Tweet Tweet

For anyone visiting this blog post that isn’t studying ‘Future Cultures’ at The University of Wollongong, this blog post is a compilation of tweets and reflections on the process of live tweeting as a part of a university subject. The subject focuses on the tensions between the representation and the realities of current and future digital cultures and the films and tv series that were live-tweeted all focused on dystopic futures, in which futuristic technology can be seen as chaotic or challenges societal perceptions. Through exploring these texts, they helped to inform my ideas for my Video Essay on the Evolution of Dystopia, which you can read about here.

The texts which were live-tweeted were as follows: ‘Ghost in the Shell’ (1995), Westworld (1973), Johnny Mnemonic (1995), The Matrix (1999), Black Mirror: S2 E1 ‘Be Right Back’ (2013), Robot and Frank (2012), Black Mirror: S3 E6 ‘Hated in the Nation’ (2016) and Blade Runner (1983). Looking back at the range of texts, they interestingly span four decades but still have many similarities and distinguish similar fears of pushing technology to extreme potential. Each tweet was accompanied by the hashtag #bcm325 to ensure the class could engage online through collectively compiling tweets which allowed for discussions and to see other points of interest.

Week One: ‘Ghost in the Shell’ (1995)

Being an anime film, this was quite daunting as the introduction to live tweeting. Having never seen an anime film before, tweeting, following the storyline of the film and actually being interested was quite a struggle. However, it did present some interesting ideas.

I initially started by posting tweets about my dislike of anime or the scenes presented on the screen but I then tried to think critically about the content. My tweet “Espionage and technology hacking is already a thing, not a future dystopia” which included a link to a news article on China’s economic cyber-espionage was one of the most well-received ones. I think this may be because the class was able to recognise the significance of the film and ‘The Puppet Master’ in our own society. One of the other tweets that sparked interest was “Is the idea of losing memory pointing out how dependent today’s society is on technology for knowledge? Don’t bother remembering math, science, history… just google it”. I think this was interesting because it allowed the class to reflect on their own dependency on technology and how the internet has become an intrinsic part of our society.

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Slideshow: Compilation of tweets from February 28th 2018, screen-grabbed from my personal twitter @kristyyrenae

Week Two: Westworld (1973)

In week two, we live-tweeted about the 1973 film West World, which has more recently become a HBO series. Interestingly many of the films that were live-tweeted, have been remade, highlighting their profound and timeless natures.

This week, I included online facts about the film including “The film was a financial success, earning $4 million in rentals in the US and Canada by the end of 1973[21] becoming MGM’s biggest box office success of that year.[2] After a re-release by 1976 it earned $7,365,000.” – Wikipedia (obviously reliable)”. I found that by adding this to the discussion, the class would be able to see how well it was received in its context.

I also retweeted @CL_Moore‘s tweet “Is shooting a robot in  like shooting a character in a game? What if the robot doesn’t want to be shot at?”. I thought this was really interesting as video games with violence are often heavily debated in society and the comparison between the act of stimulating violence and actual violence highlights a lack of humanity.

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Slideshow: Compilation of tweets from March 7th 2018, screen-grabbed from my personal twitter @kristyyrenae

Week Three: Johnny Mnemonic (1995)

In week three, we live-tweeted ‘Johnny Mnemonic’. One of the most liked tweets I posted from this week was “At least the movie didn’t reduce the role of females, love when directors include badass female roles”. I thought this was particularly important because, in the previous two weeks of live tweeting, females were irrelevant or reduced in their roles.

Another tweet which was liked, retweeted and replied to was “Is this hospital for people with technological problems the literal equivalent for a Genius Bar at the Apple store?”. I personally thought the hospital showed how easily we replace and discard our technology for new or improved versions, which has resulted in an exponential amount of E-waste.

I also found that my tweet “So he thinks technology causes society to decay but we keep it because we can’t live without it, can’t disagree completely but technology has also allowed for some amazing changes to society, this article on artificial hands explains how” which linked this article showed the contrast between our fears and hopes for technology and the disparity between it’s potential to be dangerous and potential to be benevolent.

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Slideshow: Compilation of tweets from March 14th 2018, screen-grabbed from my personal twitter @kristyyrenae

Week Four: The Matrix (1999)

In week four, we live-tweeted the classic film, The Matrix. I think my greatest contribution to the live tweeting this week was highlighting the symbolism of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ in the film. This can be seen in my tweets “The idea of Alice and Wonderland has been recurring, first the white rabbit and now the idea of feeling a bit like “feeling a bit like Alice, tumbling down the rabbit hole”” and “You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes”. In an age of technology, we must choose knowledge over ignorance.”

