Smarter Than The Average Bear

With the exception some microorganisms, it’s probably safe to say that humankind has conquered the animal kingdom.  However, in this position of power we have projected our own behavioural and emotional qualities onto the other animals we share this planet with.  We have humanised and personified them, and this perhaps a way to better understand the world around us.

This is something that we experience early.  Whether it is the story of the Garden of Eden where the serpent convinces Eve to eat the forbidden fruit.  A bear tricking tourists out of their picnic baskets.  Or even a cricket acting as the voice of reason for a ‘real boy’.  Our anthropomorphising shapes how we perceive the world from a young age.  However, I would like to suggest that this humanising may be doing more harm than good.

Throughout film, television and literature we have portrayed lions and tigers and bears as creature that share our complex emotions and abstract thinking, but we have no knowledge of them sharing these traits in real life.  So is this creating a dangerous misrepresentation of reality of children growing up with these depictions?

Patricia Ganea, a psychologist at Toronto University, conducted a series of experiments in which children three to five years old were given information about animals in both a factual way, and in an over-the-top anthropomorphised way.  The findings suggested that the children were less likely to keep in mind the factual information about the animals when shown that the animals live life just like humans.

She said that while this is good for developing a sense of empathy with animals that may be mistreated, there is a downside.  This anthropomorphising may lead to an incorrect understanding of natural biological processes.  She also said that, “it can also lead to inappropriate behaviours towards wild animals through a misunderstanding of their actions or intentions.

We must consider that while our human tendencies are familiar to us, many animals display lots of (what we would consider) ‘human-like’ behaviour.  Chimpanzees have shown the ability to plan through situations… and hold grudges.  Wolves live is tight family groups.  And as the saying goes, elephants never forget and have been shown to suffer from grief and PTSD.

Now I’ll be honest, while I can definitely understand this viewpoint that some hold that anthropomorphising animals can be harmful to a child’s development as they learn about the danger of the world that surrounds them.  I myself can’t recall ever truly thinking that bears exclusively eat from a honey pot, or that sharks could be vegetarian and live by the mantra that “Fish are friends, not food.”  However, I do know that I learnt a lot about my own species through empathising with the animal characters of my childhood.

Selfie Schmelfie

Ahhh the humble selfie, for some it may just be a throw away image but for others it can build an empire.  Behind every selfie there is a purpose, whether that showing the world how much you’re feeling your winged eyeliner today, or to display a product that you are totally not getting paid to promote.

I do suppose that I should begin by explaining to the uninitiated exactly what a selfie is (although if you are able to read this blog post it means that you’re on the internet, and if you’re on the internet it is an almost certainty that you have seen a selfie).  A selfie is a photograph that you have taken of yourself, a self-portrait for lack of a better term.

The selfie has become somewhat of an icon of the current media age, with approximately 17 million self-snaps being uploaded each day.  But… why?  What is it about the selfie that has social media users constantly uploading them?

I can understand uploading a shot of yourself after something has changed, or there is a new aspect of yourself to reflect on (be it a haircut or new make-up technique).  But it’s the people who always upload the same type of selfie that have me confused.  I catch myself thinking, “Come on man, we know what you look like already… for the 20th time this week.”  And I guess it is here that the negative stigma attached to selfie culture is born.  The belief that selfies = narcissism is one that I would say is held by many, and it’s easy to see why.

Type selfie into google, or read some of the other blog posts from the BCM310 subject who are speaking about this topic and you’ll find that one name reigns supreme.  Kim Kardashian(-West).  The queen of social media, and general self-promotion.  Only to be rivalled by her sisters.  She even released a book titled ‘Selfish’.  But why does Kimmy K consistently post her self-portraits?  Power.  Social media relevancy and influence equate to great power, and our constant viewing of her face means that she always has our attention.

People take great care in their selfies.  I have no doubt that many hours of hard work and dedication are put into werkin’ that front-facing camera. They are edited, sent to friends for approval, uploaded, taken down if the likes per hour number isn’t quite high enough, uploaded later, hash-tagged, shared, and bitched about.  But everyone seems to do it so why all the stigmatism?

On a deeper and I guess more ‘meta’ level, we take selfies and edit them or frame them to promote a certain idea of who we are or how we want to be perceived.  We curate our own image, an image that may not always be as true to ourselves as it could be.  But when you think about it, we can never fully know how others view us.  We can look in a mirror, or see a photo.  But mirrors have imperfections, and cameras can’t match the resolution of our eyes.  We have never seen ourselves as others do.

