Copyright is Getting Old

Last night I watched a favourite old episode of The Simpsons, titled The Day the Violence Died. The basic plot summary goes something like this: Bart and Lisa meet a homeless man named Chester J. Lampwick who claims to have conceived the idea for Springfield’s famous Itchy and Scratchy cartoon television show. Lampwick convinces the children of his claim by showing a grainy old black and white cartoon reel in which a mouse named Itchy and an unnamed cat sailing down the river on a steamboat when suddenly Itchy pulls out a gun and shoots the unsuspecting cat. The children can see similarities between Lampwick’s cartoon and Itchy and Scratchy and as a result feel that Lampwick deserves recognition as the rights holder for imagining the concept of Itchy and Scratchy. A hilarious court battle ensues and Itchy and Scratchy chairman Roger Myers Jr. is found guilty of copyright breach and ordered to pay excessive damages to Lampwick. The court battle bankrupts Myers and Lampwick suddenly becomes rich.

Lampwick is, of course, a fictionalised version of Mickey Mouse co-creator Ub Iwerks.  Iwerks was an American animated who was responsible for the design and animation of Disney’s Mickey Mouse.  Iwerks work on Disney’s most iconic, and lucrative character left an immeasurable mark on the film industry (and Walt Disney’s hip-pocket), yet history routinely fails to acknowledge this contribution, instead it is Disney who is afforded the accolades.

As I sat watching this episode I began to think about the contradictory nature of copyright in the information age; an age dominated by the internet. The Internet is a copy machine at its most fundamental level. Every message, video, photo, or meme that you see online is a copy. Gone are the days where creating a perfect copy involved laborious tinkering with a printing press or a cd burner. The internet allows files to be shared instantaneously all across the globe with the click of a button, all without diminishing the quality of the original content. Content now flows freely through the web as users share files with the greatest of ease.

The pervasive new world of media sharing and copying has brought about immense changes to the way we copy and share files, yet copyright structures have not kept up. Rather, we find ourselves in a paradigm where the flow of content online is at odds with existing copyright laws. Internet users are prosuming content by remixing, reworking, reinterpreting and reimagining existing content. The formerly atomised, passive, media consumers have now become active content creators. Dr. Ted Mitew refers to these prosumers as “the people formerly known as the audience”. Media Prosumers may be seen as the media consumers of the twenty-first century.

If media users have become prosumers, copyright law has become a regulator of media use. Realistically I could go on all day about how ridiculous it is to apply 20th-centuryry copyright laws to 21st century media consumption habits, but instead I will pose a quote by media scholar Clay Shirky that I think sums up the situation very well.

What we need is a government willing to say “Copyright is and has always been a bargain between creating a market for creative work to create incentives, and creating a cultural commons to create value for the citizens,” and then start reasoning about how such a bargain will be worked out in a world with an Internet.

Essentially Shirky is suggesting that we would benefit from abolishing existing copyright structure, instead looking to find a model that protects financial incentives for content creators, whilst simultaneously acknowledging and embracing the cultural capital of internet media prosuming. The regulation imposed upon creative processes by current copyright structures is a hindrance to our social capital (which I would argue is vastly more important than economic capital).

There are examples of artists and creative who are bucking the trend and embracing internet sharing and prosuming culture whilst still earning a living in the process. One such example is Slovenian music producer Gramatik. Not only does Gramatik sample other people’s works to create his music, he also encourages users to download, remix, and play his music for free. Recently, Gramatik published his entire downloadable discography for people to download for free via a partnership with BitTorrent. After downloading the file multiple users were notified by Time Warner that they were committing an offence by downloading Gramatik’s music, even though the artist himself had permitted fans to do so. This example highlights the ludicrous nature of current day copyright structures. Gramatik decided that giving his music away for free would result in a positive outcome for both himself and his fans, yet the antiquated pre-internet copyright laws still attempted to prohibit fans from obtaining this content. For more information on this baffling tale click here.

