Planned Obsolescence and It’s Consequences

Chances are, you’ve heard someone from an older generation once say “things just aren’t made to last anymore!”, and chances are they’re right!. My grandpa had an old Plymouth  for nearly 40 years, these days we upgrade cars after 5-10 years or even less. Is this because in the modern age we all want the best and brightest? Maybe, but whats more likely is that electronics have a much shorter life span. There is actually a term for this policy of planning or designing a product with an artificially limited useful life, its called “planned obsolescence”. It originates as early as the light bulb with General Electric handing out fines if producers light bulbs lasted longer than 1,000 hours. What’s the purpose? – obviously to reduce the period of time between repeat purchases increasing profit. The consequence? – 50 million tons of E-waste every year..

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) report, entitled Global e-waste systems – Insights for Australia from other developed countries said “In Japan, consumers do not have to pay a fee when recycling smaller e-waste, as they do for larger items. Meanwhile, in the US state of California, consumers incur an advance recovery fee. This fee is paid when buying devices such as TVs and laptops,”. This is certainly a good way to ensure devices get recycled and consumers are taking responsibility. In Australia the problem of e-waste is still in its infancy, e-waste is growing 3 times as fast as other waste categories (EIU Report), so Australia is going to have to adapt. E-waste not only effects the environment, but people too. Australia’s E-waste is shipped off to countries like Ghana in Africa or Guiyu in China where 80% of children suffer from lead poising (Greenpeace). The electronics are burnt in order to create space which releases toxic fumes into the air, they are then picked apart to find the precious metals like gold and silver, so they can sell them and make a small reward.

Toxics e-waste documentation (China : 2005)

A child sitting amongst cables in Guiyu, China. (Greenpeace)

One computer can contain lead, mercury, cadmium, brominated flame retardants and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) (The guardian, 2013) which when burnt creates catastrophic pollution that is ingested through the drinking water, air and becomes part of the soil that they grow their crops in. Even more alarming is the majority of people who work on the dump sites are children.

But instead of just looking at how to better recycle electronics, shouldn’t we be looking at how to make them last longer and who’s responsible for that?. Solutions need to be found “upstream” in the way electronics are manufactured and consumed in the first place. A viable solution to this problem has in fact been created, its called the Fairphone.  The Fairphone contains conflict free minerals, is built by employees who are paid fair factory wages, is easily recyclable, durable, repairable and actually costs less than an iPhone. It costs approximately $795 Aus dollars compared to an iPhone 6 which retails for about $930. The Step Initiative is another organisation run by the United Nations set up to tackle the E-waste problem and is releasing annual reports to create awareness. Western countries can not continue to dump their own waste and the problems that go a long with it on poorer countries who have no choice but to live with it.

 

Geisha’s and Godzilla

Orientalism is, in a nutshell, “the way that the West perceives of — and thereby defines — the East” (Edward W. Said). Since colonialism, the West has perpetuated the idea that the eastern world is deeply rooted in tradition, exoticism, and is generally undeveloped. This is in order to create the picture of it being a problematic area that needs taming and therefore justifying colonialism as “the white man’s burden“. Using the word oriental to describe someone could mean they are from several different countries, including  China, Japan, Turkey, India, Greece or Egypt just to name a few. All of which have very little in common culturally  except for their geographical proximity to each other. This is why the term is out dated, inappropriate and possibly even offensive. Early orientalism is seen in European art and photographs like the one below on the cover of “The Thief of Baghdad” depicting two women on a flying carpet in exotic dresses and head scarves reflecting a long history of orientalist fantasies.

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1924 film poster

 

More recently, In 2014, Air France launched a new ad campaign featuring women dressed as different iconic symbols associated with the countries that it flies its aeroplanes to. However, the two cultural appropriations for Beijing and China have been criticised as being racist. As Asian-American feminist and activist Jenn Fang notes on Reappropriate , “If only you hadn’t ended up with an ad campaign that actually features (mostly) White women wearing stereotypical racial and cultural drag to depict all those exotic non-Westernized countries.”(Fang,2014). The ads are perfect caricatures of exactly what the West has made up about these two Asian cultures, both symbols of the geisha and the dragon have very little to do with Modern China or Japan. Further, they are representations of what the West thinks Asian women are or should be, the Geisha expresses the exoticism, sexual decadence, submissiveness and seductiveness in her gaze that Jenn Fang describes as the “white fetishization of Asian women“(Fang,2014).

