Reflect

The rapidly increasing ease of global media flows and human mobility has lead to accelerated transnational media and culture industry hybridisation, but at what cost? Have whirlwind technological advancements and giant leaps in the way we engage with media lead to the degeneration of culture into nothing more than an appropriated, adulterated commoditized product? The answer here is sometimes yes. And sometimes no.

If we first look to the media products themselves, before delving into the broader industry, production and distribution of media across the globe, we can observe the phenomenon of what Albert Moran describes as the ‘transnational elasticity’ (2009) of particular television formats. Looking again at the prolific office-comedy genre explored in an early blog, we see that in some instances, such industry-driven trends reveal levels of cultural complexity and solidarity within and across geographical borders. We observe the idiosyncratic alterations between each country’s production, which in turn enriches the global tapestry from which we translate our own global perspectives.

Alternatively, the transnationl popularity of ‘local’ productions between the Global South and North, such as the phenomenal success of China’s If You’re the One and Japan’s Iron Chef among Australian audiences, and Australia’s Masterchef resonating deeply in India, reveals profound cultural curiosity. This fascination is part and parcel of this idea of global cosmopolitanisation, which in turn is aided and produced by the digitization of media, ease of travel and the subsequent diasporic communities.

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If You’re The One‘s quirky format has had unprecedented success in Australia.

The aforementioned formulaic trends are positively self-perpetuating as opposed to other commercialized industry formats, such as the sensationalism and commercialism of reality television. The cathartic appeal of such programming contributes less to the consumer’s cultural competencies and more to cultural blanketing through the reestablishment of prohibitive stereotypes pertaining to race, gender and sexuality. Extreme examples of this unconstructive typecasting are blatantly witnessed in the global proliferation of dating shows such as The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and Australia’s short-lived series Kiss Bang Love, based on a Danish format (Vickery, 2016). In these instances the glocalisation of productions become but an insular commodity.

References

Moran, A 2009, TV Formats Worldwide: Localizing global programs, Intellect Books

Out of this world

The Third Culture of Azerus and Beyond

Culture transcends geographical borders.

Culture is a fluid and dynamic knowledge bank shared among individuals and groups, growing ever more rich and convoluted with each transference. It is an information system, endlessly rewritten and translated between generations and across territories. And thus, the very nature of culture lends itself to the global proliferation of the participatory Web 2.0.

Social network sites facilitate an increasingly complex hybridization and evolution of cultures, creating what interculturalist Fred Casmir deemed a ‘Third Culture’ – a completely virtual heterotopia that in many ways flouts the disciplines of outdated intercultural communication concepts (Holmes n.d.). With interaction between different cultures now defying physical limitations and occurring in a realm with no physical-world counterpart, Casmir argued that the Third Culture was that which evolved out of a ‘mutually beneficial interactive environment in which individuals from two different cultures can function in a way beneficial to all involved’ (Casmir, 1999).

An extreme example of this type of heterotopia is observed in the online role-playing game World of Warcraft (WoW). Within this expansive synthetic space, common obstacles to intercultural communication such as geographical and language barriers are overcome and players from all over the world collaborate and evolve together, even co-creating each other’s identities, while in the process forging longstanding friendships (Mihaila, 2010). Such massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) have long piqued the interest of researchers who see the propensity for such immersive virtual worlds in second language acquisition and improved literacy and numeracy (Rama et al, n.d).

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Studies have shown that by providing access to a diverse group of interlocutors and engaging interactions and collaborative, social relationships, games like WoW increase cultural and communicative competencies and motivate language learning. In turn, the level of anonymity the game offers increases the confidence with which to experiment with other languages, heightened level of risk taking and, in many ways, a safer learning environment (Rama et al, n.d). Player engagement regularly extends outside of the parameters of the WoW world of Azeroth, with physical-world avatar meet-ups and dating, personal blogs and social media pages dedicated to one’s avatar, and wikis and forums.

