Hey Sea World and Tiger Kingdom, I’ve Got a Bone to Pick!

Watching the Black Fish documentary this week got me thinking about my own experiences of seeing animals in captivity for the purpose of human entertainment and profit making. Growing up, Sea World was one of my favourite theme parks on the Gold Coast. I visited a couple of times and seeing all of the animals amazed me. The sparkle in my eyes flickered as I watched dolphins splashing around doing all sorts of tricks. Oh my, the dolphins! They were just so intelligent and fun to watch! They looked like they were having the best time! I know I definitely was.

How naïve and innocent of me. Flash forward to 2015: I’m 19 years old and holidaying in Thailand with my family. We had been to Phuket twice before and had seen most of the main tourist attractions. One we had not visited yet was Tiger Kingdom. So we went there. And what a mistake it was. I have never felt so uneasy about seeing animals in captivity in my life as I did that day. I’m going to put this down to the fact that this was because I actually went into the tiger enclosure. There were multitudes of these huge animals – and I mean HUGE – living in cages that wouldn’t even be big enough to house my family of four.

Tiger Kingdom’s tag line is ‘playing with tigers in enclosures without chains’ and although what they offer lives up to this, actually seeing all of the tigers and going into their enclosures brings a totally different meaning. I don’t have a great deal of knowledge about tigers but I do know that they are mostly nocturnal. So when we arrived at the park in the midday heat and the tigers were sleeping, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Except it looked like more than just sleeping. It looked like they had all been sedated – lethargic and unable to move at all.

The FAQ page on the Tiger Kingdom website says ‘sleepy tigers are better because it’s easier to get close to them. When they are awake, they will run around and play with each other which could make you scared’, alluding to the fact that the tigers may be drugged. Oh, God forbid these animals run around and play with each other and accidentally scare someone who has willingly gone into a wild animal’s enclosure for the purpose of snapping a photo for Instagram or Facebook or whatever other social media they use.

Let us assume (because we want to see the good in people) that the tigers are not drugged – it can be argued that the tigers have grown up with constant human contact so much so that they simply ignore people touching them, especially during the day when they are known to be sleeping. However, if this is the case and the tigers would rather be sleeping, doesn’t it seem cruel that patrons are allowed to visit the park during these times? Doesn’t it seem cruel that the tigers are poked and prodded and touched when they are asleep simply for the purpose of them looking awake when they feature in a photo that someone wants to take?

Sure, it might make for some quality memories in the form of pictures and videos you can later post on social media that will attract a lot of attention and ‘likes’, but upon seeing how these poor animals live, it is SO not worth it and I wish I never went there. I’m pretty sure my whole family felt the same way as we left; it was a very silent car trip back to where we were staying.

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This sign still doesn’t convince me…(click for image credit)

Fast forward again now to February of this year where protestors at Sea World Australia got up before a dolphin show – the very show I loved to see as a child – holding banners to object to animals being held in captivity for the purpose of human entertainment. The video can viewed here.

Upon viewing this video, I was initially shocked that this protest was met with loud BOO-ing of the audience to show distaste for the protest and not for these poor dolphins who are kept in small tanks for the purpose of entertainment and profit making for the park? Then I thought about it – these dolphins have been in captivity all their lives so the audience does not know any better. As far as the audience is concerned, they have paid money to see this show which has now been taken over by protestors. Of course they would be angry.

I think more education about animals being held in captivity for the purpose of entertainment really is the key. Animals belong in the wild – whether that’s the sea or the jungle – and should not be held in captivity for the purpose of human entertainment, profit making or exploitation for media purposes.

What do you think? Leave me a comment below!

Life on Struggle Street – Issues with the Practice of Poverty Porn

Struggle Street is an observational documentary offered by SBS that features people and families around the Mount Druitt area. It showcases how these people live their day to day lives faced with the problems of drug addiction, homelessness, illness and unemployment.

Watching Struggle Street evoked a lot of emotion – anger, sadness, sympathy, as well as a lot of thought about the way our social justice system works or doesn’t work. But hold on a second – was this emotional response a result of seeing how these people live and feeling like I want to make a real change? Or, was it simply a result of clever editing to make entertaining television?

Do television shows like this report the everyday issues faced by these people in our society, or is it simply exploiting them for the purpose of financial advancement due to evoking an emotional response within viewers? Thus, the practice of poverty porn is born.

