema all started with that first experience at the local drive-in that I can’t help but wish, with nostalgia it still stood today.”

Hearing Ray’s story was really interesting to compare to my own. Our stories differ because I honestly cannot remember the early years of my life let alone my first time at the movies. And so, my first cinema experience (that I can recall) was just at a local Greater Union, with some family friends and their parents. I cannot remember what film it was, but I do remember being uncomfortable in the chairs. As I got older I visited the cinemas less and less, I just didn’t enjoy watching a movie surrounded by strangers whom would chatter or throw lollies, the expensive food and drink, and missing parts of the movie if I needed to go to the bathroom. I would like to visit a drive-in though; I like the idea of being confined in your own space. Also, they should provide an usher at every cinema still, when hearing Ray’s story about the usher greeting and assisting them, it really made it seem like an authentic cinema experience. Today I just watch movies in the comfort of my own home. I can pause and rewind whenever I want, there’s no advertisements, and I can eat whatever I want without paying a ridiculous price.

Lost in cyberspace

Cyberspace:
1. The realm of electronic communication
2. Virtual reality

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The thing that leapt out at me most during one of our readings this week was this idea of being “pulled” into cyberspace. I find it interesting how we refer to cyberspace as a geographic place, much so that we use terminology such as “visiting” a website or “entering” a chat room. There are many positives about cyberspace, like the sense of community. But what happens when people fall deeply into this community and begin to confuse their online existence it with the real world. We often see YouTube clips of online gamers viciously verbally abusing other gamers through their headset and sometimes physically attacking their computer or gaming console when something doesn’t go their way. What I didn’t realize is that this is an actual addiction – there have been documentaries on Internet and gaming addiction being treated as a very serious illness. There are now self help websites and organisations where people can post about their addiction. I found that the majority of addicts were young boys, typically aged 10-15 years old, spending 10+ hours a day playing online. It is now understandable how they are pulled in to this virtual world – they are not doing much else. Much like any other addiction, when they aren’t online they are thinking about being online and therefore lose focus in real life activities such as school, sport, and familial commitments.

 

You’re being watched

In the short time that social media has been around, the one consistent thing I have observed is that a great deal of people forget they are being watched. In a High Talk blog post, George F Snell III states that the line between public and private is now less defined than ever. Snell raises some points, which to me seems as standard Internet etiquette (studying media and communication helps I guess), however I’ve noticed it isn’t so obvious to some. Snell’s 5 guidelines in his post were ‘be polite, transparent, discrete, trustworthy and admit your mistakes’. Once I read that I realised that the majority of my Facebook friends definitely forget that what they post is not private. For example somebody “privately” chatting on Facebook IM and the other person decides to screenshot and share their conversation. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the time this is entertaining, but what everyone forgets is that we are constantly under surveillance. In some cases, people actually lose their jobs because of something they have posted/been tagged in on Facebook. I often see and hear this happen, and am not surprised by it. I’ve always felt that social media platforms should not be treated as a private space.

Before Facebook and Twitter even existed, there were chat rooms. And the thing my parents said over and over and over (as they could not keep me from using them) was ‘Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t tell anyone your real name, where you’re from, don’t put your birth date in your email address…’ the list goes on. Made complete sense then, nobody wants a stalker. However, today we openly let people stalk us online. Facebook has asked me all this information about my life from my name, to my favourite food and TV show, to what song I’m currently listening to. Not to worry, even if you don’t fill in these details, everyone on Facebook can see where you are if your location service is enabled on your phone. Now this, I feel, is utterly absurd. With relation to media and youth, an article by Sonia Livingstone explores the way media fosters youth culture through both form and content. Livingstone states that young people use the media precisely to discover and transgress established norms of public and private space. However, they are often naive to the power of the media subtly positioning them according to consumerist pleasures and powerful interests. Through content, they directly address the concerns, interests and experiences of youth. Through their forms, they can provide personalised media goods that determine the space of young online identities. Subsequently, the media repositions young people in relation to public and private spheres, casting them as both citizens and consumers for the future.

A friend once told me “never put anything in writing” and I have applied this both online and offline. People creating controversy, losing friends and even becoming unemployed because of the untasteful way they act online. My message to these people would be if you don’t want anyone knowing, don’t talk about it, anywhere. There is no such thing as privacy in cyberspace. This also goes for businesses who create social media pages – it is crucial to treat every interaction as a public one. We need to remember that everybody is a reporter now. Snell explained this brilliantly (with regard to “private” interactions), ‘the disgruntled customer might have 5,000 followers on Twitter. The waitress serving you while you discuss your company’s top-secret new product could be an avid blogger’ etc. Social media platforms are tools, use them wisely and they can work to your advantage, but one wrong move and you’ll unwillingly create an everlasting poor reputation. But hey, no pressure.