There has been ongoing debate, however, as to whether or not these interactions between fabricated avatars, both within Azeroth and in the physical realm, constitute genuine intercultural interaction. And with players clocking up an average of 23 hours per week engaged in the game, it is regularly thought of as antisocial and damagingly addictive. Also, with ongoing membership fees, many MMOGs have been considered elitist and exclusionary, perhaps mitigating the transversion of cultures such immersive games have been heralded as facilitating.

References

Casmir, F 1999, Foundations for the Study of Intercultural Communication based on a Third-Culture Model, Intercultural Relations, Vol. 23, No. 1, pp. 91-116.

Cheong, P & Gray, K, 2011, ‘Mediated Intercultural Dialectics: Identity Perceptions and Performances in Virtual Worlds’, Journal of International and Intercultural Communication.

Holmes, S n.d., Intercultural Communication and Dialogue Process: An Attempt at Clarification and Synthesis, International Society for Diversity Management, viewed 31 October 2016, http://www.idm-diversity.org/deu/infothek_holmes_dialogue.html

Mihaila, R 2010, Intercultural communication through online gaming, Inter-Disciplinary.net, viewed 31 October 2016, http://www.inter-disciplinary.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/rmihailapaper.pdf

Rama, P, Black, R, Es, E, Warschauer, M, n.d, Affordances for a Second Language Learning in World of Warcraft, University of California, Irvine

Eurovision Conquest

Cultural Diplomacy, Soft Power and Australia’s involvement in the European TV phenomenon

Wielding music as a soft power weapon, the gaudy glitz and glam of today’s Eurovision Song Contest has its origins in post World War II-era Europe. Offering a lighthearted opportunity for nations to compete without arms, the live television contest drew communities together to express their aggressive competitive spirits, while simultaneously projecting the strategic narratives and identities of each nation-state to a domestic and global audience (Burchell, 2015).

With the ever-expanding global media ecology and increased human mobility, Eurovision has become an annual worldwide spectacle, in the same vein as mega sporting events like the Olympics and FIFA World Cup, appealing to Europe’s widespread diasporas along with new, cosmopolitan audiences. With Australia’s expansive European population and its burning desire to be heralded in the image of a cosmopolitan ‘world in one country’, it’s little surprise that the land down under caught onto this bizarre televised battle with gusto, going on to controversially join the ranks of competitors in 2015.

In 2016, Australia came second to a boldly political performance by Ukraine’s Jamala, who sung of Stalin and the Soviet Union’s annexation of Crimea during World War II. Jamala’s performance came in the wake of Russia’s military incursion of the Ukraine in 2014, brazenly putting the Ukraine back on the map, while highlighting how the country has been defined by a history of oppression (Smagliy, 2016). With Eurovision’s unparalleled prestige in Russia, Ukraine’s win drove home a strong message of overwhelming solidarity against the Kremlin’s political maneuvers; its conquest epitomising how cultural diplomacy can trump other forms of diplomatic negotiations. Such a unique form of soft power is rarely, if ever, seen outside the strategically constructed spectacle of this kitsch broadcast.

Eurovision Song Contest, Final, Stockholm, Sweden - 14 May 2016

Ukraine’s Jamala took out first place in the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest

As Professor of Journalism Kensie Burchell states, the mediatised narratives told across the Eurovision stage tell a story of the kind of world order each country inhabits, and one about ‘the values, interests and forms of political organization that bind or divide the community of nations’ (2015). Eurovision, much like the Olympic games, ‘celebrates diversity and fosters international engagement’ while simultaneously advancing diplomatic objectives (Burchell, 2015).