Emily Roenigk (2014) suggests that television shows such as Struggle Street do ‘almost nothing to address the real structural problem of poverty’ and outlines a few problems with the practice of poverty porn. Some of these problems will be described below:

She argues that ‘poverty porn misrepresents poverty’. This is in the sense that it takes the issue of poverty which is a super difficult human experience and turns it into something that is shown to be easily fixed through simple donations of money. This ultimately eliminates the personal circumstances and experiences of the individuals who are shown and doesn’t really touch on problems within social systems.

Roenigk touches on another issue which I found interesting – that ‘poverty porn leads to charity, not activism’. People will see programs like Struggle Street and they might be willing to empty their pockets a little bit, however this does not mean they will actually stand up and advocate for change. This creates a hero/ damsel in distress kind of situation where people who donate feel more powerful in that they are making a difference by donating, but ultimately lets the individuals obtaining this money know that they are helpless without the people who donate. Roenigk makes the point that ‘nothing is said about what it would look like to empower the poor and walk alongside them to help them realize their inherent ability to be the change agents in their own communities’ which is a very sad truth. Poverty porn essentially empowers the monetary donor in telling them that it respects their societal position regarding their resources, whilst simultaneously depicting the struggling people in the community as powerless and stripping them of their potential.

Struggle Street is an example of Australian poverty porn, but let us now head over to a chilling example of poverty porn in Cambodia. The following picture is an advertisement that was found on Sunrise Camodia, a charity organisation which aims to help Cambodian children:

The first photo of the little girl, who is named Pisey, labels her a sex worker. Last year, the Sydney Morning Herald reported about this advertisement, questioning its ethicality. The little girl pictured, is NOT in fact a sex worker nor is she named Pisey, but she WAS in fact paid by Sunrise Cambodia to appear as their poster girl for this advertisement. This in turn led to Australians coming together to raise over $200,000.00 in a period of five weeks under the false pretences that this little girl was in real trouble of being thrown into sex trafficking. These images are ultimately degrading for the children they depict.

This advertisement really does bring up questions relating to our own humanity. Do we have to see the worst of the worst in order for us to respond? In this situation we were literally told that this little girl is involved in the sex trade, despite that not being the case. Is this because this evokes more of an emotional response in us and a greater want for us to help?

Leave a comment with your thoughts!

But first, let me take a selfie!

But first, let me take a selfie! Here’s a song by American DJ duo The Chainsmokers to get you pumped up to read this blog post:

So, what exactly is a selfie? Senft and Baym (2015) define the term as “a photographic object that initiates the transmission of human feeling in the form of a relationship (between photographer and photographed, between image and filtering software, between viewer and viewed, between individuals circulating images, between users and social software architectures, etc.)

It’s safe to say we have all taken a selfie in our lifetime at one point or another. Modern applications available on Apple and Android platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram are specifically made for photo taking and sharing and often involve people posting selfies with different types of filters in order to showcase different aspects of themselves and their lives.

In this evolving digital age where technology is a prominent force driving social change through activism present in social media, the selfie is a powerful tool to spread awareness for particular social issues. One example of this will now be discussed below.

A campaign I absolutely loved seeing floating around my Facebook timeline was 2016’s viral selfie mental health campaign titled “It’s Okay to Talk”. This saw men of all ages giving an “okay” hand gesture to the camera coupled with a caption in order to raise awareness for the alarming suicide numbers in men. It aimed to encourage men to speak up about their struggles before it becomes too late and they feel like suicide is their only option. Ultimately its goal was to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health in men.

The selfie-takers would caption their photo with suicide statistics which are extremely distressing.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has concluded that for men aged between 15 to 44 years old, suicide is the leading cause of death. In 2014, a shocking 2,864 people took their own lives in Australia, with men making up a MASSIVE 75% of this number.

The selfie-taker would then tag 5 of their friends to take part in the campaign and it would eventually reach more and more people.

