A Window into Our Screen Use: Visual Ethnography

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Source: Adweek

Looking around, we see screens everywhere. This isn’t really surprising to anyone, given how much we opt to use screens in our own daily lives. For a while, it was strange to see all of the signs in front of schools changing from removable letters to LED screens, but this is slowly becoming more normal as they are becoming more prevalent.

This is the same on campus. Walking past the lawn or past the cafe’s, you see almost everyone looking at some sort of screen. This is to be expected, after all we are on a University campus, you’d hope that most people would be engaging in some form of work or study. Either that, or they’re looking at their phones while they procrastinate, listen to music, or use the Campus Map PDF to find where they need to go. If you see someone on the lawn and they don’t happen to be looking at a screen, they’re most likely taking a nap – which I definitely do not see a problem with.

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Screens on UOW Wollongong Campus. Source: Google Images

Additionally, we are starting to see more digital signage around the Wollongong Campus as well. This is a strange juxtaposition against the relatively old buildings around campus. Nevertheless, it’s a sign of the times (bad pun, sorry).

One thing I find particularly interesting (and humorous) is seeing the amount of people that have tape over the webcam on their laptop. I’m going to be honest, there have been times where I have considered doing this; but why? Is it really because we think people are watching us through our camera, or is it just a trend that people are jumping on because it’s funny?

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Source: Google Images

The ‘FBI is watching me’ meme would suggest that this is just a trend, however there has been reason to believe that people’s paranoia may be justified. An article from The Washington Post stated that “the FBI has been able to covertly activate a computer’s camera — without triggering the light that lets users know it is recording — for several years…” (2013)  While this was used in order to investigate serious crimes, mainly terrorism, it’s still an unsettling thought nonetheless.

So how can we understand this paranoia? Why do people feel uncomfortable with the idea of being watched even though, realistically, most of us aren’t doing anything that would be detrimental to our reputation?

It’s human nature to want privacy, especially from strangers. We don’t exactly want our private lives on display for everyone to see. However, this calls into question –  in this day in age, why do we voluntarily put so much of our lives online, yet we’re worried when people could actually have a window into our lives. The differing factor in these two situations would be consent, but it’s still an interesting concept to think about.

References:

Timberg, C. & Nakashima, E. (2016) ‘FBI’s search for ‘Mo,’ suspect in bomb threats, highlights use of malware for surveillance’ The Washington Post. Published: 13 December 2016. Viewed: 30 September 2018. <https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/2013/12/06/352ba174-5397-11e3-9e2c-e1d01116fd98_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.691cc2820ca0&gt;

 

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Where ‘Real’ and ‘Digital’ Collide: Digital Ethnography

Like many, I’ve grown up in the ‘digital era’. Although I believe I had the perfect balance of digital entertainment and ‘real play’ as I was growing up, many of my childhood memories surround digital devices. So, when thinking of digital ethnography and how I can use this to reflect on my personal experiences, there are several memories that come to mind.

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Screenshot from: Prezi

For this blog post, we were asked to reflect on a relationship we’ve had with a technological form of media. Pokemon was brought up as an example that we can use, which would usually deter me from talking about this topic. However, Pokemon has been a part of my life since I was a little girl, so I feel that this topic is incredibly relevant in my interpretation of digital ethnography.

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Gameboy Colour. Source: Google Images

I was first introduced to the world of Pokemon through my older brother. Although he had the trading cards, I didn’t really understand those – nor would he ever let me touch them – so my first experience of actually playing the game was when my parents gave me permission to play Pokemon Red on his Gameboy Colour. After that, I was hooked.

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Gameboy Advance. Source: Google Images

A few years later, I was lucky enough to receive a Gameboy Advance for my birthday, along with my very own Pokemon Game that belonged solely to me. While I enjoyed the first game that I played, my love only grew when I started playing Pokemon Ruby. The improved graphics and vibrant colours brought the world more to life and only accelerated my love for the game. While I wasn’t as good as my brother, I still spent hours playing – getting excited every time I scored a new gym badge or my Pokemon evolved.

