“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

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“…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/

“The dinner table… is practically dead.”

The dinner table, an idealised space where families come together to enjoy each other’s company over a warm meal, to connect and converse, is practically dead. Bowles and Turnbull (2015) talk about the mother’s role in the home as the moderator of her children’s contact with technology and say that with the advent of portable technologies, it is becoming harder for her to track the whereabouts of her children. This is especially true if we take into consideration that when people are on their devices, they are not in fact present in the room, physically maybe, but mentally they are in the world of cyberspace.

Frendo (2013) talks about technology and says that with its becoming more mobile, it has infiltrated the dinner table, making it easy for parent and child alike to become distracted from the company of the other. She goes on to say that technology disrupts the moments of connection when we are together and that we should develop a balance and limit when we use technology (Frendo 2013). Frendo (2013) offers the solution of placing our respective technologies in a basket before sitting down for dinner. “Regular conversation, eye contact, and laughter strengthen our brain’s capacity for human connection – but those things can be difficult when distracted by the allure of technology (Fredo 2013).”

But what about those who eat dinner standing up? For Macdonald (2013), “the family dinner is an archaic ritual that’s almost dead and buried. In fact it exists almost entirely in fantasyland.” Macdonald (2013) says that when she insists her family sit together it rarely works as her son gags at the sight of vegetables while her daughter, regularly disappears beneath the table to feed the bottomless pit known as, the family dog. Macdonald (2013) believes that when the family dinner is set up because it is the proper thing to do it becomes artificial and a chore, in contrast, she believes that family dinners are respected more when they are occur during rituals, because they are the rare occasions where the family mutually comes together, such as for birthdays or Christmas.

Macdonald (2013) goes on to say that the best conversations you have with your children are at the times when they don’t feel it is an inquisition, such as when you are grilling them at the dinner table. For her, the modern family dinner involves watching the TV while eating, using this space as a site for developing ideas and insight, hosting discussions about the show and the various themes it employs (Macdonald 2013).

The family dinner at the dining table is an outdated institution that I believe a majority of families forgo for the now, arguably intimate, TV dinner. As a space, the dining table feels more appropriate for a formal setting rather than an everyday site for the engagement of family, which is where the informal and comfortable space known as the lounge room excels.

Resources:

Bowles, K, Turnbull, S 2015, BCM240 – Media, Audience, Place 8: Regulating Audiences, Echo360, viewed 26 September 2015, https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/blocks/echo360_echocenter/echocenter_frame.php?id=6402

Frendo, M 2013, Plugged in or Tuned Out: Technology at the Dinner Table, Michigan State University Extension, viewed 26 September 2015, http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/plugged_in_or_tuned_out_technology_at_the_dinner_table

Macdonald, S 2013, ‘The death of the family dinner,’ Daily Life, 4 June, viewed 26 September 2015, http://www.dailylife.com.au/news-and-views/dl-opinion/the-death-of-the-family-dinner-20130603-2nlrx.html

Working Memory and Attention

Today in a world where information is everywhere, the human notion of attention is stuck in a state of shift. According to statistics from Statistic Brain, sourced from Weinreich et al.’s “Not Quite the Average: An Empirical Study of Web Use,” 12 seconds was the normal attention span back in 2000 (Attention Span Statistics 2015). It is now 2015, and the average attention span is 8.25 seconds, shorter than that of a goldfish whose attention span clocks in at 9 seconds (Attention Span Statistics 2015).

Research into attention is primarily based in cognitive psychology studies, and the type of attention that we will look at here is also based in this arena. An important concept to examine is that of working memory, a concept first developed by Baddeley and Hitch. This concept says that the brain has a central executive which acts as the boss of the system, allocating information to two different subsystems (McLeod 2008). Along with allocating information, the central executive also deals with cognitive tasks such as mental arithmetic and problem solving (McLeod 2008).

One subsystem which the central executive allocates information to is the visuo-spatial sketchpad (VSS), which stores and processes information in a visual or spatial form, this system is also used for navigation (McLeod 2008). The other system that has information allocated to it is the phonological loop (PL) which stores information that is spoken and written (McLeod 2008). The PL consists of two parts which include (McLeod 2008):

• Phonological Store: which deals with speech perception and stores information that is speech based.
• Articulatory Control Process: which deals with speech production, also used to rehearse and store verbal information from the phonological store.

Barrouillet et al. (2013) look at working memory and, in deference to Baddeley and Hitch, say that it is a limited-capacity system which shares the resources it uses to process and store information. This is where we should be paying attention, because our attention span dictates the effectiveness of working memory. Because working memory shares the resources it uses to process and store information, a trade-off phenomenon occurs where our performance decreases because our cognitive load increases, effectively reducing the amount of information being processed which is then lost (Barrouillet et al. 2013).

