Swapping the snag for a zucchini

We’re a land of snags and steaks, a land of shrimps and barbies, but this may all be changing with more and more Australians turning to vegetarian diets each year. New research conducted by Roy Morgan has found that in the last four years, the number of Australians eating “all or mostly vegetarian diets” has jumped from 1.7 million to a whopping 2.1 million. Over 9.9 million Australian adults also admit to eating less red meat than before.

400x210xculture-food-bbq-sausage-sizzle.jpg.pagespeed.ic.NkcfkQht1Q

So why the shift from snags to zucchinis?

The nationwide trend can be attributed to many factors. As Australia’s cities maintain their reputation as some of the most notoriously expensive cities in the world, red meat is becoming increasingly unaffordable. Indeed, the cost of beef in Australia has risen by a staggering 12 percent and is only set to continue to rise. As an alternative, Australians are turning towards other cheaper protein sources such as chickpeas, lentils and tofu.

While our nations battles the bulge, many Australians are choosing to adopt a vegetarian diet for its many benefits to health or its associations with weight-loss. Plant-based diets are linked to lower risks of diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease (Lindbloom 2009). Indeed, research has found that 63.4 percent of Australian adults are overweight or obese, whereas only 45.4 percent of vegetarians are classified as overweight or obese.

Despite the importance that meat has in our culture, Australians as a nation have been out of touch with the process that our meat goes through from paddock to plate. One could be easily forgiven for not thinking twice whilst picking up a tray of perfectly cut plastic wrapped meat at the supermarket. Looking so polished and pristine, it’s easy to believe that meat just ‘comes like that’. These perfect cuts of meat disconnect the consumer from the process entirely.

Packaged meat  on supermarket shelves

The industrial-scale of dairy and meat production not only impacts on the health of animals and humans, but it has devastating effects on our environment. Animal agriculture produces a huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane emissions that are 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Indeed, the meat and dairy industry produces more greenhouse emissions than all of those produced by global transport. A 2016 study conducted by the Oxford Martin School revealed that in three decades’ time, emissions associated with food and agriculture production are predicted to account for approximately half of the world’s remaining ‘carbon budget’.  This budget refers to the limited amount of carbon dioxide we can release into the atmosphere if we are to ensure that global warming remains below 2C. Researchers suggest that widespread adoption of a vegetarian diet would result in a drastic 63% cut in global emissions.

As well as its contribution to climate change, meat and dairy production’s highly intensive use of land and water poses some complex environmental problems. Vegetarian author John Robbins calculated that to produce one pound of potatoes, it takes 60 pounds of water whereas a pound of beef requires around 9,000 litres of water. As the impacts of climate change worsen, direct competition for water between farming and cities is increasing with currently 70% of global water being used for farming.

Aerial-view-of-World-s-la-010.jpg

Meat and dairy production is also a direct cause of deforestation, with Friends of the Earth estimating that each year around 6 million hectares of forest land – an area twice the size as Belgium- is cleared for farmland. Personally, it was the destruction to the environment that drove me to become a vegetarian two years ago.

However, Australians are becoming increasingly conscious of the ethical issues behind our nation’s meat and dairy production. There has been a proliferation of factory farms as a result of our obsession with achieving mass production at the lowest cost. Factory farms are notorious for their mistreatment of animals, with most keeping animals contained in tiny spaces, pumping them with grains and hormones to grow at scarily fast rates, before being slaughtered on massive production lines. According to ABC News, factory farming is responsible for a whopping 95 percent of the meat produced in Australia each year.  The concerns of young people over this production method has meant that Generation Y are driving the growth of vegetarianism all over the world.

Vegans and vegetarians have been the butt of jokes for a long time, from memes shared across Facebook to sly jokes at family barbecues, eating less meat in a culture obsessed with meat can no doubt be difficult. Of course, there are those outspoken vegans who try to push their agenda onto you or make you feel guilty for eating meat but this is certainly not the majority and does not mean that vegans or vegetarians should be belittled or marginalised.

vegan.jpg
One of the many vegan memes floating around the Internet

“It’s really not fair to paint an entire demographic with the actions of the extreme. Most of us are trying to do nothing more than reduce our environmental footprint and ethical impact of what lands on our plate, and it’s disappointing when people go out of their way to mock and belittle that.” Vinnie Batten, President of QUT’s vegan society.

Thankfully, the attitude in Australia toward vegan and vegetarian diets is changing, and at a rapid pace might I add. In fact, 2016 was dubbed the ‘year of the vegan’, and Australia is now home to the third-fastest growing vegan market in the world. Instagram accounts and cookbooks are exploding with vegan recipes and more and more cafes are introducing vegan-friendly options. In this video, well-loved Australian comedian and vegetarian Dave Hughes, released a parody of the classic Australia Day Lamb advertisements, where he challenged the tradition of eating meat on Australia Day and suggests ‘trying something a little different’ this year.

