“I travelled the world in cinerama”

Some of my earliest memories of watching television both alone and as a family were watching episodes of the classic Doctor Who, and then the reboot from 2005. Doctor Who is culturally ingrained in me; with my grandma watching it from its inception and my mum watching reruns through it’s hiatus, there was little hope for me to avoid it. I watched the reruns on an old box television at my grandma’s every afternoon after school, and even though I only half understood the why the reboot was a big deal I was EXCITED.

I approached my grandma with the question of her first memories of television. Funnily enough it wasn’t even her own particular interactions that sprung to mind, it was that of her brother, Geoff. Back when television first arrived in Australia, my grandma, Edith, and Geoff were in their 20s. They were both sharing an apartment in Sydney (although they were originally from Bega) and on a random day Geoff decided that he was going to buy a TV, but only if they could deliver it that day. They could, and when it arrived Geoff set up a bed in front of the television and watched it intently for a month.

At this time my grandma was working as a nurse at the Royal Alexandra’s Children’s ward and was on the night shifts. During the day, while Geoff was planted in front of the television screen, he would call out to her claiming to be seeing the most marvelous things that she absolutely had to get up and watch. Of course, by the time she got herself up (when she heeded his advice in the first place!) it was already over, but there was an undeniable sense of awe from these interactions with what he was seeing on the screen.

Being so worldly all of a sudden, Geoff would spurt out tales of great adventures and speak of events with such detail many assumed it was first-hand knowledge. Although, when asked when and where he had travelled, he would reply by saying “I travelled the world in cinerama!”. Upon reflecting on his statement, grandma admits that even though he was referring to the television, what he was saying didn’t technically make sense in the context of it (although he was a great cinephile too). Regardless, the quote stuck with me, much like it has stuck with her for almost 60 years.

I never met my great-uncle Geoff as he passed away much too early, and a great time before I was even born. I wonder how many more stories like this I may never know, purely because I don’t know the questions to ask. My grandma often claims she remembers nothing from when she was younger, but sometimes I’m not quite sure that is the case. I think it may simply be because I don’t know how to best prompt these memories. This conversation with my grandma was very relaxed, with her repeatedly stating I should have been asking one of my uncles who had a more definitive memory of the television. I probably should have, but it was her story I wanted to hear the most.

She offers additional stories about watching the Queen come to Australia with the kids in the hospital and admits her memory of the events could be misplaced or misdirected, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to hear them, especially given she was fundamental to my own introduction to television through Doctor Who. Memories of television are inherently the same, regardless of generation. They tell of awe and wonder at the stories told and it is still a universal medium today. I will never forget the day on the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who that the three of us trudged to the local cinema to watch the special on the big screen. Three generations, fifty years, and one memory to connect it all.

Doctor-Who-50th

When the stars align! Media spaces and fandom places

This subject was admittedly a last minute panic addition to my course load. I enrolled late, missed the tutorial enrollments and the first lecture. So, it is very possible I have no idea what I am talking about as I try to wade through the concept of media spaces, feeling virtually blind.

So maybe my question is this: can a media space still be called that if it manages to transcend virtual platforms? Over the semester break, I flew down to Melbourne and worked on the main panels at Oz Comic Con. Oz Comic Con is basically a place where fans of popular culture move away from their traditional media spaces and in to an actual, physical event. For so long, fans have been limited to media spaces for discussions and fandom ramblings and over time they formed a powerful accumulative voice. Popular culture conventions have become big business, and it isn’t even limited to the all-mighty San Diego Comic Con anymore. I have been to countless conventions and spent big numerous times to get one-on-one interactions with actors from my favourite films and television shows, but it was only after working on the panels and becoming an observer rather than a fan myself that I realised how amazing the whole thing truly was.

A few actors from some pretty big shows were set to appear (including Pretty Little Liars, The Vampire Diaries, Buffy/How I Met Your Mother) and when all these people were sitting together, having this joint experience BECAUSE of the power media spaces hold, it is pretty incredible to be a part of. Of course Keegan Allen from Pretty Little Liars caused many young teenagers to squeal and freak out a little, but the awe this interaction gave them was genuinely amazing to see. I even made a girl cry because I picked her to ask him a question! Of course this all still links directly with media spaces as people upload pictures from the convention on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but it is so much more than that.

