The great attention debacle.

Can’t focus on one thing at a time? Do you end up doing something else without even doing what you wanted to in the first place? Don’t you worry, because you are definitely not alone. Even writing this blog post without losing my attention is proving to be quite the challenge. I sat down at my computer with the aim of solely doing this blog post, but after not even 10 minutes I was on to job hunting expedition, researching where in Sydney you can see Kangaroos and of course keeping up to date on my Facebook stalking. I think it is fair to say that my attention drifted, and I am not sure why. My homemade theory is that we tend to focus more on our preoccupations rather than the task at hand, especially if the task is something that carries a little bit of pressure.

tumblr_nok0ldyj3C1s3h43ko1_500

There are endless distractions in the physical world around us with smartphones, social media and people when sometimes all we need is ourselves to cause the distraction. Today, a lack of attention seems to be the norm, but it has not just started recently. It has been around since the very beginning.

As this weeks task involves testing the attention of someone else, I went to my trusty family who always seems to be looking at the squirrels running past the window instead of focusing on the task at hand. The dinner table at dinner time is the one time of the day where all technology or any other distractions are taken away so that as a family we can have a somewhat decent conversation. For the most part, there is conversation and all 5 of us are usually engaged somewhat. I thought the best way to test my families attention span at the dinner table was by reintroducing the assumed source of distraction- the smartphones! *cue dramatic music*

spence-smith-social-media-distraction

So I set out the experiment in a way that meant that everyone had to put their phones on the table next to their dinner but try to solely focus on the dinner table conversation. To make it more fair, I let everyone choose a topic of their choice so that there would be something interesting for everyone to talk about. At the end of all 5 topics, I was then going to ask each family member to openly ask what everyone had taken in from the multiple conversations.

The experiment lasted around 40 minutes and I think it is fair to say that everyone was watching the squirrels running outside at some point, including myself who seemed to be easily distracted by Facebook notifications and the constant Whatsapp notifications from a Spanish friend throughout the whole 40 minutes. Myself and my 2 brothers seemed to be the most distracted even though not one of us picked up our phones throughout the whole 40 minutes. Our comprehension of all the conversations that we had were quite limited, which surprised me at first. We were only able to recount the parts that were either funny or had some sort of personal interest. After asking my 2 brothers why they think they did not retain as much information, I found out it was because the mere presence of the phone on the table was enough of a distraction in itself. They said that even though they did not receive anything, when the phone is around, they are always expecting something from it in terms of a notification from Facebook or simply a text message.

“According to a new study reported by Associated Press last month, the age of smartphones has left humans with such a short attention span that even a goldfish can hold a thought longer. Some very focused researchers surveyed 2,000 participants in Canada and studied the brain activity of 112 others. The results showed the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds today. Goldfish, meanwhile, are believed to have an attention span of nine seconds.” (Makin, 2015)

tumblr_no2honaTIU1rxp34uo1_400

Makin presents some startling research data showing that apparently the age of smartphones has reduced our actual attention span. But to be honest, I am not that surprised. Just by reflecting on my own behaviour, the smartphone is a big source of distraction for myself personally. From observing the behaviour of my family members to my own behaviour, the more interesting question I would like to ask myself is, how is this affecting our brains?

“Over the past few years researchers have done a lot of work on attention span, and how the brain is being re-sculpted by all those hours a day spent online. One of the conclusions that some of them are coming to is that the online life nurtures fluid intelligence and offline life is better at nurturing crystallizing intelligence.” (Brooks, 2015)

Basically, Brooks says that our online attention nurtures mental agility and our ability to skim ahead and “get the gist”. I agree with this as it is more apparent than ever that our online lives are overflowing with information, therefore we are training our brains to pick out the good bits or only the bits that we want to see. I would like to see where this takes us in the future because maybe it could even lead to a further reduction in our attention spans? Our brains may be shifting in a way that will mean that our memories with be getting shorter, but our brains will be able to process information quicker. It is hard to tell, but it sure is fascinating.

References

http://www.bnd.com/living/magazine/article35782965.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/10/opinion/david-brooks-building-attention-span.html?_r=0

If you’re in the public space using media, you’ve already signed the contract.

