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.

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;

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.

It’s Who You Know, Not What You Know

download
(source)

Networking is very much one of the most important aspects of work in many industries.  It’s as much about who you know as what you know.  As mentioned in Bradwell & Reeves’ book ‘Network Citizens’, the way in which people interact within these networks can have a profound impact on the formal structures that may already be in place.  Networking is most definitely not a new concept or activity as we are inherently social people and have created networks for thousands of years.  But the rise of networking in recent times with the invention of microelectronics and social communication services like LinkedIn, has meant we have been developing networks more efficiently and on a much larger scale.

With these networks comes a shifting dynamic in the workplace.  They are often self-organised and informal, which can have a great effect on many aspects of the business such as team building and morale.  However, they may also have a tendency to exclude and isolate individuals and groups, leading to the undermining and clashing with traditional hierarchical structures.

Working in different environments and with many different people has shown me that networking is a wonderful tool as it can aid in growing relationships and bringing groups of people closer. Although, I do agree that it can be used for more sinister purposes such as the exclusion of others or mutiny (if you’re Marlon Brando).

As we become further invested in social media and the barrier between work and home life becomes even more blurred due to technology, I can see networking playing a larger and larger role in how we interact within business settings, as well as in outside contexts.

Conduct a Short Interview

Now I understand that the idea of these blogs it to get students to understand and engage with the content of the subject, but if I’m told I only have to submit 2 of the blog post… I’m only going to properly do 2 of the Blog posts because I feel as though the other 3 are completely redundant and a waste if they’re not being marked

Ja feel?

I’ll get to those 500 word counts tho

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Blog 4: Critique or Analyse a Text (2)

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Blog 2: Critique or Analyse a Text (1)

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Our World Interconnected

For many centuries, the way in which cultures have interacted has been largely restricted by their geography and in some instances, active resistance; like in the case of China and Japan.  As explained by Appadurai (p27, 1990) the main forces for any cultural interactions prior to the last century or so have been by means of warfare, or religious exploits (often involving warfare in some form).  Due to the limitations such as distance, technologies, any dealings between culturally and spatially separated had been sustained at great cost and with immense effort. 

Today, sustaining these international relationships can be as easy as the click of a button.  We live in what could be referred to as the ‘Golden Age of Globalisation’.  A time where issues that are affecting groups on one side of the globe can be witnessed in real-time by people in other time zones, continents and cultures.

Appaduri (p33, 1996), proposed a framework to explore the many dimensions of global cultural flows, they included; Ethnoscapes, Mediascapes, Technoscapes, Finacescapes, and Ideoscapes.  They are all interconnected and each play an important role in globalisation.  A perfected example of their interconnectedness is the way in which technoscapes and mediascapes work hand in hand.

Technoscapes refers to the ever fluid, global configuration of technology, and the way that it now moves (in both mechanical and informational forms), at high speeds across various kinds of once impervious boundaries (Appadurai, 1996).

The term Mediascapes was coined to describe the both the electronic capabilities to produce and disseminate information, be it through print, television, radio, or the internet, as well as the image of the world created by these forms of media (Appadurai, 1996).

Just last night, I was watching a live-stream of the riots and conflicts happening in Ferguson, Missouri.  The aftermath of the shooting of a young unarmed African-American male by a Police officer.  This is an issue concerning people I will never meet, yet here I was on the other side of the world, witnessing the violence and unrest.

But as Appadurai (p35, 1996) states, because my experience is not one that is directly involved with the issue, the lines between what is really happening in Ferguson, and what I am perceiving to be happening (having gathered information from multiple sources), may have become blurred due to the media bias and ideologies presented by some of the sources.

A really good quote by Appadurai (p38, 1996) to address this is, “For the ideas and images produced by mass media often are only partial guides to the goods and experiences that… populations transfer to one another”.

 

 

 

 

Appadurai, A (1996) ‘Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy’ Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 27-47

A Thoughtful Consideration

To be thoughtful about this “blogging” experience is to be critical I suppose.  This hasn’t been my first experience at blogging, but to be fair it is more of an image blog (shameless self-promotion).

But I’m not really sure if what we were doing could really be considered “blogging”, I feel it was more just a way to get us to write short essay type pieces without the burden of calling them essays. 

In saying that, it was interesting to investigate the different topics we had to cover.  From that violent little girl smacking the bouncy doll (media effects), to the fall of Miley Cyrus (children and the media) and everything in between, it has been an unusual 6 weeks in BCM110.

Prior to starting this subject I would have said I had a rather good understanding of the current media in general, but this experience of having to critically analyse different aspects has enriched my understanding even further.

Another part of this project that I really enjoyed was exploring media ownership both in Australia and globally.  I was well aware about the big players in the industry, but not so much about their reach or the extent in which they influence the media.

By far and away the greatest part of this whole WordPress experience has been reading other students posts and gaining a better understanding into others thoughts on the media and life in general.  There were certainly some very controversial comment threads on different posts, which coincidently relates to the topic for our 5th blog posts, the public sphere.

All in all, I don’t think this was the best experience at actual blogging, but the insight and information gained on the industry was truly worthwhile.

So here’s to the next 6 or so weeks!