Why won’t we believe what we’re told?

If 95% of scientists believe the fundamental principles of climate change, why are we still loathe to both believe and act on their worrying claims?

Perhaps one of the key reasons why the threats of climate change are continually debated and disagreed upon, is that it is not an individual experience for the majority of the public world. We are not yet affected by flooded streets, extreme weather patterns or severe tropical storms; our experience of climate change is highly mediated. I, myself, find it quite worrying that this hugely consequential environmental issue is being left to the mercy of the media world and the way in which they choose to present the issue. How can we ever understand global issues through the media? And how can we possibly develop responses to such complex, global problems? I don’t know if we’ll ever work it out in today’s convoluted media web.

When it comes to climate change, the media is big on celebrity endorsements.

The fabulous Miranda Kerr has been the well-known face of Australia’s Earth Hour campaign for the last few years. Once a year she floods onto our screens and tells us how we should all switch off our lights to save the earth. When media mogul Rupert Murdoch announced in Tokyo in 2006 that he, while still a bit skeptic about climate change, believed the earth deserved the benefit of the doubt, his many newspaper publications didn’t necessarily follow suit and endorse these new opinions, which is what you would expect to happen.

There is a real ‘false balance‘ in the media today… journalists are increasingly presenting opposing opinions about climate change as being more balanced than they are, when in fact, a very small percentage of professional scientists would dispute the fundamentals of climate change.

Distressingly, the media seems to be distracting us from the severity of this issue. A comparison of polls conducted in 2006 and again in June 2011, reveals that the numbers of those who believed that global warming was a real threat and should be immediately dealt with, was down from a huge 68% in 2006 to a meager 41% in 2011.

And even though it has been constantly repeated, there is very little debate when it comes to climate change! Scientists are busily working on the extent and impact it will have, not whether it is actually occurring!

Sadly, however, as one audience member said at a recent climate change forum in Parramatta, ”I try not to believe [in climate change] because I don’t like to believe the worst.”

REFERENCES:

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/environment/climate-change/climate-sceptics-and-sympathisers-put-heat-on-flannery-20120515-1yp46.html#ixzz1vB4OYsIi

http://www.abc.net.au/environment/articles/2012/04/26/3489733.htm

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/mediareport/mr-murdoch-and-climate-change/3378308

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvqU_L5PZtk

Lecture Notes, Tanja Dreher, 14/05/2012.

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Yet another comment on the ‘Sexualisation of Children’

Who are we really protecting? Our own sense of morality or in fact, the children?

One of the most important concepts that came out of this week’s discussion of the apparent ‘sexualisation of children’ in today’s media, is that there are a huge number of different issues and debates that are being clumped under this one bracket. Some of the wider issues that can go unidentified from others when investigating this hot topic include:

  • The issue of child pornography and the dangers of paedophilia
  • The biological influences of sexuality vs. the cultural constructs of gender and sexuality of youth.
  • The shifting of cultural standards over the years: is childhood our last ‘taboo’ which must be unequivocally protected and nurtured from (particularly) overtly sexual influences?
  • The legal boundaries of childhood (with <16 years olds being legally children) when the age of puberty is becoming increasingly younger.
  • How Western society’s obsession with youth and staying young could be impacting our perceptions of childhood.

What Catharine Lumby and Nina Funnell argue is that perhaps the moral panics that have eventuated over issues relating to ‘the sexualisation of children’ are distracting us from the real issue of protecting children from actual forms of abuse.

Duncan Fine wrote a hard-hitting article regarding society’s general propensity to overreact to events such as the Bill Henson uproar, young children in ‘adult-targeted advertising and the general expectation that children are “completely innocent and need that innocence zealously protected.” He pushes different examples of censorship and social restrictions to the extreme and makes them almost laughable, when in fact, the general public’ response often pushes for a response to the extent of something similar.

But what are we actually protecting? Are we ‘zealously protecting their innocence’ when in fact, this might not be the most constructive thing to do when they reach a certain age?

Studies show that the onset of puberty is decreasing, and with that comes a new awareness of one’s sexuality and gender. There are new legal dangers that are coming into the arena such as ‘sexting’ which can now “group sexually curious teenagers together with convicted paedophiles,” (Lumby and Funnell) if charged.

There are a number of parent lobby groups such as Collective Shout and Kids Free 2 Be Kids, which lobby against the sexualisation of children and do provide an active and constructive voice in the community. However, we really need to ascertain that our own adult-perceptions of ‘childhood’ and ‘innocence’ align with an accurate reflection of the current wants and needs of children today.

