Hardcore Poverty Porn

The camera pans across a common Australian suburb, with its local schools, pubs, clubs and shopping plazas. As the camera zooms in, we are presented with the protagonists of the series, the everyday battlers, their children, their families and friends. We go further, delving into their economic struggles and personal conflicts. Then there’s the money shot: a pregnant woman smoking, an intoxicated partner breaching an apprehended violence order or a pensioner slapping away the last of his weekly allowance at the local.

This is the inherent conflict of representing low socio-economic communities as seen recently in the SBS docu-series, Struggle Street. Programs like Struggle Street that seek to document the lives of the disadvantaged are considered poverty porn: exploitive, ‘distorted images of the poor through a privileged gaze for privileged gratification’ (Threadgold, 2014). These programs, by their form and substance, feed into the divisiveness of issues like welfare dependency, the daily fodder for radio shock jocks and tabloid publications.

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Poverty porn is not limited to film and television, the ability to edit and share videos on YouTube has allowed interviews featuring low socio-economic respondents such as Sweet Brown, Ted Williams and Antoine Dodson, to be viewed by millions. These videos elicit an emotional, predominantly humorous response from their audiences. The viewer’s focus on the entertaining interviewee overshadows the substantive community issues that have evoked this response from the subject: inadequate infrastructure, drug and alcohol addiction and high crime.

Alternatively, the producer of Struggle Street, David Galloway, believes that his documentary challenges negative stereotypes and the anti-welfare views held by some viewers of the program (Kalina, 2015). By showing viewers the issues that permeate within low-socio economic communities such as drug and alcohol dependence, poor mental health, unstable homes and low numeracy and literacy levels, the viewer, he argues is presented with an alternate and confronting narrative (Kalina, 2015).

Though representation is important to disadvantaged groups, presenting real people and their actions to audiences can lead to certain personalities and issues being discussed over others. Jensen (2014) suggests that in relation to poverty porn, ‘it is not the indignity and injustice of poverty that forms the centre of the story’ but the personal lives and actions of the protagonists. White Dee was the star of the UK’s Benefits Street, a program that followed the lives of the benefit-dependent residents of the Birmingham street, James Turner Street. Though Dee has found subsequent success through her advocacy defending the role of welfare in British society and the need for appropriate reform, it was her controversial appearance as a contestant on Celebrity Big Brother that further illustrates Jensen’s point of poverty porn’s preference of personality over substance (Guardian, 2015). The popularity of the series also had a transformative effect on the street itself, with Dee describing the street as turning into a tourist attraction and its cast becoming polarising figures (Guardian, 2015).

 

Similarly, many of the individuals and scenes presented in Struggle Street overshadowed the substantive issues that Galloway intended to highlight. In the program, a scene was featured in which a pregnant woman, named Billy Jo, was shown smoking a bong. Billy Jo’s action became the focus of numerous publications analysis of the program as a whole and raised questions over whether producers should have intervened or if the scene itself was edited (Freedman, 2015). Though these questions are important, the scene demonstrates how these programs become poverty porn, with their focus on emotion over education.

Poverty and disadvantage are a complex issues that require more attention than a few documentary series and the subsequent media think pieces and outrage associated with their broadcast. While producers may have good intentions in sharing these stories, they must balance evoking emotions out of their respondents and educating their audience.

 

 

 

But first, let me take a Selfie

The term ‘Selfie’ is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “a photo that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam shared via social media”. These photos are an increasingly popular form of self expression and form part of our identity, which “arises out of our interactions with other people” (Fell, 2016).

In order to generate a lot of ‘likes” on a Selfie it is important to do the following: utilise your heads most flattering angle, determine the locations best lighting, find the perfect filter and my personal favourite take 100 of the same photo in order to give yourself options for the perfect upload.

 

It appears that now we determine our social status by Instagram likes. Our social status reveals “ one’s value and importance in the eyes of the world” (Botton, cited in Marwick 2013, p.74). Everyday the internet gets bigger and social media does not sleep as its absolutely everywhere we look and routine in our every day lives . Sometimes our insecurities are subtler and we don’t realise that now our hearts beat a little bit faster after checking our un-liked photos after 1 minute or seeing our number of followers decrease. We begin to feel a sudden rush of anxiety and question whether or not it was the right time to upload, could I have used a better filter, and was my hashtag not witty enough?. These questions are now followed by deletion of the selfie capturing where we are in that moment, which was ultimately what the application was created. However, now we choose carefully and wisely about what kind of selfie we upload and when we upload to strive for Internet fame, which we so often tend to confuse with real world significance. So, what does this mean?

