Archive | September 2014

Retrospect and Reflection

Blog Strategy

My overall approach to blogging has been to take significant, and often taboo topics, and make an engaging and relatable post out of them. I have always aimed to write distinguishably, allowing my own personality to shine through my content, using humour and often sarcasm to engage my readers. Upon starting my blog last year, I tended to use sarcasm in excess, which caused my blog to seem unprofessional and tacky. I have noticed after reading over my blog for this reflection, even my first post for this subject, ‘On The Road Again’, contains too much irrelevant comical content that does not add to the quality of the post. Throughout the session, I have attempted to use humour without abusing it, and after reading through the remainder of my BCM240 posts, I think I have improved.

My main aim was to demonstrate my own personality through my writing. I have always wanted my blogs to be easy to read, funny, relatable and thought provoking. A number of face-to-face comments, along with comments on my blog (see ‘Phones: A Threat to Your Friends’ and ‘On The Road Again’) have enforced that I have succeeded in doing all these things.

Blog Design

In terms of visual design, I aimed to make the appearance of my blog simple and strong. I had originally created my own header graphic last year, which was dark and rigid, and did not compliment the relaxed, reflective nature I intended for my posts. I chose to redesign it a few months ago after evaluating and altering the overall layout of my blog, to better suit the content of my blog.

Old Header Graphic

Redesigned Header Graphic

I value consistency and have always hoped to portray a blog that is not only consistent in writing style and regularity, but also consistent in displaying the same characteristics across both the written elements, and the visual design elements. Choosing the WordPress theme, incorporating my Twitter feed, and ensuring that my blog is easy to navigate and read have also been of importance when trying to ensure each part of my blog reflects a consistent personality.

I have been very deliberate with the colours I have chosen, opting for a light blue tone as the background colour and Twitter link colour, with grey and white used on the other areas of the blog. I wanted the colour theme to be simple, and only use a subtle colour that would suggest a relaxed personality, with the grey reflecting boldness.

Use of Resources

My first two blog posts for this subject lacked any resources at all, and I was yet to realise the importance of linking to secondary sources in those early stages. I initially found it difficult to incorporate secondary sources into blog posts that very deeply engaged with my personal life, and observations. I have since utilised a number of resources in the remainder of my blog posts.

I have tried to engage in a number of sources for each post, and have tried to collect information from a variety of sites. I have also used a diverse range of media, using images in my posts ‘On The Road Again’ and ‘A Procrastinator’s Kryptonite’, video in my posts ‘Phones: A Threat to Your Friends’ and ‘Down With a Case of FOMO?’, and a range of newspaper articles, blogs and journal articles to support my findings in the remainder of my blogs.

While not all of my resources are academic, I believe they are relevant, informative and diverse. I have tried to incorporate academic sources in as many blogs as possible, as can be seen in ‘The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly on Multitasking’ with a link to http://www.mindtools.com and in ‘Phones: A Threat to Your Friends’ with a link to http://spr.sagepub.com.

Engagement with Others

Engaging with others has been the downfall of my blog, and I have realised upon reflection that I rarely commented or utilized Twitter. I regularly Tweeted in regards to my blog posts for another subject, however neglected to do so for this one. I think it would’ve greatly increased engagement with new and existing readers, and could’ve grown my list of followers.

I began to comment on other student’s posts at the beginning of the session, but failed to do so on a regular basis. I regret not doing so, as I have seen the positive impact commenting and creating discussions online can have on connecting with others in other subjects. Commenting also opens up a dialogue with others that can enable both parties to further understand the topic being discussed.

Attracting a Readership

In order to attract a readership I have followed other people’s blogs in hope they might follow mine in return. I also tweeted out a link to my blog at the beginning of session. In hindsight, this was not a sufficient effort to build a strong and dedicated readership, and I should’ve invested more time into gaining followers.

