Experiencing Concerts through a Screen: Concert Venues as Quasi-Media Spaces

Everybody was holding up their hands, and here and there I could see guysholding up their cell phones, playing the music for someone else – Neil Strauss

Earlier in September my boyfriend and I went to watch one of our favourite bands, Imagine Dragons at the Entertainment Centre in Sydney. The moment the band came on stage and opened the night with Shots, I could not contain my excitement as my body started moving to the music. Because I was enjoying the performance so much, my hands instinctively went to my smartphone as I felt the need to record and document the live performance of one of my favourite songs. Of course, I was not the only person engaging in this practice. In fact, my smartphone joined a sea of other smartphones; each pushing and moving, trying to capture the best footage of the performance.

However, as we all were engaging in this practice, I was suddenly left feeling conflicted as a stream of questions gushed through my head: What am I doing? I spent $90.00 to watch Imagine Dragons live and now I’m watching them through a screen? Do I even remember how Dan performed the song? Upon realising how quickly Shots ended and my lack of engagement with the song once I got my phone out, I was left feeling disappointed. I told myself I would not let my phone get in the way of the rest of the concert again! However, when the band played another one of my favourite songs, Demons, I was once again in a state of inner turmoil. I wanted to capture the moment on my phone, but then again, I didn’t want to worry about my smartphone and erode my experience! Nevertheless, I could not help myself and decided to record the song anyway.

After the concert ended, I remember complaining to my boyfriend about how I struggled finding the right balance between immersing myself in the concert and recording it for later consumption. However, according to him, using smartphones at concerts is ‘stupid’ as ‘you can’t enjoy a concert like that’. As we ate upon our late night Maccas feast, he informed me of how bands and artists such as Jack White are banning the use of phones at their concerts. Apparently, it’s just as distracting for artists and band members as it is for fans.

This whole experience made me question how the concert experience has developed in the past two decades; after all, before the Smartphone era, concert-going patrons did not hold their Smartphones up in the air; so what did they do? Did they simply wave their hands in the air to the rhythm of the music? Or did they do something else?

I believe the live music experience has changed drastically for most concert going patrons with the development of Smartphones and online social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and SMS text messaging. I suspect the live music experience would have been more enjoyable before the Smartphone era, as people would’ve been more ‘present’, connected and conscious of the live performance than people are now. As Lucy Bennett drew on Cavicchi’s research and claimed, ‘within music fandom, live concerts have been determined as constituting a ‘powerful meeting’ place where individuals come together to ‘enact the meaning of fandom’”. However, does this ‘powerful meeting space’ as a collective and communal activity still really exist in the Smartphone era? I obviously did not have the answers to all these questions as I’ve grown up in this Smartphone culture. Thus I decided to interview my boyfriend’s mum, Nicole, about her concert going experience back in the bubblegum pop era of the 80s!

Nicole was born in 1966 and grew up in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney. Nicole remembers the 1980s music culture being primarily focused ‘around dance music and disco music’. As she claims, ‘music was a big part of life back then, especially [considering] how limited music availability was compared to today where downloading on the internet is an everyday occurrence’. When asked about the popularity of concerts, Nicole remembers how ‘concerts weren’t as popular as going to nightclubs and shows’ which ‘were popular places’. Nevertheless, Nicole admits that she went to many concerts, her first one being in 1982 when she went and saw Boy George with her friends. It was one of her most memorable concerts as she remembers dressing like Boy George and having a good time with her friends.

Nicole remembers the 1980s live music experience as a positive one as ‘people danced a lot’ and ‘were engaged with others around them and the music’. When asked whether the concert experience has changed since the 1980s, Nicole agreed, saying ‘changes in concert experience from back in the day to now, is everyone uses their phones at concerts, the lighting and the sound system is definitely a lot better because things have advanced in technology. The venues are bigger so people can go to these concerts at once. So yeah there have been a lot of changes since the 1980s when I first started going.’

Drawing on the notable change in the use of smartphones at concerts, Nicole claimed that she herself uses her mobile phone at concerts, the most recent use being when she saw the Madden Brothers live at the Entertainment Centre. Asked why she uses her smartphone, Nicole responded saying she uses it to ‘usually take pictures, to share the experience through social media or I take pictures with my friends or the actual artists’.

Indeed, this idea of sharing the experience is important and draws on Steven Colburn (2015)’s argument of the way in which the use of the smartphone as image and video recording device at concerts contributes to the wealth of online cultural capital, which can help extend the concert experience. As Colburn (2015, p.59) claims, ‘filmers are fans who position themselves as cultural intermediaries, blurring the boundaries between producers, consumers, and broadcasters’. For example, many of Colburn’s respondents held they enjoyed capturing moments from the concerts as well as broadcasting their footage and images to other people who lacked original access to the material presented. Nicole reflected on how she too embodies this role as she enjoys showing snippets from the performances to her friends and family who cannot attend the concert.