Conventions are powerful and give fans the ability to have actual interactions with the people they admire online and onscreen. Not only is this interaction humbling for the actors, it gives an amazing feeling to the fans. Actors are just people too, and I really believe they also benefit from the interactions. They get to see the people that previously were just names on a screen tweeting, commenting and following their social media accounts. They see the faces that feature in their media space, they see the product of their work and the conversations to be had between actor and fan can be genuine and real. Sometimes it is about the money for these actors (and trust me, you can tell- oh the irony!), I’m not too deluded to be aware of that. But when it is genuine, it is priceless. I know, because through these interactions as a fan myself I feel that awe every time I get to interact with or even just listen to an actor that I love talking at a panel. I still got my moment in Melbourne meeting the iZombie cast and working on their panel, it really never gets old (even nearing the end of a 10 hour shift)!

 

 

If the media spaces that facilitate fandoms didn’t exist, conventions wouldn’t either. And that would really, truly be a shame for everyone.

 

 

BCM212 – Gender Bias Reflection

“Do university students see the gender bias in film and television as a problem and/or limitation to women?”

A defining moment in this report was seeing Wonder Woman on the big screen. Admittedly late in the scheme of the project timeline, it was a movie that made me realise even more the importance of my topic. I saw the movie alone on opening night, and found myself on the edge of spontaneous combustion as I sat and watched the movie. This is what representation looks like. This is what I want this research to embody.

 

Participant engagement was certainly aimed for with the blog update posted previously. Admittedly, I did not engage with stakeholders as much as I should have, and that was a fault of this research. However, I do believe that remaining open to all contact is the most important part of research, and I have remained transparent throughout the subject on ways to facilitate communication. Having my university email and Twitter (both of which can be found at this end of this post) public was important to this process. Still, I do remain at fault for a lack of initiating communications myself, something upon which to improve when next conducting research.

 

Regarding the course research values, curiosity must first be addressed as it underpins the entire subject. For me, the curiosity wasn’t so much about the gender bias in film and television itself, but how my peers felt about it. Chamorro-Premuzic states that curiosity is as important as intelligence, listing it as one of the three psychological qualities that “enhance our ability to manage complexity” (2014). It stands along IQ (intellectual quotient) and EQ (emotional quotient), referred to as CQ (curiosity quotient), and leads to inquisitiveness and new and original ideas (Chamorro-Premuzic 2014). Perhaps it even gives new life to the Albert Einstein quote, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious” (Chamorro-Premuzic 2014).

 

Critical judgement is undoubtedly one of the most important concepts, especially in a world of fake news and ‘alternative facts’ (Peregrine 2017). When it comes to secondary sources, it can be hard to assess whether sources are reliable, relevant and up-to-date. However it is certainly made easier by California State University’s CRAAP analysis, which provides a step-by-step system to critically judge any source (2010). I feel lucky to have a lot of valuable and reliable secondary research to turn to, with many reputable institutions creating research and publishing it in the public domain.

 

Respect is another important part of research; both for the topic and for any participants. The Respect Project notes that research must be beneficial to society and minimise and risks of social harm (2004). It additionally notes the need to give the utmost respect to any respondents and disseminate their perspectives and information in the way they intended, not inflating or twisting their words (Research Project 2004). Respect is something that seems easy to handle (and in many ways, it is) but I think bias can have a sway that can be both unintentional yet disrespectful. It is something I have kept in mind as I wrote the final report, otherwise the claims I have made become redundant.

 

Finally, integrity is what underpins my report. All universities have their own codes of research integrity, with UOW being no different. UOW’s inclusions of integrity follow the different concepts learnt throughout this subject, including socially responsible research design, respect and critical evaluation. Although aimed at scientific research, I believe the National Institute of Health’s research integrity values are incredibly relevant and useful: honesty; accuracy; efficiency; objectivity (2013).

 

All of these concepts remain essential to create a report that is both factual and informative, while being respectful and responsible in its delivery. With this being said, anybody who would like more information or to see the full report, please email beq670@uowmail.edu.au and I will be more than happy to help. Otherwise, you can contact me on Twitter @BriannaQuine!

