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/

Wasted Space and Wasted Time?

We all know that money is time and time is money. So it makes sense to make the most of each spare minute we have. As the Swish Media Group says ‘it’s no secret that Australians are becoming increasingly time poor,’ and I completely agree. My calendar is smothered and my phone beeps every half an hour or so (I may have even slept with my phone by my side on the odd occasion). So I love my phone and so do all of my friends. But is multi-screening making us more productive?

People killing time immersed in their phones. Source UltraSlo1, 2011
People killing time immersed in their phones. Source UltraSlo1, 2011

These days you’d think that a mobile phone was supplying oxygen to people’s brains… people just can’t live without them. A few weeks ago, we talked about ‘non-places.’ Non-places are those spaces that are used for no particular reason or as a transition place (Bowles, 2015) like a hallway or an airport corridor. So whilst people are usually forced to use these non-places or even places they’re waiting for something, it’s natural to keep yourself occupied.

Even when we’re in public, we bring a piece of our private lives with us. Google’s New Multi Screen World’s: Understanding Cross Platform Consumer Behaviour Research Study says, ‘that smartphones are the most common starting place for online activities.’ We can see that people are utilising the power of their smartphones when they are out in public, and follow up with some further research on a PC later. After looking at the last tabe I had open on my phone, work intranet, my UOW SOLS page, an image search of Eddie Redmayne and how to find a book in the library… the majority of them correlate with a spontaneous ideas ‘must submit my work hours,’ ‘have I got my assignment marks back yet?’ ‘ah Eddie Redmayne is cute,’ ‘how do I borrow a book from the library?’ By having the ability to act upon all of these thoughts when I’m away from my PC brings me a lot more reassurance and leaves me feeling like I’ve accomplished a lot in a small amount of time.

Snapshot from Google's research
Snapshot from Google’s research

In keeping up with my collaborative ethnography, I sat down with a group of friends and discussed multi screening and the appropriate behaviour regarding mobile usage.  The points that I discussed with my friends reflected some of Google’s findings, like the fact that many of us ‘accomplish goals through spontaneous device uses.’ My friends said that they would often find themselves adding things to their calendars, booking train tickets home – just accomplishing other things that they’d need to do anyway. Instead, they just did it during a lecture, on the bus or even on the toilet.

But as the above video very nicely points out, that perhaps being always switched on, may not always be a good thing. We’ve let our phones into our dinner conversations, meetings, workplaces, classrooms, dates… everywhere. So whilst we seem to have all of this ‘wasted time,’ maybe it’s more important to take some time for ourselves and embrace real moments with others.

References

Bowles, K 2015, ‘Cinemas: Strangers in public’, BCM240, University of Wollongong, delivered 24 August

Google, 2012 ‘The New Multi-Screen World: Understanding Cross Platform Behaviour,’ US, https://ssl.gstatic.com/think/docs/the-new-multi-screen-world-study_research-studies.pdf

Swish Media

The Importance of An Insider’s Perspective

We keep what we have, by giving it away.” – Eric Lassiter – humanity

So now that we have a general understanding of ethnographic research, why is it so important? What’s the big deal? Personally, I believe many of the world’s problems stem from a lack of genuine understanding or misinterpretation of a situation.  Everyone’s culture, beliefs, outlook, perspecitves, values and way of understanding life are different, so it only makes sense when we try to fix a problem, that we consult directly with the people it affects.

An example of this misunderstanding and lack of effective communication is the Live Aid and Make Poverty History campaigns led by Bono and Bob Geldof. The whole initiative started when Bob Geldof saw confronting images on TV of malnourished children living in poverty on the brink of death in Africa. So their solution was to raise money. Awesome… Or is it?

Left to right: Prime Minsiter of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi,  US Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil and Bono.
Left to right: Prime Minsiter of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, US Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neil and Bono.

Their campaigning created awareness in the public, who then urged politicians to jump on board, to change legislation, and donate more foreign aid, and that money would be given directly to Ethiopia….’s President, Meles Zenawi’s pocket, who stole the election and who’s governmet is corrupt. Whilst this issue is a huge one and I’m not offering a single solution to poverty itself, Bono and Bob probably could’ve made a lot more of a significant impact if they discussed issues of poverty, development, agriculture and livlihood with Ethiopian people.

