Archive | August 2014

A Night at the Flicks

Last night I hit the cinema with my best friend/boyfriend. We booked our tickets online, so were able to walk in, grab our tickets, and then walk straight into the cinema: no lines, no problems.

There were only a few complications that arose in the planning of our night out. We passed the capability element of Hagerstrand’s list of human constraints with flying colours; my boyfriend would drive us there and back. Unfortunately, the coupling element had challenged us a little. Could we get there at the right time? It’s not we were fussy with times, more that we lacked spare time, and when we did have free time to go to the movies, I found it difficult to find an appropriately timed screening of the movie we wanted to see. However, we simply skipped every time that didn’t work for us until we came across one that did. Hagerstrand’s authority element seemed irrelevant to me, of course I was allowed to be there! There was nothing inherently holding me back from attending the movie. I was old enough, and that is all I could think of. However, I did later think perhaps there was an authority issue in my parent’s preference of me being home before midnight. Fortunately, most movie screenings that we considered ended before this time anyway, so this came as no obstacle to our planning.

As normal, my boyfriend and I headed straight for the back. We are both quite tall, and hate getting sore necks from having to tilt our heads to see the screen; although I think the main reason for me automatically seating myself near the back is that I have more freedom to talk. I’m the kind of person who does talk during films; not about irrelevant topics or out of boredom, but I like to keep a running commentary of the movie going with whoever I am seeing the film with. I understand that it is often annoying, but I think it’s exciting, and somewhat beneficial to share opinions and thoughts on different scenes, songs or elements. By the time the movie ends, and it’s ‘socially accepted’ for me to talk out loud, I’ve forgotten all the things I would’ve liked to mention during the movie. For this reason, the back seat is my best bet for not getting evil glares mid-movie.

The seats were comfortable enough, and because I had no one sitting in front of me I was able to prop my feet up on the seat in front of me. The temperature is always a little chilly in the cinema, but I went prepared and used my jacket as a blanket, keeping a consistent and comfortable temperature.

It certainly feels as though cinema attendance is fading. I remember as a kid we’d have to arrive early because there was always a queue at the ticket booth, and the actual theatre. You’d almost always find yourself sitting next to a stranger, and upon the film’s ending, you’d wait until the cinema had emptied so you didn’t get caught up in civilian traffic towards the exit doors.

Now the theatre is so empty that you seldom have to sit next to a stranger, and on the rare occasion that you might have to, people suddenly become very awkward. Most of my friends make very obvious attempts to sit in the middle of our group so they don’t have that ‘awkward encounter’ of sitting next to someone they don’t know. Thinking about it now, it seems so ridiculous. Gone are the days where you could start a conversation with a fellow moviegoer just for friendliness’ sake without looking like a complete lunatic.

If things keep evolving as they are (which they inevitably will), the life of the cinema will slowly die. I can’t say I think they’ll close altogether in the next 5-10 years, because there will always be something that the cinema can offer that nothing else can. Whether it is technological advancements, or social superiority, a visit to the movies will remain an enjoyed event because it brings people together (even in a world where people are absorbed in their phones and social media platforms). Avatar and Terminator director, James Cameron recognises that people value the entire cinema experience: ‘I think there will be movie theatres in 1,000 years. People want the group experience, the sense of going out and participating in a film together. People have been predicting the demise of movie theatres since I started in the business.’

Adam Leipzig, former senior Vice President at Walt Disney Studies, and current CEO of Entertainment Media Partners, also predicts that while the future of the cinema will certainly be different, it will not die. He outlines that the movies that people will go to see at the cinema will be dependant on their content. While documentaries will flourish with the likes of Netflix and Hulu, some films, such as comedies, deserve a more developed social setting. ‘I think there will always be a demand for getting out of your house and experiencing things with other people, in a communal setting – we’re communal creatures, we’re social creatures, we love to get out and experience things with our fellow citizens.”

References:

Paying for Priceless

Whether it is a song, a video, or a university textbook that I’m after, my first move is to rummage around the Internet looking for a free download of it. If a free alternative doesn’t appear to me, I employ ‘plan b’ and hunt down a discount code or coupon so it’s closer to free than it might’ve previously been. If I find neither of these options are successful, I concede defeat and either tell myself, ‘you didn’t really need/want that anyway’, or go and pay what I consider an exorbitant price for it.

