Digital Stories and Diasporas: Why is everything still white?

Media space is a widely contested space where diasporic groups are mostly excluded due to the fact that they are less directly involved in the production of media content (Georgio, 2003). This is why Diasporic Media is essential, as the perspectives and stories of minority groups not only need to be heard, but they need to be told by the people themselves.

In a post-globalised world, diaspora has become a broad definition for the dislocations of groups of people, one such group being that of asylum seekers, which is a perpetually heated topic in Australia.

It is important for asylum seekers to be represented in the correct way, since they are regularly dehumanised in Australian media, such as this example on 7‘s Today TonightThis report created uproar with its misleading statistics and information on how ‘boat people’ are living luxuriously in Australia.

As a media and communications student, I completely understand that the information told to us through current affair programs like Today Tonight is not only sensationalised but falsified, but I need to also realise that there is a majority of Australians who watch these programs and believe every word they hear.

So do programs like SBS’s Go Back To Where You Came From (video above) help fight this representation? Well, not really. SBS’s reality TV show took five ‘average Australians’ overseas to show them the reality of asylum seekers. Over the three-part series you see the individuals change their perspectives and become more empathetic. This is all the show really does, by offering a humane perspective (Thornley, 2011).

However, even in this series statistics are misleading, being shaped to create an empathetic reaction.One opinion piece criticises the series by saying it “has real people in real places, but it remains an exercise in manipulation for everyone involved” (Sheehan, 2011).

What we need is truths to be told about the diasporic groups. And the easiest way to get these truths is by enabling minorities to represent themselves. Which seems obvious but “they never offer the ownership of the means and process of communication to those who experience displacement are seeking refuge in another place” (Salazar, 2012).

The issue here is- they are representing themselves – but no one is watching, or listeinging or caring. There are countless videos on YouTube, movements like Minority Box and Facebook pages, that never seem to gain mainstream attraction.

Although, digital stories like these created by Cambodian and African migrant youth from Fairfield and Blacktown areas allow them to tell their stories. I still do believe however, instead of trying to create representations for these diasporic groups, we need to enable them to tell their own stories. We need to give it time for these stories to enter the mainstream realm as we are so entrenched in our commercial, white-bred ways. We need to give minorities the opportunity to create their own identities and enable them to do it in their own way (Rodriguez, 2001).

 

REFERENCES

Salazar, J F 2012, ‘Digital Stories and emerging citizens’ media practices by migrant youth in Western Sydney’, Journal of Community, Citizen’s and Third Sector Media and Communication, vol.1, no.7, < http://web.a.ebscohost.com.ezpr oxy.uow.edu.au/ehost/detail?vid= 3&sid=c5373eb0-b85c-44ea- b3e5- cc2e901acc61%40sessionmgr40 03&hid=4201&bdata=JnNpdGU 9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db= ufh&AN=79551905 >

Georgiou, M 2003, ‘Mapping Diasporic Media across the EU: Addresing Cultural Exclusion’, Key Deliverable: The European Media and Technology in Everyday Life Network, < http://www.lse.ac.uk/media@lse/ research/EMTEL/reports/georgiou_2003_emtel.pdf. >

Rodriguez, C 2001, Fissures in the Mediascape: An International Study of Citizen’s Media, New Jersey, Hampton Press.

Thornley J 2011, ‘Go back to where you came from: Reality TV encounters the refugee crisis’, weblog post, The Conversation, 21 June, viewed 12 May 2015, < http://theconversation.com/go-back-to-where-you-came-from-reality-tv-encounters-the-refugee-crisis-1905 >

Sheehan P 2011, ‘You call this even-handed? Refugee series is strictly for the gullibe’, 23 June, viewed 12 May 2015, < http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/you-call-this-evenhanded-refugee-series-is-strictly-for-the-gullible-20110622-1gfav.html >

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Women. Where even are they?

Last year, the Women’s Media Center released its annual Status of Women in U.S. Media Report, which tracks how many women are being hired, seen, and heard in American journalism and entertainment. They found that women are holding steady at not being hired, seen, or heard very much. While some sectors of the media—like entertainment television shows and radio newsrooms—have significantly bolstered their ranks of women in the past few years (though not to the point of parity), most metrics show that the representation of women in the media has barely budged across the past five to 15 years.

According to the report, women made up 36.3 percent of newsroom staffers at American newspapers in 2013, a figure that’s decreased slightly since the American Society of Newspaper Editors Newsroom Census started its gender count in 1999. They made up just 27 percent of opinion columnists in the major U.S. newspapers and content syndication services last year. Male sources are quoted three times as frequently as female ones in front-page stories in the New York Times. In the 100 most profitable films released in 2012, only 28.4 percent of speaking characters were women, the lowest percentage registered in the five years that the USC Annenberg School has been counting them up. (Women were also disproportionately portrayed as children and teenagers compared to men.) And behind the scenes, women’s representation hasn’t increased in 15 years—they made up 16 percent of writers, directors, editors, and producers in the 250 top domestic-grossing films in 2013, compared to 17 percent in 1998. From 1998 to 2013, the percentage of female film writers dropped from 13 percent to 10; the percentage of female directors dropped from 9 to 6.