Here is an example:

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My boyfriend, Dion, who took part in the campaign. (photo posted with his permission)

This is a super heavy topic so please note, if you are struggling at all with mental health there are a multitude of services that are readily available to you and have people that are specifically trained and willing to help:

Lifeline: 13 11 14
Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 46 36
Headspace: 1800 650 890
MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978

Now, on a lighter note, over the summer uni-break I was in Europe and found a real appreciation for the invention of the selfie stick. This thing that you can clip your phone to and extend to take in all the surrounding famous landmarks with the press of a button – WHILST being in the photo yourself and not having to ask someone to take a photo for you – is absolutely unreal! There’s nothing that says “tourist” quite like the selfie stick, but I didn’t care at all when I was in Europe. I mean, I was never going to see these people who were judging me again. The first ever “selfie stick” was invented in the 1980s by a Japanese man named Hiroshi Ueda and he dubbed it the “extender stick”. This is what it looked like:

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The modern day selfie stick was invented by a Canadian man named Wayne Fromm. This is what it looks like:

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Annnnnnnd here’s a pic from the TOP OF THE EIFFEL TOWER ON VALENTINE’S DAY taken with my trusty selfie stick that I bought off a Spanish dude in Barcelona for 4 Euros:

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Selfie culture is growing so rapidly that they literally have selfie-everything these days. The other day I stumbled across a video about SELFIE LOLLIPOPS. That’s right, you can get your selfie made into a lollipop. Beyond cool.

To conclude, I want to know your opinions. What do you think the future has in store for selfies? Will they stick around? How many more Snapchat filters can they come up with? Do you own a selfie stick? Leave a comment below!

Netflix: The Rise of Binge Watching – Digital Storytelling Project

Netflix was first introduced in the United States of America by software engineers Reed Hastings and Marc Rudolph in 1997 as an ‘internet-based movie rental and subscription service’ (McDonald, 2013). Over time, it changed into an online streaming service for television shows, films and documentaries with separate paid plans for advertisement free high-definition streaming and use on multiple devices. It is now the ‘leading Internet television network’ (Netflix Media Centre, 2013) with more than 40 million worldwide users in over 40 different countries.

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Netflix is known for releasing episodes of different television series in blocks so Netflix users are able to continually watch one show in one sitting in a sort of marathon. For example, when new seasons of Orange is the New Black are released, all of the episodes are added to Netflix simultaneously. This ability to stream content for hours on end has thus sparked a rise in ‘binge watching’, a term defined by 73% of participants in a 2013 survey conducted by Netflix as viewing between 2 and 6 episodes of one television show in one sitting. Peter Wells (2016) argues that ‘Netflix is to blame for bringing the concept [of binge watching] to the mainstream’. In fact, it has also been said that ‘binge watching and Netflix are becoming synonymous’ (Matrix, 2014).

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Throughout the same survey mentioned above, Netflix worked closely with a cultural anthropologist named Grant McCracken, who reasoned as to why nearly three quarters (73%) of survey participants viewed binge watching a television series as a completely normal activity:

“TV viewers are no longer zoning out as a way to forget about their day, they are tuning in, on their own schedule, to a different world. Getting immersed in multiple episodes or even multiple seasons of a show over a few weeks is a new kind of escapism that is especially welcomed today,”

As you can see above, he essentially argued that because we lead a digitalised lifestyle nowadays with some online platforms — Twitter for example — reducing conversations to 140 characters or less, we begin to crave longer narratives and hence, we engage in binge watching to satisfy this craving. Thus, binge watching has been described as ‘this generation’s guilty pleasure’ (Schlomo, 2016).

So whilst binge watching is considered to be nothing that’s out of the ordinary, it makes sense to properly explore its effects, both positive and negative.

On a positive note, in this current digital age driven by technology which has the attention spans of people decrease, binge watching a series could be seen as a way to keep a watcher concentrated on one thing for a block period. ‘Binge watchers have shown an ability to be resilient and focus on a task for long periods of time’ (Pelletier, 2016). Additionally to this and on a broader level in relation to the actual writing process for television shows, it has been argued that writers respond to binge watchers’ general love of watching more complex content by ‘creating better shows’ (Battersby, 2015). When the audience is satisfied, they continue to watch and writers relish in this because they believe it captures the viewers imagination (Battersby, 2015), something that is hard to do nowadays because of our decreasing attention spans.

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Furthermore, binge watching a television series can lead to an improved sense of cognitive empathy as viewers are drawn to different characters and get to follow their stories throughout a series without having a gap between episodes or seasons (Pelletier, 2016). When sharing thoughts and ideas about a series with other people, this can see people relate to each other more easily.