Do Australian stories belong within such a multilateral, yet competitive and closely interconnected -geographically and politically – community of nations? The country’s involvement in the war that was the catalyst for the formulation of the program, not to mention its colonial roots, could provide a solid historical basis for its entry into Eurovision, but its inclusion is perhaps more strategic. As the proverbial global ‘melting pot’ and with its booming economy, Australia has a complex and advantageous foothold within the global arena with which it can largely craft global perception (Strong et al, 2015). And if the past two performers are anything to go by: Sri Lankan-Portuguese-Australian, Guy Sebastian, and South Korean-Australian Dami Im; Australia’s narrative is one that celebrates complex diversity, migration and multiculturalism, and that definitely can’t be a bad thing.

References

Burchell, K 2015, ‘Soft power and its audiences: Tweeting the Olympics from London 2012 to Sochi 2014’, Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies, vol.12, Is.1, http://www.participations.org/Volume%2012/Issue%201/27.pdf

Smagliy, K 2016, ‘Jamala’s Triumph at Eurovision Reminds Ukraine to Take Cultural Diplomacy Seriously’, Atlantic Council, viewed 18 October 2016, http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/jamala-s-triumph-at-eurovision-reminds-ukraine-to-take-cultural-diplomacy-seriously

Strong, C, Wellings, B, Sumartojo, S, 2015 ‘Australia is in the Eurovision – please adjust your maps’, The Conversation, viewed 18 October 2016, https://theconversation.com/australia-is-in-the-eurovision-please-adjust-your-maps-37464

 

 

‘You had to be there…’

 The western phenomenon of office-comedy

The original British The Office is a cringe comedy of cult status, thanks to the terrifically awkward smarminess of David Brent. Translated on America’s shores, Michael Scott is an almost loveable larrikin (almost), questionably leading a ragtag crew through nine seasons with varying degrees of ratings success. Export that particular brand of office-comedy to Germany and the protagonist is a crafty blend of all of the above, with an additional twinge of neuroses. Stromberg lasts five seasons and is adapted into a film. Trek across the border to France and Le Bureau’s cynical 50-something boss, Gilles Triquet – based more lucidly on David Brent – is broadly welcomed for one brief season.

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1.) Britain’s David Brent; 2.) U.S’s Michael Scott; 3.) Germany’s Bernd Stromberg

This constant reinventing of the wheel, galvanised by the collaborative genius of Steve Merchant and Ricky Gervais back in 2001, reveals how television formats can be successfully exchanged and adapted across transnational borders (Larkey, 2009). How an appropriated program is received internationally depends on how closely it resonates on a sociocultural level with the adoptive country, and this resonance in turn depends on the seemingly trivial idiosyncratic tweaks between each country’s production. Slight alterations reveal a lot about the cultural dynamics of each nation, as do the similarities. In the case of The Office’s unprecedented proliferation in the Global North, the wide-ranging acquisition of its base formula reveals one defining similarity: these countries really enjoy poking fun at the ridiculous charade that is government and corporate bureaucracy.

 

Laughing at overtly sexist, duplicitous patriarchal bosses like Brent, Scott and Stromberg seems a ubiquitous phenomenon, as is scoffing at outdated modes of Fordist capitalism – perhaps even catering to a universal need to deride archaism – within what Anne Cooper Chen calls the Western ‘cultural continent’ (Larkey, 2009, Cooper-Chen, 2006). Cooper-Chen identifies four of these cultural continents: Western, East Asian, Latin, and Equatorial. Each ‘continent’ measured through the value dimensions laid out by Geert Hofstede which include: power distance, individualism/collectivism and masculine/feminine. Not surprisingly, the Global North broadly exhibits a decentralized workplace hierarchy, in which middle management and the unnecessary exertion of power is generally detested (geert-hofstede.com, 2016), explaining the west’s fondness for sitcoms centered on employee life.

