Mobile Phone Users: Addicted and Disconnected or Talented Multi-taskers?

Despite their distinct advantages and technological innovation, there is a tendency for new media forms to be viewed as contaminating elements within our already complex media world. Currently, we are surrounded by literature attempting to make valiant connections between media and all that is evil; Social media is linked to damaging of moral fibre and relationships, laptops to disconnected audiences, text messages to distractedness and risk, smart phones to social isolation, electromagnetic radiation to cancer, and it doesn’t stop there.

An increase in mobile phone use has often been likened to user dependence and ‘addiction’ to such technologies. For many, mobile phones have become the modern-day version of a security blanket and typically, when users misplace their device, have it stolen or lose reception, panic tends to set in.

This state of fear has even been given a name – Nomophobia – which is the fear of being disconnected from one’s mobile phone. The physical side effects include panic attacks, shortness of breath, dizziness, trembling, sweating, chest pain and nausea (All About Counselling 2013) and according to a recent study by Cisco,the condition affects 9 out of 10 mobile phone users under the age of 30 in Australia (Michael & Sheppard 2013). If you say so, Cisco.

Similar conversation and research surrounding mobile phone ‘addiction’ is rampant. A study by Walsh, White and Young (2008) suggests that over-use of mobile phones disrupts social environments, encourages reliance on technology, increases the risk of accidents and leads to an increase in theft as adolescents attempt to pay bills that they cannot afford.

It is individuals’ removal of presence and disconnectedness from the very physical space in which they reside that has many critics caught in a moral fluster. However, as users are disconnected from their surrounding space, they are often reconnected elsewhere – through social media, text messaging, forums and the like. These very spaces in which the technology transports them to, foster conversation and cultivate vital interpersonal relationships, yet society seemingly ignores such physical and psychological benefits.

The fault surrounding the labeling of media ‘addiction’ and its associated disconnectedness is that it assumes that audiences are constantly in a state of constant attention, which is not the case (Bowles 2013). Often, one can be socially faulted for using a mobile phone whilst being spoken to, however, without the media in front of them, who is to say that their subconscious mind would not also be transporting them elsewhere, to thoughts of their grumbling belly and bread choice for their Subway six-inch? The truth is, often conversation is mundane and audience attention drifts. Are media technologies simply amusing the active mind in otherwise mediocre moments? Can we assume that audiences using their mobile phones are in fact disconnected, when perhaps they have multitasking and information processing in the modern media environment down to a fine art?

What are your experiences with your own mobile phone use? Do you consider yourself to be a multi-tasker? Or are you all for living in the moment? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one.

References:

All About Counselling 2013, ‘Nomophobia’, Internet Brands Health, viewed 30 August 2013.

Bowles, K 2013, ‘Media Content and Moral Panics’, lecture, BCM240, University of Wollongong, delivered 26 August.

Michael, P & Sheppard, F 2013, ‘Nomopobia, the fear of not having a mobile phone, hits record numbers’, The Sunday Mail, 2 June, viewed 30 August 2013.

Walsh, S, White, M & Young, R 2008, ‘Over-connected? A qualitative exploration of the relationship between Australian youth and their mobile phones’, Journal of Adolescence, vol.31, no1, pp.77-92.

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Memoirs of Early Television: Fried Rice Fridays and Cellophane Improvisation

Meet Peter, my father.

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This photo was taken when he was four-years-old, around the very same time that the wonderful medium of television entered his world. He remembers his family’s first TV set vividly. It was a HMV, wood grain and black, with four legs to stand on. It sat in the sun room; a room that once contested for company was now rearranged with lounge chairs orientated toward the new technology. It was the summer of ‘59 and television had only recently graced the shores of Australia. The sun room was transformed into a new meeting place where Peter, his mother, father, two sisters and brother would all gather together to be entertained in unique new ways. The experience was by no means commonplace and was subject to the completion of chores and homework.