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Nintendo 3DS – I definitely own 3 of these games. Source: Shopitree

Eventually, I upgraded to a Nintendo DS, which brought along a whole new set of Pokemon game experiences. Fast forward to the present day, where I currently have a Nintendo 3DS, and 3 of the most recent Pokemon games. So, it’s clear this relationship is still going relatively strong, even though I haven’t played for over a year now. My love for the game has almost guaranteed that I will buy the newest instalment if/when it is released.

Not only has this game given me great memories and hours of entertainment, it also allowed me to bond with my brother. While I’m sure he didn’t appreciate me trying to copy everything he did when I was younger – as most annoying younger siblings do – this shared interest has carried into the present day and, as a result, it has positively impacted the dynamic of our relationship overall. However, all the time and money spent on these games is most definitely not ideal.

This digital relationship has certainly had a significant impact on my life and how I perceive my childhood memories. Seeing as this isn’t the only relationship I’ve had with a form of digital technology – much of my life has been saturated with digital devices – there are probably many other interpersonal relationships I’ve had that would have been impacted by a digital relationship. Which leaves me to wonder how different these relationships would be had there not been a digital variant.

References:

Moore, C. & Vettoretto, R. (2018) ‘Digital Ethnography’ BCM241 Week 5 [Prezi] <https://prezi.com/vvg5merpskzh/digital-ethnography/&gt;

 

Addiction to the Internet: My Ethnographic Research Methodologies

In my previous blog post, I discussed how I’m going to focus my BCM241 Research Project on ‘Internet Addiction’. Following on from this discussion, I will now explain how I intend to carry out this research.

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Source: UXDict.io

This project aims to explore people and their relationship with media through ethnographic research practices. As my topic focuses on our use of digital media, specifically being the nature of our relationship with the internet, my research practices will centre around digital ethnography. Through the adaption of ethnography in a digital era, researchers are encouraged to “not just to consider the Internet as an object of analysis, but rather as a source of methods.” (Caliandro, 2017) In my studies, the internet is essentially a tool that will provide me with information and insight into the daily lives of my stakeholders.

Through my own experiences, I mainly encounter ‘addictive behaviours’ on certain social media sites (such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) or mobile gaming apps (such as Candy Crush). The scrolling features on these websites essentially provide you with a ‘bottomless pit’ of new content, giving you hours of entertainment and stimulation. I plan to observe people’s behaviours when engaging with social media – how many times a day do they use these websites? What are they thinking about before/while they use them? What compels them to open these apps? Is it habitual?

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Source: Maclean’s

This will be done through interviewing my participants, and asking them similar questions in order to gain a full understanding of their internet usage. Not only will I be interviewing my peers, I also want to observe the behaviours of older generations in regard to social media, in an attempt to mark the differences between age and internet usage. Through this research, I am curious to discover whether or not my stakeholders believe they are ‘addicted’ to the internet in some way, and whether their behaviours reflect ‘addictive tendencies’, regardless of what they believe.

I will also be conducting field notes on various social media sites and apps in order to get a well rounded view on why we see these behaviours in millions of users. According to Postill in his discussion of digital ethnographic methods, “These fields can be regarded as games of a kind…they are [still] contests in which civic ‘players’ with unique skills and trajectories enter into relationships with other players (both individual and collective) in pursuit of the same rewards or prizes.” (Postill, 2015) The idea of ‘reward’ seems to be brought up regularly in the discussion of ‘internet addiction’. I aim to discover how my stakeholders interpret this idea – what do they believe they are gaining from their time on the internet?

Overall, through utilising these methods, I aim to discover how prevalent these addictive internet behaviours are throughout society, and whether this truly means we are addicted or simply too dependent on the internet in our daily life. The personal information of my participants will not be released unless I have been given permission to do so, and I hope to continue communicating my strategies through these blogs. I’m looking forward to conducting this research, so stay tuned if you’re interested!

