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Facebook is celebrating its 10th birthday today amidst speculation of an impending decline. But the behemoth of social networks is showing no signs of flailing just yet.

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Facebook is one of the first things we check in the mornings and the last, before we go to sleep.

Whether its FOMO, addition or just habit, Facebook has become a stalwart pal for about one sixth of the world’s population, a staggering ‘citizenship’ which could surpass the number of people living in China, the world’s most populous nation, within the next year.

It seems the way people use Facebook is dependent on whether (or not) they grew up with the network. As Seth Fiegerman writes, ‘Facebook’s users seem to be divided into two groups: younger users who are forever connected to people from the past, and older users who are given a powerful tool to reconnect with those they’ve long since lost touch with’.

Having signed up to Facebook at the beginning of 2008, I wasn’t one of the first to jump on the bandwagon. But I did have an account before many of my friends, albeit one I saw as the inferior little sister to my, at the time, beloved Myspace. I actually got a Facebook account to keep in touch with new friends from interstate. Either myself or members of the Sydney clan had to make a move to the dark side (Facebook and Myspace, respectively), and I ended up caving to what I thought was the short straw. About a year later, Myspace became effectively defunct and I found myself pretty proud of my already established Facebook backlog and network.

Nevertheless, I still latched onto Facebook as a way of remaining connected, rather than reigniting long lost friendships from my single digit days. Simultaneously, my peers began to use Facebook as their primary social network, to the point where I’m now connected to hundreds and hundreds of ‘friends’ some of which I’ve either met only once, or haven’t spoken to directly in years. However, every now and then someone I might classify as ‘random’ (a word my mum thinks is ‘soooo Gen Y’) pops up on my newsfeed and I’m kindly reminded of their existence in the world, if not in my life as such.

At the moment, I’m still pretty dependent on Facebook to do what it does best and give me updates and a realtime tracker of what my friends and ‘friends’ are doing with their lives. Ironically, Facebook really shows just how much we’re not doing because we’re too busy updating our online presence through status’, photos and ‘checking in’ to places where we want to be (virtually) seen.

I am not out to diss Facebook. As I said, I’m still thoroughly engaged with, and through, the network to people I’d otherwise have lost contact with. Despite only being a few years out of school, there are so many people I’d have called close friends that I now, rarely see or even speak to. Facebook provides me with that virtual and emotional link to classmates with whom I spent weeks and years, side by side. Someone’s got a new boyfriend, someone else is on exchange, one girl is living abroad and another just qualified as a professional nurse and has already landed the job of her dreams.

When people announce exciting (or even terribly tragic) events on Facebook, there is an almost resurgence and instantaneous spill of camaraderie for those involved. It’s pretty amazing how quickly people come together for someone in need, or to celebrate and congratulate a new couple, job or marriage.

But Facebook also perpetuates a continuous disease of comparison between both strangers and friends. If the aforementioned friend got ‘the’ job while you lucked out, you might feel down. You see a group of old friends catching up without you and checking in somewhere for drinks, and now not only you know you’ve been sidelined, but everybody else in their network does, too.

And social networking is, ironically, incredibly self-centred. While each network proclaims to be about connecting people, they’re all centred around individual users creating a ‘profile’ through which they will portray themselves to the world. Yet whether by intuition, self-protection or devious scheming, what and how we choose to display ourselves online is overwhelmingly self-selected – and if it’s not, you can untag yourself or remove yourself from the group with the click of a button.

So people are choosing profile pictures where they’re pleased with their appearance. They’re checking in only at the places/with people with whom they want to be seen. They’re selectively creating a virtual profile of themselves filled with all the good bits, and only minimal (if any at all) aspects of their vulnerabilities. And as Brené Brown teaches us, there is so much power in vulnerability.

But with over 1.23 billion users worldwide, Facebook is clearly doing something right. The network also hosts thousands of support groups, allows for easy sharing of digital content, and makes inviting friends to your birthday soiree so much easier. Of course, sometimes you’re drowning in events from promoters or can’t see anything on your newsfeed other than bloody memes or videos of friends nek nominating each other, but being so privy at least means you’re kept in the loop… at all times… whether you like it or not.

