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Urban Screens: Bringing People Together Since ’15

Susanne Jaschko (2007) explores the urban screen as a ‘permeable membrane’, with the ability to combine the inner processes of a building and the external cityscape. The same principle applies with the use of the screen as a mediator between the physical and digital experiences of place.

Often the potential of the urban screen goes unseen, and gets denoted as something similar to a billboard. However, the fluid and interactive nature of the screen that Jaschko discusses makes the urban screen a far more vital element in urban space than any passive billboard.

For a university research project, I had originally planned to explore the use of urban screens in regards to marketing. However, I have moved my focus towards the use of urban screens in developing positive spatial dynamics in public urban spaces. While a large-scale screen would be an extraordinary means of advertising, there lies far more meaning and potential for such a screen to provide artistic, communicative and engaging messages aimed to interact with the audience, bettering their experience of the space they find themselves in.

‘Exploring Urban Screens’ by Krajina details these sorts of interactions between urban screens and individuals, and looks at the way in which screens can enhance a person’s experience of space. She describes the site of the screen as remaining ‘relatively open to the situational poetics of circumstance’, suggesting the screen could be used by individuals as a distraction while they wait for friends, or as a way to avert eye contact with strangers. The social consequences of the urban screen are not weightless. Perhaps it would be interesting for me to explore the social tendencies that urban screens encourage (such as avoiding eye contact), and those that it replaces (such as using a personal device to distract one’s self while waiting). The intriguing thing about a large, public screen is that it draws the attention of individuals from their own private devices to something much more public; a screen that is shared and not only engaged with by just them.

In a sense, the urban screen is a way of reversing the very exclusive and anti-social behaviour that portable, personal devices bring to public space. Not only does it encourage people to look up from their smart phones and tablets, it also encourages a communal experience for those it engages with, forcing individuals to consume the exact same content in the exact same context, so that if they initially had absolutely nothing in common, they now do.

References:

Jaschko, S 2007, ‘The Cultural Value of Urban Screens’, accessed 8/4/15www.sujaschko.de/downloads/274/urbanscreens

Krajina, Z 2009, ‘Exploring Urban Screens’, Culture Unbound, vol. 1, pp. 401-430, accessed 8/4/2015, http://www.cultureunbound.ep.liu.se/v1/a24/cu09v1a24.pdf

Ladies, Don’t Play The Victim

The fight for gender equality will not be easily solved or dismissed, particularly in regards to women in the workplace. In the context of the representation of women in public media, journalist Michael Marcotte believes ‘we’re still not seeing equal participation. That means we are only using half our talent and usually hearing half of the story’. This is true. Women are underrepresented in both public TV news and public radio news. However, this gender discrimination is not limited to being in favour of men.

While we have seen some progress with women moving into male-dominated occupations such as science, technology, engineering and math – in 2012 women held 27 percent of all computer science jobs – there has been little change in the representation of men in female-dominated occupations. Currently, females take up 90% of nursing jobs, 82% of junior school teaching positions and 72% of counsellor titles (see more jobs where women constitute a majority here).

These ‘pink collar’ jobs (jobs long dominated by women) have been the home to disproportional gender representation as long as the newsroom and science technology industry have. While I do not stand against females rising to take their rightful place in a very male dominated world, I do not think that the solution to gender equity is found in assuming women are always the victim.

Being a female, I completely understand the feelings of belittlement and embarrassment that are sparked when I see how underrepresented we are in many crucial industries such as media. Similar feelings arise when I see how we are poorly represented and often displayed as thoughtless, sexual objects in television shows such as Big Bang Theory and The Mad Men (where in both shows, the attractive female protagonist is portrayed as quite dumb, and the ambitious and clever female character is seen to appear much less attractive).

This is not an excuse to present a one sided argument though. Not only are many industries lacking a male presence, but in many industries, that are not necessarily pink collar, women are earning more than men on average. The Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that women earn more in occupations such as electrician, motor mechanic, truck driver, bookkeeper, dentist and psychologist.

Yes, in many cases women are still the minority, and yes, ‘there’s a gender pay gap that [generally] favours men’, however gender equality is not an issue of gaining justice for just women. Gender equality is about equality for both genders.

References:

Elkins, K 2015, 20 ‘pink collar’ jobs dominated by women, Business Insider Australia, weblog, 18 February, viewed 2/5/15, http://www.businessinsider.com.au/pink-collar-jobs-dominated-by-women-2015-2

Huhman, H. R 2012, ‘STEM Fields And The Gender Gap: Where Are The Women?’, Forbes Magazine, 6 December, viewed 2/5/15, http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2012/06/20/stem-fields-and-the-gender-gap-where-are-the-women/

Marcotte, Michael. (2013). ‘Gender Inequity in Public Media Newsrooms’. MVM Consulting.

http://www.mikemarcotte.com/2013/03/gender-inequity-in-public-media-newsrooms.html. Accessed 30 January 2014.

2013, ‘20 jobs where women earn more than men’, News.com.au, 1 November, viewed 2/5/15, http://www.news.com.au/finance/work/jobs-where-women-earn-more-than-men/story-e6frfm9r-1226751137707

 

Apple: Supporters of Concentration Camps

Aside from my very first phone, which was a Sony Ericsson slide phone, I have owned nothing but the Apple iPhone. I think that Apple should be applauded for its ability to market their brand so successfully that they have mesmerized 51% of the US population. However, discovering their complete lack of ethics has recently broken my once whimsical support for the company.

Apple has been ranked the ‘most admired’ company in the world this year for the eighth time; masses are continually buying into the façade that Apple maintains. However, hypocrisy lies in their success. While the company ranks number 1 in all of Fortune’s nine key attributes of reputation, there is clear evidence to disprove the fourth attribute: ‘social responsibility’.