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Image still of the blue and red pills, symbolizing knowledge and ignorance in ‘The Matrix’, taken from http://knowyourmeme.com/photos/1292051-red-pill

I think this idea was further reinforced by the tweet “Ignorance is bliss’ just emphasises the idea that we must choose knowledge over power in the age of technology.” As the allusion to Alice in Wonderland highlights the role of truth and knowledge in understanding and using technology.

I also thought ‘s tweet “The Headjacks located on the base of the skull enables access into the Matrix/simulated reality. Our phones can be seen as ‘headjacks’. Although not built into us, they are basically an extension of ourselves and our access to the internet and cyberspace.” was really interesting and replied, “Except if you have an iPhone you’re not allowed to mess with the system like ‘The Matrix’ allows.”. I thought this was important to add to his tweet, as it shows the limitations of different technologies today and how in some cases, users are able to alter the potential of their devices.

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Slideshow: Compilation of tweets from March 21st 2018, screen-grabbed from my personal twitter @kristyyrenae

Week Five: Black Mirror: S2 E1 ‘Be Right Back’ (2013)

In week five, we live-tweeted an episode of ‘Black Mirror’ which may or may not have lead me to a new series for binge-watching and procrastinating. The episode ‘Be Right Back’ looked at the extremities of artificial intelligence through a clone-like bot of the protagonist’s deceased boyfriend.

I found my first tweet “This episode had two sources of inspiration the question of whether to delete a dead friend’s phone number from one’s contacts, and the idea that Twitter posts could be made by software mimicking dead people” to be particularly important as it showed the relevance of the technology today. I also retweeted “As soon as she typed “pregnant”, I wonder if her Facebook feed got bombarded with baby ads? Is she really the one benefitted from this tech?” by @silent_claireI thought this was really interesting because it shows the role of consumerism and online marketing in our current context

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Slideshow: Compilation of tweets from March 28th 2018, screen-grabbed from my personal twitter @kristyyrenae

Week Six: Robot and Frank (2012)

In week six, we live-tweeted the 2012 film ‘Robot and Frank’, which looks at the role of technology as a companion/ carer.

One of my tweets quoted the film stating “”I just feel guilty because at least I have feelings”, speaks mountains”. I found this line particularly profound, as it shows how in most cases technology lacks the understanding of human emotion, despite now being able to read it. I think this was further reiterated by the discussion as pictured below.

 

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Discussion screen grabbed from my personal twitter @kristyyrenae, following live-tweeting ‘Robot and Frank’

I think this discussion was good in emphasizing the role of the creator in technological advancements, which has been seen in many other dystopic texts over time including ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Blade Runner’.

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Slideshow: Compilation of tweets from April 4th 2018, screen-grabbed from my personal twitter @kristyyrenae

Week Seven: Black Mirror: S3 E6 ‘Hated in the Nation’ (2016)

In week seven, we again were able to watch another episode of ‘Black Mirror’, thank god for some modern, binge-worthy content! This episode ‘Hated in the Nation’ looked at the role of bullying online as well as bot technology.

Through understanding the relevance of bot technology today I tweeted “Bots used to moderate online, often struggle with the linguistics and what to be looking for, these bots don’t seem to have the same problem”. This is because the accuracy of the bots in the episode seemed to contrast greatly from online bots which often struggle with linguistics as explored in this article. I also created a twitter poll as seen in the image below.

 

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A Twitter poll taken from my twitter account, @kristyyrenae

I thought this would be an interesting question to pose to the class, as it further develops upon the idea I had the previous week about the role of the creator in technological advancements. Interestingly, 40% of the votes blamed the creator, but more people were confused about the idea of responsibility. I also tweeted “Comparing an internet ban to North Korea highlights the idea of censorship in society and if we should or shouldn’t be censored in our opinions and beliefs, I definitely think that finding a balance between the two is one society greatest challenges” which received the most retweets of my live tweets in this week. I think this was important to highlight as in looking at North Korea, it is easy to see the disparity between fears of censorship and surveillance and security. This was further reiterated in an online discussion with @EzzyApples following her tweet “Surveillance is a double-edged sword, you don’t want to be surveyed, but if someone breaks into your property, you want to know who did it”.

