Ethics are in the View-Finder of the Beholder

man on train taku

We are so preoccupied with whether or not we could, we didn’t stop to think if we should.  A somewhat bastardised version of Jeff Goldblum’s famous quote from Jurassic Park, but one that I think holds great meaning in the debate surrounding public photography.

I absolutely love street photography, seeing images of people captured while doing menial/ everyday tasks.  There is just something intriguing and weird about seeing strangers complete these activities (crossing the street, running for a bus, etc.).  But when you’re capturing people’s images should you let them know?  Ask beforehand, and you may ruin the authenticity of the shot, try and ask after and you may not get the chance.  Surely it must be an unrealistic expectation.

man on stairs taku

As we have evolved from using big bulky cameras to smartphones, the way we approach photography has also evolved.  It’s safe to say that everyone now holds the power to take a photo, and regardless of skill anyone can now be a photographer.  But because the ability to photograph is now so widely accessible, have the ethics surrounding taken people’s photos changed?

Whether we like it or not in public we are constantly under ‘surveillance’ from CCTV cameras in the streets or photos being taken by others around us.  So if we can happily enter public spaces with the knowledge that we are being photographed should we care if someone ‘actively’ captures our image?  What I mean by this is, should we enter public space with the knowledge that we will inevitably be photographed, whether that’s by a professional or someone snapchatting their coffee.

street taku

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
That should be the greatest take-away from this, and a perspective which should be applied to many activities not just public photography.  The law may be on your side when it comes to taking these photos, but like… don’t be a dick.  If someone expresses their displeasure with you snapping them, respect this and just don’t do it.

For me, one of the most fun things about working in the city is trying to ‘photo-bomb’ tourist’s snaps.  I can only imagine what they think when they look through their cameras later and see a 6’2” white guy standing behind them.  But for as many images that I try to get into, I wonder how many have been taken without my knowledge?  In that moment, no matter how insignificant my presence is in that image, we have a common connection.  Two people who may otherwise have shared nothing, now have something.

While there is no law regarding taking pictures of people in public, you should always be wary of your subject and surroundings.  Personally, I think that unless you are actively engaging or having a specific person or group as the subject/ focus of that image, you shouldn’t need to seek their permission.  But I don’t think that this is an ethical dilemma that will be easily resolved soon.

hong kong flats

For some other perspectives on this ethical debate please go and check out these guys:

And for some more of the beautiful examples of public photography featured in this article have a look at the work of Australia music producer, photography and all-round good dude Ta-ku via Instagram or his website.

An Acceptable Social Activity Where Being Actively Social Is Unacceptable.

(Generic cinema photo brought to you by EventConnect)

I would consider myself a bit of a ‘cinephile’, I absolutely love watching films whether it’s a critically-acclaimed masterpiece or something a little more left of centre.  When I was younger, going to “the movies” was an experience usually only reserved for the school holidays, and it was always a really big deal.  A whole day would be set aside to eat popcorn and sit in a darkroom with a bunch of strangers.  An acceptable social activity where being actively social is unacceptable.

But now, I rarely find myself going to see a film at places like Event or Hoyts anymore.  The fond memories of enjoying the cinema as a child have been replaced with a feeling of outrage for the amount that it costs to see a film, especially when you include the essentials like buttered cardboard bites and an ‘insta-diabetes’ sized soda.  And now with ‘torrenting’ and streaming services like Netflix being so widely accessible, it no longer seems like such an attractive social activity.

As with any undertaking any venture, there are many limitation that are considered.  In the late 1960’s the Swedish geographer Torsten Hagerstrand introduced the concept of ‘time geography’, an analysis of an individual’s movement through space and time (some reeeeeal sci-fi sounding shit right there).  Hagerstrand recognised three constraints that limit everyday activities:

Capability – The restrictions faced due to natural causes (eating, drinking, and sleeping in order to be able to function).

Coupling – Overcoming the limitations of human potential (using a car to get somewhere faster than could naturally be achieved).

Authority – The rules and regulations imposed on the individual (societal laws and protocols, like the trading hours of stores and venues).

