Thursday 23 September 2010

Topic 1.6 - Politics Julia Gillard is my Facebook Friend

Nagourney, Adam. The 08 Campaign: Sea Change for Politics as We Know It. New York Times. 2009-01-19.

This week we were asked to look at two political websites from a choice of four, and think about the degree to which people's political engagement and participation is affected by Internet communication, and also the role played by the Internet in assisting the democratic process to identify and resolve the main social issues.
I chose to look at, the Prime Minister of Australia's website, and also, a citizen/interest group which I've become interested in over the past year.  While the Prime Minister's website pretends to display a "participatory" look via prominently displayed "PM Connect" links to Facebook, Twitter and Flickr on the front page, the reality is that the site is presented in a traditionally mainstream media format which is effectively a one-way broadcast platform containing advertising and press statements, that allows the Prime Minister's office to carefully control the information that is released.  The social networking pages don't appear to be actually used for social networking, but more as an extension of the main website, to broadcast news, and there is no interaction with followers.  It is questionable whether the Prime Minister has ever personally touched any of these websites!  The overarching message is one of "follow me but don't speak".

On the other hand, is an independent political movement which aims "to build a progressive Australia".  Their organisation including their website is participatory with many contributors and they actively utilise Web 2.0 and social media to keep the lines of communication open.  They encourage individuals to join up, either as free email members or paid contributors, and contact members directly to ask which issues they would like to address and to get feedback on campaigns.

I found both websites interesting because I think they both ultimately achieve their current goals, albeit in vastly different ways.  The Prime Minister's office are using the Internet and social media as a way of showing that they are modern and up-to-date, without actually interacting with followers in any significant way.  GetUp are using the Internet to inspire and drive a grassroots movement of political change, by interacting and participating with their followers as much as possible.  Both sites are targetting different groups in different ways and for now, they are probably both achieving their respective goals.  But in terms of assisting the democratic process and dealing with social issues, the Prime Minister's one-way communication website is hardly promoting democracy and it could be argued that they are missing the value of internet-based communication which is free, broadly available and has a wide reach.  By contrast, GetUp offers it's 350,000+ members the opportunity to identify and participate in a broad range of political and social issues including changes to the electoral registration process, opposition to the Government's proposed mandatory internet filter and currently, a class action regarding bank fees.  It's a shame that the peak political website of our country is one-dimensional in it's approach to the democratic and social issues of the day.


Topic 1.4 - Health What My Doctor Didn't Tell Me

Gunther Eysenbach. (2008, August 25). Medicine 2.0: Social Networking, Collaboration, Participation, Apomediation, and Openness. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 10(3).

This week we were asked to select a particular health topic that interested us and find out more about that topic using the Internet.  I chose to investigate a form of skin cancer called Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), which my father was recently diagnosed with.  I started by typing the name into Google and the first result that came up was on Wikipedia, which provided a high-level outline of the condition, followed by a variety of sites based in the United States and Australia.  Even though a medical condition is often going to be a global one, I tend to prefer to use the "Pages from Australia" option and then select government-provided or professional association sites such as:

Cancer Council Australia

Department of Health and Ageing
Australasian College of Dermatologists

The main reason I prefer these sites (, or is that I trust that the Australian government and professional bodies will provide accurate information.  Eysenback describes three ways that users can identify trustworthy and credible information and services - using intermediaries, which are basically trusted web portals containing only information vetted by experts, disintermediation, which is where a user bypasses "middlemen" and directly accesses information themselves, and apomediaries, which is more like guidance and filters that help direct a user to high quality information and services.  I suppose in this instance Google is my apomediary and the government and professional association sites are my intermediaries.
During my research I discovered that SCC is the second most common form of skin cancer, less common than Basal cell carcinoma but more dangerous, although less dangerous than melanoma.  I also discovered that the "official" sites I'd chosen were overall more informative and less graphic than Wikipedia, which had a couple of horrendous looking photos.  The other thing the research did was to send me off looking for skin spots on myself, which I probably wouldn't have otherwise done today!

I think the Medicine 2.0 that Eysenbach describes is an interesting idea and I'm sure there would be a cross-section of society that would embrace it and be happy to "take responsibility for their own health".  But then I think of people like my parents and grandparents who don't like the idea of any of their personal information being online in the first place, and who probably wouldn't have the time or inclination to try to get to it anyway, and my currently "invincible" 20 year old cousin who is at that age where health is something you just don't think about, and many of those in society who would probably benefit the most from it but have the least amount of opportunity to access it.  So I think it's probably quite a while off yet.


Wednesday 22 September 2010

Topic 1.3 - Dating, Intimacy and Sexuality

Pascoe, C.J. (2009). Intimacy in Mizuko, I et. al. Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out: Living and Learning with New Media. Available from

This week we were asked "How far would a partner/spouse have to go online before it is considered cheating? Up to what point is flirting online acceptable? How 'real' is cybersex?"  We were also asked to discuss dating, romance and intimacy in the context of the Internet, drawing on this week's reading by Pascoe.