There is a growing concern that the Selfie culture depicts a self absorbed an narcissistic culture. I am a 21 year old who like most people my age loves going out and loves my social networking sites. It was funny when I thought about whether it makes us self – absorbed all I could think of is what I hear when my Mum catches me taking Selfies and it’s always “God, you love yourself!”.

 

It was interesting for to come across an article discussing the link between selfies and mental disorders. People would now do anything for the perfect selfie. Dr Philip Miller is a well known cosmetic surgeon in New York and states that he has experienced a “radical boom” due to the intense distortion of one’s physical image and one’s self- esteem. But it doesn’t just stop there. What I found even more fascinating and extremely disturbing was that people around the world are now risking their lives in order to get the perfect Selfie and scarily in a considerable amount of instances dying.

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Source: Weigold, 2016

 

As much as we would all love to capture an amazing selfie doing something out of the ordinary, putting yourself in a dangerous situation to receive “likes” of complete strangers In order to boost your self-esteem really puts the current concerns into perspective.

Although posting selfies regularly reflects society’s current concerns of a self – absorbed narcissist culture, we need to also keep in mind that selfies and image based forms of communication in fact reflect an empowered culture.

The Pursuit Of “Insta” Fame

Instagram, a free, quirky and fun application used 300 million people everyday to share their lives through a series of pictures. Like any social media platform there are generally users that generate greater audiences than others. Have you ever thought about what sets certain Instagram users apart from the rest? What exactly is our attraction to these individuals? It is not always the way the individual looks so is it that they wear nice clothes, travel often, eat aesthetically pleasing food, fitness fanatics, animals or art? What attracts us to certain people in the sense of do we like their content because we genuinely like the post or do we like because we want to keep that follower?

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What would you do to become Instagram famous?

We like being liked and feeding our own egos through social media and the attention we gain from a single upload. Social media through its evolution has changed the way in which we portray ourselves to the rest of the world. There is an obsession with making our lives seem somewhat perfect. We are living in a world where proving to everyone you’re having a good time takes away from actually having a good time itself. Within every camera roll is multiple images of the same pose slightly altered in order to Instagram the most flawless of them all, the one that will gain the most likes and attention. The thought of uploading a photo that is less than perfect is now deemed unimaginable, every photo uploaded to Instagram now is taken with precision, the best angle and lighting.

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(An example of my own Instagram where I have been found guilty of having 24 versions of the same photo)

It appears that now we determine our social status by Instagram likes. Everyday the internet gets bigger and social media does not sleep as its absolutely everywhere we look and routine in our every day lives .

With aims of investigating what individuals do to their photographs and profiles in order to be considered significant or famous I wanted to discover what it is these individuals post, how often, what they do to the image before posting, how they feel about likes and followers and why. In order to do so I have interviewed University Of Wollongong students whom have status within the Instagram world in order to discover how and why we now obsesses over the portrayal of our lives in order to receive “likes” and attention.

UOWS “Instagram Elite”

Ekrem

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“I Instagram daily. Whenever I have free time on my phone I browse through my feed its practically routine. I gram photos of myself at places/events. I never post photos of scenery or food without myself being present in the photo. Its all about me haha! Very rarely do I post photos with friends. I take photos on my iPhone6 and its embarrassing but I have a “peak” time of uploading which is between 7 & 9 where I generate the most likes. My photos are there to express what I get up to because I like getting dressed up and taking good photos. No specific meanings at all. I always like to maintain a positive ratio so that I have more follower than what I am following because my goal is to have thousands of followers because its just a good feeling.”

Steve

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“I use Instagram everyday. My photos mostly consist of photos of special events or nights out so they are all taken on my iPhone. I feel as though Instagram has a “prime time” and that is at night time because there are more users online so that’s when I get the most likes and new followers each time I upload. My Instagram does have a theme being that it is just photos of me and my friends therefore no food or sights etc. and I use filters in order to enhance the photos. I don’t have a goal exactly I already have over a thousand followers but id be lying if I said I wouldn’t like more.”