As the world wakes up to the widespread impacts of meat and dairy production, it’s becoming more and more difficult to take meat at face value. No longer can we simply ignore the processes behind the packaging, but instead we must recognise the widespread impacts on our own health, animals’ health and the environment. In order to create real, meaningful change, we must consider and encourage the alternatives, whether this is giving up meat one day per week or going completely vegan, every little bit helps.

References

Anomaly, J 2015, ‘What’s wrong with factory farming?’, Public Health Ethics, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 246-254.

Harvey, F 2016, ‘Eat less meat to avoid dangerous global warming, scientists say’, Guardian, <https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/21/eat-less-meat-vegetarianism-dangerous-global-warming>

Kirby, M 2013, ‘Factory farming masks meat’s true costs’, ABC News, viewed 24 March, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-06-21/kirby-modern-meat/4770226> 

Lindbloom, E 2009, ‘Long-term benefits of a vegetarian diet’, American Academy of General Practice, vol. 79, no. 7, pp. 541-2.

Roy Morgan Research 2016, ‘The slow but steady rise of vegetarianism in Australia’, Roy Morgan Research, viewed 24 March 2017, <http://www.roymorgan.com/findings/vegetarianisms-slow-but-steady-rise-in-australia-201608151105>

Vidal, J 2010, ’10 ways vegetarianism can help save the planet’, Guardian, <https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/jul/18/vegetarianism-save-planet-environment> 

 

Australians struggle to accept poverty in our own backyard

When SBS’ Struggle Street aired in 2015, there was outcry from every corner of the nation. The 3-part documentary series depicted the everyday battles of several families in the notoriously low socio-economic Sydney suburb of Mt Druitt. The series attracted controversy with Struggle Street making for uncomfortable viewing, it brings the complex and ‘not pretty’ issues of Australia’s poor to the forefront. In our day-to-day lives, we are accustomed to seeing people clearly struggling and dismissing them as ‘bogans’ or just ‘rough people on the street’ but in this series, we are brought into their homes and into their lives, we are forced to actually view these people as humans, just like ourselves.

5dc837b8-36d5-4ccb-a23f-6c523a1e1ec9.jpeg

There is no doubt that Struggle Street has stirred the pot. After all, the issues that the series raises stretch far beyond the outskirts of Sydney, public housing estates prove to be a source of contention in rural towns and urban centres across the nation. As Cheshire & Zappia (2016) highlight, we view public housing as ‘dumping grounds’, places to host unwanted social groups, where the residents are viewed as ‘human waste’ whose fate is to be discarded.

Australians tend to be black and white on controversial topics, and the issue of Australia’s poor is no exception.There is a distinct lack of sympathy toward Australia’s disadvantaged, instead of asking ‘how can we help them?’, we are judging them for ‘getting themselves into such a mess’. We fail to see the complexity behind the struggles of these dysfunctional families, and find it easier to blame the individuals for their own situations. Blaming the individuals removes our responsibility and connection to the problem.

These Australians are often stereotyped and caricatured, placed into boxes where we can criticise as much as we like. We associate them with drugs, alcohol, fatty foods, and generally very unhealthy lifestyles. Whilst this may often be the reality for those in public housing, barking ‘get a job’ or other unforgiving and ruthless comments are downright unhelpful. Indeed, with 770,000 Australians competing for only 150,000 available positions, previous Minister for Employment Eric Abetz’ suggestion of 40 jobs applications a month is impractical and overtly unrealistic.

“Maybe if they stopped breeding beyond their means and didn’t do their shopping at the local service station. They all seem to be able to spend their welfare on alcohol, cigarettes and illicit drugs. This suburb is no different to many others, the quality of the majority of residents doesn’t change just the location.”- An online comment in response to Struggle Street demonstrates the ruthless stance taken by some Australians.

On the contrary, each year around Christmas time, television screens and greeting cards are flooded with images of children in sub-Saharan Africa or other poverty-stricken regions asking for our help. So why are Australians so uncomfortable with viewing Struggle Street? Why are we more comfortable viewing images of starving African children? The harsh truth is, we find it easier for us to donate to a distant child and feel reassured that we are doing our part/contributing, than address the complex and nuanced issues that exist in our own backyard. Looking at an image of an African child, we can quickly remove ourselves from the situation and remove the sense of responsibility. ‘Poverty-porn’ promoting aid for third-world nations, presents a simple fix- we give them money- they fix poverty. Although not exactly ‘pretty’ images,  poor, thin children spark empathy and give off a sense of helplessness. It is this aestheticisation of suffering that has caused us to turn a blind eye to the suffering of Australians. Our local poverty often presents an ugly picture of our own backyard, highlighting our own government’s dysfunctions. A report released by ACOSS revealed that an estimated 2.9 million people, or 13.3% of Australia’s population are living below the poverty line.

As ACOSS CEO, Dr Cassandra Goldie expressed,

“ We need to shift the mindset that poverty is a reflection of the individual, and instead view eradicating poverty as a shared responsibility.”

