‘Dicks out for Harambe’ and other ways humans constantly disrespect other species.

The misrepresentation of animals in the media has led to misinformed conclusions about animals and their credibility. Anthropomorphism is the act of attributing human characteristics to inhuman organisms and objects, expecting them to act and react the same way humans do. In the case of animals, due to the species difference there are different hormones and characteristics exhibited in animals humans are unable to understand through simply observing them.For example, Apes and gorillas have been depicted with human like characteristics in the media for years.
Movies like ‘King Kong’ and ‘Planet of the Apes’ have inaccurately represented the connection these animals appear to share with humans.
An example of this detached reality is the reaction to the tragedy at the Cincinnati Zoo last year where a young boy fell into a gorilla enclosure. As a result the zoo keepers chose to shoot and kill the gorilla called Harambe. At first there was empathy towards the gorilla, with people claiming the zoo reacted too brashly and indeed did not need to kill the gorilla. The boy’s mother was investigated for neglect and was cleared of any wrongdoing. What happened to Harambe was a tragic accident where an innocent gorilla and a curious little boy met in unusual circumstances, which ended traumatically. The internet jumped onto the controversy surrounding the tragedy asking if there was anything which could’ve been done to prevent this and save Harambe. Although the commentary was hijacked by trolls and people making fun of the hype leading to Harambe the gorilla being metastasized into a meme. Hashtags reading ‘dicks out for Harambe‘ and millions of memes were generated, essentially making fun of the hype surrounding the death of the gorilla.
I find this incredibly disrespectful, say for example the little boy had died instead of the gorilla, it is very unlikely people could react to a human’s death with such a joke.
So why is this different for a Gorilla? Where is the respect for life? What is it that detaches human consciences from the animals represented in the media?
Dr Sarah Bexell from the University of Denver notes that;
” Humans are big-brained, invasive and omnipresent mammals who seem to think they can do almost anything they want. Individuals in most cultures claim to love nature and other animals but then go on to abuse them in a multitude of ways. Clearly our relationship with the rest of the world is a very confused on and our actions are often contradictory and paradoxical. “
I agree with this statement. There are so many people who would do anything for their pets but continue to eat meat and go to zoo’s and circuses. The human relationship with animals is a very difficult balancing act. We claim to know what’s best for animals but all we know is what has been observed externally not what they are actually thinking and feeling as we have no means of direct communication.
The groundbreaking documentary played at the Sundance Festival in 2013, ‘Blackfish‘ challenges humans to reassess their relationships with animals. Focusing on the Orca called ‘Tilikum’ who lived the majority of his life in a pool at SeaWorld in America, the documentary explores how little we actually know about these highly intelligent animals. Tilikum ends up killing a very experienced trainer in a performance in front of a live audience. However interviews with the trainers’ colleagues show that even though she was killed by the killer whale, they don’t blame the mammal due to the horrible conditions and psychological trauma experienced by being held at SeaWorld.
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Tilikum, the killer whale who killed a trainer during a performance, who lived at SeaWorld for the majority of his short life. 

Our unnatural relationship with animals is widely accepted and not questioned enough. This leads to animals being abused and manipulated to fit into the human world the way we need them to. If the situation was reversed humans would not take to it so kindly and neither should animals. Animal welfare groups such as PETA constantly fighting for the rights of any living species sometime use controversial tactics leaving them facing backlash. However people are so quick to place the blame something else before admitting that their behavior may be problematic and they are part of the problem.
Peace and fair treatment for all big and small.

 

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Poverty Porn; exploiting the most vulnerable for fundraising and entertainment.

 

‘Poverty porn’ is a very confronting phrase. As soon as you read that you feel uncomfortable. They are two words which hold very negative connotations, and coupled together they feel very unsettling and unpleasant.

Which honestly is perfect because that reaction sums up exactly what poverty porn is.

Defined as ‘any type of media, be it written, photographed or filmed, which exploits the poor’s condition in order to generate the necessary sympathy for selling newspapers or increasing charitable donations or support given for a cause.’ It refers to all of those charity ads which utilize young children tagging behind disheveled mothers on a dirt road, in between run down houses in order to obtain a sympathetic response from viewers. It exploits individuals’ economic situations and has been criticized for lacking dignity of those it portrays.
Used in many fundraising campaigns one of the first more notable was called ‘Live Aid‘ in 1985. Featuring huge names like Queen and U2, Live Aid raised over $125,000,000 through a concert in a bid to end world poverty. It was later criticized for oversimplifying poverty and songs titled ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ were found to be demeaning. Once it came to light in the age before the internet of 1986, that Ethiopia the country so stricken by famine in all the advertisements was engaged in a man made, country crippling world war, and those at Live Aid had just raised a huge wad of cash to hand over to the country’s’ leaders, people begun to question a lot of things about the whole construct.