Of course this post focuses on the selfie, but it speaks to the wider issue about how we portray ourselves and lives through the many different social mediums.  Do you project an image of grandeur, while flipping burgers at McDonald’s? Or do you #staytrue.

Phone-Shielding… Don’t Lie To Me, I Know You Do It Too


(via techgenie)

Close your eyes and imagine this scenario… or keep them open because you’ll have to read, it’s totally up to you.

  • You are walking around in the local shopping centre, or down the street, or around the university campus.
  • You look up and there they are.  It could be that person from high school you kind of sort of know but haven’t spoken to in a while.  Or that person that you went on a date with once or twice, and they were interested, but you just weren’t that into them.
  • You’ve seen them, but have they seen you?
  • Making eye-contact will mean an awkward conversation, talking about how they are and what they’ve been getting up to.  You did not prepare yourself for mindless small-talk today.
  • But how can you avoid this?
  • Turn back and walk the other way? No, no, no… not subtle at all.
  • Ahhhh, you could walk into that shop to your left….. hmmmm no, that’s a lingerie store, and what would they think if they did see you walk into there.
  • There’s not much time!  Think goddamnit! Think!
  • Eureka!  You have the answer.
  • You slip you hand into your pocket while saying a little prayer to your lord and saviour Steve Jobs.
  • There it is.  That little block of aluminium and glass.
  • You swipe to unlock, and open up messages.
  • A fake laugh just to show really interesting your life is while looking at your phone.
  • You’re ever-so-slightly looking up through your eyebrows to see how close you are.
  • You both pass each other.
  • Crisis averted.
  • But as you do, you see that they had their phone out as well.
  • They were probably doing the same thing as you.


(via 123rf)

Now for some of you, this may not be a very familiar experience.  But for others, I can guarantee it is.  What I’m talking about is the phenomenon I’d like to call ‘Phone-Shielding’.

I guess it would not be wrong to say that we see these devices as very much an extension of ourselves.  With these tools we are connected to the people who mean the most at all times  But on a much grander scale, we have the entire world at our finger tips.  While this wonderful instrument of socialisation and knowledge is in the palm of our hand, are we forgetting how to act when face-to-face?  I think this is a genuine concern for people of my generation and younger.  The ones who have grown up with a device in their hand.

So let us look a little more closely at this concept of ‘phone-shielding’.  If you were to ask around, I doubt you would find many people who would openly tell you that they use their phone to avoid interactions.  I can imagine very few adults would own up to the act, but for people my age there would be considerably more who have lots to say.  I for one, am happy to own up to this terrible habit.  Yes, I’m calling it a terrible habit.  I’m actively contributing to the loss of ‘real-life’ social interacting skills… I’m a hypocrite.

However, it’s not something that I only see myself taking part in.  When at work, it’s easy to observe many different people also using this avoidance technique.  The worst culprit of them all is the retail centre’s security guard.  If I’m walking anywhere near him, out comes his phone and he misses a wonderful opportunity to exchange a “What’s up”.  But it’s not just me that this happens to, my work colleagues experience the same anti-social behaviour.  We have ourselves a ‘serial-shielder’.  I went to ask for a comment on his phone usage to avoid interactions, but he pretended to get a phone call when he saw me coming.

Well, the wonderful people over at the Pew Research Center for Internet, Science & Tech conducted a survey in 2011 of Americans and found some interesting results.  They found that “13% of cell phone owners pretended to be using their phone in order to avoid interacting with the people around them.”  When you take a look at the sample of young adults (those between the ages of 18 and 29), that number rose to a whopping 30%.  We must take into consideration here that this survey was completed over 4 years ago, and I would say that it is pretty safe to assume that our phone usage worldwide has grown.  Another point to ad is that this was a survey amongst Americans, a culture to which we are very different.

More recently, the Pew Research Center released another survey about how Americans view mobile phone etiquette.  The ‘always on’ nature of mobile phone connectivity has brought about new challenges for users about when to be with those around them, and when it is okay to engage with those on their phones.  Etiquette is not something static, not a strict code of conduct, but something that changes to reflect the times.  We can see how these attitudes are changing thanks to these latest findings.  Around one-quarter (23%) of the cell phone owning respondents said that they occasionally use their phones to avoid interacting with others when in public spaces.  Only 6% were actually honest and said they do this frequently.

A fascinating trend that they did see in the data was that females under 50 were more likely than any other demographic to say they do this frequently with 12% as opposed to only 5% of men in the same age bracket.  In Dewey’s article on this survey she make the point that this could be because it is the demographic that receives the most unwanted attention when in public.


