Emotional Tales Save Orca Whales?

whale
Credit: AP Photo/ Phelan M. Ebenhack

In a world where the clinical and empirical reigns supreme, is there space for emotion, and the possibility that emotion shapes historical phenomenon?

Armstrong (2013) looks into this and says that there are two reasons as to why science disregards emotion, the first being that emotional realties are ephemeral and hard to document, making it nearly impossible to prove the existence of events where feeling is felt throughout a culture, social group, or population (pg. 169).

The second reason Armstrong (2013) looks at is the underestimation of emotions historical role, and that such attention in this area leads to being viewed as subjectivist, having weak scholarly accuracy, and being considered as ‘sentimentalism,’ viewed as a kind of weakness itself (pg. 169).

Armstrong deploys the story of Opo the dolphin, who graced the New Zealand town of Opononi with her presence, to illustrate the importance of sentimentalism. Armstrong (2013) believes that sentimentality matters because of its everlasting popularity and its importance as a signifier for the sweeping transition of cultural feeling that has, or is about to, take place (pg. 182).

On the Opo event, it is significant because it illustrates the emotional connection between humans and animals, more specifically cetaceans, and what is even more important is that these stories marked a change in popular societal ideology that challenged the notion of modernity’s domination of nature (Armstrong 2013, pg. 180).

Another example of an emotionally charged event signalling a change in the world is the story of orca whale Skana and New Zealand scientist Paul Spong. Skana was sold to the Vancouver Aquarium at the age of 6 when she was captured in 1967, and it was here at the aquarium where she met Paul Spong, a scientist who conducted experiments to gauge Skana’s visual acuity (Zelko 2013).

Skana was passing Spong’s tests with little difficulty until her results plummeted, failing the test 83 times, which Spong discovered Skana was failing on purpose (Zelko 2013).

Spong decided to abandon his clinical approach with Skana and become more involved with her, getting to know her outside of a scientific view which is when he discovered she was experimenting with him, raking her teeth across his feet until he left them in the water so she could clamp down on them, but losing interest when he didn’t react (Zelko 2013).

From this point on Spong came to view Skana more like a person than an animal, describing her as “…inquisitive, inventive, joyous, gentle, joking, patient, and, above all, unafraid and exquisitely self-controlled (Zelko 2013).” Spong decided that to confine an intelligent being like Skana was cruel and so had to be set free and that hunting them was akin to murder, so to set her free he approached Greenpeace, who eventually took up her cause which has led to the virtual elimination of commercial whaling (Zelko 2013). She died however, in 1980 before her release could be realised.

This event was important because it was emotionally charged and demonstrated that emotion could move an individual to action, it also ignited the hearts of advocates who helped to campaign against whaling. It was an event that led to the transition of societies view on whaling.

One other emotionally impacting event was the materialisation of documentary Blackfish. Within the documentary, director Gabriela Cowperthwaite explored the relationship between SeaWorld trainers and orca whales, demonstrating the emotional bonds that grew as the trainers and whales interacted with each other. As the SeaWorld trainers went through different experiences with the orcas held in captivity, their views about keeping them confined began to shift, deepening into emotions of pity and sympathy. Some trainers deliberately continued to work at these marine parks because of these emotions, stating that they felt they needed to stay to take care of the animals the best they could in what can only be described as an unnatural situation.

What arose from the viewing of this documentary was a shift in public opinion about SeaWorld, leading to a dramatic drop in admissions. But what also occurred is what can only be called a victory, part of one at least. An article by ABC News (2016) has reported that SeaWorld has decided to: put an end to its popular orca entertainment shows, stop its breeding programs regarding the orcas, and that the remaining whales would be the parks last.

With developments like these, can we really say emotions do not matter? Or that emotion cannot impact and facilitate a change in society values? Or that emotion doesn’t influence historical events? Who can say? But it must surely have its place.

References:

ABC News 2016, SeaWorld Orca Show Ban Credited to Work of Blackfish Documentary Maker, ABC News, viewed 24 March 2016, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-18/blackfish-documentary-credited-with-seaworld-orca-decision/7256978

Armstrong, P 2013, ‘Cetaceans and Sentiment,’ in L Elizabeth, Y Watt, C Freeman, Considering Animals, Ashgate, pp. 169-182.

Zelko, F 2013, The Whale that Inspired Greenpeace, OUPblog, viewed 24 March 2016, http://blog.oup.com/2013/09/greenpeace-origin-killer-whale-skana/

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Divorce selfies are empowering?