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Slideshow: Compilation of tweets from April 11th 2018, screen-grabbed from my personal twitter @kristyyrenae

Week Eight: Blade Runner (1983)

In the most recent class, we live-tweeted the film Blade Runner. I thought this was great, as I am also exploring this film for my video essay.

The class seemed to be very interested in the setting of the film and the lack of nature/ lighting. I contributed to this by highlighting “Blade Runner can be seen as a reflection of its zeitgeist through Scott’s use of film noir which was developed after WWII and took advantage of the post-war anxiety, pessimism, and suspicion” and also “I really think that the artificial world shows the concerns of rampant technology and society being disturbed by industrialism and consumerism, I guess Scott wasn’t too far off reality”. I think these two tweets added greater value to the understanding of the setting of the film as well as the meaning behind it.

Interestingly my most liked tweet was my final tweet for the class “Roy Batty dying to save Deckard’s life, despite him being a replicant, shows true humanity. By symbolically marking his death with the flight of a dove he can be seen as elevated to the status of a human being with a soul”. I think this is because the idea provides a sense of resolve for the conflicting ideas of humanity and technology in the film.

 

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Image still of the final scene before Roy Batty’s death in the film ‘The Matrix’, taken from http://www.criticalcommons.org/Members/mdmuell2/clips/roy-battys-death/view

I also think that this tweet “Memories is a reoccurring theme in futuristic Sci Fi movies, history memory and the future. Signified by old photos” by @Chloeevic was very interesting and replied, “This just makes me think my memory is getting a whole lot worse because Google has always got my back.” I thought this was particularly insightful, as this is also an idea I explored in week one of live-tweeting looking at the dependency on technology and how the internet has become a part of the common sense way in which we understand and remember things. I think the fact that this idea is reoccurring in other films exemplifies the significance of the idea, as well as the significance of dystopian texts in reflecting on our own society.

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Slideshow: Compilation of tweets from April 26th 2018, screen-grabbed from my personal twitter @kristyyrenae

Overall, I think live-tweeting was a great way to share ideas and allow for discussions around the relevance and significance of ‘Future Cultures’ and understanding technology. I look forward to further exploring some of these ideas, particularly the relevance of dystopian texts in my final video essay.

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The Evolution of Dystopia

 “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.”

― George Orwell, 1984

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 Orwell’s reference of the future, illustrated by Monie Wolverton in a recent context, demonstrating the relevance of oppression and authoritarian dominance seen in the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement. Image sourced from CagleCartoons.com

It may not have been Orwell’s intent, but in saying that, George Orwell effectively demonstrated the authoritarian dominance of power which exists within the 21st Century. This idea, that a dystopian text can highlight the potential of society’s flawed traits to transcend into dystopic, chaotic realities was previously explored in my blog ‘Dystopias of yesterday as today’s reality’. Within the blog, I distinguished potential texts which highlight this concern and relevant research into the dystopian genre. However, in developing a video essay, I have chosen to narrow my focus and instead focus on four main texts to showcase the potential and relevance of dystopian texts in contemporary society.  ‘Just Another Media Blog’  has also, previously dissected dystopian texts to compare to contemporary society as seen here. However, through curating a video essay I hope to further develop and contextualise this idea in relation to contemporary societal concerns and crises.

Through examining and analysing the vast list of texts I had previously curated, it was evident that a fundamental aspect of many of them was the interdependence of an array of concepts, primarily, an authoritarian government preventing a lack of autonomy, censorship, and an omnipresent government surveillance. Often, this interdependence emerged as a result of the technology or in conjunction with technology resulting in a lack of humanity. Therefore, I will explore the interdependence of these concepts in a range of texts and their relevance today.

These texts are:

  1. 1984– The 1984 Film Adaptation of the 1949 George Orwell Novel

2. Blade Runner– 1982 Film

3. Fahrenheit 451– The 1966 Film Adaptation of the 1953 Ray Bradbury Novel

4. The Hunger Games– 2012 Film

Between these texts, the interdependence of the concepts listed above can be seen to span 6 decades of literature and film. To highlight this, I will create a video essay which is explained in greater detail in a podcast here.  Below is the list of dominant concerns from the texts and their relevance today which will be included in the video essay to show how the texts, which are “a detailed and pessimistic presentation of the very worst of social alternatives“, have become realities.

