Reflection

The process of blogging on topics relevant to media, audience and place has been an enlightening and rewarding process. It has allowed exploration and discussion of a diverse range of topics as well as the opportunity to publish my work in the public domain. By writing an online blog, your work is accessible to people from around the world and thus one must write with this potential global audience in mind. It is imperative to write in an engaging, accurate and concise manner as you’re competing with a myriad of other content on the internet.

In writing the blog, I attempted to maintain an academic style, while remaining accessible and appealing for a wide audience. This was assisted by the contemporary nature of the weekly blog topics and their relevance to a wide audience. Although I had a vast potential audience dispersed around the world, the conversion of potential readers into actual readers was negligible. This could have been improved by having an improved knowledge of the wordpress blogging platform, in particular learning to tag my posts with relevant of popular tags would assist in reaching a larger readership. A greater presence on social media, notably engaging with the BCM 240 hashtag may have also brought more visitors to my blog.

Maintaining a weekly presence online was made more difficult by falling ill for a couple of weeks at the start of the session. This ensured I had several weeks of content to catch up on as well as an array of weekly tasks to conduct for other subjects. This circumstance made posting regularly a challenge and resulted in a lack of engagement with other blogs. This was disappointing as the topic of media usage and its affects are of great interest to me, in particular how these have changed over time and continue to shape modern society. I plan on reading and hopefully replying to other bloggers during the upcoming week off to garner a diverse range of opinions and insights into the topic. Doing so at an earlier date would have likely increased traffic on my blog but I still wish to see the topics raised and manner of blogging taken by other members of the class.

One notable aspect of publishing the blog was working on stipulations for the use of audio visual content taken from public settings that featured members of the public. The task required us to publish photographs of individuals interacting with their mobile phones and screens in public. As these were to be published online, it was integral that we formed a personal code of conduct regarding the use of images that contained images of others. I decided that I would ask permission to use a photograph if it featured an easily identifiable person. Although the Arts Law Centre of Australia states that it is unnecessary to seek permission for this type of photo, I saw it as courteous to seek permission to publish to pictures. An optimal photo required the subject to be unaware I was actually taking the image. It was somewhat awkward asking the person for permission after taking the picture, as they were always completely oblivious to what I was doing and it come as a surprise that someone was watching through a lens. However, once people were shown the picture and explained the intended usage, they were generally supportive and had no issue with the use of their image in my blog.

While taking the photographs was potentially the most difficult aspect of the assignment, the most enjoyable was interviewing my mother on her early memories of television and visiting the movie theatre. This task exemplified the importance of media on people’s lives and furthermore the impact of location and setting on the media experience. Given the chance my mum would have talked for hours about her introduction to film at the Merlynston movie theatre. The vivid level of detail in her recollections, including the walk to the theatre, the state of the building and the rambunctious audience made up of local children was astounding.

The notion of the entire neighbourhood watching the same television seems absurd in the contemporary age of highly converged personal media devices.  However, this was the norm growing up in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. For my mother the battles for the control of the television and being crammed around the one television set brought back stronger memories than the actual programmes watched. For older readers such tales may prompt feelings of nostalgia, while younger readers, used to highly personal media devices may find such stories assist an analysis of how the relationship between media audiences and place have altered over time.

This blog allows the reader to gain a deeper appreciation of the way audiences interact with media content. Furthermore, through my blogging I sought to demonstrate how location affects how we interact with media technologies and how the spaces in which we use these media devices have altered greatly over time. Ideally the blog would have been more widely read and there are definitive steps I could have taken to broaden my online profile and reach out to a larger audience.

 

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Australia World Beaters in Piracy

This article quotes News Corporation’s Australian boss Kim Williams decrying the prevalence of Australian’s illegally accessing media content online. He points to Australian’s profligate downloading of AMC’s hit television show Breaking Bad (1/6 of the total illegal downloads of the show emanated in Australia), as a cause for concern. His chief concerns voiced were that piracy ignores the “inherent value” of media content and shows a disregard for the laws that govern society. It must be considered that these opinions are coming from the chief of the largest media organisation in Australia. One which controls the only subscription cable service in the country; an industry vastly effected by online downloads, both illegal and otherwise.

However there are particular circumstances within Australia that prompt such high levels of media piracy. In fact, these were explored and detailed by a House of Representative committee  on communications and infrastructure in their Inquiry into It Pricing. The committee found that Australian’s are subject to paying higher prices on digital media on sites such as Amazon and the Apple iTunes Store. The committee also noted that geoblocking makes accessing video streaming sites such as Netflix impossible from Australia.

Such restrictions mean that Australian’s have very few options to watch current premium media content. News Corporation’s Foxtel is one such option but requires consumers pay for many channels they would not choose to watch. Many people wish to access Foxtel solely for movies or sport but to access these channels one must pay nearly fifty dollars to access basic content which contains unwanted and repetitious programming. An online option akin to Netflix, Quickflix is available to Australian consumers but it is more expensive and contains less titles than its American counterpart.

