ANALYSIS OF PREVIOUS BLOG

In my last post, I wrote as therapeutic, as Ellis et al suggest, that kind of writing encouraged my “personal responsibility and agency, raising consciousness and promoting cultural change.” I feel that my last post was a perfect example of therapeutic writing as I related back to my personal experiences of a multicultural lifestyle.

It is interesting to observe how my investigations become structured by my own cultural framework. I find that my writing, rather consistently, takes the path of a personal narrative, Personal narratives are stories about authors who view themselves as the phenomenon and write evocative narratives specifically focused on their academic, research, and personal lives (e.g., BERRY, 2007; GOODALL, 2006; POULOS, 2008; TILLMANN, 2009). By the act of doing this blog post, it seems to me that I have to try and look at myself subjectively and analyse my previous work as if I was seeing it for the first time.

Reading back over the last blog, it is evident that I am very aware of the diversity of culture, yet tend to overlook it, in favour of viewing the human condition, everyone as connected, and the same at the very core. I feel as though I have the planet inside me. I don’t feel an identity towards my nationality or culture. However, I feel that expressing, or realising this is the point, I created a reflective examination of myself, I investigated questions of my culture, or lack-of, as well as identity.

my series of blogs has been very much an investigation of self, diving in and dissecting various aspects of perception. At this point I think it will be interesting to bring up the movie Snowpeircer. Why that movie? you may ask, well firstly the movie is a forien art house film, which combines some hollywood elements in it. The train is a representation of the world, therefor an important ethnographic text. The film examines cultural and religious themes, and ideas about systems, identities and social structure.

I can draw a parallel between the train and myself, the train is a small place, relative the the planet of course, yet within it, a diverse range of people, class and places exist. This is what I feel inside of myself, I feel diverse and aware. There was a scene in the film where the lower class of people where fighting the hooded figures with weapons, there was a key moment in this fight. The key moment happened when the train was about to reach the bridge (marking a new year). One of the leaders yelled for everyone to stop fighting, and for a breif minute everyone was together in the experience, a shared common feeling. I mention this because I said earlier that I tend to favour veiwing the shared human condition that underlies out so called ‘differences.’

In conclusion, I observe myself with a universal mindset, an open mind and with my truth in tact, I feel we never quite have a full grasp on culture and what people are going through, we may be able to understand it acadmically, but I am of the opinion that that is half the struggle.

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Independent Auto Ethnographic Experience

Personally, I find it difficult to identify myself as belonging to a specific culture, as I grew up being witness to, and influenced by many. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Asia, in places such as Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and China. So, when it came to relating to movies in an ethnographic sense, I found that I could not describe my interpretations from one specific standpoint, save maybe Hollywood films.

Interestingly, even though I could be considered well-travelled, I had little to no understanding of cultural context. I’ve grown up consuming typically western media, so I do feel that my thinking falls more along the lines of the western world. I have been grateful for being able to interact with foreign films, it has been as if I am watching great movies starring ‘regular people’ which is an interesting feeling. Of course, I am aware of their fame in their respective countries, but I haven’t been exposed to these actors in my life. I’ve become accustomed to placing the merit or quality of a movie based upon my familiarity with the actors. I feel that it is safe to say that my eyes have been open to a whole new world of expression, be it in the same medium.

It is helpful that I have grown up in multiple countries and as such, I do not see skin tone or race when I look at a person, I don’t perceive someone physically but rather I perceive them based on how they feel to me. Perhaps this is another reason I missed certain cultural contexts, because I focused on the emotions that were portrayed, and thus perceived the film in a more universal sense i.e. the human condition. I perceive the world through energy, through being, which is to say my true nature, I don’t often use my mind to perceive objects or people around me. It is difficult for me to be intellectual in my analysis of culture, hopefully, through this subject, I can learn to balance intellect with my perceptions, I think this will give a much more unique insight, at least personally.

Overall, I think I can say that I have had somewhat of a multicultural experience of this subject and exposure to a whole new style of filmmaking and presentation of ideas. Which suits the way I have grown up. I have concluded that because I have always known there are different ways of looking at the world, that I adjusted easily to the films.

Cultural Appropriation? – The REAL issue

While I was watching the last lecture, I was kind of rolling my eyes at the video clips that talked about cultural appropriation. Because in my opinion the ‘appropriation’ taking place is on a surface level, i.e. hair, at best. All I can see is people creating more divisions between themselves over something that is not even their identity. I say this because I believe that we are not our body, it is not something to be identified with, so how can one person truly take your culture and appropriate it, if it is just on the level of an image?