Additional to the use of smartphones as image and video capturing devices, Lucy Bennett (2014) found how many of her respondents used their smartphones to text, post messages and set-lists on Facebook and Twitter as a means to keep non-physically present members informed. She found that many individuals enjoyed engaging in this practice and granting online individuals the ability to follow the developments of the concert as it happens, ‘live’, in front of their computers.

Thus broadcasting live concert videos, images and information in the online world facilitates the experiences of those who cannot attend concerts. As Colburn (2015, p.64) claims, those who film concerts can act as gatekeepers, ‘providing visual access to relatively scarce material’. Indeed, as Colburn’s research indicates, most of the viewers appreciate the sharing of such videos —provided they are of good quality—because it enables them to virtually become a part of the experience, and have access to the artists, bands and their live performances, in a way that would not otherwise be possible. As one of his respondents said:

‘Before moving to Los Angeles I always heard of the great club shows going on practically every night. I was always searching YouTube, Vimeo and other video websites for fan shot videos of the performances I wanted to see. One of my favourite musicians is Dave Navarro and when I began going to see him perform in various settings I would tape portions of the show to share with other fans not living in the area. Since I know how it feels to not live “where the action is” I decided to start uploading videos for those people who were in the same situation I once was.’ (Colburn, 2015, p.66).

This notion of being able to ‘capture the moment’ was also quite central to Nicole’s explanation of why she uses her Smartphones at concerts now. As Nicole explained, ‘the benefits I would say, would be with the smartphone at the concert, I can record the experience if I want to and capture it live, I can take photos at the concert – of the actual concert, artist and I can take photos with my friends at the concert, I can tag myself at the concerts and this all goes onto social media’. This sense of immediacy of being able to capture the experience instantaneously for later consumption seems to be a motivating factor for Nicole as well. As she reflected, ‘you can have all the memories recorded, all the photos to look back on that day, the next day the next year, years to come, you can show your children, so yeah it’s definitely worth having a smartphone at a concert’. This also draws on the reflections of Colburn (2015, p.65)’s respondents, who also used their footage and images as ‘an adjunct to their own memories’. Furthermore, while some recordings of live performances can be purchased on DVD, the benefit of recording your own footage is that it makes it more personal. After all, as one respondent claimed, it is ‘from your point of view’ which enables you to ‘re-live the whole thing’ (Colburn 2015, p.66).

However, when I asked Nicole if she thought there were any negative implications to the use of the smartphone, the answer was a straight out ‘yes’. As she said: ‘I suppose the negatives would be distracting others that aren’t using smartphones. It also takes you as a person actually away from the concert experience by being distracted by the use of your phone because as you’re using the phone, you’re not actually concentrating on what’s in front of you.’ Similarly, Bennett (2014) also reflected how ‘the bright glow of the mobile phone handset is viewed as a pollutant that contests the ‘dark and quiet’, traditional setting of seated music concerts’ and renders fans as ‘not-present in the moment’. Thus using such technological devices transforms the concert event by distancing the user from the immersive experience of being in attendance (Colburn 2015, p.60). As a result, concert-goers no longer share the same connective experience as concert-goers once did before the rise of the Smartphone culture. Instead, fans experience the performances more individually, thereby eroding the homogenous nature of fandom cultures (Colburn 2015, p.61).

Upon doing some online research, I learnt that many individuals express similar concerns:

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 10.08.01 pm

In fact, in response to the ever-growing use of smartphones in the concert environment, venues have reacted by employing new techniques to create cellphone-free zones. For example, American based service Yonder is a new and innovative technology which prevents concert goers from using their phones by having to place it in a casing which automatically locks when in certain areas of the venue. The phone is not completely off limits, but the catch is that individuals must leave the cellphone-free zone, which would involve missing the concert. Further advancements in this area include Apple patenting technology that can identify invisible infrared signals that are programmed with instructions for cameras to follow in order to prevent them from operating. Such pioneering technology appears to be crucial to the future of live music experiences by presenting no viable options for phone tempted concertgoers.

In closing, it goes without saying that the smartphones have pervasively penetrated and transformed the presence and behaviours of audiences in public spaces. As Ingrid Richardson (2007) claims:

Smartphones ‘have effectively transform[ed] the relation between body and world, ready-to-hand and tele present interaction, and actual and virtual environments’.