BCM212 Report Update: Gender Bias

Firstly, if you currently have no context of this project, please see my initial research proposal here!

As of now, research is steadily underway for the final report, including both primary and secondary. For primary research there is currently a survey out that will be gathering results for the next 3 weeks or so, so if you feel so inclined to fill it out you can find the link here. So far, results are generally varied, with the only true consensus lying within the belief that women are limited by the lack of characters they are able to see on screen, and the non-surprise at a lack of women behind the camera creating these fictional works. A focus group will be completed within my assigned BCM212 tutorial so hopefully that will yield information that goes beyond what the survey can provide. Additionally, I hope to be conducting interviews over the next few weeks to gain more in-depth information about opinions of the gender bias.

As for secondary information, there is a plethora of information available about the topic from a wider base (i.e. not specifically on university student’s opinions). The Geena Davis Institute of Gender in Media is one of the core research bases for this topic, conducting both their own research and sharing that of others on their Facebook and Twitter pages. They have been a wealth of information to assess qualitative and quantitative data already available, especially given its reliability of the source. The Women’s Media Center and Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film have also been invaluable.

Writing of the report itself has not yet commenced, but I plan to start after primary research collection is complete.

Please feel free to email me at beq670@uowmail.edu.au at any stage if you have questions or input! If it’s easier, you can tweet or DM me on Twitter @BriannaQuine!

Anthropomorphism or Narcissism?

“When animals express their feelings they pour out like water from a spout. Animals’ emotions are raw, unfiltered, and uncontrolled. Their joy is the purest and most contagious of joys and their grief the deepest and most devastating. Their passions bring us to our knees in delight and sorrow.”

– Marc Beckoff

Credit: Marc Beckoff

Anthropomorphism is defined as “the showing or treating of animals, gods, and objects as if they are human in appearance, character, or behaviour” (Cambridge Dictionary). Learning about anthropomorphism in the lecture this week, I couldn’t help but feel there was much more to this conversation. We looked at it in a rather negative light, about how we take away the identity of animals by by placing human traits onto them- especially emotions. Only, I feel as though we are looking at this the wrong way.

In its most simplistic form, this notion assumes that animals lack both basic and complex emotions. After all, for anthropomorphism to be true it would insinuate a lack of both due to us ‘giving’ our own emotions to them. So, where does narcissism come into play? I believe it narcissistic of us, as humans, to believe that character, emotions and behaviour belongs inherently to us and only us.

I don’t believe we are turning animals into humans by giving them emotions. They have their own. But where is the line between an animal’s own emotions and behaviours and those that we, as humans, put on them? It is very difficult to say and I certainly don’t claim to have the answers, but I want to look at the complexity of animal emotion.

Some scientists are hesitant to make any claims about animal emotions because they are extremely hard to quantify and we have no spectrum to truly measure them (Barkham 2014). Many who do, claim that there is an undeniable truth to animal emotions (Beckoff 2000, 2007; Paxinos 2015; Worrall 2015; Barkham 2014; Balcombe 2006; Panksepp 2017). The references listed don’t begin to touch the sides of it. Over the various studies that have been conducted, observation and neurological testing are at the forefront of research. Observation has been widely occuring for decades, with almost all conducting the research concluding there were visible emotional traits (Worrall 2015). The reason observation has played a large part in this focus area is because there was previously little else that could be done technology-wise (Worrall 2015). The moment of truth for the findings arose when animals were able to be studied on a deeper level, including neurological scans and other forms of testing.

A recent study conducting neurological scans of domesticated dogs shows that they have a similarity with humans in the way they emotionally process voices (Gacsi et al. 2014). This is due to a homogeneous non-primary auditory cortex in the brain (Gacsi et al. 2014). In Blackfish, it was also found that orcas have an extra part in their brain (as opposed to humans) which allows for a more complex emotional response system (2013). Perhaps that is why the clips from Blackfish (included below) are so confronting; they are animals in true, complete distress (2013). Observation proved that elephants have a similar grief process to our own, as humans (Gillespie 2016). Elephants will show sorrow, shed tears and bury their dead (Gillespie 2016). Is this not enough evidence?

