Presentation Feedback 1

Mamamia.com.au

The first presentation was a discussion of the media outlet MamaMia.Com.Au. It looked at the outlet over time and considered it both in terms of changing perspectives from a personal blog to a business entity, and also in so doing, the shift in landscape about representation of and presentation as a feminist outlet.

The main thing that stood out to me about this talk was the way the presentation used feminism, the word. Specifically, the presentation simply used feminism as a binary state, as in the question is Mamamia A Feminist Media Source. This needed some definition: Feminism has a simple definition, but its execution is very broad and wide. Is Mamamia an outlet unwittingly part of “White Feminism?” Is it striving to be Intersectional? Is it historically feminist, and full of a userbase primarily oriented around the feminist struggles of their younger days?

This definition wasn’t supplied. I assume the Thesis does present a single, central vision on the definitions and boundaries of feminism it intends to use, with its focal values and how it seeks to engage them, but it was still confusing to me. The question of is this feminist or not becomes much harder to answer without a clear idea of what that is, or even how that means. Theory and praxis are very different things, and it’s also possible that the outlet comes from a place of feminist theory, but its practical expression is flawed or is rendered without an awareness of the many complex intersections of not just genders, but gender binaries and cissexist assumptions.


Games From The Outside

My notes are sadly a bit thin from this presentation. Thanks to a prolonged internet outage, I’ve been unable to recover much of what I had to say about it. I will note that the slides were very information dense. Much of what the talk covered projected to me the idea of a sort of Ethnography – of reaching into a community space not owned by the writer and creating a text to decode what was evident to the people within the setting.

#BCM310 – Animal Crackers

Boy howdy is this whole subject a great big mess of unpleasant feelings lately! Good news, though, after a whole week of ruminating on animal cruelty, Blackfish and the depiction of animals in the media, we get to do another week of the same thing and that’s going to be fun. So while we’re here, I’m going to talk about an animal rights issue that is actually quite dear to my heart because it features my favourite animals, humans.

Well okay I’m kinda more fond of dogs.

Part of a PETA publication, actually aimed at children. Full image depicts a woman stabbing a rabbit.
Part of a PETA publication, actually aimed at children. Full image depicts a woman stabbing a rabbit.

When is the last time in a piece of media you saw a vegeterian character conveyed neutrally or positively? I admit I don’t watch tons of television any more but I do watch enough to know when a lot of what we consider cheap hackey writing in television programs now was codified as nice and easy to generate. I remember when vegeterianism first burst onto the sitcom scene where almost every single time it came up, the person who it represented was a tool. It was always introduced for one of three basic reasons:

  • This character is annoying and their food preferences are regarded as irritating
  • This character is a hypocrite and their food preferences are a moral failing
  • This character is quirky and their food preferences have no actual reasoning

I saw this a lot, and it was cemented further by the way that the rise of animal rights groups like PETA took the name and branding of animal rights and did a bunch of ridiculous stuff with it in the name of making everyone feel really bad about eating meat, which was counterproductive when it became obvious that PETA were pretty silly people and even moreso when it became kinda cool and edgy to be mad at vegeterians online.

memestrawperson

Some great sources of media mass consumption – not ‘mass media consumption’ but consumption of media in a very massive, unreasoned form – like reddit and imgur allow for people to earn a lot of demotically-reinforced personal validation for shortly phrased visually expressed opinions that dismiss vegetarians as all a bunch of stupid jerks who don’t know nothing and must be really silly and dumb and let’s throw rocks at them. These kind of websites are the sort of media pipeline, a way to just hook yourself up to the memes and let them drip into your eyeballs, and that makes them a great way to get a feel for a particular area’s memeplex. It’s not a very bright one, it’s often very self-satisfied and all, but it is a culture, and it is media and it tends towards a sort of general nerd-culture baseline. Know what that nerd-culture baseline seems to think? Vegetarians are annoying.

antivegmemeThis is not to say vegeterians are shown to be whole people with opinions whose opinions are formed reasonably. They’re rather shown to be a sort of one-note-punch-clock joke. They aren’t shown as integrating meaningfully in their environment – sometimes characters are indicated as vegeterian in the background information, but never enough to contrast with the overwhelming media face of vegeterianism as hypocritical or stupid.

Now there are of course, a lot of complex positions in play here, and I do not mean to dictate what people do or should eat (as I am, myself, neither a vegeterian nor a prescriptivist about other human’s diets), but what really kicks me in the shins about this is that I still can’t think of an example of a vegeterian who is a whole character outside of their food preferences, and where those food preferences are respected. It’s like a sure-fire way to be signalled as being, well, an annoying jerk.