(via consultingbydegrees)

Unfortunately, this is where any studies and even articles on ‘phone-shielding’ stop.  There really isn’t much data available about it.  So, like any good collaborative ethnographer I took to the streets to get the real scoop on how we are behaving with our phones.  By “the streets” I really meant my wonderful girlfriend’s house, someone who fits very nicely into that ‘under 50’s female’ demographic that used their phones as avoidance tools more than any others.

When I asked her if she ever uses her phone to escape being sociable in public, her response was; “Literally always!”.

And I gave her the kind of scenario that you would hopefully have read at the start of this article, and asked if she had ever found herself in the same situation.  She spoke about situations like that happening with people from school, and that in a sense “you want to make your life inside the phone seem more important than what is happening around you.  Portraying that you are busy rather than having to say hi to people that you don’t particularly care about.”

We spoke more about how mobile phones and devices like them are or are not making society less social and she made the point that while “it’s not face to face sociality, my being on my phone still connects me to who I want to be connected to.  I know who I want to speak to, and if I can do that through my phone rather than making awkward conversation with someone else, then ill choose the phone.”

“It may make you appear to be anti-social in the ‘real world’.”  “But it makes you feel like you are having interactions with people that satisfy your need for social interaction.”

Speaking more on losing interpersonal social skills, she said that she never felt that she had the ability to just speak to a person on the street, so in having the phone she didn’t think there would be much difference in her behaviour.

She also made the point that “people who are out-going are probably going to be out-going no matter what… regardless of having a phone.”

The point also came up about the unwanted attention that young women receive when they are in public and how the phone is used in a barrier in “uncomfortable situations… like on a train at night or things like that, where I don’t want people to come up to me so I would rather be on my phone.”

In situations like that she said that she is “purposely anti-social (being on here phone), because I know that if I’m just sitting there I have more of a chance of people coming up to me and talking to me, and yes that may make me more anti-social, but having and using the phone is a comfort thing.”

My girlfriend is most definitely part of that phone-faking number that Pew was talking about.  So she really was the perfect interviewee for this topic.

As I said before, there really isn’t anything on this new use of mobile phones, especially from outside of the USA.  I’m not really sure why, because I think it’s a wonderfully interesting insight into how our culture and communications as a species are shifting.

But honestly, how did people avoid these unwanted social interactions before mobile phones?

References

Smith, A 2011, Americans and Their Cell Phones, Pew Research Center, viewed 30 October 2015, <http://www.pewinternet.org/2011/08/15/americans-and-their-cell-phones/&gt;

Rainie, L & Zickuhr, K 2015, Americans’ Views on Mobile Etiquette, Pew Research Center, viewed 30 October 2015, <http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/08/26/americans-views-on-mobile-etiquette/&gt;

Dewey, C 2015, When it is and isn’t okay to be on your smartphone: The conclusive guide, The Washington Post, viewed 30 October 2015, <https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2015/08/26/when-it-is-and-isnt-okay-to-be-on-your-smartphone-the-conclusive-guide/&gt;

INTERNET EVERYTHING!… or don’t because that’s ridiculous


(via Luigi de Bernardini)

Just about everything is being internet enabled nowadays.  With these so-called ‘smart’ devices are becoming more and more prevalent in the market.  But it’s not really objects that you would immediately consider as needing to be connected to the net.  Oh, no it is not, they’re things like fridges and bloody toothbrushes.  Call me old-fashioned, but I just don’t think that my life is in great need of a kettle that allows me to control the exact temperature of the water, or an egg carton that that will send me a notification when I’m running out of eggs.


(via Uncrate)

However, I do suppose it’s the inevitable next step in technology, as we edge ever closer to the future that Wall-e predicted for us.

There’s big part of me that just doesn’t want to see humanity fall to something like SkyNet.  Or to live in a house that is so damn ‘internetted’ that I’m subject to a rogue AI like HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey.


(via GiantFreakinRobot)

One of the real issues that I can see with internet expanding to more and more objects is the use of the information gathered.  What would these corporations be doing with the data that they collect from our devices?  Burrus also discusses this, “the real value that the Internet of Things creates is at the intersection of gathering data and leveraging it.”  And so you really have to wonder how this info will be leveraged.

But, what do you think?  Will we keep on connecting every device we can, no matter how silly, or when do we stop?

“But the lulz didn’t last.”


(via BBC)

So the last blog post focused on Anonymous and their efforts to bring freedom, justice and trust to the internet and the global community in general.  But of course there is a much darker side to hacktivism and the anonymous nature of cyberspace.  Various groups operate online with aims to commit cybercrimes, and one of the most well-known examples of one of these groups getting it wrong is LulzSec.  A group who conducted a 50 day rampage across the internet disrupting various sites like FOX and the CIA.

