A Different Cinematic Experience

I love going to the movies, films truly are made to be seen on a huge screen, in a very dark room, with surround sound and lots of other people in that room to share the experience with. Recently I went to the annual Travelling Film Festival with my mum that literally travels all over Australia to show case international films at local cinemas to give people the opportunity to see award winning films they would normally never get to see screened in a cinema. It runs over one weekend in a movie marathon type set up with films all playing within half an hour of each other. I’ll admit I probably wouldn’t have gone if it wasn’t for my amazing mother who loves international films and all things culturally enlightening. The initial reason why she bought me a ticket was because there was a Spanish murder mystery playing, and I am currently in my second year of studying Spanish at University and therefore thought it would further my studies.

I met my mum at the cinema and she was of course, true to her nature, already immersed in conversation with somebody she knew.  It is a given that the audience for a movie at the cinema is always different depending on what the movie is, the movie was called “Marshland” set in the wet lands of southern Spain, the audience for this film was of an older generation, some of the people were what I would describe as ‘alternative’ but some were also very average looking. However I knew it was a very different audience to the people you see at the regular hollywood block busters. In fact as soon as we arrived at the cinema I spotted my old Spanish tutor. My mother and I sat much closer to the front than I would normally, mostly because her eye sight isn’t the best (sorry mum). It was clear that many of the others in the front rows had chosen their position for similar reasons.

This was a very different cinematic experience from the usual blockbuster experience, there was a short introductory speech for the film by the MC for the film festival which created a sense of togetherness and excitement within the space. As the cinema is generally considered a public space, there are certain rules of conduct. For instance one man was snoring during the film which is pretty frowned upon in any cinema and also just strange in the first place because we all paid a certain amount of money which allowed us to be there so I would conclude that he was wasting his money by sleeping whilst also disallowing others to fully enjoy the film.

At the end of the film everyone clapped, which rarely happens normally, but there was a sense that we were expected to clap because it could be assumed we were all there with a similar interest in either international films, Spain as a country, the Spanish language, murder mysteries and also just for the fact that it was a very good movie. It was so good in fact that I decided to stay and buy a ticket for the following film which my mum had already bought a ticket to. The next film was not Spanish nor all that international, it was an American art house comedy called ‘Grandma’, but I think the reason I stayed was for the fact that I enjoyed the atmosphere of this different type of cinematic experience I had never before been around. I hope that in 5-10 years exposure to international films is more widely available to smaller communities and society can start to steer away from the obsession with same old Hollywood films.

Netflix – My New Family Member

A re-occuring scene in my house hold consists of my mother walking into the living room seeing me staring at my phone screen, with Netflix playing on the television and my laptop open on the floor in front of me and I can already predict that she’s going to say “Are you even watching this?”. We have extremely fast internet in our household which allows us to be using the 3 iPhones, 2 laptops, 3 televisions and 2 iPads all at the same time. However when visiting the National Broadband Network website my street and the 3 streets next to mine are part of the ‘build preparation’ area and less than a kilometre away in a high density housing area it shows the service is available, which makes me wonder is their internet all that much more reliable and does this point to the logistics behind NBN’s rollout scheme. However, the more important questions to ask are: Has faster internet changed the way Australian families live and communicate?. Does faster internet mean we communicate less because we don’t have to wait as long to access what we want to and therefore spend more time online? or do new technologies and faster access free up more time for what is arguably more important, face to face interaction.

When I asked my mother and father their personal opinion and experiences with internet usage in our home, this is what I found. My father has a work office upstairs which is also where his computer is, unlike my mother, my dad is very technology savvy and has an Instagram and Facebook account as well as a website for his business and his work revolves around internet access which is why we have one of the more expensive data plans. Although this can keep him separate from the rest of the house, he said he feels like a time that does bring the family together is when we all watch a television show at the same time every week which creates conversation and interest. However, it is not always easy to find something we are all interested in on free to air television which is why many families find it easier to resort to their separate screens.

My mum has never had her own personal computer and regretted the fact that she can’t easily put the music she wants on her phone or have a device to watch movies. Our recent Netflix purchase has given her some of this freedom as it is an extremely easy and fast platform to use and also has resolved the issue of not being able to find something we all want to watch. Although we have not gone so far as to create ‘zoning’ around the house ( technology free zones) the dinner table is a place where phones are not allowed, like many other families. So, although technology can make it hard to spend time with family, I do think new technologies are trying to create the fastest, easiest way of having communal viewing in the home. 