I suppose what it all comes down to is the power of social networking in creating, building and maintaining relationships between individuals and groups across the globe. In the words of TheFacebook’s multibillionaire founder, Mark Zuckerberg, ‘It’s been amazing to see how people have used Facebook to build a real community and help each other in so many ways’.

Only time will tell if the network survives its terrible teens. Always reinventing itself, Facebook continues to keep up with if not, lead, the Joneses so if it continues to dominate global connectivity into the 2020s, here’s hoping we’re all still interested in those self-appointed popular girls from high school because, who knows? Maybe we’ll even see them settle down some day.

As mentioned in a previous post, part of our assessment for Networked Media is to create a speculative piece for our class wiki, ‘niki’.

My group’s first topic, or person of interest, is the artist and computer scientist, Jonathan Harris.

Harris is a young American based in New York who graduated with a degree in computer science from Princeton. He says he came to Princeton more as a formality and without a specific interest in the field, and that he actually kept sketch books and created visual art for years, and thought of pursuing a career in the arts. However, after travelling in Costa Rica and having his sketchbooks stolen from him while being held up at gun point, art fell by the wayside, at least temporarily.

His love for creating and sharing visual experiences never disappeared though, and Harris has emerged as one of the today’s leading internet anthropologists. On his website, Number 27, Harris says his primary interest is in exploring the ‘relationship[s] between humans and technology’.

From our primary research and discussion, my group’s understanding of Harris is that he’s an incredibly passionate, talented and generous kinda guy. He’s a documenter of human interest, thought and states of being, which is evident through his work.

His projects include an exploration of human emotion called We Feel Fine, a public library of human experience, Cowbird, and I Love Your Work, an interactive documentary about the lives of female sex workers.

Interaction and participation seem to be central to most of his endeavours, as does his love for authentic communication as opposed to propagandising his work, or creating purely for profit or business interests.

I’ll be sure to write about Harris more as our thoughts progress but a fellow group member, Mardy, has also written a post about her emerging ‘love affair’ with the guy, so head over there for some light, evening romance.

I’ll leave you with a quote in which Harris voices what he sees as the potential for growth, where technology and creativity collide:

I… see incredible potential in technology to deepen the relationships between people, not just to increase the number of relationships between people. But I don’t think there are really any great examples of things that have done that yet. I’m very interested in trying to show people that technology can be a beautiful thing to make our lives more meaningful, not more superficial. – NYLON Guys

Have you ever tried to convince yourself you’d act a particular way in a given situation only to later find yourself in this position and taking a different course? You may purport to hold beliefs that would govern your actions and guide you down one path or another, yet realise that in reality, what you would actually do is something else, entirely.

Shocked by the hike in public transport fares that came into effect on January 1, perhaps you jump on a train without touching on your Myki, taking your chances with Metro’s ticket inspectors. You decide – honest citizen you are – that if you’re unlucky enough to be caught, you’ll fess up and give the officer your details, ultimately acknowledging there’s a small chance you quite literally, will have to pay the price. But, you’re feeling lucky. The likelihood of an officer jumping on board your carriage in the middle of the day is low, and you’re wearing your lucky pants, so ‘let’s rebel and defiantly assert a position against the rising fares’.

Only two stations later, three officers are there, ready to dock you a couple-o-hundys. But, instead of speaking out against the hike while simultaneously remaining a good and honest Melbournian, you jump to say you were rushing for the train and simply had no time to Go Directly Pass Go and Collect $200, or pass the Myki machine at your home station.

While this example may be somewhat unrealistic, the principle holds. The path of action you would like to think you’d take is what Chris Argyris calls your espoused theory, the theory of action to which you give allegiance. However, what governs your actions in reality Argyris names your theory-in-use. If the consequences of your approach match your intended outcome, the theory-in-use is confirmed. But, Argyris proposes that if consequences are unintended/do not match/work against your governing values, they can be viewed as part of single or double-loop learning.