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Air France, 2014 

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Air France ad for Beijing, 2014

 

 

The second ad for Beijing has the woman wearing yellow face make up and her eye liner mimics the shape of the Asiatic eye, how they didn’t think that would be offensive? – Who knows. Just like Katy Perry’s 2013 American Music Awards Performance where she performed as a geisha girl, they are just a way of depicting the East exactly how the West wants it to look, continuing the damaging stereotypes which have dated back as far as 1908 from Lord Cromer the consul general of Egypt who wrote, “the main characteristic of the oriental mind is untruthfulness”.

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Katy Perry’s AMA’s 2013 performance was orientalist and stereotypical

 

Many defendants of orientalism argue that it is a declaration of admiration and love for the oriental, but whether there is truth to this or not it still categorises the East as ‘the others‘ and portrays no sense of the universality of humanity. It is hard to know whether or not had this campaign been constructed by an Asian marketing team for an Asian company, would they still be offensive?, my guess is yes, because they are the symbol of an oppressive and anti-Asian sentiment that believes the West is the norm and the East, the abnormal.

Here are a couple of very funny adaptations made by twitter users of Air France’s advertisements, comparing it to some other stereotypical Asian images.

air-france-dragonballair-france-godzilla

Dog vs Pig

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This is my dog Bart. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am completely and utterly obsessed with him. I am definitely guilty of anthropomorphising him, I constantly call him baby and my best friend, I talk to him regularly and make up scenarios for what he might be thinking whilst he’s doing some strange doggy activity. I am aware this is a projection of my own needs and a process of humanisation for my own pleasure. As Una Chaudhuri puts it “As pets, as performers, as literary symbols, animals are forced to perform us – our fantasies and fears, our questions and quarrels, our hopes and horrors (2003)”. This certainly rings true to my own personal experience with animals. In the same way Desmond Morris said “The age of a child is inversely correlated with the size of the animals it prefers”, reflecting his argument that young children preferred larger animals because it reminded them of a parent and older children preferred smaller animals because it reminded them of a baby, which I can relate to.

But more importantly than this, why am I more inclined to feel this way about dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and other popularly domesticated animals than say a pig?. After all pigs have even been known to out smart dogs, large amounts of research on pigs was conducted in the 1990’s and Professor Stanley Curtis of Penn State University, who discovered that pigs dominate at video games with joy sticks says, “Pigs are able to focus with an intensity I have never seen in a chimp”, so in theory humans should be able to recognise more potential in pigs. However, a prominent argument against this would be because we love to eat them. We label pigs as pork and bacon and cows as beef, making real animals vanish by putting names on them making it easier for us to ignore how these animals are treated in the meat industry. We have even concocted sayings like “I smell like a pig” affiliating pigs with being dirty and unclean when in actual fact pigs don’t even have sweat glands.

It can also be put down to how these animals are represented in the media. Dogs are often featured in advertisements for toilet paper, cars, food and even the super bowl. Dogs are allowed to have their own seats on trains in England and to sit in restaurants and cafes, whilst for Balinese people dogs are believed to be reincarnated thieves and criminals and are generally not kept as pets, so there can also be cultural factors involved too. However, psychologist and anthrozoologist Hal Herzog has recently written a book called ‘Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat’ in which he talks about factors contributing to our like and dislike of certain animals. He puts it down to the way they look and humans affiliation to connect to things that look like them, the closer the match, the more familiar the animal seems. For example, our canine friends, we teach them to sit and shake hands just to be more like us.

Humans have always tried to teach animals how to understand their language, but never tried to understand theirs. It is this primate mentality which allows us to treat some animals as family and others as objects.

pigs

 

 

Let us learn from Anne Boleyn

Through out history, suffering has often been used as a tool by those in a more fortunate position to reassure themselves of their comfortability and stability. The problem with viewing poverty porn is it “produces abjectifying images of the poor through a privileged gaze for privileged gratification.”(The Conversation, 2015). This allows people to think, ‘this could never happen to me’.

Public executions in medieval times were seen as a joyous activity for the whole family to watch. Even the bible is based on suffering as Jesus persecutors “bound his hands so blood burst out of his nails”(Athene Reiss, 2008). These two examples are arguably some of the earliest forms of poverty porn. There are striking similarities between sitting down to watch human beings who are clearly very distressed on an episode of “Struggle Street” and going to the town square to watch a beheading, after all they too called it entertainment.

