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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.

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:

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:

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.

References:

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:

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:

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