The examples provided by Clay Shirky, Gramatik, Copyright and Prosumer culture all share a common theme: media regulation. The copyright laws that we still live under are regulating our media use and inhibiting our ability to harness our full creativity online. The reason I pointed to The Simpsons at the top of this article was that it epitomizes the potential of remix culture. Roger Myers Jr. may have shared, remixed, or even stolen the concept for Itchy and Scratchy from Chester J. Lampwick, but the end result was the production of a concept that would not have otherwise seen the light of day. Lampwick deserved some level of credit for imagining  a concept, but Myers should not be severely punished for bringing the idea to fruition. Myers Remixed Lampwick’s Itchy and Scratchy concept much to the disdain of copyright law-makers and the cultural fabric of Springfield is stronger for Myers having done so. In the same regard, the cultural fabric of our world will benefit significantly from altering our current copyright structures to accommodates the copy-machine we know as the internet.


All Eyes On You

Project Statement

I created this image, titled ‘All Eyes on You, by writing a set of codes in the processing platform. The decision to use an instruction based media was inspired by Sol Lewitt, whose works demonstrates the algorithmic nature of art and design.

The image is comprised of a set of faces, most of which has set its gaze on an object of desire. Each iteration of the face is the same, yet different. The faces all share the same shape, dimensions, and relative position on the page, yet each repetition can be grouped, or differentiated, by its unique colour.

‘All Eyes on You’ aims to provide a commentary on Laura Mulvey’s popular feminist notion of the male gaze. The “pink face” can be seen as a woman, placed as an object of attraction amongst a crowd of men. This image is perhaps reminiscent of Edouard Manet ‘s “In the Winter Garden” (1879) in which a caliginous male is seen gazing toward a ravishing, illuminated woman.

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void setup() {
size (755, 755);
background (117, 182, 195);
noLoop ();

void draw() {

draweyes(-80, -27, color(250, 250, 250), float(10));
draweyes(100, -27, color(250, 250, 250), float(10));
draweyes(281, -27, color(250, 250, 250), float(10));
draweyes(464, -27, color(250, 250, 250), float(10));

draweyes(-81, 195, color(250, 250, 250), float(10));
draweyes(100, 194, color(250, 250, 250), float(10));
draweyes(281, 195, color(250, 250, 250), float(10));
draweyes(461, 193, color(250, 250, 250), float(10));

draweyes(-74, 407, color(250, 250, 250), float(10));
draweyes(102, 407, color(250, 250, 250), float(10));
draweyes(275, 407, color(250, 250, 250), float(10));
draweyes(460, 407, color(250, 250, 250), float(10));

draweyes(-80, -25, color(0, 0, 0), float(5));
draweyes(100, -25, color(0, 0, 0), float(5));
draweyes(280, -25, color(0, 0, 0), float(5));
draweyes(462, -25, color(0, 0, 0), float(5));

draweyes(-80, 196, color(0, 0, 0), float(5));
draweyes(100, 195, color(0, 0, 0), float(5));
draweyes(280, 196, color(0, 0, 0), float(5));
draweyes(460, 194, color(0, 0, 0), float(5));

draweyes(-72, 408, color(0, 0, 0), float(5));
draweyes(102, 407, color(0, 0, 0), float(5));
draweyes(274, 407, color(0, 0, 0), float(5));
draweyes(458, 407, color(0, 0, 0), float(5));

drawFace(-120,-50, color(54, 199, 243));
drawFace(65,-50, color(55, 153, 186));
drawFace(250,-50, color(12, 70, 119));
drawFace(435,-50, color(85, 136, 161));

drawFace(-120,170, color(27, 100, 149));
drawFace(65,170, color(0, 148, 190));
drawFace(250,170, color(71, 142, 222));
drawFace(435,170, color(6, 92, 181));

drawFace(-120,390, color(5, 147, 190));
drawFace(65,390, color(255, 0, 179));
drawFace(250,390, color(50, 95, 146));
drawFace(435,390, color(44, 99, 250));

drawmouth (-10,-13, color(255, 203, 203)); // mouth top row left
drawmouth (+170,-13, color(255, 203, 203)); //mouth top row
drawmouth (+360,-13, color(255, 203, 203)); //mouth top row
drawmouth (+550,-13, color(255, 203, 203)); //mouth top row right

drawmouth (-10,205, color(255, 203, 203)); // mouth second row left
drawmouth (+170,205, color(255, 203, 203)); //mouth second row
drawmouth (+360,205, color(255, 203, 203)); //mouth second row
drawmouth (+550,205, color(255, 203, 203)); //mouth second row right