In the same way Kings and Queens put themselves in the position of thinking these public executions could never happen to them, educated, middle class citizens sit back on upholstered lounges and watch flat screen television with a comfortable living standard and think, “I will never have to live like these people do”. But as the example of Anne Boleyn tells us, we are never exempt from one step in the wrong direction and our lives being turned upside down, or in her case, your neck succumbing to the force of a single sword stroke.

Although the producers may have set out to create an accurate representation of the Mt Druitt community, what especially categorises this show as poverty porn is the entertainment value driven by the underlying class racism. Filming people whilst intoxicated, high and at their worst does not create a sympathetic audience and only helps to point the finger at the individual whilst ignoring figures of rising inequality and high unemployment rates. The photo below reflects this exact cause and effect with a woman being directly incriminated by struggle street filming her smoking illicit drugs whilst pregnant, viewers tweeted their reactions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, there are ways of creating accurate representations of people in crisis. For example, the image which became known as ‘Napalm girl’ picturing a 9 year old Vietnamese child running running in agony because her clothes and skin had been burnt off from the exposure to Napalm during the Vietnam war, a photo which some say hastened the end of the war.

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‘Napalm Girl’ Kim Phuc

A very similar story shook the world much more recently when Aylan Kurdi, a little boy whose body was washed up on a Turkish beach and reminded the world of the cost of denying thousands of refugees refuge from a war torn home land. This photo is arguably even more explicit than ‘Napalm girl’ as Kim Phuc survived these horrific burns where as Aylan sadly did not survive the immigration policies of many democratic countries, including Australia.

So why, after the release of magazines and newspapers featuring this heart wrenching photo on their covers all over the world, when the speed of communication, transport, internet connection and media freedom is stronger than ever before, have there been no dramatic changes to Australia and the worlds immigration policies when we have seen the consequences first hand.

 

 

Use the right word, not its second cousin

Writing, I think, is something very personal. When authors decide to publish their writing in something so real and tangible as a book, I would imagine it to be an extremely scary thing to do. To allow yourself to be judged and criticised by anyone and everyone would not be the easiest decision to make, and lets face it, not everyone is going to like your writing style, even if you are Nabokov or Charles Dickens. Blogging as a writing tool makes receiving and giving feedback even more instant, whether it be gratification or ridicule, the ability to comment and like as soon as a post is published means there is no hiding from what people think of your writing. This semester we were given more freedom with what and how we wanted to write about a particular weekly topic, but with more freedom of choice often comes more second guessing oneself. This is what I found the most difficult about this semester. The knowledge that anyone on the internet could read my blog and my research made me much more cautious about how pertinent and accurate the information I chose to use was and also being more careful about what I chose to say in general as to not offend anyone. I found myself getting almost anxious when I received notifications that someone had commented on a post of mine and so confidence in my own ability to create material that is captivating or inspiring has been something I have struggled with throughout my blogging experience.

I began asking myself questions like, Is this information actually interesting? and, what makes me want to read a blog post?. Well, in my opinion, a catchy title certainly helps to draw in readers which I have tried to accomplish each week and not having grammatical errors, so as not to annoy your reader is also a good start. Even more than this, I think writing about personal involvement and feelings helps connect you to your audience and using shared knowledge/experiences is something people always enjoy reading about as they feel they can relate. Being able to relate your own material to recent news stories or popular culture also creates a relevance to blogging. Something that helped me a lot was reading other peoples blogs to explore different writing styles and where I fit amongst the group.

A conversation I found myself having with my fellow BCM240 students is that a lot of blogging (writing) has begun to sound very similar, there is an emphasis on creating something witty yet isn’t too obvious in trying to be (Binns 2008). Its hard to be yourself when you write without thinking that you must write in this certain blogging style. Don’t get me wrong I’m all for blogging tips, after all it is not as easy as I thought it was going to be and one of the most important tips I have found is seen in this quote, “Reading and writing are inseparable” (Heavenridge 2015). I think the most attractive thing about someone’s blogging style is how knowledgeable they are and how they make their knowledge coherent in their writing, once again this comes from how much you read, as seen in the quote:

Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.                – William Faulkner

If a tree falls down in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If there is no one to read your blog, is it a blog?…… The most important element of getting my blog out there in this subject has been the use of hash tags and in particular the hash tag BCM240 which has connected all the students in this subject and enabled us to feed off each other’s ideas. Using the statistics page that word press supplies has been extremely informative as to what day/s and time/s are the best to post and when you get the most views and feedback. For my blog Sunday evenings was when I received the most action and obviously the hours just after I would publish a post as it would be in the recent posts in the ‘reader’ so therefore a higher chance of someone clicking on it.