Particular in the context of concert venues, the smartphone has significantly transformed the live music experience —not only does it allow the smartphone user to share their presence from the venue, but it also extends the energy of the concert experience outside the physical boundaries of the venue, to those who cannot attend the concert. This suggests that the issue of time and space no longer exist as constraints as they once did. Indeed, such technologies have created the possibility of greater media democracy as individuals have more agency in negotiating and expanding their music experience (Wall & Dubber 2010, p.168). This can facilitate quite a special shared group experience for fans as it gives them a sense of community through their acts of viewing, commenting and sharing of the videos, images and information. Thus Smartphones enable a sense of inclusion for non-physically present fans as they can participate in the live experience from the comfort of their home. As Bennett concludes:

In this sense, Cavicchi’s notion of concerts being a ‘ powerful meeting of the various forces and people and ideas involved in [fans’] participation in musical life’ is further invoked, with the boundaries of these events being contested to include non-physically present fans who, together with the attendees that include them through technological acts, are able to repeatedly ‘enact the meaning of fandom’ where they may have been unable to before.

However, while smartphones have positively created a live, virtual, connective experience for fans, it has also detracted concert going patrons from having an authentic experience. Nevertheless, Nicole believes the Smartphone has changed the experience for the better. As she summed up:

So yes [the smartphone] has benefits and negatives, but overall, it does enhance the experience because you can share the experience virtually. You can have all the memories recorded, all the photos to look back on that day, the next day the next year, years to come, you can show your children, so yeah it definitely worth having a smartphone at a concert because it changes the whole experience into a better time.

In my opinion, it’s ultimately up to the individual person on how he/she would like to enjoy a concert. If it’s through a screen, then fair enough. However, I think it is important to nevertheless respect the people around you and ensure you don’t erode their concert experience.

References:

Bennett, L 2014, ‘Texting and Tweeting at Live Music Concerts: flow, fandom and connection with other audiences through mobile phone technology’ Independent Scholar <http://www.academia.edu/3210222/Texting_and_Tweeting_at_Live_Music_Concerts_flow_fandom_and_connection_with_other_audiences_through_mobile_phone_technology> 
Cavicchi, D., 1998. Tramps Like Us: Music & Meaning among Springsteen Fans, New York:Oxford University Press.

Colburn, S 2015, ‘Filming Concerts for YouTube: Seeking Recognition in the Pursuit of Cultural Capital’, Popular Music and Society, vol.38, no.1, pp59-72.

Richardson, I 2007, ‘Pocket Technospaces: ‘The Bodily Incorporation of Mobile Media’’,Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, vol 21, no.2, pp.205-215.

Wall, T, & Dubber, A 2010, ‘Experimenting with Fandom, Live Music, and the Internet: Applying Insights from Music Fan Culture to New Media Production’, Journal of New Music Research, vol.39, no.2, pp.159-169.

 

Reflection Time!

While I have been blogging for media subjects for almost two years now, I must admit, I still struggled with my blogging experience for BCM240. This is mainly because the subject encouraged us to build upon our online public profile through our blogs. However, I am quite a private person. While I have Facebook, I do not have an Instagram account or any other social media account, and I only use Twitter and WordPress for my Media studies. Similarly, I’m more of a passive user on Facebook as I barely ever post or publish anything online. Thus naturally, I struggled with creating an online site which was to represent me. Despite already having experience in blogging, I still feel quite shy about writing in public.  Nevertheless, this experience has continued to encourage me to step outside my comfort zone and have more confidence in my writing. It has also helped me to develop my own voice in the online public space.

I employed quite a few mechanisms to communicate my personality through the layout of my WordPress account. For example, my header contains a picture of a beautiful, colourful bird. I absolutely love birds — in fact, I have two budgies of my own. I also thought the overall colour scheme was appropriate for my blog, because while i’m a shy and introverted person, once I get to know someone properly, I open up more and share my ‘bubbliness’ with them. Finally, I have tried to maintain a nice, clean layout for my blog which is easy to navigate around. For example, my header drops down to provide a list of different subjects I have blogged for. Thus with the colour scheme and neat layout, I think my WordPress site is aesthetically attractive to other readers. Within the site and my blogs, I also include funny pictures and videos as a means to make it more enjoyable and engaging for my readers. Although, while i’m not a funny or creative person myself, I need to try and abide by Dave Kerpen’s tip of writing catchy headlines that are simple, powerful, useful and bold, as a means to attract readers.

I have also utilisied a number of other techniques to attract and engage readers and build upon an audience base. For example, I share my published blogs on Twitter so my followers can access them. Following Nate Kontny’s tip, I’ve also provided my Twitter feed on my WordPress account which allows readers to connect with me and follow my posts. Another great technique I’ve employed is the use of ‘tagging’. I shamelessly tag anything and everything in my posts to increase traffic to my blogs.