Additionally, by binge watching a television series, viewers are able to tailor their schedules to surround how they plan to watch the series. In fact, 76% of the Netflix survey participants preferred to watch shows suited to their schedule. 76% also agreed that watching more than one episode at a time was a more enjoyable way to watch. During my research, I also conducted a poll on Twitter (link to tweet) where my followers voted on whether or not they engaged in binge watching. It only received 13 votes but 85% of voters revealed that they did engage in binge watching. This shows that binge watching is a very common occurrence.

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Finally, binge watching has transformed the way we view television and media spaces as a whole. This can definitely be a positive thing as viewers are adapting to the changes that new technology has brought about. ‘What once was an activity restricted to one screen and limited by time, place, and content is now and continues to be an activity increasing in options and possibilities’ (Matrix, 2014)

The above examples are considered to be positive effects of binge watching a television series, but what about the negatives?

It has been argued that binge watching television shows can lead to a series of health problems. The exposure to a screen and light for longs periods of time has been linked to ‘headaches, eye strain, seasonal affective disorder, problems sleeping, poor immune function, hormonal disruption, and anxiety’ (Pelletier, 2016). As well as this, sitting for extended periods of time can increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease, as well as back pain and spinal problems (Stone, 2016).

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Binge watching has also been said to create anti-social attitudes because it can be an ‘isolating activity’ (Stone, 2016). This can see viewers spending time away from doing every day things they would normally do like seeing family and friends.

Lastly — and possibly the most concerning negative impact — addiction can come with binge watching a series. In relation to addiction, it has been argued that ’the exposure to stimuli eventually produces an emotional reliance in the human psyche’ (Devasagayam, 2014). This can see viewers developing a dependance on this stimuli to make them feel complete. This is definitely an alarming feature of addiction as it can see people lose track of more important things in their lives because they place so much reliance on their viewing content and forget about more pressing things.

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Although there are both positive and negative effects of binge watching a television series, I don’t think it is fair to tell a viewer how they should be watching their television shows. If a user is paying for Netflix per month, they are entitled to watch the content it offers however they would like to. Obviously addiction and other health issues discussed above can be problematic, but there are ways to overcome these things and it is ultimately up to the viewer how they do this. With Netflix increasing and updating its content regularly, coupled with the changes to our media spaces and how we opt to watch television, I think binge watching is something that will continue to grow in the future. Netflix will continue to evolve and audience engagement will increase as a result.

Please enjoy the video I made which sums up the above information:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAE4b0vlXGU

References:

Battersby, L 2015, ‘Binge watching is making television better, say Australian TV writers’, Sydne Morning Herald, 2 July, viewed 20 October 2016, <http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/binge-watching-is-making-television-better-say-australian-tv-writers-20150707-gi3gtv.html>.

Devasagayam, R 2014, ‘Media Binging: A qualitative study of psychological influences’, Marketing Management Association, viewed 29 October 2016, <http://www.mmaglobal.org/publications/Proceedings/2014-MMA-Spring-Conference-Proceedings.pdf#page=56>.

Frazer, S 2015, Netflix revolution shakes up Australian media, telecommunications landscape, ABC, viewed October 26 2016, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-06/netflix-revolution-shakes-up-australian-media/6678138&gt;.

Matrix, S 2014, ‘The Netflix Effect: Teens, Binge Watching, and On-Demand Digital Media Trends’, Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 119-138.

McDonald, K 2013, ‘Digital dreams in a material world: the rise of Netflix and its impact on changing distribution and exhibition patterns’, Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, no. 55.

Pelletier, M 2016, ‘The Science of Binge Watching’, Nuskool: Real Life Learning, viewed 28 October 2016, <https://www.nuskool.com/learn/lesson/science-binge-watching/>.

Schlomo, A 2016, ‘Could binge-watching be good for you?’, Headspace, viewed 26 October 2016, <https://www.headspace.com/blog/2016/03/23/could-binge-watching-be-good-for-you/>.

Simpson, C 2016, ‘Australia: Here’s Every TV And Movie Streaming Service You Can Watch’, Gozmodo, 29 January, viewed 20 October 2016, < http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2016/01/heres-every-tv-and-movie-streaming-service-you-can-watch-right-now-in-australia/>.

Spangler, T 2013, ‘Netflix Survey: Binge-Watching Is Not Weird or Unusual’, Variety, 13 December, viewed 20 October 2016,  <http://variety.com/2013/digital/news/netflix-survey-binge-watching-is-not-weird-or-unusual-1200952292/>.

