Tag Archives: Opinion

Podcast Notes: on Facebook and Personal Reality

My Dad, who has quit Facebook (almost), recently posted a link to a podcast on his Facebook page and it is one of the most interesting podcasts I’ve encountered lately. From the ABC program Conversations came the episode:
Facebook and the last days of reality: futurist Mark Pesce

I listened to the episode while knitting, then a few days later grabbed a notebook and took some sketch notes while I listened again. Here are some of my main takeaways:

  • The Facebook Algorithm  acts as a Cognitive Bias Amplifier because showing us what we want to see keeps us on the platform and the more we use Facebook, the more Facebook knows about us, and has a chance to advertise at us. This has trapped Facebook in a destructive cycle with its users, where users get what they want, not what might be socially good for them. If Facebook tires to change its algorithms to distribute socially necessary information rather than a personalised experience, users will move on to another platform that gives them what they want.
  • Emotional Contagion is spread through Facebook because it is a powerful social network. An example of this is the scientific experiment that Facebook did showing users more positive or negative news stories to find out how it would influence them. There is a related RadioLab podcast about this experiment that goes into more detail about how researchers are able to create experiments on a mass scale now thanks to the data that Facebook collects and talks about the ethics of doing so. The RadioLab podcast The Trust Engineers was published at the beginning of 2015.
  • Facebook has become a Reality Trap; it is now a primary news source for many users, and this is affected by the algorithms that show users what they want to see. In turn, this affects how the media both receives and distributes their messages. The Facebook newsfeed essentially curates a custom reality for each of its users and now communicating across realities has language barriers. According to Mark, this is ruining democracy; “Democracy is a social agreement” and Facebook has become “corrosive of consensus”.
  • Data Sets are everywhere, and being collected and sold by everyone. If you buy a couple of complimentary data sets and line them up, although you won’t have a person’s name and exact date of birth, you will have an incredibly rich profile that will tell you what you need to know about a person, or type of person, in order to effectively advertise (commercially or politically) at them. “We live in a knowledge civilisation now,” says Mark and explains that although it used to be difficult and expensive to weaponize  information, now almost anybody can do it because it has become so cheap.
  • Digital Natives use Facebook differently to Gen Xers (thankfully, I’m in between). Where Gen Xers might rely on Facebook as a main way of accessing the internet, connecting with friends and family, and sharing what’s important to them, Digital Natives take a much more formal approach to the platform. Digital Natives tend to use private sharing systems, sharing with a few people in unobserved ecosystems. They approach Facebook as a formal online space, putting up carefully curated content and using it to engage with older generations who aren’t part of the private ecosystems that Digital Natives favour. They aren’t invested in Facebook emotionally, perhaps intuitively recognising the mess that previous generations have made of the social network, and choosing instead to spend their online time in other environments.

    I personally feel that I’m part of the in-between generation. I didn’t grow up with a smart phone in my hand, but I wasn’t part of the generation that built the web either. Sometimes my generation (Gen Y) gets lumped in with millennials, sometimes we get forgotten. I think generally we are also in-between in terms of our relationship to Facebook. At first we were emotionally invested in the platform, treating it like a grown-up version of MySpace, but in the last few years I’ve seen less and less posts in my newsfeed because we are migrating to other platforms, or posting less on social media generally.  The exception to the rule of course is when Gen Yers start having kids, then I have to unfollow friends to avoid a plague of baby photos in my feed!

There was a lot of information in the podcast that I’m still working on unpacking. The podcast was a result of Mark Pesce writing an article for Meanjin with the same title The Last Days of Reality and I have only skimmed it, but it is on my reading list. Wired also wrote an article this month about the past two years at Facebook and how it’s faced backlash for the proliferation of fake news and curated newsfeeds and has had to navigating coming to terms with the fact that it is both a platform and a publisher. Wired’s article is called Inside the Two Years That Shook Facebook—and the World.

I think that all these podcasts and readings are going to link in nicely to my week one reading for COMU2140, another Wired article titled The Web Is Dead. Long Live The Internet which after a quick skim seems to be about how most people access the internet through closed systems like apps rather than through the wide open spaces that occur when using a web browser. The article was written eight years ago but still seems unnervingly relevant.


