Home & Away: Reflecting on Research

“Where we love is home- home that our feet may leave but not our hearts.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes 

Home is a concept I’ve always found interesting. Having moved interstate three times and lived in two other countries, it’s safe to say that I’ve had a fair few homes. Right now, I’d probably call where my parents live home. It’s where I went to high school, grew up, and it’s where all of my stuffed toys are stored. I love going home, but due to studying and working down in Wollongong, six hours away from my parents home by train, I don’t get to visit often. And because I don’t visit, I’ve found myself becoming very dependent on media technologies to keep relationships strong and alive back home, which got me wondering about how other students and friend that I have who do live out of home balance their ‘home’ and their ‘newly created home.’ This curiosity drove my research question of “how do people manage their life at home and their new life away from home?” 

Even Marilyn spent time hanging by the phone. Source
Even Marilyn spent time hanging by the phone. Source

Who & Why?

I interviewed four people who all have interesting stories when it comes to managing home through the use of media. I started with myself and discovered an unnamed phenomenon of my parents talking to me as I walk home alone. Secondly, I interviewed my Brazilian friend Charline, where she discussed long Skype chats, managing time zones and her perception of home always being Brazil, challenging Meyroitz’s theory of placelessness. Thirdly, I talked with my friend Bacon, an international student from Malaysia who believes home is where you make it and that technology can get in the way of living in the moment. And lastly I spoke to my housemate Luke as we discussed media etiquette required to manage both spaces effectively. I felt that I captured diverse perspectives and experiences that were useful in capturing the complexity of balancing and managing space through media technology however also made it more exciting when I noticed similarities.

Challenges

With any major research task, there are always challenges to overcome. Whilst I discussed my research idea with many other friends and I had intended to showcase more people and their stories, however some of Torsten Hägerstrand’s restrictions came in to play. The restriction of ‘can I get there?’ and ‘can I get there on time?’ influence and affected the amount of time I had to prepare due to end of session stress and work overload before a deadline. Whilst taking these into consideration, I decided to choose and focus on fewer stories but capture more insight and perspective from these people.

The platform

I decided use the medium of a blog post because firstly, it’s the platform I’m most comfortable and confident with and I’m always looking to add new and interesting content to it. Secondly, I felt like it was a nice thing for my interviewees to walk away with. Many of them had already read previous posts regarding the media through my blog so I thought it only made sense to have an element of continuity. It’s something that they can share with family and friends, and the feedback I received about being featured on my blog was extremely positive and encouraging.

Occupying two places at once. Source
Occupying two places at once. Source

Results

A theme that was common between myself and my friends was the concept of a ‘double reality’ and occupying two spaces at the same time (Foschini, 2009). This theory furthermore sparked and encouraged my curiosity because I’d never thought about it in that way.

All of us used social media like ‘Facebook to facilitate the formation and maintenance of social capital. In addition to assessing bonding and bridging social capital, we explore a dimension of social capital that assesses one’s ability to stay connected with members of a previously inhabited community, which we call maintained social capital’ (Ellison, Steinfield & Lampe,  2007). Whilst I would argue the term social capital is too impersonal, sterile and serious, and perhaps communities or networks would be a better alternative, it was interesting to see that all of us predominantly relied on phone calls and audio to balance life at home and their new life away from home. However, this was exclusively for family. Social media was used to form and maintain social networks among friends.

The following video offers some words of advice to keep in touch with people once you move away. With a touch of comedy and a some accuracy, this video captures ways in which people manage their home life and their life away frome home. 

I also liked the fact that ‘home’ meant something different for everyone. Bacon believes home is where you make it, whereas Charline believes that her home will always be Brazil no matter where she lives. For Luke and I we both associate home with where our parents live. This could potentially be influenced by cultural factors or age, however I found it reassuring that home meant something different to everyone.