The comprehensive report also draws attention to the rising trend of Australian university students living in poverty.  In a study conducted by Universities Australia, it was found that a staggering two-thirds of university students are living below the poverty line. At the same time that poverty rates are increasing, student debts are soaring. With many students not having the option to live at home, students are constantly faced with conflicting priorities (Tranter 2012). As a full-time student, I experience these struggles on a daily basis, do I put less effort into my studies and try and work more so I can make rent this week? Or do I scrape the barrel and put more effort into studying so it’ll pay off in the long term? Adding to this, the expectation that you’ll work unpaid for an internship and the pressure to maintain a social life, it’s no surprise that the stress felt by students is on the rise. Balancing it all can seem like an impossible task.

As Lewis et al. (2007) discussed, for students from rural or disadvantaged backgrounds, the difficulties of attending university are often amplified, with the majority of disadvantaged students facing experiencing financial distress.

67b0381403ba5c9c22bd9b41cc9d5236.jpg

Similarly to public housing, poverty among university students is a topic we shy away from. With housing affordability, rising student debts and the general increasing costs of living all contributing to the problem, dealing with student poverty is messy and complex, it’s an issue without an easy fix that is often placed in the ‘too hard basket’.

Instead of simply dismissing Struggle Street as a cheap reality show, we should recognise the opportunity it presents us to address Australia’s often undermined economic gap. The series gives a voice to the complex cycles of dysfunction and deprivation present in Australia’s disadvantaged and student communities and ignoring this opportunity for action would be a great disappointment.

References

ABC News 2013, ‘Two-thirds of university students living below the poverty line: report’, ABC News, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-15/majority-of-students-in-poverty2c-research-shows/4821230>

Australian Council of Social Science 2016, ‘Poverty in Australia’, Australian Council of Social Science, <http://www.acoss.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Poverty-in-Australia-2016.pdf> 

Cheshire, L & Zappia, G 2016, ‘Destination dumping ground: The convergence of ‘unwanted’ populations in disadvantaged city areas’, Urban Studies, vol. 53, no. 10, pp. 2081-2098.

Lewis, C, Dickson-Swift, V, Talbon, L & Snow, P 2007, ‘Regional Tertiary Students and Living Away from Home: A priceless experience that costs too much?’, Australian Journal of Social Issues, vol. 42, no. 4, pp. 531- 547.

Tranter, D 2012, ‘Unequal schooling: how the school curriculum keeps students from low-socio economic backgrounds out of university’, International Journal of Inclusive Education, vol. 16, no. 9, pp. 901- 916.

 

The selfless selfie?

Since the invention of the selfie, it has been plagued with wide-spread criticism for encouraging narcissism and for contributing to rising body insecurity  and self esteem issues.

However, is there any truth to these claims?

The power of the selfie may have been overlooked. In a world saturated with digitally altered images, we are constantly presented with unrealistic ideals of  beauty. The selfie can be an empowering tool for men and women alike to recognise their own beauty and increase their confidence. Indeed, many campaigns have gone viral that use selfies to counter these unrealistic beauty standards.

Set to combat those negative body-hate vibes, the #fatkini movement encourages women of all shapes and sizes to be proud of their bodies and to post photos of themselves in a bikini. The movement has united women from all over the world, creating a body-positive community online. The campaign has had repercussions offline too, with the movement giving many women the confidence to wear a bikini in public for the first time.  The hugely successful campaign has also encouraged retail stores to stock more bikinis for plus-size women.

 

k-bigpic

Not only are selfies the subject of body-image campaigns, they are being used  as a valuable tool in modern political activism. The ways in which we participate in activism has dramatically changed as the world becomes increasingly digital. Unlike earlier days, when participating in activism meant marching on the streets, nowadays activism has never been so easy to do from the comfort of your own home, from uploading a selfie to signing an online petition.

This ease of access means that more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon and

However as some critics have pointed out, does hashtag activism actually make a difference or is it all talk and no action?

Indeed, it is easy to argue whether a single ‘like’ on a Facebook post during a mindless newsfeed scroll will achieve any real change. However, ultimately, these forms of online activism still raise awareness  and support among the community, which can lead to real life actions and further support.

Indeed, in a world that is becoming further and further divided politically, with more and more conflict, using social media as a platform to spread messages of unity and equality is becoming essential to connect citizens. In Myanmar in 2015, a group of students recognised the need for tolerance and friendship in their own nation and the role that social media could play in improving this. In 2015, Myanmar was a particularly hostile environment with  Myanmar’s Government treating Rohingya Muslims very poorly, as if they were illegal immigrants. The Government’s treatment resulted in exploitation of these people in the region’s fishing industry and many Muslims being driven to dangerous escapes at sea. Whilst this increase in discrimination and violence in communities across the countries was occurring, the youth of Myanmar banded together to launch the ‘My Friend’ campaign. This campaign encouraged people to take photos of themselves with friends of different religious or ethnic backgrounds and share on their social media using hashtags, #myfriend #friendshiphasnoboundaries. .