I also use my WordPress account to allow my readers to contribute to my blogs. For example, within all my blogs, I encourage my readers to share their thoughts and opinions on the topic I blog about. I also respond and engage with any readers who comment on my posts. In a couple of my blogs (i.e. Experiencing Concerts through a Screen: Concert Venues as Quasi-Media Spaces; Television Consumption: From 1973 to 2015), I’ve also used a Poll to allow readers to ‘vote’ and share their view on the relevant topic. I think this is a great method to engage my readers and give them a platform to share their opinions.  It’s also good for me as a blogger as it exposes me to alternative viewpoints. Furthermore, echoing Dave Larson’s blogging tip, encouraging readers to share their views is a great way to receive ideas from them. It is a useful technique in trying to gather ideas of what topics people would most like to read about. However, I think this would be more appropriate to situations where you have complete reign over your blog topics. In the past 9 weeks, my blogs were largely restricted to the BCM240 weekly topics.

However, in the past few weeks I have started blogging on issues relating to law and ethics. As I am a law student, I am quite passionate about certain, contentious areas of law i.e. international surrogacy, copyright law, animal rights etc. As this subject has encouraged me to expand my horizons and attract audiences outside the ‘media bubble’, I have decided to use my blog as a platform to share my views on legal and ethical issues and hopefully connect with others who are passionate about the same area.

While I tried to engage with my readers, I also tried to connect to other bloggers and those generally within the blogging community. Through WordPress and the Moodle Twitter feed, I have been exposed to a multi-faceted views and perspectives of my fellow BCM students on media-related issues. For example, throughout the semester, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the blogs of other fellow peers. In particular, Jessemax’s blog on Australia’s download culture recently stood out for me. I thought it was well written and structured out nicely, allowing the reader to engage with it more easily.

I have also commented on a number of posts I have thoroughly enjoyed. In situations where another blogger’s post has been relevant to my topic, I also refer to them and link their blogs in my posts. Thus I try to encourage my readers to explore those bloggers as well. I also do this by providing a widget on my blog with the top 6 bloggers I follow.

However, while I believe I have employed sufficient mechanisms to create a functional and aesthetically pleasing blog design as a means to engage my readers, I think I still need to refine and improve upon my writing style. While I tried to adopt the tips of experienced, professional bloggers, I struggled to adhere to them at times. For example, I’m quite a verbose person — I have a lot to say about issues; especially when I delve deep into my research. As a result, I struggle to abide by Derek Siver’s tip of keeping blogs short and concise. I also need to learn to limit the number of ideas I discuss in my blogs.

Nevertheless, I have tried to remain true to myself by using my own voice to share my opinions and ideas. After all, I appreciate the the way in which WordPress gives me an empowering platform to contribute and share my voice in the public sphere. I also try to write for myself and the areas which interest me. For example, I thoroughly enjoyed writing the blog posts: Television Consumption: From 1973 to 2015; Experiencing Concerts through a Screen: Concert Venues as Quasi-Media Spaces and Regulating Online Media Spaces Through Copyright Law.

Finally, I found Betsy Mikel’s practical blogging tips quite useful. For example, when it came to doing a final edit before the submission of my blogs, I did my best to remove extra punctuation, use shorter sentences, stick to one voice (where appropriate), use simple words and use more contractions. As a writer who avoids contractions, I thought the final tip was quite interesting because apparently it makes the writing style sound more personable.

In closing, through the tips by other experienced blogs, I’ve learnt quite a bit about blogging in the public sphere. Nevertheless, there is always room for improvement. I will continue to strive and improve my writing style. Hopefully with time, I will also gain more confidence with writing in public.

Regulating Online Media Spaces Through Copyright Law

The pervasive nature of 21st century media technologies, has resulted in greater regulations being placed upon audiences as a means to regulate their activities and interactions with such technologies. One particular area in which such developments have become apparent is in the online digital world, whereby illegal downloading and distribution of copyright material has become a common form of copyright infringement. In fact, Australia has infamously become known for its download culture. As a result, in the last two decades, there has been a greater push to regulate, control and prevent infringers from illegally obtaining content. This has largely stemmed from the need to protect the exclusive rights of artists, authors and creators who retain copyright over original works as well as ensure that the creative industries are fairly rewarded for their efforts. The Australian government, legislators and media and communications industries have responded to this issue by expanding and strengthening legal copyright enforcement in the online world.

In the past twelve months, Australian legislators and media communication bodies have taken a number of measures to combat online copyright infringement. For example, in June 2015, the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 was enacted by the Australian government. Under this law, copyright holders can apply to a court for an injunction against Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block access to overseas websites that have a dominate purpose to infringe copyright. 