 

 

References:

Lumby, C & Funnell, N, 2011. ‘Between heat and light: The opportunity in Moral Panics’, Crime Media Culture, pp 277-291.

http://www.crikey.com.au/2008/05/30/bill-henson-porn-culture-get-real/

http://www.smh.com.au/business/media-and-marketing/sex-kids-and-advertising-20120328-1vylk.html

http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/mature-children-an-oxymoron-20120501-1xvu8.html?skin=text-only

http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/art-and-design/bill-henson-20110408-1d6gy.html

http://www.smh.com.au/business/media-and-marketing/ama-ads-anger-over-sexualisation-of-kids-20120403-1w9x6.html

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“Cultural Policy and Me”

The first definition of ‘policy’ to come up on a Google search states: “A course or principle of action adopted or proposed by a government, party, business or individual.’ In even simpler terms, it can be a ‘statement of intent.’

There are quite a number of previously unknown aspects about policy that I was the keen receiver of this week, thanks to lecturer, Dr Kate Bowles:

  • Policy-making involves both pragmatic and cultural influences.
  • Policy derives from and interacts with the law and generates almost a second level of law; it explains how something will be enacted.
  • Policy has to be constantly reviewed.
  • Policy-making has to meet the aspirational goals of the community it represents, which is what sees the cultural input of policy; everyone is able to give their opinion and policy is what orders these competing stakeholder’s interests.
  • Policy sits at the interface between resources and people.

What I also wasn’t aware of, is that everyday Australian cultural life is regulated through the eyes of policy. Simon Crean released the National Cultural Policy Discussion Paper towards the end of last year, which marks the second round of public submissions and consultations for the upcoming National Cultural Policy being implemented in 2012. In the opening introduction to the paper, Crean states this policy will:

“Reflect the important role that arts and creativity play in the daily lives of all Australians, and will help to integrate arts and cultural policy within our broader social and economic goals.”

If you read the rest of Crean’s letter, it is hard to doubt the vital importance of a National Cultural Policy for Australia and the many ways it will benefit our cultural community.  However, the problem with policy is that it can often be hard to realistically implement which is interesting as it really is the very purpose of policy in the first place! This has been noticeable in the four goals of the proposed Cultural Policy which are terribly vague and often indefinable. There is a ‘diversity goal, innovation and participation goal, excellence goal and socio-economic goal.’ Reading a Crikey article from August last year discussing the vagueness of these terms, they have quoted a senior state government arts advisor as saying “the arts goals are a bit of a dog’s breakfast.”

It is obvious that policy is a constantly changing and fluid thing which battles its way through a daily mash of conflicting ideals, social beliefs and values, and also a tricky web of Australian law and legislation that makes up and governs Australian society. I, for one, am definitely anticipating the release of this year’s National Cultural Policy and am anxious to see the active way in which this new policy agenda will be able to regulate and implement an array of both new and old cultural imperatives.

 

 

References:

http://www.crikey.com.au/2011/08/12/national-cultural-policy-discussion-paper-simon-crean-interview/

http://culture.arts.gov.au/sites/default/files/discussion-paper/national-cultural-policy-discussion-paper.pdf

http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/big-ideas-at-heart-of-future-of-performing-arts-20120430-1xv0b.html

Lecture Notes, Dr Kate Bowles, 30. 4. 12.

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“Pulling the reigns on the Internet”

Let’s just slow down a minute and ask some more question about the direction in which the internet is heading… Who is actually in control? Us or them?

The question being posed this week is: ‘What are the emerging threats to an open internet?’ The continuing dominance of the internet in society and the rapid way in which it is evolving and expanding has done away with a good majority of the old legal restrictions and laws surrounding content ownership and social security that has previously protected both individuals and businesses from exploitation. However, while the internet is technically a ‘free’ space in which to research, produce and interact with a rich variety of content, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the user no longer has control over the information they produce and share online.

University lecturer, Dr. Ted Mitew, has likened this current situation to that of Feudalism in Medieval Europe where peasantry were ‘free’ workers of the land yet did not own it, could not sell it, and were under the complete direction of their lords who controlled the way in which they worked the land.

 While content being uploaded and shared with various social media sites is under the user’s autonomy, the concern facing the youth of today is that they will be unable to escape their drunken Facebook photos and rude or inappropriate tweets shared during their immature mid-teens when they begin job hunting later on in life. This issue of data mining is becoming increasingly apparent as content industries continue to strive for control over all aspects of information given by its users.

In a SMH news article, a mother likens the information shared on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook with that of a ‘tattoo,’ in that, information shared online will always be able to be accessed by other parties of people, whether individuals, businesses or future employees, and can never be erased.