This week’s task was to get to a cinema and see a film (I guess somewhat inherent in going to the cinema), although it was a goal that I couldn’t achieve due to a culmination of Hagerstrand’s constraints.   So I think I’d like to analyse my most recent cinema experience, Mad Max: Fury Road, while exploring both how Hagerstrand’s constraits impact actions, and talk a little about cinema/ movie-going behaviour… I think?

A couple of my mates and I had been talking about seeing the movie a few weeks before, and luckily we had settled on a night that suited each other’s agendas (Coupling).  I had a late work meeting in the city and was at the mercy of Sydney Trains (colloquially/formally known as Shitty Rail) as a means of making it back to Miranda in time to see the film (Coupling).  The scheduling/ making time part of taking a trip to the cinemas is definitely the hardest part.  You can’t exactly turn up at 2am and expect to see something (Authority).  So we had all made it on time, and luckily the tickets had been purchased online made sure that we were allowed to be there (Authority), not to mention that it was an MA15+ film and we didn’t even get asked for ID (also, Authority)… score!  But the looks of displeasure from the ‘non-online’ patrons were hilarious as we were called over to the counter before them.

The experience of seeing such a visual film as Mad Max in a cinema was not to be beaten.  The rumbling engines that vibrated the seats, the heavy metal blaring through the speaker (although, not too loud as turn ruin the viewing experience), and the vibrant colours were all things that made the $22 ticket worthwhile.  It’s one hell of an extreme movie, and I don’t think that you could feel the true intensity anywhere other than in a cinema seat.  I know this is off on a little bit of a tangent, but for me to test this theory I watched it again on my laptop while at home, and it just wasn’t the same.  The film lacked the ‘on-the-edge’ intensity I felt while at the movies.

So I guess you have to wonder what going to the cinema will be like in 10 years from now, or if it will still be such a popular social activity.  It’s an Australian past-time, but is it becoming too much of a luxury experience to be enjoy by all?  I’d definitely love to see movie theatres thriving, but I think there needs to be more work done to improve movie-going experiences while not breaking the bank.

The Short Tale of the Long-Tail

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(Image via TechnoLlama)

I guess that bigger really is better, or at least that’s what we’re seeing in the when we talk about the ‘long-tail’ effect.  The theory was first proposed by Chris Anderson in an article for Wired Magazine in 2004.  To compete in a market place like the entertainment industry, businesses who are offering larger amounts of niche information and products are in many instances coming out on top.  Bookstores are a wonderful example for this as we are seeing them slowly decline in relevancy and popularity.  ‘Brick and mortar’ bookstores only have a limited amount of shelf space, and to maximise sales they use a strategy of stocking and selling the most popular titles at that point in time.  However, due to their near limitless warehousing sites like Amazon are able to cater for the ‘long-tail’ market by aggregating and offering a massive amount of content that is more appealing to the interests of many niche groups.  The total amount of sales in these many niche markets will always be higher than that of the smaller group of ‘popular’ books.

For some futher information on the ‘long-tail’, Chirs kept a blog going more in depth about it all
http://longtail.typepad.com/the_long_tail/

No Wi-Fi and No Beer Make Conor Go Something, Something…

theinternetiscool(image source)

I dare say that the internet connection in my home has become the most important bill to be paid each month.  Although, I do suppose the electricity to run the router/ devices is also kind of a necessity.  We are quite a digitally connected family, each with multiple devices constantly accessing the far reaches of the internet every day (apparently there are about 20 currently linked to our router).

However, the ways in which we use the internet are each very different.  I would say my mother’s internet habit are rather typical for someone of her generation in that its primary use is for connecting with her family overseas, keeping up with news, and looking at YouTube videos to try and remain ‘hip and cool’.

My younger sister is always either connected to social media through her phone, or is in bed binge watching TV shows like that goddamn ‘Pretty Little Liars’.  I’m actually staring to worry about her neck posture as her head is always tilted towards a screen.  But I would venture to guess her internet use would be comparable to anyone else her age.