Selfies are a relatively new phenomenon in the world of social media culture, and include many varieties. There are at least 15 different types of selfies according to an article called “15 Selfie Trends That Need To Stop.” One such trend that ranks in at number 12 is the divorce selfie.

While Tiidenberg and Cruz (2015) look at NSFW selfies of the female body as empowering, they touch on Senft’s definition of empowerment who believes ‘full’ empowerment occurs when a person has the ability to make meaningful choices, act on those choices, and utilise resources to enforce their actions outwardly (pg. 83).

Are these new divorce selfies some sort of empowerment selfie that both members of the former marriage use to feel in control? I believe that these selfies do act as forms of empowerment that fulfil Senft’s conditions in that:

  • The individuals concerned in these selfies have both made a meaningful choice to alter their status through divorce
  • The individuals have acted on their choice and divorced each other
  • The individuals have utilised social networking services as a resource to enforce their act of divorce

Another element to consider is whether these selfies express authentic feelings. Lobinger and Brantner (2015) look at “expressive authenticity” when they examine various research groups and find that expressive authenticity is achieved when the image captures everyday situations, events, or special moments (pg. 1854). While they looked at authenticity in terms of technical elements, I believe the principle is the same in terms of emotion in that the selfie captures a moment that appears authentic.

But is the moment really empowering and authentic? For some it may well be the case, but for others this might not be the case at all. Nancy Einhart, a divorcee, believes selfies are a visual way of being proud and cannot understand why anyone would be proud of a failed marriage, which is what she believes people who upload divorce selfies appear to be saying about themselves.

References:

Image Source

Lobinger, K, Brantner, C 2015, In the Eye of the Beholder: Subjective Views on the Authenticity of Selfies, International Journal of Communication, Vol. 9, pp. 1848-1860.

Tiidenberg, K, Cruz, E.G. 2015, Selfies, Image and the Re-making of the Body, Body and Society, Vol. 21, No. 4, pp. 77-102.

“It’s that time again…”

It’s that time again, yes, time for another reflection. In my past reflection I talked mostly of my fear of failure, which I felt did transfer over to the assessment that the participants and I have just completed. In this final assessment for BCM240 – Media, Audience, and Place, I leaped back into the realm of TV, deciding to focus on television in space as stimuli for eliciting emotion and spatial memory. To view this project, please click here. Overall, I would say that this research project went well, as the final metamorphosis of the project emerged as a somewhat coherent whole.

However, I cannot say that the steps taken to reach this final metamorphosis have been smooth, as the path has been at times, laden with shards of glass. There were various elements that got in the way with this assessment, the first being my own stupidity. As we entered week 13, I realised that the assessment date was the 2nd of November and not the 6th, which ended up with me panicking because in my mind, I had just lost 5 days to work on this assessment. This resulted in me working under pressure, which I have often done before, but at least on those occasions I actually knew the correct due date.

Pressure can be hard to work with, as it can burden you with unnecessary mental distress which can be further influenced by time constraints, the difficulty of the task, insufficient knowledge, or unforeseen problems (Employability Skills: Working Under Pressure 2015). This project definitely burdened me with unnecessary pressure, which was due to my own fault because of my original perceived abundance of time. I would say that there were three main sources of pressure, the time issue pressure, the direction of the research project, and the research projects collaborative ethnographic element.

The direction of the research project bothered me initially from the outset, as I was interested in exploring two different areas. This indecision on my part caused me to suffer as I had not clearly defined the goals of my project, which in turn made the project suffer because I needed to take time out to define its trajectory. When the goals of a project are undefined, it can cause the people working on it and the project itself to suffer, something I ended up learning first-hand (University Alliance 2015).

The collaborative ethnographic element of this assessment, while I enjoyed it, proved to be a factor that I underestimated. Lassiter (2005) says that collaborative ethnography is an “…approach to ethnography that deliberately and explicitly emphasizes collaboration at every point in the ethnographic process, without veiling it—from project conceptualization, to fieldwork, and, especially, through the writing process.” The parts that I underestimated about this process fell into the areas of coordination and intellectual costs.

Coordination costs involve the time and energy that goes into group work that isn’t present in individual work, as the coordination cost can involve arranging meetings with the others involved and meeting up to complete work (What are the Challenges of Group Work and How Can I Address Them?). This is an area where I had trouble as I had to meet a participant to conduct an interview, which had to be taken a second time as I forgot to switch on the microphone.