This resource sharing takes place when our cognitive load increases, which can result from the exercise of multitasking. Hembrooke and Gay (2003) look at multitasking and time, and find that multitasking does impact the allocation of resources to take in and process information. However, these processes are more strongly affected by time as their study showed that sustained distraction, e.g. browsing online irrespective of content, was the enemy of multitasking (Hembrooke & Gay 2003).

Although, Hembrooke and Gay (2003) don’t rule out the use of multitasking, but believe that, “if one is adroit at staccato-like browsing, processing multiple inputs simultaneously may not suffer to the same extent,” effectively saying that short and sharp periods of selective attention may not hinder your working memories ability to take in and process information.

To gauge whether the rapid switching of attention helps working memory retain more information, I asked my dad and mum, Tim and Julianne Foster, to help me with a little experiment. Our experiment took place during a three minute ad break which involved Tim and I counting how many ads there were between the program we were watching, whilst reading this article about Malcolm Turnbull’s new ministry and trying to remember five of the listed names and the positions they held, while texting each other at the same time. Julianne’s role in the experiment was to count how many ads occurred in the ad break for accuracy and to quiz us at the end about the names and positions of people in Turnbull’s ministry.

The results of this little experiment were interesting as they, to a degree, validate Hembrooke and Gay’s idea that the rapid switching of attention should decrease the cognitive load on working memory. In regards to the counting of ad breaks, Tim was closest to the mark with his answer of five while my answer was eight, only two over the ad total of six. In terms of remembering names and positions, Tim was able to correctly remember two while I was able to remember three.

I think Hembrooke and Gay’s idea has some merit but that it should allow for some degree of inaccuracy, as Tim and I were not able to fully take in and process the information in front of us. All in all, I would say that Barrouillet et al (2013) have it right when they say that the slightest distraction of attention can impact the processing of information stored in working memory. If this is the case, than it is more important than ever that we learn to focus our attention to get the most out of our interactions with information.

Resources:
Hembrooke, H, Gay, G 2003, The Laptop and the Lecture: The Effects of Multitasking in Learning Environments, Journal of Computing in Higher Education, Vol. 15, pp. 01-19.

Barrouillet, P, Bernardin, S, Portrat S, Vergauwe, E, Camos, V 2013, Time and Cognitive Load in Working Memory, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, Vol. 33, No. 3, pp. 01-56.

McLeod, S 2008, Working Memory, Simply Psychology, viewed 21 September 2015, http://www.simplypsychology.org/working%20memory.html

Image: Brain Power by Alan Ajifo

Public Space Ethnography and Photography

Hello to who may be reading, you will find that this blog post has a little something to do with public space photography and ethnography. This week, we were asked to enter a public space and to acquire images, sound, or any other observations of public space media use in a way that was ethically comfortable for us. After we had collected these observations, we would then reflect on what we did in relation to the ethics of permission, discretion, and care for others.

In terms of street photography ethics, Colberg (2013) says that while photographers may legally take photos of people in public spaces without permission or consent, they need to become aware of the ethics involved in this practice. Colberg (2013) believes that it is important that we seek the permission and consent of those we photograph, while it may be legal to do so without consent, this does not mean that it is the ethical thing to do. Another thing that Colberg (2013) also believes is that it is the photographic community’s task to educate people on what they are doing.

Keeping my thoughts centred on how Colberg believes photographers should act, I took to the streets of Kiama in search of a photo op. I approached various people and explained to them that I was a university student in search of a willing participant to have their photograph taken of them using a media device. In the end I was only able to obtain one photo of Rhiannon Wilson.
I explained to Rhiannon that I would be using this photo on a public blog and gave her the options of not having her face or name appear. She was very accommodating and didn’t mind if her face or name appeared in this blog. As proof, I made an audio recording of Rhiannon consenting to my taking her photo and displaying her face.

In hindsight, I realise that I did not ask her in my recording if she consented to having her photograph published on my blog, even though she had expressed earlier that she had no qualms with my doing so. Rhiannon wanted to see the blog once it was finished so I gave her my blog’s address and my phone number should she need to contact me about her photo or if she has any concerns with the blog.

This little experiment I felt was really effective for public space ethnography. I think Rhiannon appreciated the fact that I had explained to her what I would do with her photo and the options I gave her about being included in this blog. The only negative thing I would say about public space ethnography in the situation of the photographer is that when you ask someone’s permission to take their photo, it immediately becomes staged, it completely destroys photo authenticity, which isn’t a good thing when it comes to research.

