Animals, what do they do?

Speeding into the future, animals place inside of the human society has been rapidly evolving. Animals that were once only seen in books, and required a team of dedicated experts to capture these animals, are easily displayed in households worldwide. If you lived far from a major city that had a zoo, there is a very fair chance the only birds you would ever see are pigeons, seagulls and chickens, and only stills of others had you the interest in ornithology. But in a rapidly evolving technoscape, many people have seen at least one David Attenborough documentary, and could recite a fact or two about an animal you saw on television.

Attenborough: Life in the Freezer” is a 1993 documentary that focuses on the lives of animals in the arctic conditions of Antarctica. A team traveled to Antarctica, and recorded high definition video of all the natural life year round of the Antarctic region. This was then broadcast to televisions worldwide, through the BBC and various outlets, giving home audiences a peer into the life of these far away animals, unreachable to the average citizen. These animals were spied on, viewed, both living and breeding, and dying and being eaten. They went from being far away, never thought about beasts, to in our homes and hearts, through the technological revolutions that have occurred.

And these were not the only animals that had this happen to. Every year, a new region, a new foreign animal enter the home via the trusted David Attenborough and his team. He went where audiences could not, and showed us what was unseen. With over 40 documentaries, David and his team has shown the world more of the world than anyone 100 years ago could have possibly seen.

And so animals became accessible, we watched them for fun, from the convenience of our homes. And consumers loved it, enthralled by the viewings. So more documentaries came, and more learning happened. Along the way, we were personifying animals, calling the mating ‘love’, the offspring ‘children’ and giving them more human emotions than they may have had.

Somewhere, it got out of hand. We gave them voices, and talked for them. Movies starring them; such as Madagascar, The Wild, Babe, Racing Stripes, etc, made them almost humans in different bodies. It wasn’t about animals anymore, it was about the shape. We weren’t learning, we were now watching.  I am not saying stories starring animals with human features didn’t occur before this, stories such as Animal Farm and Watership down are much older than most of David Attenborough’s documentaries.  But these stories were adapted for children, because now the animals entered our home, onto the electronic babysitter, and must be made to be understandable and relatable to people. We aren’t lions, or penguins, or mosquitos, so how could we be expected to relate. But we are all protective of our ‘pride’, huddle for warmth, hungry for a new meal. So why not focus on the aspects an audience can relate to?

Because it isn’t what they are. I am not advocating for strictly human characters, Toy Story and Zootopia are two excellent ways to tell stories without people, but we must be careful on how we reflect ourselves onto animals. Animals that portray ‘evil’ characters, like lions hunting prey, or vultures circling, portrays animals unfairly. These animals are not evil, or bad, but only doing what is instinctively natural for them. And to apply human morals onto animals or creatures that don’t know better is unjust. Sharks are portrayed as bad, murderous animals that kill for fun. In reality, they only kill when they have to eat and only attack when aggravated. More people die every year from vending machines, and yet sharks are portrayed as killers, due to media representation.

Maybe we have to focus on what we are portraying in ourselves and what we believe onto animals, instead of seeing what we are told to see. Animals are not all destructive beasts, and often are just neutral, using instincts to survive. So, maybe we should leave them be, and leave our judgements at the documentary opening.

 

The Self

I was never a fan of having my picture taken whilst I was growing up. I find the permanence too much, the idea that the photograph will likely be stuck in a book, or hung in a wall, for the rest of time, was daunting. I was awkward looking, and my smile made me look uncomfortable in every photo I had taken. So the thought it would sit forever with people close to me, was a terrifying notion. But over time, I realised the permanence of everything I did, would be stored forever, unremovable and hidden from sight, much like the photo books at Grandmas house. But this new beast was not the bookshelf at Grandmas, but the Internet. Now every photo, sound, word and video I take is stored forever, somewhere.

Of course, this sits badly with me, as over the years I have not gotten any better at having my photo taken, at smiling on purpose and at making much sense when I write. But now, I have moved on from fears of looking stupid to others to a much more accepting phase of looking stupid to others. This hasn’t quite panned out as of yet, but I do hope it will come around soon and people will see it. And they will eventually, as it is all stored somewhere online. Everything I have ever done, every project I have uploaded, every photo I or a friend has uploaded of me, is all accessible to anyone determined enough to see the photo.