We can timeline this trend’s germination from the 1970s and 80s with the success – both domestically and internationally – of British political comedies like Yes Minister and Rumpole of the Bailey, through to the satirical genius of Australia’s Rob Sitch seen in the groundbreaking series’ Frontline, The Games and most recently, Utopia. Each of Sitch’s productions reveal tier-by-tier the comically abysmal paralysis of Australian media and government red-tape. And it’s downright hilarious. Sitch could be considered the early adopter of a mockumentary style that would go on to be the keystone of office-comedy, in which the forth wall is cunningly fractured through documentary-type interviews and hidden camera-style footage exposing duplicitous behaviours, deleterious to relationships within the office (Larkey, 2009). To add to the growing smorgasbord of this particular craft of comedy, America’s critically acclaimed Parks and Recreation took the baton and ran, with mid-level bureaucrat Leslie Knope and the town of Pawnee stealing the proverbial hearts of the west.

 

The success of global distribution and local adaptation of a television program depends on an almost serendipitous harmony of the dynamics of the show with the cultural values of the country, plus a generous dose of ‘right place, right time’ (Sigismondi, 2011). In terms of ‘The Office phenomena’, it was wondrously symbolic of the casting off of despotic corporate shackles and the death of industry within the digital age.

 References

Cooper-Chen, A 2006, Global Entertainment Media: Content, Audiences, Issues, Routledge

Hofstede, G, 2016 Germany, viewed 10 October, 2016  https://geert-hofstede.com/germany.html

Moran, A 2009, TV Formats Worldwide: Localizing Global Programs (1), Intellect, Bristol, GB. Available from: ProQuest ebrary. [8 October 2016].

Sigismondi, P 2011, The Digital Glocalization of Entertainment: New Paradigms in the 21st Century Global Mediascape, p.60, Springer, New York

Broadcasting after crisis

The Sustainability of Radio Okapi (Case Study 2)

In its 16 years of operation, UN radio network Radio Okapi has become a cornerstone of the media landscape of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). With its full time staff, 24-hour broadcasting schedule and the community reliance on the station as an integral, non-partisan information source, the question is: what happens if the UN leaves?

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Despite its significant infrastructure – the maintenance of which costs $10 million per annum – little strategic planning has been done to ensure the ongoing sustainability of Radio Okapi. ‘Once the immediate conflict is over, it becomes harder to secure the money to continue operations’ writes Africa Renewal’s Mary Kimani. ‘For such stations to succeed after [UN] oversight ends, there must be a regulatory system to keep them independent and mechanisms for funding and training’ (2007). Left with only limited local funding, the likelihood of experienced journalists and producers staying on with the broadcaster is slim.

The UN’s MONUSCO peacekeeping mandate is now forecast to conclude in March 2017, with the director of the network, Amandu Ba, stressing the UN’s expressed determination to help continue the project following their exist (MONUSCO, 2016, Ba, 2016). Yet the current lack of an administrative or regulative body to oversee a Radio Okapi handover in the instance of the UNs departure presents an obvious threat to an independent free press. This is where allegiances with smaller NGOs such as Hirondelle Fondation come in to play (eds Hoffman, Hawkins 2015, p. 174). Radio Okapi’s ‘outsourcing’ to the Swiss NGO means that unlike other UN radio programs which are directly operated by the missions, the station operates under Hirondelle Fondation’s policies and this may be factored into the MONUSCO exit strategy.

The NGO’s policies reflect closely those of the UN’s and are centred on the belief that objective, impartial information can alter prejudicial views in areas of crisis, yet as touched on in the previous post, this statement is dubious (Jacob, 2016). With the global proliferation of newer communication technologies, little study has taken place into the affects of radio usage on its listeners, and the approach to information dissemination via Radio Okapi appear ambivalent.

References

Ba, A 2016, ‘How a DRC station encouraged people to lay down arms and start conversations’, interviewed by Caro Rolando for African Freedom of Expression Exchange, 20 June.

Hoffman, J & Hawkins, V 2015, Communication and Peace: Mapping an Emerging field, Routledge, London.

Jacob, U 2016, ‘Target Gutahuka: The UN’s Strategic OnformationIntervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo’. Cogitatio: Media and Communication, Vol. 4, Is. 2 pp104-119.