APA reference:
Ransom-Hughes, M. (Producer), Fidler, R. (Presenter), & Pesce, M. (Guest). (2018, January 30) Facebook and the last days of reality: futurist Mark Pesce [Audio Podcast]. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/conversations/conversations-mark-pesce/9354558

Narrative in Still Photography

I recently came across this article about narrative in photography that I think has interesting implications for new media makers.

Why is narrative such a difficult concept for young photographers to master?

The author, Grant Scott, speculates that perhaps young adults who are new to photography aren’t very good at creating narratives in their images because the formal school system through which we progress enforces reading like a chore and therefore we tend to reject “all forms of reading and, as a result, of the narrative” (para 2).

Scott goes on to discuss how short form social media (like 140 character tweets and single image Instagram posts) “reduce both attention span and the opportunity to develop complex and nuanced storytelling” (para 5) and although the platforms can be used to create narrative the photographer needs to have a thorough understanding of how narrative can work on those platforms in order to take the fullest advantage of them. He mentions that young photographers often only see their work on back-lit screens and emphasises the importance of printing out a body of work to analyse it physically in order to learn good editing skills and to make connections between images that might be missed if the images were confined only to the screen.

I think it is important to not only develop an understanding of how narrative works, and how you can showcase it through different mediums (photography, audio, video, anything really) but to also develop an understanding of why narrative is important, of why narrative touches humans on such an emotional level where facts and figures can’t always reach. Once you understand why something is important and that we are using it every day in all kinds of situations, you gain a real sense of exactly why you must prioritise being intentional about it within your own work.

How am I going to work on this in my creative endeavours and professional career? I am going to keep narrative in my mind during the creating and editing process. I’m going to seek out ways to learn more about how to incorporate narrative in my work. I am going to deconstruct the work of others to learn from their creations. What are you going to do?


APA reference:
Scott, G. (2016) Why is narrative such a difficult concept for young photographers to master? Retrieved from: https://witness.worldpressphoto.org/why-is-narrative-such-a-difficult-concept-for-young-photographers-to-master-ccef10fb1064

How to Start Your Own Cult in 7 Easy Steps- Response

The following blog post is my response to an article How to Start Your Own Cult in 7 Easy Steps, which was written by Steve Mason for Huffington Post. Due to copyright on the original post, only small excerpts have been included here for context. Excerpts are in italics and 72 out of 839 words were used, less than 10% . To fully understand my responses, please read the whole article, and importantly the seven steps at the bottom of the article.

Here are Steve’s seven steps to start your own cult, and my responses to them in regards to our own cult-like social media campaign and event.

1) Begin by creating your own reality.

We can easily create our own reality (Fuji the wise tells us that bananas are the key to greatness) but we can’t reasonably keep our members away from outsiders. We could impose a self-censorship such as avoiding oranges or pears (any fruit that’s not a banana).

2) Next set the leader and his/her inner circle up as the only link to paradise… only they hold the keys to the kingdom.

Too easy. Fuji is the leader, his word is law. We six are the inner circle, his trusted advisors and the only link members have to the great Fuji himself. Only we can pass on Fuji’s wisdom for a great life. More practically, only we can organise and give the information on how to set the world record that we intend to set.

3) …Make increasing demands.

Increasing demands? Yes! Start small, asking people to submit photos of stuff #withabanana and increase it slowly to include following the manifesto (eg. members must eat bananas for breakfast, members must take a banana on a walk, etc), more than just taking a photo with a banana. Leads up to #7- dangling the carrot, read below.

4) Keep turning out stories about the greatness of the leader.

I imagine we’ll be doing this mostly on the blog, with excerpts and links posting to our other accounts such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Photoshop and creative writing will be our main friends here. We can tell stories of adventures the Fuji went on what what enlightenment he gained from said adventures.

5) Remember to use your converts to bring in still more converts.

This will be key for us, encouraging our followers to share our pages and get us more followers. I think the silliness of our theme will help bring people on board this particular crazy train.

6) Keep everybody busy.

We intend on keeping everybody busy, not with hard labour, but with silly tasks. Taking banana selfies, eating bananas, talking to bananas, sharing our pages, encouraging more fans and followers of Fuji #withabanana. We could incorporate singing, in the form of the ba-na-na-na-na-naaaa song (make your body sing!) but we’d have to be careful of copyright infringement here. We could possibly invent our own song.

7) And finally, keep your flock fixated on the carrot.