drawmouth (-10,425, color(255, 203, 203)); // mouth second row left
drawmouth (+170,425, color(255, 203, 203)); //mouth for pink face
drawmouth (+360,425, color(255, 203, 203)); //mouth second row
drawmouth (+550,425, color(255, 203, 203)); //mouth second row right


void draweyes (int a, int b, color c, float l){
float scale = 1.5;
a = a – 10;
b = b – 10;
line(222/scale+ a, 176/scale+ b, 220/scale+ a, 176/scale+ b);
line(320/scale+ a, 176/scale+ b, 322/scale+ a, 176/scale+ b);


void drawFace(int x, int y, color c){
float scale = 1.5;
x = x – 10;
y = y – 10;

if ( x == 256) {
stroke(255, 0, 179);

line(400/scale+ x, 220/scale+ y, 350/scale+ x, 220/scale+ y);
line(350/scale+ x, 220/scale+ y, 350/scale+ x, 180/scale+ y);
line(350/scale+ x, 180/scale+ y, 400/scale+ x, 180/scale+ y);
line(400/scale+ x, 180/scale+ y, 400/scale+ x, 255/scale+ y);
line(400/scale+ x, 255/scale+ y, 370/scale+ x, 255/scale+ y);
line(370/scale+ x, 255/scale+ y, 370/scale+ x, 280/scale+ y);
line(370/scale+ x, 280/scale+ y, 400/scale+ x, 280/scale+ y);
line(400/scale+ x, 280/scale+ y, 400/scale+ x, 335/scale+ y);
line(400/scale+ x, 335/scale+ y, 270/scale+ x, 335/scale+ y);
line(270/scale+ x, 335/scale+ y, 270/scale+ x, 395/scale+ y);
line(270/scale+ x, 395/scale+ y, 430/scale+ x, 395/scale+ y);
line(430/scale+ x, 395/scale+ y, 430/scale+ x, 140/scale+ y);
line(430/scale+ x, 140/scale+ y, 250/scale+ x, 140/scale+ y);
line(250/scale+ x, 140/scale+ y, 250/scale+ x, 220/scale+ y);
line(300/scale+ x, 220/scale+ y, 250/scale+ x, 220/scale+ y);
line(300/scale+ x, 220/scale+ y, 300/scale+ x, 180/scale+ y);
line(300/scale+ x, 180/scale+ y, 250/scale+ x, 180/scale+ y);

void drawmouth (int g, int h, color c){
int(g = g – 10);
int(h = h – 10);
line(90 + g, 210+ h, 145 + g, 210+ h);


A Cricketers guide to paying attention in the digital world

Australian cricketers concentrating in the field. Image source:
It’s no secret that increased media consumption and digital lifestyles are diminishing peoples’ abilities to concentrate for extended periods of time. A 2015 report from Microsoft Canada states that s average attention spans have fallen from 12 seconds in the year 2000, to 8 seconds in 2015. To put that in perspective, the average attention span humans has diminished to levels lower than the notoriously dim-witted goldfish (9 seconds). According to Microsoft, the key factors that are contributing to our waning attention spans are media consumption, social media usage, technology adaptation rate, and multi-screening behaviour. These factors all comprise elements associated with the rise of digital media technologies.

Right, so increased engagement with digital media technologies is resulting in a lower attention span for the user. This sounds obvious, but the implications can have serious consequences. Take for instance the fundamentally dangerous activity of driving a car. Common sense tells us that it is important when driving to maximise concentration in order to ensure the safety of all road users. But what happens when you get a text message or app notification whilst driving? You should just ignore it until you arrive at your destination, right? I decided to test this idea as I drove from Wollongong to Sydney on the weekend— a trip of around 90 minutes. New South Wales Law states that drivers must refrain from using hand-held mobile devices at all times when operating a motor vehicle. This meant that I was (rightfully) unable to use my phone while driving. Instead, I chose to conduct an experiment to record the number of times that I considered picking up my phone when driving. My intention was to provide a demonstration of how often I am distracted by the thought of picking up the phone.