Tarah

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“Everyday. I love Instagram I use it for different purposes to see what my friends are up to or find places to shop and eat. My Instagram consists of a lot of selfies so they are taken on my iPhone but I have photos of me working (dancing and modelling) that are obviously taken on professional cameras. The best time to upload a photo on Instagram is between 7-7:30 at night any night and that’s when I get the most likes and generally more followers at the same time. My instagram theme is mostly selfies and photos of me at work at cool events for example dancing at Splendour In The Grass for a band or being in Samantha Jades film clip so I have pictures on set but I use filters to enhance them for e.g. to make myself look more tanned. My goal is to reach 10k I want to have the “10k” displayed on my Instagram and I’m really close so its exciting. “

Adriana

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“ I use Instagram everyday and I upload photos everyday also. My photos are all of myself my Instagram does not have photos of anyone else on there a part from an event I attended last week. I upload my photos at all different times regardless of when people think “peak” is because my followers will scroll down and find my photo anyway and whenever I upload a photo I gain more followers. My Instagram has a theme in that there is not really anything going on in the background of my photos they are mostly taken in my house or in my yard, which is mostly white. However, some have been taking professionally by a photographer but they have still been in the comfort of my own home. I use filters to enhance my skin colour or the contrast of the background to make the photo look better. My goal is to just keep gaining followers but I have 10.1 at the moment anyway which is a lot considering I’m from Wollongong.”

After conducting interviews amongst students of UOW and comparing their responses to both my own Instagram experience and compiled research a set of rituals as I would like to call them rather than results are as follows.

Rituals of UOWs Instagram Elite…

Remain Active – You can’t expect people to follow you if you never post any photos, so it’s important to be really active on Instagram and to stay in tune with current trends. However, you shouldn’t post pictures just for the sake of posting pictures.

Like & Comment on others photos – Not only should you start liking people’s pictures, you should also start commenting on them. This provides more of a personal touch, and people will be flattered and are then more incline to follow back.

Post at the right time of day – You might the most interesting or beautiful photos – However if you do not post it at the right time of day you will limit the number of likes you get and this can significantly reduce ones chances of gaining new followers.

Theme – Consider choosing a theme for your account. The accounts which tend to get the most followers are generally those which stick with a particular theme. This is because the people who follow your account know that they are guaranteed to see pictures of things they are genuinely interested in, rather than a bunch of weird or random pictures.

Using relevant tags & Branding – Tagging your photos means including the location where the picture was taken in the post. Instagram can do this automatically when you enable GPS.

Ultimately – Keep it simple.

Sometimes our insecurities are subtler and we don’t realise that now our hearts beat a little bit faster after checking our un-liked photos after 1 minute or seeing our number of followers decrease. We begin to feel a sudden rush of anxiety and question whether or not it was the right time to upload, best filter for the image, clever use of hash tags. These questions are now followed by deleting the image of where we are in that moment within the world which was ultimately what the application was created for yet now choose carefully and wisely about what we when and what we upload ultimately to strive for internet fame which we confuse with real world significance.

References:

Call me…Maybe?

Since the age of 14 I have been obsessed with my mobile phone, I take it with me everywhere. If I can not see my phone or feel it on me whether it be in my pocket or hand I begin to panic. Last week I travelled to Hawaii and felt so lost on the plane because I could not use my phone. Although some would say that’s weird I know I’m not the only one and these days most people are glued to their mobile phones.

So, when should we ban the use of mobile phones?

If I were to invite you into my home at night you would find four individuals using their mobile phones whilst eating, sitting, talking and everything else. My house does not really have any rules about mobile phones however next door at my Nana’s is a completely different story.

Family looking at their smartphones at the dinner table

Family looking at their smartphones at the dinner table

My Nan has enforced a very strict NO MOBILE PHONES rules and it absolutely kills me. Upon entering my Nan’s house my mobile phone is to be turned off or not seen. At first I used to test my Nan’s patience and tend to just pick up my phone and use it anyway , until one day I had it on the dinner table and forgot to put it on silent and received 5 messages at once. The whole table began to vibrate and I have never seen my grandparents so infuriated. In my mind there is nothing worse than seeing your phone light up and not be able to access it so my initial reaction was to just pick up my phone but I quickly learnt that that was a huge mistake.

When I began to write this post it only occurred to me how sad it really is that we are so consumed and obsessed with our mobile phones. Although my Nan views the use of phones at home and in particular a dinner table extremely rude as it is a private space but what about public?

An ABC news article I found “Silencing Cell Phones In Public Places” discusses that governments across the world are now imposing etiquette on mobile phone users in public places in terms of removing cellular signal. Some restaurants have now placed signs around that say please switch your phone off. Whilst investigating this further I found a restaurant called Eva in Los Angeles that offers customers a 5% discount for leaving their mobile phones at home.

In my opinion banning cellular signals seems a little dramatic and enforcing such a thing could have a negative impact. Mobile phones are truly powerful, if an emergency was to occur who would ring triple 000 if you had no cellular signal? This is just one example of how mobile phones in public places are a significant device.

