This week, I chat with David Sharpe, who is undertaking PhD research into entrepreneurship in the creative industries in Australia (through the University of Wollongong). He is particularly interested in the journeys that entrepreneurs take and the narratives that they create about them. I ask him to explain his background, motivation and process and we compare research experiences.
Recently with family, I had the absolute pleasure of watching In My Blood It Runs, an Australian documentary by filmmaker and director Maya Newell. The film follows the story of (then) ten-year-old Dujuan Hoosan, an Aboriginal boy who is caught between two lives (and education systems) in the Northern Territory of Australia: the predominantly English-language system, with its focus on Western values and historical perspectives; and the stories of Arrernte and Garrwa culture in the Sandy Bore Homeland and Borroloola Community.
Put simply, In My Blood It Runs is one of the most remarkable documentaries that I have ever seen. As an Australian who lives a comfortable, middle-class life on the east coast of the continent and is a product of the nation’s public-education system, I have long been troubled by the history of the nation and the ongoing effects of colonisation, paternalism and assimilation on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The film employs a narrative structure and cinematographic style that very impressively combines historical footage, intimate family moments and gorgeous views of the Central Australian landscape.
What impressed me most, however, was the creators’ intention to give agency to the Arrernte and Garrwa family participants, even handing cameras to them to contribute to the recording and overall production. More detail is listed on the ‘About’ page of the documentary’s website, such as the following excerpt:
This collaborative approach used on this film is not ‘new’ but draws from a long line of First Nations initiatives, organisations, filmmakers work both within Australia and internationally who have fought for the right to have agency over their own narratives for a long time. Screen Australia has a leading guide ‘Pathways and Protocols: A Filmmakers Guide to working with Indigenous Peoples, Culture and Concepts’ that we adopted and built upon to create an approach that would work for this film.
As a brief aside, this commitment reminds me of an article that I read recently for my own research into podcasting by Day et al. (2017), called ‘The Expanding Digital Media Landscape of Qualitative and Decolonizing Research: Examining Collaborative Podcasting as a Research Method’. In this article, Day et al. (2017) explored the use of podcasting as a collaborative method to publicising the stories, ideas and knowledge of Indigenous peoples across Canada to improve water and environmental management. Based on the work of Linda Tuhiwai Smith and her text Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples (1999), these researchers strived to produce new methods of sharing Indigenous peoples’ knowledge as it is—without a Western filter. The voices that you hear are the voices of the people.
The key term here, linking back to In My Blood It Runs, is ‘decolonising’. By handing cameras to the Arrernte people, by letting them speak without a non-Indigenous Australian person’s narration applied over the top, we see a beautiful representation of their very real struggles between two worlds. I was moved, for instance, by the genuine attempts of the Arrernte people to educate their children in their own language, keeping their tradition and stories of the Dreaming alive. All the same, I was troubled that the only real way to do this is in restricted circumstances at school or back at the homeland, and often in a visual way that relies on the transcription of their words in the Latin alphabet. Even with such wonderful attempts to maintain these cultures, the truly oral way of memorisation and intergenerational transmission is being lost, giving way to the visual bias of Western culture (as explored by media ecologists such as Walter J. Ong).
I believe that one of the greatest lessons that we can all learn from this film is to question the very purpose of education. Throughout the presented story, we see that Dujuan is fluent in three languages, intelligent and very charismatic. Yet, for all of this, he is seen as a failure in Australia’s more Western education system, which prioritises measurability and a path to the world of work. Dujuan is a self-proclaimed ‘bush kid’ who yearns to be with his homeland; he loves learning and connecting with his people and it just so happens not to be the kind of education that the Australian Government (and connected industries) would prefer.
I hope that as many Australians as possible will watch this documentary, not just to figure out how we can ‘close the gap’, but also to learn how we can improve—better yet, transform—our own views of what it means to be educated and live a full life, respecting our collective human stories and ensuring proper care for the natural environment.
If you are interested in watching In My Blood It Runs (within or outside of Australia), make sure to visit the documentary’s ‘Watch the Film’ webpage.