Usefullness to media industries 

By sitting down and casually discussing Charline, Bacon and Luke’s ways of keeping in touch with family and friends back home, I was able to engage in a more ethnographic study to get an insider’s perspective on balancing home life and their new life out of home. All three of my interviewees seemed to encounter significant issues with Skype. Upon my self-reflection, I purely focused on phone calls home. I believe that all of their stories (and frustrations) could be used in an extremely convincing way to media industries. Firstly, on how to develop audio-visual communication. Perhaps people would be willing to pay if they were guaranteed exceptional connection? And secondly, the case of Bacon making phone calls back to Malaysia because of free international minutes, perhaps this could encourage other phone providers to follow suit to make prices even more competitive and consumer friendly.

Future Research

I was extremely intrigued by Luke’s self-regulation on how he uses his phone when talking to his parents. Not only to show respect to them, but also to show respect to friends around him. It would be interesting to do further research on self-regulation around media use in social situations.

The most important thing…

The most significant thing that I will take away from this project (besides working on time management which is something I can always improve) is to always start with a discussion on the topic you are investigating. Instead of starting off with a list of twenty questions and firing away, it’s crucial to actively listen to what your interviewee is saying because they might just surprise you. I was surprised with themes that our conversations uncovered and I feel like these were invaluable to my research and telling their stories.

***

Thank you to everyone who helped in the creation of my digital storytelling project of how people manage their home life and life away from home. Special thanks to my awesome interviewees Charline, Bacon and Luke. Your opinions and perspectives have been so insightful and I genuinely appreciate the time you took out from your busy lives to sit down and talk with me. 

***

Further Information

Jessica Shaftoe explores the way in which we are always connected through our buzzing and beeping mobile phones. Her video that she created is especially well put together, asking the question ‘are we too accessible?’ This also ties into Bacon’s perspective and value towards living in the moment, and sometimes this may required disconnecting for a while.

References

Ellison, N, Steinfield, C, & Lampe, C 2007, ‘The Benefits of Facebook “Friends:” Social Capital and College Students’ Use of Online Social Network Sites’, Journal Of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12, 4, pp. 1143-1168, Communication & Mass Media Complete,  viewed 30 October 2015, http://ezproxy.uow.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ufh&AN=26313783&site=eds-live

Foschini, T 2009, The Doubling of Place: The Electronic Media, Time-Space Arrangements and Social Relationships – Shaun Moores, Tori’s Blog, 3 April, accessed 24 October 2015, https://tfoschini.wordpress.com/2009/04/03/the-doubling-of-place-electronic-media-time-space-arrangements-and-social-relationships-shaun-moores/

Home & Away: Manners and Management

Meet Luke. Not only is he a great friend, but also a great housemate. He’s 21, originally from Canberra, studying Civil and Environmental engineering, and currently working for an environmental consultant agency (he’s cool because he’s helping to save our planet). We’ve been housemates for approximately 9 months and being housemates with people at college, you get to know each other pretty well. I know that he’s an avid soccer fan, has a twin, has lived at a University college for the past three years and whenever he gets a phone call from his family back home in Canberra, he’ll always leave the room to answer the call. So, let’s investigate.

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Luke and I at our college formal

“Do the right thing and step outside to talk on your phone.” – Shari Roan

Why do you leave the room to answer a phone call? 

“My parents can usually tell when there are lots of other people around. I think they want me to dedicate all of my attention to them. I also don’t want to come off as rude to my friends. I hate it when other people answer their phone in a crowded room because I find myself listening in on their conversations. I feel guilty for not calling my family more often, so I might as well make them happy and take some time out of my day to talk to them properly.”

Canberra is only about a 2.5 hour drive away from Wollongong, but without a car, the 4hour overpriced bus ride is not worth the weekend visit. Luke generally makes it home about four times a year, so he relies on phone calls to keep in touch with his loved ones. Last year, he used to Skype his family once a week, but similarly to Bacon’s experience, he gets easily frustrated by internet connections so he sticks with phone calls.