It is illegal to use your mobile phone while driving in Australia. Image credit: Cars Guide

This experiment consisted of simply recording the number of times I was tempted to check my phone during the 90-minute journey to Sydney. I also recorded the number of times that I received notifications whilst driving in order to indicate how often my phone was attempting to distract me. My passenger was tasked with recording my observations as to negate the risks associated with this experiment. I will take this opportunity to also add a quick disclaimer: at no time during the experiment did I actually attempt to use my phone whilst driving.

Over the course of the trip, I recorded 14 instances where I was tempted to check my phone whilst driving. A breakdown of these instances is provided below.

– 7 times I considered looking at my phone while stopped at traffic lights. These lapses of concentration were attributed to the  boredom that ensued as I waited for the light to turn green.

– 4 times I was tempted to look at my phone during general highway driving or suburban driving. This would have been the most dangerous time to check my phone given full concentration is required in order to safely operate the vehicle.

– During the car ride I was greeted by three notifications from my phone; two text messages and one Snapchat notification. On each of these occasions my concentration from driving was momentarily broken as I fought the urge to check these notifications.

I noticed that even though I was not tempted to engage with my phone, I was still mindful of its presence. I found that I was distracted by the thought of checking my phone every 6.42 minutes during the duration of the trip. This experiment shows that mobile phones have the ability to distract a driver, even when the driver does not react to the distractions by checking the phone.

Australian cricketers demonstrating deep focus. Image credit: Cricinfo

Conducting this experiment got me thinking about selective concentration. When I was young I used to play cricket which I think involves a unique level of concentration. During cricket matches, the players are required to bat for upwards of seven hours per day. It seems impossible that the players are concentrating throughout their entire innings, given that the average human concentration span currently stands at 8 seconds. The key to concentrating on a game of cricket is the player’s ability to select the correct moments at which to focus their concentration. Cricket lab provides an interesting explanation of how cricketers manage to stay focused throughout the course of their innings. The key is apparently knowing how to manage your focus by learning when to switch it on and off.

This analogy provides an interesting example on how to imagine switching your concentration on and off like a cricketer does when batting:

You’re in a room with a beautiful picture on the wall, you have a
torch with a lens that can focus in and out, soft to sharp focus.

You turn out the light in the room and focus the torch on the painting, using soft focus to look at the whole picture and sharp focus to zone in and pick out detail on the picture.

Your mind is like this, it can switch your focus between sharp or soft, close or far, in and out, very quickly.

Focusing in sharp and tight on something uses up mental energy very quickly … so how do you manage this for batting.

The most important time to manage your focus at the crease is between balls, strange as this may seem. This is when you have time to think, an over may take 3.5 to 4 minutes but the ball is only in play for 4-5 seconds from when the bowler runs in, to when the ball is bowled.

You want to keep your mind quiet between balls so that it is present with where you are, not off in the future thinking about the ball you might get or off in the past thinking about the ball that was just bowled.Essentially the cricketer wants to pick the perfect moments at which to concentrate. Perhaps training our minds to recognise opportune moments to use sharp focus can be applied to our digital media usage? It is apparently impossible for humans to concentrate all of the time, so instead we may be better served by learning how to focus on our media devices at the right times. Recognising the times that you are required to employ sharp focus may also enable you to recognise when it is appropriate to switch off and check our devices. Granted, this method would not suit the driver of a motor vehicle, given that it is illegal to handle a phone while driving, but imagine a situation such as studying at university, or working in front of the computer.

Essentially the cricketer wants to pick the perfect moments to concentrate. Perhaps training our minds to recognise opportune moments to use sharp focus can be applied to our digital media usage? It is apparently impossible for humans to concentrate all of the time, so instead we may be better served by learning how to focus on our media devices at the right times. Recognising the times that you are required to employ sharp focus may also enable you to recognise when it is appropriate to switch off and check our devices. Granted, this method would not suit the driver of a motor vehicle, given that it is illegal to handle a phone while driving, but imagine a situation such as studying at university, or working in front of the computer.

A Reflection On Autoethnographic E-waste Musings


A couple of weeks ago I shared an autoethnographic post that detailed my initial thoughts and assumptions on the matter of e-waste. Since then I have given considerable thought to the topic and conducted some introductory research to help me better understand issues relating to e-waste. This follow-up post serves as a sort of reflection about my initial encounter. As was the case with the previous post, here I will employ autoethnographic methodology in order place myself squarely within the area of study.