The carrot here being Breaking A World Record, not Heaven or an Afterlife. And in a literal sense, only our followers will benefit from breaking this world record, they will literally be the ones doing it and getting the recognition. Speaking of recognition, perhaps we should think about setting up a page on the cult website after the event and list the names of everyone who participated? As a sort of Great Thank-you from Fuji Himself.

IM2.2

Integrated Media 2.2 ie. the second time I attempt to complete this course. I found it quite enjoyable last year, and only failed because I didn’t actually complete the report. The only thing that’s changed from last year to this is that the report part of the assessment is now also group and not individual.  So I’m not likely to fail again, considering how seriously I take group assessment. Yay!

When I say that it’s the only thing that’s changed, I’m not kidding though. The lecture content and assessment so far are all exactly the same (to the point where the introductory blog post about the lecture still states that the report is individual assessment… copy-paste). It’s okay though, the reason I didn’t complete the report last year is because I got to the end of the semester and realised that it would be very difficult to write a report when I hadn’t been keeping up with the theory all semester. So I made myself retake the course so I could actually learn the things I was supposed to be learning last year.

I realised that I needed something to remind me of that, a motto or a phrase, so that when I find myself tuning out because I’ve heard it before, I can remind myself to tune back in and learn. I noticed that in the job descriptions of SMPs (Social Media Producers) that Seth showed us in the lecture, a lot of them required evidence or proof that you actually know your way around a social media network. So I’m going to think of this course as helping me build some portfolio appropriate content. I’ll work out how to turn that into a motto if I need it later…

I’ve started brainstorming ideas for the event assessment already. I feel like having done this part of the course before is a huge advantage, and won’t bore me because we’ll be planning and executing a different event. It might even be more interesting this time around to make comparisons etc.

On not sticking to the timetable

Oh plans, how I love to make plans. I often don’t stick to them though, and in the heat of the moment, plans that don’t have flexibility will break or crack. Thankfully our plan for the IRL event was super flexible. We allocated one person to be the “MC” so to speak, to run the show, ne person to record audio, one person to record video and still images and the others to help the games and activities run smoothly. We had a timetable planned out:

 

But on the day, we went with an order that made more sense to us. I was the “MC” in charge on the day (a role I always seem to snatch up) so I just went with my gut on what we should do. We started with the pledges, partly as a mini ice-breaker, and mostly so that we wouldn’t forget to do them at the end of the day. After that we went straight into the egg and spoon race, because everyone was a little chilly and we needed to warm up and get a bit sill with each other. We then moved on to the picnic and talking games part of the day, dropping the act and react game completely.

What surprised me about the ice-breakers and word games was how much everyone enjoyed them, even though some of them were super cheesy. We ended up playing three rounds of the spy game (aka the pen and pencil game) and even had suggestions for items from our attendees, it wasn’t all just initiated by us, which I thought was really good.

We also got so carried away by actually participating in the event, that we forgot to ask participants to switch off their phone until the end!

I felt like having the flexibility to alter our timetable in this way made the whole day much more enjoyable. If we’d stuck to the timetable, it would have felt a lot more forced, instead the event flowed quite naturally.

Save Me!

Can I ask you something? When was the last time you used a floppy disk? Oh, you can’t remember that far back? Well how about this question, when was the last time you needed to save a file that would fit on a floppy disk (264kB)?

I can’t remember either. Actually, that’s a lie. My essays in their .doc format would fit on a floppy disk, maybe up to ten or eleven of them. Or just one if I convert the file to a .pdf, but none of my other work for uni would fit. My sound files? Not a chance. The videos I filmed for our next k-film? Ha! A single photograph taken with my DSLR? Not even close!

In fact, I remember when floppy disk drives became outdated and suddenly buying a computer with one in it became impossible. I remember this only because at the time my mother had an embroidery machine that could read patterns off a floppy disk and we had to use a very old (and very slow) computer to transfer the files onto the disks because none of our new ones had the drive for it!

So, when was the last time you saw a floppy disk? Or, say, an image of a floppy disk?

Save Me!

I saw five today. Five different ones (all the Microsoft ones look the same) I should say, I probably encountered about 7-8 all up.

The image of the floppy disk is synonymous with the ‘save’ button, and clicking that little outdated piece of storage hardware will ensure your work doesn’t disappear if you computer suddenly crashes.

