Reflection on Media, Audience and Place

I’ve been using my blog for more than a year now. My writing style has changed a lot, and the way I organise my information and resources has become more sophisticated. It’s been an interesting semester, with lots of interesting topics to write about. I’ve learnt a lot, and discovered some really important issues I didn’t even know existed.

One of my favourite blogs to write was ‘An outdated way of thinking’, which I wrote about differing opinions on music piracy. This is a subject I was already very interested in, so the opportunity to investigate further was very welcome.

I tried to make the blog holistic, offering both sides of the topic, but also pointing out the flaws. I also tried to offer a solution to the problem, by outlining some of the benefits of services like Spotify in combatting music piracy.

I soon discovered that the topic for the following week was very similar to what I’d already written about, so I decided to take a closer look at some of the existing research in ‘Baby Steps for the Music Industry’. I made a point of linking the two blogs, so readers could easily navigate between the two. I had to restrict the amount of research I included in the second blog, because I wanted to avoid making it too long for readers to bother with.

Some of the other highlights of blogging for BCM240 include ‘Texting during class: another moral panic?’. This particular week of blogging made me particularly realise just how many mainstream opinions are based on unreliable or questionable research. It was quite shocking to realise that most research was based on the existing opinion that multi-tasking did, in fact, impact on classroom achievement. I also noticed the connection between the discourses on the topic, and other moral panics. All in all, it was a blogging week that impacted the way I researched and wrote about the rest of the semester.

Another highlight for me was ‘Left Behind’, which explored the complications of rural internet connections. This is a subject very close to my heart, as I am from a rural area and related very strongly to Elizabeth, my interviewee. The complete disconnect, quite literally, between those in rural and city areas is a huge disadvantage for the country. It was enlightening to be able to interview my subject and write about her experiences. Combining it with other research to create a holistic piece was an interesting experience for me.

One of my main focuses when writing all my blogs was making them reader-friendly. To do this, I use a combination of writing and visual techniques. In terms of my writing, I try and make my sentences short and without too many complicated words. My writing is conversational, rather than in an essay structure. All this is done to make my blogs as inviting as possible. I try to make my headings catchy and straightforward, so readers can instantly evaluate and hopefully continue reading.

In terms of visual elements, I redesigned my blog to reflect its overall tone. This involved choosing a theme with a left-hand sidebar, a gravatar icon and a banner. Though the background is black, the actual text of my blog is on a white background, making it easier to read. The banner is designed to add colour and liveliness to the blog, but not distract the reader’s attention from the text.

The side-bar contains a Twitter feed and categories for my blog. I also have a short and sharp ‘About’ page, which describes a few of my interests and goals, and my purpose in writing. If I was to make improvements, I would retitle my categories from codes to names, which I have so far kept for assessment purposes. I would also see if I could connect more widely to other materials and blogs, and curate resources within my blog. My readership is not very wide, and I would like to actively work to improve this.

In my actual blog, I try to keep paragraphs short, with no more than a few sentences in each. I occasionally employ lists as well, to maximise white space and readability. I like to include pictures and YouTube clips in all of my blogs. They break up the writing, and the clips in particular usually help explain my points in ways that would not be possible or interesting with words.

I also make portions of my text bold type or italicised, to highlight important points in my writing. In this way, my blog is more ‘skimmable’, with readers able to decide how much and what to read.

I also include multiple links in all of my posts, to help readers to material that well help explain points I don’t have space to go in to and provide extra information for them to explore on their own. The links are all in-text rather than in a list at the end, so that readers have context for where the links will led them.

These visual and writing techniques all combine to create an overall professional, but engaging blog design, that provide extra resources to readers.

My blogging experience has been challenging. Blogging is a unique form of writing, with its own language and style. I had to adjust my usual essay style to a more conversational style, making a conscious effort to include visual elements to attract readers. I also struggled keeping to the shorter word limit each week. It really made me think about how I best wanted to represent my information and opinion.

I really enjoyed the content I was writing about, however. It gave me the opportunity to write about issues I already cared about, like internet piracy and internet access, and the opportunity to learn about issues I didn’t know anything about, like audience measurement and behaviour in public.

All in all, blogging about media, audience and place has seen me writing some of my best blog posts so far. The topics have been really inspiring, and helped me to set myself up for the final assessment. Though it’s been challenging at times, I’ve ultimately created nine blog posts that I’m very proud of. I look forward to improving my blogging skills even more in the future.

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Baby Steps for the Music Industry

If you read last week’s post, you’ll know that music piracy is a highly controversial issue. However, while reading up on the topic, I found it very difficult to find any actual research on the topic. Particularly in Australia.