As a concluding thought, I realise that I am a white Australian who lacks specific, expert knowledge of the myriad Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on this continent. If I have misrepresented any aspect of culture, language or history in this review, please do let me know and I will correct it. I am always seeking to learn more.
For this episode, I explore the concept of persona—just how many people make up the person that is you?—and I discuss my own experience of having furry and feathered companions while working from home.
- Marshall, P.D. and Barbour, K., 2015, ‘Making Intellectual Room for Persona Studies: a New Consciousness and a Shifted Perspective’, in Persona Studies, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 1–12.
- Smith, S. and Watson, J., 2014, ‘Virtually Me: A Toolbox about Online Self-Presentation’, in A. Poletti and J. Rak (eds), Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online, The University of Wisconsin Press, pp. 70–95.
- LinkedIn post about Rocky, our cockatiel
This week, I discuss a range of topics: the value of individual reading; what Twitter’s purpose is as a company; how ever-changing corporate names can become confusing; and the function of the TV recap in the streaming era.
- Carpenter, E., 1966, ‘The New Languages’, in E. Carpenter and M. McLuhan (eds), Explorations in Communication: An Anthology, Beacon Press, Boston, pp. 162–179.
- Sources for MP3 chapter artwork: Twitter and Syfy at NBCUniversal
As has already been written many times over the last month, Apple’s WWDC 2020 was a true departure from its previous annual developer conferences. Forced by COVID-19, the fully online format created an experience that while potentially lacking for those who normally can attend in person, was much more accessible to millions of other enthusiastic developers and consumers around the globe. It was an impressive display and even as a fan, Apple surpassed my most extravagant expectations.
I have already discussed the reality-bending nature of Apple’s conference in a recent episode of the Lounge Ruminator podcast, however I was driven to revisit it after reading Daniel J. Boorstin’s (1971) book, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America. Apple ‘events’ are essentially what Boorstin (1971) described as a ‘pseudo-event’. In his book, he explains how American news (and in fact, global news, as a consequence) now focuses on pseudo-events, distorting our view of reality. On pages 11 and 12, Boorstin (1971) explains the four key characteristics of a pseudo-event:
- ‘It is not spontaneous, but comes about because someone has planned, planted, or incited it. Typically, it is not a train wreck or an earthquake, but an interview.’;
- ‘It is planted primarily (not always exclusively) for the immediate purpose of being reported or reproduced. Therefore, its occurrence is arranged for the convenience of the reporting or reproducing media. Its success is measured by how widely it is reported. … The question, “Is it real?” is less important than, “Is it newsworthy?”;
- ‘Its relation to the underlying reality of the situation is ambiguous. Its interest arises largely from this very ambiguity. … While the news interest in a train wreck is in what happened and in the real consequences, the interest in an interview is always, in a sense, in whether it really happened and in what might have been the motives.’; and
- ‘Usually it is intended to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The hotel’s thirtieth-anniversary celebration, by saying that the hotel is a distinguished institution, actually makes it one.’
Relating to each of these points, we can see how Apple events are in fact pseudo-events. On point number one, it is obvious: the event (conference) that we are witnessing did not just spring up like a natural disaster or accident; it was planned carefully up to a year in advance.
Regarding point number two, the fact that Apple sends out invitations and offers live streams and on-demand playback means that the conferences are intended to be discussed and shared, as is happening in the very piece that you are reading now.
To point three, on ambiguity, we often complete a keynote and turn to writing and podcasting to unpack what we have seen. It is not enough to discuss the announcements; we must question their motivation and development, also wondering what might have been dropped from the show. What does it all mean for the future?
Finally, on the fourth point, Apple’s keynotes generally contain a self-fulfilling prophecy. This year is perhaps one of the greatest examples of this, as all the announcements—particularly that of macOS Big Sur—led to Apple’s true reason for the keynote: the transition to Apple Silicon. This is the Mac’s destiny and it will affect all of Apple’s platforms.
Surely, I am not the first person to look at corporate events such as Apple’s and call them pseudo-events. The motivation to discuss it in this context arose from my earlier creation of a tetrad for the keynote, based on the tool by Marshall and Eric McLuhan. In the tetrad, I noted that the live-streamed keynote rendered applause obsolete. With no one at a conference venue in person, clapping and cheering became a thing of the past. It just didn’t happen.