It’s definitely a skeuomorph, but I don’t think there’s any harm in it. It’s just something that I noticed today and wanted to share.

And really, aren’t they just a little bit cute?

Many Floppy Disks Save Work

Hot Chocolate on Soy

I’ve decided to start collating my favourite essays (and other written works) here on my blog. You can find them in the Essay page above. Here’s the first one I added, a creative response to an essay question that I wrote a few years ago.

Hot Chocolate on Soy.

This was a creative response to an essay question that I wrote for an Australian Literature course I was doing in late 2011. I have edited it to be a little longer than the original so that it incorporates some of the elements that make it flow better.

The essay question I was responding to involved looking at one of the fictions we’d studied during the semester and one of the stories/chapters from Every Secret Thing by Marie Munkara in relation to this quote by Virginia Woolf: “There is much to support the view that clothes wear us and not we them; … they mould our hearts, our brains, our tongues to their liking.”

We had the option to write a regular essay or craft a more creative response to the topic. I chose to write a short fiction piece that’s a little more than autobiographical. The four characters are all elements of me (and not just the names) and are each wearing an actual outfit that I had indeed worn myself at some point in the 12 months prior to writing this piece.

Read the essay here and let me know your thoughts below.

Good Books

This post first appeared on Max-Gratitude.com

One of my favourite things about studying a literature course is being ‘forced’ to read books I’d otherwise not pick up. In 2011 I discovered The Lost Dog by Michelle de Krester, Metro by Alasdair Duncan, The Infernal Optimist by Linda Jaivin and Every Secret Thing by Marie Munkara. This year I’ve found  Sixty Lights by Gail Jones and In The Penal Colony by Franz Kafka (so far).

Actually, Sixty Lights is a lot like The Lost Dog. They are both written in a similar style, both feature poignant little stories/memories/descriptions of loosely related things that enrich the story being told, both feature Australia (in particular Melbourne) and India as places that drive the narrative. And I love the female protagonist in both; Lucy in Sixty Lights for her photographic way of seeing the world (both literally and metaphorically) and Nelly in The Lost Dog for her artistic approach to dressing herself and to life in general.

I’ve written an interesting fiction-non-fiction piece on The Lost Dog that I will endeavour to polish and publish here in the near future, and I’m going to write an essay on Sixty Lights in the next few weeks for assessment for my current literature subject.

Korsakow Film Reviews

I’m going to talk about four Korsakow films that popped up in my reader last week (that actually had titles!) and do a mini review of each. The point is that in watching other students’ work and identifying what I liked and what I didn’t, I’ll be able to create a better project for the second assessment. Unfortunately, two of the members of my live assessment group didn’t show up, so this is also my own kind of way of addressing what I missed out on there, which is looking at what other students have done with their k-films.

Starting with The Nature of a City (which is a really clever title once you’ve figured out the theme). What I like about Lauren’s k-film is the different interface backgrounds, I find that they help pull her overall theme together really well and make it more obvious to the viewer what direction they’re going in.  The interface is also nice and easy to navigate, and choosing the thumbnails feels almost intuitive. I also like the text she’s used because the fragments are lyrical and that makes them flow really nicely in any order that you read them in. I don’t really like to looping of the clips, but I am yet to find a k-film in which I do like the looping, so that’s probably just a personal preference.

Next is Life by Issy. First impression is the title slide? Title page? Opening credits? I’m not sure what to call this, and I didn’t know it was possible to do, but it sets the mood and theme for her k-film straight up. Wow. This k-film has one of the most creative ways of using text that I’ve seen so far. Issy combines text below the video which links to preview text on each of the thumbnails. It creates almost a mini narrative for each video, but then the “narrative” so to speak, changes once the thumbnail is clicked. Life also has a clear ending, which is nice to experience. The interface background is also fitting as it draws the theme together and presents the videos within the context of “life”. I’d say this is one of the best k-films I’ve seen so far.