I see these emotions in my own horse as she communicates to tell me she’s happy, hungry, irritated, excited, even sick. I don’t believe it needs to be quantified for people to acknowledge it’s true, I believe they just need to spend time looking after an animal.

In Blackfish (2013), there were several moments wherein true grief and pain were shown by the orcas. One shows how SeaWorld’s most infamous whale Tilikum came to be in captivity; we see he was taken away from his pod of whales at only 2 years old (Blackfish 2013). Another, is when a female orca has her baby taken away, with her reaction recorded (Blackfish 2013).

(Please note: videos contain distressing/upsetting content)

Watching these, I find it hard to dispute the fact that animals have emotions.

Why does seeing animals with emotions make them disappear? Do we believe we are losing sight of their ‘true’ animalistic nature by seeing them express emotions of grief or joy, of pain or anger? We should be able to see animals are creatures with complex emotion, and acknowledge that it is not a difference between us, but a similarity. A similarity that negates the notion of anthropomorphism in this context. We need to separate animal emotion from anthropomorphism. Otherwise, we really are just being narcissistic.

 

Reference List

Balcombe, J 2006, Pleasurable kingdom: animals and the nature of feeling good, Macmillan, New York, 2006.

Barkham, P 2014, ‘Do animals have emotions?’, Guardian, 13 November, <https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/nov/13/if-only-they-could-talk- >.

Berkoff, M 2000, ‘Animal emotions: exploring passionate natures’, BioScience, vol. 50, no. 10, pp. 861 – 870.

Berkoff, M 2007, The Emotional Lives of Animals, New World Library, California.

Gácsi, M, Faragó, T, Kis, A & Miklósi, A 2014, ‘Voice-sensitive regions in the dog and human brain are revealed by comparative fMRI’, Current Biology, vol. 24, no. 5, pp. 574 – 578.

Gillespie, K 2016, ‘Witnessing animal others: bearing witness, grief, and the political function of emotion’, Hypatia, vol. 31, no. 3, pp. 572 – 588.

Panksepp, J 2017, APA Handbook of Comparative Psychology: Vol. 1. Basic Concepts, Methods, Neural Substrate, and Behavior, ‘Chapter 23: Instinctual foundations of animal minds’, United States of America.

Paxinos, S 2015, ‘Scientific studies of animal intelligence and emotion reveal surprising traits’, Sydney Morning Herald, 30 August, <http://www.smh.com.au/national/scientific-studies-of-animal-intelligence-and-emotion-reveal-surprising-traits-20150703-gi4nbh.html&gt;.

Worrall, S 2015, ‘Yes, animals think and feel. Here’s how we know’, National Geographic, 15 July, <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/07/150714-animal-dog-thinking-feelings-brain-science/&gt; .

 

 

The Face of Humanity or Just Inhumane?

“If you are not forcing yourself to regularly interrogate the benefits you enjoy in society, it’s all too easy to tell yourself that other people are inventing their disadvantages. So people born into financial independence tell themselves poor people need to work harder [and] people born into the relative utopia of Australia argue that refugees fleeing war-torn countries are ‘jumping the queue'”

– Clementine Ford (2016)

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Credit: Khalid Albaih 2016 @KhalidAlbaih

There are many ethical problems surrounding the notion of ‘poverty porn’ and when a photographer captured the image of Alan Kurdi’s, a young Syrian boy’s, body laying on a beach the ethical debate was sparked yet again.

First, a distinction needs to be made on what I am classing as being ethical or exploitative. I believe when individuals are given respect and their likeness is shared in a way that draws constructive discussion that contributes to a societal change, that is ethical and humane. I believe individuals are exploited, however, when they are painted in a light that shames, degrades and/or humiliates them due to their suffering and circumstances for the enjoyment of the privileged. The latter is what I classify as ‘poverty porn’. I believe the image of Alan is the former.

