Digital Storytelling – Does your use of social media whilst on campus add to your sense of belonging to UOW?

It is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the presence of social media and the internet has heavily impacted society. This technological innovation has left footprints on areas such as communication, interaction, literacy, privacy and most of all, identity. This increasing reliance on social media has led to the contentious issue of whether it has changed society for the better or worse. Some positives for social media as stated by Landry(2014) are that is has allowed for greater and immediate access to information, the ease of connectivity to others and creating an arena for globalised voices. Landry (2014) balances this by commenting on the increased narcissism of society due to things such as ‘selfies’ which manifests on the internet and that the ability to remain anonymous can allow for devious activity such as trolling and hacking which lead to ethical issues around privacy invasion and bullying.

As evident in the collated research done by Statistica in 2014, the graph shows that worldwide, the age group of 16-24 equally dominate the social media user category. This is notable as it is most commonly these years whereby one’s identity and sense of self are achieved.

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Teens engage with networked publics for the same reasons they have always relished publics; they want to be a part of the broader world by connecting with other people and having the freedom of mobility. – Boyd (2014)

      Boyd (2014) states that “teens are passionate about finding their place in society” and that social media platforms are the tools they are utilising. I conducted a survey online of 20 participants to help determine whether the use of social media by students whilst on the University of Wollongong campus at all effects their sense of place, identity and most of all, belonging. Here is the data found:AB CD

From this primary research, it shows overall that the merging of the specific physical place of UOW and online social media space hardly impacts a UOW student’s sense of belonging whilst on campus. This can be paralleled to the concept of the networked home – a place which is a mecca for communication due to accessibility on multiple devices but it does not dictate how. A person’s home does not define them but rather is a reflection of them and this is evidently the same for the UOW campus. The campus is used to facilitate communication but this does not necessarily translate into students associating this with belonging to place.

 

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Reflections on my writing

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Despite maintaining this blog for academic university purposes for the past two years, it was only until about three months ago when I was applying for internships did I fully realise that this blog was an extension of my thoughts and a portfolio of my writings. During a couple of interviews they asked if I had any writing experience and at first I freaked out because this would be my first internship, I have no experience in anything what so ever! But then I realised ‘oh, my entire degree is about writing’…I confidently gave them my WordPress URL knowing that my blogs had academic backing, showed off my strong communication skills and demonstrated my ability to engage a reader through text. After these experiences I realised that literally anyone, anywhere was able to access my blog. I was willingly publishing my writing in the public sphere that is the internet and it didn’t dawn on me until two years after I began.

Due to this realisation I gained a greater awareness of audience, I was more conscious of my writing and how I portrayed myself. I read Mikel’s (2015) article which gave me helpful tips to refine my tone of voice and improve my writing. I learnt which mistakes are commonly made and which phrases to best avoid because they unnecessarily drag your writing on. My aim in improving my writing was to build audience relatability and a sense of being on the same level. I wanted my audiences to connect with my writing because they understand where I was coming from and create a colloquial voice as opposed to an academic one. This saw my writing undertake the transition from referencing the weekly lectures and using university specific terms to the use of real life examples and terms which anyone outside of the BCM240 realm could understand and relate to.

The exercise of blogging has aided in building my research skills. Three months on, I have successfully completed my first internship and a lot of my time was spent researching. I found that researching for blogs has enable me to find my researching groove and have now developed a certain technique which I find to be quick, efficient and also thorough. Also due to the amount of weekly topics which need further information, the task of researching is no longer a laborious drawn out task and I now know how to deconstruct exactly what I need to do.

Blogging is not my favourite task but upon commencement I grew to enjoy it due to the topics which required covering. Not only did the topics have real life applications but they also were common concepts which we often don’t think about in everyday life and to become aware of them and analyse them in a social situation is quite interesting. Having gone through the process of writing in a public arena, it is apparent now that it is a rewarding challenge.  It has taught me how to project my writing voice, refine my research skills and about everyday notions which exist but are not often highlighted. It has been a process of writing growth, time management and interactivity. The task of blogging has taught me the importance of the online sphere, public awareness and how media, audience and place are intertwined to create a networked society.

How Well Do You Pay Attention?

In this modern day and age, there are more thing which divert ones attention. It’s not just your classic mobile, laptop and social media but things such as people talking in the library and eavesdropping into their juicy conversation about how Sarah broke up with Matt or eating lunch at a café and accidentally zoning out on your friend to start people watching. Life is so busy these days so as a result, people are used to changing their focus constantly to keep up.