Potatoes is a k-film by Elizabeth who also uses the title/credit/opening thingy, though not to any effect. Elizabeth’s interface is similar to mine, all grey scale  however her background image is really fitting. Not only does it physically fit, but it also helps create the mood for the film. The text that goes with the videos here are lines from a Sylvia Plath poem, Potatoes, which makes the haunting theme even more apparent. I will say though, that the text needed to be visually different, as I found that it tended to get lost against the background image and so I sometimes clicked onto the next clip without remembering to read the text. Perhaps a different layout would have helped with this too as my attention went from the thumbnails to the video without going above or below too much. Now, the thumbnails! They were both really cool and very frustrating. Elizabeth used the same image for all the thumbnails (a black-and-white close-up of an eye) which essentially took a lot of my choice out of the viewing experience, as the “choosing” the next clip was almost like a lucky-dip. If that was the feeling she was going for, it worked very well, but I didn’t think it actually quite fit with this project. Also, I was confused as to why some of the clips were in black and white and some in colour, I felt that if they were all in black and white the project would have been a bit more harmonious. And again, the looping clips weren’t to my personal taste, although I can see why they almost worked in this film.

Finally, Ben created Melbourne Unknown. Holy smokes, this one is scary, scary good! Not like, super scary, but I hate horror movies, and this definitely has that spooky, paranormal theme to it. It’s also, hands down, the best k-film I have seen. Ben has taken the restraints of the task and used them in unexpected ways. A good example of this is the thumbnails. Instead of square thumbnails where a detail of the next clip can be seen, Ben has made long rectangular thumbnails that stack underneath the main clip and are so zoomed in on a point of light that it’s impossible to tell what the clip is about. I hadn’t even thought to do something like that with the thumbnails! This k-film also has a clear beginning and end, even though there are many different paths to take in between. In fact, the beginning and end clip help to set the mood, theme and idea behind the k-film quite nicely. Another thing I really liked about Melbourne Unknown is how the clips ended. Each clip only played once and most of them ended by a quick pan or turn towards a bright light source, enhancing the creepy, spooky factor in the clips and giving the overall project a feeling of something outside the clips. The only thing that Ben could improve in this k-film would be the text. The choice of text was really good, but no attention was paid to how it looked visually, perhaps a change of font, size or colour is all the text needed to be taken to the next level.

So, what I took overall from these k-films is:

  • Carefully consider the interface in terms of layout, background colour, thumbnail size and text position.
  • Pick appropriate text that will create links between the videos but also be able to stand alone.
  • Push the boundaries! With text, thumbnails, interfaces and “story progression” (for lack of a better term).
  • Loop videos only if there’s a clear purpose that the viewer will understand.
  • Use title slides/opening credits to add value to the project.

Clearly the more thought that goes into a project, the better it is, and I think it clearly shows where a project has been carefully considered right from the start. Some interesting points to consider going into the second k-film project making stages.

Lecture Notes- IM1 Week 4

This week’s lecture was question based. My favourite question was asked by Pete who wrote: “A friend of mine is debating internally whether this is an Arts course or not? How do you define the difference between an Arts degree and a Communication degree?”

The friend was me (despite the doctor jokes that were made during the lecture!). I have, for most of this semester now, been worried that I’m stuck in an Arts degree that’s masquerading as a Communication degree. Not helped by the fact that I’m studying modernist literature and post-modern philosophy. This worry was not assuaged when Adrian said, “You are in an arts course” followed shortly with, “It is an Arts degree”.

But! But, Adrian then went on to tell us that the difference between an Arts degree and a Communication degree is that a comms degree is much more constrained, more focused. And we talked about going into professional landscapes that are not causal, but are full of what-if?s and how-about?s and maybe?s. I think a more artsy style of degree will help me navigate such a professional landscape much more effectively than if I was studying a plainer, comms style degree.

So I feel better about being an Arts student now. Hurrah!

More interesting notes that I took from the lecture:

  • “We are now living in an environment of everyday media.”
  • This course is focused on getting us to become “network literate”.
  • Media is the new black (or the new engineering) – it’s the industry that’ll be running the world sooner rather than later… perhaps it already is. “It’s all media”.
  • “The ability to earn an income from your professional practice is declining.” The problem is “how do I get people to pay me to make stuff?”

photo (11)

iPads are changing the way that media is consumed. It’s no longer the “spectacle” that cinema is, and it’s not the social activity that watching TV is, it’s something more like a novel, more personal, more intimate…

Finally, a note on stories. The web, according to Adrian, is not about story telling. He says there is no story in twitter, or on a blog. He wants us to move away from the hegemony of narrative because media can be other (remember week 1? Dirty, messy noisy, other?). There are other ways of making that make sense and meaning that don’t require narrative.