  • Authoritarian Government preventing a lack of autonomy:

In examining the texts this emerges as a fundamental concern. In 1984, INGSOC/ Big Brother control society through surveillance, propaganda and policing thoughts. In Fahrenheit 451, the book burners control the people through burning knowledge. In Blade Runner, the Tyrell Corporation can be seen as the authoritarian government, controlling society, whilst the Capitol is the controlling state in The Hunger Games. Today, the Marxist theory of an authoritarian government preventing a lack of autonomy is daunting as our economic freedoms have been altered through neoliberal policies which allow the wealthiest people of the world to remain powerful as David Harvey explains “has become incorporated into the commonsense way we […] understand the world”.

 

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Example of propaganda used in 1984 to ensure control of the state. Sourced from High Noon blog at https://davidoffutt.wordpress.com/2017/02/28/trump-and-the-g-o-p-1984/orwell-1984-propaganda/ which contrasts 1984 propaganda to President Trump‘s use of propaganda.
  • Censorship:

Censorship in these films is very direct. In 1984, censorship occurs as the state controls the past, often altering reality. In Fahrenheit 451, censorship is very obviously seen in the practice of book burning as well as through radio and television. In Blade Runner, censorship can be seen through the contrast in Blade Runner’s and replicants, as Blade Runners are provided with only the knowledge that the state deems necessary. This is evident when Deckard is unaware of Rachael’s replicant status. In the Hunger Games, censorship can be seen through what is shown from the games as well as what the state chooses to keep from the districts. In the current context, censorship can be seen in many aspects of both Eastern and Western societies including China’s approach to Internet sovereignty as Min Jiang explains the need for the regimes cyber policies and users to “tear down the Great Firewall” and present “greater transparency, accountability, and freedom”. Whilst in Western societies, there is concern about censorship through the limitations of the freedom of information and the fear of net neutrality.

  • Surveillance:

In 1984, surveillance can be seen through telescreens, child spies, and the thought police. Fahrenheit 451 uses firemen and the reports of neighbors to monitor society, whilst Blade Runner uses a constantly roving spotlight, present throughout the film. This suggests constant surveillance, as well as the ‘panopticon’ approach, where one can be unsure if they are being watched or not when it is possible to be monitored at all times. The Hunger Games has an omnipresent surveillance system throughout the games as well as state-employed soldiers and aircraft which monitor the districts. In relation to contemporary concerns, Simson Garfinkel highlights that “today, more than ever before, we are witnessing the daily erosion of personal privacy and freedom. We’re victims of a war on privacy that’s being waged by government eavesdroppers, business marketers, and nosy neighbors.” He elaborates, highlighting that metadata, online tracking, and surveillance cameras have meant that our human right to privacy is in grave peril.

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Image of the surveillance systems present in ‘The Hunger Games’, sourced from Panem et Circenses blog at https://panemetcircenseshungergames.wordpress.com/2016/12/18/playing-with-fire-surveillance-punishment-ageism-in-the-hunger-games/ which highlights the rule of many by the few. 

All of these concepts within the texts, collectively, demonstrate a lack of humanity in the societies they present, as well as the relevance of them today. Therefore, will make a compelling and powerful video essay. If you would like further understanding of the development of the video essay, the video below shows an initial construction of excerpts from the texts in relation to surveillance.

 

Academic References:

Garfinkel, S., 2000. Database nation: the death of privacy in the 21st century. ” O’Reilly Media, Inc.”.

Harvey, D., 2007. Neoliberalism as creative destruction. The annals of the American academy of political and social science610(1), pp.21-44.

Jiang, M., 2010. Authoritarian informationalism: China’s approach to internet sovereignty. SAIS Review of International Affairs30(2), pp.71-89.

Moylan, T. and Baccolini, R. eds., 2003. Dark horizons: Science fiction and the dystopian imagination. Psychology Press.

Moylan, T., 2018. Scraps of the untainted sky: Science fiction, utopia, dystopia. Routledge.

 

Dystopias of yesterday as today’s reality

“The chief obstacle to the progress of the human race is the human race”.

          – Don Marquis

We are our own worst nightmare. Philosopher, Don Marquis famously illuminated the idea that the human race is an obstacle to itself. This idea is one that has been seen in many schools of thought and seemingly dominates the premise of dystopian texts, which typically ascribe to the science fiction or cyberpunk genre.

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In looking at these genres, and their dystopian counterparts it is clearly evident that the extensive work of academics and researchers to prove and distinguish the role of dystopian texts as sharing “a commitment to “social critique” is undeniably true. This social critique allows for society to reflect on their own sense of reality, presenting itself as a warning against contextual concerns and the decline of society. Maria Varsam iterates this idea in her work “Concrete Dystopia: Slavery and Its Others”, stating that “Without a successful process of identification, the reader will not be convinced of the narrator’s critique of the present, and the Utopian impulse implicit in the dystopian narrative will have failed in its purpose to warn of future, potentially, catastrophic developments.”

