Posts by gbaer35

18 year old first year student @ UOW.

Humans? Animals? The Difference.

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Source: latimes.com

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To View or Not to View – The Complex Nature of Confronting Photographs

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Starving woman inside a Warsaw ghetto (1941)

As we all know, death is a part of life – over our history there have been multiple mass events of death, not to mention the fact that 151,600 people die every day. Parents, siblings, friends and everyone in between… to be reminded of this is a pretty tough pill to swallow.

Life is cyclical, so if you take a quick look at the other side of the story, you find out that 363,000 people are born everyday. Being exposed to images of death and suffering is extremely important for perspective. It begs the question though – is it ethical to view such provocative images? Images that capture a moment of the worst aspect of life itself?

R Tooth (2014) puts forward the complex dilemma that we face when engaging with these images;

“If you had died a violent and unjust death, wouldn’t you want the world to know all the details surrounding that death? On the other hand, in showing those images, are we perhaps feeding a propaganda machine and fuelling more conflict?”

So can these photos escalate conflict? Leave it unchanged? Bring it to a halt?

Alan Kurdi, a Syrian boy who washed up on the shores of Turkey in 2014, died as he and his family were trying to escape Syria. A Turkish journalist snapped the photograph, and within days it was plastered on every screen and talked about on every station. Everyone wanted to do something – the world can’t stand for this carnage any longer.

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“Photo of my dead son has changed nothing” – Father of Alan Kurdi, who drowned trying to flee the war-torn country.

Only, nothing happened. His father Abdullah pointed out the biggest problem with photos of death, especially in our society now – it leads to even the most out-of-touch, middle class teenager living in the western world to feel bad while looking at this photo, share it, then go back to watching Netflix.

“The politicians said after the deaths in my family: Never again! Everyone claimed they wanted to do something because of the photo that touched them so much. But what is happening now? People are still dying and nobody is doing anything about it.” – Abdullah Kurdi

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Credit: @khalidalbaih

Which begs another question – for us especially who are just not exposed to these types of situations. Do these photos fall under the category of entertainment?

Yes, they do – the difference though is that this is completely unintentional. It’s a macabre form of entertainment, one that engages us, makes us think and reflect, and makes us even sympathise with those currently involved in life-threatening conflict.

But that’s it. That’s where it ends, we can only sympathise; never empathise.

Which is exactly why I believe that these photographs, at least in our present day, act as entertainment.

I’d also like to quickly distinguish the difference between photos of suffering and death today, and photos taken over the last century. Pictures from WWI and WWII, among other documented genocides and iconic photos, tend to be shone in a different light. Those photos are not consumed by society the same way that present-day photos are – it’s practically instantaneous today, and looking into historically controversial photographs acts more as education rather than entertainment.

It is impossible in our lives to understand what certain people/communities go through without directly going through the same thing, and in many ways, seeing a different side of society is somewhat satisfactory to us. The fact that we are able to even look at whatever atrocity is happening in the world and take a break from our reality to look into another is what puts us in a position of privilege – this separation and ability to snap in and out of sympathy just by looking at other peoples misfortune is what makes this a category of entertainment, completely unintentional, but entertainment nonetheless.

So consume as much stressful content you can – its important to be aware of everything life can hit you with, and its important to recognise the privilege that we have living in developed countries. Some people will see images of suffering, have a moment of reflection and move on, and for others it might spark a fire in them to make a change. Whatever the case, stay open, and humble.

Sources

R Tooth, July 2014, “Graphic content: when photographs of carnage are too upsetting to publish”, The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/23/graphic-content-photographs-too-upsetting-to-publish-gaza-mh17-ukraine

J Ensor, September 2016, “‘Photo of my dead son changed nothing’ says father of drowned Syrian boy Alan Kurdi”, The Telegraph

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/01/photo-of-my-dead-son-has-changed-nothing-says-father-of-drowned/

The Meaning of the Selfie? Nothing.

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Left to right: Bill Nye, Barack Obama, Neil deGrasse Tyson

Selfies; one of the most scrutinised one-touch actions today.

Over the last few years, there has been a tremendously varied level of analyses that have emerged on the topic, rapidly being churned out almost as fast as the word “selfie” became as common as the word “the”.

After a long period of time where cameras and mobile phones were completely seperate, the biggest agent of change in our time – the change that bridges the gap between a silly photo and something that (in some arguments) exhibits all of our narcissistic traits, is convenience.

Around the time the iPhone first came out, cameras were no longer exclusive to just capturing a moment. Now that they were being built into mobile phones (on which internet was becoming the norm), all the different, and instant, uses of these photos began to create a convenience that would birth a whole culture. A culture that all of us nitpick and try to relate to our hopes and dreams and the way we live, except I believe that it all means… nothing.

When you’re somewhere that you’ve never been before, and seeing all brand new things, a selfie just adds another category of photos you can take – previously, if you went to Paris, you’d take a perfectly framed picture of the Eiffel Tower. But with our new category, the framing of the Eiffel Tower suddenly becomes a whole new creative aspect; how can you take a photo that a) shows enough of the tower b) shows enough of yourself c) combines the previous 2 options, and passes the “does it make me look like sh*t?” test.

