What Can We Do With Online Media?

What we can do with media and media itself have evolved over the past century as culture and technology have grown and changed. While communication and digital technologies have transformed at astonishing rates, so has the ways we consume and contribute, and even perceive and think about media. Expanding from traditional platforms of broadcast and publication, the introduction of technologies enabling the internet and the web have allowed for huge audiences to be reached with greater ease and smaller monetary cost than ever before. This is the rise of new media. ‘New’ media represents the rise of online and digital media, although it is not limited to these aspects. It focuses on the dynamism of change and infers this media is constantly evolving (Siapera, 2012). Looking at the history of online media and the way we currently view websites and the internet, it can be broken down into two main stages: web 1.0 and web 2.0. Hinton and Hjorth (2013) describe web 1.0 as the beginning of the monetisation of the internet through the 1990s, when the everyday user had little ability for personalisation or creation without a high level of technical knowledge. Web 2.0 began after, this stage is high in user-generated content, through easy to use interfaces. Platforms such as blogging, microblogging, social networking sites (SNSs) give users huge options to create, author and distribute content, but companies also log and record all user activity, and use this as a business model for commercialisation and profit.

Throughout my own exploration of what we can do with online media, I documented my personal use over a seven day period and blogged the process daily through a WordPress site. I recorded the websites I visited, the online apps I used, the processes involved in publishing and distributing media online, and why I did these things. Majority of my usage was consuming media; looking at posts by people I both know and don’t know, reading articles, watching videos, checking information. This is evident through my documentation on day three, where I recorded that I accessed and viewed media on Twitter and Instagram almost 30 times each over a 24 hour period. However, I also authored content online; videos to my Instagram story, ‘tweets’ to Twitter, posts on Facebook, comments on posts and photos.recorded in detail the process of how I upload content to Instagram, which I found to be generally impersonal, constructed and edited images that can reach an audience of over 12 thousand followers, different to how I post on Facebook and Twitter, which I use on private networks with fewer followers and friends connected. I also commonly used online media for more mundane acts that have become essential to my everyday life. For instance, using the Apple Weather app each morning, checking train times through the PTV website and even accessing class information through the RMIT intranet portal were all documented each day. This process of blogging my usage in itself is an example of the easy personable interface that is the basis of web 2.0, similar to that of using other SNSs mentioned, where I have to enter my details and create and an account, and in return, internet companies receive my information, log all of my activity for analysis, and commercialise and monetise it through advertising.

Throughout this process I learned there is a clear difference between what I publish online for a wide public audience, and what I publish for a smaller private network of people I know. I thought it was interesting that my Instagram posts for a wide public audience was more constructed compared with Twitter, most of my posts or ‘tweets’ were personal anecdotes from my day, often with humorous and even self-deprecating tones, and direct communication with people I know. This could be due to the limitations imposed on Twitter, the 140 character limit for example, or not wanting to share personal information with thousands of people on Instagram, or a desire to present my online image or persona a certain way, particularly for people I don’t know. This idea of privacy, not giving out your personal information on the internet, has been drilled into me since my childhood in the 90s. That mantra is still clear, evident through what I don’t share on my Instagram, but definitely less so in general with how normal it is to meet people off the internet (Tinder users, for example). However, what is interesting is the way that SNSs actually work. As users, in order to have personal freedom on the internet – being able to create whatever we would like, reach large audiences, post, interact and even access some information, we must submit our personal information to create accounts. Hinton and Hjorth (2013) suggest this idea of freedom on the internet comes with limitations of control, and at the cost of our own privacy for the profit of online businesses, as they store all of our information and track all activity. They suggest this dichotomy of control was a paradox, and that our own perception of freedom may merely be another control.

The first feeling of surprise I experienced through this process was at the realisation of just how much I use and access SNSs. As mentioned through my evidence, the sheer frequency at which I check sites such as Twitter and Instagram, suggests a level of dependency or addiction. Sometimes it was difficult to answer why I was constantly needing to check these feeds of images, news and information, was it a fear of missing out? Was it wanting to communicate with others? Was it merely habit? Boredom? I’d check Instagram after being inactive for a mere couple of minutes, was this short attention span created by the fast nature of online media itself? That sense of connection was always there, present in the background or on my phone even when I was not actively using it, providing what Hinton and Hjorth (2013, p. 21) describe as ‘ambient intimacy’. From this exercise, I would like to become less dependent on social media.