 

Interfaith-selfies-tolerance.jpg

Country news reverberates

As Hart (2001, p. 32) stated, “the value of country newspapers as agents of communication in local communities is beyond question.” The relationship between media and rural towns is unlike any other. In tiny townships all over, small newspapers have long been the only source of local news. Consequently, it is these newspapers that locals turn to, whether it be when they want to find out about a garage sale or sporting match, or finding comfort amongst the pages in times of grief. The clippings of these newspapers have been stuck on many a fridge in rural towns, a source of pride and recollection for locals.These rural newspapers help to form connections with other locals and this is due to the space in which it operates. The tight knit community provides the perfect environment for small newspapers to flourish as it allows them to attract a small but loyal reader base with normally little or no competition.  It The relationship in which the audience, i.e. the locals of town, have with these rural newspapers is also incredibly unique.

Reporting on news in a small town is worlds apart from journalists working in cities. In cities, everything is on a large and arguably somewhat impersonal scale. But in small towns, everything hits much closer to home. For example; when bad news breaks in these tight knit communities, it reverberates. As unlike in cities when a death is often just another statistic, in country towns everyone knows that person or knows someone who knows that person. It is not just the family who is affected, but the whole town who is in mourning. Reporting on such tragic and incredibly sensitive events can be like walking on eggshells for local reporters.

Not only are local journalists faced with significant challenges during tragic events, but they are also confronted with a large amount of ethical and moral dilemmas during their day to day work lives. Unlike in a city, where journalists can almost remain anonymous, local journalists are living in these tight knit communities and can face severe backlash if they publish something that upsets someone. Journalists are faced with struggles that challenge the journalism profession’s integrity, can you hold back on a great story because it will upset a local? Probably not. But what if that local was a friend? Or even just an acquaintance? These are questions that country journalists constantly battle with. They are unable to just sit behind a computer and not worry about offending anyone, as when they leave the office, there’s a good chance that they’re going to run into said person at the supermarket, or the chemist or the dry cleaners. There’s no way of avoiding people and they are held accountable for their words. Karan, a former Yass Tribune editor, explains that as rural journalists, they just have to believe in what they are publishing and stick by it.

Despite the importance of these newspapers, rural newspapers are continuing to suffer from a shortage of trained and experienced journalists and drastic funding cuts (Hart 2001, p.31). The Finkelstein Inquiry, conducted in 2011 and 2012, carefully examined the Australian media industry framework. The report noted that further investigations into the future of rural newspapers were a matter of urgency due to their “limited resources and consequently low capacity for in-depth coverage of local issues.” (Finkelstein 2012, p.105)

The relationship in which the audience, i.e. the locals of town, have with these rural newspapers is also incredibly unique. Rural newspapers are an institution in these towns, and the trust in which locals bestow upon these newspapers is huge. Rural journalists are expected to never miss a beat and report on all local news. As Karan Gabriel highlighted, during the bushfires that surrounded Yass and other areas in January 2013, it was the Yass Tribune that outstripped any other media source. Their constant updates both on their website and their Facebook page throughout the terrifying couple of days helped to ease the minds of locals. Although the role of rural journalists entails significant pressure and stress, there is also an endearing sense of pride and admiration that these communities have toward these papers and consequently, their journalists. After all, in an increasingly city oriented media, rural newspapers are one of the only ways in which those living in country towns can have a voice.

The Soundcloud playlist below features Karan, a former Yass Tribune editor, giving an insight into some of the trials and tribulations of country news reporting. Clicking on the Soundcloud link will also take you to the playlist page where there are some short descriptions of each recording.

References

Balmaceda, K 2015, Regional newspapers struggle to keep up, Upstart, viewed 19th October 2015, <http://www.upstart.net.au/2015/06/01/cutting-back-regional-papers/>

Finkelstein, R 2012, Report of the independent inquiry into the media and media regulation, ABC Media Watch, viewed 22 October 2015,<http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/1205_finkelstein.pdf>

Hart, E 2001, ‘Journalism education and rural newspaper standards’, Asia Pacific Media Educator, vol. 10, pp.31-37.

Hess, K & Waller, L 2014, Without local papers, local voices would struggle to be heard, The Conversation, viewed 19th October 2015, <http://theconversation.com/without-local-papers-regional-voices-would-struggle-to-be-heard-26620>

Sparrow, J 2012, Australia’s newspaper crisis is a failure of the market, not journalism, The Conversation, viewed 20th October 2015, <http://theconversation.com/australias-newspaper-crisis-is-a-failure-of-the-market-not-journalism-7899>

Media in a country town

The role of media in a country town is unique in its structure, form and its importance among the community. Although urban media is still relevant, rural newspapers have a unique and crucial role in small communities. They are the trusted, and normally the primary source of news in small towns which means for the staff of these newspapers, a heavy weight rests on their shoulders. Not only do they have the task of reporting positive stories but they also have a responsibility to the town to publish sad or negative news.

Growing up in a small country town, I have always been interested in the relationship that small, close-knit communities have with their local newspapers. For this assignment, it seemed fitting to explore the relationship between the two and understand if and how they significantly affect one another.

