BCM240 Reflection

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I’m a notoriously harsh marker. Despite the fact that I’m not in any sort of authority position to mark anything, I’ve always enjoyed giving experiences, events, food and even friendships a quantified assessment (Dan, you’re a solid 86%).

There’s been a whole lot of BCM240 these past 10 or so weeks. There’s been plenty of theories, concepts, yelling, heated discussion and, for better or worse, many, many blogs. Now here I am, after ten or so weeks of ‘Media, Audience & Place’, reflecting on the whole process and what I have produced during the course. In keeping with my love of harsh marking, I’ll try to keep it as critical as possible.

First up, I’ve got to watch my speling more. Also, I tend to make way too many really bad jokes. Humour, as it should be obvious by now, is one of the constant themes in my BCM240 blog posts. Writing these blogs, I’ve tried to keep the mood light and the content humorous wherever possible while also attempting to impart or demonstrate a serious and in-depth knowledge of the course content matter. This isn’t an easy task and, if we’re to really assess this attempt, I’d say that the result is uncomfortable oscillation. Blog posts deviate wildly between an overly-obvious attempt to outline a concept and irreverent humour and this juxtaposition has the tendency to undercut both the insight and the humour that I am trying to present. Fruit is great on it’s own and so is cake, but no one likes fruit cake. Combining the two brings out the worst in both.

Why then do I keep making jokes? I’m realistic about the content of this course, and I’m especially realistic about the audience that these blog posts would attract. The course content is relatively abstract and unlikely to attract the attention of the general public. Instead those most likely to read these posts are fellow students of BCM240. To simply rehash the content of the week, even with my own twist, is unlikely to appeal to those already doing the readings, watching the lectures and taking the tutes on the same content. So, at least in my humble opinion, my best option for attracting and retaining readership is to make the posts entertaining.

Keeping readers is pretty irrelevant though if you don’t have any readers. Promotion, then, has to be pretty dang important. For the most part, promoting my blog took place outside of wordpress. Though I would of course carry the BCM240, UOW, BCM and media tags by default, most of my blog promotion and redirects were done on other social medias like Facebook and twitter. Whereas facebook was used more to coerce/pressure pre-existing networks (friends) to read, I used twitter to reach out to the BCM and BCM240 communities. Specifically, #bcm240 was especially useful and accounted for the majority of my twitter redirects. When promoting my blog or a specific post on twitter I would try to use the tips outlined in this article, such as quotes from the post or a question relating to the topic but these turned out to be the least effective tweets. Instead, tweets that featured an irreverent or humorous comment followed by a brief allusion or a simple suggestion to read the post as well as a link seemed to work the best. This is best exemplified by the tweet bellow:

 

This tweet was by far my most successful in the hours after publishing it I had 23 uniques on this blog post that had been redirected from twitter. It is worth noting that this tweet was published on the 3rd of October, just a day before the due date for this assessment, when the BCM240 hashtag was noticeably busier than ever before. It is very possible that the effectiveness of this tweet has nothing to do with the content or the format of the tweet itself, but rather that the greater redirect rate is simply a product of greater traffic on the hashtag.

Moving on, the class content, concepts and ideas discussed in the posts. I believe that I have adequately interacted with the concepts discussed in BCM240. The forever changing relationship between media, audiences and spaces was, at least in principle, an interesting one to discuss. I feel I have interacted with the core of these concepts well, but I’m not convinced that I have added anything new or significant to the conversation. Of course, it might seem a little outrageous for me to assume that I’d be able to shape or influence such academic and difficult concepts, but I’m still a little disappointed I wasn’t able to contribute to the research or theory of the topic in any significant way.

The feedback from part 1 was mostly positive but there was a fair warning about watching my grammar and punctuation. Though I’m reasonably confident in my writing style, I will admit that I have trouble in my editing. I’ve taken to a stricter edit and review process. Essentially, I simply reread everything twice and draft my friends into editing the longer pieces as well.

Overall, I have enjoyed the blogging aspect of BCM240. At first, the word counts required seemed a little long, but as the course and the topics expanded, the longer word counts for the posts encouraged me to explore the concepts more than I would have without it. Rather than simply meeting a smaller word count with a recital of the topic, I found myself using the blog posts to understand or expand upon the more complex aspects of a weeks topic. I’m happy with the way my BCM240 blog has grown, and I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading it.

Week 9: Re-Regulation

There’s two ways to approach this weeks topic. There’s the obvious one, talking about media regulations, legislation and restriction in a simple, rational sense and recounting how this dictates certain aspects of the media/space relationship; then there’s the weirder one where I ramble on about the philosophical and metaphysical implications of media restriction, the shifting relationship between media and mechanisms of control as media ceases to necessitate a physical form.

The word counts for this subject are weirdly long though, so I’m just gonna do both.