For this week’s task, I have taken a video of various students going about their daily business in a grassy area in the university. It is just a simple panning video with some students on their phones; some other students chatting to others and some others are eating. I recorded this short video just to give a sense of relaxed student behaviour on campus. I did not ask anyone in this video if they would let me film because I think it would be impractical to ask every single person in the video for permission . “In actuality, it would be impractical to ask every person in the frame whether they’re OK with a picture. That said, if someone clearly does not want to be photographed or if they are for their photo to be deleted after the fact, then I do think those wishes have to be respected.” (Colberg 2013)

tumblr_mj8wgcITFI1rbrg5uo1_250 (1)

I think that I am not being unethical because I am not focussing on anyone in particular, plus if someone asked me to not video them then I would respect their wishes. I also did not ask because I did not want to disrupt the essence of the whole video. I wanted to capture student behaviour in its most natural form, so if I asked before taking the video then perhaps it would have disrupted the environment a little. Perhaps I could have asked after, but if someone said no to the video then it would make things complicated. Plus, I do believe that you can learn a bit about yourself from other people observing you “That said, and second, it’s the photographic community’s task to educate the public about what they’re doing. In other words, instead of posturing about what they can do, street photographers better tell the public how what they’re doing is not only mindful of the public’s concerns, but also constitutes an important and valuable artistic practice that enriches not just the practitioners’ but everybody else’s lives.” (Colberg, 2013)

tumblr_mu4yw4tPkk1qdo0mso1_500

I do believe that you should ask for permission if you are intending to use the video or image in a way that could be viewed as negative even if they are not your intentions. I chose these students in particular because they weren’t doing anything negative so that I couldn’t have possibly portrayed them that way.

I also made sure that there weren’t any minors in my clip because I didn’t ask for permission. If I did however record a minor, I would ask because it is highly frowned upon filming or taking photos of children that are not yours without giving reason, even if it is legal. Colberg (2013) explains how photographers have been getting into hot water from taking photos of their own nude children. One aspect of my behaviour that I am battling to find ethical is that if being in the clip goes against their religious, spiritual or personal beliefs. Or maybe they do not want to be “exposed”. It is the fact that someone else has the power to do it and not them. I will never know because I did not ask for permission, but I think that I tried to make it as ethical as possible by not portraying any one of them in a negative light and also made it quite a “general” and “natural” clip. I do think that if you are going to use media devices in a public space, you are subjecting yourself and basically resigning yourself to the fact that it is ok to be the subject of observation due to this behaviour. Public space ethnography is effective because then we can maybe get a clearer understanding as to why our behaviour might be influenced by changing media patterns. Being in the public is essentially making yourself more vulnerable so researching behaviours out in the public will lead to answers as to why media patterns are shifting these behaviours.

References:

http://jmcolberg.com/weblog/extended/archives/the_ethics_of_street_photography/

Jaws- Eyes covered and Ears blocked

For this weeks task, I went back to Patricia to ask her about her experiences with the cinema in her country of origin, Brazil.

download

When asked about a very memorable cinema-going experience she said: “Jaws is one of the only memories I have of watching a film because it was that damn scary! I closed my eyes as tight as I could and blocked my ears, so I had to ask my sister what was happening when there was a scary part.” She also said that she sat right up the back because she thought it would be embarrassing being seen looking terrified. I thought this was absolutely hilarious because being my mother, she still does exactly the same thing! We have a little tradition between myself and her to watch horror movies together at home and she still covers her eyes and ears like there’s no tomorrow and then asks me to recount what happened constantly throughout the scary parts. I also like to sit up the back of the cinema, but not because of saving my pride, but more so the fact that I feel more of the atmosphere. For me, going to the cinema is more of a 360 experience rather than just watching the screen itself. She added that she thinks her experience with ‘Jaws’ is so vivid because it was the first time she saw such great special effects. I couldn’t help but chuckle at that comment because, well, they were pretty bad.