Collaborative research is research based on a ‘greater and deeper relationship between the researcher and the people being researched’ (Clerke & Hopwood, 2014) and implies ‘constant mutual engagement at every step of the process.’ (Lassiter, 2005). If the work you’re researching is hoping to make changes to a community, it should completely benefit the community and not be influenced by corporation power. Instead of contantly asking what you can gain from this research, you should be asking what the community wants and needs to change. This may direct your research in a different yet more rewarding and impactful way.

Source
Source

So how can we relate all of this back to TV and the media space? Well thinking of my Grandparents and listening to them talk about when they first received a TV. There’s so many side stories and aspects that we could’ve discussed. What were the rules in front of the TV? Who got to sit on the lounge and who sat on the floor? Where did the children sit? Did they still play and talk whilst the TV was on? How much did it cost? Did you have to sacrifice other things to have a TV? Did you still listen to the radio? So many questions that arise from a simple conversation, and this is probably the biggest deterent from participating in collaborative ethnographic research, it takes a lot of time.

However, if we are willing to sacrifice our time, patience and understanding, like the quote above says ‘we keep what we have, by giving it away,’ what is it? I think it’s our compassion, empathy and understanding, and it’s important to hold onto it in order to make the world a better place and learn more about people from an insider’s perspective.

References

Clerke. T & Hopwood. N 2014, Doing Ethnography in Teams, Springer, DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-05618-0_2

Lassiter. E 2005, The Chicago guide to collaborative ethnography, University of Chicago Press

Pilot Survey: Media Influence on Romance in Everyday Life

My group assignment for BCM210 is about the influence of romance films on our expectations of romance and relationships. We’re focusing on three films, An Affair to Remember, Dirty Dancing and Friends With Benefits from the 50’s, 80’s and 00’s respectively. I recently drew up a brief survey to pilot on a friend to evaluate what worked, what didn’t and what we can perhaps change.

http://www.keepitahundred.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/1334518676880_9162394.png
http://www.keepitahundred.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/1334518676880_9162394.png

I surveyed my friend Chantelle who I assumed would be our prime target audience for our research topic.

*

1. What is your age?

18-24   25-30   31-40   41-50   51+

  1. Gender

Male   Female   Other

  1. Relationship Status

Single   In a relationship   In an open relationship   married   divorced   widowed   It’s complicated

  1. Circle the films below that you’ve seen

An Affair To Remember     Dirty Dancing     Friends With Benefits

  1. Have any of the previously mentioned films influenced your ideas on relationships/romance?

Yes/No/ Other- Not really, though Friends With Benefits is one of my favourite movies. Not personally but I can see how ‘friendly’ behaviour is deemed acceptable through this movie

  1. Have any other romance films influenced your ideas on relationships/romance?

Yes/No – they set a lot of high expectations and standards which I think can be realistic but especially being a girl, I think it’s easy to expect too much

  1. Name 3 romance films that you feel has the greatest impact on your personal perceptions of relationships/romance
    1. Couldn’t think of any notable films
  1. On a scale of 0-5 (0 being never and 5 being frequently), how often do you watch romance films?
    1. 4
  1. Do you think the media has an important role in shaping opinions on romance?
    1. 100%, romance films perpetuate the same idea of love and romance. Boy meets girl, boy chases girl, boy performs huge romantic gesture for girl, that’s a lot of pressure to live up to. 
  1. What film would you base your idea of an ideal relationship off of?

An Affair To Remember     Dirty Dancing     Friends With Benefits- the ending when they end up in a relationship

*

http://schedule.wttw.com/ulphoto/wttw_1355259677.jpg
http://schedule.wttw.com/ulphoto/wttw_1355259677.jpg

In this case, I think it’s easier to begin with what didn’t work. An issue was Chantelle hadn’t seen all of the movies we had been using in our research, which immediately limited the amount of information we could get and restricted any comparisons we could have potentially made. When asked to state the 3 most influential romantic films she has watched, she couldn’t really think of anything too prominent. Perhaps asking for 3 films is quite a lot, especially with no assistance or guidance from us in the form of suggestions. However suggestions would be quite leading so that’s something we’re going to have to look into further.