As I am a big follower of fashion blogs such as they all hate us, knight cat and man repeller, these became really useful sources in understanding what attracts readers in terms of visual resources, how to make navigating a blog easier and how to create hype around a blog. Although all these blogs are based around visual media instead of writing, they are examples of successful blogs with large followings and how to make a career out of blogging in modern life. Something that all these blogs have In common, is a unique blogging style of their own, something that I think grows over time with confidence.

Upon reflection, I do feel this semester has made me feel more confident in my writing, the practice of writing every week and getting into the habit of regular blogging does make it easier to know who you want to be in the blogosphere, which I think is explained precisely through, “There are two ways to become a better writer: write a lot and read a lot.” (Heavenridge 2015). The weekly topics have been much broader than previous blogging subjects in media and communication subjects that I have completed. A beneficial segment of these tasks were the interactive activites involved in order to complete the blog, for example attending the cinema and interviewing family members which forced me to think about the topic on a larger scale and listen to other peoples insights. 

References

Binns, A 2008, “The secret of writing funny”, Write to Done, viewed 1st October <http://writetodone.com/how-to-write-funny/&gt;

Heavenridge, P 2015, “Why read reason 7, the more one reads the better writer they become” Literacy Works, June 2nd, viewed 1st October <http://www.literacyworks.org/news/2015/6/2/why-read-reason-7-the-more-one-reads-the-better-writer-they-become&gt;

YOU Tube….. But only if we say its okay

This week I decided to look into the rules and regulations of YouTube as a media platform and how they regulate their audience and the content that is uploaded. I use YouTube as my main source for music and recently I have noticed that it is very hard to find new music on YouTube that isn’t being hosted by ‘Vevo’, which is a company owned by Sony and Universal. I was trying to listen to Dr Dre’s new album but because Vevo has not yet uploaded any of the songs it is virtually impossible to find on YouTube. In the past it was guaranteed that someone would have uploaded a copy of the original song but now, in order to be allowed on YouTube, they have all been altered in some way. They are either slowed down or sped up a bit for the purpose of copy right laws. This is because in 2013 YouTube renewed a contract with Vevo and invested $50 million into the company. “Vevo holds the rights to music videos for most major music artists and is YouTube’s top channel partner” (Grant, 2013). In my experience I have found YouTube to be a media platform that is well regulated, it is not often that you come across extremely violent, pornographic or inappropriate videos. In YouTube’s community guidelines it states that any content which has nudity or is sexual, harmful, violent, hateful, threatening or content that has copyright infringements will be removed. YouTube also allows users to regulate their own content by being able to create an over 18’s account or putting certain restrictions on accounts for younger or more sensitive users. But what else is disallowed by YouTube?

Recently there has been several cases where YouTube accounts that have thousands of views or subscribers have been breaking regulations and often unknowingly. If a YouTube star is promoting a product whether it be a video game, make up or clothing but does not mention they have a financial stake in the company or are being paid by the company to do so then this is now against YouTube’s regulations. This is a very recent ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority that occurred in the UK after an Oreo ad featuring YouTube stars failed to sufficiently make clear that this was in fact an advertising campaign. The ASA said “The YouTubers’ video ads were very much in the style of their regular content posts and so it would not be immediately clear the Oreo clips were marketing communications”(Sweney, 2014). Now whether companies are just starting to realise they can tap into a new channel to potential customers where the content producers are mostly young kids or whether it is really about honesty to viewers, is hard to tell.

Another interesting regulation that YouTube enforces is not allowing users to upload drone footage for commercial use. However, even if you are just a drone hobbyist uploading videos on YouTube for personal use, you may still be breaking these regulations. This recently happened to a man from Tampa who received a letter from the Federal Aviation Administration saying “Because there are ads on YouTube, Hanes’s flights constituted a commercial use of the technology subject to stricter regulations and enforcement action from the agency.” (Koebler 2015). These would come in the form of fines and sanctions. This can become very confusing for drone users because clearly what is condoned commercial use is subjective to the FAA and in turn YouTube as a media platform.