tumblr_mekqg6Ui6l1qfzqh7o1_400

One particular question that I was dying to ask was her thoughts on the movies being dubbed back then. She said that Dubbing to her was normal. She in fact said that she didn’t even realise that the movies were even dubbed into Portuguese. She said that she knew that the actors were not Brazilian, but to her it was not obvious that the Portuguese was in fact dubbed. I thought that was incredible because to us, it is so obvious when movies are dubbed into your own language. Generally because they are dubbed so poorly. Patricia did follow up by saying “Now I think dubbed moves are disgustingly horrible. I just can’t watch them anymore”. I guess I never considered the fact that in the days of no internet and very little international connection, dubbed movies were actually considered done very well.

anigif_enhanced-29688-1409506208-2

Another memory that Patricia commented on was the fact that going to the cinema was quite expensive and that the closest cinema was at Copacabana which was about 40 minutes away from her suburb, which made going to the cinema quite a special occasion. This memory links well with Hagerstrand’s capability constraint. I find this memory hard to identify with because being from Sydney, I seem to be surrounded by Cinemas. I mean for me, it’s between Cronulla and Miranda which are a comfortable 20 minutes away from me, and it usually comes down to ticket prices and which seats I find more comfortable.

One aspect of her Brazilian cinema-going experience that I found incredible was the fact that the films were on continuous rotation. So if you were disorganised and got to the movie say 15 minutes late, you watch it from that point and then once it finishes, you watch the beginning when the movie starts again so you can fully understand the movie. This memory links with Hagerstrand’s coupling constraint, because for Patricia sometimes they had no idea when the movie started so they just had to turn up. Obviously in this day and age, this is not a problem because we have access to the movie timetables on our phones, computers and basically anywhere with an internet connection, hence why we are expected to be at the movie at the starting time listed.

For Patricia, the whole culture around going to the cinema was not a formal occasion, but it wasn’t casual either. She said that they dressed nicely and that she usually went on a Sunday. At least once a month but sometimes twice, so there was a sense of regularity. Whereas, for me, my cinema-going behaviours is quite casual and I can go for months and month without going to the cinema because there are many other ways to get the movie for free. Some aspects of the cinema have not changed however with Patricia commenting that popcorn was the food of choice and that she never went with her parents as a young teenage girl. I can obviously relate to this because popcorn for me is vital in the cinema experience. If you don’t have popcorn, then it is like something is missing. Now we have a lot more food choice with Choc-tops and ‘Lolly bars’, whereas Patricia said they simply just had popcorn.

A link with Hagerstrand’s authority constraint is Patricia’s answer to who could enter certain films shown. She said that they were very strict on who could watch certain films depending on the classification. She said that she had to show her student card all the time and that it was very hard to enter if you didn’t have an identification. This is something that I found quite interesting, because you would have thought that this wouldn’t have changed OR have got a little more strict. But from my experiences, it has been the complete opposite. Now, the staff hardly ever check for any proof of age, and sometimes there hasn’t even been anyone at the doors! This does change the experience a little bit for me because I do envy the feeling of a certain movie being an exclusive and special experience. It does take away that sense of exclusivity now that most age groups can enter any movie that they like. Personally, the cinema-going experience of today has definitely changed since the days of Patricia for reasons that I have explained above. There are still some similarities but, all in all, it has attained a much more casual label. With new elements such as Gold Class, perhaps the cinema culture is attempting to reinvigorate itself and bring back the classiness and exclusivity that it once had.

Connection is everything.

“Connection is everything” is the slogan on the The National Broadband Networks (NBN) website. The website continues to say that this plan “is delivering an Australia wide project to upgrade the existing fixed line phone and internet network infrastructure. It is essential for Australia’s transition to a digital future. Fast broadband has the potential to fuel growth and drive improvements to local economies, businesses and homes, bringing new opportunities to the whole country.”