On the 9 September, a friend of mine read my blog weekly, decided to share it via his Facebook page. The results are shown below:

On the 9 September there was a dramatic increase of viewers, as many had been led to my blog through my friend’s Facebook post. This proves the effectiveness of sharing a blog on social media, and I regret not sharing and linking to my blog on Facebook and Twitter more than once.

The main means of attracting a readership was simply through word of mouth. I only did so around week 5, and although this did create a consistent line of readers out of my parents and a number of friends, telling people about my blog and sharing the URL with them earlier on would’ve grown my readership progressively.

In saying this, I have been able to attract a global readership through tagging each of my posts with key words. This enables people who search for that word on a search engine to potentially find my blog. I feel that I have somewhat succeeded in gaining a readership as people in 13 different countries have accessed my blogs, with views from Thailand, Russia, Malaysia and the United States in the past three months.

Lights, Camera, Slacktion!

Slacktivism is a term I was initially introduced to in my first year of University. While nowadays it can be synonymous with ‘feel good activism’, Popova defines the term in a way that I’ve never seen matched; ‘the tendency to passively affiliate ourselves with causes for the sake of peer approval rather than taking real, high-stakes action to support them’. With the ease and immediacy of social media, almost any individual can participate in a revolution or protest, however it is with this ease of participating that slacktivism has truly flourished in Western societies.

Of course, there is no doubt that social media has transformed traditional activism and made way for a new era of revolution, just look at the #Euromaiden protests in Ukraine, or the Kony 2012 Campaign, however as magical as the Internet may seem, people have (as always) tainted its ingenious.

Nearly half of the worlds population live on $2.50 a day, with at least 25% of the worlds population living in extreme poverty. Most first world occupants don’t realise the extent of their fortune, ‘If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy’. This is why we become culprits of slacktivism, because we not only neglect to realise how wealthy we really are, but we forget the reality of those who are in the remaining 92%. Some are homeless, some are sick, some are dying, while many are engaged in true activism.

In saying this, the Internet is now one of the few tools that enables us see, and even get to know these ‘unknown others’, so rather than debating that the Internet makes us lazy sloths, I will agree with Popova when he says that ‘online communities broaden our scope of empathy’.

A study conducted by Christopher Jones explores the success/failures of 3 major activism events that have occurred offline, with the help of online campaigns. His findings concluded that the ‘ability of the internet to revolutionize offline social and political action in a way that was never possible before’. The Internet provides a platform for communication between those who can physically engage in a protest or revolution and those who are on the other side of the world, searching for some way to help. The term slacktivism should not be associated with the Internet itself, rather with the Internet’s users. Yes, many people, if not the majority, use Twitter and Facebook to like and retweet posts that induce a sense of philanthropy into their lives, without forcing them to actually do anything of worth. However, those who have engaged in activism online have made a world of change, and it is for this reason that slacktivism should not be confused with online activism.

References

Undercover Australian Films Flourish

In 2013, Australian feature films earned only 3.5% of the total Australian Box Office. This is a decreasing rate, with it being 4.3% the previous year. Australian films have a negative stigma attached to them, with most being labelled as ‘depressing dramas’. However, more often than not, Australians are not aware of half of the Australian productions that get released, nor do they realise they are Australian productions. Films such as The Great Gatsby and The Lego Movie fall into this category, each of which found great success in national and international markets. The Great Gatsby earned 26 million in the Australian Box Office, and the Lego Movie has grossed over $464 million worldwide.

It seems that in order for Australian movies to truly succeed on a global scale, they need to be somewhat disguised. Not many people, Australians in particular, want to hear an ocker Aussie accent dressed in a blue singlet and rubber thongs with a can of VB in hand. If the Australian film industry wants to flourish, it needs to challenge itself to compete on a global scale, keeping in mind what the audience want to see, not what they expect to see.

Bearing in mind, Australia only produced 27 feature films last year, in comparison to the 638 that China produced, the 239 that the United Kingdom produced, and the 622 that the United States produced. Of course the US have had more success on the film frontier, given that they’ve made 23 times more than Australia (along with their far more exuberant budgets).