 

References:

Caliandro, A. (2017) ‘Digital Methods for Ethnography: Analytical Concepts for Ethnographers Exploring Social Media Environments’ Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 2018, Vol. 47(5) p. 551–578

Postill, J. (2015) ’13. Six ways of doing digital ethnography‘ Media/Anthropology: Freedom Technologists Series. Published: 16 January 2015. Viewed: 29 September 2018. <https://johnpostill.com/2015/01/16/13-six-ways-of-researching-new-social-worlds/&gt;

Cook, S. (2017) ‘Technology and internet addiction: How to recognize it and recover from it’ Comparitech: Internet Providers. Published: 31 May 2017. Viewed: 28 September 2018. <https://www.comparitech.com/internet-providers/technology-internet-addiction/#gref&gt;>

 

 

 

Addicted to the Internet: Where is the line?

I know I’m not alone in saying that I spend most of my time using the internet on some form of digital media. I always have my phone on me, either listening to music or checking social media for no other purpose than to pass the time. When I wake up in the morning, I click on one YouTube video after another and, before I know it, I’ve just wasted hours of my day doing absolutely nothing productive.

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Source: MayeCreate

Even after all of this, I still would not consider myself addicted to the internet. Dependent? Absolutely. It would be hard not to be dependent on digital media at this day in age, given the fact that our lives have become so saturated by our devices. We don’t only use these devices for our own entertainment, we also use them for work and to bring convenience to our everyday lives (for example: mobile banking, emails, receiving household bills online, etc).

However, when thinking about how we [as a society] use the internet, and how much time we spend online, there are several questions that often appear in my mind. Are we addicted to the internet? Where is the line between addictive behaviours and what we deem as ‘normal’ use of the internet?

Internet addiction is not a new concept. It has been a topic of discussion for decades, with the question of addiction starting to be raised towards the late 90’s. The internet (specifically the ‘World Wide Web’) was still a very young product at this point in time, yet it was steadily solidifying itself as an essential technological tool. Its functionality proved it to be incredibly beneficial to the everyday lives of citizens. As a result, addiction to the internet has been difficult to define. In 1996, “Young (1996) developed a brief eight-item questionnaire which modified criteria for pathological gambling to provide a screening instrument for addictive Internet use.” (Young, 1999) These are the prompts:

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Screenshot from Young (1999)

However, even if all aspects of this criteria are met, it does not necessarily mean that the ‘patient’ is addicted to the internet. As stated later in the article, “these symptoms can easily be masked as “I need this as part of my job,” “Its just a machine,” or “Everyone is using it” due to the Internet’s prominent role in our society.” (Young, 1999)

The Internets role in our society has only become more prominent as years have gone on, therefore these same debates have continued into the present day. Although this concept is discussed regularly in the media as our reliance on the internet grows, “internet addiction” is not medically recognised as a disorder. (Cook, 2017) Yet, it seems that most of us seem to be [more or less] addicted to the internet in some way.

Essentially, through ethnographic research, I will be exploring this idea further. I want to investigate my peers’ perspectives on this topic; whether or not they think they’re addicted to the internet, or if some of their behaviours fit into the criteria of  ‘addiction’. Overall, I hope to establish an in-depth understanding of why we are so heavily reliant on the internet, and if this means we are addicted or simply too dependent. I will go into more detail in additional blog posts, so stay tuned!

 

References:

Leiner, B. et al. (1997) ‘Brief History of the Internet’ Internet Society. Viewed: 28 September 2018 <https://www.internetsociety.org/internet/history-internet/brief-history-internet/&gt;

Young, K. S. (1999) ‘Internet Addiction: Symptoms, Evaluation, and Treatment’ Innovations in Clinical Practice (Volume 17). <https://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/36910267/internet_addiction.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Expires=1538206870&Signature=lgP2YONHD%2Fjc6kooGuO1kSmedIA%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DInternet_Addiction_Symptoms_Evaluation_A.pdf&gt;

Best Health (2011) ‘Debate: Are we addicted to the Internet?’ Reader’s Digest Best Health [Blog Post]. Published: 28 June 2011. Viewed: 28 September 2018. <https://www.besthealthmag.ca/blog-post/debate-are-we-addicted-to-the-internet/&gt;

Cook, S. (2017) ‘Technology and internet addiction: How to recognize it and recover from it’ Comparitech: Internet Providers. Published: 31 May 2017. Viewed: 28 September 2018. <https://www.comparitech.com/internet-providers/technology-internet-addiction/#gref&gt;

NBC News (2017) ‘Why You Could Be Addicted To The Internet | Better | NBC News’ NBC News [YouTube Channel]. Published: 18 April 2017. Viewed: 28 September 2018.

