Looking at Animals;Anthropomorphism

From a very young age, we as an audience have had a fascination with looking at animals; whether that be at the zoo, in the wild or in the media.Wildlife documentaries such as David Attenborough specials and Natural Geographic, are very popular as the audience has access to see them up close and in their natural environment. Over social media, we share pictures and videos of animals to each other and even well-known brands use animals in their logos and advertisements. But why do we look animals? John Berger’s theory suggest that humans have become civilised in urban areas and have been disconnected and isolated from other species, now we want to see them again (Berger, 2005).

As mentioned many brands use animals in their logos and advertising such as RAMS and Compare The Market. Stones’ (2014) psychology research investigated brands that use an animal as apart of the brands identity. Stones’ research found that humans are naturally fascinated with other living creatures, and when brands use animals as apart of their identity, sales will increase. Stone found further evidence that animals that talk and act like humans in advertisements, are the main reason for sales to increase. Stone states;

” the use of animals focused on anthropomorphism (endearing them with human characteristics) is  effective on consumer behaviour”

Some may argue that animals are not always shown in the media to portray anthropomorphism, for example certain documentaries aim to show animals in the wild being natural and untouched by human interference. However, Núria Almiron (2016, pg.161) argues that even in documentary films, filmmakers “impose human narrative, a human cultural aesthetic, upon the animals”. Whether documentary based or animation, the same argument applies.

In 1989, Aardman produced Creature Comforts, a clay animated show that interviewed animals about everyday mundane tasks or thoughts. The British show was created by the same makers of the Wallace and Gromit series and the movie Chicken Run. Creature Comforts became a success in the 90s for both children and adults, as it had many colourful animals ranging from household pets to wild animals, all having one thing in common… human characteristics.

Creature Comforts had a very simple story line and scenes, usually one kind of animal being interviewed and talking to the audience;”the effect is of a gentle parody of television documentary“. The show never shows an actual human except for the hand and microphone of the interviewer. This particular show is another example of Anthropomorphism. The video below is an example of an episode where the animals talk about their ‘pet hates’ (excuse the pun). The audience was able to relate with the animals about this topics by the way the animals talk, think and interact with each other, just like people would.

As Aardman wrote on their website; “The real and unscripted voices of the Great British Public are put into the mouths of plasticine animals.”

Using animals in the media for marketing purposes or satirical shows such as Creature Comforts, should not be seen as a negative thing. Although this is the case… the audience should be aware of the fact that we are giving these animals human characteristics that they do/may not actually posses. In my opinion, giving these characteristics to the animals should not be frowned upon, as it enables us to make sense of the non-human attitudes animals present.

References:

Almiron N, 2016, Critical Animal and Media Studies:Communication for Nonhuman Animal Advocacy, Taylor and Francais, New York.

Blue Chikuwa, 2015, Creature Comforts (Pet Hates), Online Video, 1 May, Aardman,  Viewed 25 March 2016, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGhSxZLT1DY&gt;

Berger J, 2005, Why Look At Animals’, Worldviews: Global Religion, Culture and Ecology, Vol.9, no.2, pages 203-218.

Stone S.M, 2014, ‘The Psychology of Using Animals in Advertising’, 2014 Hawaii University International Conference, Northwestern Oklahoma State University, Honolulu, 4-6 January, Viewed 28 March 2016.

 

 

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Our Quantified Self

After logging back onto wordpress after a 4 month break, I was confronted with various statistical analysis of my blog. My average view each day, week, month, year, most popular blog post, how many comments have been made overall, the most popular time and day for my blog and where in world my viewers live (shout out to my viewers in Germany and Denmark!).

The world used to be divided by those who think mathematically and those who think holistically. However, our lives are consistently being measured, whether that be online on our social media sites or offline in terms of our academic performances and health.

We have access to devices that track all our health needs e.g. temperature, heart rate, weight scales, fitness levels and more. We have devices that check our creativity and productivity. These devices that measure all aspects of our lives were originally found in the offices of professionals such as our GPs, personal trainers, psychologist and teachers, and now we have them, is this because we want a ‘DIY health and mental health check’ in our own homes?