To tackle this problem Australia not only need to create more films, they need to create films specific to the wants of the audience.

The simplest form of qualitative research to shed light on these issues would be conducting a number of surveys and focus groups, that would provide in-depth opinions of audience members about Australian films.

Participating individuals would be shown a list of approximately 30 Australian films with accompanying movie trailers, however they will not be informed that all are in fact Australian productions. The list would include films that have strict Australian connotations, such as Australia and Crocodile Dundee, and those that do not, such as the mentioned Lego Movie and The Great Gatsby. Keeping in mind that Australian films typically have a bad reputation, Participants would be asked to write down what movies they think are Australian and why, and write down why they think the remaining are not. Secondly, they would be asked to identify what films they watched at the Cinema upon release and why, what films they watched in a different context and why, and what films they have not watched, and why. They would then be asked to discuss the inherent characteristics that they associate with Australian films. It would be expected that these characteristics would be either negative, or neutral, with anticipated answers of ‘dramatic’, ‘tacky’ and ‘over-Australian’.

This kind of qualitative study, although quite simple in nature, would offer valuable insight into why people view the films they do, and would help equate whether the knowledge of it being an Australian film would affect their consumer behaviour.

References:

What is credibility?

Citizen journalism can be really empowering for the average consumer; it transforms us from being the once dormant audience into being active participants, who both view and create content, turning us into produsers. We are constantly collaborating with an entire network of other average citizens to create a news sphere that stretches beyond the means of traditional journalism. “Citizen journalism is discursive and deliberative, and better resembles a conversation than a lecture” (Gillmor, 2003). It isn’t bound by the constraints of authority or obligation, and so information can be published at a more rapid and personal rate, being delivered to our very own newsfeed or mobile phone at any second.

The BBC have taken the idea of Citizen Journalism and embraced it. They have, over the past 10 years, been undergoing a process of restructuring to enable full utilisation of the content and resources that its average viewer has to share.

BBC took note on July 7th 2005, when terrorists bombed a London subway, sending the whole nation into a state of hysteria. Prior to the onslaught of photographs, emails and SMS messages being broadcast across the web, the explosion was deemed as nothing more than a “power surge”. It wasn’t until the story was taken into the hands of innocent bystanders that the full truth was revealed. Richard Sambrook, a BBC employee speculated, ‘when major events occur, the public can offer us as much new information as we are able to broadcast to them. From now on, news coverage is a partnership.

However, this new notion of citizen journalism has caused skepticism in some individuals, as they question the true credibility of the content these citizens contribute. Often these people associate citizen journalism with unreliability, not because it’s found to be fraud or false, but because the content is rarely filtered or fact-checked, and it is unlike how traditional media functioned where ‘the journalistic production was controlled through the practice of gatekeeping: the ‘gates’ of the journalistic publication were considered sacrosanct, and served as filters for news items which were considered to be unimportant, uninteresting, or otherwise irrelevant for audiences‘ (Bruns, 2009). This skepticism is not wrong, however it may be slightly old-fashioned.

Credibility is no less relevant to citizen journalism than it was regarding traditional media prior to the Internet. Rather than the value of credibility disappearing, all that it entails has shifted to adapt to the particular media platform being explored. That is, users of new media ‘seem to apply different criteria to different media’ (Carroll, 2011). This implies that users apply a different set of standards to judge the reliability of new convergent media platforms, than they do to judge traditional media. Research by Carroll and Richardson found that consumers trusted a news source based on identification and affiliation. Therefore, there exists a “perceived sameness” (Carroll & Richardson, 2011) that allows the citizen journalist, for example a blogger, to sate the reader’s perception of credibility by sharing a common set of values and beliefs. In short, consumers find credibility in a communicator’s ability to be relatable.

References

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly on Multitasking

The endless debate on multitasking is futile, no concise conclusion will ever be made that will satisfy those saying it promotes productivity, and those who believe it is making us dumb. I’m here to shed some light on all sides of the debate.