I enjoyed documenting and learning more about the processes of publishing and consuming. While everything I posted was original, the study of copyright in the tutorials, influenced me to think carefully about what I was able to publish. For example, a video to Instagram: if it has music playing in the background is that then a breach of copyright, even if the post or the account is not for profit? It made me steer clear of anything I was unsure about, and reflect on my own practices in the past, when I used sites such as Tumblr which were riddled with images reposted with no credit. I’ve had my own images used on Instagram to advertise products by businesses with no permission and no credit given. This lesson was a strength as it influenced how I approach publishing my own content. I also enjoyed thinking critically about my personal usage, as even the term ‘consuming’ media has huge implications about the way online media is used. It’s as if it is something to be devoured; a never-ending stream of information, both meaningful and shallow. Ethan Zuckerman (2008, para. 4) refers to this shallowness, that web 2.0 (SNSs and online media as it is today) ‘was created to allow people to share pictures of cute cats’, inferring that most people prefer to use the web for mundane acts, which was evident in my own usage. This exercise brought me to question the relationship I have with online media, whether what I do on a daily basis is influenced by the presence of SNSs such as Instagram and snapchat, like posting photos of my food on Instagram, or ‘checking in’ on Facebook when I go anywhere. Or if it is the reverse, that social media has evolved in reaction to its users’ habits. Gauntlett (2015) proposed that media should be seen as ‘triggers for experience and for making things happen’ (p. 7), supporting the former, while Murphie and Potts (2003, p. 28), suggested ‘we know the world differently through different technologies, and different technologies themselves are… a response to knowing the world differently’. I’m inclined to agree with the latter, perhaps the exact cause and effect between culture and technology or media cannot be pinpointed, perhaps they correlate and influence each other simultaneously.

Maintaining a blog over the past six weeks has been a learning experience, one that was filled with moments of surprise, revelation, and even exasperation. This process and reflection could potentially be developed further by extending documentation of usage. My personal usage over a single week did not have much breadth, and by gathering more personal evidence more ideas could be explored. I felt that my own usage did not necessarily relate to the ideas that I wanted to express and the way that I view online media. It did not come close to answering the pivotal question, what can we do with online media, because there is just so much that can be done. While I am not a media student, implications for my own practice in the future from this process could relate to maintaining a blog and using social media for business purposes; in the past I have partnered with businesses to promote products. This could be furthered, with increased understanding of how businesses work through media.

 

Reference List

Gauntlett, D 2015, Making media studies: the creativity turn in media and communications studies, Peter Lang, New York.

Hinton, S & Hjorth, L 2013, Understanding Social Media. Sage Publications, London.

Murphie, S & Potts, J 2003, Culture and Technology. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

Siapera, E 2012, Understanding New Media. London, Sage Publications, London.

Zuckerman, E 2008, ‘The cute cate theory talk at ETech’, … My Heart’s in Accra, blog post, 8 March, viewed 6 April 2017, < http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2008/03/08/the-cute-cat-theory-talk-at-etech/>.

 

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Analysis Three: Reflecting on the Reflection

Maintaining a blog over the past six weeks has been a learning experience, one that was filled with moments of surprise, revelation, and even exasperation. This process and reflection could potentially be developed further by extending documentation of usage. My personal usage over a single week did not have much breadth, and by gathering more personal evidence more ideas could be explored, to allow for more critical analysis. I felt that my own usage did not necessarily relate to the ideas that I wanted to express and the way that I view online media. It did not come close to answering the pivotal question, what can we do with online media, because there is just so much that can be done and I don’t personally utilise most of it within my own practices. Through the weekly readings, I’ve begun to view and analyse technology and its relationship to culture in almost everything that I do. I’m asking myself throughout my day when I interact online, Is this use of the Instagram or Snapchat stories what the app designers initially expected and am I doing these because this technology has made it so? Or has culture changed its use and it was created in response to us already doing it?  While I am not a media student, implications for my own practice in the future from this process could relate to maintaining a blog and using social media for business purposes; in the past I have partnered with businesses to promote products. This could be furthered, with increased understanding of how businesses work through media.