I think that the true issues of cultural appropriation have been trivialised by people getting offended about a white guy wearing a Native American Headdress on Halloween for example, or indeed an ‘image’. The true issue when it comes to cultural appropriation is using an image of a Native American chief, that was murdered in Columbus’ time, for the logo of a football team.

Music is something that should be open to all, what gives a particular group the right to own a music genre? Yes, they can be the original creators, but I feel that if you want to get angry that a ‘white’ artist copied the aesthetics of your culture, it is more a problem with yourself, because you could choose to be proud of the people keeping it to the roots of the culture. I argue that it just furthers divisions to care weather ‘Riff-raff’ wears grills or not.

I have done some research and I will provide links to Tom MacDonald, a hip hop artist who explains what I am trying to say in a much more efficient way:

This song addressed cultural appropriation, more so in the second verse, he states “On Halloween, for one evening only you wear what you want, unless it’s a poncho, headdress or afro, you’ll piss someone off.” Tom echo’s my sentiments, I do think that our issues with supposed cultural appropriation has become trivial, especially in hip-hop, we have a culture of having to be politically correct and as such anything can be deemed offensive.

A line in this song stands out to me, “We all bleed the same, Martin Luther King or Kennedy. They’re angry I’m reciting the facts, he’s white and he raps, he stole the culture right from the blacks… You’re letting history perpetuate the hatred within, then you paint me with the same brush you painted slave owners with!”

This just accentuates what I mentioned earlier, how we allow ourselves to get angry at superficial copying of culture when the real culture still exists, we are not our body, so why does it matter if a white person braids his or her hair? What should matter is that person’s intentions with what they are doing, what is their message? Do they stand with the oppressed? Do they try to be a character they are not on the inside, while purporting to be someone else? On the level of the physical body, we shouldn’t care.

Just watch this sarcastic/satirical music video and hopefully you will understand what the true problems are. “Black Power says I’m the problem, Girl Power says I’m the issue,
Gay rights think I’m tryna stop ’em, all of y’all trippin’ I’ll get you some tissues.” He is judged based on his skin colour as the problem and cultural appropriator.

“If I was black I’d hate America, appropriate my character and sell it to Caucasian men who wish they were from our area!” Here Tom highlights the actual issue with cultural appropriation, the systematic oppression of black culture by way of ‘white washing.’ It isn’t the individual artist (clearly) as Tom is standing with the oppressed, rapping and wearing braids, he is genuine is his music and views, his appearance is to pay homage to the culture he is a part of. He is saying that he isn’t the problem because his heart is in the right place, his intention is not to oppress or ‘steal’ a culture, he supports it wholeheartedly.

A Television Memory – By Ijumaa Stephenson

When I was a child I lived in the city of Gaborone, Botswana, which is a country in Africa. I lived with my mother, who enjoyed watching movies of an evening, either on DVD or a movie channel. Television in my house played a big part in my childhood. I remember growing up playing Nintendo 64 with my Dad, which was what TV in our home was mainly used for.

Television usage took place in a relaxed room, the TV sat on a coffee table, which had a table cloth over it. On top of the TV sat one of those old-style portable antennas, ‘Rabbit Ears’ I think they were referred to as. There was never more than one TV in the house, and it was always in the living room. I remember sitting with mum or dad, maybe both, all cuddled up watching a movie. My mum never played video games, so dad and I would sit on the floor versing each other in ‘James Bond 007: GoldenEye’ or ‘Mario Kart.’

I misbehaved a lot when it concerned gaming, I would rage quit and throw my controller down if I lost. The fighting game, ‘Tekken 2’ on PlayStation 1, is a game which caused me a lot of rages, I got in trouble many times for my conduct. I got so upset with loosing, that I deliberately scratched the game disc, wow!

Later in life, after my parents split up, my experience of TV changed quite a bit. When I was with my dad, we were usually travelling so I was often out playing in nature and living a pretty sweet van life. When we weren’t in Botswana we would stay at hotels where we would watch a movie. When I was with my mum, she was in a house, living near where she worked. With mum, it was a pretty typical style of living and therefore TV watching, however, I did still play outdoors more than watch TV. The TV had never really been a large part of my life, it was periphery, in fact now that I think about it, most movies were watched by way of DVD in a laptop, while a TV was used for gaming.

