The Power of Free Press – [DIGC202]

When I think of the word “hacker” I am automatically reminded of a group of youths at my local high school that used to claim they had infiltrated government and private websites. “I hacked the Pentagon” one used to say. Now after almost two years of tertiary education learning about digital networks and privacy, if these so called “hackers” had achieved what they broadcasted throughout the school, I think these boys would have been visited by some heavy handed Government officials during our Information Technology classes.
To me this just sounded like fun and games. A couple of teenage kids with some source code, ‘trying’ (I think they were more into playing Counterstrike to be honest) to access government information. Little did I know that there was a movement going on at the time that would reveal documents that expose the world to some of the greatest injustices by governments in recent history.

Wikileaks Timeline of Events

For those of you who haven’t heard of Wikileaks essentially it is non-for profit media organisation that brings important news to the public. Essentially creating greater transparency between governments and those who are governed. Julian Assange the mastermind behind Wikileaks and what many media and technology theorists call the ‘Fifth Estate’, which essentially means that now instead of the older ‘Estate’ models, the production of news according to Jay Rosen has become a combination of professional and amateur content.
Since Wikileaks inception in 2006 the site has been responsible for uncovering some of the largest news stories in recent history. From war, killings, torture and detention to government and public corruption the aim and efforts of Wikileaks and its small diverse team of likeminded individuals continues to push the boundaries between delivering the truth and causing mass disruption and unrest between warring nations.

It is interesting to note that of late, Wikileaks has been remarkably quiet, some would argue almost too quiet for an organisation that was established to continuously question the truth. In the direct words of Wikileaks “Better scrutiny leads to reduced corruption and stronger democracies in all society’s institutions, including government, corporations and other organisations.
Julian Assange himself has also come under intense inspection; accused of the sexual assault of two women in Sweden and releasing classified US military documents, he is no hauled up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, fearing that Swedish officials and the United States government will arrest him over each issue.

To talk about the Wikileaks story in-depth I would almost need to start another blog on the topic. There have been far too many subplots and twists and turns throughout the life of Wikileaks to cover in one 500-word posting. However, the key concept from the Wikileaks story is the notion of free press and our democratic right to know the truth on matters that concern not only us, but also our fellow man/woman around the world.

At the start of my tertiary education I was a sceptic of the Wikileaks phenomena. I, like many others was afraid that the information being leaked could be used for greater evil if it made its way into the hands of the wrong groups or individuals. I was brainwashed by mainstream media into believing that there was an injustice against governments with this information being leaked. I have since radically changed my opinion. Fenster believes that “Publishing [leaked material] improves transparency, and this transparency creates a better society for all people. A healthy, vibrant and inquisitive journalistic media plays a vital role in achieving these goals. I now have to agree. With the current media landscape the way it is at the moment. We need institutions like Wikileaks in light of a better term “to keep the bastards honest”.

Luke Macdonald
2nd Year Media & Communication & Commerce Student @UOW
Majoring in Digital Communication & Marketing

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Reflection – [BCM240]

Across the first ten-week period of my Media, Audience & Place subject students were encouraged to post relevant pieces that were connected to the topic/s covered each week. This meant listening, researching and learning the materials on our own terms. Putting the onus on the student to further develop their understanding on how different media has impacted our relationships and behaviours as audiences over the space of time. Too some, this seemed like an arduous task. Having to blog on a weekly basis doesn’t seem like a constructive way to learn the course material. However, I am a big advocate of the blogging component of the course. Not only does it motivate you to find further relevant sources to add to your arguments it forces you to give an opinion and be interested. For those who had previously completed other BCM subjects, the course at times and the topics did feel a little too familiar yet, as someone who learns through the power of repetition revisiting the issues of copyright and media technologies further broadened my opinion and scope on the issue. As blogging creates and facilitates student interaction through commenting, the help of my peers and their own opinions on each week’s topic/s further improved my knowledge.

As a collective it would be fair to say that the engagement between students throughout the blogging period would be considerably low. At the start of the subject many were tweeting and commenting on each other’s blogs, some at great length. Towards the end of the task, as work loads from other subjects increased and involvement dropped off, the commenting component of the course became less of a tool for further engaging in the materials and more of a weekly chore. However, there were some students that saw this as an opportunity to discuss their thoughts on each week’s topics and also deliver praise to those who put in the effort to keep up with the materials each week.