The picture of little Alan sparked an important change in the views towards refugees (Devichand 2016; University of Sheffield 2015). Researcher’s at the University of Sheffield sifted through millions of postings on social media after Alan’s passing (2015). Before this image went viral both ‘migrant’ and ‘refugee’ were used interchangeably and equally online, but after there was a large spike in the term ‘refugee’ amounting to 2.3 million and 6.2 million posts respectively (University of Sheffield 2015). The picture also had a large influence on Canadian foreign policy (Kingsley & Timur 2015). Prior to the current Canadian government, the conservative majority had strict border policies but Alan’s picture prompted the removal of some of the legal hurdles for refugees (Kingsley & Timur 2015). After the liberal Trudeau government was elected there was an opportunity for large change and the government signed a new policy granting entry for 25,000 vetted refugees (Kingsley & Timur 2015). Trudeau even personally welcomed some of the first entering at the airport, with a tweet captioned “#WelcomeToCanada” (Trudeau 2015). Finally, public donations to charities supporting Syrian refugees increased up to “100-fold” immediately after the photo went viral (Reuters 2015).

However, it isn’t all good news. After pointing out the aforementioned findings on the increased use of the word ‘refugee’ in social media posts, the University of Sheffield found that the infamous terror attacks in France on November 13, 2015 undid much of the positive rhetoric toward refugees (2015). The other problem is that stories like this and the empathy they create towards these issues wane (Devichand 2016). Alan’s father, Abdullah Kurdi, stated “Everyone claimed they wanted to do something because of the photo that touched them so much. But what is happening now? People are still dying and nobody is doing anything about it.” (cited in SBS 2016). I understand that it is difficult to sit with all the tragedy we see in the world. It’s virtually impossible to expect people to carry the weight of this issue, as well as the hundreds of others that come to our attention. But in the end, it is on us, the privileged, to turn our empathy into action whenever we can.

I believe we need to see pictures of circumstances that make us feel uncomfortable. They show us our privilege, they spark our empathy and more importantly they give the a human face to the issues we, at times, choose to ignore. In other words, they become the face of humanity.

 

Reference List

Albaih, K 2016, ‘Choices for Syrian children’, Instagram post, <https://www.instagram.com/p/BJQJCowA15G/&gt;.

Devichand, M 2016, ‘Did Alan Kurdi’s death change anything?’, BBC, 2 September, <http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-37257869&gt;.

Ford, C 2016, Fight Like A Girl, Allen & Unwin, Sydney.

Kingsley, P & Timur, S 2015, ‘Stories of 2015: how Alan Kurdi’s death changed the world’, Guardian, 31 December, <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/31/alan-kurdi-death-canada-refugee-policy-syria-boy-beach-turkey-photo&gt;.

Reuters 2017, ‘Photo of dead ‘boy on the beach’ Aylan Kurdi boosted donations to Syrian refugees’, South China Morning Post, 12 January, <http://www.scmp.com/news/world/middle-east/article/2061484/photo-dead-boy-beach-aylan-kurdi-boosted-donations-syrian&gt;.

SBS staff 2016, ‘Father of dead Syrian boy Alan Kurdi begs for help one year after tragedy’, SBS, 2 September, <http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2016/09/02/father-dead-syrian-boy-alan-kurdi-begs-help-year-after-tragedy&gt;.

Trudeau, J 2015, ‘#WelcometoCanada’, Twitter post, 11 December, <https://twitter.com/JustinTrudeau/status/675314389541629952&gt;.

University of Sheffield researchers 2015, ‘Aylan Kurdi: How a single image transformed the debate on immigration’, University of Sheffield, 14 December, <https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/news/nr/aylan-kurdi-social-media-report-1.533951&gt;.

Selfie Woes

This week we talked about the selfie. Generally, the idea of the selfie was positive. We talked about selfies and the relationships they have with empowerment, the ability to brand ourselves online and the rise of the micro-celebrity, but I think there are certain pitfalls associated.

In looking at Kim Kardashian’s naked selfie, my tutorial cohort labelled it as empowering and great for body-positivity. Now, before we go any further I want to make something very clear. I don’t believe we should chastise her for posting this selfie. It was her choice to make and I wholly respect that. Also, the fact that she is confident in her body is great, and she should not be ashamed of that. However, in labeling this a win for body positivity and body image, I don’t believe we are benefiting anyone. So, do I think selfies can have a negative affect on body image? Yes.