A moment of TV that particularly stands out in my memory is when I was quite small, living in Australia. I remember waking up earlier than mum and dad, I turned on the television and found The Simpsons. I liked it because I thought it was just a cartoon, but I was never allowed to watch it. So, when dad woke up, he saw me watching the show and chuckled as he asked, “What are you doing watching the Simpsons?” and proceeded to change the channel to the news. The news was reporting a bush fire, later that day we saw a fire in town and I asked if it was the same fire that had been on TV.  Through that news item, I can see the impact it had on my mind, as I used it as a reference point.

I suppose all this is of interest because TV or lack-there-of is intertwined with my growing up process, in some way media had been involved in my learning, I played PC games at a young age and I did educational activities on a laptop. I have had a good balance of media to real-world in my childhood, which I tend to think is important, a balance that is, too much of any one thing can yield a toxic result.

MOVIE REVEIW – SNOWPIERCER

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The movie that I watched for this weeks blog post was ‘Snowpiercer’ directed by South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho. Snowpiercer is a film that follows the events of a failed attempt to counteract the effects of global warming, resulting in a worldwide catastrophe that freezes the Earth.  The only survivors reside on train ruled by a class system that spawns a rebellion from those at the back of the train, who seek to redistribute the privilege and wealth that the passengers at the front of the train enjoy.

The film was partly made in Tyrol, Austria to shoot snowy scenery, however, ninety per cent of the film was shot on set. The film is a combination of many genres, including action/adventure, science fiction, and thriller.  It bears the attributes of an art-house film with its creative presentation while its visual execution maintains the quality and excitement commonly associated with blockbuster Hollywood films.

In my opinion, one needs a broad cultural knowledge to be able to perceive this film in totality, I do not possess all that is required to understand the film so I will be answering the blog questions to the limit of my cultural understanding.

Cultural knowledge needed:

Firstly you need to understand class systems, which is the obvious theme we should all notice right away. We need to understand that oppression is a universal thing (shown through the diverse characters in the tail carriage). Due to my cultural background and my experiences I have a different perspective and feeling about what oppression is like. The film showed that just because someone is a white blue-eyed male does not mean life is a breeze and not-oppressive. It also displayed that bashings by authorities are not just limited to African-Americans like the media shows.

To understand the context of the film one must be able to grasp religious themes, especially Christian in nature. The engine is referred to as, “Sacred,” the people are in a “pre-ordained position,” the conductor is referred to as the “divine keeper of the sacred engine.”

There is a scene when in the middle of a bloody fight, where the train is approaching a bridge (which represents a year passed when reached) and everyone stops fighting to look out the window. From my cultural understanding, I saw the scene as representing our shared humanity, in those moments all ideology, beliefs and identifications were washed away, they all became one.

The conglomeration of different cultures in its creation is important to remember as current films are marked by globalization. The main language in the film is English, however, there is some Korean. Snowpiercer is a film whose themes, like its making, transcends borders and boundaries, combining culture in a fascinating way.

This is the best I can explain what I watched in the context asked of me, I used my cultural background to the best of my ability hopefully I shed some light of understanding on how this film can be perceived and enjoyed, thank you.

 

 

Wollongong Campus: S C R E E N S

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Smartphones, public screens and digital signage are commonplace and seemingly unquestioned as to why they are there in the first place. I took a stroll around the campus to make a mental note of how all of these screens were being used around the campus.

What I observed in the case of smartphones was that most people were using social media, even while walking between locations. “My respondents reported that they often engage with social media whilst on the move and are aware of the online presence of people in their social media networks. They can be regarded as digital wayfarers.” (Marsha Berry (2015) Out in the open: Locating new vernacular practices with smartphone cameras).

Public screens appeared to be largely ignored. An endless torrent of advertisements and events that will be on in the near future. I know that I don’t refer to the public screens around campus to discover any information, I look at my Facebook events page. In the lecture theatre, I often catch glimpses of what people are doing on their laptop. Common activities are looking at facebook, messaging or online shopping.

One thing remains clear, all of these screens are part of our everyday lives, there is a “seamless yet messy interrelationship between daily routines and interactions with networked communication.” (Marsha Berry (2015) Out in the open: Locating new vernacular practices with smartphone cameras). We go about our day sharing the mundane or looking up information, purchasing products or talking to friends. 

