My Take on Alternate Realities

When I say alternate realities, I’m not necessarily talking about Narnia, the Matrix, space-time travel or anything like that. I’m talking more about the realities within our minds that are constructed by our experiences and perspectives.

About a week ago, I made a post about how some of the things that Donald Trump says look good on paper, and that people do have reasons for wanting to support him. I’m going to extend that post a little further, thanks to a recent publication by the Wall Street Journal after they did a study on how social media news feeds can affect who people are more aligned to.

What Wall Street Journal’s Jon Keegan has done is set up two feeds which have real conversations and posts that individuals have posted on Facebook, and aligned them into a red ‘conservative’ feed and a blue ‘liberal’ feed. Users who posted all of these uploads, of which there were up to 10.1 million of them, were anonymised but had their political label analysed.

Based on the study’s findings, and the presentation of conservative vs liberal posts on Facebook, one can logically come to the conclusion that as long as you are receiving media texts from entirely one political standing, you are reinforcing your already existing beliefs. It seems fairly logical and simplistic, but at the same time it’s interesting to consider how different the political situation in the US would be if social media were different to how it currently is. It makes a little more sense in the world in terms of exactly how people align themselves to certain ideas or political figures. The reinforcement theory we learned in high school comes into play, as how we tailor what we prefer to see and choose to omit from our feeds reinforces reality as we perceive it.

Recap SEM 1

In semester 1, we have been covering:

  • Practices
  • Professionalism
  • Theory
  • Technical practices

Over this semester, I want in particular to put more practice into the professional aspects of this course. This includes my desire to find work attachments, which could give me opportunities that will contribute to my professional career.

Theoretical studies in communications are something that I am incredibly interested in pursuing further. I want to do more studies involving human psychology and sociology, because the ideas and studies in these subjects  interest me deeply.

My Take on Apple’s IOS Update

Anyone who has updated their Apple product (iPod, iPad or iPhone) can tell you straight up that there’s a few issues. So far, there have been complaints of

  • Straight up crashes
  • Bricking
  • Unresponsive touchscreen
  • Bluetooth issues
  • Wiping out of graphics

Firstly, let’s just say that these kind of issues aren’t received well on a stressful morning for anyone.

Secondly, the release of the IOS 9.3.2 update has given me a taste of [oh, horror of horrors!] a world without my smartphone.

God forbid, I cannot text anyone? I have to use [*gasp*] a landline if I want to get someone’s attention??

It seems unbelievable that bugs like these would even be able to pass tests run by Apple; I’m avoiding using my phone altogether currently. [Why else do you think I’m making a post about this?] But in all seriousness, how could something so incredibly glitchy, buggy and inefficient pass a test run.

Now I won’t lie, I considered throwing my phone at a brick wall and getting a fresh one; maybe that’s their ploy? Probably far-fetched, but I can’t see how anyone at Apple could possibly have thought releasing this update was a good idea nor how it could have possibly masqueraded itself as functioning software.

Tl:Dr:  Apple mucked up its software update release, but let’s be real: we’re all gonna keep getting Apple products anyway

Donald Trump Isn’t So Bad

So today, I got into an internet fight on the social media platform Yik Yak.

I love Yik Yak because its like Twitter except way more anonymous, and anonymity allows users to share some of their nuttiest, most controversial or spur-of-the-moment thoughts. I decided to post the other morning about a silly little dream I’d had the night before:

‘i dreamed donald trump coached footy and Richmond beat his team, and then all the other coaches told him to get (*censored*) and everyone laughed at his stupid hair’

I was bored, felt like posting a bit of inane silliness, so I did. The thing about Yik Yak is that it only shows posts within your area, and considering I was in a sheltered, very left-wing part of Hawthorn when I posted it, I figured hey, people might get a laugh out of it.

Then along comes a user that we will call Acorn, in consideration of the icon that they were using at the time.

Acorn criticised my post, saying I was only ‘bagging trump because it’s the “cool thing” to do’ and that I essentially ‘wouldn’t know (*expletive*) about American politics except for that Trump is running.’

I was also encouraged to ‘take a look at his policies, the western world genuinely needs some extreme reforms, whether you are willing to accept it or not.’

