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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One of my favourite blogs to write was ‘An outdated way of thinking’, which I wrote about differing opinions on music piracy.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.

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.

Movie Dates

I’ve been going to the cinema for as long as I can remember. I’ve gone with my sister, my parents and my friends, to see the latest Harry Potter film, catch up on the most recent Disney release, and even just to fill in time.

My local cinema is independent, but surprisingly sophisticated and cheap. There are six different screens, all the same size as some of the larger chain outlets, and they show all the latest releases. They’ve even started doing midnight releases. I can also get an adult ticket, small popcorn and small drink for little over $10. It’s little wonder that cinema-going in my home town is a regular event. It’s not uncommon for people to go and see a movie just for the sake of it, and even watch a favourite movie multiple times while it’s still at the cinema.

Unfortunately, as I soon worked out, it’s not the same everywhere else.

On a recent cinema trip, I took notice of my surroundings, and exactly what it took to organise the trip. I categorised my journey in terms of Torsten Hagerstrand‘s concepts of Time Geography

Capability: The cinema we selected was approximately twenty minutes away from where we lived. We decided to leave 45 minutes early to allow for difficulty parking , the queues inside, and also to drop by the supermarket and pick up some snacks. (this lesson was learnt from past experience).

Coupling: As my two friends and I live together, it was relatively simple to pick a time and drive together. The movie we wanted to see was Guardians of the Galaxy.  As avid Marvel movie fans, we’d been waiting months to see it, but also didn’t want to be part of the crowded rush that is opening night. So we waited until what we thought would be a quiet weekday night. We arrived twenty minutes early, meaning we beat the queues and had plenty of time to sit (up the back of the theatre, of course) and chat before the film started.

 

Authority: This cinema utilised something completely foreign to me with my small-town-cinema upbringing: seat numbers. However, we had visited this cinema before, and no one ever seemed to sit in their allotted seat because there were simply never enough people in the theatre for it to matter. We walked in to discover that there were people already sitting in our allotted seats. Not worried, we sat elsewhere. Unfortunately, this screening was very popular, and we soon had to move so a particularly large group could sit together. A couple behind us were very rudely and loudly told to move by two men whose seats they were sitting in, despite their assertions that someone had already sat in their allotted seats.

What followed was a very tense fifteen minutes, as people slowly filtered into the darkened cinema. We were acutely aware that the same thing that had happened to the couple behind us might happen again. We debated in whispers whether we should go and claim our allotted seats. We knew we weren’t authorised to be in the seats we were, and it made us uncomfortable.

None of us relaxed until twenty minutes into the film.

There is a lot of speculation about the future of the film industry. Many have warned that the increase of movie pirating will ruin cinema going. However, according t Screen Australia, cinema admissions have been fairly steady over the last decade, while box office intake has, mostly, been increasing.

So the facts do not back the statement.

As for the future, I think cinema going will still be popular for a long time. There are lots of different reason people go to the cinema, not just to see the film. They go with their friends to socialise, to experience the films they do want to see in their optimum environment, and to  have something to do on a first date.

Cinema isn’t going anywhere just yet.

 

What? It’s that time already!?

Cameo (apple)
Cameo (apple) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m genuinely disappointed. In spite of all the gruelling work I’ve put into blogging, all the research and revision, I’m really going to miss its place in my weekly routine.

But, chin up! It’s time to look back at the top 3…

1) What happens when citizens become journalists…

This blog didn’t seem especially different to me. I was proud of it, but I didn’t expect anything much to come of it. However, before I knew it, someone had linked my blog to theirs. I was shocked. I investigated. I found that this person, whom I have no connection to, thought my post was good enough to deserve a mention in theirs. I realised that there is actually a possibility of reaching audiences beyond the scope of the classroom. And that this could really be the first baby steps in my career.

2) Web of Lies

This was one of my earliest blogs, but it was the point at which I found myself engrossed in research. Particularly, the YouTube clip I included, in my opinion, summed up my point perfectly. That week’s blog took me a long time to complete, because I was continuously side tracked in articles, YouTube and websites. It was the first time I’d engaged at such a personal level with the subject. My research also impacted the way I look at other aspects of my life

3) Woman + Internet = Abuse. Why?