What does this actually mean to you and what does it mean in regards to ourselves and our households in the future? Should we be excited or should we be scared? For me, it still has not reached my area as I live in the Sutherland Shire and it seems to be going to rural areas primarily, but after looking deeper into the NBN plan, I asked myself, “will this plan really change my life?”, but more importantly, “is connection really everything?”. Just from being a young person and observing my surroundings, I think it is safe to say that for us connection really is everything and yes it could change lives. Last week I didn’t have a phone since I just came back from overseas so I had to find other things to do, doing things that would normally involve a smartphone firmly planted in my hand to give me comfort and security from the big bad world. Just by sitting on the train, looking at 90 percent of the people with their faces planted into their phones, laughing, smirking and snickering at their screens as if it were another human being. Most of the time it probably is them connecting with another human being, but they could be anywhere in the world. I thought to myself that this is sort of sad how we have become like this, but at the same time, we all do it, whether we like it or not. Also, I am a Media student with an internship for a digital magazine which means I do most of my work online. Bad connections or dropouts really can make things complicated and with most things turning online, fast connection would make things so much nicer. However, I personally believe that there is a dark-side to being connected all the time and that I am a little scared to be honest where this will take human interaction (or lack of) in the future. Sherry Turkle had some fantastic points about how our constant connection with our devices can really affect our social lives. As Turkle questions “As we expect more from technology, do we expect less from each other?”. Take a look at her Ted talk:

After questioning how this NBN scheme would affect myself and my doings, I turned to Patricia (52, Nurse) again to ask her how the NBN coming to her area would affect her and her household. She told me that as a Nurse she does not really need the internet that much so the current broadband plan she has right now is fine for her. She in fact said that she had no idea about the NBN plan until I came and asked her about it and that she thought that her broadband connection couldn’t really get any better. However, as a mother of 3 and having a husband who works in the IT industry as a computer programmer she says that the introduction of the NBN would definitely affect her household’s workings. She said that she believes that her Husband will be able to get his work done quicker and always will be able to work from home as sometimes he has to go to his office in the city if the connection is poor at home. After being asked about how it will affect the lives of her teenage children she laughed and said that she doesn’t think they could possibly become more anti-social regardless of the NBN coming through. She said that since they each have at least 2 devices, she hardly ever sees them until dinner or when they want food. She thinks that the household is very “connection focused” at the current time, and that the NBN really could segregate the household even more, especially amongst her children. She then added that she might have to bring in some restrictions within the household so that it doesn’t turn her family “into a bunch of zombies”. From hearing this, I was quite curious to know her views solely on the internet, so I showed her Danah Boyd’s description of the internet, “a world populated by people who share idiosyncratic interests and are ready to discuss them at any time, day or night” (Boyd, D 2014, p. 4). She responded with a slightly perplexed expression because she said she wasn’t sure how she feels about it. She said that if she had interests to discuss, she wouldn’t post them on the internet, but she can see how that is how the world is functioning at the moment. She added that she didn’t grow up with it and the world didn’t end because she couldn’t always be connected. She just said that things were different and with a smile said that the only differences is that “kids have thousands of friends now, but I would like to see them count on one hand the amount of true friends they think they have.”

That last statement really touched down with me as I couldn’t help but go back to Sherry Turkles quote “As we expect more from technology, do we expect less from each other?”. Yes, the NBN might bring us faster internet, but it also might bring us the death of social interaction inside and outside the house. So maybe we should reconsider the notion of “connection is everything”.

References:

Boyd, D 2014, ‘It’s complicated: The social lives of networked teens’, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Sherry Turkle “Connected, but alone?”: see link in the text

http://www.nbnco.com.au/about-the-nbn.html

The life of a Brazilian television.

images

Patricia (52) is originally from Brazil and has been living in Australia for 22 years. She was brought up in a fairly large family with 5 brothers and sisters. She was around 8 when the first television came into her household and you can tell that it was quite the event, but at the same time, they stuck true to their upbringing before the television came. Nonetheless, her experience with the television is such a contrast to the modern day type. I was lucky enough to conduct an interview with Patricia and the following extract is from a voice recording that I took during the interview.

From what I remember, we only got a television in the late 60’s. The brand was a “telefunken” from Germany and it was colour. That for us was truly amazing, watching the Television in colour, wow. In Brazil, having a television definitely represented your social status because Brazil is a country that is strongly divided by class. In fact, thinking about it now, I think that not much has changed in that sense. Even when my brothers, sisters and I were little, we never really watched much television because since the television was new, we were so used to playing outside to entertain ourselves. But when we did watch the television it was at night time to watch soap operas. We loved the soap operas because it is a very big part of the Brazilian culture. Sports also (mainly Soccer) were a huge part of my families television culture. When we watched television it was all together as a family. We enjoyed watching variety shows the most. Where there were people dancing, doing silly things and where there was a live audience. Those sorts of shows to us were amazing because there was so much atmosphere. Some of the shows that I used to watch were “buzina do chacrinha” and “fantastico”. Even though you wouldn’t have thought so, but sometimes we did watch the television whilst eating because my father had to watch the news. When he didn’t have anything to watch, we were never allowed to sit in front of the television whilst eating because the kitchen wasn’t close to the living room so we had no choice but to sit at the table. Plus, before the television came, we were always sitting at the table together so it would have been strange to get into the habit of starting to sit around the TV.