On a trip back home, I recently interviewed previous Yass Tribune editor, Karan Gabriel. Our extensive four hour chat provided me with an insight into the incredibly complex role of a country newspaper editor. Using the most insightful audio from this interview, I plan on providing a glimpse into media in a country town. To give more context to the interview and to the relationship between media and place, I plan on accompanying the audio of the interview with some photos of the township of Yass.

Time to reflect

The prospect that any future employers, colleagues, friends or acquaintances could do a quick google search of my name and be inundated with links to this blog is daunting. However, the permanence of my digital footprint provided me with the motivation to put more effort into writing and presenting a professional yet engaging blog.

BCM240 had a unique focus of creating engaging blog that captivated readers, rather than on each individual blog post. This meant that I needed to make some considerable changes to my existing blog. When I first started BCM240, my blog was a bit of a mess with posts and a couple of widgets haphazardly placed around the blog. There was no ‘about me’ page or any other elements that would encourage readers to visit my blog or to spend a vast amount of time on my blog. These changes included adding an about page which comprised of some small yet important points of information about me. As blogging is a two-way experience, I recognised how essential it was that readers have the opportunity to understand a bit more about the person writing the blog. As well as this page, I have also created two other pages on the blog. One of these pages is named ‘vegetarian recipes’ where I have included links to my go-to recipes whilst the other is a page named ‘environment’ where I have included links to pages and articles regarding this subject area. By adding these pages, it provides more content for the reader to explore and also gives them a bit more insight into my interests and the things that I am passionate about.

A simple but effective way to enhance your blog and your readers’ experience is to add widgets. I added several that I thought were relevant and would benefit my blog;

  • embedding my Twitter feed
  • adding a blogroll
  • adding my Instagram photos
  • categories
  • popular tags

Enhancing your blog with features such as widgets is a great idea, however,  The Culture Professionals Network highlights, one should avoid clutter and these widgets shouldn’t distract the audience from the main focus; the content.

It can be difficult to write academically yet inclusively. When I first started blogging for BCM, I feel that this was something I struggled with. In my first post for this subject, I discussed my lack of a smartphone and how I have remained somewhat removed from the addiction to technology experienced by my generation. This post was quite easy to write as it was about my own life and as a result meant that when writing I wasn’t particularly focused on the audience and the professionalism that was required. I hadn’t actually picked up on it but Travis, my tutor, noticed that I included the word, ‘shitty’, in my post. Although, he explained that this was in context, he also emphasised that this was an academic piece of writing and could have been replaced with a more appropriate word. This taught me to be more considerate of my audience when writing my blog posts.

Blogging for BCM240 has provided me with the opportunity to reflect on the relationships between media, audience and place outside of the classroom. Although, blogging for this subject has certainly not been easy, it has been beneficial towards expanding my knowledge of the subject content. The essential readings in BCM240 have helped to better my knowledge of the various topics studied. Completing the readings before each week’s blog post has provided me with inspiration and information about each topic and has helped to make the task of weekly blogging easier. However, with such a broad range of topics covered in this subject, it was also essential to do my own individual research on the topic and related topics. The further we progressed in the semester, the more I included links to relevant and interesting articles and websites that I had come across during my research. I realised that including links gave my readers the option to read more about the topic and it also provided evidence to any claims that I was making.

An essential and unique part of the BCM240 blogging experience has been the strong emphasis on communicating and building a rapport with others. The hashtag, #BCM240, allowed me to easily find the blogs of my peers and allowed them to find mine too. I must admit that I often forgot about Twitter when it came to promoting my blog and I will try to utilise this platform more in the future. As well as forming relationships online with my peers by commenting on and reading their blog posts, I also spent time discussing the topics face-to-face. I am lucky in that I live with two friends who are also studying BCM240 and are in the same tutorial as me, which has meant that we have been able to discuss the subject content and bounce ideas off of one another.

At times, I struggled to gain inspiration for this blog so it was helpful to read some of my peers’ posts such as Chelsea Rae’s post on street photography as well as reading other well-established blogs to learn how they engage with readers, how they write conversationally yet professionally, and how to design an appealing and user-friendly blog.

Creating an online presence does not mean just posting on your WordPress blog but rather, you must promote your blog across all media platforms. Twitter has been particularly useful for this, providing a platform to promote our blogs as well as to have interaction with peers, again using the #BCM240 hashtag. I have also used my personal Facebook account to share my blogposts with friends as a way of increasing readership and traffic on my blog.

Using the stats page on the WordPress admin site has also benefited my blogging this semester. This page displays detailed information about the user traffic on your blog. Personally, I found this helpful as I could identify which posts were the most popular and use this to help craft my future blog posts. However, an expert in attracting audiences online, Jeff Goins explains that one must be careful not to over analyse or worry about this data too much.

Over this session, I have also learnt just how essential proof reading is. Whether this be out loud, in your head, or asking a friend to read your work, it is essential to check for any errors and to make sure that it reads well.