Analysis Two: Evaluation

WHAT CAN WE DO WITH ONLINE MEDIA?

This has been the underlying question behind all of my work thus far. The documentation of my online activity answered what I do with online media, but didn’t come close to demonstrating everything that can be done, or critically analysing this use. Through documenting my online media use it became apparent that there was a clear distinction between what I published online for a private audience: for family, friends and people that I know, and what I published for a wider public network of people. This difference is clear by comparing my usage and authoring on Facebook and my private Twitter account, with that of Instagram.

For example, through my documentation on day four, I focused solely on my use of Twitter. For some, this SNS (Social Networking Site) is public, however, I use mine in a more personal way, with less followers than Instagram for example, and hardly any that I don’t know. I post frequently, using casual language, sometimes personal topics and as a method of communication. It could be reasoned that I post less personal information on Instagram as means of privacy; I don’t want to share my personal information with thousands of people. On the other hand, it may have more to do with my personal online image. The constructed and heavily edited feed I have presented could be seen as a persona and how I want people, particularly that I don’t know, to see me.

I also learnt the ways in which I consume media, are often for habitual, mundane reasons that were essential for my day-to-day life, not just for entertainment and communication via social media like I expected. The existence of programs, software and websites, like the online Apple app for instance, is an aspect of online media that wouldn’t have existed 10 years ago. This looks at media and technology evolving to suit our needs, however, comparing this to SNSs like Instagram, where it is the norm to post photos of food and check in on Facebook when you go almost anywhere, could suggest that perhaps our own activities are influenced by the media and technology available to us.This can be looked at through a number of theoretical frameworks discussed by Murphie and Potts (2003). Through a poststructuralist perspective, it is clear through this usage that culture and technology have a definitive effect on each other.

References

Murphie, S & Potts, J 2003, Culture and Technology. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

Analysis One: Evidence

Over the past week I have documented how I’ve used online media. This process included recording all or most activity, usually my writing notes on my phone so I could blog about it later. It usually involved feelings of surprise and even embarrassment, at just how much I used it; for the tiniest things, to fill up every second of time, how I could barely function or go an hour without using it.

Each day I took a slightly different approach, a couple of days I merely listed all of my activity, including all the online apps I used, social media platforms, educational intranet and sites, and briefly expanded on basic reasons as to why I used it. Whether it was contributing to online media; actually writing, posting, uploading photos, videos, or consuming media; watching, reading, downloading, learning. Sometimes it was difficult to answer why I did the things I did. Entertainment? Education? Because it’s socially expected? Merely habit?

On day two I focused solely on the use of social media platform Instagram, and recorded in detail how I author content and post online through this medium and all the processes associated with it, including before and after photos from the original to the edited image that went online. On day four I made a similar post, detailing my usage of Twitter. Comparing to Instagram, my Twitter account is less public, and thus I didn’t include any examples.

On my third day of posting I listed every interaction I had with online media, including the times, detailing just how much time in my day it really takes up, as well as the wide scope of apps and websites I actually use on a daily basis that is essential to a lot of my social and academic life.

Day 7 (and my last!)

Hey there, for the final time for this week!

Today’s final entry (Monday, 27/3/2017) I’ll be once again going through my media usage, highlighting the Whats, Hows and Whys of how I use online media.

From yesterday evening and last night it was primarily focused on social media, while today it has focused more-so on educational sites for academic purposes.

Similar to the past week, the main sites (or apps) I visited included Instagram, Twitter and Facebook (including messenger). These are visited quite frequently, usually for brief periods of time, mostly consisting of consuming media and not nearly as much authoring. I also used the Uber app to organise a ride home, the PTV app to check public transport times. These were for practical reasons – be able to get out, socialise and be able to come home again safely. I checked my emails (which I usually do a couple of times a day, deleting most straight away that aren’t important so my inbox stays uncluttered). I have 4 different emails all linked on my phone, my RMIT student email, a hotmail account that is used primarily for online shopping and most online email subscriptions, I have a gmail account that I use for job seeking and other more professional reasons, and finally an email that I used to use with my Instagram for promoting and business purposes. I delete almost everything that isn’t uni-related or shopping related (eg. for online receipts, shipping confirmation and tracking and ticket purchases, etc). I watched a one hour long episode on Netflix – for entertainment.