It is this idea, that dystopian texts serve the fundamental purpose of warning humanity against the potential of its flawed traits to transcend into dystopic, chaotic realities that I will seek to explore through my Digital Artefact. In doing so, I will explore a range of texts and assess how the concerns presented in the text have become relevant realities within our own society, despite having drastically different contextual concerns and having presented the absurd idea’s that we see today.

Fukyama further distinguishes the relevance of contextual concerns, denoting that dystopian texts such as ‘George Orwell’s 1984 (first published in 1949), and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (published in 1932) “were far more prescient than anyone realized at the time, because they were centered on two different technologies that would in fact emerge and define the world over the next two generations… information technology and biotechnology”. This further highlights how the dystopias of the past are relevant in contemporary society. In examining the present concerns, situations and relevance, these issues, among others, are present today and show the predictions of the past have become startlingly accurate. So the question remains, have we really accepted or even recognised that dystopias highlight humanity’s potential flawed traits? And, if we really have, why are more recent dystopic texts still relevant?

In exploring this idea, my objective is to provide both visual and oral critique and commentary (visual essay) on the issues our society is currently facing, and how notable producers and authors have already offered insight into the outcomes of “totalitarian collectivism” as Claey’s denoted, “it is generally conceded that in the twentieth century dystopia becomes the predominant expression of the utopian ideal, mirroring the colossal failures of totalitarian collectivism.”

Through looking at some of the most profound dystopian texts over time, including films and novels, I have compiled a list of texts from which I will be able to analysis and critique, highlighting how they have found a place in contemporary society. An example of this is the role of information censorship in George Orwell’s novel, ‘1984’ which can now be compared to the threat of ‘net neutrality’ in the twenty-first century. Potential texts to explore are:

Films:

Novels:

However, it should be noted that to meet my objective of informing the audience of the relevance of dystopian texts, that in exploring novels, I may include their film adaptations to be able to both visually and orally critique the texts and allow for maximum engagement from the audience. Furthermore, through exploring texts from the twentieth century as well as more recent examples, I will be able to highlight how the importance of such texts has transcended over time, as Tom Moylan explains “all dystopia’s offer a detailed and pessimistic presentation of the very worst of social alternatives.” Following deconstructing the texts, I will be able to assess the relevance and assertiveness of argument that the films and novels listed present, to contribute the video (digital artefact).

“All dystopia’s offer a detailed and pessimistic presentation of the very worst of social alternatives.”

                                     – Tom Moylan, Scraps Of The Untainted Sky

Through looking at these examples of texts, it is evident that dystopias typically present ubiquitous government surveillance, censorship, and technology as potential flaws in humankind.  It is this sociotechnical system, of human kinds complex interaction with these concepts that have been represented across time, and will allow for this digital artefact to be effective in enlightening and informing audience’s to reflect and accept dystopian texts as a powerful tool in altering perceptions and liberating humankind from a being a threat to themselves. If we can change our flaws, we can change our future, because if a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, then one may say that mankind is only as strong as our greatest flaw.

References:

Claeys, G., 2010. The origins of dystopia: Wells, Huxley and Orwell. The Cambridge comparison to utopian literature, pp.107-134.

Fukuyama, F., 2002. Our posthuman future. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 101.

Moylan, T. and Baccolini, R. eds., 2003. Dark horizons: Science fiction and the dystopian imagination. Psychology Press.

Moylan, T., 2018. Scraps of the untainted sky: Science fiction, utopia, dystopia. Routledge.

Potter, G., 2012. imaginaries and Realities, utopia and dystopia. Alternate Routes: A Journal of Critical Social Research23.

Thompson, W.E., Hickey, J.V. and Thompson, M.L, 2016. Society in focus: An introduction to sociology. Rowman & Littlefield.

Varsam, M., 2003. Concrete dystopia: slavery and its others. Dark horizons: Science fiction and the dystopian imagination, pp.203-224.

Bursting the Online Political Bubble

Through the previous two blog posts, ‘Politics in the Age of Facebook‘ and ‘Sticking to the Status Quo?‘ it is clearly evident that Facebook affects political opinion by promoting contagion of opinions and polarising perspectives. However, these posts failed to recognise the dangerous implications this affect may have.