Friday nights at the Kennedy household were ‘fried rice Fridays’, memorable solely for the fact that the family ate in the sun room with the television switched on, presumably quite a controversial act back then. To this day, our family eats around the kitchen table. No excuses. So not surprisingly, this came as quite a shock to me.

Dad’s father was an architect and his family were quite affluent, so when colour TV technology was gaining momentum, their HMV was soon replaced with a newer, more vibrant model. Needless to say, the household suddenly attracted a few more friends:

“I remember Tommy over the fence. He was an older Greek man. He had a TV set, but he’d come to our house and bring a few of his mates just to watch programmes in colour. He loved it. Mum and Dad didn’t mind, they’d always make a night out of it. Tommy used to bring over this home-made red wine that he made from scratch in his back tin shed. I guess that was his form of bribery.”- Peter

Dad’s first experiences definitely differed from my own, and even dramatically from my mother’s. Mum was the daughter of European migrants, barely scraping the money together for a television set, let alone a colour one. Mum remembers the ‘cellophane-like’ single coloured sheets that they would drape over their black and white TV set, creating ‘colour TV’ for her and her sisters and bringing new life to Bandstand and BP Pick a Box. Apparently it was just as new and exciting for them as the colour set was for my father. The Cehic family weren’t the only ones improvising with coloured plastic; a budding entrepreneur obviously saw opportunity surrounding the hype of colour TV.

In the 50’s and 60’s, television needed to be integrated into home life, causing significant implications for domestic time, space and routine. Television colonised home life, challenged the importance of family and redefined the pre-existing domestic leisure culture both inside and outside of the home (O’Sullivan 2007, p.163). As an ’88 child, things were a little different for me. I was born into an era of television, a culture consumed by it and a household that wouldn’t know itself without it. The television to me is not a physical object; it’s a technology, with the ability to be consumed over an abundance of mediums. Sometimes this occurs in the presence of others, but mostly it’s alone in my own private spaces, used solely as a tool of entertainment and time-passing.

Aware of the viewing culture of our predecessors, it’s easy to see how truly disparate and fragmented television audiences have become.

References:

O’Sullivan, T 2007, ‘Researching the Viewing Culture: Television and the Home’, in Wheatley, H (ed.), Re-Viewing Television History: Critical Issues in Television Historiography, I.B. Tauris, London.

The Stay at Home Career Woman

Let’s start off with a little insight into the life worries and ‘what ifs’ that bounce around inside my skull on a weekly basis. As a twenty-five year old female mature age student, I feel not only my biological clock ticking, but also my professional one. I will graduate when I am twenty-six and plan to have children in my early thirties. So with no snooze button on the biological clock, where does that leave me? With four years to work my way up a hierarchical industry, soon to leave it all behind to procreate a couple of mini me’s?

The media and communications industries are evolving at rapid pace. When I return to the labour force will I be overlooked in a trail of new graduates who are up with the newest practices, leaving me wallowing in their shadows? Do I resume full time work, commuting to the city before dawn and returning after dark? The thought of being an absent mother and missing out on milestones of my little ones (that I don’t even have yet) pulls on my heart strings a little, and budding career success has never felt so unfeasible.

Recently, I had a little ray of optimistic light shine down on the matter. What if I had the ability to work full-time from the comfort of home, on my own time schedule, networked with colleagues solely through technology and digitally powered gatherings? The shift towards ‘knowledge-based’ work, the development of new communication technologies and the growth of networked societies is making this far-fetched dream a reality (Bradwell & Reeves 2008).

A recent survey by Citrix found that organisations are moving away from the traditional work environment and predicted that by the year 2020 workplaces will be providing just seven desks for every ten office workers, with employees basing themselves in other semi-permanent spaces including their very own homes. Besides the obvious benefits of this labour on the workers themselves and the reduced cost of overheads, Bradwell and Reeves found that from an organisational perspective the new move is sparking innovation, reducing information barriers and nurturing true internal talent (p.14).