As Charles Arthur reported, LulzSec was founded and formed in the online chatrooms for the Anonymous collective.  David Gilbert also spoke about the members Topiary, TFlow, PwnSauce, Kayla, AVUnit and Sabu, spending nearly 20 hours a day in each other’s online company, while never actually meeting or know anything about their personal lives.

“But the lulz didn’t last.”

The group’s leader became an informant and snitched on 4 of his fellow members, with AVUnit never being caught.

Here’s a infographic I made detailing some of their exploits before they were arrested and jailed for their actions

Untitled Infographic

We are Anonymous; We are legion; We do not forgive, We don’t not forget; Expect us


(via MrConservative)

Hacktivism: Hacking and Activism

Some real next level word blending right there.

When you think of the term ‘hacktivist’, for me at least, there is one name that comes to mind; Anonymous.

If you’re unfamiliar with the movement and its efforts, then you may know them by their heavy use of Guy Fawkes’ image.  Guy Fawkes of the ‘Gunpowder plot’ fame, or more recently as the mask used in the film ‘V for Vendetta’.

Imagery aside, what do hacktivists actually do?  As Davis writes, hacktivism is “the use of computers and computer networks to promote political ends, chiefly free speech, human rights, and information ethics”

This is very much in line with the message the Anonymous collective promotes.  I say collective rather than group or organisation, because of their lack of centralisation. Anonymous is more of an idea perpetuated by what should be the free and open nature of the internet.  And this is where its power lies, in decentralised nodes united for the freedom of information and people.  Anyone can represent Anonymous.

Watching the video, you’re almost waiting for Dr. Evil to pop up and demand “One Million Dollars”.  But really, it speaks a lot about justice, truth and freedom, while still naming themselves a “terrorist organisation… for corporations” and “wicked infiltrators”.  This language kind of makes me wonder whether this hacktivism is good or bad.

Where do you guys sit on the Robin Hood-esque idea of ‘hacking the rich to give to the poor’ or just opening up information to the world?

We are Anonymous; We are legion; We do not forgive, We don’t not forget; Expect us.

Have a watch of this too if you’re after some more information.

Prosuming and Our New Participatory Media Culture

underwater-museum-mexico-inertia-man-watching-tv-obese-fast-food-junk-fat-lazy-couch-potato-statue-sculpture-art
(Sculpture & Photo by Jason deCaires Taylor)

This week we took a look at how journalism has been shaped and changed by the introduction of social media.  While ‘traditional’ media sources were seen as being monologic, we can now participate in a meaningful back and forth with those who are creating and disseminating news content through outlets like twitter and facebook.

Here’s a video I made explaining a little more about this shift in journalism.

How to Initiate a Revolution; A Tale of Tweets and Twits

I know that whenever I see someone on my Facebook feed try to spark public interest or involvement through sharing photos and other things, all I can think is “Oh my good God, you are such a tosser… no one cares!”

I guess part of my distaste for these ‘social media activists’ or ‘slacktivists’, is that in many cases it’s for personal gain.  More likes, more followers… mo problems?

“LIKE THIS PICTURE IF YOU WANT TO HELP THEM” or “PEOPLE ARE DYING IN THE MIDDLE EAST, LET’S GET THIS PHOTO TO 1 MILLION LIKES” or the ever great “SHARE IF YOU LOVE JESUS, KEEP SCROLLING IF YOU WORSHIP SATAN”

Really? You can’t be serious.

But I suppose that is the reality for these people when they live in places where war and human rights atrocities aren’t issues for them.

In my eyes, social media has become one of humanity’s greatest assets.  We are globally connected at every moment of the day.  With this interconnectedness on a grand scale, we have seen social media utilised for activism that has brought about real change.  Real-time conversations are being had by like-minded people across the globe.  Those who were once on the periphery of social change can join the conversation, and be heard.  We saw this with the #ArabSpring, and #OccupyWallStreet movements being spread and organised at incredible speed across Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

But I suppose the point I’m trying to make about this ‘social media activism’ is that it all means nothing without action.  It’s all very well for you to take interest, but without serious and substantial action, it does very little.

Meme via Me (http://imgur.com/xlcAW7v)

Open or Closed: The Choice is Yours


(via Tech Week Europe)

Haven’t I already made a post about this… anyway.

As you can imagine with using Apple (more specifically iOS) and Android systems as examples of open and closed sources, the debate often turns to which group thinks they’re the best.  As Ted mentioned in his lecture, this is such a great example because of the clarity and real world applications of these opposing ‘philosophies’.