It’s not because what I’m after really isn’t worth paying for, but rather ‘why would we ever pay for anything that we could get for free?’ (Kelly, 2008).

In Kevin Kelly’s post, Better than Free, he outlines eight generatives (immediacy, personalisation, interpretation, authenticity, accessibility, embodiment, patronage and findability) that make something, that could otherwise be available for free, worth paying for.

I can relate to a number of these (for a full description of each you should most definitely read Kelly’s article here), particularly in regards to my love of music. I’m into all kinds of music, and listen to anything between jazz and country to punk and rock. Needless to say, I love live music. In fact, it was just the other day I was telling my boyfriend how I had made a commitment at the last concert I had attended, to invest more of my money into live music. I say invest because to me the event of hearing my favourite bands blast my favourite songs into a hazy room filled with sweaty fans is priceless. There’s just something about live music that makes a hundred bucks for a 2-hour set seem like a justifiable purchase.

I think I know what that ‘something’ is, and it makes me wonder why Kelly didn’t include it in his eight generatives. Perhaps he purposefully left it out because he deems it irrelevant to the online world, or maybe he simply neglected to realise its importance. This ‘something’ is a thing I deeply value, in fact I would consider it to be one of the few things in life that I would pay the most for. That ‘something’ is experience.

Experience is subjective. It’s exciting, it’s personal, it’s timeless and it’s the most valuable currency on this planet (and not just on your résumé). One study showed that experiences make us happier than possessions. The study looked at 154 participants, and compared their responses to a list of questions asked about any recent purchases they had made in order to make themselves happier, be it experiential or material. ‘The researchers found that people felt a greater sense of vitality or “being alive” during the experience and in reflection’. The study also proved that ‘experiences led to more happiness in others than purchases did’ and they also showed a ‘higher level of satisfaction at the time and after the experience had passed’ (Landau, 2009).

It is for an experience that I will pay that exorbitant price for a concert. Experience is a generative thing. It ‘cannot be copied, cloned, faked, replicated, counterfeited, or reproduced’ (Kelly, 2008). Experiences are priceless and that is what makes them worth paying for.

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Down with a case of FOMO?

FOMO fascinates me. I remember my cousin introduced me to the term just last year, and for a moment or two I thought it was an actual scientifically claimed phobia. If you’re as naïve as I was then you’ll want to know what it stands for: Fear Of Missing Out.

When I learnt this, I laughed because I thought it was a comical term, but as the weeks went by I found myself saying it as if it were in the dictionary. Why was I saying it so much though? Simply because I saw this ‘fear of missing out’ everywhere I went. I saw it in my friends, in my family, and in myself.

It’s something that has developed as technology has, and the Internet hasn’t helped. If I miss a party, I get bombarded with pictures of it on Facebook, which somehow makes me feel like I’m missing out. The insane thing is that even when I have no desire to be at a particular place, with particular people, I can still feel a sense of FOMO because social media makes things seem far more fascinating than they actually are. It may seem quite desperate (which it is), but this irrational fear can be more dangerous than we think.

‘Teens and adults text while driving, because the possibility of a social connection is more important than their own lives (and the lives of others)’.

There is always a constant need for connection. This connection causes us to crave our virtual lives, and not feel content with the real lives that continue to exist regardless of whether there is a WiFi connection. Our virtual lives are the ones that we diligently craft online through the likes of Facebook and Twitter. They exist outside the world of tangibility, in a utopia of connectedness. We conjure up our idealised selves, defined by edited photos and funny (yet thought-provoking) status updates that we constantly deliberate over. We begin to pour ourselves into our virtual lives so much that we forget to disconnect for just one mere moment. We fear solitude, because we ‘need’ to be socially switched on in case we miss something detrimental, like a friend’s breakup, party, or lunch portrait.

Turkle describes it perfectly: ‘the moment that people are alone, even for a few seconds, they become anxious, they panic, they fidget, they reach for a device.’

My household doesn’t yet qualify for the National Broadband Network, however a 10-minute drive south from mine, you’d find my boyfriend’s house which boasts a connection to the NBN. He gets all the benefits of quick connection speeds, and loves it. He had a countdown for when his house could connect to the NBN. My parents and I must be aliens as we are not so entranced by the new network.