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First, as old mate Gambino suggests in the .gif above, let’s talk about what is probably the most personally interesting development in the regulation of Australian media of late, the site-blocking potential of Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Act 2015 and the general cock up that was the Dallas Buyers Club (DBC) debacle. So, first up, the federal government pushed through an amendment to the 1968 Copyright act last year that would allow copyright holders (media companies like Time Warner, Village Roadshow, EMI, etc) to request that sites hosting or enabling the unlicensed distribution of copyrighted material be blocked. Specifically the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Act 2015 states that …

“the Federal Court of Australia may, on application by the owner of a copyright, grant an injunction referred to in subsection (2) if the Court is satisfied that:

                     (a)  a carriage service provider provides access to an online location outside Australia; and

                     (b)  the online location infringes, or facilitates an infringement of, the copyright; and

                     (c)  the primary purpose of the online location is to infringe, or to facilitate the infringement of, copyright (whether or not in Australia).”

Home made gifs and a legit legislation in one blog post. What will they think of next.

The DBC debacle basically involved DBC LLC lawyers attempting to legally get an ISP, specifically iiNet, to give up the names of the 4726 iiNet customers that illegally downloaded the film (Shepard, 2016). They failed and it was all pretty embarrassing.

So, there’s that. A real life example of someone trying to prevent me from accessing media. Not that I would pirate. The problem now is relating this to space, because this all exists in the ethereal. As much as I would love to quote Hagerstrand and the obvious capability and coupling constraints, all I’m left to discuss is the obvious authoritative constraint. An authority, specifically the government, has declared that I should not be able to access something in a particular space, that being the intrinsically intangible cyber space. It’s worth mentioning though that it’s, literally, the easiest thing in the world to bypass. Moving on…

This leads up to the great philosophical section of the discussion. As the split between media and physical space grows, those that previously regulated media have been caught trying to dominate the immaterial nature of modern media with a philosophy tied to physical media. Whereas in the past, to steal a movie meant to physically deprive someone else of their copy, the digitization of media allows for effectively limitless recreation without deprivation.As the media has outgrown the physical necessity,  legal regulators failed to understand the shift to the digital and still carry on like video piracy is theft. When it’s only, like, sorta theft.

And this, dear reader, is when we come to the crux of not only the topic, but this class. Media is no longer restricted to the cinema or the living room. Moreover, where once media would interact with the physical space and the humans within it, the internet has switched this and allowed for the creation of an intangible, ethereal media space that we interact with. Coming to grips with the new digital age is not simply a matter of understanding that movies aren’t on DVDs, but rather the very concept of space has forever changed.

I don’t know if that makes sense to you, but I was doing this whole Beautiful Mind thing so it sorta makes sense to me.

References

Campbell, S 2016, ‘Village Roadshow Using New Laws To Block Australian Pirate Sites’, Gizmodo, 18 February, viewed 1/10/16 http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2016/02/village-roadshow-goes-to-australian-court-to-block-solarmovie-piracy-website/

Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Act 2015

Shepard, F 2016, ‘The Dallas Buyers Club case has been abandoned but illegal downloaders may still face trouble’, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 12 February, viewed 1/10/16 http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-12/dallas-buyers-club-case-abandoned-illegal-dowloads-pirate/7162180

 

Week 8: Media & Space/Bourbon & Coke

I’m not a big fan of putting my phone down. Imagine, then, the shock and horror I felt when the suggested activity of the week was to design an informal study of my friends to determine how long it would take them to look at or be ‘distracted’ by their phones.

Never the less, I undertook this gargantuan task in the simplest, most agreeable way possible. With drinks.

Conducting this research, very academically, coincided with a social even I had planned. Nothing too fancy, just a few drinks with some old friends. During that time, I kept a tally based on my observations of how often my friends would briefly look at their phones, say to check the time or for notifications, and a separate tally for what I considered a more in depth interaction. It’s worth noting that I was keeping these tallies, of course, on my phone.

Things kicked off around 2030 (24 hour time makes any study seem more legitimate), and by 2130 all 16 of my guests had had both brief glances and full on interactions with their phones at least once. By 2230, I had a recorded 31 brief interactions and 48 extended interactions. Nice and scientific, right?

Well, I ended the study around 1030. Though I didn’t keep a detailed record of the types of interactions beyond my two general categories, anecdotally people having extended interactions with with their phones seemed to be doing one of two things almost exclusively. Primarily, they were squabbling over which song we should listen to next, showing a pre-loaded song on their phone like it was official identification. Secondly, my attendees were either showing other people a photo or taking a photo with each other. Happy snaps from a trip away, new apartments, pics of pets and somewhat tipsy selfies abounded. Not to say that it didn’t happen, but I certainly didn’t witness anyone using their phone for communication or direct, solo entertainment.