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A selfie stick in action.                                                                      Credit: dailyedge.com

But how can this mean nothing? Well, to clarify, I don’t mean nothing.

The act of a selfie itself is nothing – despite the studies, the average millennial (I count myself in that category) doesn’t think that going for lunch with an old friend is a perfect opportunity to repress their own issues so they can show everyone that they look half-decent, eat appetising food and frequently socialise. So what do they think about? This comes down to the convenience factor I spoke about earlier; while a lot of write-ups on selfies will have you believe there is a whole multi-step process behind every selfie, the truth, the absolute bottom-line is that its just the easiest way to capture a moment nowadays.

Selfies are just a fresh new category of photographs. The convenience that comes with being able to get a photo of you and you friend without having to ask a passer-by to take it, without having to set a timer as well as being able to see exactly what your taking, is what makes this “nothing”. I say nothing because at their core, all the other views on the process behind a selfie are post-photograph, and are something completely unrelated to the moment attached to otherwise innocent, simple photos. That selfie that your best friend uploaded the other day? They bought some new shoes, and wanted to show everyone ASAP. So they posed holding them, happy that they got the shoes, and while giving the shoe some pretty good angles, put it on Snapchat. Innocent enough. Just a happy moment in time – “Day one with my new kicks!”, the caption reads. Nothing else. The convenience of being able to capture their emotion as well as the thing that is actually making them happy is what gives the selfie all its meaning.

While I maintain that the reason for the selfie is the convenience, that’s all well and good for people like me. But what about in other contexts, perhaps artistic ? It’s been proven time and time again that photography can be considered art, so surely the selfie can fall into that category… can’t it?

Yes, it can. While the selfie itself, or even a collection of them, act as normal photos with a little more significance, the apps we use and the way we distribute them can be artistic, and provide a snapshot of a society driven by social media.

Argentinian-born Amalia Ulman did exactly this. Using Instagram as her platform, she took on the role of a young woman moving to Los Angeles to follow her dreams, uploading photos that were mostly selfies – she started showing off her body, her lifestyle, and her accumulating possessions. She showed scars from breast enhancement surgery, flaunted the fruits of her shopping trips, took selfies when she was having a down day from struggling to “make it” in Hollywood, among nearly everything else going on in her life. In total, she racked up 175 photos over 5 months, presented to what ended up being nearly 90,000 followers.

Only to reveal that it was all fake – she even concocted a back story for her five-month project talking about how she became an escort, and went on to explain how it was not only satire, but how being a woman in this type of society is constant maintenance, and hard work.

So whether you’ve had an eye on social commentary, or just wanted a photo with your dog, the selfie – at its core and true nature amounts to nothing more than another photo. It simultaneously is and isn’t art, is and isn’t nothing, and also is a major social element in today’s world.

So smile!

You’re replaceable – the new working world

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Liquid labour explores the idea of interchangeably within jobs – and the changing way that all working members of society are starting to blend their work life and their everyday life. The journalism industry is an example of liquid labour – very rarely nowadays do newspapers generate stories solely from their writers. Freelance journalists go out and get stories and THEN go to these newspapers as opposed to that same newsroom churning out stories from their own writers, and this has become the norm among the major media outlets.

The increasing popularity of social media in the last 5-7 years has also led to many different types of jobs being created – ones that you don’t think exist when all you come up with is a hashtag, or take a couple of good photos that go viral, both of which can easily lead to a high level marketing job for a company looking to improve their online presence.

The Cyberspace Legacy

After going through the lecture this week – I couldn’t stop relating back to the fact that my generation are the ones who grew up ALONG with the internet – when we were born in the mid 90’s, the internet was in a sort of primitive stage amongst the public. It was prevalent, but nowhere near fulfilling its potential.

A cyberspace is a “virtual space created by interconnected computers and networks on the Internet”, and I feel that that term was born along with us. In 2007, as Facebook exploded in popularity amongst the globe – we were the first mass generation of teenagers to be growing up on social media.

I then got to thinking – well since we have grown up alongside this cyberspace, we have probably detailed an insane amount of information of the years, and it made me feel a little worried, for what? I don’t know. The idea that all my information from when I was about 11 to now is pretty much all online and always will be accessible is a little daunting… but what do I have to hide? Nothing, until I don’t know it.

The medium may change – but the reality wont

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The invention of the telegraph set the wheels in motion for what would eventually become the complex global communications that we have now. The tangible aspect of words and messages containing information was completely flipped on its head as we were suddenly able to wire these messages across the world and under the sea and wherever else.

But if there’s one thing you could be sure of – it’s that the social interactions never really differ between the first telegraph and the newest iPhone. People ghost your calls/telegraphs, and that girl you fancy? Maybe she just wanted to friends. Hopefully the dots and dashes don’t break your heart.

Streams Are Here To Stay – What Now?