For my father, probably the most knowledgeable about technology in the house, our internet connection functions as a means for both work and relaxing.  His study is home to the almighty router and is the central hub for all tech in our family.  Thanks to his interest in computers and the internet, we have been fortunate enough to not still be on terrible plans or dial-up like I’ve read in some other people’s posts.

Being the tech-wiz he is, all problems with the internet are directly straight at Dad.  The connection dropped out – “DAAAAAAAAAAD!”  The lights are flashing but there’s no signal – “DAAAAAAAAAAD!”  My computer is running slow – “DAAAAAAAAAAD!”  Now obviously these problem are in no way his fault, but it’s always nice to be able to throw them onto someone else.

He started his career in computing back in the early 80’s and has work closely with the industry since, so I thought it would be a good idea to see his take on how the internet and our interactions with it have changed over time.

He spoke about societies move from “once picking up the phone and having ‘dial-tone’, to the concept now being called ‘web-tone’.”  Just like it was expected for people to have a landline to be contacted on in their home, we are now expected to be contactable via the internet.

“Everyone now has the internet, everyone is expected to be on the internet.  If your modem goes out, it’s a massive drama.  You expect always to be connected when you pick up any of your devices, whether it’s a laptop or mobile phone or PlayStation.”

“We’ve gone beyond the phone now, beyond ‘dial-tone’ it’s not important anymore because everyone uses their mobile phone or they use the internet to communicate with each other.  So the landline phone is now becoming pretty well redundant.  The only thing you use the phone line for now is your ADSL-2 connection… to the internet.”

Dad was able to watch the internet from its very beginning, and he said that while we have seen some much expansion in terms of accessibility, there are still aspects that have changed very little.  The next phase for Australia is the National Broadband Network or NBN, and term that many should be familiar with, and definitely sick of hearing by now.

While it is promising a faster and more reliable internet service for Australians, the stories coming from current users are often mixed.  There are many users having troubles with high user levels around peak times.  So I checked my area (Menai) and it’s like we have been put in this no NBN wasteland.  According to the NBN site, there aren’t even any plans for when preparation will commence.  Now, we don’t typically experience any issues with our current internet service in terms of drop-outs or lagging connections, but the promise of faster speeds gives me such great hope for the future… Maybe.

Here are a few little statistics from the ABS about Australia’s internet usage if you’re feeling extra curious.

It’s Who You Know, Not What You Know

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(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.

Networkin’ it

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(source)

It may only be the second topic that we have taken a dive into, but this week’s look at ‘The Network Society Paradigm’ has definitely had me intrigued.  Our communications have taken a great shift from the centralised telegraph office and telephone switchboard, to the more decentralised and distributed networks that we see on the internet.

Centralised networks see all information pass through a central (hence the name) hub before being directed to the intended recipient.  One of the greatest problems we see with this system is the inherent threat of censorship or watchdog behaviour by those who control the hub.

A good analogy was brought up in this week’s tutorial about a telegraph office.  If a group of people were communicating through telegraph, the operator has to read and then encode the message so that it can be transcribed on the receiving end by another telegraph operator.  This system works fine until there is something that the telegraph operator does not wish to send.  They have the power and ability to alter or not send the message at all to suit their needs.

Decentralised networks function in sort of the same way that centralised networks operate.  There are still hubs through which information flows, but on a much smaller and more divided scale.  The Second World War saw the German army employ decentralised networks to issue orders to their soldiers in the field of battle.  ‘Blitzkrieg’ meaning ‘lightning war’, was used to quickly manoeuvre and adapt military tactics as situations unfolded rather than waiting for high orders from central command.  This meant that smaller hubs could control smaller units of soldiers making it more efficient. (But I suppose this is an argument against Decentralised networks, because we all know how the war ended hmmmmmmmmmmmmm)

The greatest problem that can arise with these networks is the destabilisation caused by an outage in the hub.  If there is a problem in the central processing node, the system falls apart as the periphery nodes do not contact each other.