Along with introducing this new legislation, a new anti-piracy Notice Scheme has also been proposed by the Australian ISP and telecommunications industry body, Communications Alliance. Under this scheme, ISPs will send escalating copyright notices  to customers who have been detected as engaging in online copyright infringement.  

It comes to no surprise that this new graduated response scheme has been embraced by copyright holders, with many commending the Australian parliament for supporting the creative industries through this legislation. Both Australia’s music, film and television industries have conceded that Australians would benefit from this law.

However, research indicates that graduated response schemes are largely ineffective at limiting copyright infringement. Rebecca Giblin (2014, p.195)  examined the efficacy of gradated response schemes across the world and concluded that ‘the evidence that graduated response actually reduces infringement is extraordinarily thin’ and there is little to suggest that such schemes have increased the size of legitimate market. This is because the scheme provides little deterrent effect, with many users ‘often turning to more sophisticated and unmonitored illicit networks rather than legitimate channels to access content’ (Giblin 2014, p.196).

In my opinion, such regulations are unsuccessful because the internet is home to an endless supply of multiple media spaces which enable users to circumvent such regulations. When one ‘illegal’ online space is shot down, another one immediately opens up. This reflects the difficulty in regulating online spaces — the existence of alternative means to access unlicensed material coupled with the rapid and continuous emergence of new platforms, allows online piracy to recover swiftly from any attempts to intervene and cease such activities.

For example, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), proxies and mirror sites enable users to access blocked websites through alternative means. In fact, filters can only result in a temporary reduction in piracy. Within six months, piracy rates return back to pre-filter levels as new sources of pirated material appear.  For example, in the UK, despite the blocking of ‘The Pirate Bay’, the website reappeared within two months, allowing users to directly access illegal content. This is because Pirate Bay switched to CloudFlare, a free global content delivery network (CDN) provider, which allows users to ‘evade the obstructive mechanics that are deployed by prominent broadband networks’.

It also seems that the policy makers behind this scheme have failed to consider audience research and address the core issues as to why Australians infringe copyright in the first place: the lack of accessibility to a wide range of affordable content. Australians experience unjustifiably higher prices than other consumers around the world. The 2014 Parliamentary IT Pricing Review found that Australians sometimes pay up to 50 percent more for goods than those in the US and the UK.

In some cases, Australians consumers are denied access to certain material completely. For example, America’s Netflix offers six times as much content as Australia’s Netflix. Research has found that failure to meet the demand of Australians is problematic because Australian consumers want to support producers of creative content and are willing to pay for copyright goods that are reasonably priced and easily accessible (Dootson & Suzor 2015, p.229). Most Australians often exhaust their legal options before turning to infringing practices (Dootson & Suzor 2015, p.229). As a result, Australians do not feel it is morally wrong for infringing copyright because they believe copyright producers and distributors treat them unfairly (Dootson & Button-Sloan 2014, p.2). 

This suggests that the inaccessibility of content has played an important role in the decisions of Australians to resort to illicit downloading. These trends indicate that if copyright holders wish to combat online infringement, then they must align their interests with the needs of Australians and ensure that Australians also have legitimate access to cheap and convenient content.

It seems that even Americans agree with the concerns raised above! What do you think? Do you think such new measures are justified and will help reduce online piracy? Share your thoughts below!

Reference List

Dootson, P & Suzor, N 2015, ‘The Game of Clones and the Australian Tax: Divergent Views about Copyright Business Models and the Willingness of Australian Consumers to Infringe’, UNSW Law Journal, vol.38, no.2, pp.206-239.

Giblin, R 2014, ‘Evaluating Graduated Response’, Columbia Journal of Law & The Arts, vol.37, no.2, pp.147-210.

Suzor, N & Button-Sloan, A 2014, ‘Intellectual Property and Innovation Law Research Program’ (2014) Queensland University of Technology (Faculty of Law). 

Survival of the Fittest: Can Cinemas Survive the Digital Age?

Since its conception, the inclusive space of the cinema has played a pivotal cultural role in society. Indeed, during the first half of the 20th century, cinemas became a regularised leisure pursuit, providing individuals with the sole point of access to filmed entertainment. However, cinema-viewing has not only been a tool for entertainment, leisure and social cohesion, it has also provided an important space in which important social, political, economical and moral issues can be contested and deliberated. As Karina Aveyard & Albert Moran (2011) assert, ‘movies have the power to entertain, confront and transform — they can influence our outlook on life, death and everything in between’.