In examining the polarisation that Facebook has on political opinions, it revealed that groups and pages, which individuals followed as they aligned with their own personal opinions allowed for the acceptance of information to support their own opinions regardless of its accuracy. This is illuminated by Christine Emba of the Washington Post who presented research which shows Facebook users tendency to accept inaccurate, false information shared in echo chambers in support of their political opinion. This proves to be problematic as, “the tendency to promote one’s favoured narrative is natural, but too much confirmation distances us from other perspectives and makes us unable to see the truth when it’s finally presented”.

This is evident in the example of ‘Pauline Hanson/ One Nation Supporters & Discussion Forum’ presented in ‘Sticking to the Status Quo?’ which presents both inaccurate and demoralising opinions in various posts as they favour the dominant political opinions and values of the group, which include stronger immigration policies. This is revealed in the image below which was explained in ‘Sticking to the Status Quo?’.

 

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Reactions to the post seen in Image 1.1

By looking at the comments, which some may consider to be debate, presented in the images above it clearly illuminates the prevalence of Facebook users accepting inaccurate information, including the idea that the United Nations would be against promoting the safety of refugees or favour death of persecuted individuals. This as well as derogatory, degrading language seen, including “black scum”, favours the dominant political opinions of the echo chamber which includes perceptions of  Muslim immigration as encouraging “threatening migrants”. These negative political opinions which Facebook is able to encourage and cultivate online through its polarising affect on political opinions within Australia is then able to translate into real life discrimination and xenophobia. This correlation between the affect of Facebook on political opinion and societal perceptions is distinguished by professor Andrew Markus, who draws links between support for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party and the alienation and discrimination of significant sections of the Muslim community as a polarisation in attitudes creates a disparity in the fight between multiculturalism and free speech.

However, Dr. Ian Cook reveals challenging this online polarisation will be an ongoing struggle as engaging in politics online will continue, stating,

“It’s hard to develop sophisticated and nuanced positions on any form of social media, but they are hard to achieve via the mass media too. We can’t go back. We’re not going to go back to using the traditional mass media to get our news.”

This research illuminates that in order to widen societies scope of political opinions, as well as the consideration and acceptance of a diversity of ideas, Facebook users must first become aware of the affect of contagion when engaging with politics on the platform. This awareness must then translate into an active effort to consume a wider spectrum of political content on Facebook, which may present many different theoretical and practical approaches to politics creating a more diverse and accepting society, free from being negatively affected by a bubble of polarising political opinions online.

 

Sticking to your Status Quo?

As previously discussed in ‘Politics in the Age of Facebook’, Facebook has rapidly emerged as a non traditional news platform in which audiences are able to engage with Australian politics. However, research has revealed that the affect of Facebook on political opinions is predominantly polarising with academics such as Dr. Ian Cook and millennials revealing the overwhelming potential for Facebook to result in the contagion of political opinions and its inability to affect change on audience opinions.

In examining the potential for contagion of political opinions on Facebook, it is clearly evident that it is the primary affect of the platform, with many groups existing to cultivate support for politicians and political ideas. One of strongest examples of this in relation to Australian politics is the ‘Pauline Hanson/ One Nation Supporters & Discussion Forum’. The private Facebook group, seen below, boasts almost 50,000 members, with the majority playing an active role in discussion. As the group title suggests it cultivates and encourages the support of Pauline Hanson and her ‘One Nation’ political party.

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By becoming a member of this private group it is easy to see the way in which Dr. Cook describes the potential for contagion on Facebook as he claims,

“Even when people join groups or follow news outlets that present a position counter to theirs, it is mostly to find out what the “enemy” thinks. So Facebook seems mostly about contagion.”

The privacy settings of the Facebook page appears to be significant in cultivating a large following with highly active posts and debates. This is because previous research suggests “that “liking” more right-wing political entities caused approximately 20% more anxiety than “liking” more liberal rivals such as the Labour Party… as appearing more right-wing on Facebook is perceived as being more socially undesirable.” However, by remaining a ‘closed group’, members are able to share opinions whilst remaining unseen, which the research suggested as a likely outcome of such groups as “if people were given the option to “like” political pages secretly then they would be more likely to do so”.

The below screen captures show some of the posts and discussion from the ‘closed’  ‘Pauline Hanson/ One Nation Supporters & Discussion Forum’.

Post and Discussion 1:

 

This post reveals how the private group cultivates support for one predominant political opinion , which aligns with Pauline Hanson’s political views towards immigration policies. However, it also reveals the power of polarisation and contagion as members who do not agree with the majority are ridiculed and prompted to “jump on the bandwagon” of the page’s dominant political opinions.