As a test, I made my friend complete this Buzzfeed video task and she was able to count all 14 red cards but only noticed one background difference. I on the other hand couldn’t keep up. Once I saw the plant in the background disappear I lost focus and forgot how many red cards I already counted and tried to simultaneously watch both the cards and the background and couldn’t focus on just one. Does this mean that I am unable to multi-task? This exercise has taught me that even when you think you are paying full attention to something, you can still miss a lot of details.

This made me wonder about university lectures and how valuable people really deem them to be. I personally do not like to attend lectures as I prefer to be able to watch them online, stop/start/repeat them as I please. When I do attend lectures, I definitely do switch off too many times and often question why I attended when I know I’m not going to give it 100%. I honestly do try to listen but sometimes the lecturer has a monotone voice, my phone gets a notification, my friend says something funny or there is a hottie 3 rows down. My last lecture that I attended, I took time to look around and see what others are doing. I can see that the entire back row are engaged in a group computer game, the person next to me is endlessly scrolling on their phone and the girls a couple of rows away are having a chat. Does anyone pay attention to the lecturer!? It appears that mobiles and laptops do indeed hinder learning in a university lecture environment as theorised by Sana et. al. (2014) as they offer more opportunity for distraction through things such as the internet and social media but it’s evidently not the sole distractor. I will still continue to open my laptop at uni but I am definitely now more aware and conscious of how often I get distracted.

Is your identity at risk when you enter the public sphere?

As part of a previous university assignment, I mounted a camera and tripod in the middle of Pitt Street mall in Sydney and filmed the daily movements of shoppers and those going through the outdoor area, notorious for its sales people and buskers. I thought nothing of it, I wasn’t outing these people singularly nor did I have bad intentions for the film, it was merely an art piece. After about 10 minutes, a middle aged lady approached me and voiced her concern.

She did not wish for footage of her to be visible anywhere. I politely asked why because I honestly was curious why people are uncomfortable being filmed. She replied that she did know where or how the footage would be used, what if it was for a propaganda video that she didn’t support? I fully understood her point and explained that the purpose of my footage would be for a university art piece and the concept behind it. I then asked her for her permission and she still declined but did not make me delete the footage. I said no worries but still continued to film.

In the end I still did use the footage containing her. Not out of spite but honestly because I sped the film up, her face was blurred anyway and the aesthetic of the shot was nice. Do I feel bad that I went against her wishes? No because I didn’t use the footage for negative purposes, nor was her identity clear and also what I was doing was not illegal, she chose to enter the public sphere that day. How would I feel if someone filmed me the same way? I wouldn’t mind but would probably walk out of the shot. I would not actively seek interaction with the camera but I am also not concerned for my privacy.

How do you feel about being filmed in a busy environment for the sake of someone’s university assignment? What if you didn’t know what it was for, does that change your opinion?

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Why do you act differently in cinemas?

There are unspoken rules when it comes to going to the cinemas. They don’t check that your phone is off or on silent as you walk in and they don’t say that you can’t talk during the movie but we abide by these anyway? Is it out of respect for those around us or is it that we never question how legitimate these rules are?

During the 1960’s, the concept of ‘Time Geography’ was theorise by Swedish geographer Torsten Hägerstand and he identifies the constraints which prevent people from acting freely in their daily lives. He explores the limitations that impact upon the social and the decisions we make to adhere to these limitations.

Capability constraints – physically limits access, including biological abilities and physical barriers

  • Unfortunately I was unable to attend the cinemas this week. It’s not that I am not incapable of attending the cinema as I only live 15 minutes’ drive away from 3 separate cinemas, have my own car and am comfortably able to afford a one-off visit to the movies. My capability constraint is that I just don’t want to go. I don’t enjoy movies in general as I dislike sitting idle for a couple of hours when I have so much to do and would rather experience things as opposed to watch them. In saying this though I do appreciate movies as an art form and I do watch them occasionally but I would rather have the capability to stop/pause/start them as I please and be in the setting of my choosing. This is why I think the rise of Netflix has occurred, along with the price of attending the movies compared to the monthly subscription.

Authority constraints – Whether you have the right to be somewhere, or if you are restricted

  • There are no authoritative issues with my attendance at the cinemas. I am 20 years old so my parents really have no control over where I go, I am not banned from any cinema establishments and nor would I act in a way which inhibits my entry. The only minor authority would be time but there’s such a thing called time management so if I really wished to, I could make time to attend a cinema.