The intellectual cost of this project involved the phenomenon known as transparency illusion, which involves a research member’s tendency to assume their thoughts, attitudes, and reasons are more obvious than they actually are (What are the Challenges of Group Work and How Can I Address Them?). This was a trap I fell headfirst into when conducting my interviews, as I needed to contact the participants afterwards to confirm some details that I found confusing.

Working within the framework of collaborative ethnography is something that I enjoy, but I feel that I have operated within this framework better in the past. I have no one to blame but myself as I believe it was the pressure that I put myself under which became my undoing. Although, keeping within the foundations of collaborative ethnography, I have included the participants of this research project in every process that has taken place, and they are happy with its outcome, as am I, to a degree. In the future, I think the important thing for me to remember is to get my dates right, so that I don’t create another slew of issues that will effectively derail my assessments from start to end.

References:

Ashley, D 2012, A Healthy Fear is Sometimes in Order and Even Wise…, Image, Flickr, viewed 02 November 2015, https://goo.gl/QYuOZL

Employability Skills: Working Under Pressure 2015, University of Leeds Careers Centre, viewed 02 November 2015, http://careerweb.leeds.ac.uk/info/4/make_yourself_employable/202/employability_skills/13

Lassiter, L.E. 2005, The Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethnography, University of Chicago Press, viewed 02 November 2015, http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/468909.html

University Alliance 2015, Top 10 Project Management Challenges, Villanova University, viewed 02 November 2015, http://www.villanovau.com/resources/project-management/top-10-challenges/#.VjbT0S_oudA

What are the Challenges of Group Work and How Can I Address Them?, Carnegie Mellon University, viewed 02 November 2015, https://www.cmu.edu/teaching/designteach/design/instructionalstrategies/groupprojects/challenges.html

Pigeons Blogging About Air Pollution, Thanks IOT

The internet of things (IOT) is the next evolutionary stage of the internet, and involves the obliteration of the everyday passiveness of objects, inviting in an age where objects become active subjects. These active objects will have several distinct qualities, such as (Mitew 2014a):

  • Network addresses: so they are identifiable online
  • Sensory capacity: so they can register changes in their current environment
  • The ability to store and process information: so they can independently initiate action (actuate) based on the data stored and processed
  • Being remotely locatable: so they can be locatable in an environment
  • Having a semantic interface: so human interaction is possible with these active objects

These active objects continually collect sensory data and continuously share data online, where it gains value through the process of aggregation (Mitew 2014b).

Such an example might include the ‘Pigeon that Blogs’ (read more here, see it in action here), – project by Beatriz da Costa – a blogject that involves a flock of pigeons, equipped with GPS, GSM communications technology, and pollution sensors, that ‘blog’ about the pollution levels of the air they fly through, which they distribute by making the data available on something like a Google Map (Bleecker 2006, pg. 5).

These pigeons, considered pests by society, gain the status of first class citizenship as they acquire the ability to be sociable, they can now comment in conversations on matters of concern that they were once not privy to (Bleecker 2006, pg. 5, pg. 16).

In the future, active objects in the IOT will begin to add another layer and dimension to meaningful discussions as they contribute information that humans could never hope to put forward without their help in the first place. Like Bleecker, I too would like to know how we can harness the active objects of the IOT to help us in creating a more habitable world.

Resources:

Bleecker, J 2006, A Manifesto for Networked Objects — Cohabiting with Pigeons, Arphids and Aibos in the Internet of Things, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Vol. 32, No. 4, pp 1-16.

Mitew, T 2014a, The Internet of Things: From Networked Objects to Anticipatory Spaces [Part 1], Online Video, YouTube, viewed 21 October 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tFTNJwlpOg&list=PLiPp71qLKusXOU1bKxHVappCbRNN3-J-j&index=42

Mitew, T 2014b, The Internet of Things: From Networked Objects to Anticipatory Spaces [Part 2], Online Video, YouTube, viewed 21 October 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sa_HHt-Voc&list=PLiPp71qLKusXOU1bKxHVappCbRNN3-J-j&index=43

Image By nottsexminer (Feral Pigeon Uploaded by Fæ) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons – *Note* I have modified this image.

Surveillance and Data Retention

Whenever your computer makes a connection online it makes a copy of the information you are accessing, which can be a negative thing because this connection becomes data that stays online forever (Mitew 2014). This data is stored in an aggregate for the purpose of surveillance, and as our lives become more permeated by the internet, we create even more data that can be extracted and aggregated (Mitew 2014).