Luke finds himself leaving the room to answer a phone call to avoid “Halfalogue.” “Halfalogue,” refers to when you subconsciously overhear and listen to someone elses conversation (Association for Psychological Science, 2010). The use of mobile phones in public spaces can seem ‘intrusive,’ ‘rude’ and ‘disrespectful’ (Roan, 2010). If someone is to answer their mobile phone in a room full of people, they suddenly need to manage two spaces simultaneously.

As we continue to use technology to keep in touch with our loved ones, we implement more societal rules and restrictions on ourselves and others in order to maintain strong and genuine connections with our families back home, and not let it interfere with our new lives in our new homes. By Luke physically removing himself from a room full of people to dedicate time and space to his phone call and the people on the other end of the line, he is removing distractions, removing annoying and irritating ‘halfalogue,’ and is able to talk to his family properly. Your parents definitely raised you to have good manners Luke.

Luke getting a call from his parents.
Luke getting a call from his parents.

Thankyou Luke for your time and insight to frustrations that we have with other mobile users and etiquette you try to use around friends and the respect that you show on your phone towards your family. 

References

Association for Psychological Science, 2010, ‘”Halfalogue”: Overheard Cell Phone Conversations Are Not Only Annoying but Reduce Our Attention”, Association for Psychological Science, 20 September, http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/halfalogue-overheard-cell-phone-conversations-are-not-only-annoying-but-reduce-our-attention-html.html

Haddon, L, & Green, N 2009, Mobile Communications: An Introduction To New Media, n.p.: Oxford ; New York : Berg, viewed 1 November 2015, http://ezproxy.uow.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat03332a&AN=uow.b1689134&site=eds-live

Roan, S 2010, ‘Why Overhearring Cellphone Conversations is Annoying’, LA Times, 20 May, viewed 31 October 2015, http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/booster_shots/2010/05/cellphones-driving-annoying.html

Home & Away: Home Is Where You Make It

‘Home is where you make it, if you don’t expose yourself to your new environment, what’s the point.’

Meet my friend Bacon. I met him this year when he put his hand up to play netball for our college team. I was then lucky enough to attend a leadership conference at university where we were in the same team. Since then, I’ve come to know Bacon as an extremely positive, outgoing and happy member of our college community and a lovely friend. Bacon is from Malaysia and currently studying Commerce with a double major in accounting and finance. Having only been in Australia for four months, Bacon offered some very unique perspectives on the management of home in Malaysia and here in Australia.

My friend Bacon
My friend Bacon
Family in Malaysia 

Bacon’s parents and two older sisters still live in Malaysia. I automatically assumed he would spend a lot of time on Skype, and was extremely surprised to discover that he usually makes phone calls to his family back home. “I get 300 minutes of free international calls, it’s a lot easier and cheaper for me to just call them.” Then when discussing Skype and the wonders of new technology, he said that he rarely used Skype. I was pretty surprised because when I spent a year abroad, I generally Skyped my parents once a week. But then he proceeded to explain the frustration associated with dodgy internet connections and I remembered back to all of those frustrated hours spent loading and reloading Skype due to horrible connection. He concluded saying that Skype leaves him wishing he was at home with his family or wishing that his family were here with him, so he’d rather stick with his fortnightly phone calls.

Bacon knows that his parents and family is only a phone call away which is a reassuring feeling when separated by distance. It’s common for international students to have a ‘telepresence’ with their network back in their home country (Martin & Rizvi, 2014), which is the sensation of being somewhere else through technology. Bacon’s new ‘complex social networks exemplify the blurred lines between ‘here’ and ‘there’ (Martin, &Rizvi) and allow him to balance these networks despite distance.