 

This phenomenon is one still seen today. Many charities use forms of ‘poverty porn’ to raise revenue and increase support from the public.  One recent example comes from an orphanage in Phenom Penh in Cambodia run by Geraldine Cox called Sunrise Cambodia.

 

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This ad depicts 3 children living in the orphanage as disheveled and undignified individuals who can be saved with your measly donation of $500. Further the portrayal of this underage girl as a sex worker, where investigators have claimed she in fact is not involved in sex work, will be paired with her photo online and shared worldwide. Ramification of which she will have to live with her whole life. It is unethical to use undignified images of individuals in order to shock and manipulate the generous public by promoting pity.

Not only is this done in developing countries, there are examples of poverty porn in Australia. The SBS documentary ‘Struggle Street’ has been accused of stereotyping those struggling with poverty.

“Like mainstream sexual porn that produces sexualised images from the male gaze for male gratification, poverty porn produces abjectifying images of the poor through a privileged gaze for privileged gratification.” -Steven Threadgold, 2015

Depicting the characters as lazy ‘dole bludgers’ who could solve being poor if they just got off the couch does nothing to actually solve the problem. Being confronted by what is shown in the documentary is one thing, but unless something is done to attack the root of the cause of generational class warfare and deep entrenched social inequality, the documentary purely is entertainment. ‘Bogans’ have always copped a lot of criticism over the years, namely for being stereotyped as lazy, dole bludging racists. However this obviously is not the case and does nothing to solve the problem.

For poverty to realistically be abolished we need a lot more than undignified portrayals of the general public. Social inequality needs to be addressed and deeper economic, mental health, class and community problems must be attacked at the root before we blame the poor for situations often out of their control.

The Selfie and Self Empowerment?

The act of taking a picture of oneself has somehow become a very contested topic. Some call it conceited and narcissistic, and others view it as self-love, body positivity and self-empowerment through positive reinforcement. However how did we get here and why has something which seems so innocent gained so much hate?

A google search of the word ‘Selfie’ brings up an array of different results. After the Wiki page, the first link is one which takes you to a pornographic site, ‘Half Nude Selfies: Hot Sexy Selfies- Almost Naked Girls’. The second link is one which contains ‘fitness’ selfies alongside a Pinterest post on how to take good selfies. Further down the page you reach a Career One post about what your selfies say about you in a professional sense. Now the broad results shown by the term are explore how diverse the selfie has become. Not only have they become somewhat sexualized, they also have become a part of how we ‘brand’ ourselves in the sense of how we want other people to view our online personas.

 

One interesting commentary on the act of selfie taking was completed by the artist Shahak Shapira in his piece ‘Yolocaust‘.  After being fed up with people taking photos of themselves often depicting light hearted takes at questionable locations and sharing them on the internet. He compiled a collection of these photos and contrasted them with what the selfies were essentially mocking. One of the examples was selfies being taken at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin.

 

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Image Credit- ‘Yolocaust’ Shahak Shapira, 2017

The juxtaposition of these selfies exposes how people often take photos without thinking at many places, especially when travelling, even if it may be considered disrespectful. The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin was constructed in memory of all who were killed and suffered during WW11 in concentration camps and due to persecution. Placing the selfies in real images from these times shows how idiotic it is to use such a place of mourning and memory to snap a quick piccy for Instagram or Facebook.

 

This constant posting of photos and selfies on numerous social media accounts, relates to the increasing trend of individuals attempting to ‘brand’ themselves in their online persona. By creating an interesting profile where individuals come off as happy, adventurous and living exciting lives, people are ultimately creating consumers out of their friends lists. Where the individual has the control to choose what parts of them and their life are consumed. It’s easy to post about the fabulous dinner you just had a fancy restaurant accompanied by a photo of yourself and 3 other friends with delicious looking plates of food in front of you. Followed by a quirky caption of course. However what probably isn’t seen quite as regularly is the following Monday’s dinner when you come home from work, too tired to go grocery shopping and too poor for takeout so you literally settle for a bowl of Weet-Bix to sustain yourself. Unless you’re running the Uni Students on a Budget Facebook page, this usually isn’t the image people portray of themselves, online where anybody is able to see and judge.