I've been using the Internet since the early to mid 1990's and I know many people who have met somebody in some type of "online" way, although none who were teenagers so Pascoe's article provided a different perspective for me.  He uses the example of teenagers to break down courtship practices into four different areas - meeting, flirting, going out and breaking up - and argues that new media tools have changed the ways that these things occur.  People can now look up others online, utilise shared contacts to facilitate a meeting and flirt using online social networks which allow for "controlled casualness".  These networks are both private realms away from adults, and also public arenas that allow other members of the social network to view what is happening.  Once a courtship reaches the "couple" stage, social media can be utilised to display affection and to reinforce a relationship in the eyes of others, and if it gets to the "breakup" stage then there is often a public element of "sweeping up the digital remainders" of the relationship.  At the same time, however, individuals can also use these same networks to monitor others, which increases the vulnerability of those being monitored.

I found Pascoe's article interesting but not necessarily compelling.  While it may indeed be true that teenagers prefer to meet in person first and then go online to conduct the "flirting" stage, in my own experience, admittedly not with teenagers, many people nowadays also meet online first and then develop a relationship later.  While new media tools have certainly allowed all of these activities to be conducted in new ways, ultimately I don't believe that meeting somebody online is greatly different from meeting anywhere else, and I don't think relationships should be viewed any differently either, so the first two questions of this week's question is interesting to me from the perspective that the word "online" could be taken out and the question would be the same.  At the end of the day, if one person's behaviour hurts the other then it's not appropriate, whether it's conducted online or offline.  Flirting is flirting and cheating is cheating, no matter where it happens.

The question of cybersex is also interesting.  While the physical side of things doesn't seem to be a factor, I imagine that actually getting into that situation with another person would involve finding/meeting somebody who was willing and probably also some online flirting, ultimately leading to the grand event.  In other words, there would have to at least be some mental energy devoted,and possibly also an emotional connection.  So I would consider that getting to that point with somebody other than your partner/spouse would be just as hurtful to them as any other form of cheating.

Overall, it is evident that the Internet and people's everyday lives are becoming more intertwined, to the point where "online" and "offline" relationships are not necessarily distinguishable anymore.


Tuesday 21 September 2010

Foxtel IQ, Series Link and Channel 9

Feeling a tad smug about a minor success this morning! We've had Foxtel IQ for ages and if you've got it and if you use Series Link to tape all episodes of a show because you're busy like I am, then you probably also know that Channel 9 have been the only channel for quite a while that don't offer it. Annoying! Not only do they switch and shuffle their shows around all over the place all the time so you can't tune in regularly every week, but you can't "set and forget" either.

Several months ago my hubby started doing business with some Channel 9 executives and jokingly suggested that they fix this Series Link thing to shut me up. Considering that ratings are now counted if a show is watched within 7 days (rather than only "live" airings like it used to be), you'd think this would have already been a priority, but no. Anyway, they promised to look into it (I'm imagining with much blokey arm-punching and guffawing but I could be completely wrong)... and last night, as I was doing my semi-regular-when-I-remember "try to find the shows I like on Channel 9 and tape them/wtf has "The Mentalist" gone THIS TIME?/Ooh look, "The Block", hope I remember to tape that every week/crap, forgot "60 Minutes AGAIN/haha they've moved "Cops LAC" AGAIN, wonder how much longer that will last" routine, I noticed... Series Link!! It's there!! Success!!

Hubby has advised exec friends that I expect chocolates in anticipation of their increased ratings. And I have learned a valuable lesson... it really isn't what you know, it's WHO you know (or in this case, who your hubby knows)! :-)


Topic 1.1 - Music I Want My MP3

Read: Laughey, D. (2007). Music Media in Young People's Everyday Lives. In Music, Sound and Multimedia: From the Live to the Virtual (pp. 172-187). In E-Reserve.

This week we were asked to examine what the Internet has added to the musical landscape and what it did for music, consumers and producers.  We were given a reading and set a task of opening an account with a music discovery and streaming service such as or Grooveshark, and reviewing the service.

I initially set up but didn't find it very intuitive and didn't like the idea of having to install software on my PC to make it play so it was abandoned fairly quickly.  On the other hand, Grooveshark was much simpler to use and I found the concept interesting.  I was a teenager in the 1980's so back then it usually went like this:

- Hear a song on the radio.
- Setup cassette deck and sit next to radio every night waiting for it to come on so I could tape it off the radio, hoping the DJ didn't talk through the beginning or end.
- If I REALLY liked it, buy the record (you could buy cassette tapes but tapes stretched with constant playing so buying the record was like having a "master").
- Tape the record anyway, because the only record player was my parents and it was in the lounge room, and I had a tape deck in my room.