Kimani, M 2007, ‘Broadcasting peace: radio a tool for recovery’, African Renewal, viewed 23 August 2016, http://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/october-2007/broadcasting-peace-radio-tool-recovery

MONUSCO 2016, Timeline, MONUSCO, viewed 23 August 2016, http://monusco.unmissions.org/en/timeline

Peace radio

DRC’s Radio Okapi (Case Study)

Despite the area remaining war-ravaged after over twenty years of deadly civil conflict, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is but a blip in the global media periphery. Close to six million lives have been lost in this sprawling, resource-abundant Central African nation, as neighbouring countries battle over control of its vast mineral wealth (Gettleman, 2012).

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Since the 1990s, DRC has been home to one of the UN’s largest and most expensive peacekeeping operations, MONUSCO[1], and in 2002 – in partnership with independent Swiss media service Hirondelle Fondation – the UN radio station Radio Okapi was launched to accompany the peace process (MONUSCO, 2016).

With its rich oral tradition and highly collectivistic culture, hand-in-hand with low literacy rates and poor infrastructure, radio has thrived as the communication medium of choice in the DRC (Betz, 2004, Jacob, 2015). Subsequently, radio has proven to be a powerful diplomatic tool, used strategically  by governments and NGOs to reach thousands of citizens (Betz, 2004). Radio Okapi is integral to the UN’s information intervention strategy and is pivoted on an outspoken commitment to plurality and strict anti-discrimination sentiment (Radio Okapi, 2014). Historically, radio in the DRC has been utilised to disseminate propaganda, particularly by Rwandan militant groups instigating violence, recruiting the disenfranchised and perpetuating war (Betz, 2004). In contrast, Radio Okapi sees itself as changing the role of radio in the DRC to one of reconciliation and peace-building (Radio Okapi, 2014).

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Radio Okapi – the only network in the DRC with nation-wide reach across both government and rebel-held territory (Freedom House, 2015) – broadcasts in five major languages and offers a wide range of programs, from entertainment to current affairs. Yet, despite its altruistic intentions as an agent for positive change in the DRC, and the wide-ranging global support for its ongoing operation, Radio Okapi has faced both international and local backlash. On the global stage, it has been criticised as a medium with unmeasurable levels of success in the peace-building process and therefore may not warrant the yearly budget of over US$10 million in maintenance costs (a budget which far outweighs that of its counterparts, such as UNOCI FM[2]) (eds Hoffman, Hawkins, 2015, p. 173). It has also been suggested that the intentions of the network oversimplify and homogenise the complex ‘epistemic narratives’ of the Congolese people (Jacobs, 2014), which may in turn deepen longstanding cultural rifts.

Coinciding with these allegations, on the domestic front the backlash has been far more vitriolic. Two Radio Okapi journalists were murdered between 2007 and 2008, and reporters are continually threatened and assaulted due to the sensitive; often viewed as ‘impudent’ nature of their investigations despite the broadcaster’s impartial standing (Reporters Without Borders, 2016).

Contrary to the fallout, Radio Okapi is fundamentally a successful grassroots intervention, offering hope and empowerment to the Congolese people. Instead of attempts to introduce new forms of technology in a bid to revolutionise media communication in the DRC, the UN’s MONASCO and Radio Okapi have worked with pre-established, sound and stable technologies in a country that is anything but.

(Read about the DRC’s controversial mining industry in my blog ‘Loi Obama’ and the Blood Mineral)

References

À propos 2014, Radio Okapi, viewed 10 August 2016, http://www.radiookapi.net/page/propos

Betz, M 2004, ‘Radio as Peacebuilder: a Case Study of Radio Okapi in the Democratic Republic of Congo’, The Great Lakes Research Journal, vol. 1, pp. 38-50.

