BCM241 Assessment 2: Research Communication

As a public researcher there is much room to express and inform through a number of different platforms. As a writer, it is my duty to ensure that everything I write and reflect on is both true and correct, and to give credit to fellow writers where I have ascertained information. As a public researcher and writer it is therefore of the utmost importance that I adhere to the specific ethical and moral standards in place which govern the content I create. The Media Arts and Ethics Alliance Code of Ethics (MEAA 2017) states that members engaged in journalistic practice must commit themselves to writing everything with honesty, fairness, independence and respect.

Public writing requires courtesy, respect and often the need to remain objective. With these things considered, it is also necessary to maintain audience engagement through finding original ways to compose material that will be interesting to read. Throughout the course of the subject, I feel as though my public writing practices have improved as a result of the weekly subject matter and diversity of the topics that have been studied. The writing and research principles that are evident in the weekly topics allow for progression of strong writing practices which are to be used in the weekly blogs.

The subject matter in BCM241 has encouraged the cohort to adhere to this practice, whilst also inspiring individual thinking in a number of different ways. To begin the semester, we were encouraged to think spatially about media audiences and more specifically our own media space. This research practice was useful as it highlighted the strong presence of technology in our society today. When combined with the topic of memory conversations, it is possible as a researcher to understand the dramatic change in research practices due to technology over previous decades. Psychologist Sam Gosling (2015) argues that analysing ‘personality data’ is an increasingly valuable research method as it is a reliable scope into past. This is derived through our lives and the personal space we surround ourselves in. By learning these tools, they can be applied to my own research when considering the importance and time and space in 21st century society.

The third topic examined the traditional roles of audience measurement, such as qualitative and quantitative data. Luke Eric Lassiter’s brief guide to collaborative ethnography (2005) was an informative research tool that highlighted the value of ethnographic research for business and commercial markets such as television companies. The guide was useful for me as a researcher as it outlined the complications that can arise when research is not carried out using the correct ethical procedures. In the lectures and tutorials, thorough analysis was made of ethnographic research, and how it can be intrusive on people as data is often taken whilst people are totally unware. The legal ramifications for not following the correct procedures are made apparent in Lassiter’s guide (2005) – and serve as valuable information for research purposes.

Similarly, the ethics surrounding semi-public space are applicable to researchers who use photography as a key aspect of their works. It is important to understand the difference between public and private media practice. The week 6 blog task was an interesting way to observe how primary data collection has intricate laws on how this can be used (taking our own photographs in a public space). Without understanding the ethics of some art forms such as street photography, it is possible to be prosecuted under defamatory laws. Joerg Colberg’s Ethics of Street Photography (2013) is a useful tool for research which I have applied to other subjects during my study. The article outlines the need to be aware of the ethical and legal practices which are in place for the protection of members of the public, however also identifies what photographers are entitled to use legally. As a writer, this principle can be applied to individual works – as it is important to understand what you are entitled to write about without the need for consent.

Media audience research is heavily dependent on consumer engagement, so it is therefore heavily reliant on audience attention and presence. The notion that technology has made us a less tolerant and attentive society that is susceptible to distraction is a theory that is highly plausible. The introduction of highly capable smart phones, computers, tablets and other electronic devices gives consumers a diverse range of ways to spend their time. The Microsoft Canada attention span report (2015) argues that although modern humans are better at processing online information, our attention spans inhibit the ability to remain interested in things for long periods of time. This would suggest that we are accustomed to a world of instant gratification, where we expect to be able to easily process information in the shortest period of time as possible. As a writer, this is an interesting theory to be aware of as it suggests the material I produce needs to prioritise the information I present to engage immediate interest with the reader.

The continual progression of technology and available information can be an overwhelming experience for readers, so it is important to create content that is specific and easy to understand for a wide range of audiences. Additionally, it is important to be aware of the ethical and moral standards which are in place to protect writers and the public. By employing the aforementioned research methods, it is possible to compose work that is both specific and relevant to the desired task, and I feel as though my writing has so far progressed as a result of these methods. The task of weekly blogging has ensured I am in good practice with my writing, as it reinforces the concepts learned throughout that week.