I suppose this prospect should frighten me, with companies searching applicants online before calling back for interviews, but I am confident in who I am and the presence that I have created that I can overcome it to beat people’s expectations. Sure, at times, I am may look stupid, or even ridiculous, but I believe that it shows a picture of myself better than ever.

Even my voice, which I have learnt is nasal and quite annoying sounding, is stored online forever on a series of podcasts and shows, something that I would not have done in a world where constant exposure to permanence would allow such a rapid pace of acceptance. This idea, of acceptance of self through reluctance to fight against the system, maybe what my generation is starting to experience, and certainly the generation after mine will have already adopted. The world they enter, will be unlike the world we did. Where the storage of your life, in a hidden library of infinite information, is the norm, is an accepted idea. And where if you don’t like who you are, there is very little you can do to not exist.

Maybe it is selfish to talk about myself the whole post, and not mention the billions of others out there who use photos for different purposes, to create different self-images. But that is all speculation, and the only experience I can truly speak from is my own. I know what I do with social media and how I use it to present myself in the world and in my life overall, and how I have changed what I am doing and using it for. Some have used this constant presence for a newfound type of fame, internet famous. It comes in insta-famous, facebook-famous, twitter-famous and almost an endless list more, who represent the “best” of their respective media platform.

So where is the self to go? As self-acceptance is being forced, and those who don’t belong being constantly exposed to capture and recordings, where is the new generation to go? Is it narcissism to love yourself through new platforms, or is not doing this backwards?

Underdogs and “You’re a dog!”

In heroes of Australian culture, we have a distinct type. Whether it is Ned Kelly (a man who assaulted a Chinese immigrant, who murdered police officers, and robbed public buildings) or Steven Bradbury (2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, winning gold in the short track 1000m event coming from fifth to first in the final half lap).

The underdog, the David vs Goliath, the little guy against the ‘man’. These are the stories Australians are inspired by, who we herald as heroes for decades to come, and put stickers and flags of on the back of utes and walls. We look to these icons, as we can see ourselves, and our country in them. The little country that could, seperating from the British Empire, to define ourselves and stand on our own legs.

The person who against all odds, makes the best of their situation, and rises above all the misfortunes and misdealings to become an icon.

And maybe that is why we enjoy poverty porn, we hope to see people rise above it all, people who have it less fortunate than us. Shows such as ‘Struggle Street’ exist to let us see into the lives of others unlike our own. These downtrodden heroes, residing in Mount Druit, who live check to check, have teenage pregnancies, hide in the bush, scrape for dollars and spend it on chocolates and sandwiches are unsung Australian battlers, the heroes waiting for their time to rise up. Maybe this is one of the reasons we glue our eyes to the television, focusing on these ‘underdogs to be’.

Or maybe it is more sinister. Maybe Australians are watching down their noses at the lower class, those who have it bad, those who are stuck in a cycle of poverty. They gamble the money away, spend it on cigarettes and drugs, and rely on the government for money. Maybe we want to see kids on bikes yelling “You’re dog mate!” to strangers, smoking cigarettes. We want to see ourselves as better than someone, to be higher and not feel so bad about ourselves and our lives. To see others who are down, we feel better about our position in life, seeing how bad some have it, we can pat ourselves on the back for feeling sorry and move on without a second thought. This ’empathy’ of feeling good about feeling bad, and doing nothing to help the scenario gives the audience a great sense of pride and satisfaction, leaving them feeling good after the program.

Shows like “Struggle Street” portray characters like Bailey, a troubled teen, as a heroic character for returning to school, giving a potential for an underdog story, and making the audience feel good for supporting her. Or, you can feel better that you yourself are educated, richer, and smarter than Bailey, feeling lucky you have the life you have. Or even, Bailey’s friend, Erin, a single mother who struggles to make ends meet, is used as bait for people to feel better about making good life decisions, not get pregnant at 16 and being unable to make ends meet.

So do these shows exist as a way to make us root for the people who are disadvantaged, cheering for the underdog, the spirit we see in all of us and in Australia as a whole? Or is it more of look down on your fellow man, to feel better about yourself, either cynically or inspirationally. To see others in pain, struggling to survive and make ends meet.

And is one of these better than the others, to root for these people you never met and hold to such standards? Or to feel pity or joy for the failure of others in which the show intrudes?