In coming to understand these theories, I drew on the Networked Media blog and came across a post by my tutor that led me to a former student’s comprehension of the same work. Combining my own extensive dot-pointing from the reading with the explanation on my peer, I will explain single and double-loop learning like this:

  • Single-loop learning exists when things are taken for granted and where strategies for managing error remain within governing variables.
  • Double-loop learning involves questioning the governing variables themselves, and subjecting them to scrutiny, thus allowing space for alteration and a shift in the way strategies and consequences are framed.

Here’s a diagram that might help, as really, a picture is worth a thousand words:

Argyris' Double-Loop Theory

Argyris also proposes two models that describe features of theories-in-use that either inhibit or enhance double-loop learning:

  • Model I involves making inferences about another person’s behaviour without checking whether they are valid, and is shaped by an implicit disposition to winning and avoiding embarrassment.
  • Model II includes the views and experiences of participants rather than seeking to impose a view on a situation, is dialogical, encourages open communication and participation, and emphasises common goals and shared leadership.

According to Argyris, Model II increases the likelihood of double-loop learning while Model I inhibits it. Furthermore, he asserts most people will espouse Model II. Argyris then contextualises the models using Organisational Learning Systems, and proposes Organisational II Learning System (O-II) as preferable to Organisational I Learning System (O-I), where the former seeks to maximise client participation with a methodology based on rationality and honesty over the latter, (self-reinforcing, inhibiting, defensive, and acts against long-term organisational interests).

Perhaps, what I will take away from analysing these learning theories, the size of these loopholes and the models above, is the importance of noticing how open we are to change, how we deal with unintended outcomes, and a greater understanding of the extent to which our values actually govern our actions as opposed to the extent to which we espouse them to have done.

Happy learning.

Chipotle Scarecrow

Chipotle Scarecrow

I just wanted to do a quick post to share a couple of ads I’ve come across recently that I think are reflective of really well-thoughout communications strategies. These advertising and other comms professionals have really gone beneath surface issues when considering what their customers/patrons/consumers value, and as I’m learning through my degree, that is an integral part of a successful media campaign. Their ads tell a story, offer a narrative for viewers to follow, and appeal to our emotions, rather than our hip pockets.

1. Chipotle

‘In a dystopian fantasy world, all food production is controlled by fictional industrial giant Crow Foods. Scarecrows have been displaced from their traditional role of protecting food, and are now servants to the crows and their evil plans to dominate the food system. Dreaming of something better, a lone scarecrow sets out to provide an alternative to the unsustainable processed food from the factory.’ The ad features a cover of ‘Pure Imagination’ from the film Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, by vegan and animal lover, Fiona Apple.

2. True

‘Giving’ tells the story of a man unexpectedly rewarded for a lifetime of good deeds he performed without expecting anything in return. True “believes in the power of giving without expecting a return.”

3. Expedia

Expedia’s ‘Find Your Understanding’ tells the tale of a father coming to terms with his daughter’s marriage to another woman, and his (cliche) journey both physically and mentally, to arriving at their wedding.

4. Pizza Hut Canada

This ad ‘Dip Hop’ might tell less of a ‘story’ but it’s pretty bloody fascinating, at least for a minute or two.

5. Airbnb

Airbnb have combined ‘the history of filmmaking (Hollywood) with the future of filmmaking (Vine)’ to make ‘a true work of art’. According to PSFK, ‘[s]tarting on August 22nd, different sets of instructions were released between the hours of 8am and 5pm until August 27th [via Twitter]. There was a 48 hour window for submissions for each set of instructions, and they were judged based on several weighted criteria: Originality & Creativity (40%), Compliance with Instructions (40%) and Video Quality & Clarity (20%).’ If a video was selected, it appears in the final film, and winners received a $100 Airbnb coupon. Vivek Wagle says, ‘[i]t’s a story about personal transformation and finding one’s place in the world. It’s what happens when you decide to eschew the boring and familiar. In the end, the raw, imperfect nature of the medium is part of the story.’

6. Ikea

And finally, Ikea shows us the importance of adventure, getting out of your comfort zone and not letting your habits and routines rule your life. I wish this ad were a true story.