This was an important personal topic for me. And difficult to write about with a clear head. I spent hours trawling through comments on YouTube seeing if sexism really was as rampant on the internet as I was being told. Apparently, it is. This shocked me. However, my aim was to comment intelligently on the issues at hand, rather than rant angrily at the injustice. This was my most challenging blog, but I also think the most rewarding.

Woman + Internet = Abuse. Why?

Let’s be honest, we know that sexism is still a current issue. As outlined by the Hamster Wheel clip

Sure, it’s a far better situation now than a hundred years ago, but to say the problem only exists in history books these days is inaccurate.

In fact, sexism now appears online.

As Megan Gibson says in “#Mencallmethings: Twitter Trend Highlights Sexist Abuse Online“: “There is no longer a divide. What is happening online is happening in real life”.

This blog is about the way women are treated online when they raise an opinion. Any opinion.

Disagreeing with a woman is legitimate: we all are entitled to our opinions. However, there are politically correct ways to disagree, and then there are sexist, degrading, misogynistic ways.

Karalee Evans talks about her experiences in Men call me things: it’s not as romantic as it sounds. What is interesting about this text are the accounts of her personal experiences as an active online woman. She recounts how she has received abusive emails and comments, based entirely on her gender. She also outlines how many women receive death threats, threats of sexual violence, and general misogynistic comments. This text is important because it is physical proof, not an assumption, that sexism is thriving online.

One of the most important issues raised by Evans is her comment that 9 out of 10 misogynistic comments are anonymous.

And here lies the crux of the argument: the internet allows us to be anonymous. And it would seem, judging by the likes of Karalee Evans and a multitude of others, that this is both a blessing and a curse.

In this video, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard attacks opposition leader Tony Abbot for sexism and misogyny.

What is interesting to note is that the comments section is disabled: unusual for YouTube. However, if you visit a non-ABC YouTube video of the same scene, where comments are enabled, there are plenty of sexist, derogatory comments.

This seems to be becoming a common measure to deal with this ‘trolling‘: simply disarming people of the tools with which they may express offensive opinions. But does this contradict the freedom of speech values that the internet offers. Well, in my opinion, no it doesn’t. The internet is sufficiently free enough for sexist comments, as well homophobic and racist ones, to not be stood for.

#mencallmethings is a Twitter hashtag started by Sady Doyle (read her blog here) that allows women to share their stories of sexist attacks upon them online. Though now inactive, it was further proof that sexism does exist, but also, crucially, that it is not being totally ignored. Another interesting blog to follow is The Antibogan, which names and shames those who abuse the internet’s capacity to enable freedom of speech.

No-Troll
No-Troll (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, though the internet allows anonymity, and fewer consequences for targeting women who are active users, if sexism’s primary aim is to shut down the voices of women, it is clearly not succeeding, as shown by all the sources I’ve mentioned. There are still many outlets where this type of abuse is highlighted and condemned. Obviously, many sites need to improve policies on exactly what comments are tolerated.  And many women do feel intimidated to raise an opinion.

This is not the way things should be, but:

the internet is not the source of sexism: people are.

And until people’s attitude’s change, sexism will stick around. Clearly there are no easy answers, but to refer again to Megan Gibson, the internet and society are almost synonymous these days.

So, changing the structure of the internet will only eradicate sexism and misogyny if our society, as a whole, changes too.

What it means to be young

I am a young person.

I am also not stupid or useless or incapable.

Neither are most other young people I know.

So who created this moral panic, such as described in this Chaser video:

As Henry Giroux says in “Youth Movement in a Culture of Hopelessness” by Jesse Strauss, many people view youth as “disposable populations“. The article describes the Occupy Wall Street movements and way in which young people are engaging with the issues relating to them. The viewpoint taken is particularly interesting because, unlike the majority of mass media I’ve encountered, it sympathises with the concerns of young people, rather than condemning them.