This aggregation of data is terrifying to think about because it is stored in centralised and controlled databases. This idea is becoming more pertinent to the Australian public as the new Data Retention Law became active on 13 October 2015, which says your phone and internet communications – only to whom, when, where, and how you communicate will be recorded, the content of your communications are safe, for now – and must be retained for the next two years by service providers.

In an article by Max Chalmers, embedded tweets from Edward Snowden tell us that “surveillance is not about safety, it’s about power. It’s about control.” This may well be true, as an article by Robin Doherty lists a series of agencies that will be able to access our data without seeking warrants. Although not listed, should we be worried about the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), a member of the ‘Five Eyes,’ being later included?

Doherty’s article also provides some useful links to technology that will allow the public to protect their phone and internet communications. Some examples include: TextSecure, RedPhone, and IPVanish.

References:

Mitew, T 2014, Dark Fiber: Hackers, Botnets, Cyberwar [Part 1], Online Video, YouTube, viewed 14 October 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNRjkVVYOzE&list=PLiPp71qLKusXOU1bKxHVappCbRNN3-J-j&index=39

SamsungTomorrow 2014, Samsung Introduces the Galaxy K zoom, a New Camera Specialized-Smartphone, Image, Flickr, viewed and modified 14 October 2015, https://goo.gl/3UDq4z

The Erosion of Hacking Ethics

Mitew (2014) said that hacking culture began in the 80’s with the appearance of the personal computer. During this period, it was the expansion of computer technology, the declining prices of personal computers, and the appearance of modems that allowed this, which excited computer hobbyists because they could now connect with other computers and each other (Thomas 2005, pp. 602-603).

The ethics surrounding hacking at this time are well described by Julian Assange in an article by Raffi Khatchadourian (2010), Assange said, “Don’t damage computer systems you break into (including crashing them); don’t change the information in those systems (except for altering logs to cover your tracks); and share information.” Thomas (2005) also looks at the early ethics of hacking in its ‘Golden Age’ in deference to Levy, whom says that these ethics have declined since their formation (pg. 605).

Though hacking was built upon noble morals, the actions behind hacker’s motives were viewed as unethical, which led to demonization by the media with the help of incidents like: the accidental release of the first internet worm that froze around 6000 computers; and the Legion of Doom incident where a company employee for Steve Jackson Games was thought to have engaged in hacking from his home personal computer, and because of the nature of the company – a science fiction and fantasy games publisher – the US Secret Service surmised that the company was engaged in hacking too, and thus, raided the company and confiscated equipment, files, game manuals, and other resources (Thomas 2005, pg. 611).

Hackers are now embroiled in the dark side of the web and engage in activities that can be deemed criminal activity. Although, as we have seen, there are some examples of current day hackers that follow the ways of the old, such as Julian Assange.

Resources:

Khatchadourian, R 2010, No Secrets, New Yorker, 7 June, viewed 7 October 2015, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/06/07/no-secrets

Mitew, T 2014, Digital Resistance: Hacktivists, Whistleblowers, #AfterSnowden [Part 1], Online Video, YouTube, viewed 7 October 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaWxbF3uvik&index=36&list=PLiPp71qLKusXOU1bKxHVappCbRNN3-J-j

Thomas, J 2005, The Moral Ambiguity of Social Control in Cyberspace: a Retro-Assessment of the ‘Golden Age’ of Hacking, New Media & Society, Vol. 7, No. 5, pp. 599-624. http://nms.sagepub.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/content/7/5/599

Image by Almonroth (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ATyping_computer_screen_reflection.jpg

I have modified the image.

“…shame is a psychologically toxic emotion…”

Writing a reflection is one form of writing that I struggle with. It is something I feel that I should understand how to do, but whenever I go to start, I find myself asking, “How do I even begin?” As I write this, I wonder if it will be any good, but I have to try. I have what I believe to be a fear of failure, not because failure makes me angry or upset, but because it makes me feel shame. Guy Winch (2015) says that shame is a psychologically toxic emotion, which can break through to the heart of who we are, affecting our emotional wellbeing and driving us to unconsciously engage in various forms of procrastination.

This is how I feel when I am facing down a subject outline, I will unconsciously throw myself under the bus by finding other things for myself to do, just to avoid the assignment. What this means for me is that I waste time which I could be spending on my assessments, which makes me panic, because I then have less time than I did before to complete something which shouldn’t take me the amount of time I end up spending on it. But I need to master this fear of failure, because it is holding me back from being proactive and from accomplishing what I need to do.