Overall, blogging for BCM240 has been a challenge but one that I have thoroughly enjoyed. Creating and maintaining a cohesive blog that offers readers more than just a standard blog post has been difficult but incredibly worthwhile in improving my digital footprint. After all, it’s not going anywhere.

References

Goins, J 2013, 25 Blogging Tips for Newbies and Veterans, Goins Writer, viewed 4 October 2015, <http://goinswriter.com/blogging-tips/>

The Culture Professionals Network 2011, Top Tips for a Successful Blog, The Guardian, viewed 4 October 2015, <http://www.theguardian.com/culture-professionals-network/culture-professionals-blog/2011/nov/17/top-tips-successful-blog>

Tourist hotspots: who’s photographing who?

During a recent trip to London, I visited many famous sites alongside thousands of other holiday makers. Whilst viewing some incredible things, it’s only natural to us 21st century goers and social media addicts to take some pictures to share with friends and family. When there’s so many people in a small area though, what and who is it okay to photograph? How close up? Do we need to obtain their permission before posting these photos online?

This crossed my mind after my first day of sightseeing at the magnificent British Museum. Looking over my photos after a great day, I realised that I had some incredible photos of artefacts but unavoidably these photos also featured h2undreds of faces of strangers. Would it be okay for me to post these images online?

Many famous tourist sites, such as galleries and churches, have restrictions regarding photography. These restrictions, though, are in relation to the spaces or the objects, rather than the people that could possibly be included in the image. It is interesting, in that regard, that in some situations we place a higher level of importance on photography restrictions on space or objects than we do on ourselves.

Despite what so many people believe, according to Arts Law, there is actually no right to privacy that protects a person’s image in Australia. This means that it is legal for an individual to take photographs of people in public without their permission. However, obviously, just because it is legal does not mean it is ethical, and there are many ethical considerations when taking an image and posting an image online.

When deciding which images to post of my trip online, I had to carefully consider each one and asked myself several questions:

-Did the photo include any people that were close enough to be recognised?

-Were the people included in the photo in the background or foreground?

-How many people are in the photo?

-Are they in a circumstance where the person’s privacy must be respected? Or are they demonstrating poor and unprofessional behaviour?

-Would I like/or mind if that was me included in the photo and then shared online?

After considering these questions, and therefore taking into consideration the ethics of permission, discretion, and care for others, I decided on a selection of photos that I deemed appropriate to share online.

Public space ethnography is effective in that public spaces provide a unique opportunity to observe candid social behaviours. The way in which people act in public is remarkably different to how they behave in their own private space. Observing in public spaces allows ethnographers to gain a deeper understanding of the dynamics of social spaces and social interactions in general without having to impose on or disturb people.4

In reality, the amount of photos being taken at any given moment is extraordinary, and when we go out in public, we must accept that there is a chance that we will feature in someone’s photos. Although, this might be unsettling to some and rightly so, if we wish to take these images in public ourselves, we must also be willing to be in other’s photos.

What are your thoughts on taking photos in public spaces? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @meg_grayson

References

Arts Law Centre of Australia 2015, Street photographer’s rights, Arts Law Centre of Australia, viewed 26 September 2015, <http://www.artslaw.com.au/info-sheets/info-sheet/street-photographers-rights/>

Reid, J 2007, Photography is not a crime, Sydney Morning Herald, viewed 26 September 2015, <http://blogs.smh.com.au/photographers/archives/2007/02/photography_is_not_a_crime.html>

“Stop stalking me, Mum”: restrictions on media

Media can often be the fuel of many heated debates between teenagers and their parents. Whilst teenagers wrestle with pimples and fights during lunch times, their parents are struggling to loosen the leash to grant them with more trust, freedom and consequent responsibility.

During my teens, I spent many nights on the phone listening to a frustrated friend rant about her controlling parents. Her parents severely limited the media content that she was permitted to watch. This was not due to the Australian classifications system, although her parents did take this into consideration too, but more to do with her parents’ own judgement of movies and content that they deemed appropriate for her age.

Obviously, as a teenager growing up in an increasingly technology-reliant world, this affected her social life on many occasions.  At the time, we both felt that this was a massive injustice to her and would spend hours complaining about them. But was this necessarily a bad thing?  An example of this was when a group of her friends went to see Harry Potter at the cinemas, she was unable to join us as her parents had deemed it ‘too dark’ for her to watch despite being 16 at the time and therefore legally authorised to watch it. These rules stood regardless of whether she was with friends, at school or even if she was supervised by her parents.

Not only are teenagers often limited as to the films and television shows that they are allowed to watch, but are also often limited with their access to other media, particularly social media.

Social media can prove to be a contest of authority between teenagers and their parents. Never before has there been such a space that allows for the personal worlds of both parents and children to collide.