I will be the first to admit that each week I have sat at my desk, starring blankly into my computer screen wondering what to write about. Do I write something that has some relevance to the topic, yet takes another the issue in a different direction? Should I write something informational? Something witty? Eventually my fingers hit the keyboard and I have found myself in the ‘long tail’ of the Internet. Searching through countless stories, journal articles and literature all relevant to this week’s topic/s. This exploration of the Internet is what makes blogging so beneficial to the BCM experience. Blogging allows students the chance to incorporate their own ideas and lifestyle into the topics to further create an understanding of the course materials. From discussing relevant examples of media past and present, students are actively engaged and communicating their thoughts, opinions and personal experiences. As convergent media platforms such as WordPress allow our student blogs to be seen by global audiences, I was pleased to discover just how far and wide my thoughts and opinions had travelled across the globe.

After reviewing my blogging statistics I was personally surprised by the amount of global attention my blog had received from countries in both Asia and Europe. As much as I would like to contribute this to my writing style I am certain that it has to do with a few key blogging components such as tagging relevant topics and categorising the related posts.

StatsThe image above further proves that although many of believe that we are only writing these blogs to either assist other students or pass the subject, our posts, through the power of the Internet are being read in the homes, schools, workplaces and universities across the globe. As a mature age student, to think that two years ago I was stuck in my nine to five job, hatting my life and now not only do I have a collective of supportive peers contributing to my work, I also have have people engaging in my opinions from all corners of the globe [sight exaggeration].

After nine weeks of deciphering topics, talking to others in my life about their experiences with media and examining the role that media plays within my own life I have come up with this conclusion. No matter how much I think I may know about an issue or topic, I have barely scratched the surface. Media is such an intrinsic part of our lives that to try and define it in nine weeks seems almost laughable. As technologies advance and we continue through the information age the ways in which we develop, learn and interact with media are frequently changing. The need for greater understanding into the concepts and theories of media creation will always remain a constant and vital aspect to the future development of media practices.

Luke Macdonald
2nd Year Media & Communication & Commerce Student @UOW
Majoring in Digital Communication & Marketing

Transcending Television: Public Media Screens – [BCM240]

As we continue to move forward through the information age and technologies become faster, smarter and cheaper to produce, so too does the number of public media screens that consume our attention on a daily basis. Everywhere you look, it seems as though, what was once just an activity confined to one room of a house or shop front, has now become a social norm amongst society.
Since the 1980s, the rollout of digital networks, the proliferation of mobile phones and the installation of large electronic screens in urban centres have created novel forms of mediated interaction within the public sphere (Maguire, 2009). From creative advertising to simplest forms of delivering information, public screens have fast become increasingly relevant amongst society. As I walk through the city centre of Wollongong, I am bombarded with screens all trying to capture my attention. From ads selling big and expensive high involvement products to even the smallest screens directing citizens to the nearest railway station. Public screens occupy each end of the spectrum.

It was interesting to note that although there were countless media screens bombarding my brain trying to cause a sensory overload, very few of them actually received my full attention. Although I have never visited the media screen spectacles of New York’s Time Square or Tokyo’s Shibuya, these two places typify how powerful media screens in public places can be. If you were to recount a list of landmarks that you wish to see in New York, Time Square with its monumental media displays would be as equally as high on the list as Madison Square Garden. These electronic screens have been used to extend and amplify the notion of the urban spectacle. We are all so immersed with content on televisions and media devices in our homes that we just accept that the spectacle will spill out into every aspect of our lives.

For some the proliferation of media screens throughout society can be seen to increase social engagement.

At present count my work place contains 42 television screens broadcasting a comprehensive array of sporting events, gambling advertising and club promotions. However, at 5:30pm Monday to Friday the main media screens are all tuned into one station to watch the Channel 9 game show, Millionaire Hotseat. Club members (mostly 55 to 90 year old males) gather around their tables enjoying a few brews after a hard days work to sit and analyse as a collective, which answer it could be. To some this could be seen as a very uninteresting aspect of work life however, the way in which each question stimulates social interaction and generates discussion about issues within the public sphere is a very interesting occurrence. At 6pm the news is shown, generating more debate and conjecture. In its simplest form this form of social interaction through public media screens, to those who are seeking social interaction at the last half of the ‘innings’ is priceless.

Here are a few example of media screens that I took around my workplace. As you can see the gambling industry has capitalised on the shift towards the proliferation of media screens and media content.