I then asked her how certain behaviours in her household had changed since the introduction of their television, “I don’t know why but the television for me was never a big part of my life, nor was it a big part of the lives of my brothers and sisters. Only my mother who had to constantly watch her soap operas because in Brazil, it was a big topic of conversation amongst the mothers and women. I guess if they did not watch their soap operas and reported back to their friends, they would  either have no friends left, nothing to talk about or be looked down upon.”

When asked about the amount of nudity and/or sex in the programs Patricia swiftly responded with “No, no, no! There was hardly any sex or nudity on the television back then! That would have been utterly inappropriate. I must say, I do like Game of Thrones, but if my Mother saw the amount of boobs on the screen as I do, my god, I don’t even want to know what she would do. Back then, society was definitely much more traditional and since the television was a symbol of status, anything like nudity and sex in quite a conservative society would bring down the class of owning a television. You can see how this has changed over the years as the television has been around for quite a while. Since everyone has one or two or three, there is little prestige. And since we are not going to sit around all day watching just soap operas, I guess the program creators need to keep the entertainment fresh and shocking. Now it’s not so much about the TV box itself, much much more so what we watch on it. I’m sure that now the topic amongst the middle aged mothers and women now is about My Kitchen Rules or Desperate Housewives or some garbage like that. In saying that, I hate reality TV. It’s so fake and there is no excitement watching it because you know all these people are fake. It’s nothing like watching a live studio audience show like what I used to watch.”

Patricia concluded by stating that the television of today has been over-run by the internet, “The amount of access that we have now to everything online has taken away the special feeling that I had when I got to watch the television back in the late 60’s. It’s a shame but that’s the way the media works!”

References:

We like Snapchat apparently. But why?

7026034-large-e1432191798374

It is definitely fair to say that amongst the endless see of social media applications that we are currently being exposed to, Snapchat is definitely one of the most popular. The statistics that I have found on the app Snapchat from an American based research project, have given me a lot of useful numbers, percentages, graphs and stats to give me a pretty good general understanding about how popular Snapchat is and more specifically, in which cultural demographics. The research article states that there are 100 million active users and that 400 million “snaps” are sent everyday. And this is just America. Wow. I can’t even begin starting to imagine what the figures would be like in Australia. Possibly a bit less due to our smaller population, but just by watching my 13 year old brother sit there taking 4 snapchats in the space of 5 minutes, I think that could give you a pretty good idea. Another figure states that the main age demographic of Snapchat are young users and that 50% of the users under 24 are aged between 13-17 years old. This statistic doesn’t really shock me, because I know that within our own media spaces, our ages play a big role in which Media outlets we absorb ourselves in. Just like I said in a previous post, WhatsApp was treated like a god when I was in Spain. The statistics of the use of WhatsApp in Spain may show it is very high, but from my own first hand experience, I know that it was so high because it was used as a convenience application.

Now, with the ever so popular Snapchat, we need to start collaborating some of the ethnographic research that has been done to make these reports on media outlets a bit more detailed. Because at the end of the day, numbers are just numbers, but what we really want are trends, behaviours and reasons. With that being said, certain researchers say that the reason that the percentage of young Snapchat users is so high is because it is a pretty unique form of social media. One major factor is that kids do not need internet connection “Kids who use them don’t need a credit card or even a cellphone, just an Internet connection and device such as an iPod Touch or Kindle Fire”. That’s pretty scary considering that most kids do have access nowadays to internet from a personal device. With that being said, this brings up a whole new subject of privacy and online safety for young people with access to media platforms such as Snapchat “it’s time to talk frankly to kids about privacy controls and remind them – again – how nothing in cyberspace every really goes away”. But aside from that point, the main point that I am trying to get across is that these quantitative media reports should include much more ethnographic data. With Snapchat, we can see that young users like it, but they like it because its a new way to connect with their younger peers. Also because they think that the 10 second time limit will allow them to get away with some pretty naughty agendas that they might have. You know exactly what I’m talking about! It is actually quite scary that young people have such free access of Snapchat and use it  without a care in the world, but have no idea how easy it can be to get access to these supposed “private” snaps.