Many teenagers feel that their parents want to “friend” them on Facebook as a form of surveillance and see it as an invasion of privacy, US teen, Lindsay Stewart, expressed “Facebook’s a community, it’s the same, our parents aren’t there in our groups at school.” Whilst others accept that parents just want to be more involved in their daily life and it can actually help in making sure you keep your profile appropriate and professional. Although, having said that, it is possible to cleverly use the privacy settings to limit how much access your parents have to your account.

Hmumowever, at the same time, parents can feel disempowered and rejected from their children if they don’t accept their friend request. The issue of Facebook accounts also confronts parents with many decisions such as;

  • At what age should their child be allowed to have a Facebook account?
  • Can their child post pictures of themselves?
  • Do they have to be Facebook friends with their parents?

Coming to a happy medium can involve establishing guidelines and restrictions. This is not limited to parents setting rules but also children establishing certain guidelines regarding their parents’ online behaviour towards them. This may include asking parents not to comment on their photos or send friend requests to their friends.

Media can be tricky to regulate, whether that be nationally such as following the Australian ratings system, tracking downloads within schools, or closer to home with children and parents on Facebook. As media and technology continue to rapidly develop, it is certain that regulating and restricting media content and usage will continue to be an issue into the future.

References

Commonwealth of Australia 2015, Media and student resources, Australian Classifications, viewed 29 September 2015, <http://www.classification.gov.au/Public/Resources/Pages/Media-and-Student-Resources.aspx#3>

Funk, K 2011, 6 reasons you should accept your parents ‘friend’ request, BTS Communications, viewed 29 September 2015, <https://btscommunications.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/6-reasons-you-should-accept-your-parents-facebook-friend-request/>

Smallwood, J 2010, Facebook: Should parents ‘friend’ their children?, BBC News, viewed 29 September 2015, <http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-11968954>

Will Netflix be the death of cinemas?

Going to see a film sounds easy enough, but as online streaming services and illegal downloading increase in popularity, cinema attendance is down to a 19 year low and consequently, the death of cinemas may be closer than expected.

On the surface, seeing a film seems like a basic task. However, as Torsten Hagerstrand explained through his studies of time geography, a social outing involves numerous variables all working together. When my own plan to visit the cinema failed, I realised just how easy plans can change.

A few weeks ago, I planned a trip to see the film, ‘Trainwreck’ with a couple of friends. I had seen the ads for it multiple times and had seen interviews of Amy Schumer promoting the film. It looked like an entertaining film so we arranged to see it after we had all finished uni for the day. There was no problem in regards to capability as we all have cars and would be able to drive there without any issues. We all also live together which made it very easy for us to travel there together. As Hagerstrand (1969) explained, coupling is a key human constraint in regard to social planning- whether an individual can get to a location at the right specific time will determine the details of the social arrangement and if it can occur. We could get there in time for the movie, it started at 9pm and had planned to leave at 8:30 as it’s about a 20 minute drive from where we live.

In reference to Hagerstrand’s constraints, authority was also not an issue for us, the movie was rated at MA15+ and as we are all over 20, we all had permission to watch it. However, I remember how ratings when I was younger did make going to the movies more difficult and greatly impacted on my choice of film. Once older, I think it is easy to forget that these ratings are in place, nowadays I don’t even consider them when choosing a film.

Despite originally being able to overcome Hagerstrand’s three human constraints, things changed later that night when I had to stay at uni later than expected. This meant that I was not going to make it to the cinema in time to see the movie. This issue falls under Hagerstrand’s human constraint of coupling. I still would have been able to drive from uni, but I would have arrived too late and in terms of authority- would not have been allowed into the theatre anymore.

We’ve all had a bad cinema experience, whether it be an old man with too loud of a laugh, a noisy ‘rustler’ or two teenagers getting a little distracted, it’s pretty easy to see why many are opting to watch movies in their own home. Popular Youtuber, ‘Dan is not on fire’, has made a video about all of the annoying quirks that people do in the cinema:

With the introduction of Netflix and the massive increase in illegal downloading, Australian cinemas are experiencing a significant decline in attendance. No longer is it necessary for Australians to leave their homes in order to see the latest blockbuster, it is available simply at the click of a button. In terms of Hagerstrand’s human constraints, it is much easier to watch a film at home. It also allows for comfort, your own food, own clothes and is a much more personal and private experience. As well as the accessibility of online streaming services, legal or otherwise, it is also the financial advantage of these services that make it so difficult for cinemas to compete.

Whilst the average cinema visit costs approximately $13.68, a basic Netflix subscription is only $8.99 per month that provides unlimited access to their collection of films. Even more so, with illegal downloading, where the only money spent will be that of the cost of data. Having said that, people are still going to the cinema to view films, cinemas are just having to work harder to attract their attention. Also, as programmer Kate Jinx explains, there is a future for cinemas beyond the standard multiplex, it just requires more attention to customer’s needs and desires and being able to offer them something that they can’t get at home.

As more of these online streaming services become available and more popular, it is likely that Australian cinema attendance will continue to decline over the next 5 to 10 years. Although, there will be no experience quite like that of going to the movies, the convenience, comfort and cost of online streaming services will continue to impact the attendance of cinemas globally.