I made four posts to my Instagram story, the first of which I’ve embedded as an example. This was a boomerang, with an Instagram filter and sticker applied. I also filmed a short video and two images. These were all captured on my iPhone 6, and uploaded through the Instagram app. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I like being active on my Instagram Story, so as to have things my followers can view or interact with me when I don’t post for extended periods of time.

Today I’ve used the myRMIT and blackboard to complete readings for courses, I’ve also used the online RMIT library, as well as databases such as PSYCHinfo for social research on psychology. These are all consuming media – reading, downloading articles. For one of my classes I have to anonymously contribute to a discussion board on blackboard surrounding the topic of psychology of gender – in this way I have authored content, however, it has been anonymous so no credit was given. I also used Turnitin to submit as assessment task. These were all accessed on my laptop, and the reasons behind this usage were educational, so as to complete work, readings, write and submit essays and assessments.

Day 6

Hey guys! We’re nearly at the end! We’ve made it to day six (Sunday, 26/3/2017)!

Over the past 24 hours I have used the following online media:

  • Facebook Messenger – communication purposes to speak to friends to organise meeting up
  • PTV app – checked train and tram times.
  • Instagram Story – I filmed and uploaded a video through the app from my night, I also applied a filter and a caption on the video itself
  • Commbank App – checked current bank balance
  • Twitter – consumed media, checked feed multiple times. Also authored media, posted tweets. For entertainment purposes, and to stay up to date
  • Instagram – consumed media, checked Instagram feed several times over the night and today. Liked many photos and left a couple of comments. Usually complimentary on photos of friends. Mostly for entertainment, sometimes to pass time.
  • Facebook – consumed media, watched videos, read statuses, scrolled through my feed – these are primarily for entertainment purposes, I also watched a political video, that was to stay up to date with current news and events. I shared a friend’s post about her lost cat that lives close to me – this was to help spread the word or assist in hopefully finding it. Looked up restaurant I was visiting for current weekly specials.
  • Uber App – I ordered an Uber home, practical reasons for transportation
  • RMIT site/blackboard – consumed media for educational purposes, accessed online readings, course guides and obtained assessment due dates.
  • Apple Music – listened to music through the online streaming service, for entertainment purposes.
  • Weather App – on iPhone.
  • Checked emails

Over the past 24 hours I’ve mostly consumed media rather than authored. It was also mostly for entertainment, educational and practical reasons such as getting to and from places.

 

Day 5

Day Five, already! (Saturday, 25/3/2017)

(I haven’t been home too much this weekend so I’ve been documenting my usage on my phone and posting these a day or two later)

So! Over the past day from Friday night to Saturday night, I’ve actually done and contributed to my online media usage in a different way than my previous posts!

I used Instagram Live for the first time! It was my friend’s birthday and we went out and decided it would be a good idea to film part of the night live for our followers (it wasn’t). I don’t think it was particularly interesting content for anyone that watched, except perhaps few that we’re friends with who left comments during the livestream. Instagram Live streams can be viewed in the app, similarly to the stories, however, you can only watch what is currently being filmed and once it’s gone, it can’t be viewed again (there is a feature to download them now, but we did not opt for this). This was mostly for entertainment purposes for ourselves, rather than publishing meanwhile content. Live streaming is not brand new, it’s been around predominantly on Periscope and Facebook Live for a while. But since Instagram introduced stories, which work almost the same as stories on Snapchat, Instagram is one of the most accessible/popular apps and is potentially leaving others unnecessary because you can do most of in the one place. I have more followers on Instagram than friends on Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter, so I can reach a wider audience on there, which has meant I tend to just use Instagram (with some exceptions, particularly Twitter) and not worry about the rest.

This birthday was organised through a Facebook event, which was accessed several times before arriving, so as to stay organised and up to date with what was happening on the night. I checked my Instagram and Twitter feeds regularly. I used the Uber app to get a ride home at the end of the night.

