A Gaijin’s Guide to Instant Noodles

When I was speaking about this the response from my friend Minh was a disappointed  “White man advises fellow white men on entry level supermarket snacks.”

So here it is.

 

 

Throughout my life there have been a few experiences where I’ve just thought, “Damn, I’m very white”.  Now that’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with that, there are some situations where you can feel a little out of place.  Preparing for this digital artefact was one of those times.

It was after work on a Monday night, the city was bustling; suits on their way home, others doing their shopping.  I was making my way downtown, walking fast, faces passed en route to Citi Super, the Asian grocers at Town Hall.  I go there often, so it’s not an unfamiliar place but that doesn’t stop it from being somewhat intimidating.  I didn’t grow up with much of the food there, and can’t speak any of the languages so my experience is probably very different to their average customer.  Now, this isn’t one of those little shops that cater to the Asiaphiles whose interest in eastern cuisine venture no farther than Pocky and matcha; no, this place is the real deal.

The instant noodle section takes pride of place near the fridges.  An entire isle dedicated to a food resembling early 2000’s Justin Timberlake is breathtaking.  The obvious language barrier is tough, so it’s not so much about what is written on the packets, but the funny cartoons or bright colours that catch my eye.  I’m standing there for what feels like forever.  Just staring blankly at the wall of noodles.  An older Chinese couple are watching me as I pick up packet after packet inspecting the flavour and country of origin.  I open google to aid in my investigation.  They giggle and keep walking.  I’m not in Kansas anymore.

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I make my selection, packets from all over the place.  Enough of a variety to gain a better understanding of each area’s different flavours.  At the counter, the attendant unpacks the basket.  She sees the assorted noodles and giggles.  “It’s for an assignment” I offer, hoping she would understand.  “Is there a brand you like that I should try?” She asks if I can handle chilli.

“Damn, I’m very white”

 

This, I feel is one of the key epiphanies from my experience with the topic of instant noodles.  The “Damn, I’m very white” phase is a rather crass way of conveying it, but I think it sort of works.  Not having grown up with any specific Asian influence, but the ‘western’ bastardisations popular dishes shaped my understanding of the region’s cuisine.  Now, I’ve been lucky enough to be exposed to more authentic food, which has definitely changed how I viewed and interacted with it.  But over that time there’s been one thing that has remained a constant, the instant noodle.  When I was younger I ate the heinous yellow Maggi noodles that part of many people’s childhood.  Then progressing to varieties more true to their origins.  There’s a familiarity between them, but they can be just so far removed from each other as well.

What has become one of the most interesting parts of my experience throughout this assignment is how instant noodles are utilised across the globe.  Necessity is the mother of invention, and they were born through post-war necessity.  But now, they serve a different purpose to different communities.  Prior to this, I would have considered instant noodles to be a snack food.  They’re cheap, not particularly nutritional, and sold in convenience stores.  To me they weren’t a meal.  Many in the west would share the same sentiment; they’re a student, a last resort.  But across Asia instant noodles are seen so differently, they’re almost revered.

Rachel Bartholomeusz wrote a great article for SBS in 2016, also highlighting the disparity between how instant noodles are perceived globally.  She detailed her time travelling across Asia, having to dodge the synonymous Styrofoam cups at every turn.  Bartholomeusz also spoke to Dan Hong, the executive chef of Merivale joints Ms. G’s and Mr Wong.  Hong made a point that I think really ties speaks to why there is this difference of opinion on the noodles.  He said, “In Asian culture, it’s like the sandwich.  We don’t have sandwiches, we have instant noodles.”  So while convenience may play a part in why they are now so popular it’s deeper than that, it goes back to their origins.  When the US gave Japan flour and said for them to make bread they said no we will make what we know, and the instant noodle was born.  I found Dan’s comment about noodles being Asia’s sandwich… profound?  At least it has helped me to understand where the (not) obsession, but respect for the instant noodle came from.