Although YouTube has clear community guidelines and will delete content that is reported and then reviewed by YouTube and found inappropriate, in the YouTube terms of use they state that:

“You further understand and acknowledge that you may be exposed to content that is inaccurate, offensive, indecent, or objectionable, and you agree to waive, and hereby do waive, any legal or equitable rights or remedies you have or may have against YouTube.”

This is basically their way of saying that if we don’t get to the ‘objectionable’ content before you do, its not our fault and you can’t take legal action against us.

References

Community Guidelines, YouTube, viewed 30th September, <http://www.youtube.com/yt/policyandsafety/communityguidelines.html&gt;

Grant, R 2013, “YouTube renews contract with Vevo and invests $50M to keep it away from rivals”, Venture Beat, July 2, viewed 30th september, <http://venturebeat.com/2013/07/02/google-renews-contract-with-vevo-and-invests-50m-to-keep-it-away-from-rivals/&gt;

Koebler, J 2015, “The FAA says you can’t post drone videos on YouTube”, Vice Motherboard, 12th March, viewed 30th september, <http://motherboard.vice.com/read/the-faa-says-you-cant-post-drone-videos-on-youtube&gt;

Sweney, M 2014, “Vloggers must clearly tell fans when they’re getting paid by advertisers, ASA rules”, Guardian, 26th november, viewed 30th Sept 2015, <http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/nov/26/vloggers-must-tell-fans-paid-adverts-asa-rules&gt;

Public screens and the ethics of Street Photography

How often do you take out your phone if you are in an awkward situation or are waiting around for someone or something, just so it looks like you are busy or shouldn’t be disturbed. Does taking out your phone in a public space then create your own private space?. I know I’m guilty of doing this, its undeniable that phones and screens are a great way to pass the time, but they are also a great way to waste a lot of your time. Many public places use screens for this exact purpose, in waiting rooms, in city centres, shopping malls, even universities. Is it acceptable in our modern world, to instead of turning to the person next to you and saying hello, to stare at a public screen in silence?. Yes, in my experience, I think it has become an acceptable norm. However this is not always the case and public screens can also create positive interaction. An initiative that is trying to encourage this is called The International Urban Screens Society who want to create:

“Screens that support with their content the idea of public space as space for creation and exchange of culture, strengthening a local economy and the formation of public sphere”.

The organisation feels it is a new way to integrate art into urban public spaces using its relationship with architecture.

Another large issue that comes to mind when talking about public spaces, screens and personal devices is street photography. Many people, including myself, see street photography as an art form for expressing important issues in space and time and documenting life in a particular setting. For example, the photo below of a sailor kissing a nurse in the middle of times square became iconic for depicting real life World War II victory celebrations, and this in fact is street photography.

 – V-J Day in Times Square, a photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt, was published in Life in 1945 with the caption “In New York’s Times Square a white-clad girl clutches her purse and skirt as an uninhibited sailor plants his lips squarely on hers”

However, it is important to ask whether street photography is a violation of peoples privacy in modern society as so many people feel that it is. Although there are no laws against street photography and no presumed privacy in a public space, many believe it is a violation of ethics to photograph a stranger, particularly in any way they might find embarrassing or inappropriate. This I can agree with to an extent, I think posting a photo online that that person may find distressing or they just generally don’t like should be respected and taken down, as I know I wouldn’t be happy about it. An even larger issue is photographing children in public spaces as there are no laws that say it is illegal, however it is hard to know how parents would feel about it unless you were to ask. This debate may never draw to a conclusion as there are so many national security and surveillance issues in modern society. I do think there is purpose in instead of questioning artists about why they are photographing people in public spaces for artistic purposes, to question the government about their need to survey every second of public space and public life and whether the material that they capture and keep is ethical.

It is sad to think that if, back in 1945, people had been worried about the ethics of street photography this photo may have never been published and people may have never been able to see this symbolic photo which so powerfully conveys the feelings bestowed by every day people at the end of the war and helps us to better understand this historic moment in time.

References

About the Urban Screens Initiative, 2008. Available from: <http://www.urbanscreens.org/about.html&gt;. (30/09/2015).

Sutton, D 2014, David K Sutton Photography Blog, April 21st 2014. Available from: <http://blog.davidksutton.com/594/is-street-photography-a-violation-of-privacy-or-ethics/&gt;. (30/09/2015).