The Good

Chinese researchers have found that multitasking, 21st Century style, is good for the brain. Through a series of experiments, Scientists at the Chinese University of Hong Kong have found that ‘media multitasking’ can positively affect ‘cognitive abilities and multi-sensory integration’, as they enable us to combat the unexpected more readily, and help us distinguish different things amongst clutter.

The Bad

On the flip side, Forbes magazine published an article declaring that multitasking makes a person stupid more than marijuana, or a night of no sleep. ‘The Energy Project Audit found that 69% of workers have difficulty focusing on one thing at a time and are easily distracted during the day, especially by email’ (Loder, 2014). James Manktelow, founder of Mind Tools, also supports the notion that multitasking is negative, and the ‘biggest problem with it is that it can lower the quality of our work’ (Mind Tools, 2012).

The Ugly

Almost in support of this, researcher, Meyer, has found that although switching between two tasks can take less than a second, productivity can reduce by 40% (Cherry, 2010). Psychologist, Kendra Cherry acknowledges that although a fraction of a second mightn’t make a difference while folding laundry and watching television, it can be critical when driving and talking on the phone. Cherry concludes that multitasking can be a great risk, but ‘of course, the situation plays an important role’ (Cherry, 2010).

Another particular study by Rubinstein, Meyer and Evans, found that task-switching can waste 20-40% of our time, depending on what we’re doing.

I’m trying to point out a trend, an ugly trend. While there are many writers and researchers who sit on either side of the fence, arguing that multitasking is either inherently bad, or inherently good, most seem to be sitting on the fence. The common conclusion made is that multitasking can be both productive and risky, depending on what activity you’re doing.

I hate to be a conformist, so I won’t agree.

There is a common misconception surrounding what multitasking is. Dr Weinschenk claims that what we deem as multitasking is actually synonymous with ‘task-switching’, where we switch between tasks simultaneously, but not working on multiple things at the exact same time.

Computers often work by multitasking, which greatly improves efficiency and productivity, so why is it often disliked when we’re the ones doing it?

Not to be proud, but I’m great at multitasking. Not because I can text and watch TV, while playing a game of chess (which I can do), but because I play drums. I can play 6/8 time with one foot, 9/8 time with the other, 7/8 with one hand, and 4/4 with the other. It sounds awfully complex, but really it comes naturally, and it sates the true definition of multitasking; when a person ‘deals with more than one task at a time’.

I argue that multitasking is a positive thing because, yes, it stimulates our brains, and often is a natural behaviour. Talking and walking, singing and playing guitar, and running while dribbling a basketball are all examples of true multitasking. So next time you try to justify texting and driving as skilful multitasking, remember that you’re actually just trying to switch between two tasks, which research has proven is dangerous, not natural.

References:

Google becoming like Apple?

We all know that Apple is known for its closed nature, and the fact that its products cannot ‘be programmed by outsiders’ (Zittrain, 2010). We also know that Android is Apple’s counterpart, offering a completely open source platform, so that anybody can take the code and do what they like with it.

One thing we think we know is that Google is synonymous with Android. This is not exactly the reality. In 2007, Google launched its Android Open Source Project (ASOP), only months after the first iPhone was released. It was essentially an act of precaution and defence, as Google felt threatened by the success of Apple’s, very popular, smartphone. ‘Google decided to give Android away for free and use it as a trojan horse for Google services. The thinking went that if Google Search was one day locked out of the iPhone, people would stop using Google Search on the desktop’ (Amadeo, 2013).

Fast-track a few years on, Android now take up 40% of the market share, with the operating system predicted to have one billion users by the end of this year.

Google are now in a little dilemma. ‘If a company other than Google can come up with a way to make Android better than it is now, it would be able to build a serious competitor and possibly threaten Google’s smartphone dominance’ (Amadeo, 2013). While it was easy for Google to give away their Android code when they were sure they’d fail without doing so, the company is now processing ways in which it can protect its valuable project, without completely closing it off.