The Internet has resulted in many changes to the music landscape, including the way music is produced and distributed.  Digitisation has enabled music to be produced easily and inexpensively and, more importantly, allowed it to be perfectly copied and therefore downloaded and shared.  The creation of the MP3 file format in 1993 allowed songs to be reduced in size to a few megabytes, and the introduction of services such as Napster in 1998 enabled consumers to download perfect copies of songs for free.  These practices have consistently upset the music industry ever since and they have spent great time and effort pursuing individuals and sites for copyright breaches and the like; however, new technologies such as BitTorrent continue to emerge and now we are also seeing online music streaming services such as Grooveshark.  These sites are interesting from the perspective that consumers are sharing their own music but not distributing it - there is no downloading involved like there was with Napster - so it will be interesting to see how the music industry handles this.   Regardless, all of these new technologies have allowed consumers to have choice, to listen and share whatever music they want, whenever they want it, no longer at the whim of a radio station.

The different ways of sharing of music and musical preferences has also flourished with the Internet.  Sites such as Grooveshark allow users to create friend lists and playlists and share the music you're playing.  What was once private consumption is now public.  Additionally, social networking sites such as MySpace have also enabled distribution of music by artists, allowing them to distribute their own work without having to rely on traditional platforms.  In some cases this has even allowed new artists to be "discovered" online.  Fans can also "follow" their favourite artists in similar ways to the traditional "fan clubs", but the information is much more immediate.


Monday 6 September 2010

NET102 - Introduction

Study Guide for Module 1. These study notes establishes some of the basic ideas and approaches we'll be using in this unit: What are the reasons for studying the Internet in terms of the everyday and what our chief areas of focus?

'Everyday Life' and 'Conclusion' sections (pp. 163 to 165) of Berger, A. A. (1995). Sociological Theory and Cultural Criticism. In Cultural Criticism: A Primer of Key Concepts. Sage Publications. In e-Reserve.

This week we were introduced to the unit and given a reading which explained "Everyday Life" as the "focus by social scientists on the experiences of ordinary people and on their routines, attitudes, beliefs, and ways of functioning", which are influenced by popular culture, the media and particularly advertising.  The reasons for studying everyday life are 1. To understand ourselves and our society better, 2. To identify and understand effective progressive/conservational tactics and 3. To recognise and understand change.  I must confess that I found the 3 pages fairly dull so I hope the rest of the unit isn't all going to be like this!

We were also asked to discuss our experience of the Internet and how it compares with others and I submitted this to Blackboard:

I was really interested to read all of your Internet experiences and actually I was a bit rapt that there are so many long-time Internet users here because in my world I've always been considered the nerdy one, so this is like joining a very cool club! :>  I started out with a Commodore 64 in the late 1980's and in 1993 started working in IT and discovered bulletin boards, and from there got onto the Internet via dialup, armed with an Ozemail 3.5" disk of apps that allowed you to use Usenet, Archie, Gopher, IRC (which I subsequently spent hours of my life on) and the World Wide Web (using Quarterdeck Mosaic).  In 1995 I taught myself HTML and wrote my first web page in Windows Notepad and in 1996 I went backpacking and kept in touch with the very few people I knew who had email (mostly IRCers), and put some photos up on my website as I went.  This involved getting film developed, finding a friend with a scanner, a PC and an internet connection, another friend who provided me with a free Unix shell account, and knowing how to FTP and write HTML via a command line - fun!

Nowadays it seems like just about everyone I know has email and a home PC and a mobile phone they can surf the net with, and you get to see people's photos at the time they're actually doing things instead of weeks later. I can't imagine life without the Internet now - I do everything online - banking, read news, social networking including Facebook and Twitter, organise holidays, research things like restaurants, movie times, builders, tradesmen and schools, study, and work - still doing websites.  My daughter is in grade 1 and she uses the Internet at school.  I joke with friends and family that if they're not on Facebook then I don't remember to keep up with them but it's almost not a joke any more.  My husband made me leave my laptop at home for a week in July when we went on a family holiday and I felt like I'd had an arm cut off!  So the Internet is very much a part of MY everyday life.  I found this article which I thought was interesting - it's about whether broadband should be considered a necessity and a basic utility like gas, electricity and water.  I personally haven't spent more than a week or 2 away from the Internet since 1994 so it sounds perfectly reasonable to me but I don't really think my usage is the norm!  My parents and many of their generation of friends/family have broadband but just as many don't and I have many friends who have access but don't use it anywhere near the way I do, and they're all quite happy, so maybe we're not at "necessity" yet. :>

As far as controversies - one of the things I've always been very focussed on is online privacy and until recently I made a concerted effort to stay very anonymous online.  Joining Facebook was a huge step outside the "anonymous" comfort zone and I have to say that, despite the fact that it's convenient and fun, the way Facebook handles (and changes) privacy settings drives me mad and I've had days where I've thought about just ditching the whole thing.  But I also find it a bit addictive so maybe that's why I'm still there. :>  Another issue I've been fairly involved in over the last couple of years was the Australian government's proposed internet filter, which hopefully is now dead in the water.  If you'd like to get me started on the issue of governments and censorship then just say the word, but I'll restrain myself for now!  But to me, although both of these issues are Internet-related, they're also relevant offline issues - privacy and civil rights.  It's just about how the world should handle them in a global, online situation.