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Luke Macdonald
2nd Year Media & Communication & Commerce Student @UOW
Majoring in Digital Communication & Marketing

The Long Tail to Success – [DIGC202]

long-tail

The emergence of digital retail networks has seen a structural change in the distribution markets for cultural goods (Benghozi, pg.43). As the music industry comes to terms with this movement, many bands/artists are revelling in the social/entertainment aspect of their craft. As mentioned in previous posts the goals and motivations of real musician’s aren’t stardom or notoriety. They are simply learning, practicing and sharing their passion for the art.
Whilst many of the major record labels ‘scratch their head’ at the distribution methods of independent artists, it seems as though the independent labels are beginning to understand the value between abundance and scarcity economics.

As music as digital product enjoys an almost zero cost of production and distribution, many artists are profiting through live performance. Various artists and bands are seeing the value of creating scarcity in their products. By giving away their music and content, many fans are repaying the generosity through record numbers at live shows and festivals globally.

By realizing the scarcity of live performances versus the abundant nature of digital downloads, many artists and bands are not only fulfilling their dreams and aspirations on a weekly basis, they are profiting from the new structured business model.
As a music lover, my biggest monthly outlay for music content is the purchasing of concert or festival tickets. As a consumer I am always grateful for the kindness of artists who wish to share their tracks at little to no cost. Anderson states “ In an era when digital products are commodities, there’s a premium on experience”. It is through this experience that scarcity is born.

A survey conducted by Tourfilter (an application for iPhone and Android that notifies you of artists/bands touring in your area) highlights the true extent of the ‘long tail’ of the music industry. For those unacquainted with Chris Anderson’s theory here is basic info-graphic to explain his philosophy.


The study concluded that only 22 of the 13,000+ bands were tracked by 1% of the user database. The acts included the likes of The Arcade Fire, Sigur Ros and Radiohead. The survey concluded by stating Most of the people out seeing music on any given night in America were seeing long tail bands.

As content continues to be delivered online the need for aggregation has become vital for the success of both amateur and professional artists alike.
Bandcamp is a company that offers artists the ability to manage social media profiles and structure the pricing of their content based on their own values rather than the highly priced iTunes-scaling model. At present, most of the content is valued at ‘nominate your own price’. It is this new model which allows artists the ability to organise their own recordings, promote them on Twitter, Facebook and SoundCloud, sell them via Bandcamp, and generally take care of the promotional aspects, once reserved for band managers and music labels. It is this disintermediation that allows artists full control of their own works.

References

Benghozi, PJ, Françoise, B. (2010). The long tail: myth or reality?.International Journal of Arts Management. 12 (3), 43-53.

Images

 http://crossoverhealth.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/03/long-tail1.png

Here is a plug to one of my favourite artists using Bandcamp at the moment.

Luke Macdonald
2nd Year Media & Communication & Commerce Student @UOW
Majoring in Digital Communication & Marketing

I’m Your F.A.N – [BCM240]

When you think about fan culture you are immediately drawn to remember those peers you went to high school with. The one’s that dressed up as their favourite characters, collected all the books, DVD’s and what ever remaining merchandise that had their favourite characters emblazoned upon it. Having been at high school from the early half of the ‘naughties’, I remember the biggest trend that drew a tremendous amount of fanfare was the Harry Potter craze. Students and staff alike were not only engaging in talking about the series, it had almost become a part of our curriculum.
Just as the Harry Potter obsession raged through my school, the history of fan culture has a long and interesting story. In particular the early nineteen seventies ‘doowop’ rock and roll era. For those of you who are unaware of what a fanzine is, it is a publication put together by fans of a particular interest.
Prutner explains, that at the beginning of the 1970’s the fanzines were created “to meet the needs of the fans of music that were not being expressed by mainstream media” (1997, pg.11). “They created the magazines because the real story of rock and roll wasn’t being told” (1997, pg.11). Again in the early 90’s grunge era, fans were creating their own publications to tell their stories about the artists and bands they admired.

Fast-forward to today’s current fan culture and you will find the same publications with one exception. They are now digital, with content strewn throughout blogs, Facebook fan pages, aggregated story telling domains and devoted fan websites. If there are dedicated fans, you can be assured to find related content on the Internet.
Pearson states “The digital revolution has had a profound impact upon fandom, empowering and disempowering, blurring the lines between producers and consumers, creating symbiotic relationships between powerful corporations and individual fans, and giving rise to new forms of cultural production” (2010, pg.84).