Bukavu, murder city: investigation report into murders of journalists in the capital of Sud-Kivu 2009, Reporters without Borders, viewed 10 August, https://rsf.org/en/reports/bukavu-murder-city-investigation-report-murders-journalists-capital-sud-kivu

Congo, Democratic Republic of (Kinshasa) 2015, Freedom House, viewed 10 August 2016, https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/2015/congo-democratic-republic-kinshasa

Gettleman, J 2012, ‘The World’s Worst War’, The New York Times, 15 December, viewed 10 August 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/16/sunday-review/congos-never-ending-war.html?_r=0

Hoffman, J & Hawkins, V 2015, Communication and Peace: Mapping an emerging field, Routledge, London.

Jacob, U 2014, ‘Transforming Conflict with Information: Impacts of UN Peace Radio Programmes in the Democratic Republic of Congo’, War and Society, vol. 33, no. 4, pp. 283-301.

Jacob, U 2016, ‘Target Gutahuka: The UN’s Strategic Information Intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo’ Media and Communication, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 104-119.

Radio Okapi 2016, MONUSCO – United Nations Peacekeeping, viewed 10 August 2016, http://monusco.unmissions.org/en/radio-okapi

 

[1] Mission de l’Organisation des Nations unies pour la stabilisation en République démocratique du Congo, also known as United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

[2] With ‘The Frequency of Peace’ as its slogan, UNOCI FM operated as a pirate radio station until it gained UN backing.

Blurred World Vision

Poverty Porn and Pantomime

 

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What is poverty porn?

 

Pornography: noun printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate sexual excitement (Oxford Dictionaries).

Poverty Porn: noun printed or visual material which ‘exploits the poor’s condition in order to generate the necessary sympathy for selling newspapers or increasing charitable donations or support for a given cause’ (Collin, 2009).

We’ve all seen the television advertisements. Somber music plays over a slow-panning montage of starving children, bellies bloated from malnutrition, flies swarming around their vacant eyes. Filthy and living in squalor, the threat of war and disease permeates the very air around them. They are in desperate need of salvation. To look away or change the channel is to turn your back on their plight. Who are you, sitting in the comfort of your lounge room, to ignore the misfortune of these children, with whom, in just thirty seconds, you have become intimately connected? YOU can save them. Call now.

This strategy used to garner viewer support and sympathy is often employed, and successfully so, by charity organisations such as World Vision and Save the Children, and is increasingly referred to as poverty porn. Often considered exploitative and misrepresentative despite seeming altruistic on the surface, these tactics portray a very skewed view of poverty-ravaged countries, predominantly African nations, and are deemed detrimental to ongoing, meaningful aid and development. As photographer Chester Higgins Jr told CNN, the imagery used in such campaigns lack ‘decency, dignity, virtuous character [and] it shows the subjects’ most vulnerable moment’, often without the consent of those pictured (Dortonne, 2015).

Why is poverty porn dangerous?

The dichotomy between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’– predominantly Western versus Eastern civilisations – utilised within the marketing strategies of such campaigns is hierarchical; a type of philanthropic hegemony that implies that ‘they’ are incapable of helping themselves and ‘we’ must step in. As Matt Collin writes for Aid Thoughts regarding the long-term effects of such tactics, poverty porn ‘removes all respect for their own agency and cultivates a culture of paternalism which is damaging to the development process’ (2009).

At the same time, poverty porn often detracts from the impact of wealth inequality in our own towns and countries. Instead, reality TV programs in Western countries such as Australia’s Struggle Street, the UK’s People Like Us and America’s The Briefcase (seen below) turn poverty porn into poverty pantomime, in which low socio economic areas become the brunt of a middleclass in joke.

Poverty porn trivialises the overarching issue of global inequalities and economic imbalances by shifting the onus onto the individual: you. The focus then becomes less about the concern itself and more about how you react to it. The strategy behind sponsorship programs such as World Vision’s has been proven to be more successful at garnering support than most other charity drives, as it fosters a sense of tangible responsibility (Westhead, 2013).