I opened my previous account by noting that over the years I have routinely seen numerous electronic devices replaced by superior technology. My observation included a supposition that rapid advancements in technology is resulting in digital electronic devices becoming obsolete at an accelerated rate. After conducting some research, I have concluded that this assumption appears reasonable. The rates in which technology is being superseded can be explained by Gordon Moore, whose 1976 “Moore’s Law”correctly anticipated a doubling every year in the number of components per integrated circuit in digital electronic devices. Advancements in digital electronics are strongly linked to Moore’s law: quality-adjusted microprocessor prices, memory capacity, sensors and even the number and size of pixels in digital cameras. Moore’s law indicates to me that devices are rapidly becoming obsolete because every two years’ as new devices are becoming available that are twice as powerful. As a side note, it as interesting to find that obsolescence isn’t limited to hardware. Evidence of software obsolescence is also widespread. For example, an obsolescence analysis of a GPS radio for a U.S Army helicopter found that a hardware change that required revising even a single line of code would result in a $2.5 million expense before the helicopter could be deemed safe for flight.

Moore’s law does help me to confirm that devices are becoming obsolete and to conceptualise the frequently at which it occurs, however, it has not provided me with a clear understanding of what happens to technological devices once they are replaced. My own experiences with disposing of obsolete electronic devices are varied. As stated in my previous post, I purchase a new mobile phone approximately every two years — once the previous model becomes obsolete. My old phones are currently laying idol in a draw attached to my bedside table. Until I began researching this topic I had made no plans whatsoever to dispose of these devices, nor have I considered replacing or repurposing them. I also upgrade my computer every 2-3 years. Unlike my old phones, I have previously thrown my old laptops away in the garbage bin. Never have I considered where the computer ends up after I throw it in the bin. If I had to guess I would imagine they all ended up in landfills. This, of course, is just my personal experience with discarding electronics. The issue of where technology goes to die in a broader sense is a rather complicated and interesting reality. I have sourced research that confirms my assumption that a lot of it ends up in China. In fact, China is both the world’s largest exporter of electronic goods and importer of waste electronic equipment. It is estimated that approximately 70% of the world’s e-waste is sent to China. According to official statistics, more than 40 million tons of e-waste was imported to China in 2010, with an industrial output value of around 36.3 billion AUD. The largest of all e-waste sites is located in southeast of the country, in the village of Guiyu, in Guangdong Province.

E-waste deposit in Guiyu, China.

China, and more specifically the Guangdong province, can aptly be named the home of e-waste. Confirming this assumption has raised more questions within me. Why is all this waste being sent to China? Is this practice legal? What happens once devices result in China?  I looked up Guangdong province on Google Maps and immediately realised something surprising: I have been there before! When I was fifteen I visited Shenzhen, Guangdong, with a friend and his father who resides in Hong Kong. I remember walking the streets of Shenzhen with my friend and his Father Craig, who, after living in Hong Kong for over a decade, had a good understanding Chinese culture. This was ten years ago but my memory of that experience is vivid. I recall being shocked by the insane level of poverty that I witnessed as we wondered the streets on our first night in the city. Beggars lined the sidewalks throughout Shenzhen and I remember my heart sinking as we passed a beggar woman laying in the street with a newborn baby. I had never experienced this level of poverty in Australia and I found it very confronting. I wanted to give the beggar woman and her child some money, but Craig warned me against such a gesture. I couldn’t see the harm in trying to help this poor woman so ignored his advice and tossed some coins in a hat that was placed next to the woman and her child. We continued walking down the street and after a minute I turned around and saw something that I will never forget: A large group of around fifty people, closing in on me, begging for money. The feeling was tense and we were forced to rush away to escape the hoards of people. It was a frightening experience but nonetheless an interesting initiation to the reality of poverty in China.

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Guangdong province, China. Highlighted are the areas of Shenzhen and Guiyu. Image credit: Google Maps

My experience with visiting Shenzhen, coupled with what I have read about e-waste, leads me to assume that poverty is a reason that many of the world’s discarded electronic devices end up in China. This will require further investigation but I am now very interested in gearing this project specifically towards understanding more about the correlations between poverty the culture of e-waste in Guangdong province. I still intend to look into the processes of planned obsolescence, as I discussed in my previous post, but for now, I will be focusing primarily on e-waste in Guangdong.