When we talk about gender equality, we sometimes believe that women will naturally march toward progress until, one day, they finally reach equity. We look back on the state of women 50 years ago and see that they’ve made incredible strides in the workforce and in media representation since then, and assume that the trend will hold. But when we dial the clock back a little closer to the present—say, to 15 years ago—it’s clear that progress has stalled, and that simply waiting for the world to change isn’t a viable solution to the problem.

The Women’s Media Center’s figures are dismal across the board and I am sure they would be similar in Australia. But look closer at the institutions that make up the figures, and you’ll find a few specific leaders in the field who are working hard to change the numbers. In 2013, 50 percent of the narrative films in competition at the Sundance Film Festival were directed by women, up from 22 percent in 2002. Jill Soloway’s Afternoon Delight won the directing award for narrative drama that year. (Sundance launched its Women Filmmakers Initiative, which funds research into the underrepresentation of women in independent film and created fellowships for female directors and producers, in 2012.) White men, who make up 34 percent of the U.S. population, are vastly overrepresented on Sunday news talk shows: Last year, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CBS’s shows combined featured 64 percent white male guests, while CNN featured 54 percent white male guests. But one show—Melissa Harris-Perry’s—brought MSNBC’s numbers in line with the population, featuring 34 percent white male guests. (Harris-Perry’s MSNBC colleague Chris Hayes has also helped to dilute the white male commentator pool by instituting a quota system for his bookers, requiring that at least two of his four show guests be female.) And in the world of sports journalism—which is 90 percent male and 90 percent white—two outlets, ESPN and The Sporting News, are solely responsible for increasing the ranks of minority and female sports journalists. Of the 35 female columnists counted in the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports’ 2012 report card, 23 worked for ESPN. That suggests that while we’re waiting on society at large to shift, real change can come from the top.

Here is an incredible woman doing incredible things for women in the industry:

http://hellogiggles.com/rose-byrne-production-company/

I share therefore I am

It is immediately clear that when you scroll through one of the many social media feeds you have that the selfie and snapping your life has become quite a full-time career- rather all consuming. One of my posting addicted friends made me think how bad it has gotten for some when I was asking her about her Instagram feed she remarked ‘most days I wish I’d never started on Instagram’ sounding like a junkie rueing her first hit. ‘The stress of taking the right images at the right time, with the right filters, with the right people, in the right clothes has become all consuming’.

Carefully constructing and editing social-media content to present a deceptively positive picture of your life has become a thing. Many of us indulge in it more than we realise, whether by untagging unflattering photos of ourselves, or by making free with the #blessed #lovemylife hashtags. Facebook-bragging was bad enough; Instagram has upped the ante to a whole new level, adding weight to the theory that a ‘picture is worth a thousand words’.

Hanna Krasnova, professor of information management at Humboldt University of Berlin recently told Slate Magazine (2013), ‘You get more explicit and implicit cues from being happy, rich, and successful, from a photo than from a status update’. And now some 70 million  images are being posted on Instagram every day, with most of us eager to represent, or misrepresent, ourselves through a wide range of filters and artful curation to be leading to the kind of life that wouldn’t look out of place in Vogue.

Initially, this didn’t seem like a big problem. Sure, our sunsets were suddenly doomsday pink and our waists the size of Giselle’s leg, but everyone was having fun right? Wrong. I’ve noticed some of my friends feel the pressure to live two very different lives. Some admit they force themselves to undertake particular activities and attend certain events they deem worthy of posting, and others admit to scheduling their days around whether or not they think particular activities would impress their followers and garner likes.

Scoff all you like, but even if you are just a passive observer, things don’t appear to be any great shakes for you either. People seem to be spending a lot of their time suffering from FOMO, my friend sighs ‘I sometimes spend the whole not scrolling, wondering and obsessing over what I might be missing out on’.

There are many takeaways you might derive from that (maybe we have become bats%$t crazy?!), but although leading a double life online might sound all kinds of messed up, I believe it’s simply an extension of the kinds of story telling humans have been doing since the dawn of time. I think every single one of us has a tendency to to exaggerate, but a platform such as Instagram allows us to do it at a much larger level. I think it is more about ‘enhancing’ what you already have rather than ‘faking’ it. We’re all simply narrating the story the story of how people see us online with the clever use of a few pictures and then leaving it to our followers to join the dots and form their own conclusions.