giphy

Snapchat is just an example, but there are so many reasons behind the use of all the modern day media outlets that we use in this current age. We have all the numbers to give us a “WOW” reaction, but then we are sort of left wondering why and then have to make the assumptions up ourselves.

References:-

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/18/instagram-and-snapchat-kids_n_2899732.html

http://www.businessofapps.com/snapchat-usage-statistics-and-revenue/

Media Space. Hop onboard and enjoy the ride!

Hey guys,

So my name is Nick and this is my introductory post for this semesters BCM240 subject. Even though I have only just arrived 4 days ago from my one year exchange in Spain and have only been to one tutorial so far, this subject sounds pretty cool! It could be the jet-lag that could be giving me this false impression but I actually do think that I will enjoy this subject quite a lot because I think the media is one of the most fascinating, important and diverse aspects of our modern day society. I say that because we all know that nowadays we are basically drowning in Media all around us, whether it being social or periodical. The topic this week is all about our experience in the Media space. In saying that, I think I would be one of the only 22 year olds that would not be in the Media space if that were true. Because we all know that it is virtually impossible to avoid.

The media for me is a massive part of my life. Even when I think I’m not even being heavily involved in it. In fact, right now I am without a phone due to my Spanish shenanigans which is proving to be quite challenging. I am always behind on the news now since I have no constant access to Facebook or even just catching up with friends that I have not seen in a while. I knew that it was a fact that my smartphone had a big impact on the way I lived my life, but I just wasn’t so sure how much it would affect me when I did not have constant access to it. In saying that, I think my experience in the media space definitely depends on my location and situation. When I was in Spain, I think it is fair to say that I could not have lived without Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook and maybe a cheeky little bit of Instagram. All these applications basically formed a massive part of my experience. The people that I met, the way I organised my life over there, the way I contacted home, the way I sorted out problems, the way I uploaded numerous tapas photos (insta ops galore) and the method of probably never feeling homesick. I would like to put a little emphasis on the application WhatsApp though because before going off to Spain, it virtually does not exist here in Australia. Of course there may be some people who use it occasionally, but over there it is probably an official religion. People worship it and practically depend on it. If WhatsApp HQ exploded, shit would hit the fan big time. I have never seen such a big following for a communication app since Facebook until I saw WhatsApp. In fact, it was basically the first question a Spanish person would ask you “Cual es tu numero de WhatsApp?” before they even know your name. Even the Spanish MP’s are on WhatsApp! So that was definitely a change to my Media Space experiences. I needed to alter my own behaviours and adapt to a new one that to me isn’t of the norm. Even though it was the easiest thing on earth to get. It’s all from the click of a button and there you have it. But I know you are probably thinking, why is he even talking about this? Because we all know that there are a gazillion of applications out there right now that make our lives easy, but all I am trying to emphasise is that this is why the Media space to me is actually one of the most fascinating things on earth. The behaviours that people have on social media, to the way we consume the media through so many different portals. It’s one thing that has boomed since the birth of the smart phone, and will not stop growing. Myself and everyone from my generation that has grown up with these sorts of media outlets will also shape the way they live due to these things. More problems will arise and there will be incredible discoveries. But who knows, right?

train_2647413b

For me personally, to get the most out of the Media, you need to look at it as if it was one of those dodgy trains in India. Even though it is incredibly overcrowded and overflowing, you just need to push your way in and then once onboard, go for the ride, to…..well…..wherever it is taking you.

I hope you are all as excited as I am to get this subject underway and start looking into our own behaviours in the Media space, because I think that you could learn a lot about yourself doing so.

Thanks for reading guys!

Nick.

References:

http://www.thelocal.es/20150218/spanish-mps-turn-to-whatsapp-to-lure-in-voters

ymuchomas.com/…/whatsappwhy-spains-over-the-sms