While the internet continues to expand and become an increasingly open space of unlimited content and personal data, we need to make sure that we, as users, are aware of who is actually in control in this cyberspace relationship of users and providers.

References:

http://www.smh.com.au/national/styled-by-mother–children-taught-to-build-online-brand-20110701-1gv6j.html

http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/the-terrors-of-twittering-growing-up-in-an-unexploded-data-minefield-20100505-u8rk.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feudalism

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“Just call me a professional journalist…”

Minus the university degree! 

We are at an age where online writers are being recognised as professional journalists. Just last month, 14 year old Jacob Arnott from Melbourne was accredited as a reporter for the 2012 London Olympic Games. His online blog, The Sporting Journal was a project he started only last year at age 13, yet now he gets up to 500 hits a day and will be providing official coverage of the upcoming Games.

The notion of ‘User-Generated-Content’ (UGC) has been circulating for years yet it is just starting to take on a more serious note; challenging the traditional notion of journalists as the sole producers of objective content in the public sphere. While the debate over whether online bloggers should be considered journalists has been worn out in the last few years, perhaps a more accurate question is whether citizen journalism is a threat to the professional journalism industry?

While I have previously been convinced that it is potential threat as requests for increasing public participation from media platforms (such as Twitter) and public videos (often from iphones) are becoming more and more prominent in online news articles, television and current affair shows, the following quote has made me consider that is might just be a natural progression:

“Journalism is a structured and organized mode of public communication, and that means it is closely connected to the evolution of society… the same can be said of participatory journalism, which is a form of communication by the public for the public.”

(Quandt 2011, p 160).

However, there are still those who don’t want to rush to call every blogger a ‘journalist’ and claim there are still clear distinctions between the professional and non-professional online writer. But I would agree that public communication is closely linked to social evolution and with the internet seeping into almost every aspect of both public and private life, perhaps this shift is inevitable.

 

References:

Quandt, T 2011 ‘Understanding a new phenomenon: The significance of participatory journalism’, Participatory Journalism in Online Newspapers: Guarding Open Gates at Online Newspapers, pp 155-176.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-03-09/cub-reporter-wins-olympics-assignment/3880194

http://sportingjournal.com.au/archives/author/jacobarnott

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A view from the other side

What would it be like to be blind, deaf or have impaired mobility in today’s tech-savvy world?

Truth be told, the issue of new social media and accessibility for disabled users had never even crossed my mind before this week. But now I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it must be to struggle against a technological system and a society that does not easily include nor acknowledge this widening gap in social awareness and basic policy making.

As Goggin and Newell rightly state,

“IT and digital networks form the nervous system not only of the economy but also of our society,” (2007, p 159).

The Disability Discrimination Act of 1992 is the current Australian legislation which dictates the rights of people with disabilities and aims to remove types of discrimination found in the workplace, education, public facilities and existing laws. One of the first legal cases in Australia that involved media platforms and disabled accessibility was in 2000, when a man successfully launched a case against the Sydney Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games whose website had failed to adequately cater for the blind. Since then, web accessibility is now specified under the D. D. Act.  According to an article written by Sarah Pullis, the Federal Government has pledged to make all its websites accessible by the end of 2014.

However, as Goggin and Newell assert, it’s not just websites that prove hazardous when it comes to access:

“The design and production of information and communications technologies has grown especially complex with convergence; the relationship between production and consumption has become closer and closer, especially with the emergence of the figure of  the ‘produser’,” (2007, p 161).

With the ever increasing rate of public-generated media content, it creates a whole new level of media platforms which need to cater for all types of groups and abilities in society.

Sources:

Goggin, G & Newell, C 2007, ‘The Business of Digital Disability’, The Information Society: An International Journal, vol 23, no 3, pp 159-168.

http://www.abc.net.au/rampup/articles/2011/12/19/3393485.htm

http://www.abc.net.au/rampup/articles/2012/03/23/3462327.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disability_Discrimination_Act_1992

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_accessibility

http://www.mediaaccess.org.au/about

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Hey, University… I think we should just be friends.

[It’s not me, it’s you]

I feel like my highly-romanticised view of University has been tarnished and my eyes have been somewhat opened this week.

While these are some points that arose from lectures and discussions this week that I wish I was able to discuss in great length…

  • Who knew the ever-growing internet was having such a radical impact on the way we see/access/live in the world and has the potential to change almost everything about society and learning as we know it in the not too distant future?!
  • Who knew I was so firmly integrated into the social institution more commonly known as University which is becoming increasingly “grossly overrated” ?
  • Who knew handwriting was becoming obsolete as computers continue their world domination?
  • Who knew Education Services is Australia’s largest services export? [$18.6 billion according to stats by Andy Whelan]

… There really is just too much to tackle so I am going to briefly discuss just a couple of points that really got me thinking about my role in the weird and wonderful world of University.