References

Colling, M. 2009 ‘What is ‘poverty porn’ and why does it matter for development?’ Aid thoughts http://aidthoughts.org/?p=69

Dortonne, N. 2015 ‘The danger of poverty porn’, CNN, http://edition.cnn.com/2015/12/24/living/poverty-porn-danger-feat/

Weasthead, R. 2013 ‘Needy children: Poverty porn or just effective fundraising?’ The Star, http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2013/03/28/needy_children_poverty_porn_or_just_effective_fundraising.html

 

Know Thyself

Self-quantification and the sousveillance generation

Back in the mid 1800s, esteemed author and transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau made a pretty astute diagnosis. He said ‘men have become the tools of their tools’, and he was referring to the way in which society’s increasing reliance on apparatuses has made us virtually unable to function without them. We have become slaves to the tools we wield.

Fast forward a hundred-odd years and Thoreau’s wise words don’t just apply to the agriculture and industry that was booming at that time. Now, it encompasses man’s increasing preoccupation with personal technological devices, wearable gadgets and the plethora of ‘apps’ all designed and marketed around improving our lives by providing quantitative data about our health, performance and efficiency; tools to assist us in that age-old quest to know who we really are. As founding member of the Quantified Self Movement Gary Wolf proclaims, self-quantification provides ‘self-knowledge through numbers’.

Today, we can count the amount of steps we take,

the quantity of calories we ingest;

the quality of our sleep, our exercise regime, our mediation sessions, even our sex lives and fertility;

how much we weigh,

our level of contentment,

where we are in relation to where we were this time yesterday,

and even the size of our sphere of online influence.

If it’s measurable, there’s a tool for it and apparently you need it.

Fitbit Force, Jawbone Up,  Fitbug Orb, Nike FuelBand SE

And if it’s worth measuring, it’s worth sharing, right? Now you can synch your Fitbit to you Facebook, you Tracker to your Twitter and your InMap to your Linkedin, so everyone can see how much more lazy and unsuccessful they are compared to you. And if you’re concerned that this level of over-sharing might be verging on narcissistic, why not see where you measure up on the NPI40? Yep, you can even quantify how much you love yourself.

Yet as insightful as this intimate personal data may seem, we have functioned quite well for centuries unaware of it. We’ve lost weight without counting macros (‘and what, pray tell, is a macro?’ Thoreau wails from the grave), we’ve slept, clueless to our duration of REM sleep, and it wasn’t the end of the world (as we know it…)! And we’ve slogged it out on the treadmill heedless to the exact amount kilometres we were away from our heart imploding.

As it turns out, us tech-savvy humans just really like measuring things.

‘Being able to measure something gives us the sense that we can control it’ writes Jill Walker Rettberg (2014). Hard facts and figures provide the illusion of objective truth; of indisputable fact. We feel as though we can honestly know ourselves, where qualitative feedback has let us down in the past. ‘Dear Diary’ and ‘To Do’ lists just don’t cut it these days.

There’s no denying: eliciting positive change within yourself isn’t always easy. Shedding kilos, exercising more, getting through your reading list, sleeping better and becoming a more proficient meditator all take dedication and focus. And sousveillance, or self surveillance, through wearable technologies has been proven to assist in health improvement. Yet as we become more reliant upon these often expensive tools to be better people, the crapper we often operate without them. Just ask anyone who’s lost their fitbit. If you can’t track it, exercise and other healthy behaviours lose their relevance. Which begs the question: are these ‘aids’ really a help, or a longterm hindrance?

References

Jill Walker Rettberg (2014) Quantified Selves, in’Seeing Ourselves Through Technology: How We Use Selfies, Blogs and Wearable Devices to See and Shape Ourselves’ p.62, Palgrave Macmillan

Filter – Mother E (Single Review)

This is what insanity sounds like

‘…one minute it leaves you teetering on the edge of enveloping silence, the next pushing you head first into an abyss of galumphing, primal, electronic throbs. Melancholic breakdowns collide with afflicted screams for ‘Mother!’ To paraphrase Patrick: this is what insanity sounds like.’