I can understand where my Nan’s coming from as she feels that using the mobile phone in a private place takes away from family time however, in a public place I see no issue with individuals using there phones because really we have mobile phones because we aren’t at home to use a home phone. The answer is etiquette, and ensuring that people use their cell phones in ways that don’t invade another’s personal space.

What do you think?

To Multitask, or not to Multitask…

Multitasking – art of listening to music and staring at your smart phone, whilst walking down the street… with your dog… eating lunch.

For academic purposes, multitasking is referred to the ability to execute more that one task simultaneously. Whilst the human brain is capable of pursuing multiple goals at once, the advancement of technology is allowing individuals to do more tasks simultaneously. But is this a good thing?

Studies show that individuals of all ages perform worse on cognitive tests when juggling tasks. Along with slowing you down and increasing the number of mistakes you make, multitasking also temporarily changes the way your brain works. Apparently, dividing attention across multiple activities is strenuous on the brain, thus limiting the amount of real productivity. According to Live Science, the brain is designed to handle balancing tasks that use unrelated mental and physical resources, thus allowing us to repeat them without question. But when things become more complicated, such as acquiring a new skill, we are unable to perform to the best of our ability when multitasking.

According to Faculty Focus, students are way too convinced that multitasking is a great way to work, particularly due to the easy access to all sorts of technology. Students strongly believe that they can execute multiple tasks at the same time without compromising the quality of their work. Whenever I’m on my laptop attempting to do Uni work, I always find myself procrastinating and distracting myself from the task at hand. In this sense, I view “multitasking” as a form of procrastination as I become less productive. Rather than focusing on one particular task, I always find myself doing an assignment or homework whilst either listening to music, watching a TV or movie, or checking my phone and social media.

Another highly researched example of multitasking involves texting or talking on the phone whilst driving. The popularity of mobile devices has been linked to a significant increase in distracted driving, resulting in injury or loss of life. A study conducted by the University of Utah showed that motorists who talk on mobile phones are as impaired as drunk drivers, and are also five times more likely to be involved in accidents than undistracted drivers. This particular study places much focus on talking and driving, as they are mutually exclusive as the same part of the brain is used to focus on a phone conversation and the road. This is further reinforced by a study conducted by NRMA, which set out to provide evidence that sending text messages has a detrimental effect on a number of safety-critical driving measures. During their research, the NRMA concluded that text messaging negatively affected driver’s ability to maintain lateral position and to detect, and respond appropriately to traffic signs.

The 3 Constraints

Torsten Hagerstrand used the space-time path to demonstrate how human spatial activity is often governed by limitations, and not by the decisions made by temporarily autonomous individuals. Hagerstrand identified three human constraints that changed the way social planning works, which include:

  • capability: can I get there?
  • coupling: can I get there at the right time?
  • authority: am I allowed to be there?

Based on Hagerstand’s model, capability constraints limit an individual from participating in an activity by demanding that a significant amount of time should be allocated to physiological necessities, thus limiting the distance an individual can cover within a given time-span. Therefore, making it is impossible for an individual to be in two places at once. Those who have access to vehicular transportation have what a spatial-temporal advantage over those who are limited to walking. Coupling constraints pinpoint where, when and for how long an individual must participate in an activity in order to form some level of production or consumption. It therefore is the requirement of an agreement in space and time – can I actually get there at the right time. Finally, authority constraints include those general rules, laws, economic barriers, and power relationships which dictate whether an individual has access to specific domains at specific times to do a particular activity (Ma 2011).

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend the cinema this week and see Straight Outta Compton. Being a student that is in debt and overloaded with assingments who finds it hard to find time to do anything that is remotely fun I was unable to attend the movie my whole facebook feed had been raving about. With reference to the three human constraints, the capability constraints were a major limitation to attending the cinemas. Along with the ridiculous amount of homework and assignments I had to complete over the weekend, I had also had to work 10-9 on both Saturday and Sunday. Thus, making it near impossible for me to be at the cinema and at work at the same time.

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Whilst researching the current statistics on cinema attendance in Australia, I came across a question that the Australian Bureau of Statistics had proposed, which was “With the advent of DVDs, Blu-Ray technology, home projector theatre systems and the ability to download movies from the internet, does anyone go the cinema anymore?”. Although mobile devices and the Internet have provided individuals with easy access to movies online, the cinema industry has been growing steadily over the last 10 years. During 2009-10, Australian cinemas had the highest attendance rate, with an estimates 11.7 million people attending the cinema in the 12 months before being interviewed by the ABS. The main factors that influence an individual’s decision to attend the cinema include; ticket prices, location and access of the cinema, the genre of movies and the times they’re being shown. Also, the main motivations for cinema attendance revolve around the cinema experience and the demand for viewing a particular movie.