Apple as you may already know operates its products in a closed system.  By closed we mean that there’s next to nothing that you can modify and tweak on their devices outside of this network.  This is unless you know how, of course.  But what it does mean is that Apple sees very high profit margins as they have no competition within their system.  For Apple the user experience for consumers is paramount, hence we see a lack of consumer driven innovation and flexibility.

However, Android devices operate in an open source system.  Users can experience near limitless customisability on their devices.  This open and free source model means that there are many Android compatible devices on the market, and at a variety of price points.  This large array also means that Android devices are subject to the ‘long-tail’, with some phones like Samsung’s S range being quite popular, while a large amount don’t experience such great sales.

In the end, the choice between platform types and functions is purely down to a user’s preferences.  What does a user want in their device/ product?  Uniformity and consistency across devices, or the freedom to make a device truly their own through flexible customisation.

I have always wondered whether our choice between the platforms says something more about our personalities, or who we are.  Are we just following trends we see within our own societies, or do our choices of these open/ closed sources carry deeper meanings.

Throwback: A Reflection on Media, Audience and Place

There is just something different about BCM subjects…

Completing a double degree with International Studies, I get to see a range of different students.  While INTS may still be in the same faculty, the way tutorial groups behave/ interact is still very different to those in BCM.  In BCM there’s an engagement with the content and with each other that I see on a whole other level.  And a part of me thinks this may be due to the blogging assignments.  Our interactions in the lectures and tutorials sparks discussions, not unlike other subjects, but this then leads to that weekly post where your discussions develop into something more.  Something that is publicly presented.

While writing for this blog, I have never done so with an audience in mind.  I tag the posts only with #BCM240, so unless someone is stumbling across that tag I would assume the only people seeing my posts would be those who are in this course.  Has this had an impact on how I write these posts?  Maybe.

I try to make my style of writing as conversational as possible, because although very academic and serious sounding pieces of writing can be wonderfully informative, I think they are boring as hell to read.  The kind of rule I tried to write by is ‘If I would hate reading it, other people would too’, and I don’t think I could rest easy knowing that I had subjected someone the something terribly boring. (Although, this could be/ probably is pretty boring to read, and I’ve just totally ruined everything :/ ).

While this approach may produce more engaging content for the weekly topics, I find that sometimes the disjointed nature with which I form ideas for my pieces is often visible in my published work (probably through my poor proof-reading).

Until this subject, I had never really invested a great deal of effort into the design and functionality of this blog.  I had seen it as a medium for which my assignments could be viewed and graded, and nothing more.  Having the blog itself as a marked component for this subject (for obvious reasons) I needed to change my outlook on the role it plays.  It has always been very easy to just writing something, press publish, and upload a link to Moodle on the due date (which I guess is exactly what this will be like…).  But I now have to look at this space as a place to engage readers, not just through the content I am producing, but through the overall experience that this site can offer someone who visits.
(I am still yet to settle on a format/ design that I feel satisfies my need to simplicity, while still being functional, but I sure I will find one soon.)

My favourite part of these blogging assessments is being able to read and engage with other people who in some cases are just as lost as I am.  The ability to view other people’s writings has definitely made me not only a better writer; both in my expression of ideas and the concepts that I explore, but has also made me more engaged in these topics.  The fact the there is a wide range of views being posted in the #BCM240 tag, has aided me in informing and crafting my own perspectives on the topics.

I think that our ability to praise or be critical of our peers work is wonderful tool, and makes the blogging experience so much more enriching than having to do the usual sending in a word document.

Engagement, engagement, engagement. In my eyes this has perhaps been the single greatest part of the BCM240 subject.  From both ends of the process, engagement is key.  You need to be engaged in the weekly topics, and this is something I have found incredibly easy to do.  Not only because the subjects that we are exploring are interesting, and very much applicable to our lives.  But also through the support in the tutorials both from other students and from a tutor who is totally invested in these topics herself (shout out to KB).

The other side of engagement comes from the very blogs that we are writing.  I would consider a successful blog post one that satisfies the reader, but leaves them wanting a little more *wink*.  So crafting something that will keep the reader engaged while still exploring the subjects effectively is of absolute importance.

While I have come to really enjoy this form of assessment, my greatest weakness/ the bane of my existence is my time management skills.  A regime of posting regularly at the start of the semester just fell apart as usual.  Unfortunately I think this may lend itself to more casual style that the blogging format affords.  As much as I tell myself it won’t happen in week 1, it is just inevitable.

So here’s to Audience, Media and Place, a subject that has made me explore and engage like no class before it.