Now, onto the spatial relations. Just as the growth of media has redefined our interactions with general space, I believe that media has redefined our interactions with social space specifically. Not necessarily in simply a ‘dang kids on their dang phones’  sort of way, but actually in a positive way. Just as I believe that media allows for a greater quality of life in general (I use that to justify how little I go outside), I believe that the media-social interactions I observed lead to a better quality of social-life. While what I observed was hardly new (people have squabbled over vinyl records and having slide nights for generations), I believe that the connectivity, speed and depth of these interactions has grown significantly since the popularisation of the smart phone, which I consider to be the most socially influential form of modern tech.

Roughly 38% of our daily media interactions take place via a smartphone (Google, 2012), though I’m sure that number would be significantly higher were it updated. Moreover, the mobility, ubiquity and casual nature of a smart phone makes it immediately accessible in most social scenarios. Therefore, at least in my humble opinion, it’s the most important form of screen in regard to social effect. In my casual study and my larger, anecdotal experience, I have always found smart phones to be a multiplier of social interaction. Just like at my party, the smart phone became a way not only to channel media direct from a users phone to a users face, but to a larger space. That rhymed.

At the party people were able to propagate the shared space with media that would enhance the social experience of everyone there. Rarely, almost never, would someone sit alone in a corner silently, like some would believe. Instead people used larger broadcasts, media exchanges and the physical passing of a phone to create a far greater social experience than would be possible without it.

Then again, as the title suggests, I might have been drinking and there’s totally more legitimate studies out there that suggest social interactions are negatively effected only by the presence of a smart phone. Przybylski & Weinstein (2012, p. 244) as a part of an actual study found that “the mere presence of mobile phones inhibited the development of interpersonal closeness and trust”.

But what would those nerds know.

 

References

Google 2012, The New Multi-Screen World – Understanding Consumer Behaviour, Google, viewed 25/9/2016 https://ssl.gstatic.com/think/docs/the-new-multi-screen-world-study_research-studies.pdf

Przybylski, AK & Weinstein, N 2012, ‘Can you connect with me now? How the presence of mobile communication technology influences face-to-face conversation quality’, Journal of Social and Personal Relationships,  vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 237 – 246  http://spr.sagepub.com/content/30/3/237.full.pdf+html

 

Week 6: Taking Photos of Strangers…

… Hopefully, this time around, taking photos of strangers will get me an HD rather than a criminal charge. Moving on.

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This weeks task wasn’t super difficult but, second only to going to a cinema, was probably the most awkward. Lucky for me, I managed to capture not only the quintessential uni study environment, but the study of my BCM240 peers. With our camaraderie and shared experience of photographing strangers, requesting a photo of these two subjects with their devices went down pretty well. I asked, they allowed. Indeed, they had done the same only recently for the same task. Does this count as cheating? I’mma say no.

To be fully official, I followed my own pretty standard operating procedure for photographing strangers. I approached the two and addressed them at the same time. I asked if I could take the photo, then I explained why I wanted to. Finally, I explained what the photo would be used for and how it would be published. Luckily, none of these necessitated any significant trial or unnecessary difficulty for the subjects, either in the capturing of the image or it’s propagation. I’m sure they would have had a few more qualms if I was planning to put it on a billboard, but with a promise to only publish the image on my blog, the subjects completely consented.

I have taken photos of strangers before, and my process for doing so is generally similar to that above. It’s basic, but it’s effective. As long as I’m honest, relatively blunt but not aggressive, then consent is almost always given. That said, I’m not sure how easy it would be to get consent if I represented a larger media organisation that, through a larger media presence, posed a greater chance of large scale propagation of the image. For example, perhaps they would have been less cooperative had I represented a major new network and I was looking for stock imagery of students for weekly bulletins.

Interestingly, almost everyone that I’ve spoken to about gaining consent for photographs has a very similar process. This is interesting because, at least in Australia and NSW, there is very little legal need to. Providing that the photograph is taken in a public area and does not divulge any personal information or cause any undue defamation (Arts Law Centre of Australia 2016, p.2), media entities have almost free reign of those presented in public.

Now, where this gets difficult is when a photo is taken on private property, wherein the property owner has the right to declare at their whim photography policy. For example, the Uni has an interesting policy page for photography in the library. Among other things, the policy stipulates that for any and all commercial photography or film, the producers must have written consent from both the university and anyone filmed before that footage or image is used. Moreover, the University reserves the right to withdraw consent at any time (University of Wollongong 2013, n.p). This, as you can imagine, can make it a little difficult to stay within the lines of policy, common law and, above all, general politeness and civility.