However, what the Internet giveth, the Internet taketh away”.
Jenkins reminds us “The differences between the ways corporations and fans understand the value of grassroots creativity has never been clearer”. As always at the heart of the debate is the economic value of fan works. Should the incredibly talented authors/illustrators and lovers of a particular show/film/artists have to pay royalties to the creators of the original works? After all these are adaptations of story lines created by someone else. As Jenkins points out in the article above, most fan fiction is “a labour of love; they operate in a gift economy and are given freely to other fans who share their passion for these characters”.

Until media industries begin to see the real value of user generated content, the debate about copyright and fan fiction is sure to be a point of great interest through many eras One Direction, Miley Cirus to come.

References

Pearson, R 2010, ‘Fandom in the Digital Era, Popular Communication: The International Journal of Media and Culture, Summons Database, viewed 5 September 2013.

Pruter, R 1997, ‘A history of Doowop fanzines’, Popular Music & Society, 21, 1, p. 11, Humanities International Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 September 2013.

Luke Macdonald
2nd Year Media & Communication & Commerce Student @UOW
Majoring in Digital Communication & Marketing

Are We ‘Friends’ ? – [BCM240]

Image

4367_original_tumblr_llzahgrEDe1qjnxdoo1_500

The other day as I was trawling through my social media empire I can across an interesting observation. As it currently stands I have just over 300 hundred friends followers Twitter (go me!). After some thought, I decided to look at some of my tweets to my gang of followers. It was the tweets to some of my fellow peers that sparked the most interesting reflection. After all these are people that I interact with on a weekly basis, yet the line of dialogue with most stops at the keyboard. We pass in the hallways, wait patiently out the front of lecture theatres and even share the same classes together and barely a word is spoken. Yet online we share witty remarks, favourite each other’s tweets and even share content with one another.

tweets

It seems we are all comfortable to share our thoughts and opinions within the realms of digital space, yet we are cautious to do so person to person. I know that I am just as much to blame for the lack of upward communication so in no way am I taking issue with any of my fellow peers, I am just simply making an observation.

As a strong advocate of digital media and convergence this is a very interesting topic of discussion. Has social media inhibited our ability to communicate in the real world? Now I know this is a very broad statement and many of you will be sitting down reading this and promptly answering, “No, I have many friendships outside of social media”, however I urge you to consider and re ask yourself the question.

When asked about the impact that social media was having on our ability to comfort and interact face-to-face Dr Subrahmanyam proposed, “ I don’t think that youth are giving up face to face communication” (2010, pg.12). So is all this talk of ‘backwards communication’ regarding social media just a form of moral panic?

For every negative view of social media there is an equally opposing positive opinion. Just recently I came across a news story highlighting a study conducted in the USA about the negative effect and potentially life threatening dangers that social media and digital devices can have on us as a society. Now as someone who admits to walking into several telegraph poles, people and even a parked car whilst trying to tweet, I can understand the medias concern. All jokes a side, this can actually be a very dangerous occurrence. As a society it seems as though we are all trying to stay connected at all times of the day that we are forgetting simple cognitive functions.

Lazaros, Xu and Londt state that “ Text messaging while walking is a significant area for concern. The number of text messages sent is expected to be more than 8 trillion in 2012. The dangers of multitasking have hit the streets as people are becoming involved in more accidents while walking as they text on mobile phones” (2012, pg.88). So has social media destroyed our common sense? If you listen to some media reports you will most likely think twice before sending that driving ‘Snapchat’ or whilst texting and walking (I have the bruises to prove it is a bad idea).

As for my digital friends I promise to make more of an effort to engage in conversation in the real world. Apologies to all if I open the lines of dialogue with a ‘dad joke’.

References

E J, Lazaros , R, Xu & S, Londt (2012) Using an Activity to Simulate the Dangers of Multitasking with Technology while Walking, Science Activities: Classroom Projects and Curriculum Ideas, Summons Library, accessed 31st August 2013.

K Subrahmanyam, (2010), Teens, social media, and relationships: an interview with. The Prevention Researcher, Summons Library, accessed 31st August 2013.

Media

Luke Macdonald
2nd Year Media & Communication & Commerce Student @UOW
Majoring in Digital Communication & Marketing

Good Evening & Welcome To Television – [BCM240]

We take for granted the availability of television and media in this day and age. Information readily streamed into our own homes via broadcast channels working 24/7 to keep us all abreast and informed about the goings on both locally and abroad.
After recently speaking to my Grandpa I learnt that Australia’s affinity with television hasn’t always been the same.