What really threw me was how little I actually understand about University and its deeply ingrained role in our society and culture. A newly discovered term for me this week is ‘Edufactory’ which is essentially a notion suggesting the commercialisation of universities, or, as the official website quotes, “What was once the factory is now the University.” We, the students of such institutions, are just factory workers, being common mass-producers and receivers of appropriated knowledge.

And what do we, in turn, receive from all this hard labour? Some would argue we receive very little. Popular media personality Mia Freedman, posted an interesting article by a graduate student entitled, “The real world doesn’t care about your degree.” In this blog post, the author Zoya Patel laments the way in which University degrees are commonplace when searching for jobs:

“Why is it that employers are no longer that interested in degrees? Is it because they’re so ubiquitous now that it would be strange for someone to be applying for such jobs without one?”

Another comment Patel made also reminded me of the ‘Ivory Tower’ metaphor discussed this week:

“Maybe the nature of universities, and the purpose of tertiary education is changing – could it be that degree are less about preparing students for the workforce, and more about a level of intellectual discovery that helps with the development of a life-view, but not so much with a fiscal return?”

Are Universities really equipping us for an important position in the workforce or are we all on the straight and narrow path heading towards becoming the elite (but unemployed) members of our local Ivory Tower?

Sources:

http://www.mamamia.com.au/social/the-real-world-doesnt-care-about-your-degree/

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/business/worklife/expert-argues-uni-degrees-overrated/story-fn7j1dox-1226310922615

http://www.edu-factory.org/wp/building-up-an-institution-of-the-common/

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Edu-Factory/351256897932

Miller, R. E. 2009, “The Coming Apocalypse,” Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture, Vol 10, No 1.

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Where in the world are YOU?

With locative mobile-media and gaming on the rise, where will you be when it comes to getting in on the game?

Back in the day when leggings, barbies and broad-brimmed hats were in vogue, my favourite computer gaming experience involved being part of the ACME Detective Agency in an effort to track down the ultimate villain, Carmen Sandiego, as she left a hidden trail of crime across the globe! However, a huge shift has taken place over the last fifteen or twenty years as the technological developments of mobile phones, games and ‘apps’ continues to radically transform our entertainment and social parameters.

Locative media is a semi-recent phenomenon in which

“the ubiquitous connectivity through mobile devices has transformed our urban environments into ‘hybrid spaces,’ where social interaction and communication patterns traverse through physical, digital and a mix of both spaces.”

(De Souza e Silva in Bilandzic and Foth 2012).

One blogger’s simple definition refers to it as mediums that address a physical space through digital technology (Farrelly 2011). While the developments within locative media are quite radical, there are certain dangers that need to be taken into consideration. As Chan reminds us, “Public knowledge of player positions might be central… but it can also potentially result in virtual stalking, voyeurism, and other clandestine activities,” (2008).

One of my favourite examples of locative-based media gaming is Geocaching: a real-world outdoor treasure hunting game where players try to locate hidden containers and then share their experiences online, as cites the website.

Geocaching.com has over 1.6 million geocaches hidden across the globe. Unlike many gaming experiences, this hobby takes users into the great outdoors; encouraging a healthy and active pastime that can also be done with friends and family. The website allows users to log their victories, expedition statistics and also register geocaches for other users to find. Users are able to determine their own levels of privacy and share as little or as much of their experiences as they like, which makes it a largely safe example of locative media gaming. While it is free to join and play, a premium membership costs $30 a year and GPS and compass apps are some of the required tools for the game (around $10 or so). It really is a cheap, fun and healthy way to get connected to both the environment and other users around the world.

While once upon a time I was merely the orchestrator of a fictional, digital character onscreen, society has now leapt ahead to real-world kind of game where anyone with a mobile and a GPS can join!

Sources:

Bilandzic, M and Foth, M, 2011, ‘A review of locative media, mobile and embodied spatial interaction’International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, vol 70, pp 66-71.

Chan, D, 2008, ‘ Convergence, Connectivity, and the Case of Japanese Mobile Gaming’, Games and Culture, vol 3, no 1, pp 13-25.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geocaching

http://www.geocaching.com/

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-ca-geocaching-20120318,0,4535904.story

http://glenfarrelly.blogspot.com.au/2011/11/locative-media-definition.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Where_in_the_World_Is_Carmen_Sandiego%3F

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