Throughout the BCM240 Media, Audience, and Place course, I have had a rough time because of the mounting pressures this term has presented. I think this has been my most difficult session at the University of Wollongong thus far. But this course has always been a port in a storm for me, as it was something I found enjoyable and something that I could be genuinely interested in. Since I began attending the University of Wollongong, the concept of blogging has always been just a little bit foreign to me, as it presented a challenge that I don’t think I will ever truly overcome.

This challenge is the management of time. Blogging, for me, represents an enormous waste of my time, not because I don’t enjoy it, but because it takes me so long to actually identify what it is I need to blog about. My style of writing too – the meandering and ordered type – contributes to my panic about blogs, as the subjects I undertake call for brevity, something I am not good at in the least.

This reflection is supposed to be all about my experience of writing in public, so perhaps I had better start talking about what I have done. In this subject, over the last 10 weeks or so, I have written a total of eight blogs, each looking into a topic that has a little something to do with media, audience, or place. While I believe that I am a strong writer, after doing some research into writing publically, I realise that I still have a ways to go.

Julie Neidlinger writes some terrific articles about public writing, and I have found two that I think offer some good advice. Neidlinger (2014a) devotes an entire article on How to Write for Your Intended Audience, looking at bloggers struggling to find ideas to write about, and how knowing your target audience can actually help you narrow down what it is you want to say. I often struggle to identify the audience I want to write for, which is a problem, because knowing your audience is a fundamental part of public writing, and knowing who you are writing for allows you to enhance the information that you are trying to communicate.

In another article, Neidlinger (2014b) also looks at lazy writing technique and how it may be putting your readers off. Some advice discussed in this article is quite good, which I think I should try to apply more often when I write. Here again, comes the message that brevity is key, it “forces us to distill a message, and reduce it to its core,” something I need to work on (Neidlinger 2014b). There is another piece of advice she offers that I do already use, but I will also advocate for it here because it is an extremely useful tool to have, and that tool is the human voice.

Reading your work aloud allows you to identify words and phrases you have overused, bad comma use and timing, and gaps in continuity. Along with being a helpful guide to sentence structure and finding overused text, it also helps to make your writing sound more human. I admit, as I write this reflection, I am reading every single word that I type to the back of the couch, and I think this helps me to write more efficiently because it aids me in thinking about what it is I want to say. When I write in silence, my mind often wonders elsewhere, and the beauty of reading aloud is that it allows me to focus in on the task at hand.

Moving on, the other component of this reflection is to look into how I attracted readers to my blog. To spread word about my blog, I would mark my blog posts each week with relevant and likely tags that people within the WordPress community would search for. I also broadcasted my blog posts on Twitter, providing a link to the post, including the #BCM240 hashtag, and sometimes including other hashtags to promote my blog in other aggregated streams.

Reading articles on how to promote your blog only really told me that I needed to become more involved in other social media platforms. However, an article by Neil Patel and Aaron Agius (c.2014) have given me a good tip on how to gather more readers, which is to seek out people who write similar content to my own, with a reasonably sized follower base, and throw them the link to my blog which they will hopefully share with their followers if they find it useful.

For this term, I have to say that the BCM240 course was interesting and that I enjoyed researching the topics presented. I also enjoyed conducting weekly tasks such as observing cinema goers and navigating the ethics involved in taking photos in public spaces. If I’ve learned anything from this course, it is that collaborative ethnographic research is a valuable asset, and that the meanings attributed to spaces are ingrained by societal values. The contents of this course have made me think about space in a new way which I am grateful for, because now the ordinary holds more meaning and it excites me to go into a space and have a different reaction to the space itself, and how objects in that space add further meaning to it.

Resources:

Neidlinger, J 2014a, How to Write for Your Intended Audience, CoSchedule Blog, viewed 3 October 2015, http://coschedule.com/blog/intended-audience/

Neidlinger, J 2014b, These Lazy Writing Mistakes May be Turning Off Your Readers, CoSchedule Blog, viewed 3 October 2015, http://coschedule.com/blog/lazy-writing-technique/

Patel, N, Agius, A c.2014, The Complete Guide to Building Blog Audience: Chapter Five, Quick Sprout, viewed 3 October 2015, https://www.quicksprout.com/the-complete-guide-to-building-your-blog-audience-chapter-5/

Winch, G 2015, 10 Signs That You Might Have Fear of Failure, Psychology Today, viewed 3 October 2015, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201306/10-signs-you-might-have-fear-failure

Image: Reflections in the Mist – John McSporran https://www.flickr.com/photos/127130111@N06/17165023407/