Meet Ross Macdonald. Recently retired, family loving man, born in the quiet suburban streets of Sydney (Concord West). Yesterday I set up a Skype conversation to recall his first memories of television, his thoughts, emotions and his views on the current landscape of Australian television. Below is an excerpt from our conversation.

Pa: “When television commenced transmission in Australia in 1956 I was just 10 years old. Regarding the viewing of television, one of the shops in the strip was an Electrical Appliance and Record store and they had one TV in the store window, which was hooked up to a speaker outside the store just under the awning.

They used to have it turned on in the evening from about 6pm (just after the pubs closed) and the locals including my Mum and Dad, together with brother Malcolm (Mal was 4 years old) and myself would gather and bond outside the shop for about one hour to watch whatever was being broadcasted.

In the very early days in Sydney there were only 3 channels i.e. ABN Channel 2, ATN Channel 7 and TCN Channel 9. Most of the day all they transmitted was a Test Pattern until about 6pm when they usually broadcast the News and a few other programmes until about 10pm when they would close with the National Anthem. Nothing that would really excite a 10 year old.

However 1956 was also the year of the of Olympic Games in Melbourne. My Dad arranged for the family to travel by train to Melbourne (travel by air was ridiculously expensive compared to today) so that we could experience this “once in a lifetime opportunity” (if only they had known what the future would bring!).
There was no need to pre-purchase tickets as you could just buy them at the gate on the day, however most of the events were either shown live or filmed (no video then) and would be on the TV later that evening. The best thing that ever happened to increase the sale of Television sets in Australia during 1956 was the Olympic Games. They were not cheap but everyone wanted one!

During the first week of the games my grandparents purchased a HMV (His Masters Voice) TV, which I suspect they probably went into some sort of a hire purchase agreement to buy. The surge in sales together with the popularity of the games changed the whole dynamics of TV programming with longer hours including movies, serials and live variety shows starting to fill the viewing hours.

This was where the real excitement of TV began for me!!! It probably also spelt the beginning of the end for the Saturday matinee at the local movie theatre since pretty much what they were showing started slowly to appear on TV. When we returned to home after the Olympic Games the pressure was on for the purchase of a TV which I think my dad held out for about another 3 years when he finally rented one. By this time the programmes would start at midday (usually with a movie) and run until midnight still finishing with the anthem”.

Taking a look at the direction television has taken today my Grandpa summed it up very nicely; “well all you have is reality programs that aren’t a true reflection of reality”. When asked about the future of Australian television his response was “I think Australian television is coming to a defining moment in its short history. Technology is easily winning the battle. Very much the same as the matinee was destroyed by television, mobile tablets and high speed Internet are destroying television”.

Again these are statement that I agree with wholeheartedly.
The boundaries between audiences and spaces are being removed. “Family bonding” as my Grandpa described it is no longer part of Australian culture. As we become more reliant on convergent media and devices, we become less reliant on spending time building relationships around us.

Does this mean that all family values are forsaken? Probably not. However Hardenbergh describes the viewing of television as a “presentational environment” (2010, pg.171). No longer do we occupy and share the same spaces to view our media. As a prime example of this fundamental shift, currently two of my housemates and myself are all watching the same program in three separate parts of the house. We have a communal lounge area with a television; however the program we are watching is easily streamed online.

Hardenbergh’s statement regarding the superiority of television “ it was the greatest mass medium” (2010, pg.171) is a bold statement of which has some merit in today’s media environment. Technologies will inevitably come and go but the legacy that a medium leaves on a generation can never be forgotten. Television changed the lives and introduced many to the world.

As for my Grandpa’s thoughts on the best show on television at the moment. “It is still the 7pm ABC News Luke”.

Some old habits will die-hard.

What are your first recollections of television? Mine are the ABC educational/ entertainment programs, of which included Lift Off. Memory lane :). Feel free to leave a comment or tweet me at fluke_aus with your favourite TV memories.

References

Hardenbergh, M. (2010). The death of television. ETC.: A Review of General Semantics, Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA240918884&v=2.1&u=uow&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w, accessed 22nd August 2013

Luke Macdonald
2nd Year Media & Communication & Commerce Student @UOW
Majoring in Digital Communication & Marketing