References:

Livingstone, S 2005, ‘Mediating the public/private boundary at home: children’s use of the internet for privacy and participation’, London: LSE Research Online, viewed 11/08/2013, <http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/506/1/JMP_6(1).pdf

Snell, GF 2009, 5 Guidelines for Public vs. Private in Social Media, High Talk, weblog post, 23 March, viewed 11/08/2013, <http://hightalk.net/2009/03/23/5-guidelines-for-public-vs-private-in-social-media/

“Networks are the Matrix”

The significance of living in a network society is that networks provide fundamental structure to our lives. Only recently has the media become an influential public space of our time, forming and shaping shared societal experiences. In light of this, Manuel Castells from this weeks reading stated that technology does not determine society, however some social structures could not have developed without it. Communication comes naturally to humans and now the logic, interests and conflicts of this network society globally dominate us. It is not always the message we are sending, but rather the medium through which it is processed. For example, a common frowned upon message to send through social media would be the “break up”. Often in high school girls/guys would be offended and shocked if they were broken up with through social media sites, however if it was a phone call it seemed to not have that much of a detrimental effect.

Charles Arthur in an article for The Guardian referred to networks as the ‘Matrix’.  The first thing that came to my mind when seeing the words ‘network’ and ‘matrix’ together was Google. Google seems to be the center of the Internet. It monitors you closely through every use, pushing ads and even channeling results based on your browsing history. By purely signing up to a gmail (Google Mail) account you now have a YouTube and Google+ account. Regardless if you are actively using these accounts, Google can still track your every move just by being signed in. But it doesn’t stop there; artist Erica Scourti made a video called “Life In Adwords”. Scourti emailed a daily diary to her Gmail account for a year, and then created a collaboration of herself listing the suggested adwords made by Google. So even in what you think is a personal online space, the content of her emails were identified and turned into ‘sale-able’ advertisements. As we use sites such as Facebook and Google as a networking tool it is doing the very same thing by extracting our personal information for its benefit.

Another example would be that you now have to pay Facebook for your posts to reach all of your Friends – it only shows them to those who you interact with most. However, large companies and corporations can pay Facebook to share your post with everyone if you are to mention them in a positive way. For instance “My coffee from Gloria Jeans today was amazing” instead of only going to a handful of your Facebook Friends, Gloria Jeans will pay to have your status reach the maximum audience possible.

References:

Arthur, C 2013, Google+ isn’t a social network; it’s The Matrix, The Guardian, viewed 04/08/2013, <http://www.theguardian.com/technology/blog/2013/jun/04/google-plus-the-matrix

Castells, M 2004, ‘Afterword: why networks matter’ in Network Logic: Who governs in an interconnected world?, pp. 221-224

Killalea, D 2013, Texting, Facebook are the worst ways to break up with someone,
news.com.au, viewed 04/08/2013, <http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/relationships/texting-facebook-are-the-worst-ways-to-break-up-with-someone/story-fnet09p2-1226669481242

Outcasting 2013, Life in Adwords / Erica Scourti, Outcasting, weblog post, 23 April, viewed 04/08/2013, <http://www.outcasting.org/2013/04/life-adwords-erica-scourti/

Media and Space

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This image represents something I’m sure most of us have done. Been on your phone while at work (when you’re not supposed to). The funny thing is, back in the day – prior to social media – when someone was on their phone you could assume they were reading or responding to an SMS. Now that is hardly the case. It sounds silly when you say it out loud, but a lot of people can’t resist checking Facebook, Twitter, posting work selfies on Instagram, or asking people to send you more lives for Candy Crush. In fact, I would even go on to say that because you know you’re not supposed to be looking at it, makes you want it more. Why do we feel like this? Because we are human. We strive for connectedness, we want to always be a part of something, and we feel the natural desire to belong to this magnificent online structure. By creating online identities we become an active audience of the online sphere. We can fulfill this urge to stay connected with peers, colleagues, friends and old friends. I feel lucky to have seen this transition to the digital age in my lifetime. While older generations are (stereotypically) technologically impaired, younger generations are able to use an iPod before learning to ride a bike.