Screens are used to do our assignments, we can employ journalistic practises with our phones, take photos and videos, with many subjects in my degree a key component is an online presense. In BCM320 for example, we are asked to ‘live tweet’ (post on Twitter) while watching a movie. In my experience I have used my smartphone to compleate many uni tasks, from filmaking to posting online.

Asides from smartphones, digital signage and public screens are only really used for displaying set information, they are not interactive and most tend to walk by them without consideration (I know I do) besides, most would be looking down into their own private screen.

Smartphones are also being used to get around campus, there is an app called ‘Lost On Campus’ that shows where all the buildings are. It is interesting to note that I don’t use this app but refer to the non-digital signage around campus for building directions, maybe sometime in the future that signage will be replaced by a screen.

Concluding statement:

Public screens seem to play a small role in peoples lives around campus, while the private screen, i.e. phones and laptops, play a big part in peoples lives. They play a part that is seemlessly interwoven into our patterns and lifestyle, we are communicating and creating through these devices, we are documenting and storing information at an astonishing capacity. It would seem then, that through smartphones we talk to our freinds, compleate our tasks and consume media content, an all in one package.

A K I R A

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“Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience.”(Ellis, et al, 2011). This means that the way in which we veiw a culture is seen through our own perspective and cultural background.

Akira was a strange experience for me, also an irritating one, the film got nausiating towards the end. On top of this, I was limited to my own cultural experience and background, knowing nothing about Japan, I had little hope of grasping much. I had trouble relating to the film, which was probably the cause of my boredom. I did realise that Akira reflects a Japan that was filled with criminals and social evils both during and after world war II. I can appreciate that someone from Japan may be able to relate to this aspect due to the tragic wars of Japan’s past, especially the gigantic explosion akin to an atomic bomb. Perhaps I did not feel the impact of the film because the atomic bomb in hiroshima is not a part of my countries past.

This has made me consider that even for people who share a cultural background, the discrepancy in ethnographic and demographic factors determine one’s understanding and perspectives toward a foreign culture.

Through watching this film, I discovered that my mind could only conjure thoughts of conventional Western images, which of course had a considerable influence my experience of this film. Through Autoethnography, we realise that it, “expands and opens up a wider lens on the world, eschewing rigid definitions” (Ellis, et al, 2011).

Since we typically veiw other cultures through the lens our own backgrounds, I felt somewhat unempathetic to the cultural dynamics of Akira, I had a insufficient capacity to do so. So to me, I was just watching an animation on the screen that had ‘cool’ action scenes.

Through the process of Autoethnographic research my veiwing, “sensitized me to issues of identity politics, to experiences shrouded in silence, and to forms of representation that deepened (my) capacity to empathize with a new cultural text.” (Ellis, et al, 2011).

It seems to me that there are many webs to untangle when trying to understand another culture, the main web being our own perceptions and cultural background itself, we may try and relate through things that are too similar to our culture, and not look objectively enough at the other.

The ‘TV’ that I consume

I am one of the people that does not consume traditional television. I gravitated early on in my adult life to streaming services such as YouTube and Netflix for my entertainment. When Netflix first arrived, it is interesting to note that it was not available in every country. There were a lot of people all over the world without access, who used a VPN, a virtual protection network, which makes it appear as if you are in the US for example, so that they could watch content.

The shows/movies that I watch come from all over the world. Netflix has shows from the US, UK, France and Japan, just to name a few. I understand that a vast number of people are able to learn about the world and cultures through TV, however, my experience has been somewhat different.

It is kind of hard for me to talk about the TV that I consume because it never really shaped me. The things that shaped me have come from real-life experience living in different countries. I am a global person because I have lived and interacted on a global scale. I have been immersed in the culture, witnessed the vibrant and the mundane. I remember when I was a young boy in Egypt, playing in the street with local boys for hours. During the time I lived in Cambodia, there was a group of kids playing soccer, they could not speak a word of English, save for “Hello” I joined them in a game.

The only thing that TV has ‘taught’ me about the world I live in is that it is filled with violence and division, most of what I have seen on the screen is negative imagery and headlines advising me to be fearful. I feel that Youtube and Netflix have created opportunities to consume forms of positive media. For example, on Youtube, I can handpick exactly what I want to watch based exactly on my interests. The content creators are mostly independent and as such, I can consume highly positive and thoughtful content. It is because of what I chose to consume on Youtube that I have developed in areas that I desired to, for example, I learnt a lot about eastern culture and spirituality, where otherwise I wouldn’t have.