Distributed networks operate on the principle that all nodes are created equally and that the flow of information is even across all parts.  There is no central hub for the distribution of information, and all nodes in the network have the ability to connect with each other.  The advantage of this is that if one node goes out the system remains fully functional.  The only way to completely close the network would be to destroy every single component.  The Pirate Bay is an excellent example of this, authorities may try to close down the website, but due to the distributed nature of the network it can’t be completely destroyed.  Like a Hydra, for every head to cut off, two more appear.

I hope this has make these ideas a little clearer with the use of the graphic and examples.

Live In The Now

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What a time to be alive, it’s amazing to think about how far human communication has come in the past 200 years or so.  From the then incredible 8 words per minute using the Telegraph in 1866 to the now instantaneous nature of our messaging over the internet our interactions have changed dramatically.  The critique of the telegraph claiming that it was “too fast for the truth” definitely mirrors the sentiments of modern messaging methods whereby you’re expected to reply as soon as you receive the message (a frustration that I’ve experienced on both sides).  Though it is interesting to consider the advancements that I have experienced in my life short lifetime.  From the massive PCs and brick phones Dad had brought home in my younger years, to now having the ability the access the world from my pocket.

*The Jospeh Ducreux meme is obviously not being used in the original context, but I do feel works with the caption.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

As a disclaimer, this blog post has absolutely nothing to do with Bob Dylan, but I do think that the quote is rather
relevant.

So, I imagine that everyone this week will be interviewing parents, grandparents and other older people whose first experience with television was in Australia.  So to find a different angle and perspective I decided to interview my very Irish mother.  My Dad, Sister and I constantly joke about how absolutely boring Irish television is whenever we are over there, so it was interesting to see what Mam thought about it as a child.

We’ve never really spoke about her television viewing as a child before, I guess it just wasn’t something that I thought held a great deal of influence over my own.  But the more we discussed about the media when she was growing up, the more I realised many of the parallels I could draw between the two.

Mam spent her childhood in Graiguenamanagh, Co. Kilkenny; a river-side town about two hours south of Dublin; and one of my favourite places in the world.  Growing up as the youngest in a family with seven siblings, TV was a more central part of her entertainment than that of her older brothers and sisters.

I think one of the most remarkable things about our exchange was the incredible detail she could recall about different elements of her experience.  The space in which the TV inhabited is now drastically different to where I’m familiar with it sitting in her childhood house.  So hearing her talk about how it used to be was really intriguing.

The main TV in the house was placed next to the record player in the “sitting room”.  Around the black and white set made by PYE was a photo of my Grandad in his younger years (a photo that sits in that room to this day), and a blue and white delft vase with white plastic chrysanthemums.

Television in Ireland wasn’t broadcasted during the day with children’s programs beginning at 4:55pm.  There was only a single television channel, RTE (Radio Telefis Eireann), with all programs being introduced by a “beautiful lady called Thelma Mansfield”.

It wouldn’t be Ireland if there wasn’t some heavy catholic presence, so at 6pm on the dot every night the bells rang out for the Angelus prayer.  This was followed by the news, in English then followed by Irish.  She laughed about how that if anyone were to speak during the news my Grandad would go “bonkers”, cupping his hand around his ear and shushing everyone so he could hear.  Broadcasting finished with a goodnight message in Irish from Thelma… “Oíche mhaith agus codladh sámh” (Goodnight and sleep peacefully) at 11:30pm, a phrase that she uses every night with my sister and I.

One thing that Mam spoke very fondly about was how when they were younger, she and her older brother Kieran would be “snuggled” into the armchair together and watch ‘The Wonderful World of Disney’ films at 6:30pm on a Sunday.  A funny coincidence as when my sister and I were younger, we too would share the experience of watching ‘Saturday Disney’ on a Saturday morning religiously.  But maybe that just goes to prove what a grip Disney has on the children’s entertainment market.

While we do share some similarities in how we view television, it’s also very apparent just how much is different.  The way we consume media has changed dramatically between our childhoods, so it will be interesting to observed the differences that occur between my early years and that of my offspring. .