BBC Panorama released a documentary in late 2014 exposing the numerous breaches of Apple’s own code of conduct that occur daily at Pegatron, one of Apple’s factories. The programme showed footage of the disgusting working conditions in the Chinese factory, and shared the poor treatment of workers.

After watching the documentary I found myself comparing the lives of Apple factory workers to those of war prisoners confined in Germany’s largest concentration camp, Auschwitz Birkenau. While I mean no insult or disrespect to the undeserving victims of World War II, and by no means am dismissing the repulsive nature of the German concentration camps, I want to outline the ways in which Pegatron’s conditions compare to that of Aushwitz to illuminate the severity of Apple’s lack of social responsibility in such a modern age, and certainly not to undermine the traumatic experiences of war prisoners.

Prisoners of Aushwitz were forced to work a minimum of 11 hours per day, with the remainder of the time being filled with ‘long roll-call assemblies, lining up for rations or a place in the latrines or washroom’. Living conditions in Aushwitz were extremely poor, with sanitation and safety non-existent, and sleeping conditions overcrowded: The barracks were ‘intended to accommodate between 250 and 400 prisoners, but they would often house 700 to 1200 prisoners each’.

One of the undercover reporters for the BBC documentary outlined that he worked up to 16 hours on many days, with the majority of workers engaging in over 60 hours of work a week, with rest time spent waiting 30 minutes to enter the production facility. The BBC also found that 12 individuals occupied employee dorms, ‘when the rules only allow eight workers to share a room’. Workers were often placed in unsafe and increased risk situations, such as wearing gloves that do not ‘sufficiently protect from the materials used to create the metal backplates for the iPad’.

Of course the living conditions of Pegatron are not congruent with those of Aushwitz, however the same negligence’s apply. Just as prisoners lacked proper nutrition, safe-working conditions, personal space and restricted work hours, so do the factory workers. We are so horrified with the dehumanisation of individuals in concentration camps and other instances throughout history, however turn a blind eye to the mistreatment and devaluing of human life that is happening right now.

References:

American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, 2015, Auschwitz-Birkenau: Living Conditions, Labor & Executions, Jewish Virtual Library, viewed 22/4/15,

https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/auconditions.html

Gurman, M 2013, Working conditions at Apple manufacturing partner Pegatron come under fire, 9TO5 Mac, weblog, 28 July, viewed 22/4/15, http://9to5mac.com/2013/07/28/working-conditions-at-apple-manufacturing-partner-pegatron-come-under-fire/

London Jewish Cultural Centre, 2010, What were the camps?, The Holocaust Explained, viewed 22/4/15, http://www.theholocaustexplained.org/ks3/the-camps/#.VUbjodqqqko

Mirror Mirror

I often criticise my boyfriend for being terrible at taking photos of me, despite me feeling like I look super fine. I have a number of photographer friends who always upload stunning photos of their significant other to Facebook; you know the ones. They are candid, perfectly framed, flawless photos.

However, I can’t blame my boyfriend. It feels as though every time someone else takes a photo of me, I could’ve done a better job using even the dodgy reverse-camera on my phone. I’m not one for taking copious amounts of selfies, however I will admit that I get that ‘super fine’ feeling when I do take the occasional picture of myself. Love it or hate it, this selfie phenomena is one that refuses to die. Why?

Let’s explore two reasons why we love capturing ourselves.

The Mere Exposure Effect

Social psychologist, Robert Zajonc, conducted a set of experiments in the 1960’s that supported his hypothesis that the mere repeated exposure of an individual to a stimulus object enhances his or her attitude toward it (Zajonc, 1968). Essentially, we prefer things that are familiar to us. We spend far more time looking in the mirror than we do looking at photographs, so we are more inclined to like the former rather than the latter.

“We see ourselves in the mirror all the time—you brush your teeth, you shave, you put on makeup,” says Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Center. “Looking at yourself in the mirror becomes a firm impression. You have that familiarity. Familiarity breeds liking. You’ve established a preference for that look of your face” (Feeney, 2014).

Assymetrical Faces

The mirror also offers more than familiarity; it offers a consistent image of our assymetrical faces, however what we see in the mirror is the exact opposite of what everyone else sees. Due to the familiarity we have of mirrored images of ourselves, we are more comfortable with the reversed shape and construct of our face, and not the way it looks to others. The reason I think my selfies are better than the photos my boyfriend takes is because I never see myself from the non-mirrored perspective as my boyfriend does. When he say’s the photo looks good, he means it. To him, the photo is an almost true depiction of my face and me.

So how do we solve the issue of stressing over how we look in photographs? Rutledge thinks it is simple: take more selfies.

“People who take a lot of selfies end up feeling a lot more comfortable in their own skin because they have a continuum of images of themselves, and they’re more in control of the image,” she says. “Flipped or not flipped, the ability to see themselves in all these different ways will just make them generally more comfortable” (Feeney, 2014).

References

Feeney, 2014, ‘Why Selfies Sometimes Look Weird To Their Subjects’, The Atlantic, accessed 19/3/15 http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/03/why-selfies-sometimes-look-weird-to-their-subjects/359567/

The True Mirror Company 2012, ‘Seeing your non-reversed image for the first time: First Impressions’, True Mirror, accessed 19/3/15, http://www.truemirror.com/FirstImpressions.asp

Zajonc, R 1968, ‘Attitudinal Effects of Mere Exposure’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Monograph Supplement, vol. 9, no. 2, accessed 19/3/15, http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic472736.files/Zajonc.pdf