For a brief history of online piracy, watch here:

So I decided to investigate where some of the information on the issue is coming from.

I typed ‘music piracy’ into the Google Search bar and the top non-Wikipedia entry was from the Recording Industry Association of America. The title of the page was Who Music Theft Hurts.

As you can imagine, their view on the subject concurred with dominant discourses on the subject. They maintained that music piracy was the cause of $12.5 billion dollars worth of harm, and they had a ‘credible study’ to prove it.

I took a look at the study, The True Cost of Sound Recording Piracy to the U.S Economy, and discovered that, for starters, the study had been published in 2007. This would seem to be a problem, especially because it is referred to as being factual seven years on. Further reading uncovered the fact that CD sale losses were factored into the concluding figures, because: “U.S. retailers of compact disks face reduced sales and lower profits as a result of pirate activities that occur in the United States”.

Now, declining CD sales can be attributed to many things rather than just piracy. Perhaps a general, globe-wide Digital Revolution could also be to blame?

Regardless, the study, and indeed the figures it supplies, are hopelessly out of touch with the times. Maybe, at their time of publication, these findings may have been more applicable. However, a lot has changed since 2007, and so there really should be some more frequent research on such a prominent website.

At the end of the study(p. 27), the author, Stephen Siwek, is also reported to be heavily involved in publishing pieces that defend intellectual property rights and the industries who rely on them. So it is little wonder that his study concludes what it does.

That’s just one study. But if you do a little research, you’ll find that it’s very typical of the type of ‘information’ that’s available.

Where are the qualitative studies?

Who is looking at how and why Australians access music?

Why is there so little information exploring alternative views?

Australians world’s worst for illegal music downloads is a Sydney Morning Herald article that looks at Music Metric data (the methodology of which has not been revealed). The data is from 2011-2012, which is not particularly recent, but is some of the most recent data I could locate on Australian piracy.

Apparently, Australians are the sixth highest for illegal downloads, but download the highest number of files per capita.

Our top music download in 2011-2012 was the Hilltop Hoods.

Photo Credit: Michael Spencer. Hilltop Hoods @ One Movement Music Festival

So how do we fix the problem? There’s all sorts of information, little of which seems very credible, on the issue of piracy.

To correct the balance, we need to look into why people are turning away from legal purchase of songs, instead of assuming it is because of criminal tendencies.

So that means qualitative studies, interviewing people, and seeing what’s really going on. 

These kind of studies benefit everyone: music listeners, music producers and even other media industries.

This is the first step in improving the relationship between music listeners and music producers.

References:

Siwek, S 2007, ‘The True Cost of Sound Recording Piracy to the U.S Economy’, Institute for Policy Innovation, accessed 24 September 2014, no. 188, pp. 1-28.

An outdated way of thinking

I love music. I love listening to it, dancing to it, and sharing it.

However, gone are the days when I would  save up my pocket money to spend on a CD. As you all well know, these days, we download.

Is this way of thinking outdated?
Is this way of thinking outdated?

Obviously, this has caused uproar within the recording industry. Now that it’s both cheaper and more convenient to just download music off a torrenting site, people aren’t paying for their music anymore. But is downloading a song for free really the same as stealing a CD from a shop?

Panic within the recording industry over loss of revenue has caused incidents such as this, where a 29 year old man was fined $675 000 for illegally downloading and sharing 30 tracks. That’s the equivalent of $22 500 a song.

This seems ridiculous.

To be fair, industry revenue has been falling throughout the 21st century (Bestinza et al. 2013, p. 5). However, while some of this may very well be attributed to illegal downloading, there are other flaws in the current business model of the recording system.

Sure, I liked that song on the radio. But I didn’t love it. I’m not willing to pay $1.69 for it on iTunes. But, if I can download it for free, maybe I’ll get the whole album, and listen to some new songs. Maybe I’ll really like it .  Maybe I’ll even buy concert tickets or merchandise later on.

A lot of musicians these days have recognised pirating as a very effective form of promotion. Amanda Palmer is one of them (skip to halfway through the clip if you don’t want the back story):

Lots of up-and-coming bands have started releasing their music for free on line, hoping to pique curiosity and create a following for themselves.

So is it really reasonable to sue for suspected damages when, in reality, they may not have purchased the song  anyway?

Particularly for young people with fairly low disposable income, paying $1.69 for every single track becomes very expensive very quickly, and encourages the purchase of only the best songs (at least in my experience).

Thankfully, there are other options for the music industry, rather than just suing random, everyday people.