Read my full review on the Amnplify website by clicking HERE!

Check out Filter’s new single Mother E

 

Selling Oz

The representation of Australian through film

During the Australian film ‘renaissance’ of the 1970s and 80s, quite a distinctive national identity was cast. Generally, the ‘Australian’ was portrayed as a hardnosed, ocker ‘larrikin’-type (Crocodile Dundee, Barrie Mckenzie, Mad Max) and ‘Australia’ – when it wasn’t set in suburbia – was an unforgiving, ethereal, often Mars-like landscape (Picnic at Hanging Rock, Mad Max). And it was these harsh, yet mythical environs that inevitably informed the narrative of their inhabitants (Brabazon, 2001). These overtly stylized characterisations of our Great Southern Land spoke volumes about the desperation at the time to identify ourselves apart from and within the international film arena. And for a large part, they worked wonders for putting us on the map.

But what kind of impact did this international attention garner? And is any attention good attention?

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With advancing globalisation, somewhat surprisingly, has come the overwhelming desire to fit in. As the world shrinks, so do the cultural idiosyncrasies, whether positive, or accurate or not, that stood ‘us’ apart; the quest to be seen as comparable to the status quo; the ‘normality’ dictated by Hollywood, has altered our approach to film. We have grown self conscious of our perceived ‘Australianness’ and we’ve fought to shun it in order to be taken more seriously. The desperation for a sense of cultural identity fifty years ago that spurred the creation of Mick Dundee and Max Rockatansky has changed to desperation to reimagine Australianness as something more multifaceted, introspective and compatible with the mainstream (The Babadook and Animal Kingdom are two recent examples in which ‘Australianness’ was not an accentuated theme per se, but came secondary to the narrative).

On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve embraced the ‘true blue’ Australian caricature with gusto and done what we do best: taken the piss out of ourselves. With television series such as Kath and Kim, Russell Coight, Pizza, Upper Middle Bogan, and films such as Kenny and, of course The Castle to name a few, we’ve capitalised on the aforementioned larrikin imaginings.

Yet, despite this contrast of Aussie personification in film, one things has remained a relative constant: the incredible, unique aesthetic of the Australian backdrop. As director of Red Dog (2011), Kriv Stenders told The Australian ‘We see the Australian landscape articulated beautifully frequently in Australian film – well not always beautifully, but it is a feature of our films. We use our land as a cinematic device all the time’ (Bodey, 2011).

‘The distinct colours of the region burst from the screen and the rising shards of red rock look as otherworldly as the planet Krypton’ Michael Bodey talking about the location for the filming of Red Dog (2011).

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More than the dynamic characters that shape shift upon its surface in Australian film it’s the ‘space’ that is the most revealing dimension of any culture (Bodey, 2011). You can put a terrifying serial killer who preys on unsuspecting travellers smack dab in the middle of the Australian outback and its otherworldly beauty will still make that film draw card for tourists (as did horror film Wolf Creek when it was released in 2005 and continues to do so).

We need to relinquish some of the control that is dictated by how we’re perceived, or want to be perceived internationally and allow the narratives to evolve naturally, utilising this unique typography as best we can. Because no attention – good or bad – can deter from its spectacle.

References

Brabazon, T. 2001, ‘A Pig in Space? Babe and the problem of Landscape’ AS
Volume 14.1-2, Series 1

Bodey, M. 2011 ‘Red centre of attention’ The Australian http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/red-centre-of-attention/story-e6frg8n6-1226102201333

O’Donnell, V. 2012, ‘Strewth! How Aussie does Australian cinema need to be?’ The Conversation http://theconversation.com/strewth-how-aussie-does-australian-cinema-need-to-be-5232