Now as to deeper reasons for that, I will suggest this piece by Hank Green which is quite useful and a sort of much-shorter version of Peter Singer’s talk. It’s an example of a cultural rift, in which an other is introduced and given a face or voice in media primarily to make them an object of scorn, which is, really, not very nice, and makes our media poorer, and it devalues any point that vegeterian people actually have.

What makes this even more complex is that there are people from within the vegeterian population who are really not happy with other people who wear their label, people who advocate for such strange ideas as terrorist acts on abbatoirs or mass murder of pet animals, which are really weird ideas, but because the typical vegeterian is shown in media to be two-dimensional, we are still left with these ideas, these people who maybe do deserve to have their ideas held up as weird and wrong and harmful, they are instead folded into a larger group that can hold all sorts of people who do things for a variety of reasons, many of which do not involve being a smug jackass.

And I can guarantee if I get a comment on this it will be someone saying ‘yeah but I love bacon but’ because gosh

vegan

isn’t it easy to make fun of vegeterianism.

#BCM310 – Poverty Porn’s Poor Audience

The day we did the tutorial on poverty tourism/poverty porn, I was late to class. I was late to class, because I was up late the previous night trying to do as much work as I could on my other subjects while trying to manage the reading for the lecture, which I missed because there’s a scheduling conflict between the lecture and another one of my classes. There’s a scheduling conflict between them because I had to stack my classes together as close as possible, so I didn’t have to make multiple bus trips into uni across the whole week. I need to avoid that so I can save money, the dollar fifty it will cost me to make that extra trip, into town, if Centrelink needs me for some emergency meeting, and I need that because if we mess up that finance, then there’s a breach on my record, I need to get in there fast or we might miss a rent payment and lose status with the landlord who might then use that to draw against us and get us thrown out of our house, which we can’t afford to empty, which we can’t afford to replace.

None of this is really true. Or rather, it feels true. I do stack my classes. I do pinch pennies on the bus. But our financial situation is not so dire. My wife is working now. I am a full-time uni student and Centrelink are more understanding of my situation if I say I have to attend classes.

The voice is still there. The fear that I’m one misstep in the beaurocracy from starting an avalanche that leaves me on the street, desperate needing help from family – who also can’t afford it – for the costs of resetting up a house, or something legal, or worse. Bad things can happen because someone petty who has a job had a bad day, or screwed up your paperwork.

Poverty changes you. It deforms you. It leaves a deep, painful mark on you.

Poverty porn isn’t just for the satisfied people.

It isn’t just for the people who are out of it.

For the people stuck in the cycles, it both nourishes us and disgraces us. We can look down on people who are the same as us and say well at least we’re not –.

At least we’re not drug addicts.

At least we’re not homeless.

At least we don’t have dementia.

At least, at least, at least.

It impresses upon you that there’s something grungy about you, something nasty. You smell funny, you move funny, you’re on public transport too much. You see people looking at you as you go to interviews, and slink back home, in the same squeaky interview clothes. As you exist, media tells you everyone can tell and everyone is judging you. So you compensate. You compensate as best you can. You don’t want to be one of those illiterate poor people that can’t talk clearly, doesn’t know what’s going on in the world, doesn’t understand specialty subjects.

You volunteer information because when you’re in one of those Jobfind meetings and it’s nothing but dead silence you know the person who can get your income cut off is thinking what a bunch of losers. You respond to every question with an uncertain I guess because if you say something definite and just get it wrong, they might call you to task for it and get treated like a stupid seven year old in front of adults.

Then people take you aside and explain to you things you already know, and you have to nod and smile because you don’t want to be uncooperative. They tell you it’s for your own good, that they care about you, that it’s about your place in the workplace, and how it’s probably best for you to do things this way, while you’re sitting there wondering what you might step on if you say something wrong in this. You don’t wanna be labelled ‘argumentative.’ Helpful until you’re told to stop. Outgoing until you’re told it’s annoying.

It’s very, very tricky to escape this feeling. Even explaining it can require people to make an empathic leap that they don’t have to, and involves opening up to the grinding, living depression and drudgery that is ‘bludging on the dole.’ When you’ve seen the system from the inside, being able to look at people in the same situation and say I know the kind of things these people are dealing with.


I’m not planning on submitting this blog for assessment.

#BCM310 – Quantified Dreams

When talking about modern trends I favour looking to historical ones – I try to resist the idea that this modern media landscape is totally revolutionary, rather than accelerated. For the Quantified Self movement, you can look at them as an evolution of the historical practice of journaling. But (and there’s always a but) the shift represented by the movement is away from a subjective account of a series of events to efforts to objectively measure information.