Post and Discussion 2:

This post reveals the potential for Facebook to affect political action, through encouraging the dominant political opinion and shows how Facebook pages such as this one allow individuals to follow outlets provided by people with whom they agree with which Dr. Cook distinguished as a contagion of political opinion.

Post and Discussion 3:

This post reveals how Facebook has the power to affect political opinion, as individuals are able to share opinions which resemble their own. Through a discussion with another millennial this was clear as she stated,

 “I only share political opinions I agree with and if I share ones I don’t agree with, it is to criticise them, not affect change”.

This shows how users are able to remediate authority by ‘microbroasting’ which research illuminated in the prequel post ‘Politics in the Age of Facebook’. It also reveals the shifting dynamics in engaging with politics as individuals are able now engaging with politics through non-traditional media platforms, as dominant media and news corporations continue to remain significant in a digital age through Facebook and society remains engaged with politics in this way. Researcher Kartik Hosanagar reveals that through examining the affect of Facebook on political opinions, one is far more likely to see a polarisation of opinions as political content typically encourages a fragmentation of opinions which is aided by the likelihood of developing off and online relationships with people who share similar opinions, the algorithmic nature of the platform to present information relevant to you and ones own preference to engage political content that is likely to reinforce our existing views rather than challenge them. This exemplifies Facebook’s ability to affect political opinions as it allows individuals to be “living in a bubble and barely registering in the minds of people who don’t share their viewpoint“.

 

 

Politics in the Age of Facebook

There is no doubt that social media has rapidly become a revolutionary platform for communication and among social media platforms, Facebook has remained relevant throughout the past decade.  As it remains significant, the scope in which people use it to communicate widens, introducing new levels of real world issues into the online world, including politics.

Through research and engaging with social media it is easy to see that “everyday social media use means that individuals do not need to formally join traditional political organisations to be involved in, or access information about, collective forms of politics“. It is this engagement that can be said to affect political opinions, however, there is ongoing debate about whether this has a positive or negative affect on individual political opinions within Australia.

While politics can be seen on Facebook, academics such as Dr. Ian Cook argue that,

“Facebook isn’t a medium that lends itself to political debate. The sites that news organisations provide generally attract comments from people with differing political positions and that’s where you find something that looks like debate. Mostly, though, it’s just people reacting without them actually debating.”

This is evident through looking at news organisations online following and the way in which Facebook users engage with their content. The image below presents current political content from ABC News, which allows audiences to share, comment and react to information.

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Image 1.1: Sourced from ABC News Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/abcnews.au/
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Image 1.2: Reactions on ABC News post which follow Image 1.1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whilst Dr. Cook would be accurate in describing people’s engagement with politics on Facebook as a reaction rather than debate, the feature which allows users to reply encourages debate. However, as seen in Image 1.2 above, ‘debates’ can often be uneducated and cultivate negative reactions which remain true to their opinion.

Research suggests that,

“While political information found on social media sites may originally come from sources such as traditional media or political actors, users remediate authority and information by sharing – or ‘micro-broadcasting’  – in their peer-to-peer social networks.”

– A. Vromena, M.A. Xenosb and Brian Loaderc

Through looking at the ABC post about Labour minister Ian McDonald, the post had 81 shares, to 930 reactions. This reveals how engaging with politics on Facebook may not have a substantial affect on political opinions within Australia. This disparity between sharing and engagement may have a large significance in understanding how Facebook affects political opinions as interviews with millennials revealed, they

“(I) keep up to date with politics by following news pages on Facebook, but I never comment or share my opinions because I don’t think my friends would care about seeing that on Facebook”.

This idea was further reiterated by the Conversation, with their research suggesting “that users are worried about others’ perceptions of their political views and voting choices – so much so that they are reluctant to “like” a political party on Facebook”. This research however, is not inclusive of all Facebook users and allows for Facebook to affect some political opinions although “tends to attract the already engaged rather than mobilise those with no prior interest” which researchers suggest creates a polarisation of opinions. Through further discussion with millennials, one revealed that they actively seek groups and pages with political information and debate on Facebook which differs from their own, although most of the content they tend to disagree with. Through actively engaging with content that has the ability to affect their political opinion they distinguished the use of Facebook over traditional media platforms. This is illuminated in the following video from Sky News, which discussed the current relevance of Facebook  to Australian politics as traditional media audiences are reducing significantly and people are turning to platforms such as Facebook, which now has enormous reach within Australia, with approximately two thirds to three quarters of the Australian population very engaged.