 

 

References

1 Colberg, J, 2013, The Ethics of Street Photography, Conscientious Extended, accessed 1st October 2017. Available at http://jmcolberg.com/weblog/extended/archives/the_ethics_of_street_photography/

2 Consumer Insights Microsoft Canada, 2015, Attention Span Report Accessed 30th September 2017. Available at <https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/1083071/mod_resource/content/1/microsoft-attention-spans-research-report.pdf >

3 Gosling, S, 2015, What our Personal Spaces Can’t Hide,Big Think, videoblog, accessed 30th September 2017. Available at http://bigthink.com/videos/what-our-personal-spaces-cant-hide

4 Lassiter, L, 2005, The Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethnography, University of Chicago Press

5 Media Entertainment Arts Alliance,2017 MEAA Journalist Code of Ethics, accessed 30th September 2017. Available at < https://www.mcode-of-ethics/eaa.org/meaa-media/>

 

 

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Week 8: The test; put your damn phone away

This week’s class required the group to consider the effect of multiple technological devices on attention span and cognitive function. Being a student, I gathered the most effective way to measure this would be to devise a test that measures the productivity of two different students and their ability to study.

Deriving from my assignment pitch in week 4 which is intended to measure the separation anxiety of users without a smartphone, I contrived a small scale experiment on smartphone usage.

For a different subject I am studying this semester (MARK101) one assessment task is a group activity whereby the students are to meet and complete certain aspects of the report. Conveniently, the two other group members I was working with in the library were at a similar stage for ‘Part E’ and had the same amount of words to write to complete their designated section. I asked permission of both ‘James’ and ‘Tom’ to nominate one person to switch off their phone for two hours. ‘James’ being a more studious type opted to switch his phone off for the purpose of the experiment and allowed me to analyse the work ethic of the two.

The small scale experiment consisted of:

Dependent Variable: Effects of smartphones on study and productivity

Independent Variable: James’ smartphone is switched ‘off’, Tom’s smartphone remains ‘on’ and free to use.

Controlled Variable – Two hours of study

Findings:

After two relatively long hours, I noticed throughout that Tom was inclined to check his phone at regular intervals. This included replying to instant messages through Facebook and text, as well as using snapchat to take photos. Having his phone constantly vibrate on the table served as a distraction for all of us, however James’ was less concerned as he was determined to :

a)finish the work
b) be more productive than Tom as the experiment suggested he should be.

At the end of the two hours I observed that James’ word count was at 679/1000 words required (not a bad effort considering the detail required for the subject.

Unsurprisingly, Tom’s word count was 347/1000 words required – not that this seemed to bother him. “I’ll just finish it tomorrow, I’ve got ages to finish it anyway.”

At the beginning of the experiment James’ told me he was happy to do it, as it would help him concentrate and hopefully finish the task in a short space of time.

Despite this, after the two hours James told me of his frustration and anxiety at times to check his phone as a form of procrastination.

‘I generally just do it as a force of habit. At the end of every sentence or two I’ll just flick it out and make sure I’m not missing out on anything. It’s kind of second nature to be honest.”

It was interesting to note that this action is deemed as almost second nature, with our phone quite literally being an extension of ourselves and our being. I could relate to this fact. I am guilty of checking my phone as a type of ‘reward’ after writing a paragraph or two, even if I don’t have a notification or alert to reply to it’s almost a way of escaping the reality of the situation and avoiding the fact that I have a considerable amount of work to do. If I am able to knock off 50-100 words at a time it makes the task seem less formidable, and there is added motivation to have regular breaks from staring at my computer screen to then staring at my phone screen.

Suffice to say, the world is a crazy place!

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Week 6: Ethics of Public Photography

I’m constantly baffled at the smorgasbord of young people around the University of Wollongong campus who have no idea of where there going. I’m not talking about the emotional types who have a few drinks down at The Grand Hotel and turn their life into a soap opera; “I just don’t know where my life is going man, I hate uni”.

I’m talking about the constant flow of foot traffic with people looking down, absolutely consumed by their mobile device. So much so that they are mastering the art of walking and texting at the same time. Suffice to say, the task of capturing a photo of somebody staring at a screen, engrossed in a different space and place of sorts, was not a difficult one.

Mobile phones and other technological devices such as laptops, tablets and gaming consoles such as Xbox or playstation assist with passing time often in public. Existing in semi public space that we often find ourselves in such as on a university campus means that these technologies take us our own individual public space where we are disconnected from reality and exist in a virtual world of technology.

Joerg Colberg’s article ‘The Ethics of Street Photography’ suggests that as a photographer I am well within my rights to photograph one of these subjects provided that they are in a public place. Similarly, under Arts Law it is stated that photographers generally do not need permission to take photos in public of buildings, sculptures or landmarks regardless of who is in the photo as they are not the primary focus. Despite this, it is important as a photographer to be prepared to explain exactly what it is you are doing if questioned in public by strangers or even by the police. Photographing any image where children under the age of 18 are present without consent is deemed as illegal and can have ramifications for a person who publishes such material.