Processing Sketch: for (int);

Recently I have spent some time trying to figure out how to replicate some of Andy Warhol’s paintings. His repetitious works seem to lend themselves quite well to being abstracted in Processing, but my lackluster of Java skills are proving to be a problem so far. Anyway, I wrote this code in a rush this morning as I was trying to wrap my head around the affordances of integers. A very simple bit of code, yet I think the abstraction is somewhat interesting.

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How Do My Friends Watch TV These Days?

Over the coming weeks I aim to facilitate a digital storycircle that illustrates the television and media consumption habits of my friendship group. The theoretical framework for this project is inspired by an article by Nick Couldry that I recently read, titled ‘Constructing a digital storycircle: Digital infrastructure and mutual recognition’. Couldry’s work investigates whether “the narrative exchange within the storycircles of story makers created in face-to-face workshops can be replicated by drawing on digital infrastructure in specific ways.” Couldry identifies a “storycircle” as a setting where participants sit facing each other, focusing and listening to what each other has to say in order to co-produce stories. He and a team of researchers then set about creating a multi-stream story circle where rather than sitting face-to-face, participants contribute to a collective, narrative research project using digital media platforms. The project resulted in the creation of a multi-faceted storycircle where information is collected, curated and distributed via digital media platforms including Twitter and Historypin.

Couldry’s research evaluates the successes and limitations of digital storycircle by identifying and exploring three main characteristics: multiplications, spatializations, and habits of mutual recognition. Multiplication refers to the relationship between storytelling and development of digital platforms that allow stories to be shared and multiplied. These platforms are enabled by modern technological advancements that allow separate media sources to converge in the digital sphere. Spatialization refers to the of building of a narrative around sets of individual narratives. Individual actors contribute fragments of information to a larger, complete, narrative experience that can be shared on various sites, and exchanged between various audiences and institutions. The geographic location of individual contributors may be decentralised due to the affordances of digital media technologies. Finally, habits of mutual recognition refer to the storyteller’s ability to construct a narrative exchange that supports knowledge production and mutual recognition of contributions among participants toward matters of common concern. By engaging with Couldry’s three dimensions mentioned above, I will endeavor to produce, and later analyse, an effective digital storycircle project.

I aim to tell the story of my friendship group and the spaces in which we consume television and other forms of screen-based media for entertainment purposes. My reason for doing so is partly inspired by Couldry’s suggestion that it is ideal to choose a story that includes elements of space and time, both of which are evident in this concept. The vast majority of my friendship group was raised in Canberra, however, as time goes on, various circumstances have caused us to move apart geographically. Members now span ACT, New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, Queensland, and some living overseas. The diverse geographic locations of group members’ will allow me to create a timeline that pulls stories about habits separated in time and space into a common space. The widespread consumption of television in Australia, coupled with my recent interest in people’s television experiences led me to settle on television as the theme for this narrative. The 2015 Australian Multi Screen Report suggests that television remains the dominant viewing medium, with over 88% of Australians still choosing to consume television over any other form of screen-based media. I would like to know if this trend extends to my friendship group, and whether we have embraced other screen-based media technologies. My second area of interest for this project is television spaces. As I have discussed previously on this blog, I am keen to investigate the role of television in creating spaces in the home.

Collaborators for this project will consist of a large cross-section of my friendship group. Each group member will be requested to capture a photo of the television space within their home and then upload the photo to a Facebook group chat. The image should include the space in which their television/ media device is located and the television should include an example of something they enjoy watching. The image will be accompanied by a small caption that provides the location of their media space geographically, and a couple of sentences about their television viewing habits, should they wish to disclose such information. Couldry suggests that Illustrating the storyteller voice is important to the story, as is capturing the essence of the narrator and each unique character and their connections to lived experiences. I anticipate that encouraging my collaborators to illustrate their story by showing photographs will enable the narrative to capture the essence of each contributors lived television experiences.

My Television Space: This is the reference image for my project. Collaborators photographs may vary, but will follow a similar format.

