Month: August 2013

Our Fears of New Media are Starting to Stack Up

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A Phone Stack
Source: http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/cityofate/

First: here’s a little game to play with your friends while out for lunch. Place your phones face down on the table, you can do this in the traditional stack or place it right next to you if you’re feeling dangerous. The aim? Don’t touch or look at your phone. A simple instruction, but not so easy to follow through. As notifications start to go off and phones start buzzing the temptation to check can get too overwhelming. But it’s best to press on, let your thumbs twitch and ignore that hole in your heart where your phone used to be, because there’s a catch. If anyone is to touch a phone they must pay for the entire meal. If more than one person breaks the golden rule, the bill is split between the losers. But if all succeed, then everyone pays for their own meal and leaves with a wonderful memory of a pleasant night. 

I discovered this game somewhere on the internet while I was deep in boredom and I have used it multiple times, with much success. The purpose of the game is to encourage uninterrupted conversation with friends and family while enjoying a meal; like it used to be. I liked the idea of this game because I had many a time looked up while at a social event and found everyone entranced by one screen or another. Sometimes, it can make me quite sad because I think, we could have stayed home and done the same thing.

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Moral Panic: Are Smart Phones Ruining our Lives?
Source: http://helenngu.blogspot.com.au

The thing is now, with all of our smart phones, we are more and more connected to the media wherever we are. Media no longer belongs to specific place, it is everywhere. This lack of separation between certain spaces and media can change the way we think media is affecting us. Right now, there is a moral panic that we are becoming consumed by our smart phones and can no longer experience the “real” world.

I don’t agree with that fully. I believe that we are becoming a generation of multi-taskers. There’s a fear that we are all becoming so engrossed in our tiny-screen worlds that we aren’t living in the real world. I, for one, am glued to my iPhone a lot of the time, but that doesn’t mean I can’t observe my surroundings, have a good laugh with my friends or concentrate in class. 

A Smartphone Addiction blogpost by Psychology Today states that “41% of Britons feel anxious and not in control when detached from their smartphone” and suggests that the smart phone may be a new addiction. Here, in another blog about the effects of smart phones on social interaction, the writer states that “Smart phones are addictive devices that can compromise the interactions between individual friends and corporate executives.” These are just two of many resources showing the moral panics of smart phones. Without boundaries determining where and when we can use them, society has become frightened that we are emotionally dependent on our phones and because of this we are ruining our relationships through lack of interaction.

What I’m curious to explore is whether we are emotionally dependent on our phones or on the social connections it enables us to make. This is a video made in 2010, with a whole load of stats on social media usage and how we are connecting more and more with each other through the use of these sights. From where I’m standing, it seems that smart phones are doing the opposite of disconnecting us. 

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Smart phones enable us to connect to people from anywhere
Source: http://www.digitaltrends.com

Television: It’s not all Black and White

http://www.legacystories.org
Source: http://www.legacystories.org

My Grandmother was 22 when she arrived at Victoria Station in London with her friend. They had traveled from Spain by boat and train. They were greeted by a man who took them to his large country residence in Surrey. There, they were to work alongside the other employees within the household. My grandmother didn’t speak any English and her friend only spoke a little, so to this day she doesn’t know what her duties we supposed to be.

This stay was not a long one, and eventually they were sent away as their performance was not satisfactory. The owner of the house drove them to what she now knows was a work agency in London, and left them. They were put on a train to Devises and when they arrived they were shown to what would be my grandmother’s home of three years: the Roundway Hospital. It was here, in February 1957, that my grandmother had her first experience of television.

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Roundway Hospital in 1910, then known as Wilts County Asylum.
Source: http://history.wiltshire.gov.uk/community/

In the nurses home there was a large sitting room with a piano and a 15 inch black and white television. It wasn’t exactly up to today’s standards, what with all the 50 inch flat screens with surround sound and 10 billion channels that make up our living rooms today. But for the residents, it was a novelty.

At the time she remembers that the films were mainly Westerns starring actors like John Wayne and Ward Bond. Rock and Roll had started then and she recalls watching Tommy Steel and Elvis Presley.

In the nurses home, everyone watched the same thing. There was no bickering over the remote like now. For the nurses, watching T.V. was a communal activity. Something that seems to be fading as the years pass. Now, more and more people are putting televisions in separate rooms, watching T.V. series in bed on a laptop or even watching shows on their smart phone while on their way to work. Over time, television is becoming a more portable and personal experience. T.V. is no longer a novelty, but an integral part of our lives.

My grandmother told me quite a few stories about her early experiences with television: seeing J. F. Kennedy become president and Princess Margaret’s wedding, having a small black and white T.V. with only one channel and a temperamental aerial, her children hiding behind the sofa during doctor who and their first colour T.V.

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My dad and his siblings couldn’t watch Doctor Who without hiding behind the sofa!
Source: http://www.thetwincoach.com/2012/07/movies-violence-and-parents_29.html

I would have loved to share them all, but there’s too much to tell. Although television viewing seems to be becoming a personal activity, the sharing of experiences like this as well as current experiences on social media mean that even today T.V. continues to be a communal activity. We may not all share a living room and one small television, but we’ve created a community around television on social media sites such as Tumblr and Twitter as well as in the real world.

Early Cinema: As Told By Mi Abuela

A 50-year-old cinema ticket from The Cine Cristal in Madrid, Spain. Source: www.todocolleccion.net
A 50-year-old cinema ticket from The Cine Cristal in Madrid, Spain. Source: http://www.todocolleccion.net

“I was never very keen in going to cinemas, but what I remember most was the smoke. Smoking was allowed and most men did in those days. The whole of the cinema was inundated with fumes and one could hardly open their eyes.”

This is the story of my Grandmother’s early experiences of cinema spaces. I asked her specifically because she grew up in Spain and I was interested to hear whether Spain’s cinemas were any different to ours now or back in the day. I learnt quickly that some things stay the same:

“If you had a boyfriend/girlfriend you would try towards the back so that you could have a cuddle. In Spain it was not allowed to kiss in the streets so most couples went to the pictures mainly for that. The entrance was quite affordable even to lower class people so it was the main means of passing Sundays.

“There was no television so it was the only way to watch films. There were many types of cinemas. The ones in the centre of the city were very expensive and where the best films were shown first. After a while the same films were shown in cinemas of less prestige. I lived in Madrid so my experience is good. I remember seeing “Gone with the Wind” in one of the best cinemas in Madrid. There used to be three sessions, starting at 3 P.M and the last session would finish at the early hours in the morning. Young girls went normally to either the first or second session as most of us had to be home before 10 in the winter and maybe 11 in the summer. I can’t remember whether there was any air condition but I presume there must have been in Madrid during the summer.”

I found this assignment quite interesting, as I not only enjoyed getting to hear about my Grandmother’s life but it was cool to find out more about how the early cinema experience differed from the one today. And I was surprised with some similarities too (let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good cuddle in the back row). The fact that the entry fee was fairly cheap early on was quite interesting, considering how ridiculous it is now. Although there were more expensive cinemas to which not everyone could go, most people had access to the cheaper cinemas. This reminded me of the fact that during a time of segregation, early cinema was a place where people of all races could attend. My point is, both the semi-integration and low price of early cinema encouraged a huge number of people to attend, despite different social class or race. By trying to gain more revenue, cinemas had to understand the viewers as individuals in order to attract them. For me, this was an interesting link between cinema spaces and audiences.