So by capturing the feature image of this story, what rules and regulations must I comply with? The aforementioned Arts law states that there are appropriate steps to follow if you are photographing strangers in public. These are:

1.Explaining what you are doing

2. Ask if it is OK to take their photograph, and publish it publicly.

3. Have information on street photographer’s rights

4. Be prepared to delete photographs if asked to.

Fortunately, I captured a friend and gathered permission in doing so for the purpose of this weeks task. Without doing this, I could be liable to breaking consent laws which protect peoples privacy on social media and online websites such as blogs. It is important to be aware of such laws as the legal ramifications certainly outweigh those of producing a decent story!!

 

 

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Week 5: Cinema in the 1950’s

This week the discussion focussed much on the current era of cinema and film. After a reflective conversation with my grandmother I learned the vast differences that existed in cinemas of the past. In the mid 20th century, cinema was a new age medium of social life that attracted an affluent and successful audience. Cinema going was an occasion where people would wear suit and tie and fancy dresses alike. The occasion was very formal, traditional and was seen as a target for a wealthier demographic.

Today, cinema going is incredibly informal. It is a place where you can take the family, friends or a date to relax and enjoy a variety of films that are often preceded by copious amounts of advertising. The cinema is not a place where people feel the need to dress formally or in a particular manner.

The most plausible reason for the dramatic change in the cinema experience can be explained by a theory composed by Swedish professor Torsten Hagerstrand.

Corbett refers to Hagerstand’s three constraints of Time Geography, capability, coupling and authority. When considering such concepts in modern day terms it is possible to determine the viability of modern cinema, both in terms of production and attendance.

Hagerstrand argues that these constraints affect the day to day interactions of humans due to the implications they can have on an individual. The Swedish professor coined these terms in 1969 and stated their respective societal influence on space and time.

  • Capability constraints. These are limits on human movement due to physical or biological factors. For example this would be the time/distance limitation on walking as opposed to travelling in a car. Quite simply, a person cannot be in two places at the same time, nor can they predict the future or change the past.
  • Coupling constraints. These are restrictions on the autonomous allocation of time. This includes the need to be placed inside a particular time frame at a specific point in time, such as being at work. In addition to this, Hagerstand argues it is necessary to cross paths with people on the same space/time schedule to achieve a desired task.
  • Authority constraints. These are limits on when activities can or cannot take place, or where they must or must not be located, imposed by external parties. This includes imposed sanctions for entering public property. A persons space/time schedule is unlikely to pass along a place that has restricted or prohibited entry.

 

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Week 4: Assignment Pitch – ‘Separation Anxiety’

My parents always taught me that if you’re having a conversation with someone, you do everything you can to look them in the eye, and you certainly don’t use your phone in front of them. In this hyper-connected world, I struggle to remember conversation’s I’ve had with friends recently who haven’t taken their phone out for some reason. Whilst for some this is common practice, I for one might be part of the small minority of young people who find this to be pretty rude.

I use my friend who I talked to on the duck pond lawn last week for an example. We sat there over lunch, catching up over all walks of life. I throughly enjoyed this, however couldn’t help but notice the presence of his mobile phone in his hand for the entire conversation… Literally. Every few minutes or so he would check the screen. Most of the time it would be promptly put back down and ignored, but every few minutes there would be a conscious effort to reply to a Snapchat or text message.

So why is it that as 21st century people we feel so obliged to constantly stay connected to our phones? Are we accustomed to being in more than one place at a time, Or are we simply subject to a separation anxiety of sorts without our social media channels? My first post touches on the idea that if you weren’t the first to see it, you might as well have not seen it at all, right? Sherry Turkle provides a fascinating TED talk on the idea that modern technologies have given us the ability to feel ‘Alone Together’ – who believes as a society we are losing the ability to relate to one another, as well as ourselves and our capacity for self reflection.

Touching on this notion, I would like to analyse social media use for the current generation of young adults which would be relevant and beneficial to my studies (18-22).

I intend to conduct interviews with people I know and have access to, gaining insight into how much they use social media, and indeed how and why they do this. I will also challenge these people to ‘Log out’ of their respective media channels to see if their daily attitudes or habits change, as well as if they struggle to function in social situations without the ability to look at their phones. I can measure this by checking their data usage on each social media application if given permission to do so. I also intend to ask a series of questions before and after the experiment, such as.