So I did.

I went onto and had a look at the things that he is advocating for, and despite what I knew of him previously, I was impressed. The website revealed Trump’s plans for affordable healthcare, tax reform that would help fix the wealth distribution in America and better care for war veterans both physically, socially and economically.

These are just a few things that, frankly, could be good things. If I didn’t know anything about Trump, and I say this lightly, I probably would say that I support him except for that thing about the wall: he wasn’t kidding about that.

So I’d like to thank Acorn personally for encouraging me to go and do my research. I learned a valuable lesson from him: an internet fight that winds up in something that’s akin to two people yelling at eachother with their hands covering their ears is not something productive in this world. I was criticised on social media, and instead of screaming bloody murder at my accuser I decided why not get the front foot on this argument and learned far more than I anticipated.


Internet fights are good for you and Donald Trump does say he has some good ideas

My Take on Work Attachments

Don’t have a great relationship with ‘work experience’ or anything like that; the last time that I had work experience was in 2013 and I was at a very small business’ admin building, and basically spent the whole time playing Happy Wheels on the computer.

Thus, the thought of having to put myself out there for work attachments isn’t too enticing when it’s first mentioned.

However, I’m at a point where I’m realising that grades and marks ultimately mean jack-squat; its moreso the opportunities that are presented to us and what we choose to do with them that paves our careers. For instance, I took up a paid photography job for a college function a few weeks ago, and even though I haven’t had a rags-to-riches overnight sensation experience from that, I now have that experience under my belt to present to future prospective employees.

So: Game Plan.

Step 1. What are my skills I already have, PLUS what are skills I want to learn and develop further. Write list, check for whether ideal outcomes are reasonable, leave to sit in fridge for 30 minutes.

Step 2. Have CV/Resume sorted. Any kind of experience in my opinion can be useful, for instance I used to work casual/part time at a workplace (shall remain nameless) that I believe has given me experience of what it is like to work in a poorly managed organisation

Step 3. Research organisations/companies you’d like to work for. For me, I can see myself working in a very creative workplace, involving technical and visual understandings of media. Thus, I can’t really see myself working in something like radio, but I reckon something in PR or marketing could suit me better.

Step 4. Here is my resume hire me please and thank you

Time to grab life’s opportunities by their politically correct labels and hope for the best.

My Take on the Panama Papers, Taxes and the 2016-17 Budget

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) recently leaked 11.5 million files, exposing politicians, public officials and international leaders across the globe as using offshore tax havens, from Mossack Fonseca, one of the globe’s biggest offshore law firms.

This controversy of wealthy tax evaders, and the release of the national 2016-17 budget barely 10 days ago, have been trending topics of discussion across journalism and social media, and I sought to understand what all of it meant.

I did a little research, and learnt that companies and private bodies such as public figures, officials and politicians have been using tax havens for around 40 years in Panama. According to ICIJ (through Mossack Fonseca’s database) up to 210,000 companies have used Panama as a base over the last 40 years, and include politicians, public figures and private owners from all across the globe.

Offshore tax havens are essentially shop fronts, or ‘shell companies’ as described by ICIJ, set up offshore of a company or private owner’s actual home country where taxes are cheaper.

This offshore site is legally set up in writing as their legally official base, and so this base in Panama pays marginally cheaper taxes while their actual set-up back home doesn’t have to pay more expensive taxes intended for healthcare, education, security and protection institutions, etc.

As a result, the economy of these countries have been immensely harmed by losing millions of dollars in taxes that haven’t been paid, as a result of offshore tax havens.

I think that the 2016-17 national Budget’s release is relevant and additionally important to discuss alongside the Panama Papers. To put it into terms that my mind gets, the budget aims to give tax cuts to high income earners; this is going to greatly affect low income earners in Australia over the next 3-4 years. I find it to be a cruel irony and tragedy of human nature to see that not only have wealthy politicians and figures been immorally avoiding taxes and thus gaining wealth while others have been making up for it, but the new budget favours the position of high income earners even further. It is as if human society has not changed in the last few thousand years.

