For this final project brief, I explored the theme of digitisation, specifically in the form of social media being at the heart of the digital movement. After a rocky start locking down a subject and shoot time, I settled on creating a more investigative type piece featuring interviews with a range of people on the streets of Melbourne. For Project Brief 3, Jeremy and I looked at The Dancing Dog, a place full of traditional communication principles. I noted the organic and spontaneous interactions that occurred between the patrons and employees – evidence of authentic and carefree relationships that stuck with me as it was something I rarely saw in my own generation. Hence, for this project I wanted to explore the other side of this, exploring our new age of social connectivity. The internet makes it possible for people to be constantly connected anytime and anywhere, but is this ability actually making us more or less social?
I decided on the compilation interview format after looking back on notes from one of my first check-ins with Dan, where he suggested I just go up to people and talk to them. I also wanted to plan an investigative piece featuring ordinary people on the street rather than produce a research type piece featuring expert opinions as I am more interested in capturing the opinions of general society, seeing as we as a collective reflect the trends within our culture. With this project I also wanted to challenge myself to go out and contact people on my own; reaching out to people outside of the RMIT Media bubble is still something I’m relatively uncomfortable with, but is a skill that I recognise is invaluable to my future as a media practitioner in the professional world. I was nervous about bluntly approaching people in public, but I found the challenge to be good practice. I gradually learned to be less afraid of rejection and got better at knowing what to say when approaching people in a respectable manner, as well as explain what the task entailed.
As for the shoot itself, I was happy with the variety of answers that I got from my interviews. My subjects ended up all being from a younger demographic, but I think the final video features a really good scope of discussion around the millennial generation’s perspectives on social media. However, one thing I feel like it lacked was a range of B-roll. Although I tried to include some B-roll, I definitely think a larger variety interspersed more frequently between the interview footage would have made the video more visually interesting.
In terms of content, I observed a difference in focus between the answers of foreigners and locals. Because of the nature of Hosier Lane being a tourist spot, about half of the people I interviewed were from overseas. This was good for getting a broader range of viewpoints, but I noticed the foreigners were more inclined to look at social media as a positive tool for communication, allowing them to connect with their family and friends across the world effortlessly and immediately in a way that has not been possible previously with traditional media, whereas the locals talked more about negative aspects of the surrounding social cultures.
It was interesting to see that everyone I interviewed had a similar outlook. Words like “addictive”, “manipulative” and “toxic” where all quick to appear. It seemed that whilst everyone was aware of the detrimental aspects, they continued to use it anyway because it was such an integrated part of society; so irreversibly apart of their everyday life.
A big theme that emerged was physicality, a concept that I have developed a particular interest in this semester in regards to digitisation. Multiple subjects touched on the idea that although it’s making communication easier, it’s actually making relationships more distant because people make less of an effort to connect in person. As humans, inherently physical beings, talking to someone through words on a screen is vastly different to seeing someone in real life. Whilst before this ability to exchange messages without the need to be physically co-present was a blessing, nowadays we perhaps rely too much on this convenience – as a result, communication has become more shallow with the loss of nuances like body language to give substance (Baym, 2013). Another idea that emerged was the issue of spontaneity, how “everybody just lives through their phones instead of experiencing things in real life”. In my last reflection, I questioned whether the authenticity from spontaneous real life experiences were lost – and it seems the general consensus is that it is. As Thomas White (2017) describes, social media “allows individuals to put on masks and hold up shields”. Ironically the ability of social media as a platform to express the ‘authentic self’ (Gaden & Dumitrica 2015), in valuing authenticity people become obsessed with presenting a heightened version of themselves. Because of this need to curate an ideal online presence, we end up seeing events in our lives as we imagine them to exist online in the future, instead of experiencing and enjoying them in the present moment.
Another quote that stuck out to me was from one of the high school students who said he used social media “all the time without thinking about it”, and as a default “because I have nothing better to do”. This reminded me of the discussions we had about boredom earlier in the semester, supporting the notion that the concept of boredom no longer exists. Genevieve Bell (2011) points out that we are surrounded by the promise of constant connectivity, of always having someone to contact or something to see. Much like the high school student, we are all guilty of reaching for our phone any time we have nothing else to occupy our minds with almost like a reflex reaction. However, as Bell contends, there is value in boredom that allows our brains to reset itself. We are so inclined to rush through life – but just because we are becoming more skilled at multitasking, this doesn’t mean the quality of work is also increasing. Periods of disengagement actually allow us to focus better, to encourage reflection and deep thinking.
Overall, I think this exercise contrasted well to my findings from Project Brief 3. Further exploring relationships within the social media dominated digital age and comparing this to the types of interactions I witnessed from the last project brief has allowed me to see the differences between old and new practices; how the advancement of technology has affected the way we communicate. Overall, I feel that I now have a significant understanding of my found focus this semester on the ideas of digitisation, authenticity, tangibility and how these shape changes in culture.
Bell, G. (2011). The value of boredom. [online] Youtube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ps_YUElM2EQ [Accessed 4 Jun. 2017].
Baym, N. (2013). Personal connections in the digital age. Polity Press.
White, T. (2017). Why Social Media Isn’t Social. [online] HuffPost. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/thomas-white/why-social-media-isnt-social_b_3858576.html [Accessed 4 Jun. 2017].
Gaden, G., & Dumitrica, D. (2015). The ‘real deal’: Strategic authenticity, politics and social media. First Monday, 20(1).