In my household live somewhere around 8 devices. I say ‘live’ because these devices truly do engage in life and with people just as much as I do. I have my own mobile and laptop, my mum has a mobile, and my dad has his mobile and iPad. We each have our own data plans, plus another that encompasses the shared home computer and, last and perhaps least, the almost antique landline telephone. Yes, we sit on our phones while attempting to have family bonding time, and yes, we find ourselves absorbed in our own devices, while propped in front of the television, while in the physical company of one another. We do not, however, have a distinct desire to get the NBN now.

My mum and I agree both ignorantly ask, ‘how much faster could the Internet possibly be?’ while my dad has probably already predicted the nature of our future family events with an NBN connection. After dinnertime he often pipes up saying, ‘How about that? I’m the only one sitting here not on my phone!’

We laugh, feel guilty for a moment or two, and then let our face fall back into our newsfeed in case we missed something in the previous 2 seconds. It’s funny how aimlessly we scroll through our newsfeeds, looking for something of worth. I think that is the real cruncher here: people feel like they’re missing out on things that have no significance or worth attached to them. We fear missing out on things we don’t like, or don’t even know about, and the worst part is, we don’t know why we feel that way.

Facebook and Twitter do not help this because they are platforms designed specifically for people to promote how good, and more importantly, how popular they are. They cause the ‘need’ for nonstop attention, and exist because people identify their worth with the amount of people they are in contact with. Here is the reason that I now, almost resent the Internet: If I can connect to this platform of self-assurance quicker, than why wouldn’t I? And thus the already apprehensive and addictive teenager is swept even further down the drain with the availability of the NBN.

The cure for a case of FOMO? ‘Ironically, it’s to ‘plug back into life’, and by that I mean real-time living in the moment. Be present with what you are doing now. Avoid digital distraction. Use your Internet and digital devices if and when you need to and not to allay an anxiety that you will somehow miss out.’

Don’t miss out on the real, more precious things in life, because you are too caught up in not missing out elsewhere.

References:

All Play + No Work (maybe a little)

For the past 6 years I have dreamed of working at Google. I remember, quite vividly, the moment when I was swept of my feet by the entrancing Google workplace environment. My Year 9 Information and Software Technology teacher set a task where we had to research different workplace cultures, and Google was at the top of the list.

I was in awe of what I found: segways, volleyball, free food, and, perhaps my favourite, the 80/20 policy (which I think has been culled since, unforunately: http://www.wired.com/2013/08/innovate-or-die-why-googles-8020-rule-is-a-red-herring/). This policy meant that while 80% of your week was to be spent doing Google-related work, the remaining 20% was put aside for ‘creative projects’, including a round of golf, or jet skiing! That’s right, an entire paid-work day for doing something you deem leisurely in order to boost innovation and imagination of employees.

This is what I want to hone in on: the homogenization of work and leisure. Mark Deuze explains this process as ‘liquid life’, where all the elements of our life begin to converge with one another in ‘a permanent flux, constant change, and structural indeterminacy’.

This idea cops a lot of slack in society because it is associated with an individuals work life streaming into their personal life. While this is a valid and relevant example of liquid life, not all have fallen captive to being workaholics.

Here’s why I dream of working there: instead of employees taking their work home with them to invade on their leisure time, Google implemented a set of tactics to bring leisure back into the workplace. Jordan Newman, a Google spokesperson said that it was the companies aim ‘to create the happiest, most productive workplace in the world’.

Google’s career webpage contains a striking statement: ‘When you want people to think creatively and push the boundaries of what’s possible, their workspace shouldn’t be a drab maze of beige cubicles.

Perhaps the entire stigma attached to ‘liquid life’ is a little outdated. ‘Life has become analogous to work. Instead of developing a lifestyle, our everyday efforts and energy go into choosing a work-style: ‘a way of working and a way of being at work’’ (Deuze, 2006). Deuze was definitely onto something, he was aware that our lives were being thrown into this mundane cycle of work and no play. I believe that he set a challenge, rather than a simple statement, suggesting something like, ‘sorry guys, but that’s just how it is now, convergence means we have to work even when we’re not supposed to’. No! Deuze realised that convergence gave us a newfound freedom. It handed us the keys to our lives and now we have the ability to arrange and tangle elements of our lives together, or pull them apart.