Just think of the French Revolution; the nobility and clergy were grossly exempt from paying taxes and the rest of society bore the brunt of having to make up for them by giving away all that they had. It’s all too similar to the current situation in the US where 0.01% of the population owns as much wealth as 90% of the country. Essentially, what I am noticing in the current state of affairs concerning the Budget and the Panama Papers is that human society, ruled primarily by the rich, has catered for the rich.

As seen in the Q+A episode the other night, featuring Liberal Party members being faced with Duncan Storrar, those is power until the upcoming election are the Liberals dominated by a privileged, wealthy demographic that has absolutely positively no idea what it is like to live in a below average, let alone a low-income household. They see an opportunity to fill their purses some more, and have never even considered the idea that there are people who struggle just to make ends meet every day. What I see in the Panama Papers, the Budget and the recent Q+A episode are examples and evidences of the unending selfishness that is human nature. In this case, in a capitalist society, in reference to the lectorial on institutions, Power is power. Knowledge has yet to give way to a change in behaviour in society.


My Take on Timothy Treadwell

In Cinema, we watched Grizzly Man, a documentary about a man named Timothy Treadwell who was obsessed with bears and nature. Watching excerpts from his own videos through the documentary, I (and I believe many other members of the audience) was struck by his peculiar nature and deep obsession with the wilderness, particularly his apparent nonchalance when faced with enormous, unpredictable and powerful adult grizzly bears. For the most part, I think that Treadwell was a nutter, and kept thinking to myself, ‘he’s insane, he’s mad, maybe he is simply not well,’ and my mind was drawn back to yesterday’s lectorial on media institutions and Michel Foucault’s studies of how abnormal behaviour is perceived and treated in society.

Firstly, what made Timothy Treadwell ‘abnormal?’ I would say, from watching Grizzly Man, that it would be his unusual accent and mannerisms. At a first glance, he seemed effeminate which made his character distinctive and out of the ordinary, particularly in the wilds of Alaska.

Secondly, his unusualness came from his deep passionate confessions of love and admiration for bears. In a social context, most people may say they respect bears when brought up in conversation; but he publicly preached about them. Furthermore, his character implied that his love for the beasts made him naïve to their wild, powerful and deadly nature. He said so himself, without much concern, that he was at risk of bodily or fatal harm, and yet he persevered and stayed within the vicinity of bears. Why would a sane person risk their lives and safety for the sake of studying and ‘protecting’ such dangerous creatures? This, I believe, is what would help classify Treadwell in society as a ‘weirdo,’ a ‘nut,’ ‘delusional’ or ‘crazy.’

Treadwell was a fascinating character and is fascinating to observe, because he is a brilliant example of someone in contemporary society who is, in his own way, mentally unwell. He has a history of drug and alcohol abuse, and voluntarily stopped taking antidepressants without the clearance of a doctor and I believe these are grounds for someone who is troubled; not necessarily mentally ill, but confused and unwell. If we were to examine him through the lens of Foucault’s Madness and Civilisation, we would engage in a sociological study of the relationship between Treadwell as an individual and society on a larger scale. In the documentary itself, his friends and acquaintances recounted him as unusual, troubled and, to some degree, worrying or even frightening in his obsession. Even Treadwell’s relationship with the audience while watching the documentary would be an interesting one to study. For one thing, how would we, as an audience of this somewhat biased a perception of a documentary, express our opinions of Treadwell in a social situation with friends or in a discussion in Cinema? That’s something that intrigues me, because I definitely have opinions of Treadwell that I want to clarify for myself.

My Take on Michel Foucalt’s Institutions

In today’s lectorial, we had a discussion about institutions and variations on them in society. Essentially, an institution is a man-made construct concerned with structures of society. This can be anything from ‘marriage’ or ‘divorce’ as social institutions, or media institutions such as the ABC News, HBO or community media channels.

What stuck with me most after the lectorial was philosopher, historian, social theorist and literary critic Michel Foulcalt’s ideas of relationships between society and individuals. In his 1961 book Madness and Civilisation, Foucalt explores the institution of mental asylums from the Renaissance (1500s AD) up to the contemporary society of his time in the late 1950s-early 60s.