 

What The Horror: Analysing My Auto-Ethnographic Methodologies

Following on from my previous blog post, where I discussed my reasoning behind my chosen topic for my digital artefact, this blog post will focus on analysing my auto-ethnographic methodologies I intend to use for this project.

As Ellis, Adams and Bochner explain in their overview of auto-ethnography, “auto-ethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno).” (Ellis et al, 2011) For my research project, I will be analysing my experience with Japanese horror films in an attempt to understand the culture of the Japanese film industry.

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Three of the films I will be watching. Source: IMDb

I originally chose this topic because I thought it would be a fun way of exploring something I never thought I would experience. However, after conducting my initial research on the topic, I encountered my first ‘epiphany’. Many J-Horror films are based on Japanese urban legends and folktales, and this discovery made me realise that I have an opportunity to learn far more about Japanese culture than I had originally anticipated.

As Leon Anderson states, one of the advantages to auto-ethnographic research is that it focuses on self-understanding.

“The kind of self-understanding I am talking
about lies at the intersection of biography and society: self-knowledge that
comes from understanding our personal lives, identities, and feelings as
deeply connected to and in large part constituted by—and in turn helping to
constitute—the sociocultural contexts in which we live.” 

(Anderson, 2006, p. 390)

Currently, my self-understanding in relation to my topic is that I’m not a huge fan of horror films – I’m not alone when I say that I don’t like being scared. However, in light of my epiphany, I realise that I am closing myself off to a whole genre that’s rich in culture and history, making me ignorant to a large part of society. Improving my understanding of this genre, as well as the people that find joy in consuming this content, could allow me to become more open-minded and empathetic towards other cultural norms.

In my previous blog post, I referred to the reflexive approach to auto-ethnographic research. This form of auto-ethnography is incredibly important for achieving the ‘self-understanding’ that Anderson discusses. Reflexive ethnography is when a researcher also documents the personal developments and changes that they’ve experienced over the course of their research, as a form of establishing a deeper connection with their chosen culture. (Ellis et al. 2011) As my previous experiences with horror films have not exactly been positive, I’m hoping that I will encounter a few personal changes throughout my research – which will hopefully include improving my tolerance for scary movies. Although, even if my stance on horror films doesn’t change, acquiring knowledge of a new culture will certainly result in some personal developments that I can reflect on in my final project.

 

References:

Anderson, L. (2006) ‘Analytic Autoethnography’, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Vol. 35, No. 4, pp. 373-393.

Ellis, C, Adams, ET & Bochner, AP (2011), ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Research, vol. 12, no. 1.

Myers, C. (N.D.) ‘7 Creepy Japanese Urban Legends That Inspired Horror Films’ Ranker. Viewed: 16 September 2018 <https://www.ranker.com/list/japanese-urban-legends-that-inspired-horror-films/christopher-myers&gt;

 

Get Ready, Get Set, Get Spooked: An Auto-Ethnographic Dive into Japanese Horror Films.

When it comes to Asian culture, I’m pretty well versed in some areas. I’ve grown up being exposed to Japanese media culture, through games and television shows, as well as food that my Asian friends have introduced me to. For the most part, these interests have continued on to the present day. Thus, I was struggling to think of an aspect of Asian culture that I’m interested in, yet haven’t explored.

Enter, Japanese horror films.

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Source: Giphy

Why have I chosen this topic?