YouTube taught me that the world in which I live is full of incredibly talented people who are able to pursue their passions and dreams. Youtube is like a global village of content creators who share everything from their art to travel experiences. You can watch a travel program on TV, but that is highly constructed, however, you can watch a vlogger on Youtube who is able to showcase a place in a raw and unfiltered way. Platforms like Youtube have alleviated reliance on institutions to learn a lot of things. I learnt how to play the guitar from Youtube videos, others have even learnt languages. There is vast access to different cultures and perspectives. My ‘TV’ is YouTube.

My Cinema Experience – Autoethnography

Whistling wind, a boring evening, any outdoor experience irreparably ruined. My friends and I had decided to go to the cinema to see The Avengers: Infinity War. The journey began by hurridly scampering across the infinitely wide parking lot, towards what can only be described at the time, as the warm, protective shelter of the car.

The first order of business was, of course, the heating. The second order of business was putting on music, of which we would dangerously head-bang to. It was a smooth drive into town, the occasional questionable driver appeared, causing inexplicable rage to protrude from my friend. Parking was an excruciating experience, as my friend is horrible at this job.

Yet again, we traversed an infinitely wide road, as we were abused by offensive wind speeds. To my absolute horror, the cinema was packed. The volume of people and smells of all descriptions where overwhelming. I was very keen just to find a seat in the theatre and relax.

It was an excruciating shuffle to buy a ticket, let alone to get through the cinema doors. We moved at a rate that a snail would be likely to get annoyed at. There was popcorn everywhere, I wondered if these people were ever taught how to eat. After walking a crunchy route to the desired seat, I finally felt okay.

When the movie started, I was immersed in high-quality sound, it really drew me in and made me pay attention. Fortunately, the people around me were not too interested in having loud conversations. The movie was interesting, I enjoyed the dialogue and humour. When the film was over, we waited until the majority of people had left, good advice if there are a lot of people.

As opposed to recent events, we exited the building with ease, chatting with bubbly excitement about the film. One peaceful drive and four neck-breaking songs later, we were back home, tensing up for the mad dash across the parking lot before going our separate ways.

To sum up this particular cinema experience, I would say that there is a lot involved when you wish to go to the movies. There can be a lot of adversarial occurrences, which although small, can be infuriating or uncomfortable. I think that the movie itself is the smallest aspect of a cinema experience. There is so much going on, a sensory overload at times. The largest part of a cinema experience is navigating anxieties, uncomfortable or pleasant processes, and mostly travel time with its own unique qualities.

 

Hello BCM241!

Hello BCM241, my name is Ijumaa, which means Friday in Swahili. My own media use is quite broad, and I would like to use this opportunity to convey how and why I use media. I use media in my home most of the time, I don’t typically like to engage in media use when I am out and about. I use media to create content, more often then I use it to consume. My interests take the form of filmmaking, photographing and music production. I enjoy making music videos, interviews and promotional films. I enjoy street photography and portrait photography. I have a small home studio to record music.

So, what is interesting about my media use? I would say an interesting aspect is how I use my available tools to create content that is one hundred per cent original. I learn more and more about my equipment every day, I am self-taught in every aspect of my talents. My media use is simply a medium to get my message out to the world. I use music and film to convey inner peace, healing and kindness.

I have used my media to create two albums on my own and many films from vlogs to music videos. These are my two albums, both of which I designed in Photoshop:

It should be very clear by now that my media use revolves heavily around content creation. I use media as an outlet for my creative processes, to paint a picture of my soul, my energy, my true self in the hopes that it will inspire at least one person, in the hopes that someone will find resolve in my words.

Within my photography I try to capture everyday images while attempting to expose the beauty in that present moment. Here are some examples of my social media posts:

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This story, is simply of my truth, my positive perspective on the world and my attempt to communicate it through my chosen mediums. I have learnt not to feel limited by the quality of equapment availible to me, but rather empowered by even just a phone to create a peice of artwork that has the potential to speak into somebody’s life.

In terms of ethnography, writing my personal stories in my music is theraputic as I am able to make sense of myself, as well as my experiences. I also hope that my writing is also theraputic for my veiwership. I want to make people feel less alone in their struggle.