  • How long a day do you spend on your phone?
  • Do you feel anxious without knowing where your phone is?
  • Do you look at your phone if you’re talking to someone?
  • Do you look at your phone when you first wake up?
  • How many social media sites do you have?

In doing this collaborative research I will ensure that I am conscious of abiding by the MEAA code of ethics to ensure I am not surpassing ethical or moral boundaries as a researcher. I will report my information independently, honestly, fairly and respectfully.

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Week 3 – Media audiences and Ethnography

After reading a number of blogs this week i’ve found the majority of people of the baby boomer generation that saw television first released in Australia reflect on this as a positive experience. The introduction of television in Australia saw the dynamic of family homes drastically change, so much so that evening activities were dictated by what programs would be televised. Analysing this research can be incredibly versatile and useful on a number of scales. As media students it is important to weigh up the qualitative and quantitive strengths of media research. This can help us determine what affect media technologies have had or continue to have on topics such as television which is relevant to our studies.

The most effective method for analysing such research is to employ what Luke Eric Lassiter (2005) refers to as collaborative ethnography. Ethnography is the scientific study dedicated to the customs and habits of people within specific cultures. By nature, it is a collaborative process as it looks at gathering data on society and its practices. Ethnography often provides a deeper understanding of information that cannot be provided by raw statistical data – as it gives insight into what audiences feel, how they react as well as how fictional content affects their interpersonal relationships and personal lives simultaneously.

Dave Lange’s Audience Research Blog highlights the relative strengths that collaborative research possesses. If the correct moral and ethical standards are applied such research can be extremely beneficial for research, as it provides a more holistic view of relevant data. One example would be the relationship people have with specific television shows, including what influence they may or may not have on a person. Raw statistical data can only provide basic information such as ratings and duration of viewing. Collaborative ethnography can therefore be relied upon to enhance the quality and validity of data collection which is different from individual research, as it is more representative of a larger body. Furthermore collaborative research inherently is designed for a modern approach to learning as it is heavily reliant on the study of new technologies. Moore’s law of technology progression is built on the capacity of integrated circuits, which doubles every two years. With it we double the capability of the circuits and it’s applications. When considering such a process in relation to collaborative ethnography,  research in turn becomes more quantifiable, providing a well rounded and holistic view of relevant data.

Whilst collaborative research is responsible for providing a more cohesive view, it also has limitations which are essential to consider when conducting studies. There are strict moral and ethical codes which must be adhered to when collaborating information. These primarily include privacy and consent laws which centre around a persons willingness to firstly provide data, but also have that data broadcasted for use across different channels of research. This can result in legal outcomes particularly if research subjects are not fully made aware of what their data is being used for. Collaborative research therefore can be seen as intrusive or having a negative impact on people’s personal or interpersonal relationships. It is therefore paramount that researchers are aware of the legal and ethical standards that they are bound to regardless of the target they are trying to achieve.

 

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Week 2: How Television transformed the average lounge room

Both of my parents grew up in the 60’s. By their own admission, their respective families were conservative to say the least. Even when television was first introduced it challenged the ideals of a Christian upbringing. For the first time in my parents lives, people outside of their regimented daily life were now influencing how they viewed and perceived the world.

Dinner time was strictly family time, and if you wanted recreation then you simply went outside or played a board game. Until talking to my parents about this topic I rarely had considered how sheltered the upbringing of previous generations had been. The introduction of modern technologies gives us unprecedented access to quite literally anything we desire. If I was to summarise how I spent my time when I was ‘bored’ at home, it would be fair to say most if not all the activities I do to cure this boredom rely on some form of modern technology that wasn’t available when my parents were growing up.

The first thing to notice in any new lounge or entertainment room is the presence of a television, and how it is predominantly the focal point of this room. The lounges, power points and windows on modern houses; support the notion that the television is inherently one of the main features of a family home.

My dad recalled to me that the lounge room in his childhood was a place that the family would sit to read books, play board games and sit in front of the fireplace during the winter. As he entered his teen years and the family decided to  introduced their own television into the house, he noticed the dynamic of the lounge room was completely changed in order to accommodate the presence of a television. Additionally he recalled the time spent in the lounge room seemingly changed from ‘some of the time’ to ‘all of the time’ which to me indicates the magnitude of television’s introduction to family homes. I’m certain that my dad’s recount of these events during the 60’s and 70’s is no different to an innumerable amount of people during the same era.

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