While I have watched a few horror films in my life, they weren’t exactly the most pleasant experience. My mother is a horror film buff and she’s always casually watching them at home while doing household chores. That trait hasn’t exactly transferred to me. Watching a scary movie always results in sleepless nights, consisting of constantly glancing over at the end of my bed and never leaving the safe confines of my tightly wrapped blanket. Even watching a let’s play of a horror game on YouTube has evoked that reaction a few times – which I’m certainly not proud of.

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In short: Me + Horror Movies = Not a great combination. Source: Giphy

However, it has been several years since I’ve actually taken the time to watch a legitimate scary movie, which [hopefully] means I now have the mental maturity to not act like a child after watching one. Not only am I exploring this topic to test my emotional endurance, but I am also genuinely curious to learn about the history of J-Horror and how it’s presence has shaped the film industry.

While attempting to decide which film I should watch, I’ve noticed that many of these movies are based on Japanese legends and folktales. Although these stories have paranormal elements, these cultural features give these films a bone-chilling sense of realism. (Thessaily’s Place, 2013) This, along with several other specific techniques, makes the genre of J-Horror notoriously more frightening than Western horror films. Therefore, this Digital Artefact will generate some interesting perspectives on the Japanese culture, as well as the Japanese film industry, from a girl who has little to no tolerance for jump-scares.

I have only heard about J-Horror films that have been adapted for Western audiences (i.e. The Ring or The Grudge); which are often referenced in popular media. I already knew that I didn’t want to watch the original version of a well-known Western remake as I feel I have heard too much about these films in passing, and my experience may be altered from knowing what to expect. However, there are some J-Horror remakes that I haven’t heard of and don’t know anything about (i.e. Dark Water), so I don’t think watching this film would give me a skewed perspective.

After researching various forums and lists, I have narrowed my selection down to three options:

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Source: IMDb

I have chosen these three because they seem to explore a wide range of themes. Suicide Circle seems to be based more in reality, as it has more of a ‘crime thriller’ than a ‘horror’ premise. Kwaidan and Dark Water are focused more on supernatural themes, with Kwaidan being based on folklore and Dark Water following a more traditional horror film story line.

I’ll admit, there are perhaps more sensible way for me to learn about Japanese culture and history that do not involve torturing myself. This method is not exactly palatable for all ‘cultural outsiders’. (Ellis et al. 2011) However, I feel that placing myself out of my comfort zone will allow me to develop a ‘reflexive’ approach to my auto-ethnographic research – this experience will be as much about my journey with the film as it will be about analysing the culture of J-Horror. (Ellis et al. 2011)

How will I document my auto-ethnographic research?

I have chosen to log this experience through a blog post. Due to the multi-media functionality, I find this format very versatile and will be able to effectively present my findings no matter which form of methodology I choose to partake in.

Although the most logical route to follow is a video response to my chosen J-Horror film, I’m afraid that it will result in complicated editing and possible copyright infringements. Additionally, I don’t think I will be able to coherently verbalise my thoughts while I’m terrified. Most of the footage will most likely be of me covering my eyes and screaming obnoxiously for a majority of the film. However, I will record short videos of my thoughts throughout the film, which will be included in my final blog post. To accompany this, I will live-tweet my viewing experience. I will log the time-stamps in the film that correlate with the tweets in order to give a well-rounded review in my final blog post.

References:

Myers, C. (N.D.) ‘7 Creepy Japanese Urban Legends That Inspired Horror Films’ Ranker. Viewed: 16 September 2018 <https://www.ranker.com/list/japanese-urban-legends-that-inspired-horror-films/christopher-myers&gt;

Thessaily’s Place (2013) ‘What makes Japanese Horror scarier’ WordPress. Viewed: 16 September 2018. <https://thessaily.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/what-makes-japanese-horror-so-much-scarier/&gt;

Ellis, C, Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no. 1.

 

Body Positivity: An Imperfect Movement in an Imperfect World

We as citizens are often confronted with countless portrayals of ‘ideal beauty’. Typically, the thin body frame has been glorified by the media, with petite girls being broadcast in magazines, advertisements, and film and television for decades. As these women seem to make up the majority of our female presence in the media, it portrays the idea that ‘the only way to be beautiful, is to be thin.’ It’s no secret that this is incredibly damaging to women’s self-esteem, especially young women and teenagers.