In his book, he explored the societal implications of what constituted as ‘mad’ or ‘sane,’ and the way that society dealt with ‘mad’ people. His study became an exploration of what was considered ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal’ according to social values. In summary, he maintained that unlike inthe Renaissance, when those deemed ‘mad’ were believed to be on a cosmically higher level than others in society, in the Classical Age (17th to 18th/19th century), those considered mad were simply thrown into asylums out of the way with other undesirables for the protection of society.

Moving further on to his contemporary era, the modern era, he asserted in his findings that while there were attempts being made to ‘cure’ these people in institutions under the guidance of medical doctors, there was on one level a great contrast in power between patients and doctors and on another level an inherited social value from the Classical Age that those who were ‘mad’ were undesirables to be hidden away for society’s protection.

Foucalt’s study on mental asylums as institutions through history are important factors of my studies because it highlights the central significance that sociology, society and society’s values have in media and communications. What I got out of this lectorial revolving around institutions, elements of sociology and Michel Foucalt’s case studies was the sense that institutions are an immensely important construct and organisation of structures in society.

Basic Comms 101 by Me

In my New Media New Asia class, for a group assessment task, my group pitched an idea for an app that would incentify taking public transport in China to reduce congestion and air pollution.

Essentially, in big cities in China such as Beijing or Shanghai, public transport is not utilised the same way as somewhere like Melbourne, because there is a more prominent culture of hierarchy and status for the Chinese, and one way of showing off status is by owning a car. Thus, logically, it makes sense that people in China are more interested in showing off the fact that they have a car than waiting an hour for a bus.

The feedback that we got from our tutor for this pitch was that we should reconsider how to approach the issue. What we wanted ultimately from this app was to change the behaviour of people in China; and this, to me, has become a key factor in the philosophy and aims of media/communication practitioners.

Behavioural change through our app, as our tutor suggested, would be based around Acculturation (Merriam Webster definition: cultural modification of an individual, group, or people by adapting to or borrowing traits from another culture). In a sense, this app would be aimed at 18-30 year olds in China, students and young professionals, in the hopes of normalising use of public transport for their generation and future generations.

Behavioural change in communications is vital to communications now that I think about it more closely. Raising awareness, as enlightened to me in my earlier classes, is not actually that important on its own. Raising awareness doesn’t do anything on its own. When David Attenborough released his documentary about the Great Barrier Reef in December 2015, sure he wanted awareness of the environment’s vulnerability to be raised. But what the producers, writers and Attenborough ultimately strived for in the making of the documentary was to change the behaviour of those who watched it in a way that would benefit the environment’s health.

So now, after this enlightening class, I intend to go forth in my media career with a better understanding of what my intentions are: do I want to tell a story, show off some pretty pictures, or do I want to encourage a change in behaviour?

My Take on Broadcast and the Post-Broadcast Paradigm

The second half of our lectorial today was about the role and nature of audience in media. Key terms that were discussed were broadcast and post-broadcast.

  • Broadcasting refers to how media is/was distributed to ‘mass audiences,’ mostly via television or radio. Broadcast media included things like the news or generic television shows catering to general demographics i.e. Families
  • Post-Broadcast refers to this idea more specific, niched audiences becoming consumers of media, rather than just simply mass audiences

I was interested in how the change in communication technologies have contributed to the change in how media is received. Distribution of media evolved from from TV broadcasts to online content, changing how audiences could access this content. When this occurred, media creators and practitioners altered their approach to getting audience attention by going online. Now there are platforms like Netflix, Apple TV, Spotify and TIDAL all encouraging the individual nature of consumers.

For instance, in the last decade, the cable network Adult Swim has become increasingly popularised as audiences are able to access their shows (including Rick and Morty, Aqua Hunger Teen Force, Robot Chicken and Family Guy).  The network has further developed itself by producing video games and music. Adult Swim’s penchant for creating mature, adult-oriented content in the form of animations and cartoons has attracted an incredibly tightly niched audience.

Without the formation of online streaming and downloading of media content, the kind of TV, films, music and content being produced would seem more generalised in the hopes of ‘entertaining the masses’ huddled together around the TV in the living room.