 

 

In Cyberspace, I am an American

The cyberspace, the cyber world, is meant to be a place outside of jurisdiction, borders and law of the conventional world. But increasingly, the internet is becoming restricted and controlled, both by who can access it and what you can access. These restrictions are coming from the western world, and are increasingly influencing the shape of cyberspace. This discovery, that I am becoming more and more American, came to me very recently.

The video game, Sleeping Dogs, is set within Hong Kong. It is open world, and features much driving across the large city, which was British in rule for a period in time. As such, the people of Hong Kong drive on the left, much like here in Australia. But after every car I ‘acquire’, I instinctively pull onto the right side of the road and speed into a head-on collision, forgetting that many cities worldwide don’t drive on the right. So what has happened?

I assume it has been the countless hours I have put into many other games, where I have been taught that I drive on the right, if the car is digital. When I was CJ in San Andreas, my tank drove on the right, if I was chasing robbers in APB: Reloaded, the sidewalk is to my right. Every online space, I knew where to drive.

And this trend, of Americanisation of the web continues. Many online shopping companies are US based, and some don’t deliver to the shores of Australia. The users of Runescape had to beg and plead for an Oceanic server, being forced to connect to the far off US servers, only to be killed in the wilderness due to latency issues. Australia often comes second, third and even further down the list when it comes to importance in the cyberworld. Doubled with poor infrastructure, the issues become larger and more complex, giving Australians a huge step down in the online world.

But, being American online comes in more than one form of driving wrong. It comes to spelling, following news stories, use of currency and the types of rules you apply to yourself operating in the cyberworld. Australia has no constitution, and no law about the freedom of speech, but every Australian feels they must bring it up, in online and real life arguments. Australia has no precedent, and the cyber world has even less, with no precedents whatsoever existing.

So by operating under American ideals of Freedom of Speech, trading primarily in US currency on popular platforms, and adopting the lifestyle of many Americans by taking on their norms. But what does this mean for the cyber-world itself?

Many countries do not operate by an American code of life, and show the same respects online. China operates with many restrictions, and it’s cyber space is unlike the our more Western one. A fractured cyberspace is starting to form, with different operating protocols from different regions, who use different sites with different rules. But will these cyberspaces ever meet like at the dawn of the internet, or will they continue to drift apart, making sites and people once again foreign to each other.

Maybe it is in our nature to adopt the major cultures that surround us, but also to rebel and form our own identities. But in a space where we are all meant to be equal, and have no governing bodies to define who we are or what we do, how can this be possible? The cyberspace is a whole, but the people themselves are not. We are defining who we are, from where we are and what we like. And it might possibly tear the internet apart, as we try to define ourselves and separate ourselves. Despite advertised as a world with no physical borders, geographical location plays a large part in how much you can interact in the cyberworld. So, what can you do in the world?

You can either take part in the larger community and try to ignore the fact you are gonna be left out or consumed by a larger culture. Type away, spell ‘colour’ wrong, trade in $USD, follow American news. Or, create a sect, keep your identity, push away other cultures and ideas to remain who you are.

I am attempting to deal with this in my own work, which will hopefully be a short film. By setting it in a Western world, I run risk of over-Americanising the script. But if I carve a uniquely Australian script, it may be lost to many viewers, as what I view as Australian may not be to many people in Australia. The fine line between cultures blur more and more, and I must take care that I set the film up in a way that it isn’t lost culturally.

I am irresponsible and have low work ethic – A reflection by Riley Jones

I am garbage, and as a result, my planning and organization skills are also garbage. I do not use a diary, a planner or a calendar, despite years of parents, teachers and friends telling me to do so. I barely remember my university schedule, and by the time it has been drilled in, the semester has changed. Assignments and due dates often hit me like a truck, bowling me over and leaving me scrabbling at the last moments to put together comprehensive sentences on a page to prove that I did attend class and didn’t forget that my lecture started at 8:30, not 9:30, so I can skim by on bullshit. I look back and can see this started at an early age, when I was in primary school. 

I skated past on natural talent and an enjoyment of reading and learning, never putting in much more than what was the bare minimum effort for me. I would go on to become the dux of my primary school, and that cemented the idea that I could do no work for the rest of my life and I would be fine, because I had ‘natural talent’.

