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;

 

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.

 

(Moving) Picture Perfect: A Girl’s Love for Cinematic Experiences

As harsh as it is on my back account, I’m a frequent cinema goer. I love the vibe,  the smell of fresh popcorn, and the anticipation as the lights start to dim and the movie begins to roll. I’m always looking to the internet for upcoming films that I can go see with my friends, as well as waiting eagerly for the highly-anticipated films to finally be released (Avengers 4 can’t come out soon enough).

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Me whenever I see a movie. Image from Giphy

As much as I love watching movies in the comfort of my own home, I have to admit that seeing a brand new film in the cinema is an experience that I deem far superior. I get very distracted by other stimuli when I’m home, so unless the movie is utterly captivating, I find it hard to focus on just the one thing. When I’m at the cinema however, all of my attention is pulled towards the film. That may be because of the large screen or the silent judgement that comes from using your phone in the theatre, but regardless, my focus is on the film in front of me.

 

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Image from IMDb

I was able to partake in another cinema experience this past week, where two of my friends and I went to see BlacKkKlansman. I’d seen the trailer on TV maybe once or twice, but immediately knew that it was a film I absolutely had to go see. While that film did not disappoint and I would highly, highly, recommend everyone go see it, this is not a film review so you guys are just going to have to see it for yourselves.

However, this is about my cinema experience and how it relates to Hagerstrand’s constraints.

In terms of capability, I am lucky that this particular screening of the film was at a discounted rate. This is something that we usually search for, often leaving us to attend certain films on ‘cheap Tuesdays’ instead of premiere screenings. I am currently unemployed, so we’ve had to dial down our cinema visits lately, but it had been a while since we’d gone so I could afford to splurge on this occasion. My usual cinema spot in Chatswood is very popular, which means that we usually get most films and don’t have to search for places far away from us in order to see the films we want.

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My local cinema. Image from Flickr

I have a core group of friends that I go to see films with. On occasion I’ll hit up some other friends when I know that they’ll be interested in a certain film, otherwise I know my main girls will always be up for a movie night – as was the case with this night. Conflicting schedules often leave us with evening screenings, and as someone who is tired 90% of the time, this can get pretty difficult. However, this is something I can put up with.

I can’t think of any authority constraints that had an effect on our overall experience. Everything was really relaxed, we had booked our tickets online and the Coles in the shopping centre was open so we didn’t have to spend too much money on snacks.

The only constraint that truly bothers me is the fact that there aren’t enough decent movies that warrant a cinema visit every week; but at least I’ll have enough money when there is one.

References:

Witheridge, G. (2015) ‘Hagerstrand Not the Irrational Man: An Analysis of Why Tumbleweeds Have Replaced Jaffas Rolling Down Cinema Aisles Giverny’s Posits, Ponderings and Postulations, 30 August, Viewed: 25 August 2018 <https://givernywitheridge.wordpress.com/2015/08/30/hagerstrand-not-the-irrational-man-an-analysis-of-why-tumbleweeds-have-replaced-jaffas-rolling-down-cinema-aisles/&gt;

 

Data Status Update: My Relationship with Media

Like many my age, I’ve grown up with the internet in my life. I remember many days as a child where I was allowed to have ‘designated computer time’, and most of this time was spent playing computer games. I don’t really remember the internet in my early stages of life.

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Image from Reddit

As I got older however, I started to use the internet for all it was worth. While I still played my fair share of computer games, I also found enjoyment from messaging my friends on MSN and indulging in the occasional YouTube video. MSN progressed to Facebook, and YouTube has now replaced TV as my number one source of entertainment. While I still watch films and TV shows every now and again, this is mainly done on my laptop and not on my TV.

Even reflecting on the fact that having one family computer used to be the norm is mind-blowing to me. If you had told me when I was a child that one day each member of my family would have their own laptop, I would have screamed with excitement. I can’t remember what it was like to have to share computer time with my siblings – I’m sure it sparked several arguments.