Enjoy!

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And here’s what I did at artsHub this week:

Record number of finalists for Portia Geach Memorial Award

Young singers battle for Australasia’s top award

New model for artists’ payment

Despite its prevalence in our community, the stigma associated with having a mental illness is evident and challenging for those with mental health struggles. Similarly, I am aware that many people are self-conscious about seeing a therapist/psychologist/psychiatrist/counsellor/social worker or other type of mental health professional, despite their services being available for a multitude of issues, conversations and conditions. It’s a shame that this stigma is so prominent as I believe the benefits of seeing some kind of mental health professional are numerous and do not just pertain to those with a serious mental health condition. Therapists are available for individuals, families and couples who just want someone to talk to, to listen to their stories, provide them with a sounding board and commonly, some feedback as to how to proceed, what to tackle next, or how to work with a troubling situation, person or circumstance.

It is with this sentiment that I wonder whether the language we use is a significant contributing factor preventing more people accessing and seeking out these kinds of health services. When we have a sore back, we have no trouble going to the doctor and asking for a referral to a chiropractor, or seeing a teacher of the Alexander Technique for some help with postural realignment and lifestyle changes. When we have a sports injury, we see a physiotherapist, or perhaps, someone even more specialised. Generally, we seem to have no (internal) trouble with seeing a podiatrist, dermatologist or occupational therapist. So then why have we, collectively, created an invisible barrier barring us from seeking and receving guidance and help for what is intrinsically associated with what is arguably our most vital bodily organ, our brain?

Each week, I attend a range of appointments. This is not unusual for any of us lucky enough to live in a developed society with relatively easy and cost-friendly access to a range of health services. However, I’ve noticed that, at least until recently, I felt some sort of shame saying to others that I had a session booked with my psychiatrist, and instead of just saying so, I would omit the ‘location of difficulty’ or ‘source of stress’ if you like, and just say I had ‘an appointment’. Fundamentally, there is nothing wrong with that, and privacy to such an extent should be our right. Except the problem arises with the emotional guilt or side-effect associated with that omission, and I believe is comes from the stigma we as a society have attached to mental health.

Unfortunately, those receiving care for their mental health are often referred to, and immediately though of, as having a mental illness or mental disorder. For some, this is appropriate and true and I am not saying these terms should not be used, per say. Rather, I question; is it possible that due do these terms so often being used interchangeably, we are in fact, unintentionally, reinforcing that stigma and subsequently preventing ordinary people from seeking out mental health services? That people won’t see a therapist because they don’t want to be thought to have a ‘mental disorder’?

So, I guess I am kind of addressing two separate, yet interrelated, stigmas: one with diagnosed mental illness, and another with mental health care in general. I believe that neither are justified and both should be dispelled, but maybe starting with the latter will help to lift the stigma from the former. And to do so, I suggest the following:

Let’s change our language. Let’s start referring to ‘mental wellbeing’, adding a positive connotation to the world of mental health care. We know that to achieve optimal health we must strive for a state of complete physical, social and mental wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity (WHO, 1946), and as such, are entitled to and worthy of receiving assistance and professional care for all elements of our wellbeing.

If you’re going through a series of life changes, you’re in an interim phase between jobs/houses/relationships, you’re needing some guidance, or would just like an impartial, in-judgemental face to talk to, seek out a professional to provide you with that support. You may not need ‘help’, you mightn’t be in a crisis, you might even be at the height of your career. But, by taking care of your mental wellness, you’re actively maintaing or working towards achieving your optimal health. And what better way to live your life than that?

Last Friday night I had the pleasure of attending the official launch of The Brainwash Project’s first print magazine. The Brainwash Project was created for young women as something “inclusive, empowering, intellectually stimulating and fresh”, by Melbournian, Jess Barlow. The Brainwash Project is somewhat of a healthy antidote to the countless publications that (un-intendedly?) serve to leave so many girls and women feeling inadequate, in comparison with the body, beauty and life ideals they promote.