Undoubtedly with the convergence of work and home life there are bound to be hurdles and uncertainties along the way. Will one’s home life suffer with no clear distinction between professional and personal time and space? I suppose that then depends on the individual themselves and the how they choose to integrate the two.

The important take home message here is that times they are a changin’. The global  networked society has created corporate flexibly and permanent change within the labour force. It’s an exciting prospect to say the least, especially for those of us a little uncertain of the possibility to cultivate early career success and begin a family almost simultaneously. Having to choose between the two may ultimately become a thing of the past.

PORK PIRATES ATTACK MEXICO CLOUDS… and the Issue of Cyber Security

Say whaaaat? Okay, so it seems I’ve caught your attention. It’s also quite likely that I’ve engaged the watchful eye of our National Security as well.  Strangely enough those words live amongst a list of keywords that, when used online, entice the interest of Homeland Security in the United States. These and other internet surveillance insights were recently released under the country’s Freedom of Information Act, with it being assumed that Australian authorities have similar structures in place.

ss-pig

What ever happened to John Perry Barlow’s Utopian declaration to the governments, claiming their lack of power in our online world?

“You claim there are problems among us that you need to solve. You use this claim as an excuse to invade our precincts. Many of these problems don’t exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are wrongs, we will identify them and address them by our means. We are forming our own Social Contract. This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different.” – John Perry Barlow

This was wishing thinking on Barlow’s behalf, to say the least. How far things have come since 1996, including the recent events involving Ed Snowden uncovering some nasty truths of the online surveillance world. Vast amounts of metadata surrounding individuals around the globe are being accessed and stored, without any form of warrant. The government and AFP have also gained virtually unlimited control of our online spaces, forcing internet providers to block and filter websites as they see fit.

The current online security situation remains somewhat of a double edged sword. On one end there exists a need to protect the privacy of our personal communications, to ensure trusted communities and continued innovation. Alternatively, law enforcement agencies have the ability to investigate and be informed of serious crime, in turn protecting and enhancing society. At present, I’m all for the current online security situation, as I know I have nothing to hide. A little word of warning to those of you that do – be very afraid.

(National Security: I hope that wasn’t too boring for you)

A ‘Flea Shed’ Cinematic Experience

Imagine a building with four slanted red brick walls and a rusted tin roof. Inside there were no windows and only one door to go in and come out. You could only venture inside in the pitch darkness, once the sun has disappeared completely behind the surrounding hills. The floors were made up of dirt and exposed rocks and if you listened really closely, you could hear the distinct squeaks coming from the vermin right up front. It doesn’t exactly sound like somewhere you would be too thrilled to visit, now would you? My mother, however, could not wait to go there. This was the building where her very first cinematic experience took place, the local picture theatre at Scarborough.

It was known to the locals as the ‘Flea Shed’, a pretty self-explanatory title according to Mum. But she remembers the anticipation of her first trip there like it was yesterday. “It was a momentous adventure and a very special occasion”, she recalled.

At dusk, Mum’s father walked her and her eldest sister Monica (in their pyjamas, might I add) from the foothills of the Wombarra escarpment down the where the ‘Flea Shed’ sat nestled on the cliff at Scarborough. If Mum’s memory serves her correctly, it was the year 1962 and she was seven years old. The rows of old chairs were gradually filling as locals gathered to watch the local premiere of the horror film, Gorgo.

Mum remembers her and Monica being terrified. Their father had fallen asleep in the chair next to them, providing no comfort and reassurance for the two young girls clearly distressed by the giant life-like monster on the big screen. This may well be a contributing factor to Mum’s animosity towards horror flicks.

When I asked if there was some sort of store or counter to buy refreshments or popcorn, Mum scoffed at me; “It was very primitive. In the way of amenities I’m sure there was only the toilet, which was a tin shed out the back in the dark. The walk to shed was almost as scary as Gorgo himself!”

 gorgo_08

Yes, I see what she means. What a realistic and terrifying looking beast he was.