Friends in Australia 

Bacon is extremely independent, so it makes sense as to why he has already created a new home here in Wollongong. Bacon says he has two sorts of ‘groups’ here in Australia; one is of International Students, and a group of other Asian students. He likes being apart of both groups because it’s nice to connect with other people who share similar cultural traits, however he enjoys making the most of his new Australian friends. Living at college makes it easier for him to embrace the opportunity to live and study in Australia and create a home here. He’s also taken on the challenge of adopting some Australian slang like arvo and dodgy (which he used effortlessly in our conversation). ‘I’ve noticed that a lot of Asian international students tend to stick together. I love hanging out with them, but at the end of the day I came to Australia to immerse myself in this environment. I want to make the most of this opportunity.’ 

Bacon represents people who keep in contact with their friends and family back home, however don’t let it interfere with their newly created home. He lives in the moment and makes the most of opportunities, whilst balancing different friend groups here in Australia, all with a smile.

***

Thankyou Bacon for your time, energy and insight into communication in Australia and back home for International Students. Your opinions and perspectives are incredibly valued. 

Further Information

“If you spend your time absorbed in your phone, you’re missing out on living in the moment”

The following video is an information clip for outgoing exchange students heading to Denmark on exchange. It covers very interesting points about keeping in touch and making the most of your time abroad.

References

Martin, F, & Rizvi, F 2014, ‘Making Melbourne: digital connectivity and international students’ experience of locality’, Media, Culture & Society, 36, 7, pp. 1016-1031, viewed 31 October 2015, http://japanfocus.org/-Audrey-Yue/4268/article.html

Home & Away: Placelessness and Home

Meet my friend Charline. We met when I moved into a shared house in London in 2013. She had been living there for a few months before I moved in and already had well established friendships with the other housemates. I think our friendship really began when I would go and sit on the end of her bed in the morning whilst eating my breakfast and making her some tea. Charline is a pretty incredible person. Originally from Brazil, Charline has spent years between Australia, London and her home city Porto Alegre learning English and working in hospitality. She is now living in Brisbane with her boyfriend and their family while she waits for a partnership visa.

Charline and I on our adventures in Rome.
Charline and I on our adventures in Rome.

It’s nearly been two years since Charline has been back to Brazil, and with her family being such an important part of her life, she engages in some interesteing home balancing acts. She juggles Facebook, Whatsapp, Skype and Facetime, to keep in touch with her family despite there being a 13hour time difference. She’ll often find herself chatting to them very early in the morning (6am) in Australia or late at night (when it’s morning in Brazil). Unlike me, she’s unable to call her parents at 5pm when she finishes work, because they’ll be sound asleep. And then, she needs to combat poor internet connection, which lets face it, is everyone’s nightmare. Whether she’s skyping her brother in Dublin, Facebooking her father in Brazil or calling me in Wollongong, it’s evident that Charline is able to occupy several continents at the same time.

Charline managing her homes around the world.
Charline managing her spaces and relationships around the world.

So, as Charline balances her home life in Brazil, whilst living in a new home in Brisbane, the relationship between communication and home begin to evolve. I often come across the saying ‘home is not a place, it’s a feeling.’ This coincides with Meyroitz’s theory of placelessness where ‘people aren’t defined by physical boundaries, but rather networks of information and knowledge faciliated by new media technologies’ (Laughey, pp. 85, 2007). Whilst it’s easy to see how Charline is not restricted by physical boundaries anymore, she does continue to create a new sense of place. It is apparent that in today’s society, modern technology actually allows us to occupy multiple places at the same time and create new senses of place (Moores, 2012), however we cannot undermine the significance of a physical place to people, especially home.

Despite the forces of globalization and the break down of physical barriers through media technologies like skype, one cannot be placeless, because place plays an integral role in communication.  Internet access, time differences and language all influence the way in which we communicate, especially the way in which Charline keeps in touch with her family.

The term placelessness, implies ‘without a place,’ where in fact Charline has created many places and ways of life around the world. To Charline, home is a place, Brazil. Her family, culture and language all contribute to her sense of home being in Brazil. Whilst she is still able to create a sense of place, it will never replace home. Charline continues to ‘create a sense of place despite the disruptive and chaotic experience of mobility’ (Dassopoulos, 2013) and the challenge will lie in balancing multiple places, however no sense of place will replace a sense of home. And to Charline, home will always be Brazil.