 

The ability to choose what we convey ourselves as online has lead to some discussions regarding female sexuality and empowerment. Many girls post selfies of themselves on Instagram and Facebook which sometimes lead to backlash. Posting naked or nude selfies online has been criticized and praised by equal amounts. Many people are quick to ‘slut-shame’, claim those who post the pictures are attention seeking whores who are just hungry for likes. But many also find the act of posting these pictures themselves, and thus controlling their self-image in this way is empowering and beneficial for self- confidence reasons. Citing that it really doesn’t matter to anyone else what girls (and sometimes boy’s) post of themselves on the internet, and people should have the right to choose to do so without hate. One of the recent famous examples of this was a photo posted by Kim Kardashian after giving birth and celebrating her return to her normal weight.

 

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The selfie has been ridiculed and laughed at, but really there is a lot more to them than just a quirky self-portrait followed by a humorous caption. The logistics of creating an online persona go way deeper than ‘just a photo’, with technology shaping the way we allow others to see us constantly.

The Great Firewall of China

This week’s topic concerns media regulation and the effect space, time and place has upon audiences and what they are or are not able to consume.

Immediately this reminded me of the mass regulation of Chinese internet imposed in the region, which has interested me for some time. The Chinese government have a firewall in place which has the ability to block anything and everything not approved. This includes many Western sites such as Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and Instagram leaving residents and tourists unable to access their outside accounts when in the country.

The Chinese constitution states that its citizens have freedom of speech and the press however in practice the Government utilise a loophole to control this through claiming news articles and websites can expose state secrets endangering the country. As the definition of ‘state secrets’ is vague, this gives authorities a broad scope on what they can regulate in the media. (Xu, B 2015)

Despite having blocked many international websites, China made their own social media platforms which are just as popular and very much like their western counterparts. This also gives the government the ultimate control of what is able to be accessed on the internet in their country instead of attempting to censor and regulate international media sites.

Although Google does operate in China it is heavily censored with a number of search terms banned or blacklisted including terms such as ‘democracy’, ‘human rights’, ‘freedom’, ‘reform’ alongside names of various Chinese Politicians and events like the Tiananmen Square Massacre. However it is mirrored by the Chinese search engine Baidu, which is the most popular search engine in China and many users utilise it form downloading pictures, music and TV shows. Although a lot of the content it provides is unavailable outside China due to copyright. (Bethany, 2014)

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Weibo is the Chinese version of Twitter and Facebook mixed together in a hybrid. People follow their friends and celebrities and have a 140 character limit on posts. However due to language differences, a character in Chinese can say a whole word as opposed to English where a character is a single letter. This leads to a lot more information being shared and explored in a single post compared to the western counterpart. Weibo reportedly has 503 million users registered making up 30% of internet users worldwide.

China’s Youtube is in fact called Youku. Widely used for watching dramas, music videos and other viral content circulating throughout the Chinese internet, audiences are presented with a means of watching online videos. Again it is quite similar to the Youtube platform but users are only able to view Chinese government approved content. (Bethany, 2014)

The Great Chinese Firewall means audience members have a different internet experience due to their physical space and location regardless of where an individual is from, the rules apply to everyone.

 

 

Millennial Attention Spans in the Technological Age; an Experiment

This week’s topic is about short and distracted attention spans when in the presence of multiple different media platforms. The first thing that came to mind is a perfect example of this; university lectures. You’re engaging with the content being presented to you by taking the occasional note, while having a Facebook tab open on your computer to keep up with the group chat and texting your friend on your phone. If you look around you can immediately tell that everyone is doing the same thing. Especially when the lecturer is playing a video and the person at the end of the row is vigorously tapping on their keyboard. You just know they’re not avidly taking notes but are probably planning their weekend or bitching about the new guy at work.

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So to test how crap our millennial attention spans really are, I set up a test involving myself, my 18yr old brother, a movie called ‘Hush’, and a bunch of junk food to see if we could go 1hr and 27 mins without picking up our phones, computers or engaging with any other media content other than the movie in front of us. It sounds easy but my brother and I are notorious for getting distracted. We are always messaging people or doing a quick Facebook scroll in boring parts of movies (leading us to miss important bits and be left unsure of what is going on). On the occasion we look up stuff on Google which we don’t understand but once we actually paused a movie to watch a video on Youtube.