The physical space of the cinema along with the participative experience itself has changed over the years. Modern day movie cinemas are spacious, luxurious and overly air-conditioned. Running the risk of sounding like a wet-blanket, I personally can’t find the time, money or effort to make it to the local cinema these days. I actually can’t even recall the last film I watched there. If I want to see a particular movie, I download it on a torrent (shhh), plug the USB drive into my plasma, relax and enjoy in the comfort and privacy of my own home.

Am I just a wet-blanket, or do you share the same opinion? If so, what do you think that means for cinema-going in the years to come?

Crossing the Borders of First and Second Life

Being existent in cyberspace spans far beyond simple surfing of the world wide web. It involves not only an online presence, but a connection with others within this online space. The internet is utilized to create ‘cyberspace’, which Lessig maintains is a far richer experience of internet usage, and one that needs to be explored in order to understand the lives of generations to come.

For many, one’s cyberspace presence exists solely within the simpler worlds of Facebook and Twitter. Within these spaces individuals connect, network, create and share. They can choose to add or omit information about themselves, in turn altering their persona how they please. To delve deeper into the notion of cyberspace however, the three-dimensional online world that is Second Life cannot be overlooked.

Users of Second Life can exist as whoever – or whatever – they wish. They can communicate with others, play games, explore shopping malls, attend concerts and indulge in their ultimate sexual fantasies all in this online space. Perhaps the most interesting notion of Second Life is the crossing of borders, from virtual reality to reality, with users feeling real time effects in their First Lives, so to say.

With 1 million monthly users, this effect on the real world isn’t too hard to grasp. Second Life has facilitated relationships and marriages, and on the other hand provided a space for acts of online adultery to occur, resulting in real world divorces. Users can participate in online marathons to raise money for real world charities. Some studies have even shown that involving avatars in fitness can make the user themselves achieve weight loss goals.

When these borders between cyberspace and reality are blurred and crossed, this ultimately affects the lives of users and associated others in the real world. And with the growth and acceptance of these cyberspace communities, it’s exciting to see what will come of it all.

Social Media and Private Space Naivety

The differentiation between private and public space was once somewhat simple, determined by tangible privacy. A private space was seen to be one that was our own, somewhere where we could exist alone or with the people we entrust the most. Public spaces were virtually everywhere else. Streets, parks, universities, museums, shops, beaches and all other autonomous space on earth. The lines between public and private however, have often been blurred. And with the introduction of new media technologies that have the ability to transport us to private or public realms, these distinctions are hazier than they have ever been before.

Annet Dekker (2008) suggests that new technologies impact our spatial dimensions, with our environments no longer determined by physical space alone. When we are in private we are publicly connected through technologies. On the other hand, media users in public spaces are transported to private conversations, denying those around them and building their own private ‘personal bubbles’ (Dekker, 2008).

‘What happens when our private life becomes public and we use the public space for our private concerns? What happens with the way we communicate, socialise and relate to each other and to the space around us? What happens when technology becomes invisible and disappears from our awareness? What happens to our autonomy? Who still has agency?’ – Annet Dekker (2008, p.140)

Along with these changes in technologies, new forms of privacy within public spaces arise. Let’s take a look at the big wide world of Facebook. It’s highly unlikely individuals would yell out their typical Facebook statuses whilst lining up for their morning coffee, yet so many users feel the need to share these crummy witticisms with the 1 billion others on Facebook. Although I understand that not all 1 billion users see it, the point I’m trying to make is that if they wanted to, they could. Not everyone would witness them picking their noses whilst walking down the street either… but again, people could, and this thought usually stops them from doing so (at least I hope it does). I think that so many people are unaware of the space that Facebook provides us to communicate in. Is it that they have a naïve sense of security of a private space, even with their settings set to ‘public’? Or is it that with these changing spaces we are also seeing changing audiences, willing to let down their own peripheries of privacy and control?