Over recent years, the ‘Body Positivity’ movement has aimed to confront these unrealistic beauty standards by demonstrating that women come in all shapes and sizes, and shouldn’t think less of themselves if they don’t fit into a certain category of beauty. We are seeing companies like Aerie releasing campaigns that celebrate women with all sorts of body types, and incidences of body shaming are increasingly receiving criticism for perpetuating harmful beauty ideals.

This was highly evident with the release of the new Netflix series, Insatiable, which received immense backlash upon the release of the trailer. The show depicts a young, overweight woman who loses weight after a jaw injury and proceeds to get revenge on the people who bullied her.

The show was heavily criticised for insinuating that women are only beautiful and valuable after they lose weight. It also seemed to present a host of other problematic issues, but this was the main takeaway. While I understand that it is important to point out these issues and recognise them as problematic, I do believe that it’s just as important to not judge something without knowing the full story – as this controversy took place prior to the shows release.

The continuing presence of the ‘Body Positivity’ movement on social media is allowing for further intervention of typical beauty standards through the portrayal of plus-sized models in magazines – most recently, Tess Holliday’s Cosmopolitan cover story. However, this magazine cover also received a wave of negative criticism from the media, as some people think it’s ‘promoting obesity’.

So here we have the main issue that the ‘Body Positive’ movement experiences. People look at these promotions of ‘body positivity’ and label them as an excuse for an individual to remain overweight – prompting the normalisation of obesity. Where is the line between promoting unhealthy lifestyles and encouraging women to feel good about themselves, no matter what they look like?

Personally, I don’t see the difference between having dangerously underweight and overweight models on the cover of magazines, as they are both showcasing unhealthy habits on opposite ends of the spectrum. However, I don’t see an issue in promoting self-love and recognising that beauty does not have one face and one body. Representation in the media contributes to seeing value in one’s own existence, so it is important to represent all kinds of people.

Some of the ways that the ‘Body Positive’ community is attempting to tackle the topic of beauty in the media could certainly be improved – no social media movement is perfect. Nevertheless, it is important to recognise the potential impact that this movement could have on the minds of women all over the world.

 

References:

Boroughs, M, Calogero R M, & Thompson J K. (2007) ‘The impact of Western beauty ideals on the lives of women and men: A sociocultural perspective’ Body beautiful: Evolutionary and sociocultural perspectives. January 2007, p. 259-298 <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/234119371/download&gt;

Carey, A. (2018) ‘Backlash over plus-sized model Tess Holliday on Cosmopolitan cover’ News.com.au. Viewed: 11 September 2018 <https://www.news.com.au/finance/business/media/backlash-grows-over-plussize-model-tess-hollidays-appearance-in-cosmopolitan-uk/news-story/540699bcaf4a4a8b6cd704b831a46158&gt;

Donoughue, P. (2018) ‘Netflix’s new series Insatiable, criticised for ‘fat shaming’ , lands streaming giant in familiar territory’ ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Company). Viewed: 11 September 2018 <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-07-25/netflix-insatiable-fat-shaming-controversy-explained/10033152&gt;

Gustafson, T. R.D. (2015) ‘Positive Thinking Can Benefit Your Mind and Body’ Huffington Post, Canada (Blog). Updated: 10 May 2016. Viewed: 11 September 2018. <https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/timi-gustafson/lessons-in-positive-thinking_b_7249274.html&gt;

Saltzman, S. (2016) ’15 Celebrities Who Fought Back Against Body Shaming’ Allure. Viewed: 11 September 2018. <https://www.allure.com/gallery/best-celebrity-responses-to-body-shaming&gt;

Spectator Health reporter (2018) ‘The ‘body positivity’ movement is making people blind to their weight problems’ Spectator Health. Viewed: 11 September 2018. (https://health.spectator.co.uk/the-body-positivity-movement-is-making-people-blind-to-their-weight-problems/&gt;