Liquid life doesn’t mean we have to exist with just work and no play, it realises that we can work and play at the same time!

‘Humanity grows, evolves, and succeeds- not because we have sold out, become super responsible or overly mature’—(or workaholics)—‘but rather through ambition, play, love, and fun.’

References:

Nobody’s Perfect

Cyberlibertarianism sounds great to me; complete freedom of information, the end of authority and regulation, where every user is equal and can ‘enter without privilege or prejudice’ (Perry, 1996). Like most things, the theory of cyberliberty seems incredibly desireable, and relatively simple to put in effect, but its reality is far more complex.

I stumbled across A Short Guide to the Internet’s Biggest Enemies by Jillian York. Having explored the notion of the state as an enemy occurring as a motif under the cyberlibertarian paradigm, I was curious to discover who these ‘big enemies’ were. The blog post discussed the recently released list, created by Reporters Without Borders. It was introduced in 2006 and has since been updated yearly. Skimming my eyes across the list, I saw the expected competitors; China, North Korea and Iran, all nestled in the ‘World’s Worst Offenders’ section.

Reading onwards, I was surprised by two of the nations that starred in the newcomers list. Both the United States and the United Kingdom had found themselves on the list of the Internet’s Biggest Enemies. The UK however had, what I deemed, a legitimate excuse.

While it was noted for spying on individuals, and using terrorism laws to attack journalists, the country has apparently sharpened its sword against pornography. Turns out that only last month, the UK had 660 individuals arrested for downloading and distributing child pornography.

Among these were scout workers, care workers and doctors. One particular doctor was charged for having access to over one million pornographic images, and found to have met up with young boys on numerous occasions. A number of sex aids and ropes were also found in the boot of his car.

I know, it’s completely disgusting and you feel the need to scoff at your screen while shaking your head, but how does giving each user complete online freedom seem now? Cyberlibertarianism neglects the inevitable; people are not perfect, and are often cruel and vile.

In order for cyberlibertarianism to be a reality, it cannot regulate any individual’s actions in cyberspace. Cyberlibertarians believe true ‘internet freedom’ is freedom from state action. It grants every individual with liberty of conscience, thought, opinion, speech and expression online, and grants the liberty of contract and exchange in an online environment. This includes the doctor whose conscience doesn’t deem child pornography as wrong, and the scout worker who has complete freedom to distribute and exchange pornography online. While the daydream of cyberliberty is flawless, it’s reality is like handing a large city’s safety and security, lets say New York for example, into the hands of a dorky, insecure college boy. It’s mindless! Can we really entrust ourselves with such power? After all, with great power comes great responsibility… potentially great regulation and review would be helpful too.

References:

Barlow, J P 1996, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, 8 February, viewed 14 August 2014, https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/mod/url/view.php?id=160751

BreakingNEWS, 2014, ‘UK police arrest 660 in massive child pornography crackdown’, BreakingNEWS, 16 July, viewed 17 August 2014, http://www.breakingnews.ie/world/uk-police-arrest-660-in-massive-child-pornography-crackdown-636518.html

Reporters Without Borders 2014, Enemies of the Internet 2014, Reporters Without Borders, For Freedom of Information, viewed 17 August 2014, http://12mars.rsf.org/2014-en/enemies-of-the-internet-2014-entities-at-the-heart-of-censorship-and-surveillance/

York, J, A Short Guide to the Internet’s Biggest Enemies, Electronic Froniter Foundation, blog, 13 March, viewed 17 August 2014, https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/03/short-guide-internets-biggest-enemies

Square Eyes

People are either often shocked or impressed to hear me when I say ‘I don’t really watch television’. It’s not that I don’t want to get ‘square eyes’ like my mum was so convinced I would as a child, or that I never absorb myself in a late night drama, I just never watch television with much intention. I often find myself in front of the screen when I’d least expect to, such as during my weekly family night, or at my boyfriend’s house where we mustn’t neglect our 6:30 fix of Home and Away (my most dreaded weekly appointment).

Television and I have a sort of, whirlwind romance. We often stumble upon each other’s paths, mingle for a little, and then move onto bigger and greater things. Perhaps I have commitment issues, but I’ve rarely found myself wholeheartedly dedicating myself to television, or any of the programs it has to offer. I’ll watch a couple of episodes, conclude that they are half-decent, pencil-in my evening date with How I Met Your Mother, then realise it’s far too late for me to jump on that bandwagon, and pull out the karaoke YouTube videos instead.