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The Next Web posted an article The Future Of Cinemas discussing the fluctuations in cinema attendance and the key factors that they believe impact this.There is now an assumption that technology is turning us all into antisocial hermits. Being someone who is attached to their phone I am still a very social person and enjoy attending the movies with my family and friends. However, I find that sometimes the movies being released do not interest me so instead I find a series to indulge in on Netflix. With the introduction of Cinemas people believed that it was the end of going to “The Theatre”. I believe that this is not the case and many people still love going to the theatre and seeing something live, I know I do.

There is a lot of chatter about Netflix and new technologies taking over the cinematic experience as it is becoming easier to have the same experience in the comfort of your own home. Whilst ticket sales are still steady and at times peaking the future of the cinema is still unknown.

What do you think will happen to Cinemas in the future?

Tell my Wif(I) love her

The National Broadband Network (NBN) is Australia’s first national wholesale-only, open access communications network that is currently being built throughout Australia in order to bring high speed broadband and telephone services to our households. Whether it’s for entertainment, business opportunities, online health or education, the National Broadband Network is aiming to provide Australians with access to fast and reliable services, also known to young adults as extremely fast internet!

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The Australian Bureau of Statistics stated that during the years of 2012 – 13, of the 7.3 million households with internet access the majority had a broadband connection (93%). The remaining households either had Dial-up connection (4%) or were unsure or didn’t know their type of internet connection. The amount of digital devices each person has has risen to approximately five. Combined with an increasing demand for on the go content, this has been the result for the rise of ‘multi-screening’, or using multiple devices at the same time.

Inside the home, digital devices are connected in such a way that breaks down barriers as they are essentially linked. Studies have shown that internet users simultaneously engage in digital activities (such as using gaming, shopping and social media)whilst watching television. I’m not going lie, this study most definitely reflects my current media consumption habits. Whenever I find a program boring or find myself watching a draining advertisement, I always begin switching from Facebook to Instagram and then to Snapchat in hope that I find something interesting on one of my feeds.

In a household of two parents and two tech savvy young adults, unlimited and high-speed broadband is a must! Along with our Wi-Fi, my brother and I consider our smartphones as our most treasured possessions  – sickening I know. I asked my brother what he would do without his phone and more importantly Wi-Fi? His response mimicked that of an in love couple as he replied repeatedly “I’d be lost, I couldn’t live without it”.

As my brother and I both have iPhones, iPads and laptops Wi-Fi and data is a necessity as we are constantly ‘online’ and connected in terms of social media and our online presence. Through our devices, we are able to watch YouTube videos, download and listen to music, play games, watch movies and television shows online, switch from one media platform to another, shop online and much more. Although my household isn’t connected to the National Broadband Network as of yet (work has started though, yay!) my internet connection is relatively fast…Until all four of us separately watch Netflix and then WWIII begins. Over the years our internet plan changed so frequently that my brother and I took upon ourselves to upgrade to the glorious unlimited plan. Sorry, not sorry Mum.

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As a whole, my family acquires roughly 3 devices per person that connect and utilize our broadband connection and Wi-Fi. To break that down we currently have 4 iPhones, 4 iPads and 4 Macbooks #applefiends. Obviously, the more devices we use to access the internet, the more gigabytes we’re going to need.

Although I am very optimistic towards faster broadband access, a part of me remains rather hesitant. To be honest, I can’t imagine what the family home will be like in 10 years. Even with our current internet connection, we all seem to be in our own separate words, whilst we’re sitting in the exact same room. In terms of entertainment extremely fast internet is amazing! However, for business the potential has not yet been realized. Due to the introduction of sites such as Netflix we are already seeing this shift of online audiences and streaming TV rather than watching TV in the living room. Whilst this all sounds wonderful for those who are as lazy as myself these changes can impede on the experience of home.

When I think about the concept of home, I automatically think of Wifi, free food, television, privacy form the outside world where I can sing as hard as I want even though I’m horrific, my family and pets. However, whilst we better our social relationships through mediums of communication to our family, friends and new relationships through the internet we also tend to isolate ourselves. Time spent with your head glued to your smartphone takes away from face – to face interactions which in a home context eliminates family time and this is only the beginning.

It is inevitable that faster internet will change the concept of the home, the question is will it actually make our lives easier, or will it cause damage and hurt us in the long run.

x

References: 

Australian Bureau of Statistics date,  Household Use of Information Technology, Australia, 2012-13. 2015. 8146.0, accessed 24 August 2015 <http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/A0074B22E3150EEECA257C89000E3F7A?opendocument.&gt;.