Ethnographic Research

Ethnographic research can not be created without the help of others and their insights into subjective and objective parts of their real life experiences, this can also mean the collaboration of multiple authors (researchers). This is why Luke Lassiter (2005) states “Ethnography is, by definition, collaborative”, and explains that collaboration implies a constant conversation and not simply an interview technique where only one party is giving the information. Described in:

“Essential to participant observation is the need for communication between the investigator and the people being studied, an important distinguishing point between the social and natural sciences.” — Hortense Powdermaker, Stranger and Friend

We all know marketing and advertising agencies will pay big money for access to ethnographic research in order to know who their target audience is and what they are interested in, therefore making sales. For example, how would we know that everyone ONLY wants to watch television shows about cooking or home renovations without ethnographic research that tells broadcasters that the primary age of viewers are at a stage in their life where they are building and renovating homes. It also gives companies the opportunity to stick their product in the middle of the action and even give their viewers the opportunity to instantly buy their products directly from the television shows website. Over time tv ratings show producers what topics work in reality television and what doesn’t, when a trend is found, nothing is stopping producers from creating more and more of the same shows as they know from past examples it will receive high ratings. It is also extremely easy for ethnographic researchers to search hashtag’s on Instagram, read Facebook status’s and look at tweets to find out exactly how their audience feels about the latest reality TV show. Some shows in Australia like Q&A, Eurovision and Big Brother have even created their own live twitter feed which streams along side the show allowing viewers to share their opinions and more often than not their humorous comments, this just so happens to be the perfect tool for ethnographic field work. However their has been instances where twitter feeds live on TV have gone horribly wrong……

a-shocked-mr-bean

References:

Adams, M.A. 2014, This is why you don’t show twitter streams like on tv, FishBowl NY

Lassiter, L.E. 2005, The Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethonography, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Television and The American Dream

This week I was asked to interview someone from a different generation about their experiences with television as a child and the memories it gave them about the spaces they watched it in and with whom they watched it with. I immediately thought about my mother who had an interesting child hood moving from Florida to Australia, Japan, England and then back to Australia all by the age of 10. My mother, Rika, was born an ‘only child’ in Florida, USA in the 1960’s during the era of the American dream, and as we know the television was a huge symbol for this ideology. Colour television was available in America long before Australia and having a television was a presumed norm for any average American house hold. She lived in a 60’s Californian bungalow style house, it was open plan living, another lifestyle feature not yet introduced to Australian homes. Living close to Disney Land, cartoons such as the Mickey Mouse Club were extremely popular, as she grew older she remembers watching The Three Stooges on the couch with her father and the 6:00pm news broadcast every night, although she did not have siblings to fight with about what would be watched, her father was always in control of the viewing material. My mother being born in 1955 never experienced having black and white television until she moved to Australia at age 8 and even then her parents did not want to buy a television straight away.

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Californian Bungalow style house, cerca 1950, Source

When Rika’s parents moved to Australia they had rejected the whole memory and notion of America, it became apparent to Rika that her parents no longer wanted to be associated or tied to the American Dream. This meant that they did not want to buy another television for several years after settling in their new home. However after several years of begging and pleading her parents to buy a tv, Rika went backwards in technology advancement and her family bought the only kind of television available in the late 60’s, a small, black and white boxy television with no remote and no vcr player. The test pattern was a familiar sight and all programs usually ended around 10:30 with a maximum of 2 or 3 channels.

Upon reflection of my mothers memories I realised my personal memories of television as a child has a familial attachment to my dad making pancakes for my sister and I on a sunday morning and waking up at 6am to watch cartoons. Although it is safe to say that my mother and I have had very different experiences of television in the home, what with my experience of growing up with 3 televisions, 2 iPads, 2 laptops, 3 iPhones, Netflix and a Blue ray player which even now is becoming old technology, we still share a similar memory of watching cartoons with our fathers and them almost always having priority over the television….and the couch.

To media space and beyond!

My media space undeniably consists of a lot of Instagram stalking and Facebook scrolling, however I am personally not an avid social media ‘poster’ or sharer of my thoughts and experiences online which is possibly why I find it very difficult to write anything on the topic of myself. It seems to me that my current media space is bombarded only by the best and happiest experiences or aspects of my peers or strangers lives, but never include that fight you had with your friend or that failed grade or any failure at all really. Why is it that within social media it is unexpected or unusual to see a negative or unhappy post?. Is it socially awkward or frowned upon to post anything other than your best self?.