Coupling constraints – Proximity between yourself and others

  • When I was in primary school, before I had the freedoms I have now, going to the mall or going to the movies were really the only activities I could do so it was always a thing my friends and I would do. Now though, I have no qualms about going to the movies by myself. Also now my friends and I have different interests such as going out at night, the beach or going over to each other’s houses so going to the movies is never the top of our agenda.

My small networked home…

My small networked home…

I can still vividly remember being 10 years old and running with my best friend to her house after school to play the Sims. We would have to ask her parents to use the computer and then sit there and listen to the wails and beeps of the computer as the dial up started. We then had to insert the CD and we ended up using the cheat codes anyway (rosebud gives you the dollars $$$). 10 years later and I no longer have those problems, still playing the Sims but from an instant internet download rather than a CD and instantly being connected to the internet through wifi.

This memory also reminded me of my family’s technological past and how we grew from having one immobile computer and monitor setup to now having my own laptop and a smart TV which serves the function of a computer. Speaking again to my father about our household, our internet service is connected to his business internet plan which is also connected to our home phone line so it is cheaper. Unfortunately we are not yet connected to the NBN we soon will be as my suburb has the capabilities. My parents are not tech savy in any way, my mum doesn’t even own a mobile and doesn’t know how to use a computer (to my frustration as I have to sit next to her to navigate). My dad only recently got my old phone so he’s only 2 years behind in smart phone models and thank heavens he knows the basic functions of a computer.

The reason my parents are so late to the tech-party is because they have no need for them. My dad explains how computers are vital to the function of their business but they only use certain programs, they never browse YouTube or social media because none of their friends do so who would they connect with? He claims that 80% of our internet bill is used by me, oops! Our networked home is quite limited with only my laptop and mobile, the family smart TV and my dad’s phone connecting to the internet.

Growing up in China: Television

Onwards from the 1950’s, the television reached the mass market in many Western countries and created the ‘family room, a space integrated into domestic living that allowed for the unification of a family around a TV set.

This was not quite the case for my parents who were born and raised in Shen Yang, the capital of Liaoning Province, China. Being born in the 50’s, my dad was brought into a new era in Chinese history. Leader Mao Zedong reigned and when the People’s Republic was founded in 1949, the telecommunications systems and facilities in China were outdated and rudimentary, and many had been damaged or destroyed during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The country momentarily experienced an increase in technological advancement but that growth in telecommunications soon halted due to the economic collapse after the Great Leap Forward (1958–60). This was quickly revived in the 1960s when radio-television service was installed in major cities during these years.

Unlike most children these days who go through their young childhood watching television, my father didn’t have his first interaction with a TV until he was 15 years old and even then his 9 inch, black and white television set is not comparable to the smart, 3D and interactive TV sets of today. Growing up in a humble city apartment with his parents and older sister, they shared one television set located in his parent’s bedroom where they would watch it together as a family unit as a form of entertainment. Dad explains the sense of excitement he felt, how he felt “fancy” and his favourite program was a weekly animal documentary series called Animal World. Like the academic and intelligent being he is, the reason he loved this telecommunication advancement was due to it enabling him to view different and exciting things around the world, the news, and documentaries which “opened his mind”. He said that he was also for the first time able to watch foreign TV programs from countries such as Japanese and Brazilian. Despite this enthusiasm, he was unable to watch a lot of TV as there was limited programs and they were only broadcast at certain times.

His excitement regarding television these days is very different, “TV doesn’t seem as attractive now as before. There are now more comprehensive sources to gather information and news like the internet.” He has limited time now to watch television and prefers the internet for its immediacy and access to news sites, online papers – especially for up to date news in China. This view is shared by my mother so although we currently have 3 TV sets in our home, only one is watched and even then only for a couple of hours at night when the news is on and my parents are cooking, the family is eating dinner and when washing the dishes. The family comes together at night to share a family meal and the TV happens to be on, we don’t come together for the purpose of watching the television like my father and his family used to.

I loved listening to my dad talk and I loved being able to learn about him and how he grew up, about China at the time and my heritage. It is interesting how someone so close to me, someone who has been there for literally my entire life and has shaped who I am today, I know so little about their life and what shaped them and their perception of the world. The topic of television wouldn’t necessarily be something I ask him about but I’ve learnt so much from asking about it. This conversation definitely consolidated that there is a strong connection between technology, time and place; how location and year defines the experience.

What I just experienced was a form of collaborative ethnography, a collaborative study of people and cultures, an exploration of societal change where I as the researcher observed a society from the point of view of someone who has experienced it, a primary source. This ethnographic text teaches of not just a television culture but is a merger of history and technological advancement.