For the following day – Saturday – I checked my social media feeds as soon as I woke up, as well as the weather app to see the day’s forecast – my usual morning ritual, so ingrained in me that I don’t think about it anymore. As mentioned over the last few days, this is partly, habit, entertainment, wanting to stay up to date, and communication reasons.

As the day went on, I made a few tweets, continued to check social media. I watched a one hour episode on Netflix, as well as blackboard to complete some homework. For entertainment and educational reasons, respectively.

Day 4

Hey, hi, hello!

We’ve made it to the halfway mark of this exercise!

For today’s entry (Friday, 24/3/2017) I’ll be focusing on another platform that I use the most a bit more in depth again. This time it will be Twitter.

Now, I think Twitter is an interesting website – as a microblogging platform, because it definitely isn’t as popular with people that I know like Instagram and Facebook are. While there are countless celebrities on there, a lot of people I know, just don’t get it, and I understand why. I regularly make posts (tweets) everyday, which are all limited to 140 characters. It’s by far the social media site that I author and post the most content to. The limitation of characters also definitely shape the way the site works and how people interact with it as well as each other. There is often a need for abbreviations and shortened slang in order to fit to the character count, and these makes it feel very casual, and far more socially acceptable to post many things one after another – often because you can’t fit it all in one. For example, posting 5 photos on Instagram or making 5 statuses on Facebook in a row are probably going to be seen as more abnormal than making 5 tweets.

Because of the casual nature, as well as less people you often personally know to follow (and following you – note, this isn’t always the case, but it is for most people I know) – there’s a small knit community that interact together, frequently replying to posts that feel a lot closer and less forced than say commenting or receiving a comment on an Instagram photo. For example, I have 1% of the number of followers on Twitter as I do on Instagram – and that’s a conscious decision. I use Twitter on a far more personal and private level, often posting things that I may not want to share with 12 thousand people, but may still want to post online or receive feedback for without directly messaging a single person. It’s also interesting to note that a lot of memes originate from Twitter, and perhaps this casual and often humorous nature could be behind it.

In the past 24 hours I’ve posted 5 original tweets including one photo, and 3 replies to other people. These were all taken, written and posted from my phone on the Twitter app. The photo was not edited at all – unlike my entry about Instagram, where you can see all of my photos are generally edited to fit a theme or aesthetic. This isn’t really present on Twitter. The reasons behind these posts for communication purposes – it’s an easy way to post something for most of my close friends to see. It’s also enjoyable, and a way of documenting thoughts and things that are happening that are written in a way that is usually humorous. Sharing opinions on Twitter, especially about social or political topics is something I did, is easier and more comfortable, because there are less people to start arguments or controversy.

Ways that I consumed media on Twitter – I checked it about 20 times over the hours I was awake. I also liked 12 posts, 4 of which were photos.

DAY 3

Hey again!

Onto my third day documenting my use of online media, and I’ve tried to be a bit more specific than the previous two days. Starting my 24 hour period from about 5pm yesterday to 5pm today (23/3/2017) I recorded how and when I used different media platforms.

5:00pm: Posted 2 images to my Instagram Story.
5:30pm: Posted 2 tweets, also checked my twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds for updates from friends and other people I follow. Watched 2 videos on Facebook, including a short dog video and a movie trailer and commented on a friend’s Facebook post.
5:45 – 11pm: Checked Instagram and Twitter about 17-20 times – I usually do these together because they are not as cluttered, generally not too many posts to go through, and also usually show the most insight into what people are up to/interesting images they are sharing. Although I check them frequently, it only lasts seconds to a couple of minutes. Whereas, I only checked Facebook 3 times in that time, which is full of videos and memes, rather than many actual direct original content from people I know, and it usually takes longer to go through.
I liked 16 posts on Instagram and commented on 2 posts – both from people I know in real life.
10pm: I watched 2 episodes of a show on Netflix before bed (24 minutes episodes)