However, while film-watching continues to play a popular and important cultural and social role, the function of cinema specifically, has arguably become less significant in the 21st century, whereby a myriad of options exist for film-watching. Other than enjoying a film at the cinemas, individuals now have the option to watch blockbuster films from the comfort of their own home via VOD (video on demand), the internet or DVD/Blu-ray machines. Thus, in this day and age, with viewing options existing outside the movie theatre, it has never been easier for audiences to access and watch audiovisual content. For example, the film, the Interview made $2.8 million from theatre showings, while $15 million from sales made from VODIn addition to the variety means of easily accessing content, these options are also cheaper. As a result of these endless options of film-watching, a number of different factors come into play, which influence decisions about how and when films are watched – particularly when deciding to go to the cinemas.

According to Torsten Hagerstrand, human activity is governed by three categories of limitations: capability, coupling and authority. Capability constraints ‘refer to the limitations on human movement due to physical or biological factors’ (Corbett 2011).  Coupling constraints refer to the ability of being in a particular place for a certain length of time with other people. This means that ‘your space-time path must temporarily link up with those of certain other people to accomplish a particular task’ (Corbett 2011). Finally, authority constraint refers to accessibility limitations, imposed by people or institutions who control a certain area or place. 

As an avid cinema-goer myself, I can understand how these factors —and many other factors— come into play when I decide to watch a movie with my partner. My partner and I love watching movies. We go to the movies on average, once every fortnight. If we’re on holidays, then it’s once or twice a week! In fact, we’ve watched two movies at the cinemas in one day before! Suffice, to say, we LOVE movies! Other than our strong love for movies and cinemas, an important factor which influences our decision to go is price. Both my partner and I are able to get $10 Event Cinema tickets through the Telstra Rewards initiative. And because we watch so many movies, we often get enough ‘points’ through Cinebuzz rewards to watch movies in Gold Class for free! If these perks did not exist, then I definitely wouldn’t be going to the movies as often as I do — I can’t justify spending $27.50 to watch a movie at the cinemas.

However, when we become busy with university and studies, it becomes harder to organise a time to go to the movies. A recent example was when my partner and I wanted to watch the movie, the Vacation. Due to the stress of university assessments and exams, we had to reschedule our plan three times! This reflects Hagerstrand’s capability argument on the way in which our movement was restricted due to our physical restraints. Trust me, if I had the ability to clone myself, and have one Jyotsna working studiously through her studies, and the other going off and watching movies, then I would! But unfortunately, Hagerstrand’s assertion holds true as you can’t be in two places at once, and sometimes, studying must prevail. Another constant hinderance to our plans was the fact that when I would be free to watch a movie, my partner would have to study, or when he was free to watch the movie, I’d have to study. Thus this coupling constraint made it impossible for us to be together in one location (the cinemas) to complete our task of wanting to watch the Vacation

Nevertheless, it worked out. When it did, it was relatively easy to organise. This is because we both have access to cars and can drive to the cinemas with relative ease. And of course, because we are old enough to go to the cinemas and watch the movie, no authority constraint was placed upon us. However, in situations where we realise that it will be impossible to watch a movie at the cinemas, we know we can always watch it at home when it comes out on DVD. After all, watching a movie from the comfort of home is also nice.

However, while my partner and I love going to the cinemas, according to Shawn Binder the ‘movie theater experience’ is dying because of VOD taking over cinemas. While this may be true, I think cinemas can still survive if they remind people of the unique experience they get from the cinemas. The reason my partner and I love going to the movies is because of the adventure of going to the movies. It’s a uniquely distinct experience, where you can switch your phone off and forget about reality completely for a couple of hours and enjoy a great movie in the darkness. While I dislike noisy people, I love it when I can share emotions provoked by the movie with other people. Whether it be laughing at a funny scene or feeling fearful and on your toes from a scary scene, its a social experience you do together. I think cinemas need to market this unique experience if they want to survive in this era where technology enables cheaper and easier means to access movies.

What do you think? Do you think cinema culture is dying? Share your feedback below!

Reference List

Aveyard, K & Moran, A 2011, ‘Cinema-Going, Audiences and Exhibition‘, Media International Australia, vol.139, pp.73-79.

The Benefits of Collaborative Ethnography

Collaborative ethnography is a qualitative research method, which involves the interactive study of the way in which people perceive, describe, understand and explain the world. Unlike other research methods, in collaborative ethnography, the researchers and the collaborators (co-writers, research subjects, people within the communities) have a special relationship which requires constant mutual and collaboartive engagement throughout the entirety of the study. Here, collaborators not only become part of the research, but they also contribute to the study by working together with the ethnographer through collective intellectual effort (Lassiter, 2005) to achieve greater understanding of themselves and their social environments. As Luke Lassiter writes:

‘Collaborative ethnography invites commentary from out consultants and seeks to make that commentary overtly part of the ethnographic text as it develops. In turn, this negotiation is reintegrated back into the fieldwork process itself. Importantly, the process yields texts that are co-conceived or cowritten with local communities of collaborators and consider multiple audiences outside the confines of academic discourse, including local constituencies.’