No. But we need this access to know our measurements because we are using these numbers to define who we are… to establish our identity.  Our identity that is made up of our self-esteem and confidence, but these numbers have a significant impact on us e.g. “my exam result was lower than my friends therefore I’m dumber than them”. Gary Wolf TEDx Talk in Amsterdam (2011) discussed tracking our ‘quantified self‘, in order to learn and make connections about certain issues. Wolf’s argument was that we are becoming more like computers by turning the data into “facts”, but as he states, “we make the tools and they make us“, meaning that the data we gather from our technology is linked to how we define our identity. However, Wolf believes that we SHOULD track our data in order to understand the connections between common issues and social behaviour.

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But what about our online identity? Our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts calculate how many comments or likes we get on our photos and status’ we post, and we have distinguished our self worth by the amount of likes received. Bruce Feiler’s article “For the love of being liked“(2014) discussed his experiences of feeling lonely due to a tweet he made (one in which he felt proud of) that didn’t receive any feedback from his followers.  Felier’s loneliness online is not rare, in fact the pressure we feel when we post our thoughts and pictures creates anxiety in users, specifically in tracking the data (Feiler, 2014). The amount of likes and/comments contributes to an individuals sense of worth, as it seems to ‘represent’ ones popularity and approval from others (including those they may not have even met). When it comes to our friends list on Facebook or followers on Instagram and twitter, ‘the higher, the better’. Individuals have become more concerned with the quantity of friends rather than quality of our friendships.

To conclude, tracking our offline selves may have a negative influence on our self-esteem and confidence, but we should embrace the technology we have been given access to in order to understand our human behaviours. However, tracking our social media activity is pointless and does not define who we are as a person. Loosely based off President Kennedy’s quote, Ask not what the world can do for you, but what you can do for your world.

The Concluding Chapter

One of the most common sayings is “laughter is the best medicine”. Everyone likes laughing and joking with their friends, but more importantly, we as humans like to be included.

The aim of these last few blogs was to encourage my audience (that’s YOU) to think about our online space, specifically on social media and the jokes that go viral. Through hours and hours of research, one thing was very clear; space is very important in terms of understanding jokes that go viral over social media. From the survey I conducted recently, most participants claimed that if they were not with their friends when something happened (and it became an ongoing joke), they would feel left out. Some participants felt the same way when they did not understand a joke being shared and re-posted continuously on social media.

Our online space has been taken over by these jokes, but as an audience we are always interacting with them, whether it be creating them, or sharing/tagging each other in them. These memes and vines have been beneficial to the audience as  “Memes are like a bridge that makes a connection between people who share the same interests”. More importantly, they have allowed us (the audience) to keep up to date with current affairs and events. So to conclude, our experiences online, are allowing us to develop a thorough understanding of other people’s thoughts, opinions and ideas, in a humourous manner.

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Meme-book and Insta-meme

Over the past few weeks we have looked at various jokes that are posted to social media sites to be shared and laughed at, but these jokes have appeared on Memes, which are the centre of all Internet jokes made and shared. According to The Conversation website a meme is defined as “an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variations.” Generally, memes have a particular theme, such as the same pictures with different texts written on top to suit the context of the joke. The most popular memes that are around included:

  • One does not: To explain a behaviour or social norm
  • Bad luck Brian: When something unlucky happens
  • Success Kid: When something good happens
  • Forever Alone: To describe those moments when one feels unloved and alone.
  • Philosoraptor: challenges ideas and make people think about simple things.
  • condescending Willy Wonka: Sarcastic response

Examples of these memes can be found here. However, for these memes to be a successful online joke they must include intertextuality, Indexicalit and templatability. The Conversational article explains these concepts more here.

url-1These particular memes have flooded our social media news feeds for years. There are now Apps available to download onto smartphones allowing users to create memes whenever and where ever they want to. As mentioned in previous blogs, no one likes to be excluded from jokes, which can prove to be more difficult on social media sites, and memes give people a sense that they belong to the joke. Memes have become a clever way to communicate ‘inside jokes’ to other users, and now businesses have caught on to this trend. By using memes, businesses “will succeed in making their targets feel like they have an inside connection with their business. After all, you’re all in on the same joke.”                                                                                  

Memes have become our new form of expression, just as graffiti or writing articles have. They allow individuals to show their opinions and ideas on an online space.

Hotline Memes

Popular pop-singer Drake has just released his new music video for his song ‘Hotline Bling‘, just over a week ago. Since then, the Internet has broken. The music video seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary. Unlike most videos these days, it did not contain violence, alcohol and drug abuse, or sexual contents, Just Drake dancing in an open space, accompanied with another female dancer in a few scenes. However, the internet has taken this opportunity to ridicule his dancing.