A solution proposed by the House committee was to amend the Competition and Consumer Act to make geo-blocking Australian customers illegal. However Adam Turner (2013) suggests that it may be unwise to take on the might of Hollywood and Silicon Valley, as they could feasibly completely refuse to offer their services to Australian’s in a manner entirely within the law. Such posturing could also lead to issues regarding trade agreements to bring Hollywood movies to Australia, creating a political and cultural disaster.

While such an outcome would be disastrous for all consumers and the government must tread lightly, it is reassuring that this committee has recognised that Australian’s are being treated poorly. Given more options to access media content through online services, at a fair price  and at the same time as the rest of the world I believe that Australian’s would largely cease to flout copyright law.

References

Turner, A 2013, ‘Australia should ‘ban’ geo-blocking: IT Pricing Inquiry’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 29 July, http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/computers/blogs/gadgets-on-the-go/australia-should-ban-geoblocking-it-pricing-inquiry-20130729-2qtxn.html.

Comic-Con and Fandom

Henry Jenkins examined the nature of fans and fandom at the annual Comic-Con convention in his journal article entitled ‘Superpowered Fans’. At this annual event in San Diego; comics, science fiction and what Jenkins calls pop culture fantasies are celebrated, discussed and created. Jenkins quotes German filmmaker Werner Herzog as saying that events such as comic-con give fans an opportunity to act out their “collective dreams”.

These fans go to vast lengths to demonstrate their love and commitment to their favourite character. The most common way to demarcate oneself as a fan of a particular comic or character is to dress up as them. Many of these people create costumes of great extravagance and detail, spending many hours carefully paying homage to their fiction of choice.

Such events highlight a modern communication trend of turning private individual media consumption and enjoyment into a social experience, with users engaging with media content and each other in a myriad of ways.  Through such events and the interconnected nature of modern media consumption, fans of fantasy are able to build relationships between one another based upon evident shared commonality. Jenkins refers to the gathering of the masses as a “meeting point between a transmedia commercial culture and a grassroots participatory culture”. He has some reservations on the power struggle between these two notions, suggesting that the focus on the audience as consumers outweighs attempts to engage fans in cultural production and social networking.

While I have never enjoyed reading comics, I do play video games, which have a similarly rabid core fan-base, and would have some interest in attending E3 (an annual gaming convention held in Los Angeles). However, the notion of dressing up as a character has no appeal to me and wouldn’t be a way I’d engage or show my appreciation for a game or character. However, the changing world of video games means that much of my time playing games is quasi-social in nature. Most games released currently have an online component, whereby you are playing with individuals from around the world. Some people form groups in this online gaming domain; communicating and developing friendships with people they have never met. While I do play video games online with others, I have never felt the need to communicate with someone I was playing with. Indeed, normally I’m playing with friends whom are at the same physical location and thus the activity has as inherent social aspect regardless of interaction with others online. Perhaps my views will alter in time but I feel that relationships developed online cannot replace or even replicate face-to-face interaction with someone else.

References

Jenkins, H 2012, ‘Superpowered fans: The many worlds of San Diego’s Comic-Con’, Boom, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 22-36.

 

Moral Panic and Smartphones

The introduction of every new communication technology is accompanied by disparate claims regarding the effect of the technology on society. These range from utopian views, declaring the technology to be a panacea for many of society’s issues to dystopian outlooks which point to potential issues arising from the use of the technology.

The panic over the perversive effects on smartphones is reminiscent of the discourse the surrounded the introduction of television the home. Such fears included the prospect of the family home being inundated by immoral and unwanted influences, which could have a particular impact on the psyche and upbringing of children. The introduction of television also saw health concerns brought into the debates around the future impact of television. The potential health implications claimed by those fuelling the moral panic against television were chiefly social issues caused through isolation and health concerns such as obesity from leading a sedentary lifestyle. These very same concerns are being echoed in the discourse surrounding the ubiquitous nature of smartphone use in modern society.

Dr Dale Archer (2013) points to a phenomenon he describes as ‘nomophobia’, that is, the fear of being without your mobile phone. Worrying about missing out on something is driving us to be constantly connected to our smartphones. With many children owning smartphones and being driven by the same desires, the potential impact on children is being debated.  The difficulty of parental control over the use of these devices and the fact that kids are often using their phones in their bedrooms when they’re supposedly undertaking other activities fuels these conversations.

Moral panics often focus on the impact the particular object of ire has upon children in our society. The worry about the ever present nature of smartphones does not depart from its predecessors in this regard. Currently there are concerns that the widespread unmonitored use of smartphones is leaving children susceptible to predators and online bullying (Krinsky 2013 p.207). The notion that our children’s safety is potentially being compromised within the supposed safety of the family home is of real concern to many.

But are moral panics based upon concerns that may actually eventuate? In the instance of anxieties regarding television, perhaps so; there can be no doubt that people are less active then they previously were and this jeopardises public health through an increase in cases of obesity, diabetes etc.

So this begs the question, if some of the debate surrounding the health impacts of television may have actually been prudent; should we be paying attention to the current warnings regarding the impact of smartphones on our social health?

More importantly and worryingly, does the movement of communication devices into every space, both public and private potentially place the safety of children and teenagers in danger?