Stone, C 2016, ‘How Unhealthy Is Binge Watching? Press Pause, and Read On’, Readers Digest, viewed 28 October 2016, <http://www.rd.com/culture/binge-watching-unhealthy/>.

Wells, P 2016, ‘The Case Against Netflix’s Binge-Watching Model’, Gizmodo, 28 July, viewed 20 October 2016, <http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2016/07/the-case-against-netflixs-binge-watching-model/>.

Video images (in chronological order):

Netflix logo: http://thenextweb.com/apps/2016/06/20/netflix-just-changed-logo/

Woman intensely looking at screen: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/11-stages-watching-netflix

Family watching Netflix in socks with popcorn: https://storify.com/mmlindsay/netflix-target-market

Netflix is my drug of choice: http://aghoulsbestfriend.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/netflix-addiction-vol-1.html

Must. Watch. Netflix.: http://theorion.com/38571/opinion/netflix-addiction-stole-years-of-my-life/

Also note:

My own time lapse footage was used with the permission of my brother who features in the footage

The Internet of Things

We have smart-everything these days: smartphones, smart-televisions, smart-cars. Smart technology keeps evolving and thus the concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) is born. This is the idea that if something has an on switch and an off switch, it will be able to be connected to the Internet, or to another device. Everything with some scale of electronics can be connected. We are connected to devices and the Internet, and our devices can be connected to the Internet, to each other and to us.

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For example, my phone connects to me car via Bluetooth technology and my sound system has a button that allows voice control access to Siri. With this, I can call people hands free, have messages read aloud to me, check my calendar, and open applications like Google Maps to get me where I need to go. I can do all of this whilst driving and not taking my eyes off the road. It’s ridiculous really!

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It’s also crazy when we think about the risk factors involved. It has been said that the IoT poses a real threat to security and privacy when it comes to our information and data sharing. This is even more concerning when we bring to light the fact that by 2020, it is estimated that 20.8 billion devices will be connected and used worldwide. What will this mean for the future of our security online? Should this be a major concern even though it is inevitable that we will remain connected? I’d love to know your thoughts!

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The Growing Threat of Cyber-terrorism

In comparison to cyberterrorism, to describe “hacktivism” as innocent seems like a plausible option. It was discussed last week that hacktivism is generally used to promote freedom of speech and bring awareness to social issues going on. Cyberterrorism on the other hand uses illegal means of exploitation to – more often than not – threaten a country’s national security by involving itself in disabling infrastructure, hacking into financial transactions or dissolving the reliability of military data. This is all far more destructive than hacktivism and can lead to full blown cyber-warfare, costing people lots of money and sparking real life protest movements.

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There are many examples of cyberterrorism seen around the world on a large scale, but on a smaller and personal level, email scams are fairly common these days (AKA phishing). For example, I’ve seen a few this year from the “ATO” saying I need to input my bank details in order to get my tax return back. Someone I know fell for it and lost $8,000 which they couldn’t get back.

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It goes to show we have to be SO careful on the internet with cybercrimes this prominent. I think it’s entirely likely that cybercrime as part of the darker side of the internet will only continue to develop; gaps in national security cannot completely be filled and there will always be some loophole allowing hackers to commit cyberterrorism.

Anonymous – Good or Evil?

This present and more contemporary age of the Internet has seen the nature of cyberspace develop rapidly, including the evolution of hacktivism which has become a prominent feature of modern cyberspace. “Hacktivism” is the marriage of two words – hacking and activism – and is an act that involves hacking a computer network to distribute a political message. With this idea comes both negative and positive connotations in terms of security:

“On the security perspective there are two schools of thought: One considers hacktivists cybercriminals to be prosecuted, the other, despite being conscious of the menace they represent, maintains that they are anyway a voice to listen to.”

A well known example of a hacktivist group is Anonymous, an international hacking organisation which originated in 2003. It has been involved in many operations, from shutting down the PlayStation Network in protest of Sony taking legal action against George Hotz, to launching an operation against ISIS in response to the Paris Attacks.

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In relation to the above quote and its relationship with Anonymous, we must think about whether or not the group is actually doing a good thing by conveying political messages and utilising their right of freedom of speech, or alternatively the criminality of hacking.

With groups like Anonymous comes further questions relating to how far vigilantism can go in obtaining justice, as well as the morality of trying to change peoples’ perspectives of the world through means that are illegal. I’d love to know what you think! Leave a comment telling me.

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