And even as I type this reflection on why that is a bad idea, I know that I will not learn. Who I am is cemented, and the effort to change is far too large. The time left for this assignment is in the minutes stage for me, double stacking onto working tonight. I write this waiting for a friend, so I can distract myself more, knowing it is the wrong thing, but really unable to help myself on my self-destructive path of academic conduct.

BCM courses have always brought this out of me. The responsibility of a weekly blog should be fine, nothing to someone who spends hours procrastinating, and is actually interested in the content. But the thoughts of working and making progress invariably end with me sitting, procrastinating through the multiple channels life happily presents. I have spent more hours playing Rocket League this semester than I have doing university work over my entire degree. Now for some engineering and medical science, that would be a reflection of my degree, but I see it more as a personal commitment to trying my hardest to not work. Because it isn’t like I don’t like my degree, in fact, I couldn’t be more happy studying anything else. It is just that I lack the drive, that the multiple facets of technology and life easily destroy my attention span by immediately rewarding me for low effort, just like when I was young.

BCM240 has taught me the use of media spaces, and my engagement with them. It has taught me that I didn’t realise how much of an influence media has on me. So many of my early memories are based around the television and video games, that when that was brought to life, I was surprised at the sheer volume of it. I can recall the cheat codes to Tony Hawks Pro Skater 4 faster than I can say what year I started school. (The code to unlock everything is watch_me_xplode, in case you were wondering.)

I learnt that all this has influenced me and my opinions, in way that I will argue with rooms of strangers and confess to embarrassing use of social media just to defend my use of it, even when I know what I am doing is wrong. This was done time and time again, gaining enemies and friends alike for 2 hours every week. I opened up in that class, about myself, my media use, and the way we had affected each other. This person to person interaction was a highlight of my week. But when it came to the online interaction with the same people, I couldn’t be more incapable. Writing comments and reading others work was boring. I felt I couldn’t critise and argue. That I had to pat everyone on the back, regardless of whether I agreed or not. Or even whether I cared. Which I often did not. And this seems rude, but it comes to the point of attention, once again. If something was more interesting, why waste my time and effort for less reward. 

This class probably taught me more about myself than it intended, and much more than I was willing to find out. I said some dumb things, confessed to dumber things and made both friends and enemies.

All’s fair in love and work

In my mind, everything is fair game or nothing is. This arises from a South Park episode with deals with the Islamic Prophet ‘Muhammad’ and how criticism of it is taboo. I agree with the writers of South Park during this episode, who make the point that everything should be able to be critised.

This comes from the idea of what should and should not be censored in entertainment multimedia, with Comedy Central fighting to suppress the image of Muhammad on broadcast television. South Park lost the battle and Muhammad was replaced with a large black rectangle with ‘censored’ written over the top. The episode itself poked fun at this, with Comedy Central itself being in the episode, shown not being able to show Muhammad on the air.

The larger idea of the episode was that nothing should be exempt from mockery and that if your ideas were strong enough, they could withstand criticism. I agree with this, and feel that censoring talking or joking about issues is the first step towards silencing discussion on a range of topics. That doesn’t mean that every joke about the topic will be in good taste or even funny, but it is essential to allow dialogue to be created, even it makes some uncomfortable or offended.

Many comedians have gotten into trouble over this, with some topics they discuss being considered too sensitive to be aired or mentioned. George Carlin was known for  making jokes about topics that were particularly sensitive, and he received a lot of controversy and trouble from these jokes. But around all of this, George Carlin survived because he was funny. Because he did what he did well and he was funny.

But what do we do with people who aren’t? What do you say to people who make bad jokes about sensitive topics? Do they have less of a right to talk about the topic? Or do we grin and bear it and allow them to say whatever they like?

Another similar issues is within music. Artists such as ‘Tyler, The Creator’ are banned from entering Australia due to  a classification placed on them that they are not suitable for Australian audiences, based on lyrical content. This choice by the government is claiming that Australian audiences cannot handle the content and are too sensitive to make choices of their own for their own safety. This kind of censorship, in my opinion, is the most restrictive and the most dangerous. The banning and/or silencing of an individual’s opinion can be the gateway to the silencing of many opinions.

Of course, this is from the perspective of a young, white straight male of no religion, so it hardly carries any weight, as it is near impossible to offend someone like me.