What this made me think about is the way youth voice is generally shut down in our society. Sure, there are isolated pockets where active participation is encouraged, for instance, specialised youth conferences, schoolroom debates, but in the ‘real world’, only fully-fledged adults warrant our attention. And maybe this is why there is a worldwide trend of disengagement with traditional politics on the part of youth: no one wants to voice an opinion when it isn’t going to be valued. A particularly noteworthy quote is:

“That’s why I believe the dominant media finds this movement so threatening. They’re hysterical. What it suggests is not that young people are simply protesting. It suggests that they’re not buying the crap that comes out of the dominant media, they’re challenging it, and secondly, they’re setting up their own circuits of knowledge and education. That’s frightening to think that young people can actually create a culture in which questions of dialogue, dissent, critical engagement, global responsibility, can come into play – that truly frightens, in my estimation, financial and dominant elites.”

What this suggests is that Occupy Wall Street is a stepping stone towards youth having a voice. What is even more interesting is the way in which youth are gathering. Occupy Wall Street employed various social media strategies, most notably, their Tumblr blog.

So maybe, youth are not disengaged, but just engaging in a new way.

This video outlines the ways in which traditional media, as shown before, have been involved in dismissing youth’s legitimacy in protesting through Occupy Wall Street.

What is interesting to note is the origins of this news report. RT America is dedicated to providing news often missed or misrepresented by mainstream media. They describe their YouTube channel as being central to their ongoing mass distribution and how they are reaching more viewers than ever before.

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

So what is the message here? Young people are not incapable of having a credible opinion, and are also not incapable of expressing it. Convergent media, as a familiar thing to many of the younger generation, is the tool by which these previously unacknowledged voices can be heard.

The truth about ‘light bulb moments’

Light bulb
Light bulb (Photo credit: plastAnka)

What is an original idea? Do they simply spring forth from clever minds to revolutionise the world? Do they just descend from the sky to enchant an unsuspecting public? Is it a light bulb moment?

Apparently not.

Remixing is the adaption and re-invention of another’s ideas. It has bloomed in contemporary society, where the tools and materials needed for remixing are freely available to all. For example, this video is a mash up of Harry Potter and LMFAO’s ‘Party Rock Anthem’.

However, some people see it as stealing.

Kirby Ferguson has created a series of four useful videos describing how inevitable ‘copying’ of ideas is. In fact, he refers to it as cultural evolution. In essence, remixing is the natural result of this cultural evolution. What makes these videos useful is the use of multiple examples to illustrate points. It becomes apparent that remixing is part of every development within society.

Axel Bruns, in ‘Distributed Creativity: Filesharing and Produsage’, extends this concept to analyse the role of a ‘produser’ (participant and creator of media) within contemporary society. Like, Ferguson, Bruns focuses on the positive aspects of a society where content can be freely created, accessed and adapted.

The points made are convincing, however, what did surprise me was the claim that there is little evidence supporting the claim that the music industry is suffering due to piracy. In an article discussing the viability of music streaming service Spotify, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry’s (IFPI) Digital Music Report indicates that since 1999, global recorded music revenue has been decreasing, up until 2012, where it rose by 0.3%. Which left me wondering, which side of this debate is correct. Independent research is needed.

Ideas are ...
Ideas are … (Photo credit: martymadrid)

Another interesting point raised by Ferguson was the notion that humans have an instinctive aversion to loss. In essence, while we are happy to access and participate in remixing ideas, we are far less likely to be happy about others ‘stealing’ our ideas to use for their own remixing purposes. He referred to it as being ‘territorial’.

So why do we need to worry about remixing? If it is, as Ferguson tells us, simply the natural progression of culture, why is it such an issue when every thought we have is simply the extension of another?

The answer seems to lie in Ferguson’s notion that humans are averse to loss. We like owning things. Original ideas are not possible, so it is only logical that we should seek to adapt and change another’s ideas into something greater. As Bruns points out, remix/mash up culture should not be seen as a threat, but rather a way for individuals and groups to express ideas in new ways.

Remix is a GOOD THING! It can benefit us and enrich our experiences. Fighting against it, it seems, is like fighting human nature.