It wasn’t even a good video. It was this one if you really want to learn how pathetic we are.

I picked the movie Hush because it’s a scary movie (apparently) and I’m not so keen on them. Therefore, on a normal viewing I would probably distract myself with my phone. I also chose it because I’ve heard from friends it’s not the best movie anyway, meaning we would probably get bored, tempting us even further for distraction. So after pressing play on my phone so the movie could sync to the Chromecast on my TV, we put both of our phones down on the desk beside us so they weren’t within arm’s reach. We also turned them onto silent to avoid further temptation.

In the end we did last the whole hour and 27 mins of our social media purge, but it was only because we were so avidly committed to proving we aren’t completely useless. We also had no legitimate excuse to check our phones or social media during the movie without being pathetic. Thankfully there were no calls from mum or dad which would’ve realistically been the only reason we could use them because no assignment is worth our parents wrath.

The movie wasn’t too bad in the end,  it was more gory with a cool concept than actually scary so we found ourselves enjoying it. It was nice to not be distracted as we realised we actually understood the plot of the movie for a change. No Googling of the synopsis was needed in the end because we payed attention this time.

In conclusion, yes I believe people do have short attention spans and can get distracted very easily. However if you actively set your mind to a task and remove distractions from the picture you can achieve your goals.  (because lets be real we all know how to, we just don’t want to actually do it.)

“Hey did you see what I tagged you in?”

For my digital project I want to investigate the social protocols, spoken and unspoken rules, regarding phone and social media use in different situations in today’s world of expanding connectivity and technology use. I aim to discover the reasons behind why it is deemed acceptable to engage with media forms in some situations such as when hanging out with friends but perhaps not when you are with your parents.

Week 6 and 8’s topics were related to public spaces and media use alongside how distracted people are in today’s society when constantly surrounded by multiple different means of consuming media.

In our tutorial we discussed some of the situations where it would and wouldn’t be acceptable to pull out your phone such as in the middle of dinner with your parents as opposed to friends. We discussed that this is because of the generational difference between our parents and our friends, as older generations would deem pulling your phone out to Snapchat the awesome lasagna mum cooked up disrespectful and rude. Whereas, your friends are more likely to take it as a compliment that you were bragging about their cooking on social media.  I’m also interested in the relationship between phones in a workplace environment including university. I’ve observed some tutors don’t seem to mind if you send a text during class where others see it as very impolite.

Further many places I’ve worked at, have all had different rules regarding phone use, however in the majority of these, employees would either blatantly disregarded these or found ways to get around them. (myself included) Usually this  involved keeping your phone stashed on your person and ducking off to the bathroom a little too regularly or hiding in a back corner of a warehouse to send a quick message.

Two of the more notable places I’ve worked which had explicit rules banning phones was a trampoline arena and a retail store. In both of these places employees were constantly utilizing the above tactics and had their phones on their person at all times.  In the case of the trampoline arena I believe this was due to two factors, one was that the staff was made up of 16-24 year olds who all experienced growing up with technology. The second was that it was in general a very quiet and frankly boring workplace without much to occupy employees with. Even the managers would sit up in their office aimlessly scrolling through Instagram and Facebook. Online shopping while at work was not an uncommon occurrence.  The retail store wasn’t as extreme in the online shopping scene, however it was similar in the sense that on quiet days, it was really boring so people would satisfy their short attention spans with the usual social media consumption.

I now work at a café and leave my phone in my bag because it’s so busy I don’t have a second to go to the bathroom for real let alone to do the sneaky bathroom scroll every hour or so.

I find this all really interesting and will explore the rules and the reality of phone use in the workplace in my digital assignment.

To complete this project, I will undertake a few social experiments involving my friends, parents, fellow students and co-workers and report on the different reactions to my phone use in different situations. I aim to take all factors which may influence their actions into account and will interview them about what they would constitute acceptable phone use in different situations.

References;

-Image Credit

Jackson, K, Cellphones at Work, Pintrest, viewed 28 September 2016, <http://quotesgram.com/img/cell-phones-at-work-quotes-and-sayings/6752216/&gt;