 

My video is an investigation into the many varieties of instant noodles that can be found across Asia and at home.  I think that understanding the different types of noodles is important in learning how they can be utilised.  One of the things that was most influential in my thoughts on this was what the noodles represent or replicate.  The Maggi noodles we see lining the selves of Woolworths and Coles are snack food because that’s how they are presented.  Instant noodles won’t be taken seriously in Australia until there is some sort of finesse with them.  The noodles I tried from across Asia hard a deeper level of everything to them.  They were ‘convenient’ takes on actual dishes, and I think that makes a massive difference to how cultures perceive them.

 

Fantastic Oriental                                                         
Maggi Chicken Noodles                                                
Indo Mie Mi Goreng                                                      ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
SuperMi Mi Goreng Traditional                                    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
MAMA Shrimp Creamy Tom Yum                                ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Nongshim SOON Veggie Ramyun                                ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Nongshim Mr. Bibim Stir-Fried Kimchi                        ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Nongshim Zha Wang Roasted Blackbean Sauce        ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Nissin Tonkotsu Flavor                                                   ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
SamYang Hot Chicken Flavor                                       🔥
SamYang Hot Chicken Flavor ‘2 x Spicy’                      🔥🔥

 

 

Bartholomeusz, R. (2016). Embrace the instant noodle. [online] SBS. Available at: http://www.sbs.com.au/food/article/2016/01/25/embrace-instant-noodle [Accessed 25 Oct. 2017].

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Deal or Noo-dle?

While this is something that is supposed to be about a new Asian experience, I have to admit that instant noodles are an old and familiar friend.  I wouldn’t say I’m an expert in the area by any stretch, but I have consumed a good few bowls in my day.  If the last post was supposed to be purely experience based – documenting epiphanies with the cultural product, than this post will hopefully provide some context.

In last week’s blog I wrote about my encounter with ‘Shin Ramyun’, the kind of gold standard for instant noodles in the Korean/ Japanese style (and the best for breakfast according to this post).  They were great!  Everything you would want in a quick and easy snack; affordability, accessibility, little preparation, and of course they are bloody tasty.

To better understand the phenomenon that is these little bricks of fried noodles it is important to understand their origins and the role they played in places like Japan in the post-war period.  While instant noodles have become an obvious staple in the diets of hungry and frugal (#broke) university students, you would be remiss in thinking that was their original purpose.  Rather, instant noodles have a proud history in helping prevent famine in Japan following WWII.  The post-war period saw a battered Japan face a horrific shortage of food.  To help combat this, the United States was kind enough to send over something but luckily this time is was in the form of flour and not atomic bombs.  The US encouraged the Japanese to make bread, but noodles had always been a more essential part of Japanese cuisine.  With this, inventor Momofuku Ando went about creating a ramen that would be longer lasting than traditional noodles.  It needed to tasty, non-perishable, and most importantly easy to replicate on a grand scale.  And he did it, instant noodles were a massive success with packets being sold in the 50’s and ‘Cup Noodle’ developed in the late 70’s.  This video by Big Great Story gives a nice visual to the journey.

 

With this week’s post I really wanted to look more closely into how instant noodles are consumed around the world.  In the west, there is the prevailing feeling that instant noodles are cheap, lazy, and the only time to eat them is when you’re stuck with no other choice.  Now this perception has changed slightly with influences from Asia becoming more and more apparent.  We have even seen instant noodle burger buns and various “ramen hacks” throughout social media, and with this a greater variety and acceptance.

 

Across Asia however, they don’t really hold the same college stigma.  Noodles are a staple in places like Japan and Korea, and are taken very seriously.  Japan boasts an estimated 50,000 ramen so you can expect they know what they want in the instant version.

Convenience stores can be found all across Japan with chains like 7-Eleven having nearly 20,000 locations.  It’s in these convenience stores that instant noodles are mostly bought and consumed.  Places like 7-Eleven are such an integral part of the instant noodles experience in Japan that one of only two Michelin Star ramen restaurants ‘Tsuta’s’ collaborated on an instant version of their much beloved product.  In places like Indonesia where the Mi Goreng style of a broth-less instant noodle is more popular I’ve heard that children eat them for breakfast.  Instant noodles are considered proper meals as opposed to the view of them being a ‘snack’ product in Australia.  So I think that has to make you wonder why there is this dissonance between the east and west about the role that instant noodles play.  I suspect that it is purely a thing of noodles being a staple carb in many of those cultures and only being introduced to the west much later (with the exception of pasta).

