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.

 

Information & Health: Research Project Update

Hi Everyone!

I just wanted to give you an update on my research project.

When I began this project over a month ago, I decided focus on the topic of health and nutrition. This was due to the fact that I had somewhat of a turnaround when it came to my personal views on nutrition, which became a priority in my life. I was determined to find out whether others have felt the same, and what drives people to decisions. Or, alternatively, why people chose to continue bad habits.

I’ve narrowed down my initial question that I formulated in my research proposal. The question I now intend to answer is:

How does information impact our opinions on health and nutrition?

Through this researc1603w-getty-instagram-food-photoh I am hoping that I will see more of a connection between what we consume on social media and how that influences our behaviour. Especially since showcasing healthy food and fitness regimes on Facebook and Instagram is becoming more prominent within western society.

I have constructed a survey that I will be posting within the next few days, as I am still trying to figure out which website I will use to host my research. I intend to follow that survey with a focus group, which will generate further discussion on this topic and hopefully go into a more detailed analysis of information and health.

When my survey is uploaded I will include a link in this post, as well as post the link on Twitter. Your participation would be deeply appreciated.

I will continue to update my blog as my research progresses so please stick with me if you’re interested!

 

 

Crossover Cinema: A Hybrid Culture

 

Crossover cinema is used to encapsulate an emerging form of cinema that crosses cultural borders at the stage of conceptualization and production and hence manifests a hybrid cinematic grammar at the textual level, as well as crossing over in terms of its distribution and reception’ (Khorana, 2013)

This idea of ‘Crossover cinema’ has allowed audiences to enhance their understanding of other cultures, through the inclusion of their own cinematic culture as well as others. The representation of diaspora through mainstream media and diasporic media allows those communities to maintain links to their origin whilst increasing their connection to the industrialised worlds and enhancing their confidence in different social situations. Although various positive outcomes exist when it comes to crossover cinema, it may also have a negative impact on an audience’s perception of another culture.

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Slumdog Millionaire (2008) is a prominent example of crossover cinema in Western culture. It is seen as an authentic representation of slum life in India from a Western perspective. “Slumdog Millionaire…literally crossed over to the main (nonforeign) group…The film’s cross-cultural affiliations no longer rendered it foreign, and this is an important indicator of its crossover production, content, and appeal.” (Khorana, 2013) The film’s director, Danny Boyle, is of British origin, which seemingly undermined the authenticity of the Indian life, as it contained large amounts of British influence and showed a mostly negative perspective of the Indian culture.

Essentially, whilst crossover films can have a negative impact on the way other cultures are perceived, intercultural communication and understanding can be improved through accurate representation and thus enhance the lives of diasporic communities.

References:

Khorana. S, 2013, ‘Crossover cinema: a conceptual and genealogical overview’, University of Wollongong Research Online, viewed 3 September 16 <http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2020&context=lhapapers>

Internationalising Education.

internationstudent.jpgThe globalisation of education is vital to the Australian economy and international relationships. International education can strengthen the ties between Australia and other countries, which assists our trade relationships as well as our understanding of global issues and our worldwide reputation.

Despite this importance, international students face a plethora of issues in regards to the exchange process and cultural experiences. “A crucial element in the achievement of success for international students is not only their academic adjustment but also their adjustment to the social and cultural environment.” (International Students: Negotiating life and study in Australia through Australian Englishes, 2007, pg. 2) This is made difficult due to the existence of a condescending attitude towards those who study internationally, where people assume that those who are not fluent in the English language lack intelligence, or are weak or helpless.

In reality, “studies suggest that many international students prior to coming to Australia have spent many years learning to speak English and thus enter the country unaware of the extent to which local accents, fast speech and Australian colloquialisms…” (International Students: Negotiating life and study in Australia through Australian Englishes, 2007, pg. 3) While international students are perfectly capable of speaking English in a formal sense, it’s the detachment from culture that gives off the impression of unintelligence.

This ultimately generates anxiety and uncertainty amongst international students. This attitude may deter individuals from studying in Australia or even in other countries, and thus damage the Australian economy and current international relationships. In order to prevent this demise, the perception of international students’ needs to change.

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Group of Diverse International Students Celebrating Graduation

These students are required to be motivated and empowered in order to succeed in a different cultural environment, hence they should be perceived for their reality, as opposed to what is assumed.

References:

Kell. P, Vogl. G, 2007, ‘International Students: Negotiating life and study in Australia through Australian Englishes’, Centre for Research on Social Inclusion, pg. 2-3