For those feeling anxious about portraying the perfect life, it’s often about remembering you are in control of your social media, not the other way around. This way of life is certainly not going away, so adapting to it in a way that fits in with your world view is key. Perhaps it’s about paring things back and only posting what is authentic, or moving to another platform. But I think anyone who enrages in social media needs to remember the famous quote by Mae West: ‘Keep a diary, and someday it will keep you.’

How do you say no to double-life syndrome? Are you sharing authentically? Do you experience feelings of loneliness when scrolling through peoples’ feeds?

 

Peeking over the Walled Garden

As an internet user – something you obviously are – are you aware of the walled garden you maybe ‘playing’ in? I use the term ‘playing’ very loosely, think of playing at school, at recess time when it was restricted with not much movement and a tonne of rules (no freedom to do what you want). This is similar to being apart of the walled garden on certain platforms.

Technically, a walled garden is defined as ‘a limited set set of technology or media information…provided to users with the intention of creating a monopoly or secure information systems’ (Mittew 2015) think Facebook, think Twitter. It also applies to mobile phone platforms and applications that can be accessed on a wireless network (think Apple’s iOS and iTunes) For open systems (i.e. not walled gardens) think Android, think Linux).

To further illustrate this definition imagine yourself as setting up an account on a social networking site or iTunes, before the account is set up, you, the unauthenticated user is given limited access to the site, but once you are signed up you can roam the garden and are most likely never allowed to leave.

 

The issue I raise here is; should we be worried about the increasing amount of walled gardens on the internet (considering the internet was set up to be a free for all flowing platform, where control was with the end user- not the gardener!) or is this a good thing for users as it helps protect us from things such as malware, and helps us to navigate the tonnes of content on the web… in other words is it just easier and more convenient this way?

I feel we have been lulled in to the state where we must provide more and more information to our gardeners to get the services they provide. In some cases, the companies that create walled gardens have in fact become actual Data States, which hold all our data and are arguably more influential than most nation sates.  These most definitely threaten the democratic nature of the internet- something I see as a major problem.

Another problem with the walled garden is the decision on what you can and cannot do, can or cannot access, is not yours, it’s the closed system maker’s decision. If you don’t agree, tough. If there are things you want to do, and think it’s OK to do, but the maker disagrees, tough.

 

And the rules that define what is acceptable and not in a walled garden are subject to change. Gardeners can unilaterally change their rules (including legal!) at any time, and take away functionality or access you used to have. Which leads to uncertainty.

And then there is platform lock-in. If you buy all your books at Amazon on Kindle, you cannot transfer them to other services. If you spend a lot of money on iOS apps, you’re less likely to change platforms. I concede that with content, this is starting to change with the removal of DRM on iTunes music.

HOWEVER, in saying this, of course I am a user of walled gardens, as it is difficult to survive in today’s technological inclined world.  It would be bias of me to only present the cons of  walled gardens. For one thing, there are fewer, if any, viruses, malware, trojan horses and secret key-logging systems in walled garden platforms (or none yet on the tougher ones like iOS). Whereas most people live in fear in the more open systems of getting hijacked and spend fortunes on protective tools that really don’t work, people in walled gardens feel safer.

The maker of the closed system controls the experience, which, theoretically keeps the crapware out. The carrier, retailer, or other third parties don’t get to install their own stuff in walled garden systems, leading to a better user experience.

Walled garden systems are easier to use and learn because you don’t need special skills to get in. They are targeted at regular people. They are made into comfortable and safe environments, where the limits are known and it’s easy to see and understand what is going on.

And walled gardens are a business and businesses exist to grow and make money. Walled garden systems are profitable, popular and create jobs. Profitable walled garden systems are a better long term investment as you know they’ll be around and supported in the future.

Still, I think as users we should not become use to and nonchalant about giving our details and information to these companies, rather we should be aware of the consequences of letting them control our internet experience.  Can we trust the curators of walled gardens?

Ask yourself, why do I use walled gardens? What do they bring to my internet experience? I would love to hear your answers in the comments below.

To finish, I believe the argument over walled gardens is presented as one between choice and safety, between freedom and central control. In all honesty I think the average person enjoys walled gardens  because they cannot program or fix issues or understand technology. Walled gardens provide a safe, comfortable environment in which they can be just as productive as us geeks. They can write or compose or draw or browse without worrying about or understanding their systems. Just like we drive without understanding how internal combustion engines work. Not only do walled gardens work for them, just look around you, they work very well. Look at the popularity and profitability of walled garden systems like iOS and Facebook and Kindle. To regular people, walled gardens are safe and good.

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Mittew, T 2015, ‘Feudalisation of the internet’, slides, BCM310, University of Wollongong, viewed 13th April 2015.