http://g-ecx.images-amazon.com/images/G/01/dvd/lionsgate/DirtyDancing4-lg.jpg
http://g-ecx.images-amazon.com/images/G/01/dvd/lionsgate/DirtyDancing4-lg.jpg

Perhaps some research methodologies we could do in the future would be to conduct a focus group where we show parts of the movies we selected and have a discussion about what we’re watching and how the audience feels. I feel this would be a more effective way of getting more detailed and insightful opinions. Whilst we were selecting the three movies we wished to use as case studies, we chose them based off of our our personal views of what was a romance film reflective of it’s time and maybe we need to revisit these and choose films which are more widely known and have been seen by a larger audience, for example, the Notebook, Titanic, Gone With the Wind.

Other than these revisions we should make, the majority of the questions worked well and were interpreted and answered well and without hassle.

This pilot survey has been very insightful in regards to the direction of our research and what steps should be taken next.

*Special thanks to Chantelle for participating and gossiping with me about our favourite films and our ideal man

Hide and Seek: Media Research

“Chercher” the French word meaning ‘to seek’ or better well known by all university students across the globe as… research. That thing you do when you’re wanting to buy a new iPhone 6 only to find out that they bend. Or trying to plan your mid session break to Melbourne enticed by art and coffee to discover that there’s no cheap flights during that time. Or even trying to find out what sort of things your crush is into so you can casually bring them up in conversation. Whether it’s asking your friends or Google questions, if you’re trying to ‘find out more information’ (Berger, 2014) about something chances are you’re researching.

sourced from: http://meetville.com/images/quotes/Quotation-Zora-Neale-Hurston-curiosity-research-Meetville-Quotes-95733.jpg
sourced from: http://meetville.com/images/quotes/Quotation-Zora-Neale-Hurston-curiosity-research-Meetville-Quotes-95733.jpg

However, asking if your crush likes watching Walking Dead’ isn’t at all scholarly research.  Scholarly research is a very ‘systematic and objective’ type of poking and prying, which revolves around correctness and truthfulness’ (Berger, 2014). Ultimately uncovering the truth. Something we can hope to obtain through media research, which is all of the above, applied to aspects of the media, covering mass media, social media, print media, radio, cinema, comics etc, and research into these areas can help us identify links between media, culture, society and individuals.

As identified by Strasburger, there is currently not enough media research, meaning that the problem is ‘important enough to bother with’ (Berger, 2014) and with the ‘effects of the media on children and adolescents’ (Strasburger, 2013) more or less unknown, it provides a space where media research can help fill in the blanks and hopefully minimise risk to those who are vulnerable targets of the media.

Sourced from: http://www.uow.edu.au/research/priorities/index.html
Universities like the University of Wollongong put a lot of emphasis on research. Sourced from: http://www.uow.edu.au/research/priorities/index.html

Trying to decide on what area of media research I’d like to participate in is more difficult than deciding which Johnny Depp film is the best… basically impossible. The media broadcasts an amplitude of messages through diverse mediums, from individuals to multinational companies, reaching people and places across the globe and are uniquely interpreted.

I’m increasingly fascinated by social media and its power and influence on individuals. An area in which I’d like to explore further is the role of the media influencing personal relationships, for example meeting people on Tinder and the medium’s effect on the audience’s view of hook-up culture.

Sourced from: http://www.glasbergen.com/wp-content/gallery/marriage/mar82.gif
Sourced from: http://www.glasbergen.com/wp-content/gallery/marriage/mar82.gif

Something else that I am passionate about is equality and feminism. With the Emma Watson speech on feminism last year, it’s a hot topic which has swept the media and I would be interested exploring various aspects of how it’s influenced people. I believe that all of these fields have the potential to be explored on a deeper level because they are increasingly relevant to our society.

As you can see, I’m constantly engaged and interested by many aspects of the media, society, cultures and people. But before I can decide on a topic of interest, I must first do a hell of a lot of research.

xxx A

References

Berger, Arthur A. 2014, ‘What is research?’, in Media and communication research methods : an introduction to qualitative and quantitative approaches, 3rd ed., SAGE, Los Angeles, pp. 13-32

Strasburger, V.C. 2013, “Spinal Column: Why Isn’t There More Media Research?”, Clinical Pediatrics, vol. 52, no. 7, pp. 587-588