9am (next day): Checked Instagram and Twitter as soon as I woke up for about 10 minutes. Browsed the Weather app to check today’s forecast.
10:30: Checked Instagram, Twitter and Facebook more in depth on my way to uni on the train
11am: Posted a photo on a friend’s Facebook Timeline for her birthday – the photo had been taken on my iPhone 6 the previous weekend, the flash had been overexposed so I briefly adjusted the brightness on the app VSCO cam. Created and posted a Boomerang video on my Instagram Story – taken once again on my phone, a moving image similar to a GIF. Checked my story from the day before, over 1000 followers/users had viewed it.
11:30am: in the hour it took to get to uni I checked my Facebook notifications 4 times, Instagram and Twitter twice.
12:30pm: During my one hour lecture, I accessed blackboard to view the lecture slides.
3pm: Scrolled through my Instagram, Facebook and Twitter feeds
3:30pm: Accessed Blackboard and the online RMIT library and databases to conduct social research. Also accessed Seek – job searching site, in order to view current jobs in Psychology as per one of my assessments for my social research class. These were all done for educational purposes.
4:07; 4:25; 4:47: Checked my main 3 social media apps again each time
5:00: Used the PTV app for public transport times and updates getting home, replied to Direct Messages on Instagram.

Now digging a bit deeper and looking into why I did all of these things. The vast majority of my usage was consuming media – checking the 3 major social media sites – Instagram, Twitter and Facebook – I usually do out of habit and boredom. Sometimes when I find I haven’t checked them in a number of hours I actually feel good about it, and yet I keep on accessing them frequently – as a source of entertainment and to stay updated. The videos I watched on Facebook were for entertainment purposes, while checking things like the weather and train times were more practical. The direct messages was to communicate.

The media I created and posted were for different reasons. The Boomerang – partly because I like how they look and move, I posted a moving image of the book I was reading, this became a starting point for conversation with one of my followers and friends. The photo on my friend’s timeline on Facebook was to wish her a happy birthday but also make it more personal. The comments were to compliment friends, to express how I felt in a positive way.

DAY 2!

Welcome back!

For my second day on how I use media (March 22, 2017) I’ll be focusing on one particular platform of online media (my most used and my most public) – Instagram.

Over the past 24 hours, while I’ve been awake, I’ve checked my Instagram feed once every 25-30 minutes – on average. Sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on what I was doing and if I was alone. Habit plays a large role in frequency of checking, as does for entertainment purposes and the idea of fear of missing out – the need or desire to want to stay up to date and not miss anything, as well as the need for constant communication.

That’s how I consumed Instagram, but today I also actively contributed to it. I uploaded 3 photos and a video to my Instagram Story – a feature that allows me to make posts that can be viewed chronologically one after the other that disappear after 24 hours. This is an interesting feature, because it allows me to post things that I may not want permanently on my own feed, but I may still want to be active on Instagram or show my followers certain things. I also uploaded a photo to Instagram, which I’ll be going through in detail today.

My Instagram could be viewed as curated, a constructed persona of myself, and it’s definitely not a realistic portrayal of my everyday life. I don’t really look at it like an actual representation of me or my life, moreso just a collection of images that I think look nice together. I generally don’t try to make my online image on this platform very personal, and my posts mostly include ‘selfies’, ‘flatlays’, travel photos, photos with friends and other points of interest including makeup, fashion and food. I don’t really post about what I do on a daily basis, nor very much about myself. For today’s post, I created a flatlay image, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like – a photo of objects laid out flat and usually taken from above. This can serve many purposes for advertising or marketing; this is a good way of highlighting items from particular brands – they can be tagged and easily featured (which I’ve done in the past), it can also be a good method for getting exposure, often if you tag brands they may repost your image and hopefully credit you – potentially growing your follower base. I generally post these because I think they look nice, while also breaking up the types of images I post so they’re not all of me.

A lot of work can go into these images, and what I’m focusing on today is how false and contrived they can be. It’s important to note, that a lot of these images that I, and even more-so social media influencers post, are not natural or effortless. While it only took a couple of minutes to arrange the items that I already had on hand, and then a couple of minutes to choose and edit an image on photo-editing apps on my phone, sometimes an entire hour (and even longer) can be spent, making sure it’s perfect.

I used my iPhone 6 to take the photos, and apps Facetune and VSCO cam to edit them. For this post, I didn’t tag anything or anyone, I also generally don’t use hashtags. I merely captioned it with an emoji, and within an hour it had 178 likes. Here you can see a before and after from editing these images, and below you can see how they sit on my Instagram feed.