One curious thing I did find the other day is that in the aisle of my local Woolworths where they have what would be the familiar brands like Maggi, Suiman and Fantastic noodles there is also the “Asian” food section.  In this section they have the brands like Shin and Nissin, the original and most well-loved across Asia.  It just seems as though they should be showcased with the others for all to enjoy.

 

If you’re in Japan don’t forget to visit the Cup Noodle Museum in Osaka.

For more information abou the history of instant noodles take a look at the World Instant Noodles Association.

 

Moving forward with this assignment, I’m not quite sure how to tackle the Digital Artefact side of it.  I don’t think noodles will translate particularly well to a podcast or blog post type thing, so I guess video will be the best option.  I’m thinking a taste test or showcase type deal, but if anyone has an suggestions I would love to hear them.

Not Just For The Broke Uni Student Anymore

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I have to admit I did a good bit of flip-flopping around about my digital artefact.  At the beginning of the semester I thought I knew what I wanted to look at; the way that Japan more or less stole aspects of American culture to make it their own (Denim/ Workwear, Cuisine, Jazz… etc.).  It was a matter that I had looked into in previous subjects, but the more I considered the assignment at hand the more I knew I needed to move towards a different topic.

That brought me to the humble instant noodles.

Noodles… Asia… Great, how very original.  I get it, it doesn’t seem like a massive leap towards any real cultural experience or immersion, but I think in some ways that’s the point I’m trying to make.  A true Asian experience (at least culinary) doesn’t have to be this far reaching thing, but is readily available.

Finding a decent instant noodles isn’t a hard task.  Depending on what style you’re after (without or without broth etc.) and what region’s specific flavour profile you like, there are many choices available in your local supermarket.  I always find it surprising to see just how big my local Woolworths noodle selection is.  I live in an area that is VERY white, but this just shows how much of Asia has influenced Australia’s food culture.

It can be overwhelming, and I understand why many would select to buy the familiar bright yellow packet of ‘2-Minute Noodles’ that Maggi provides.  But if you can step out of your comfort zone and forget about the language barrier there are far superior products to be found.

For my experience with instant noodles this week I chose to keep it simple.  I picked up a packet of Shin Ramyun Red which is usual the first step for people venturing into the Korean/ Japanese style of instant noodles.  When speaking about this assignment with some friends from work they all recommended Shin as a good introductory instant noodle for those not familiar with them.

For this tasting I chose what the starting point is really for many, NongShim Shin Ramyun.  The South Korean noodles are available just about everywhere (UOW IGA even has them), and due to their mild flavour it’s easy to see why so many like them.

So what comes in the packet?  In the packet you’ll find a curiously circular brick of dried noodles and two flavour sachets; one containing some dried vegetables and the other being the MSG laced spice mix that makes it all so tasty.

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(via Serious Eats)

Cooking techniques for instant noodles vary widely between people.  Usually I just like to eat the noodles, drink the boiling water and snort the seasoning.  But today in the name of autoethnography I thought that I would read the packet and follow the instructions.  While lazy Conor would throw it all in a bowl, chuck it in the microwave and hope for the best, I used the stove top to make me feel like a real chef.

If you look for other pieces of writing about instant hacks you’ll find Buzzfeed listicle after Buzzfeed listicle about so called “ramen hacks” that’ll “blow your mind”.  But I am man of simple tastes, and instead of throwing in everything ingredient your typical ‘Ramen-ya’ would offer (various sliced meats, kimchi, mushrooms etc.) I opted for the humble soft boiled egg… well two.  I didn’t want to add anything that would detract from the original Shin Ramyun flavor flav *yeeeeeahh boyyyyyy*.