References

Archer, D 2013, ‘Reading Between the (Head) Lines: Smartphone Addiction’, Psychology Today, July 25, accessed 31/8/2013, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/reading-between-the-headlines/201307/smartphone-addiction.

Krinsky, C 2013, The Ashgate Research Companion to Moral Panics, e-book, accessed 01 September 2013, http://uow.eblib.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/patron/FullRecord.aspx?p=1094094.

Merlynston Movie Theatre

Travelling to the cinema by foot across suburban Melbourne was a weekly rite of passage for my mother in the 1960’s. The journey from neighbouring Faulkner to the cinema in Merlynston was completed either alone or with more school aged friends. Seldom was there an adult on such adventures. The theatre in Merlynston was not exactly grand; in fact, it had taken liberty by using the word theatre, when it was indeed a small hall, lined with tattered seats completed by a projector clinging to the ceiling.

My mother was not alone in absconding from her parents for the afternoon, with the room filled with unaccompanied children. All had been loaded up with 10 shillings to cover entrance and enough sugar to give diabetes a head start. The ancient projector had to make it through the two films to be shown during each Saturday’s matinee session.  This was never a guarantee and should the equipment wane the unruly mob would stamp their feet in unison, causing the old building to shake as well as voicing their displeasure. After one particularly boisterous screening my mother came home to find a wad of chewing gum in her coat, providing a permanent reminder of the mayhem experience at the Merlynston movie theatre.

While quantitative research would discover the number of audience members present at a particular film, it fails to note any qualitative impact of the film on the audience. In this case we know that the audience was largely made up of children, who in many cases were paying scant regard to the movie in front of them. This creates a situation whereby the number of individuals in the audience differs from what one may call the receptive audience. This has consequences for advertisers that have an interest knowing how many people will see their advertisement shown before, during or after the movie.

The number of people watching a movie and their demographics are vital to advertisers in determining which products to promote and how much a particular ad spot is worth. The stories my mother tells of visiting the cinemas provides a great example of a particular audience. In such a scenario the advertiser has an audience that is in equal parts likely to be receptive to being sold something as a non-discerning customer, yet also highly likely to completely ignore an advertisement placed in front of them.

Early Australian Television- A Personal Experience

After spending her formative years on a cattle property in remote Queensland, it took a family relocation to Melbourne for my mother to be introduced to television. The sprawling Western suburbs were the setting for these formative television experiences.  After initially not owning a television and being subjected to televised wrestling at the behest of her neighbours, the power that came with holding the remote was soon apparent. However, things improved and a television was soon to be a fulcrum in the Dupe family existence.

With limited communication and media technologies available, the television was a vastly popular medium for entertainment and information purposes. The lack of other media ensured that the television was a popular pastime for families. As such television programming tended to cater for a magnitude of differing demographics. One such form of television that proved to be immensely popular during the 1960’s was variety shows. Featuring singing, dancing, skits among a myriad of other potential acts, such programmes could provide entertainment for an entire family.

The worldwide popularity of variety shows waned greatly. By the beginning of the 1980’s the United States, which had revelled in variety shows led by people like Johnny Carson had no variety programmes on commercial television (Bianculli 1983). This has been a continuing trend on Australian television and with the exception of Rove Live it is difficult to name a recently successful variety show on Australian television. Perhaps the explosion of available media devices and the convergence of media content on said devices is a detriment to variety television.

Game shows were also particularly popular with my mother recalling enjoying Pick-A-Box and The Great Temptation. While no longer a staple of primetime television, game shows are still commonly seen in the midevenings on our screens. One would think that an enduring audience remaining from the halcyon days of game shows and the relative affordability of producing content conspire to keep game shows on our screens.

Whilst most shows maintained and promoted family friendly values, my mother vividly remembers one that reversed the trend. Number 96 was a soapie which included the first scene involving nudity on Australian television. To have such images beamed into lounge rooms across the nation caused a massive stir, with people feeling as though they were being assaulted with bad taste which couldn’t be escaped, even in their own homes.

References

Bianculli, D 1983, ‘Death Knell Sounds for Television Variety Show’, Philadelphia Inquirer, 4 December, accessed 25/8/2013

 

 

Public and Private Media Use

Recent times have seen a divergence in the manner and spaces in which we consume media. As mass media technologies continue to converge, a vast array of media uses have appeared in both the public and private spheres. Madanipour (2003) suggests that during the course of a day each space we pass through will have differing connotations for the way we behave. From the privacy of our homes where we form our closest relationships to the middle of the city, where we are fully in the publics’ gaze yet shielded by a cloak of anonymity.

Communication technology has become ubiquitous in society and the manner in which we use it is vital to it taking an effective place in society. So many forms of media are available at our fingertips around the clock. But with such power comes responsibility, just because your phone can play music out of its speaker doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. The anonymous nature of the setting might encourage such behaviour yet it is to the detriment of those around us. Whilst there is no convention against listening to music in public, one should be aware of the capacity for this behaviour to affect others. As such a slight moderation to such behaviour i.e. using headphones would vastly improve the between the technology, self and society.

References 

Madanipour, A 2003, Public and Private Spaces of the City, Routledge, New York, New York.