Drake is a popular rapper that is popular for singing songs such as ‘Hold on, we’re going home’ and ‘Started from the bottom’. This is not the first time Drake has been the centre of viral jokes on the Internet. According to Comedian Desus, who spoke to Ray Downs in Down’s article ‘Understanding Drake’s Meme Appeal’, Desus stated that Drake is ridiculed for his ‘softness’ and ‘nerdiness’, but these memes made about him have increased his popularity in the music industry.

According to the daily mail, Drakes dancing in his latest music video is ‘VERY awkward’ and ‘hilarious’. Various users of the app ‘Vine’ have created parodies ranging from Drake playing with Pokemon balls to Drake throwing pepperoni onto a pizza. The video below is a combination of the popular vines created.

Further into Ray Downs’s article, Downs interviewed writer Michael Arceneaux about his opinions of the Drake Memes. What Arceneaux stated, pretty much summed up why the internet makes fun of Drake and how he remains popular regardless of these memes: “I like Drake, but it’s just so easy to make fun of him. I make jokes about him being soft and being sensitive, like the Sade of rap or whatever, but I actually like him. I actually kinda like that he’s not so much like everybody else. Other rappers, like DMX, are far more emotional, but Drake is this kind of soft and kind of corny, goofy dude.

Personally, my friends and I have enjoyed these vines that mock Drakes music video, but I also enjoy his music. Even Drake stated that these memes will make people watch the video, as well as listen to the song. (Source)

Netflix Fix

One of the most popular jokes going around is ‘Netflix and Chills’ which technically means “come over and ‘watch’ a show on Netflix and then half way through we can make out and more…”This joke, however, has been around for while, but the wording of the joke has evolved.

Watching movies or shows with someone else has always been known for leading to more action (wink wink). After a while, people started to say “do you want to come over to watch a movie and chill?” as it was too awkward to say “come over and hook up with me” (personally, it does sound a lot nicer to say ‘chill’). Of course, the Internet took over this joke, as many users started to upload jokes such as:

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Then Netflix came into our lives…

For those who don’t know what Netflix, it is an Internet provider that streams TV series and movies. When Netflix was introduced, the joke began to evolve from “Do you want to come over and watch a movie and chill?” to “Netflix and chill?” (Because we are clearly too lazy to say something that long). Even when you look up on Urban Dictionary, ‘Netflix and Chill’ can be defined as a booty call, a code for two people having sex and “The best thing Netflix was ever good for”. However, the Internet has developed this joke to the next level, such as the reactions to people who want to “Netflix and chill’:

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It was taken even further, when people changed the word ‘Netflix’ to something else to suit the situation and then adding “and he/she gives you this look”. For example:

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As of this year, Marketers are using this joke to sell products… and it is a success. Yousef Okasheh from the university of Texas designed condoms that are packaged with “Netflix and chill” written on it. This has now become a novelty item, and is priced higher than regular packeted condoms, but people are still buying them. Why? Because it is current Internet joke, that majority of people find hilarious. (source)

This joke created by frequent Internet users and meme creators show no signs of slowing down. As the CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings wrote on twitter “The meme has got to be peaking soon”.

No Media – No Joke

How many times have you sat with a group of friends, and one person makes a comment that makes everyone burst into a fit of laughter, and you just sit there because…you didn’t get? What about when you go online? You logged onto Facebook and started scrolling through the news feed and there’s a bunch of videos, and pictures that repeats this one joke, and you are left sitting there going ‘huh?’.  These days if you miss out on a joke, or do not understand the origins of it, you are left sitting in the dark for a very long time.

Majority of the population is now online, and there are many users. We are constantly communicating over social media, whether it be posting things publicly to a friend or messaging each other privately, sharing videos and pictures to all your followers or even publishing your own video.  When it comes to particular jokes, we share and tag each other more. So when something significant happens around the world, users are quick to act. For example, at the 2015 Video Music Awards (VMAs), Nicki Minaj publicly approached Miley Cryus (after lengthy twitter battle that same week), saying “Now, Back to this bitch who has a lot to say about me in the press. Miley WHAT’S GOOD?!” The internet was quick to react.

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If you did not watch the VMAs, this joke wouldn’t be as funny. It has been 2 months since this event, but the internet has not stopped there.