 

Now for the eating…

Shin has garnered quite the following worldwide.  Its beef and chilli base make for a delightful bowl of noodles. The broth is this creamy reddish-orangey colour and the strong chilli, garlic and ginger aroma hit you as it boils… and let me tell you, the scent travels.  It was so pungent that my sister came downstairs to see what the hell I was making at 9am on a Friday morning.

Using the cooking technique was a new experience for me.  Whenever I eat instant noodles it is usually due to time constraints or laziness (mostly the latter), so putting in the time for the broth to steep and really develop its flavours was something new.  I also usually eat Indonesian style noodles that are served with very minimal broth so the microwave is always the easiest way to prepare them.

Upon first mouthful it was the beefiness and saltiness of the broth that I tasted – the heat soon followed.  It wasn’t very spicy, but the heat was just right.  Hot enough to be enjoyable without overpowering the rest of the dish.

 

It’s hard not to compare these with their yellow packeted cousin.  The whole experience is something else completely.  Shin Ramyun isn’t just a meal to have when you’re poor or lazy but to use as the base for some genuinely good ramen that’s easily accessible.

It was hard to write this piece without doing any of what we are supposed to do next week, so I look forward to delving into the deep, dark world of the noodle.

 

*I accidentally left this sitting in my drafts for the last week instead of acutally uploading oops*

My Overview – Autoethnography

Digital Asia

When Chris first mentioned ‘autoethnography’ I was immediately taken back to subjects like SOC326 and BCM240 where I had first learnt about the concept and attempted to put it into practice.  The reading for this week was Ellis, Adams & Bochner’s 2011 ‘Autoethnography: An Overview, and it was quite the… overview.

Throughout university the idea of keeping one’s own thoughts separate from their work has been the norm.  Research the topic, present the facts.  That’s been the formula for academic study.  For areas like physics and engineering it works.  They’re number heavy and there is a right and a wrong, with little room for the interpretation and feeling of the writer.  But the social sciences are different, they’re nuanced, dealing with humanity and its many facets.  It’s qualitative rather than quantitative, and that’s why autoethnography has really flourished in this field.

As the name suggests, autoethnography is the attempt to…

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Ahhhhhhhh, It’s Gojira!!!!!

Image result for gojira

Last Thursday must have been one of the more interesting opening tutorials I’ve experienced.  It was nostalgic.  I can vividly remember seeing Hollywood productions of the same black and white era being played around midday every weekend.  Watching a monster film instead of the usual “Hi, I’m blah-blah-blah and I like blah-blah-blah” was definitely a nice change.  While I knew about the Kaiju genre of Japanese films, I had never properly sat down to watch an original.

From the outside, you could be forgiven for thinking that ‘Gojira’ is a movie without much substance.  People awaken monster, monster destroys stuff, people come together to destroy monster.  I had never given these films much thought either.  Perhaps that’s because so many of the Kaiju-esque films that Hollywood produces follow this same trope without much in the way of themes or worthwhile story.

But ‘Gojira’ needs to be viewed differently; understanding its context is important.  With ‘Gorjia’ releasing in 1954, it’s hard not to realise just how politically and culturally important the film is for Japan.  Godzilla represents nuclear holocaust, with his attacks being a reflection on the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.

Reflecting on my own context and media consumption experience, it has always been the “communists” or in more recent times those from Middle Eastern origins who have been portrayed as the antagonists in films we see in the west.  It must also be said that they are far less subtly villainised on the that the US was in ‘Gojira’.

My consumption of Japanese media is usually limited to food or fashion, so being able to view the important cultural roots of Japanese cinema was excellent.

‘Gorjia’ has really given birth to global genre, and one of the more interesting offshoots is that of North Korea’s 1985 film ‘Pulgasari’.  Why is it interesting?  Well that’s because Kim Jong-il had the man hailed as “South Korea’s Spielberg” kidnapped in 1978 to help make North Korea a film making powerhouse. Sufficed to say the plan didn’t work very well, but it made for a cult hit in the western world.

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

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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.