It goes without saying that collaborators have more of an influential and significant role in this type of research. Collaborative ethnography can be used to consult with the research subjects to determine urgent social issues and research topics. As Lassiter writes ‘instead of beginning with theoretical problems, the ethnographer can begin with informant-expressed needs, then develop a research agenda to relate these topics to the enduring concerns within social science’. Thus, according to Lassiter, research subjects can influence ethnographic priorities, as they may be in a better position to clearly identify urgent research topics.

As collaborative ethnography enables the subjects of the study to contribute to the process, it is an effective research method that yields more accurate findings of social environments. Indeed, unlike purely scientific and quantitative research methods, collaborative ethnography enables a deeper and more contextualised understanding of the relevant issues, allowing the ethnographer to delve into the ‘why’s’ and ‘how’s’ of social issues.

In fact, last week I was involved in my very first collaborative ethnography project, which involved the study of the experiences and memories of television use in previous generations. This was a collaborative project because all the students enrolled in this subject were required to conduct similar interviews with people on their experiences of having a television. This exercise gave me the opportunity to interview my dad and have an interesting discussion about how the introduction of the television impacted his childhood and family household when he was in India as an 11-year old boy. The great aspect about this exercise was that I could let my dad reign the conversation and share special stories which shaped his experience of the television. Unlike quantitative research which would only provide black and white numerical analysis, this exercise not only enabled me to understand that the television had a significant impact in my father’s childhood, but it also helped me to understand how and why the television had such an impact.

Furthermore, not only was the exercise a great experience for me, but it also helped my dad reflect upon his past and understand how the development of such media technologies have shaped his life. This reflects Lassiter’s assertion that ethnography not only benefits the ethnographer, but it can also be a useful and rewarding process for the research subject.

While on a smaller scale this ethnographic process revealed personal and individual stories, on a greater scale, the process also unveiled distinct patterns, themes and trends. For example, similar to my findings, ebonyblanch and  also found watching television was something you did as a family in the early days. These findings resonated through class discussion, with many students revealing that in quite a few households, the television was a ‘family affair’ and brought the family together.

Thus ethnographic research is a great method to cover the gaps that quantitative research methods usually leave behind. However, ethnographic research is a more time consuming and expensive process which is perhaps why many researchers prefer other research methods.

References:

Lassiter, E L. 2005. ‘Defining Collaborative Ethnography’. An Excerpt from the Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethnography. [ONLINE]. University of Chicago Press. Available at: http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/468909.html. Accessed 19 August 2015.

Internet Consumption: Then and Now

The rise of the World Wide Web has had a significant impact on our society today, enabling all of us to become part of the ‘Global Village’. The internet has broken down geographical, financial and cultural boundaries, allowing information and communication to travel more fluidly from around the world. But to have a better understanding about the impact of the internet, I decided to interview my dad who has experienced life before the internet and would understand the significant role the internet has played in his life.

My dad still remembers when we got internet connection for the first time; it was 1998. Unlike the fast broadband we have today, back then we had dial-up, where there was only one connection. ‘When we needed to use the internet, only one person could connect to it and the phone line would switch off, which is why we didn’t use the internet much. Unlike today, the home phones were more popular’ he laughs. My dad remembers how slow the internet was as ‘everything used to take forever to load’.

Fast-forward to 2015, where more than 83% of Australian households have the internetwe now have an ADSL wifi modem which enables all four members of my family to connect to the internet simultaneously from numerous devices; whether it be the iPad, our mobile phones, laptops, the printer and even the TV, we all can connect to the internet from every part of our house!

When asked about how the internet has impacted the family household, my dad responded ’the internet has made a big difference in our lives. It has made life a lot easier…and also a lot lazier’. Easier, because now, for example, you do not need to go to the library to do your research; everything is in the palm of your hands. My dad also feels that the internet has overcome the geographic boundaries as it has enabled him to  connect with his sister in India through platforms such as Skype.

However ironically, while the internet has enabled us to become more connected through the digital media space, my dad also believes that the internet has made us more disconnected in our physical space. As he claims, ‘now everyone is always connected and on the internet, especially you!’ he laughs. ‘Gen Y spend too much time on Facebook for example. They never switch off. They’re never in the present, which is a shame’. Indeed, this echos Sherry Turkle’s assertion of the way in which our devices and online personas are redefining human connection and communication.

When asked about the National Broadband Network, my dad claimed it’s a good initiative however it is ‘too expensive’. Right now, we aren’t expecting to receive the NBN anytime soon.