This leads me to question whether my media space is ever a true reflection of an identity or a life and in turn, what are the emotional and physical repercussions on someone who believes it is. I admit, I myself am guilty of only ever posting positive media about myself and also find myself thinking does no one else share the same problems I do? because they’re Instagram sure doesn’t look like it!. I suppose as a media and communications student you must always question and research the validity and honesty of the media space you are entering into, whether it be a news article or an Instagram account.

Why are ethics important in research?

When conducting any kind of research that involves the public it is necessary to get it approved by a human research ethics committee(HREC). It is important to have an outside party approve that what you are conducting is ethically sound and will not offend, invade privacy or put anyone in danger. As ethics have always been a subjective topic depending on your personal opinion, what is ‘right’ can be different to someone else. To avoid debate about what may or may not be ethical to some, rules are adopted by organisations to inform their employees and the public about what their ethical standards are. The National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research is the broad guideline which all research projects must comply with in Australia.

Of course when we surround ourselves with negative people, situations or just a negative mindset, the outcome is going to be negative. But have you ever wondered if that person who always posts those miserable status updates on Facebook is actually making you miserable too?. Well turns out you would have been better off deleting Ned from Facebook who loves to tell you how he lost his job and his girlfriend.

In 2014, Facebook conducted a research study on Emotional Manipulation and to prove that emotional contagion exists on Facebook, meaning that if someone’s Facebook newsfeed is primarily negative posts then they will feel sad or negative without the actual physical interaction with people. They carried this out by manipulating peoples newsfeeds to either primarily negative or positive data and found that in fact emotional contagion is very present online. However, they did this without peoples consent and without a HREC approval which is arguably unethical and illegal. But why did they feel they did not need ethical approval?.

They claimed that they did not need a research committee’s approval as the results would not be shared with the public and was for internal use only. At the time, the study was consistent with Facebook’s policies, however the clauses regarding research were only added 4 months after the study was conducted. When considering peoples mental states of mind and how the manipulation might effect them, 6.7% of Americans suffer from clinical depression, so approximately 46,000 of facebooks user base may have been suffering from depression at the same time they were conducting the research. This means that any kind of unusual amount of negativity or something directly coming from the research could have been responsible for a persons safety or the impact it had upon them. It sounds like Facebook knew they had put peoples lives at risk and tried to cover themselves four months later when they had realised and it was much too late. For as large a company as Facebook to get away with such unethical research is an indicator that individuals wellbeing needs to be put well before a companies interest in research.

Instagram vs. Real Life

Instagram as we all know is completely reliant on interpretation. Unlike Facebook which allows users to express lengthy opinions in status updates, Instagram is image-driven which makes it much easier for users to trick/influence their followers into believing and only seeing a certain aspect of their life as they want them to see it. Although you have the ability to write a caption underneath your photo which is limited to 2200 words (entirely reasonable amount to explain a photo), you are not able to write more than 150 words in your ‘bio’ which is what is supposed to tell people about yourself, arguably setting people up to not properly express themselves before they even start posting. Instagram is however and has never claimed to be a forum used for drawn-out conversation or discussion like Facebook can be used for, which is arguably the beauty of Instagram. But, what are the consequences and harms of portraying yourself as someone who you may not be in real life?. Is the more we post on Instagram the more we search for validation through likes and not through our real lives?.  As they say “Being famous on Instagram is like being rich in monopoly money” – it’s not real.

In a recent article in the New York times titled “Facebook made me do it”, this loop of positive reinforcement through likes on Instagram is analysed. The near immediate approval of what you are doing can become addictive and necessary, it may influence us to post more controversial photos just to see how much the barrier can be pushed and what people respond to. The article compares this kind of activity to such things as graffiti or protests, the world wide scale of who’s going to see what you are doing increases the risks you are willing to take, its described as being ‘performative’. I think this is extremely true and see it in my friends I follow on instagram, businesses, fashion labels, organisations, even I myself am guilty of such things. It is hard not to glamourise the photos you post on your online life, with the options of filters and saturations. What in reality is a photo of a cloudy and cold day can instantly become a hot and sun drenched day just with the application of a filter.

The article references the research of Coye Cheshire, a professor of information sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies how we interact online. He thinks that the act of anonymity online is similar to the feeling that is received when in a crowd, you act more impulsively than you might in person and so do things that you otherwise would not face to face. This is often seen in the example of ‘keyboard warriors’, often just bullies who find their voices much easier and louder online than they would in real life. This article is extremely successful in illustrating what the effects of having an online personality can be and the feelings of encouragement and approval which you may or may not like to admit are hard to ignore.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/16/sunday-review/facebook-made-me-do-it.html?smid=fb-share&_r=2