References:
Colberg, J 2013, The Ethics of Street Photography, Conscientious Extended, viewed 13 September 2015, http://jmcolberg.com/weblog/extended/archives/the_ethics_of_street_photography/

Going to the Movies

For this week’s blog in BCM240, we were asked to plan and undertake a trip to the cinema, working around the three constraints to human spatial activity identified by Torsten Hägerstrand. These three constraints are: capability, coupling, and authority.

The restraint of capability refers to the limiting of human movement due to physical or biological factors (Corbett 2011). In terms of capability, I was worried that I would not physically be able to go to the movies because of the recent flooding of roads in my area, but luckily I was able to get through.

The restraint of coupling refers to the requirement of being in a certain place for a set amount of time, often in the company of others (Corbett 2011). This restraint didn’t really apply in my case as I wasn’t worried about the length of time needed to watch the movie and I wasn’t perturbed about viewing it alone.

The restraint of authority refers to spaces that are controlled by people or institutions who can place limits on access to these spaces by individuals or groups (Corbett 2011). I wasn’t too concerned with this restraint as the only limit on my access I had to worry about was one of payment, and I had money.

Another part of this week’s blog was to examine the cinema in spatial terms and on the basis of our observation, estimate what will happen to movie attendance in 5-10 years.

The movie I went and saw was Trainwreck, featuring Amy Schumer and Bill Hader. It was scheduled to start at 10:15am but I arrived 30 minutes early because I overestimated the time it would take to get there. I sat in this really comfortable red material chair in the second last row a few seats off from the middle, the seat I was assigned.

As I waited for the movie to start, I watched a pregnant woman, two middle aged couples, three woman, and another lone woman enter the cinema, making an audience of 10 if I include myself. Something interesting that happened during the time we were waiting for Trainwreck to start was that every single person there was on their phones, and not to turn them off, but to amuse themselves.

The other interesting thing that happened during the movie was when particular parts united us as an audience, but also separated us. As a comedy, the movie was fantastic, bringing the audience together with moments of synchronicity in the form of laughter. But comedy also divided us as there were times when some of the humour was only felt by a handful of us. At some points, I think only one person and I laughed.

Based on my experience, I would say that less people actually go to the cinema to watch a movie anymore, and while they are there, they use media devices like mobile phones to briefly escape the space they inhabit until that space is able to capture their interest. Also, films are able to unite and divide us in the same space in the same instance through their use of themes.

In 5-10 years, I think cinema goers will have the same experience as they do now, unless cinemas are able to better capture audience attention in the lead up to the movie. In terms of film content uniting and dividing us, I think this will remain to be true as everyone has different tastes and views on what they witness. This diversity is important as it drives discussions about film and the underlying messages that some promote.

Image – Cinema by weegeebored

“I had a home computer, with slow as a wet week dial-up internet”

“I had a home computer, with slow as a wet week dial-up internet,” Tim Foster said, “which would take about five minutes alone to connect.” This was my Dad’s response when I asked what his first experience with the internet was. He first got internet in the early 90’s and said that while there was a fair bit of accessible information, it was painfully slow to download anything. He mainly used it for emailing.

The general opinion at the time, he thought, was that the internet was the future of communication. You were either on board or left behind, and to not have internet meant that you were in the dark. In today’s society, Tim believes that the internet has now become a part of everyday life. “If you wanted to buy something you had to resort to the yellow pages, you’d make dozens of calls to find the store with the best price,” he said, “Nowadays, you can do a simple google search and you can find whatever you want from around the world, in seconds.”

But time has moved on, and so has my Dad. In the house, Tim uses three devices to access the internet, his desktop computer, tablet, and his mobile phone. Data plans? ADSL through a hardwired modem for the desktop computer and Wi-Fi, a Telstra dongle for wireless internet, and two mobile data packages.

In terms of interaction, Tim says he swears at the internet, a lot. But that’s not his only interaction, he also uses the internet for other things, primarily checking and sending emails, searching for information, checking the weather, and shopping online. In general, Tim believes the internet has made the world a smaller place, which in his eyes, is a good thing, because it opens the world to lots of communities, especially in countries that have manipulated media broadcasts such as North Korea where the dictatorship reigns supreme.

When our conversation turned towards the NBN, Tim could only express his frustrations. Due to living in a remote area and being too far from the trunk line and phone exchange, it looks unlikely that our house will be able to access this privilege. “Unless they run a line between Berry and Shoalhaven Heads, we’ll never get it,” he said. But all things considered, Tim is quite happy with the internet he currently enjoys.

Image by Steve Rhodes