Onto the other matter for the week, screens in public. I asked my subjects if I could get a photo of what was on their phones but they seemed understandably reluctant and turned me down. I would argue that, at least for the majority of students and people who were brought up in the screen age, we keep our online personas close to our chest. Beyond the relatively well regulated and presented facebook page or twitter, we protect our DMs and text chats. The social implications of this aren’t lost on me. The obvious one being that as well as the public digital presence, there is the private. Just because we present a large majority of ourselves online with relative transparency, there is just as much background politics and bitching as there has always been and, of course, we’re protective of this. Most interestingly (but this is just anecdotal ramblings by this stage), we are more protective of our data for the small scale, or micro implications of this. Ask anyone who they’re more worried about reading their texts, their best friends or Snowden and the Australia Signals Directorate, and I’d bet nine out of ten of them are more worried about the friends.

References

Arts Law Centre of Australia 2016, Street Photographer’s Rights, Arts Law Centre of Australia, viewed 20/9/2016 http://www.artslaw.com.au/images/uploads/Street_photographers_rights_2016.pdf

University of Wollongong 2013, Guidelines for photography and filming in the Library, University of Wollongong, viewed 20/9/2016 http://www.library.uow.edu.au/facilities/UOW044637.html 

 

Week 7: Taking a Byte

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I’m no fan of apple. I’ll be the first to admit that maybe I even have a little bit of a problem with my rampant Apple prejudice. That said, I’m not evangelical about it. I don’t lecture my apple friends about their iPhone or their shitty, overpriced macbooks. I try not to be a tech supremacist…

Even though people who have apple products never really own them. Even though they’re overpriced garbage designed to keep you trapped, with the longevity and pre-ordained obsolescence of a digital may fly, I try not to be too high and mighty. Even though the very fundamentals of the Apple philosophy is one of restriction and exclusivity and a challenge to this can get your iproduct remotely disabled, I try not to get too preachy.

Also, I have something else I want to talk about. The Social Contract.

Now, I know what you’re thinking; “this guy’s bonkers. Ted didn’t make a political philosophy class”. Well, I have a theory he did (he literally said ‘the means of production in the moodle description for the iFeudals week), or maybe it’s just that the digital world is following the same progress to the development of early society.

I’ll be brief, but all you need to know is that some classical scholars, such as Hobbes, Locke and Kant, basically theorized that to escape ultimate freedom (which is the natural, chaotic order of the world), humanity sacrificed their natural rights to submit to social cohesion and society. Essentially, we choose to obey laws to avoid lawlessness.

Now, what if people do the same for the iPhone? Yeah, sure, people have more freedom with Android or any of the other 3rd party phone OSs, but refuse these and instead choose the order and stability of iOS.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this…

Week 6: TNCs Using EULAs and ISPs Tracking your IP to Protect IPs

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Just like we saw earlier in the session the formation of the early stock exchanges in the squares and streets of Amsterdam, so too the Dutch may have developed the future of online regulation. As outlined by Harvard Internet Law Professor (I swear it’s a thing) Jonathan Zittrain, in the Dutch city of Drachten, after removing almost all forms of traffic signage and regulation, traffic accidents actually decreased (Zittrain, 2008. p. 127). Of course, the implication is obvious. Zittrain then goes on to equate the ‘unsafe is safe’ experiment to, in particular, regulation on Wikipedia. The idea being that, ultimately, self regulation would lead to a more honest, open and constructive environment.

I see the logic and I understand the sentiment behind this, but I’m as yet ready to accept it completely. As Zittrain suggests it is possible that when a security protocol is removed, a citizenry may carry on undisturbed, choosing to respect rules and boundaries, but I believe that it’s difficult to translate this notion to a situation, in this case the internet, which provides almost guaranteed anonymity.

References

Zittrain, J. (2008). ‘The Lessons of Wikipedia’, in The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It (pp. 127-148). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press

Week 5: 80% of the Memes are Controlled by 20% of the People #wakeup #occupy

Let’s talk about something called the Pareto Principle. Essentially, the principle states that it is a weirdly common occurrence to have 80% of something to be caused, owned or operated by 20% of something. Examples include the distribution of money, the ownership of land and, most importantly, meme control. I put it to you that this is because these things snowball. Having money makes it easier to have more money (interest, high yield investment, etc), and the same is true of attention economics. Having attention allows you to greater create more attention for yourself. The more widespread you are, the more attention you get and you spread further to get more attention.

I know we’re suposed to talk about iFeudals, and this sorta ties in, but I’m sure you’re sick of talking about that, so I’ll just go on.

Now, what’s interesting, is that we don’t necessarily need to produce first hand to produce attention. Indeed, look at your facebook feed and see how many meme aggregator pages you follow. These pages harvest the best memes and send them out on their page, taking all the attention and handing nothing or very little onto the meme farmer. They get rich off our labour.

I’ll leave you there, the powers that be try to silence me with a word count that I’ve maxed out. #illuminerty