Although Apple keynotes and developer sessions have been streamed online for years, they have always been a recording of an actual in-person event. This consideration of applause, as obsolete, leads us to the fifth characteristic, which makes Apple’s WWDC 2020 the ultimate pseudo-event:
There was no event.
Yes, around the world, developers and brand fans alike watched a keynote video simultaneously and communicated about it together online. It was amazing. Yes, they returned to the same sessions over the course of the week, as one would when lining up for something in-person. It was communal and collaborative. Yet, none of the ‘events’ that comprised the conference and were consumed took place either physically in person or at the same time as the act of consumption.
In creating a totally pre-recorded, online conference, Apple realised the full potential of the (in)famous ‘Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field’, well beyond the scope of product benefits: the company attracted millions to an event that never took place.
Reference: Boorstin, D.J., 1971, The Image : a Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, Atheneum.
Television sets have long determined not only where our furniture goes, but also how we interact with others at home. Are things now changing in this physical space to reflect our own individual use of smaller, mobile screens?
Turn on your TV to watch a sporting match in Australia and you’re sure to see advertisements for various betting apps and services. Of particular concern is how these advertisements can affect and are understood by children. To learn more, I invited Dr. Hannah Pitt (Postdoctoral Research Fellow in public health at Deakin University) to discuss her continuing research into this issue.
Find Hannah Online
Every year, on a particular day in June, I get up at 3:00 am in Australia to watch Apple’s WWDC keynote address. This year’s was really impressive and in this episode, I summarise the most exciting updates. There is, however one part of this story—almost too quickly forgotten—that needs to be addressed and I tell a personal story about security to make sense of it.
- Apple Special Event, 22 June 2020 (US)
- Foundation (with trailer) on Apple TV+
- ‘Apple approves Hey email app update as company adds time-limited free accounts‘ on 9to5mac.com
- ‘Tetrad for Apple’s Virtual WWDC 2020 Keynote’ on Lounge Ruminator
- Source for MP3 chapter image artwork: Apple (2020)
In my media-ecological research, I have been fascinated by the development and implementation of the ‘tetrad’ by Marshall and Eric McLuhan. First explained in their 1988 book Laws of Media: The New Science, the laws ‘…are intended to provide a ready means of identifying the properties of and actions exerted upon ourselves by our technologies and media and artefacts. They do not rest on any concept or theory, but are empirical, and form a practical means of perceiving the action and effects of ordinary human tools and services’ (McLuhan and McLuhan, 1988, p. 98). To be clear, these laws state that all media/technologies/artefacts must perform the following: enhancement, obsolescence, retrieval and reversal. Each category illuminates not only the functions of any given medium but also its effects on human ability and behaviour.
After watching the live stream of Apple’s first-ever totally virtual, pre-recorded WWDC keynote, I was impressed by the result but also felt the major shift from earlier live streams, which showed people actually presenting physically onstage. Inspired by Andrew McLuhan’s regular sharing of his own tetrads on Twitter, I thought that I would attempt to formulate my own tetrad (above) for this major online event.
The information (message) that was presented by Craig Federighi and co. seemed to be largely the same as that of previous years, however the delivery channel and style (medium) were very different. Taking this noticeable shift and its effects into account, it is important to remember that the medium is the message.
- Source: McLuhan, M. and McLuhan, E., 1988, Laws of Media: The New Science, University of Toronto Press.
This week, I reflect briefly on the history of radio, discuss the need for more international content in TV streaming and share the story of a bizarre photo album that went from digital to print.
- Porter, J., 2016, Lost Sound: The Forgotten Art of Radio Storytelling, The University of North Carolina Press.
- Little America on Apple TV+
- The Elephant Queen on Apple TV+
- For All Mankind on Apple TV+
- ‘Sleepmaker: Over a Century of Sleep Excellence…’ — photo no. 1 from The Martin Feld Retail Photo Collection
- ‘Rumination 68: Beware the Bagging Area!’ on Lounge Ruminator
- ‘Rumination 69: It’s All Leek to Me’ on Lounge Ruminator
- The Martin Feld Retail Photo Collection album