There's no place like home
There’s no place like home

*Thankyou to Charline for chatting to me about your travels, your frustrations at wifi and reception signals and your beautiful home, Brazil. 

*

References

Laughey, D 2007, Key Themes In Media Theory, Maidenhead, Open University Press, pp. 85, viewed 26 October 2015

Dassopolous, A 2013, ‘Book Review of Media, Place and Mobility by Shaun Moores’, International Journal of Communication, Universtiy of Nevada, Vol. 7, viewed 26 October 2015, http://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/viewFile/2365/952

Moores, S 2012, Media, Place And Mobility, Basingstoke, Hampshire, Palgrave Macmillan,  viewed 26 October 2015, https://books.google.com.au/books?id=W7QcBQAAQBAJ&lpg=PR4&ots=g0SRb6nCRc&dq=Shaun%20Moores%2C%20Media%2C%20Place%20%26%20Mobility%2C%20New%20York%2C%20NY%3A%20Palgrave%20Macmillan%2C%202012%2C&pg=PA9#v=onepage&q=placeness%20&f=false

Home & Away: Walking Home With My Parents

Where am I? Physically, I’m sitting at the library at the University of Wollongong, typing away at my blog. My mind is daydreaming about the end of session spent at the beach. I’m texting my friend in Sydney, reminiscing about our weekend. And I’ve just Facebook messaged a friend in Mexico to see if he’s OK in Hurricaine Patricia. The question stands that if I am physically in one place, however engaging in another through the media… where am I and how is this managed?

I’ll be speaking to 4 different university students about how they manage their home and their new life out of home. The relationship between media, audience and place is complex, especially when it comes to making your parents happy that you keep in touch, mainaining old friendships and making the most of your time whilst living out of home. So, I thought I would begin with myself, and explore the ways in which I manage my home-new home relationship.

IMG_4743
It’s nice to know you’re not walking alone.

I grew up and attended high school in Port Stephens near Newcastle where I still have a large friend and family network. After graduating high school and spending my GAP year abroad. Then in 2014 I moved down to Wollongong to study. I am now living at my second university residence and after three years of living out of home and balancing my home – new home life, I’ve come up with some strategic and productive ways to do so.

I’ve previously discussed wasted time, and I seem to accumulate quite a lot of this. To make the most of this ‘wasted time,’ I will call my parents when I am walking home from work, the gym or the train station. My Dad is always on his mobile, and he will ‘walk me home.’ Even if the walk is just a few minutes this allows me to debrief him on my day and what I got up to, whilst at the same time, I feel safe knowing that he’s ‘walking me home.’ I also find myself having long conversations with my Mum whenever I’m cleaning my room. Whenever I’m at home, Mum will usually sit on my bed and help me fold my clothes while we just chat for hours until my room is clean. So when I find myself cleaning my room, I’ll call Mum, put her on speaker and it’s almost as if she’s sitting on the bed with me (except I’m folding my own clothes).

We can recreate the notion of a ‘double reality’ (Foschini, 2009) where we can ultimately occupy two places simultaneously. I remember being young and saying to my Mum ‘there’s so many things I want to do, I wish there were two of me.’ And whilst there may not be two of me (just yet) by creating a double reality, it allows me to keep connected and occupy two spaces at the same time to increase productivity. This removes physical boundaries like distance and blurs the line between home and my new home.

Whilst I may not have yet managed to fulfil six year old Adelaide’s wish of having two of me, I’ve definitely been able to transcend distance and space through the use of technology and have my parents walk me home.

References

Foschini, T 2009, The Doubling of Place: The Electronic Media, Time-Space Arrangements and Social Relationships – Shaun Moores, Tori’s Blog, 3 April, accessed 24 October 2015, https://tfoschini.wordpress.com/2009/04/03/the-doubling-of-place-electronic-media-time-space-arrangements-and-social-relationships-shaun-moores/