Original Image via Twitter
Original Image via Twitter

There’s a lot of connected components of the Quantified self, mind you. One of the more dystopian elements is the ‘food replacement’ Soylent. Soylent ostensibly seeks to homogenise your nutrition input by replacing your need to eat food by instead giving you a paste that’s comparable to a thickshake, pale off-white, that you just consume in predetermined packets, and it’ll give you ‘everything you need.’

Now, I don’t seek to be down on Soylent as a property per se but I would suggest that literally anyone with a Media studies degree would suggest naming it something else.

cycle

Self-analysis is one of the most challenging parts of human life. As human endeavours move away from subsistence existence, we have usually turned to the improvement of our quality of life. One of the challenges we’ve faced as we study people is that self-improvement requires us to have an idea of how well we do things in the first place, and we’re very bad at estimating our own ability. The Quantified Self movement follows from that, trying to find some way to anchor our actions in as objective a context as we possibly can.

Many of the questions about Quantified Self are somewhat non-questions. Is it good for everyone to embrace this lifestyle? Probably not. Most people suffer anxiety and second-guess themselves when they consider themselves to be under surveillance, and the Quantified Self lifestyle involves setting up a number of little personal surveillance devices. Can the technology model everything in our lives? Well, probably not, but that’s a question that can be addressed by changing the technology. The idea that technology will never be capable of obtaining data from an experience we design it for is a little odd. What if this data is outsourced, and used by third parties? Should we define the ownership of a footprint? These questions are not so much arguments against the Quantified Self as much as they are considerations for recognising that it exists.

On the other hand, some people may be able to use their Twitter activity to anchor events in their life to their history when they look back on them – to the point where some people convert their Twitter Feed to a journaland that’s a similar form of quantification – providing a precise date stamp for when you were emotionally driven enough to say that thing about that one time that one person did that thing.

My personal position on things like Quantified Self was to discard them as upper-class or middle-class high-tech toys that serve little to no purpose beyond giving someone a data set to treat as Very Important. The kind of people who ten years ago had big chunky pedometers and would boast to you every day about their step count. This personal, subjective experience coloured this entire generation of Important TED Talks and New Fashionable Technological Devices in a way that dissolved my interest in the product. I found the tech interesting (“how can it know”) but once I understood that, the practical applications of the devices quickly went away.

Then I listened to people who weren’t me.

I listened to a diabetic talk about how it’d make his life better to track his sugar intake. I learned that a friend of mine is so bad at tracking hydration levels, they follow a twitter robot designed to remind them to regularly drink. I learned that a doctor I respect used his smartwatch to keep him from being sedentiary for long periods. Tech that isn’t for me isn’t tech nobody should bother with.

Still, there are some interesting side effects of infrastructural technology. One thing I’ve noticed is that some folk, like myself, can’t get along with a personal device on the wrist. There’s this whole generation that grew up without wrist-watches, and any device designed to fill the same spot doesn’t quite make some sort of direct, personal sense.

On a very personal level, I’m lucky enough to have been friends with people who explored work with Twitter directly, and have had dealings with the heads of other social media networks. There’s a recurrent theme when these anecdotes come up: The people in charge don’t really use their own service.

Project: Middleware

promo art

Middleware is a cooperative player-versus-environment deck-building card game designed for up to four players, where you take on the role of the middle people in a cyberpunk dystopia, those who are being slowly crushed down under The System, trying to find some way to live your life and seize control of your own life.

Middleware was designed over the course of six months as a combined DIGC302, BCM311 and DIGC330 project. As a DIGC330 project – which is where I’m focusing attention in this post to be reblogged on that class blog – it focuses heavily on Japanese Genre Storytelling Tropes – character archetypes in media, references to Japanese culture in each character’s life and presence.

Middleware, as delivered, is a Minimal Viable Product, which shows its core gameplay loop and the ways that the game can be advanced. If you’d like to know more about the instructions that demonstrate the core game loop or some design notes, here are some links for you, and for the purpose of grading my work:

If there winds up being a demand for it I can try and write a crash course on the process or a tip list or something.

Now normally I’d just share the game here. I’m a big fan of the idea of sharing games freely and letting people learn from games, and maybe send me money if they want. But, this time, I’ve been doing this design with an eye towards entrepeneurial advancement – I am pretty sure I am going to wind up selling Middleware.

Middleware: Design Notes

You might have noticed during the semester I was working in a small notebook. As it happens, I finished it today, almost on the last day of class – so I figured I’d sit down, cut out the content that relates to Middleware and Transfer San, and share it.

This is a lot of disjointed, confusing notes. Some of these ideas are just drawings, some are considerations of different ways to handle a card. Some are notes on card types, with a very structured approach!

Hopefully this is interesting to you!