You’ll have already noticed that many of Google’s applications are not opened, such as Maps, Calendar and Drive. However, Google continues to close off it’s previous ASOP run applications by simply creating a better, closed alternative.

Amadeo brings to light and compares the different elements of ASOP that Google have dropped, and ceased to update with the proprietary Google Play apps. ‘While you can’t kill an open source app, you can turn it into abandonware by moving all continuing development to a closed source model‘ (2013).

For example, Google Play Music has replaced ASOP music:

Sourced http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-10/21/googles-iron-grip-on-android 13/9/2014

This is becoming a trend for Google, and is quite cunning of them. While they can protect themselves from monsters who might take up the Android code and make something better of it, they are still ensuring that everything Android remains open source. They do so, simply by creating closed, proprietary applications that work more efficiently, look nicer, get upgraded and are just better in every way, so that people don’t want to use the ASOP applications anymore, in fact, people don’t even know the difference. This let’s Google have a bit more control over what the users do… sound familiar anyone?

It feels like Google are swaying towards the likes of Apple’s previous CEO, Steve Jobs, when he said, ‘you don’t want your phone to be like a PC. The last thing you want is to have loaded three apps on your phone and then you go to make a call and it doesn’t work any more’ (Zittrain, 2010).

Google make it look they are doing the users a favour, when really they’re looking out for number one.

References

Phones: A Threat to Your Friends

I could think of another 19 reasons as to why I could live without a smartphone, and yet I continue to live on with a smartphone, and when push comes to shove, I’d probably defend the thing with my life.

I think the real addiction of smartphones lies in their portability. Instead of keeping technology in the confines of our homes, we can take it out on to the streets, into the shopping malls, and into our social meetings. Anywhere and everywhere. These places are public spaces. Public spaces are regarded as areas in the public realm that help ‘promote social interaction and a sense of community‘ (APA, 2013). However, now it seems that public spaces are just realms in which we have to go, and are not obliged to act socially. According to the American Planning Association, a ‘Great Public Space’ is one that ‘promotes human contact and social activities’. While the increase in mobile phone use has enabled us to connect with people on the other side of the globe, a study by Przybylski and Weinstein found that even the mere presence of a mobile phone or laptop device can have negative effects on the closeness, connection and conversation quality between people (Przybylski & Weinstein, 2012). Bringing a piece of technology designed for an individual to use (mostly independently) into a public space, like a library or café, is not a bad thing, however it can tarnish face-to-face social interactions.

Anthropologist, Edward T. Hall, developed the concept of ‘proxemics’, exploring the boundaries and influences of personal, social and public spaces. While there are no strict rules regarding our interactions with other people in public, Hall devised a set of radii that seem appropriate for particular social contexts.

Edward T. Hall's personal reaction bubbles

To briefly explain what this diagram means: In the middle of the red circle is you. Each surrounding coloured circle is a person/set of people that you interact with, whether it be intentionally or unintentionally. The diagram suggests that if you interact with someone in a social space, such as at a train station, it is suitable to keep a distance of between 1.2 metres and 3.6 metres between you and the other person. Hall suggests that any closer is invasive and uncomfortable.

Now why am I talking about this? Because, now at the centre of the circle, we find not only you, but you and your phone. Your phone is now a tool to alter these socially accepted distances. With a phone in your hand you are given the permission to stand a little closer to someone in line at the service station, as long as your eyes are down on your screen and not on them. However it also does the opposite. It forces you to be further away, perhaps not physically, from those closest to you. We push our family and friends into the social space bubble, and pull our Twitter and Facebook feeds into our personal and intimate spaces.

Technology is twisting the once well understood social norms of personal and public space. A public space is now simply a place you must walk through, or sit in, with no relational value. They are no longer places that promote human contact, but instead demote it, because public spaces are becoming places where we hide behind our screens. Where we are too distracted by our virtual social-life to give a damn about our real one.

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