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It might be annoying if you missed out on the current joke between you and your friends, but it is worse when you miss out on an internet joke.  This is where I come in. Over the next few weeks, i’ll be investigating these jokes, searching for their original origins, how they have evolved, and (of course) be putting some of the best of these joke up. Whether you are apart of the older generation, who want to know what your kids are laughing at, or just someone who just does not get it, I am here to help.

If you have seen a joke recently that you do not understand, comment and link it to me below!

Students and Nomophobia; The Fear of Being Away From Your Phone

Recently, my friend turned to me and said “Hey, do you realise it has been two years since we graduated from high school?” Two years have gone by, and during this time I have been busy with various university assessments, with the occasional overseas adventure. Even the smallest habits have changed since high school, such as going onto social media sites whenever I want to, or using my phone in class. Along with this week’s topic, I started to think the particular school rule regarding phones on school property and accessing social media during school hours, in comparison to using them during university tutorials and lectures.

f8146275a95a1eb2144df7a54e9ab687This rule regarding mobile phone use, required students to switch their phones off and keep it in their bags. If students were caught using their phone during schools hours, it would be confiscated for the rest of the school day. The rule for social media, was similar. Students were not allowed to access these site, but if they tried, the sites would be blocked on our laptops anyway. However, being teenagers, many students found ways to use their phones for texting and social media, while hiding it under the table, behind books or laptops, or in their lockers or bags.

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In a university classroom, it is different. There may not be a written rule, but there is the unspoken rule (common sense) of using mobile phones. For example, you may text or use social media when the teacher is not talking to you/the class, and you must step outside the room to take calls. If you are having an exam or quiz during this class time, you do not use it. In other words, you may use it, if it does not disturb other students, the teacher or you.

These rules are enforced in schools, rather than university, because those students are young teenagers. The curriculums these students are learning are an important basis for building common sense. Mobile phones in these spaces become a distraction. There are many social anxieties regarding mobile phone use in classrooms. Alexandra Ossola (2015) found that many psychologist and researchers have discovered a link between using technology in classrooms make teenagers more nervous in face-to-face conversations. Ossola stated, “Constant pings of texts and Facebook notifications can sometimes distract students, pulling them away from their face-to-face interactions and into the virtual world of digital communication“.

In 2013, there was a social anxiety that appeared after a study claimed they found a link between using technology in the classroom resulted in bad grades. The researchers Jacob Barkley, Aryn Karpinski and Andrew Lepp found that teenagers with a high frequency phone usage were more likely to have lower academic scores and leading to unhappiness. Barkley stated, “It is possible that cell use cause anxiety and poor academic performances, it is also possible that highly anxious people are more drawn to their cell phones for a variety of reasons.For example, the research found that anxious teenagers checked their phones during study periods because it was an escape from hard work (Barkley, 2013). This research found that anxious people would check or use their phone six minutes into studying or revising time, causing distraction and eventually leading to poor grades (Vincent, 2013).

Schools don’t enforce these rules just to be ‘uncool’ or ‘old-fashioned’; they aim to protect students from distracting themselves and focusing on the school curriculum instead.  A high-school classroom is a space reserved for education. The introduction of using laptops and tablets may benefit students by developing computer and I.T skills and being a faster way to take notes. However, within a classroom technology should only be used for educational purposes. These regulations do not appear in university classrooms, because as adults, we should have the common sense to know when we can and cannot use our phones or social media sites.

The Youngest Audience Ever

Over the past few weeks, we have investigated the media’s various types of audiences. However, there’s one audience group that has been recently increased. Babies and toddlers. These days, children know how to search through a smart-phone before they learn to walk and talk.

Having children as young as 2 years in my extended family, I have noticed certain fights, as well as solutions made from technology. I was shocked to find that my young cousin was able to unlock my pass-code by watching me type it in once, and then continue to browse through my phone looking for games to play. What shocked me more, was watching my other two cousins fight to the point of tears, over who’s turn it was to play on the tablet. Has surrounding kids with technology become another educational tool or just another cause of tantrums?

Those children that are born in the 21st century are surrounded by technology. They watch their parents and relatives use smartphones and tablets to take their baby photos of them, and eventually they start to watch how they use it. Touch screens make it easier for children to access it, but how do children get their hands on one? Well, new apps have been introduced and targeted at parents of young children to keep them distracted.