Spotify, for instance, provides a subscription service.  You pay about $11 a month for unlimited access to their vast music libraries. This is what I use. I like the extra features I get that I wouldn’t get if I just torrented, like top tracks, related artists and artist radio. It feels like iTunes, but I can try as much music as I want for a comparatively small amount compared to when I used iTunes.

But that’s just me. There are still problems with the service, such as the micro-payment system.

The point is, services like Spotify, that provide convenient and cheap options are the way of the future. Expectations of media access have changed dramatically during the rise of the internet.

It’s about time the music industry kept with the times.

References:

Bustinza, O.F,  Vendrell-Herrero, F,  Parry, G & Myrthianos, V 2013,”Music business models and piracy”, Industrial Management & Data Systems, vol. 113, no. 1 pp. 4 – 22.

Texting during class: another moral panic?

Multitasking is something that’s been heavily debated for many years.

Who can do it?

Who shouldn’t do it?

When is it inappropriate?

While multitasking is a part of everyday life, it is increasingly coming under fire for interfering with peoples’ lives.

Specifically, when it comes to young people and learning, many are concerned that having too many electronic ‘distractions’, such as smartphones or laptops, can be detrimental to a person’s ability to achieve.

This is just one of many voices expressing this opinion:

According to Faculty Focus, there have been multiple studies proving a connection between the use of devices in conjunction with learning and decreased academic achievement.

One of the studies referenced, The effect of multitasking on the grade performance of business students, specifically measures the relationship between texting in class and information retention. They divided a class of 62 undergraduate business students in two. Half could text during class, half could not. All students were quizzed at the end of class.

The experiment proved that students who texted during class were more likely to receive lower grades. However, there were several flaws in the experiment. For instance ‘multitasking by texting’ was classified as sending three pre-planned messages to the lecturer.

In my experience, multitasking with a smartphone usually involves more than three, random texts.

However, this study supports multiple studies that say the same thing. There is a massive amount of information and research going into the concept of multi-tasking, and whether students in the digital age are suffering because of it.

However, I think that a lot of this can be boiled down to moral panicGen Y learners: just how concerned should we be? Tells of how there is actually very little representative information about Gen Y, apart from U.S university studies.  A lot of the studies appear to be based around the notion that young people are particularly susceptible to the dangers of new technologies.

However, people forget that students have always been distracted. If it wasn’t Facebook it was passing notes. Instead of playing Candy Crush it was drawing graffiti on the desk. And instead of texting people it was daydreaming.

Devices just provide another avenue to dispel fidgeting, boredom and general lack of interest. It’s not that attention spans that have altered dramatically, it’s just the way that young people these days operate.

Until more studies are done, we really can’t say for sure whether or not multitasking during class affects learning.

 

References:

Ellis, Y, Daniels, B, Jauregui, A 2010, ‘The Effect of Multitasking on the Grade Performance of Business Students’, Research in Higher Education Journal, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 1-10.

Public Etiquette?

There are more and more ways than ever to make being alone in a public space less awkward. We have phones and iPods and public televisions. There is no reason to engage in people-watching and less chance of making uncomfortable eye-contact with a stranger.

I catch the bus to uni, and it always amazes me how silent it is. It seems that most people travel alone. Occasionally you hear the faint whispering of a person’s earphones. Many people are texting friends or scrolling Instagram. Some of the more inconsiderate people are making phone calls.

There are funny little antisocial behaviours that are expected when you are on a bus. For example, when the bus opens its doors to let more people on,  there is  a spare seat beside beside them, many people, if they weren’t already, find something to do on their phones. They want to appear impassive; not too stand-offish but not too eager.

Fortunately for me, people mostly stay in their own, device-oriented bubble. Bus trips are relatively calm affairs.  However, sometimes, when people start to break the rules, like what happened here, the private bubbles pop, and the event becomes very, very public:

Catching antisocial behaviour on smartphones and posting it to YouTube has become a normal occurrence, and there are thousands of examples.

In many cases, this can be seen as a way of publicly raising issues that need addressing, such as racism on Sydney public transport. It is a positive step in creating change.

However, are there cases when this is unjustified? Does just being in public  mean anyone can take your picture or a video and splash it across the internet?

This quick guide to the legislation regarding photography in public places  says that 95% of the time, you can take a photograph of anyone or anything in a public space, as long as it is not for commercial purposes.

Still, I go to the park not expecting to have my photo taken by a stranger. Regardless of the legislation, there is etiquette in place.  We use our phones to disappear into private space while in public space, but rarely expect images of ourselves in public to be available to anyone other than the people in that space at that time.

It seems, while there is legislation in place, our behaviour in public is dictated by a strong sense of public etiquette.

The main ideas seem to be: don’t attract attention and don’t make eye-contact with strangers.