Having already employed Facebook Group Chat to collect collaborators individual stories I will then be tasked with choosing appropriate spatial arrangements in order to showcase the data as a complete narrative. Couldry states “The medium in which you choose to show your digital storytelling is not crucial, the storytelling elements can be images, film, blogs, tweets, web pages and web links”.  The story will include contributors images and text, as already stated, which will then be aggregated on a digital mapping platform that brings the whole story together. The geographic position of collaborators media spaces and additional data will be interlinked in order to facilitate the practice of working together to show each other how we live. The narrative will then be displayed on this blog where the information and data collected can be easily accessed by the participants and the general public. I hope this project will eventuate into an interesting and thought-provoking storycircle that details the television consumption habits of a unique group of young Australians. Any thoughts or suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Watching You, Watching Me

I can still remember a specific instance, years ago, as I stood on the street outside a house party.  I attempted to produce my camera phone to film as the police employed heavy-handed tactics on a party-goer. The police officer that I was attempting to photograph rushed towards me and demanded I stop at once. I complied and assumed from then on that I don’t own the right to photograph people in public spaces. To learn this is not the case has been both interesting and exciting.

As an ethnographer, it is rather useful to have a camera at one’s disposal. The photographic medium enables us to capture and store moments in time, with a simple click of a button. When practicing, one must ensure they are aware of the law surrounding photographic practice. Australian law states that people, in our society, do not have a right not to resist being photographed. Generally speaking, it is perfectly legal to take photos of people when you are in a public space. This also extends to buildings, sites, and government spaces. There are certain limitations, but in general, a person does not have a right to privacy whilst in a public space. The means a photographer can feel free to capture images at their discretion when in public.

Fast forward to last week and I was sitting in a lecture at Uni tweeting every passing thought that came to my head. I noticed a certain member of the audience had engaged with each tweet that I produced. Armed with my newly acquired knowledge of photographers’ rights  I opened my camera app and snapped a photo of my follower, the Twitter-famous Renee Middlemost. You can see the photo pictured below.

I am within my rights to capture this image. I didn’t even need to ask for permission before doing so.  As stated above, there are no publicity or personal rights in Australia that could prohibit me from taking this photo in a public university lecture theatre. The fact I have then proceeded to publish a person’s image on Twitter, however, can cause the photographer some legal grief. This is because there are areas of law in Australia, which can prohibit the unauthorized use of a person’s image.  These laws include:Defamation;

1. Defamation;

Defamation law deals with injury to people’s reputation. In order to be defamatory, the image must lower the public estimation of the person portrayed, expose the person to hatred or ridicule, and or cause the person to be shunned or avoided

2. The Australian Consumer Law (Schedule 2 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010                 (Cth)) (ACL) and StateFair Trading Acts where applicable;

The Arts Law Centre of Australia states, “Sections 18 and 29 of the ACL and the equivalent sections of the State Fair Trading Acts prohibit misleading or deceiving commercial conduct.” For this law to be enforced it must be shown that the image can mislead or deceive the public.

3. The law of passing off;

The law of passing off is similar to the law of misleading and deceptive conduct. Is acts to protect a business against misappropriation of its reputation. To succeed in an action for passing off, the subject of an image must establish the subsistence of some reputation on their part, and that the person publishing the image is misrepresenting them in a way which may cause damage to their reputation.

As far as I know, none of the above laws apply in this instance, thus resulting in the lawful publication of the image. Publishing this image demonstrates my lawful ability to take images of people in public places so long as no harmful, unethical, or unlawful intent is at play. The rules are not as clear-cut as one might hope, however, resources are available to assist ethnographers and photographers to understand their rights and responsibilities. For instance, I recently stumbled upon  a blog post by Taylor Bruno which provides a succinct and thought-provoking introduction into ethics of street photography.

The value of photographing Renee as she Tweets in a lecture theatre is that I can use the photograph as part of a public space ethnography. This method of ethnography is effective because it can assist me to form an understanding of how different people and social groups participate in public space. The image of Renee provides insights into media consumption habits within the university setting. For instance, the image shows that staff mobile phone use is present within the context of a University of Wollongong media lecture. Taking a photo allows me to efficiently document the practice of mobile phone use within the university setting. I may continue to photograph mobile phone use at the university in order to identify patterns and create an ethnography detailing this behavior.