Regardless of what anyone says, it’s definitely safe to say that the internet has had a significant impact on our lives. Just like any technological medium, such impacts can be both positive and negative. It’s just a matter of trying to find a balance with our consumption.

Television Consumption: From 1973 to 2015

In the 21st century, the television has become an essential and ubiquitous piece of technology, which we consume on an everyday basis without even actively thinking about it. Indeed, with 99% of Australian households owning at least one, the television has obtained the status as a default family member. However, this has not always been the status quo. Since its inception in the 20th century, the television and the viewing habits of audiences have evolved. While we now take modern technology for granted, it is useful to hear the voices of those who experienced the powerful transformation the television had upon their family households. My dad (Mr Singh), now 53 years old, tells of his experiences of watching television and what it was like to grow up in a world where technology was —and still is— continually changing.

Let’s time-shift back 42 years to the bustling heart of India, New Delhi. It is 1973 — two years after the Indo-Pakistan War — and Mr Singh’s family have bought their very own, first, black and white television. Asked of his initial reactions as an 11-year old boy, Mr Singh describes the moment as ‘fascinating’ and ‘pure excitement’, which left him feeling as the ‘richest boy on the planet’. This is no surprise, as ownership was an exclusive and rare phenomenon.  After all, up until 1975, only seven Indian cities had a television service.

This excitement was further triggered by the accompanied anticipation as ‘you could not just walk into a store and buy a television; you had to wait at least two weeks before you could actually get it’. On arrival, it became ‘a street affair’, with the television embodying a celebrity status. As Mr Singh recalls, ‘everyone in the neighbourhood knew you were getting a T.V’ as the process began with the television being paraded in the street, followed by the technician arriving with the big antenna ready to install the set.

Before this memorable event, Mr Singh’s only access to the ‘magical’ black box was through one of his best friends. ‘Owning a television was a luxury and made you popular in school’ and thus Mr Singh’s best friend became very popular with most of the neighbourhood kids attending his house many times a week to watch television. He remembers how 8-10 kids from the block would gather and sit around the television with their eyes glued to the screen. He jokingly claims that he was treated like VIP as he always got a front-row seat. As Mr Singh laughs, ‘it was always good to have a friend who owned a T.V’.

When asked if the television set changed the family household, the simple answer was ‘yes’. Echoing Sonia Livingstone (2009, p.2)’s findings of how television viewing became a symbol of ‘shared pleasure’, Mr Singh also claims how watching television became a ‘family affair’ which ‘you did together’ every night in the collective family space of the lounge room. This reflects Linvingstone (2009, p.2)’s assertion of how the television ‘acquired a meaningful place within the family’. Mr Singh recalls how his parents used to sit on the ‘adult’ lounge, while he and his sister would sit on the floor. While there weren’t many channels and broadcasting was restricted to 6-10pm every night, Mr Singh remembers key prime time sessions which his family never failed missed. For example, every Wednesday evening, Bollywood song clips were aired, while every Sunday night an Indian movie was shown. However, Mr Singh’s personal favourite was the British television series, The Invisible Man.

Upon reflection, Mr Singh was amazed by how technological advancements have shaped the current televisions (total of four) he owns in 2015.

Now we have smart TV’s which can record television, play games, show hundreds of channels, access the internet and even show Indian television through satellite TV! Things have changed so much’.

However, my dad and I concur that as a result of such changes, television viewing has changed dramatically in the past decade. Now, consumption has become a more instantaneous, flexible and individualised viewing experience. Choice comes in both the range of content available and the means by which it can be accessed. For instance, the diversity of channels has resulted in a greater fragmentation of audience.

With the rise of the internet and streaming technology, viewing habits have also changed as we now can dictate and control how and when we want to watch our television shows. Furthermore, Australians now have the opportunity to watch television on other screens i.e. tablets, laptops, and mobile phones.  As Livingstone (2009, p.3) claims:

Although for a time the arrival of television signalled a temporary but culturally significant grouping of the family around the living room set…historical evidence reveals that this only briefly bucks the longer term trend towards the multiplication and diversification of media that has facilitated…the processes of individualisation, consumerism, and globalisation that characterise Western societies in late modernity.

Based on personal experience, I agree with Livingstone and believe these developments have collectively influenced the family dynamic. Whether such changes are for better or worse, I will let you decide! But if you are interested in reading about other people’s experiences with television, I highly recommend sambcarroll’s blog and lucmarsden’s blog.

References:

Livingstone, S 2009, ‘Half a century of television in the lives of our children’, American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 625, no. 1, pp. 151-163.

Oztam, 2015, ‘Australian Multi-Screen Report’, viewed 14 August, 2015, <http://www.oztam.com.au/documents/Other/MultiScreenReport_Q1-2015-Final%20amended%20P7.pdf&gt;.