Point being, I don’t deem it fair that everybody else’s viewing should be affected by the information I do or do not offer to the corporations who analyse my every T.V associated move.

Audience measurement is the underlying issue, and although it would seem effective to measure the number of people watching particular television shows, deliberated into particular time-slots, a programs success shouldn’t be calculated with only these figures in mind.

Audience measurement is currently used to, quite simply, measure how many people are in an audience. These audiences include those who listen to the radio, watch television, or more recently, those who engage in online activity relating to a particular show. This data is used to evaluate not only the popularity of the content shown, but to explore the time and space factors relating to audience behaviour.

As evident in my own life, the time and space that I find myself in influence my own behaviour as an audience. These considerations make my media use a result of the behaviour of others around me. One of my weeknights becomes the night that I reluctantly watch Home and Away because of the spatial context I find myself in.

With this in mind, it doesn’t make sense to measure a show’s success based on the rating of people watching it. Just because I’m watching Home and Away, doesn’t mean I enjoy it, and similarly, just because I am not watching How I Met Your Mother doesn’t mean I do not enjoy it. Corporations also cannot determine my age, gender, ethnicity, religious views or interests based on a number I contribute to a rating. There seems to be too many assumptions made about the real life behaviour of media audiences, and not enough exploration into the actual substance of television programs. If shows were examined based on their quality and content, surely Home and Away would be dead by now.

References:

2014, Audience Measurement and Insights, GFK, viewed 16 August 2014, http://www.gfk.com/solutions/audience-measurement-and-insights/Pages/default.aspx

2014, How do television ratings work? How do they figure out how many people are watching a show?, How Things Work, viewed 16 August 2014, http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/question433.htm

Cybersoul

Cybersoul. I came across this term when trying to pinpoint exactly what cyberspace was. I quickly realised that it’s just one of those things that us mere mortals can’t get our heads around, like infinity, or the ever-expanding nature of space; we know it exists and we know it’s complex, and that’s about all we know. I will, however, come back to the term cybersoul, but will need to give at least some vague context surrounding cyberspace first.

Cyberspace is almost indefinable. It is a layer built upon the Internet, a result of the Internets success, but not a word that can be used synonymously with it. The Business Dictionary puts it nicely; cyberspace is ‘the electronic equivalent of the human psyche (the ‘mindspace’ where thinking and dreaming occur)’. It’s intangible and a sort of virtual reality realm.

Now time for the cybersoul talk.

‘A cybersoul is a division of a person that is born with the person but might not be realised until later in life. Cybersouls feed off chatting, surfing the web… and grows accordingly.’

Despite having discovered this word on Urban Dictionary, the entire concept surrounding it intrigued me. With every physical, real world person, there is a cybersoul that makes up who they are. As childish and bizarre as this idea seems, we all know it’s true. Why do we often engage more easily with strangers online rather than face-to-face? Why does it almost feel liberating to use the Internet? Why is it that my incredibly shy cousin won’t say a word to me at lunch, but will lather me with compliments later that night on Facebook?

I think my cybersoul can enlighten you.

I believe that we all have cybersouls deep inside of us, disguised as virtual alter egos. They’re still you (most of the time), but are often more charming, confident and charismatic; essentially they are the improved version 2.0 of you.

Thanks to social media, we can be whoever we want to be. With one fake email address, or a specially crafted avatar, I can turn myself into anything, or anyone. At the end of the day, every social media platform provides us with a stage to broadcast ourselves from, so we attempt to curate the most successful and attractive projection of who we desire to be. Lessig details cyberspace as a way to escape ‘to a different world where the norms of civility and decency that governed outside his dorm room (or the outside world) did not reign’. Here Lessig is talking about a young mans desire to escape his mundane life in Ann Arbor, to a more luxurious and exotic life right from his dorm. This is more than possible to do with the Internet at hand. Cyberspace allows you to become somebody else in another world, whilst living your real life simultaneously. The amazing part, is having the ability to ‘live in a world where we can occupy both sorts of space at the same time’ (Lessig, 2006); both the real world, and the cyber world.

References