359042-baby-appsWe have argued that technology has taken over our lives and have become a distraction at the dinner table. However, when there are young children involved, technology is placed in front of them to keep them quiet and avoid causing any chaos and tantrums in a public space. Once these kids are enrolled in primary school, they are given tablets to use inside the classroom. While some teachers may believe that using tablets is a great platform for children to use for education, others have found that the children are distracted by other gaming apps.

Sue Palmer is an educationalist and literacy expert, who believes that parents of children at certain ages should be focusing on developing their life skills (such as walking, talking, grabbing and reading) instead of placing technology in front of them. Whilst it may be a solution to avoiding public tantrums, it can affect their learning abilities. When Palmer met a three-year old boy and his mother, the mother boosted about his ability to use an iPad. Palmer stated – “Although the child could walk, he preferred to crawl. He has the language skills of an 18-month old. This boy probably has some underlying developmental problems – but I’m sure long hours on the iPad made it much worse”. Unfortunately, there are many other children like this. These days, most families are falling victims to technology– relying on them to make parenting ‘easier’.

In our modern world today, technology is unavoidable. It does not make one a bad parent for wanting to keep their children distracted at times. The main solution to this issue is moderation. Just like the Cookie monsters said “only sometimes”. As Palmer stated “The sort of interaction babies and toddlers need is interaction with real people and the real-life environment. That’s how they develop communication skills and learn to co-ordinate and control their whole body, not just jabbing with a finger at a screen.

Reference:

AP 2013, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood says apps don’t make babies smarter, Image, News.com.au, Viewed: 6 September 2015, <http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/parenting/campaign-for-a-commercial-free-childhood-says-apps-dont-make-babies-smarter/story-fnet08xa-1226693189966&gt;

How Far is too Far?

Throughout this subject we have investigated social rules and norms of our spaces that we consume the media, however there is a fine line between what makes our space public or private. A public space refers to a space where we are accompanied by other people (family, friends and/or strangers), is open to any individual to use and consume the media as a mass audience. A private space refers to the area being used and accessed by a particular individual. Our spaces are becoming more public than private. Even our online space is in the eye of public; nothing online is private anymore. Being in the public space means being in a vulnerable position where people you know, or even strangers catch you on film.

Smartphones (or even a camera phone) sits in our pockets all day everyday, and if they are not in oScreen Shot 2015-09-10 at 3.50.55 pmur pockets- they are in our hands. This gives ordinary people the opportunity to take photos and videos at any point in our lives. With social media available on our phones as well, these photos can be uploaded with one click. We are able to communicate with our family and friends faster, share photos and videos through messages and capture moments that are worth remembering. If only life was as simple and pleasant as this, however the reality of it is a lot crueller.

Online shaming refers to the act of sharing a photo, video, thought or name, to embarrass or bully someone that eventually goes viral. In most cases, photos and videos are shared and are usually taken when the individual is unaware of the situation. Although, I should not generalise this topic. Some people upload photos/videos without the intention to bully, but for humour. On popular Facebook pages such as the Ladbible, Men’s humour and various others occasionally upload photos taken in public by ordinary people. With 10 million+ subscribers per page, these become viral and are seen around the world. But how do we determine whether a photo will make us laugh, or publicly humiliate someone?

Monica Lewinsky, whom discusses our online culture and the consequences as someone who was shamed in the public eye. In 1998, Monica was shamed for her affair with the (at the time) president of the United States; Bill Clinton.  This scandal came out before the internet, but since then, even over a decade later, Monica has been cyber bullied. During her Tedtalk she stated – “There is a very personal price to public humiliation, and the growth of the internet has jacked up that price.

As mentioned before, taking photos and videos in 2015, is a lot easier and common. Some may intend to humiliate another, and others may just do it for some laughs, but we are all possibly becoming victims to either taking the photo, or being humiliated via social media. What has made it easier? Snapchat.

Snapchat was an app designed to be used for sending photos that could only be viewed 1-10 seconds before disappearing. The aim of this app was for entertainment and communication between users. Because this app can be downloaded for smartphone, these ‘picture messengers’, users can screenshot and save them to their phones. The unexpected outcome of this is that users upload these screenshots of their friends to other social media pages, such as Instagram or Facebook. One of the new norms of social media friendships is uploading these screenshots (which are usually embarrassing for the that person) onto their friend’s walls for their birthdays for public shaming. This is an exact example of private media going public.

As technology continues to develop to keep us all connected, this problem will not disappear. However, we, as media students, can attempt to resolve this issue, and instead of sharing a photo, stop to think ‘whether this will humiliate that person?’