The launch was such an incredible event. Set in a community hall, people from all walks of life came together to celebrate the magazine’s first print edition. The publication is bright, colourful, informative, entertaining and extremely professional. There were brave young singers, slam-poets and public figures to entertain the crowd, complementary nail polish painting, and other stalls with knick-knacks for your pockets. Professional photographer, Bianca Anderson ran a photo booth were attendees were invited to dress up as ‘Paper People’, a key aspect of the project as a whole. Barlow says that the idea of Paper People illuminates “how unrealistic it is to lust after a different appearance to our own” as well as “how easy it is to change [one’s] appearance using Photoshop or even just old magazines and scissors”.

I love this notion of Paper People, and the more I think about it, the more it resonates with me. So often, we (both women and men, girls and boys) are presented with figures, images and ideals that are literally unattainable. Celebrities are one aspect of this saga, but aside from the photoshopping post-shoot, these people often have wads of excess cash to use on self-enhancement projects, absurd diets, expensive ‘health’ retreats, extravagant foods and surgical procedures that help to maintain the image they so desperately want to preserve.

Consider this article on the phone application, Pixtr. Pixtr offers you the chance to “put your best face forward” through giving you a plastic, fantastic, Barbie-like appearance. As journalist, Chris Taylor notes, this app is sure to be put to use on shameless selfies, embarrassing nightclub photos and any image in which the profiler deems themselves to be in some respect inadequate or imperfect.

Additionally, this recent Dove ad has received widespread coverage, urging women to challenge how they see themselves, and the value they place on their appearance. It has to be said that the ad has received some criticism which is hard to ignore, but the principle and what I assume to be Dove’s overall aim of the campaign, in nonetheless intriguing and it’s pretences are deeply upsetting. So many people judge, value and categorise themselves based on a single feature of their face or their body. People compare themselves to other people, denying themselves the very miracle they are born with – uniqueness. There are literally no two people alike. That’s pretty unbelievable.

Alas, there are many contributing factors to negative self-esteem, and the media is just one of these components. But the Brainwash Project is helping young women take a step in the right direction.

So I encourage you, I urge you, to find out more about the Brainwash Project. This first 188-page, colour filled magazine has also become a platform for young people to showcase their talents, promote worthy, youth-oriented causes, and has contributors from all over the world. The magazine speaks its message: the cover is plain white, until you cast your eye over the back, bottom corner, and that corner reads ‘don’t judge things by appearance’.

I have two pieces featured in the magazine. The first is a feature on Melbourne fashion designer, Eve Walton-Healey. She has recently launched her own label called White tailed Fawn. You can check out her blog here. The second, is an interview with local Melbourne band The Darjeelings. They are incredible and I’d definitely recommend reading the piece to find out more about their musical inspirations, how they manage to balance school, family, friends and music, and what their plans are for the future.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of the Brainwash Magazine, you can enter the shop here. Delivery is available Australia wide, as well as internationally. Barlow is hoping to also make available a digital e-version of the magazine, so be on the lookout for that edition, too. While the price may be higher than your average girls or women’s rag, the it’s because the content and presentation is far from average. And it’s all for a worthy cause. So buy a copy for your daughter, your sister, your granddaughter, niece, or as they say in Parks and Recreation, treat.yo.self to a copy of Brainwash Magazine. Because if we’re going to take anything from the cosmetics industry it should be this: Because you’re worth it.

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*I first wrote about the crowd funding campaign for The Brainwash Project back in September last year. The Brainwash Magazine is the result of hard work, time, volunteering, talent and dedication. Congratulations to all those involved. Support the cause on Facebook, here.

My piece Do Not Discriminate – In the Firing Line of Hate, has been tailored and published on We Matter Media, and now a similarly edited version has also appeared in RMIT’s student magazine, Catalyst. You can view it online here, but what is also exciting, is that it is my first print publication.

This is the first edition of Catalyst for the year and the new editors have totally revamped the style, facade and interiors of the magazine. It looks amazing. In addition, they’ve initiated and launched Catalyst online, which basically means you have no excuse not to read what’s on the minds’ of RMIT students no matter where you live. So bookmark it and be sure to check back regularly for updates.

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