Do you still visit the cinema? What are your thoughts on the future of Australian cinemas? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @meg_grayson

References

Di Rosso, J 2015, A new golden age: how cinemas are surviving in the age of Netflix, The Final Cut ABC, viewed 21 September 2015, <http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/finalcut/are-cinemas-dying/6377650>

Frazer, S 2015, Netflix revolution shakes up Australian media, telecommunications landscape, ABC News, viewed 22 September 2015, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-06/netflix-revolution-shakes-up-australian-media/6678138>

Newman, R 2015, 10 things you need to know about Netflix Australia, The Motley Fool, viewed 21 September 2015, <https://www.fool.com.au/2015/03/30/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-netflix-australia-2/>

Tweedie, S 2015, Theatre attendance plummets to the lowest its been in 19 years,

Technology; are our parents more addicted than us?

When we think of smart phones and social networks, we think of teenagers sitting around at school watching videos of cats or at home downloading the latest Hollywood blockbuster. Although this is still very much the reality, the world of smart phones is no longer exclusive to teenagers and parents are no longer struggling to send emails or texts. In fact, older generations are quickly catching up and potentially overtaking teenagers’ dependence on the Internet and smart phones, not only for work purposes but for entertainment and communication with peers.

As danah boyd, author of it’s complicated observed at a football game, ‘the parents were even more universally equipped with smartphones than their children, and those devices dominated their focus. Many adults were staring into their devices intently, and unlike the teens, they weren’t sharing their devices with others or taking photos of the event.’

Older generations are actually well accustomed to addiction to technologies, as although they may not have grown up with the advanced technologies we have today, they have witnessed the introduction of many technological innovations that have changed Australia. This addiction to technology goes way back to the introduction of television in Australian homes. When Heather Sampson’s family purchased their first black and white television in the mid 1960’s, their lives changed dramatically. Running home from school after a highly anticipated wait, Heather explained that her and her two sisters were instantly hooked. She emphasised just how much difference the television made in their lives, no longer did Australia feel so separated from the rest of the world, as they religiously stared into the box absorbing all of the comedies and dramas from the UK and US.

Television also completely changed Heather’s connection with music. Hypnotised by all the music videos, Heather explained that it gave her and her friends the opportunity to see their idols and heartthrobs in action without leaving their home.

Similarly to music, sport has always been an Australian institution but it was the invention of TV that brought sport into people’s homes. Heather explains how before television they would have to listen to the radio or go see a game but now they could see it live from the comfort of their couch. One of the downfalls though was not being able to easily differentiate between teams. So the introduction of colour television a few years later greatly improved how they watched sport but it also made TV much more enjoyable to watch. Heather explains that it felt so much more like real life than the monotonous black and white they had become accustomed to watching.

As the only ones in the street with a TV, the Sampson household quickly became the place to be with all of the neighbours crowding in their lounge room every night. This routine was echoed all around the nation and so the ritual of watching television in large groups was born. Despite the dynamics of TV watching changing, watching sporting finals in big groups is still a tradition in many homes, of course accompanied with a few beers and sausage rolls. Gogglebox Australia provides some examples of typical Aussie households during finals time.

Having said that, the changes to how Australians watch TV have been dramatic, particularly over the past decade. The invention of smart phones, tablets and laptops has greatly altered the way that we watch TV. Instead of only focusing our attention on the TV, we all seem to have a phone in one hand to distract ourselves whenever our attention lacks. The shortening of attention spans has meant, at least in our household that TV watching has, to a degree, become less social.

As Sherry Turkle, author of Alone Together highlighted: “we’re getting used to a new way of being alone together. People want to be with each other, but also elsewhere — connected to all the different places they want to be.  Some people think that’s a good thing. But you can end up hiding from each other, even as we’re all constantly connected to each other.”

We may talk less but adding other elements to TV watching has arguably not been a bad thing. It may mean that we are less involved in the TV show but it gives people other things to contribute to the conversation such as sharing funny videos with family and friends.

In fact, one could actually argue that TV watching has become more social when considering the discussion of the show with peers and the general public online. Social networks have made it easy to share thoughts publicly as well as interact on a personal level with the producers and casts of television shows.

Television became a critical part of Australia the moment that it was introduced. Australia was hooked on the opportunities that TV offered in terms of bonding with family, friends and neighbours. It is no surprise then that modern Australia has become hooked on smart phones which encourage communication on a scale we had never before seen. This ever present desire to communicate with those around us, as well as those all over the world, has meant that TV watching has changed but it has in no way become less of a social activity.

References

ABC Australia 1956, Start of ABC TV- 80 Days That Changed Our Lives, online video, ABC Australia, viewed 16th August 2015, <>

boyd, d 2014, it’s complicated, Yale University Press, Connecticut.

Sportsbet 2015, Gogglebox: Origin Edition, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tvXRe6SHqI>

Turkle, S 2012, Connected, but alone? Subtitles and Transcript, TED, viewed 16th August 2015, <http://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together/transcript?language=en>