I’ll leave you with this little number; It’s a screen shot from the amusing We know what you’re doing website. Chances are high that what some believe to be their ‘private spaces’ aren’t so private after all…

We-Know-What-Youre-Doing

References:

Dekker, A 2008, PPS: PublicPrivateSpace: Where the public space turns into private space and the private space opens up to the public, International Symposium on Electronic Art 2008, viewed 8 August, https://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCwQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.isea-webarchive.org%2Fmmbase%2Fattachments%2F114574%2FWhere_the_public_space_turns_into_private_space_and_the_private_space_opens_up_to_the_public.pdf&ei=j7sNUpSnPKf7iQfpgoHYCQ&usg=AFQjCNFs73MpT42G941Yl1qo_hBgF30Ugg&sig2=qFRI0XVCKejia2YRLKizQg

Power to the Networks

Networks. We’re surrounded by them. Big and small, connecting 4 to 4 billion people and altering the social, economic, cultural and political realms of life. Before sighting the work of Castells, I hadn’t given networks, their power, or the effect that they have had on our world any well-deserved thought.

Networks span way beyond the typical social networks; however these platforms exist as compelling representations of network power within society. They have created a hub for humans to connect, bringing us closer to the people we are farthest from, and creating connections that were previously unimaginable. In doing so, this is changing the way we live and the values we uphold. The evolution is easy to see, reinforced through generational differences. The young ones seem to have their smartphones as extensions of their beings, with traditional etiquette and values diminishing in the process. One peek at Gen Z’s Facebook walls would reinforce this individual centred culture and the need for co-experiencing and connected-ness, as discussed by Castells. Cue the selfies, Snapchats and infatuation with followers and likes.

We can’t shift blame. They were born into the all-powerful network society and are simply growing with it as best they know how. It is the power of the networks themselves that Castells suggests we need to take note of. On one end, these invisible connections benefit society on many levels. On the other, they hold enough power to create monumental change in just over a decade. So what’s to come of the network society? It’s all a lot to take in.

iLoo? Guilty.

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Okay, so this may be a cringe worthy topic, but I think I need to shine a little light on the matter; I’m talking about media consumption in the most private of all private spaces, the bathroom.

Now if I’m being honest, my smartphone typically doesn’t leave my side. And if I’ve got to go, it comes along with me. I’m not a gamer, Facebooker or Tweeter whilst on the loo, I’m too much of a germaphobe for that. But if I get a text, I will have a read.

Now before you begin to judge, take note that the stats are on my side. A recent survey by Sony and O2 found that a whopping 75% of both males and females use their smartphones whilst on the toilet, with 25% admitting to making a call (Drewett 2013). Furthermore, a quarter of men admit to sitting down to urinate so that they are ‘hands-free’ to continue their smartphone use….. ahhhh?

To seek further reassurance (as not to humiliate myself in front of my fellow bloggers), I decided to carry out a little of my own research via a group iMessage with my closest pals. When asked if they engaged with their iPhone whilst on the loo, their varying responses were amusing and fascinating to say the least:

J: ‘I go on Facebook chat, Instagram, Twitter and check my emails, I do it all. Nothing wrong with that!’
A: ‘Yep! And Candy Crush! That’s a given.’
K: ‘Omg. Never.’
C: ‘I do it all the time!!’
K: ‘Ummm, please tell me that you all Dettol wipe your phones when you’re done?’
C: ‘I said I use my phone Kiaya, not wipe my bum with it.’

… and so the banter continued.

So as it turns out, I’m not alone and media use in the bathroom is gaining momentum. Perhaps it really is time to purchase some Dettol wipes.

When exactly did this method of consumption become acceptable daily practice? Or is it acceptable for that matter? What are your thoughts? Media technologies and our questionable consumption of them have transformed the most private of all spaces into a space in which we are privately yet unavoidably connected. An icky thought to say the least.

References:

Drewett, M 2013, ‘75% of people use their phone on the toilet’, Digital Spy, 8 March, viewed 2 August,  http://www.digitalspy.com.au/odd/news/a464219/75-percent-of-people-use-their-phone-on-the-toilet.html