However, most research points to Facebook having an ineffective affect on changing or influencing political opinion, as audiences engage with content which agrees with their own opinion. Dr. Cook from Murdoch University summarised this stating,

“In most cases, we join the Facebook groups or follow news outlets provided by people with whom we agree.”

This encourages not only a polarisation of ideas but the emergence of echo chambers on Facebook, which the millennial previously mentioned distinguished as he actively seeks groups and pages which share one opinion, that differs from his own. Despite research showing Facebook continuing to emerge as a significant platform of engaging with politics in Australia, it remains questionable the affect this engagement has on political opinions. The research highlights a disparity in Facebook’s affect on political opinion with academics and millennials alike revealing the potential for Facebook to encourage and promote a polarisation and contagion of opinions.

Humans are more important then animals, right?

In examining animals in the media it is easy to understand the fascination and entertainment value of such places as zoos and wildlife parks. However, it is also easy to dismiss the fact that this valued entertainment comes at a cost, not only to the viewer but the animal. For the most part, this entertainment is primarily successful through exploitation, by placing animals in captivity.
This exploitation is seen in the documentary ‘Blackfish (2013)‘ which advocates against killer whales in captivity. Similarly, the popular news program ‘The Project’ also highlighted negative outcomes and impacts of dolphins in captivity, as seen in the news clip linked here. The clip highlights plans from the RSPCA and Australia for Dolphins to use consumer law to form a case against the treatment and care of dolphins at ‘Marine Magic Park’ as part of a wider agenda to phase out dolphin captivity in Australia. It outlines the negative effects of captivity on dolphins physical and mental wellbeing identifying dolphins as ‘depressed’.
Despite these issues becoming popular societal concerns, the captivity of animals is not only restricted to water animals, but land animals alike which became very apparent after the tragedy turned media sensation at Cincinnati Zoo in 2016. This tragedy was none other then the death of ‘Harambe‘. The outbreak of support for Harambe that followed his death after a child fell into his enclosure, included countless memes and media support. This also brought about debates questioning human-kinds anthropocentric nature and the exploitation and unfair practice of keeping animals in captivity. This reaction can be explained by David L. J. Gerber , Claudine Burton-Jeangros and Annik Dubie as their journal ‘Animals in the Media’ explains:
“In several recent events, animals have been portrayed as vectors of risk: sick cows and birds as carriers of pathogenic agents likely to provoke important epidemics among humans, wild animals that become a threat to humans in a supposedly safe natural environment, and domesticated dogs that bite and kill children.”
These situations not only challenge the idea of human mastery over
the environment, but they also question the relationships developed between humans
and animals. Similar to the idea of challenging human dominance, Randy Malamud, author of ‘Representations of Animals and Captivity’ believes that rather than fostering an appreciation for the lives and attributes of animals, “zoos, reinforce the idea that we are, by nature, an imperial species: that our power and ingenuity entitles us to violate the natural order by tearing animals from the fabric of their ecosystems and displaying them in an “order” of our own making. This order can be explained by the image below which demonstrates how speciesism differs greatly from nature.
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This idea that humans are an imperial species, brings about questions regarding the anthropomorphism of animals such as Harambe, the gorilla. Psychologist Joe Pierre highlights how anthropomorphising animals such as Harambe can be dangerously misleading as although much of the public outrage carried claims such as “He was protecting the child”, to make such an assumption could have been detrimental to the child’s wellbeing as although he was initially holding the child’s hand, that does not mean he could not have then caused serious harm having felt threatened by the audience. This then leads to further questions including, ‘Was the child’s life more valuable then Harambes?’, ‘Why do we as humans think we are imperial to other species?’ and of course, ‘Did Harambe really have to die?’ The clip of the Harambe incident below, shows the events which resulted in the gorillas death and many reactions and such questions.
The answer to such questions is very easily debated with both advocacy for and against the idea of speciesism. However, the bigger question at hand should not be whether Harambe should have lived but rather should Harambe have been in captivity? Research highlights that captivity has had ongoing negative effects on gorillas, including obesity, as many captive gorillas including Koko, the gorilla famous for understanding sign language, are obese due to consuming more food and moving around less in captivity. So, whether you believe Harambe should have been shot or not may have been relevant in the context of 2016, but the idea that he shouldn’t have been there in the first place remains relevant in the context of animal rights.