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image via slate.com

How do you watch your TV? That’s a hard question to answer nowadays.

You’ve got a multitude of options. The first thing that might come to mind is “what do you mean by that question?” TV could mean many things. How do you watch the physical TV you own? You use free to air. Another person might subscribe to Foxtel; another to Apple TV. Another thing that comes to mind might be how you watch TV shows; do you download them and watch them on your TV? Do you stream it online on Netflix/Amazon/Stan/Presto? Do you have your Foxtel enabled to play on multiple devices, so you can watch the football on the bus? There’s a rapidly spreading entertainment market there to be seized. So far, it appears as if streaming giant Netflix is winning the race.

While you could be reading this in a newspaper, in an opinion piece, that just seems obsolete, and inconvenient, that’s because it is. This is the same perception that traditional pay-tv faces when matched up against streaming behemoths such as Netflix, Stan Presto, Amazon video, or whatever else is gearing to start up over the next half-decade or so. The difference, as A.E.S. (2013) explains, between newspapers and pay-tv is that providers are not making the same mistake the media did when the newspaper started becoming irrelevant – the mistake of providing the exact same content online, for free, while expecting users to pay for the physical version – the “physical” in this case being pay-tv, and many providers are refusing to give Netflix broadcast rights to their new content in favour of airing it on pay-tv – meaning a battle between streaming and TV broadcasting.

This is one of the main arguments against Netflix; the majority of shows listed are on their second run, and that it abandons the idea of a steady-stream (no pun intended) of brand-new content on TV in favour of binge watching the shows online. You still can’t watch live sports, and entertain yourself with brand new shows every week, and in essence, Netflix just feels like on online Blockbuster Video – everything is there, but none of it is new and you end up watching the same things over and over, despite the massive range. Granted, Netflix is rapidly squashing this notion – House of Cards, available exclusively on Netflix, was nominated for an Emmy; an American television award could’ve won without ever airing on TV. They are beginning to convince more companies to release Netflix original series– F is for Family, Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, Narcos, Making a Murderer, and an upcoming series starring Ashton Kutcher – The Ranch, airs April 1. They are building a steady, star-driven portfolio and many of these series have been critically acclaimed – further accelerating the Netflix rise to entertainment dominance.

Greg Paynter of Charles Sturt University conducted an “exploratory study into Australian consumers’ current television viewing practices, and their understanding, interest and concerns in regards to OTT distribution”. OTT refers to the “over-the-top” flooding of film and television across the Internet and across different mediums. Furthermore, the cost of these online streaming services are laughably cheaper than a service such as Foxtel can reach prices of up to $70/month, where Netflix has 3 different packages, the most expensive of which is $15/month, and on top of that, they offer a 30 day free trial period, and then on top of THAT – there is no installation fee or actual installation, just sign up and watch. The convenience is undeniable.

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Foxtel subscription plans

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Netflix subscription plans; noticeably cheaper.

My research project will aim to find out what the future of traditional pay-tv is in Australia – currently we have the basic free-to-air channels, but services such as Foxtel, which combine hundreds of channels broadcasting shows that are now enabled on streaming services, are even rolling out one of their own; “Presto”. In addition, an on-the-go option to stream a channel broadcasted on Foxtel to a portable device. Yes, the idea of only watching TV shows on the TV is long gone. But can streaming services and pay-tv providers co-exist? Foxtel seems to think it can top both fields, and I aim to find out what the overall perception of this struggle is to Australians, as well as the major broadcasting corporations.

One of the more ambitious aspects of my project, and one that hopefully can be arranged, is an interview with someone of relevance at a major television network, I am still trying to garner contacts, and am currently following a trail that could lead me to interview the head of program scheduling at Fox Sports HQ in Sydney. If an interview like this were to take place, I would interview the subject primarily on what they feel about this OTT distribution boom, and how they feel that sports broadcasting (especially live sport) can include itself in the online streaming world, not only through their own established networks, which already exist, but initiate some lucrative partnerships that entail something other than “exclusive broadcasting rights”. In addition to this I will be conducting video interviews with various subjects across Sydney and Wollongong, in the style of a vox pop, as well as conducting various extended interviews that I will use for the information and presentation of results, and I hopefully will have the previously mentioned interview lined up.

In the end, I hope to have figured out what people preferences are, and investigate whether they believe that pay-tv is dead, and whether Netflix is here to stay. I hope to gather more consistent numbers in data, as I’ve found wildly different statistics, and further on in the project, will become an integral part of the end project, but in the meantime – a new movie called “Dope” just released on Netflix.

Sources

Levine-Weinberg, A 2015 ‘How Netflix Really Creates Value’, The Motley Fool.

http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2015/09/30/how-netflix-inc-really-creates-value.aspx

Paynter, G 2013, “Any screen, anywhere, any time”, TJA, vol.63, no.1.

http://telsoc.org/tja/2013-02-v63-n1/a389

A.E.S. 2013, “Is  Netflix Killing Cable Television?, The Economist.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2013/08/economist-explains-17