Now, as I’m sure most other homes do, my household heavily relies on the internet to function. Instead of having one computer, we have five. Whether it be my dad working from home, my mum researching articles for her work, my brother playing video games, or my sister and I putting off schoolwork by watching videos; 5 people in the house calls for a fast internet connection. With a majority of my household internet data being used on streaming content, our bills can pile high pretty quickly.

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When the data’s up and the internet won’t go fast to save it’s life. Image from Giphy

We have gone through cycles of having limited and unlimited data. We would get frustrated with the slow internet towards the end of the month that my dad would splurge on the unlimited, and when that became too expensive, we’d revert back. I’m not currently sure which part of the cycle we are on now, I currently live out of home but come back almost every single weekend (the struggles of a broke uni student). As far as I can tell, my family still has the same media habits that cause us to spend a majority of our day on the internet.

Hermann Bausinger said something really interesting in his article about media and daily life. He stated that “tools themselves are distinguished by the fact that they rapidly take on the character of artificial limbs.” (1984) Our relationships with certain technologies have become so strong that they are essentially extensions of ourselves and our bodies, and this could not be more true for me.

Media is embedded so deeply into my life that I’m not sure how I would survive without it – as I’m sure most of you could relate. There are so many ‘media rituals’ that I partake in that I don’t even think about: for example, checking my phone in the morning, turning on the TV as soon as I walk into the living room, listening to music whenever I have to walk somewhere, etc.

I could probably rely less on the media to get me through my day, but for now, I’m going to go watch some YouTube videos.

References:

Bausinger, H. Translated by: Jaddou, L. & Williams, J. (1984) ‘Media, technology and daily life’ Media, culture and society, pg. 344-345

A Childhood [Tele]Visionary

Like so many that have come before me, the television was a staple object in my life. I grew up constantly having the television on in my home, regardless of if anyone was fully paying attention to what was on. My family became accustomed to the background noise. I know many of my peers no longer watch television, most spend their time watching YouTube videos or Netflix. Even though I also spend most of my time indulging in the same websites, the television will always remain on in the background. Most of the time my house feels to quiet and empty without it.

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Image from Odyssey

The media plays a significant role in the structure of culture. The media that was presented on television is what gave birth to ‘youth culture’, and in turn we’ve experienced a cultural shift that views teenagers as naïve and deviant. As a young adult, fresh out of my teen years, I have often felt that this culture has influenced how I should think and how I should act. Television shows like Skins, Pretty Little Liars, and Friends presented characters that I felt like I could model myself after. While this may have been somewhat inappropriate for a young teen, I was completely unaware of my identity and was thus highly influential.

I also believe that the structure of the family influences the type of content that a person consumes. I have an older brother, which means that we spend countless afternoons and weekend mornings watching episode after episode of The Simpsons and Family Guy. I have many memories that are tied to specific episodes, either ones that remind me of my family or some that have had an impact on me.

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Image from Giphy

On the other hand, all of my childhood friends had an older sister or were either the eldest of their siblings. This meant that they watched reality shows and high school shows, such as The O.C. and The Hills, which I was not exposed to until my preteens.

We also did not have Foxtel in my house until I was 10. Prior to that, we had a package that only gave us access to Disney Channel, and not Nickelodeon like many of my other friends had.

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Image from The Daily Edge

My friends didn’t really relate to my childhood memories, and nor did I to theirs. While this wasn’t vital to our friendship, it did open my eyes to how different television habits can diversify individual experiences.

I’m not entirely sure if it play’s as much of a role in children’s lives today. The only frame of reference I have of the younger generation is my cousins, who are both under 10, and they’re usually drawn to iPad’s and other portable devices. It will be interesting to see how this upcoming paradigm shift will affect the experiences of future generations, and whether it will create a divide between the old and the new.

 

 

References:

Livingstone, Sonia (2009) Half a century of television in the lives of our children. The ANNALS of the American academy of political and social science, 625. pp. 151-163. ISSN 0002-7162