Studies have found direct correlations between the taking and viewing of selfies with lowered body image and self-esteem (Briggs 2014; McLean et al. 2015; Wagner et al. 2016). This doesn’t just include the selfies of celebrities either, the images of friends can be equally, if not more, damaging to an individual’s body image (Briggs 2014). One of the leading causes in reduced body image is the phenomenon of social comparison (Wagner et al. 2016; Perloff 2014; Vogel et al. 2014; Krayer et al. 2008). Social comparison theory, in its most basic form, believes that individuals will compare themselves to others and in adolescents it is usually in the form of body comparison (Krayer et al. 2008). So, given the many links between body image and the selfies of celebrities and peers found in the previous references, I believe it is hard to refute at least the possibility for a problem to arise. Has social media provided a platform where young girls and (increasingly) boys (Krayer et al. 2008) are doomed to have poor body image? Or is everyone falling into a moral panic?

Perhaps ironically, Wagner et al. found that females who displayed poorer body image tended to take more selfies on a monthly basis (2016). They loosely attribute that to the need to take the perfect selfie, and that may involve the struggle to find the perfect light and/or angle (Wagner et al. 2016). Another interesting finding is that those who regularly post selfies to social media are more likely to be unhappy with their bodies in terms of weight, size, shape and even dietary restraint (McLean et al. 2015). Additional research also states that the problem of body image is particularly pertinent to those regularly viewing and uploading selfies  (Holland & Tiggemann 2016). I don’t believe these findings are particularly surprising. I believe social media has created an environment where most people feel the need to be only the best versions of themselves. This is fair enough, no one wants to present themselves poorly, but when does that stop?

Perhaps this is where certain trends and hashtags become problematic. Simmons looks at the rise of trends encouraging potentially damaging attitudes and/or lifestyles (2016). One that is referenced in particular is the ‘thinspiration’ trend, or even the more accepted ‘fitspiration’, often presented in the form of selfies on sites like Instagram (Simmons 2016). She notes, “both contained strong language inducing guilt about weight or the body, and promoted dieting, restraint and fat and weight stigmatization” (Simmons 2016).

Is this all Kim Kardashian’s fault? Definitely not. But, I do believe she represents a small piece in a much larger problem. We unconsciously partake in social comparisons regularly, so perhaps a small change we can make to stop ourselves falling into the body image trap is to pull ourselves up on it. Acknowledge that it is a reflex and not necessarily an accurate reflection of the truth.

So yes, Kim Kardashian had every right to post that picture and good on her for feeling confident in her body, but please don’t call it empowering for the body image of women all over the world. It just isn’t.

Reference List

Briggs, H 2014, ”Selfie’ body image warning issued’, BBC, 10 April, <http://www.bbc.com/news/health-26952394&gt;.

Holland, G & Tiggemann, M 2016, ‘A systematic review of the impact of the use of social networking sites on body image and disordered eating outcomes’, Body Image, vol. 17, pp. 100 – 110.

Krayer, A, Ingledew, D.K. & Iphofen, R 2008, ‘Social comparison and body image in adolescence: a grounded theory approach’, Health Education Research, vol. 23, no. 5, pp. 892 – 903.

McLean, S.A., Paxton, S.J., Wertheim, E.H. & Masters J 2015, ‘Selfies and social media: relationships between self-image editing and photo-investment and body dissatisfaction and dietary restraint’, Journal of Eating Disorders, vol. 3, no. 1.

Perloff, R.M. 2014, ‘Social media effects on young women’s body image concerns: theoretical perspectives and an agenda for research’, Sex Roles, vol. 71, no. 11-12, pp. 363 – 377.

Simmons, R 2016, ‘How social media is a toxic mirror’, TIME, 20 August, <http://time.com/4459153/social-media-body-image/&gt;.

Vogel, E.A., Rose, J.P., Roberts, L.R. & Eckles, K 2014, ‘Social comparison, social media and self-esteem’, Psychology of Popular Media Culture, vol. 3, no. 4, pp. 206 – 222.

Wagner, C, Aguirre, E and Summer, E.M. 2016, ‘The relationship between Instagram selfies and body image in young adult women’, First Monday, vol. 21, no. 9, <http://journals.uic.edu/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/6390/5620#author&gt;.