BCM312

Animals get the short end of the Selfie Stick

Selfie culture has become a global phenomenon and its manifestation has shifted from the mainstream ‘duck face’ image, to a more peculiar, unique, extreme and even hazardous means of self-expression, via social media.

Self-portraits, taken on iPhone or android and uploaded to various social media platforms, have become so prominent that it has become a quest to go above and beyond to get the most popular image, in order to conjugate ‘likes’ of an obscene amount.

On Saturday 9th March 2019, a woman was attacked by a jaguar, after she crossed a barrier to take a selfie with the animal at a United States zoo.

The woman was visiting the Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium and Safari Park in Phoenix, Arizona when she climbed over the barrier to get closer to the animal. The Jaguar swiped at her arm causing deep gashes and sending the woman to hospital.

This not the first in a string of stories involving wildlife and selfies. It seems, this risky behaviour is driven by the, now standard, need to feel validated on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter by the number of likes an innately dangerous selfie receives. The more risk involved in taking the selfie, the more appreciation the image will be shown by the strangers we share our lives with on the internet.

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Socially, this idea of achieving a stand out selfie is accepted and encouraged, but morally and ethically, there is much to be considered and perhaps discouraged. Thus, I believe further research into this notion is required.

I have formulated a research question, which will address these issues and provide insight into the processes behind selfies that risk the lives of their subjects. The question “Why do people continue to risk their lives for the ultimate animal selfies, despite such risks being well known and discouraged?” will guide my research and hopefully provide myself and others with an understanding of why risk-taking behaviour, in the form of selfies, is so appealing to so many.

Not only do these sorts of selfies put the photographer at risk, they also impact on the wellbeing of the wildlife involved. In some cases, animals have been killed for no reason other than to capture an impressive image to share online.

In 2016, a shark died after it was pulled from the water and handed around as a prop for selfies in the Dominican Republic, while in 2017, a baby dolphin was met with the same fate after being the subject of tourist selfies on a beach in Spain. “We need to stop the demand for elephant rides and shows, hugs and selfies with tigers and lions by exposing the hidden suffering behind wildlife attractions.” (Tom P. Moorhouse)

Some wildlife tour operators exploit wildlife for profit in ways that lead to great cruelty and suffering. One of the biggest culprits is the growing popularity of wildlife selfies where tourists, with the help of tour operators, capture and share images of themselves with wild animals – exploiting them as photo props. (World Animal Protection)

With so many animals being harmed in the process of taking these selfies, it’s no surprise that people are also dying, as a result of putting their lives at risk to achieve the ultimate wildlife selfie. The unpredictability of wild animals enhances the risks associated when taking photos of or with such animals. Passion, interest and a curiosity for wild animals mixed with a lack of daily connection with them makes for a potentially fatal combination.

In 2016, a Chinese man was killed when he tried to take a selfie with a walrus who ultimately drowned him, along with the zookeeper who tried to save him, at Chinas Yeshanko Wildlife Zoo.

Margo DeMello, program director for human-animal studies at the Animals and Society Institute, says that people are drawn to what is left of wilderness, as they consider domesticated animals to be not as exciting as wild animals due to being so common. This apparent desensitisation to the dangers of wild animals has increased the number of animal selfies being shared on the internet, so much so, that image sharing application, Instagram, has taken a stand against the dangerous behaviour, blocking users from searching hashtags related to wild animal selfies.

Such hazardous behaviour has definitely been inspired by the prolific growth of social media and networking with the desire for likes clicks and clouding our judgement when it comes to safe selfie practises. In an age of self-promotion via social media, we as users feel the need to go over the top in order to document something others would consider new and perhaps thrill seeking, and through this research project I would like to find out why.


Academic References

  • Moorhouse, T., Dahlsjö, C., Baker, S., D’Cruze, N. and Macdonald, D. (2015). The Customer Isn’t Always Right—Conservation and Animal Welfare Implications of the Increasing Demand for Wildlife Tourism. PLOS ONE, 10(10), p.e0138939
  • Social media giant takes action on wildlife ‘selfies’. (2017). Veterinary Record, 181(25), pp.672-673.
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BCM241

Ethnographic Research Project – Jeffree Star: A Fandom of the Opera

In attending the Jeffree Star Princess Polly live event, I hoped to convey the characteristics of this particular fandom and demonstrate how the online persona of a social media influencer can often times be different to that of their real-life personality. This was demonstrated through my personal conversion from previously having no interest in Jeffree Star to becoming a huge fan of the YouTube sensation.

 

BCM241

The Specifics: My Ethnographic Research Project

Now it is time to delve into the specifics of how I plan to conduct my ethnographic research. Firstly, I decided to focus on one beauty guru in particular, in order to easily conduct research relating to a specific fandom. I have chosen to focus on Jeffree Star, who isan American internet celebrity, makeup artist, entrepreneur, and musician. He is also the founder and owner of Jeffree Star Cosmetics, of which, he subsequently promotes on YouTube, where he has amassed more than 10 million subscribers and over 1 billion views, as of 2018.

My choice to focus on Jeffree Star was cemented when my best friend invited me to attend an event, ‘Princess Polly Live Ft. Jeffree Star’. This event was an exclusive 90-minute live beauty event, featuring international makeup icon Jeffree Star, with guest appearances by Australia’s biggest YouTube sensations Michael Finch, Sammy Robinson & Cartia Mallan. Hosted by Ash London, the on-stage performance gave beauty lovers an insight into the world of Jeffree Star with an intimate 20-minute Q&A session, along with a live panel discussion and makeup challenge. Tickets were $80 each and 236 ticket holders had the opportunity to meet & greet Jeffree Star.

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Before being invited to the event, I was not a fan of Jeffree star. Not for any particular reason, I simply had not been exposed to his YouTube videos as much as my friends had, however, I still knew who he was and was aware of his makeup brand and the type of content he produced. Thus, I thought attending the event would be a great idea for my ethnographic study.

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I was inspired by a past project in in BCM241 that focused on fandom produced by Kristin Campbell, and as such, decided to use video and audio as my platform to present my findings. When I attended the event, I took my camera along and shot vlog style clips, keeping with the theme of YouTube beauty gurus. I included clips of myself, my friends, other fans, the products and merchandise available to purchase at the event, as well as exclusive clips from the Q&A session with Jeffree Star himself, in which, he discussed his social media success, which I thought would be perfect to include in my video.

Now that I have attended the event and filmed a variety of footage that shows the type of fandom surrounding Jeffree Star, I plan to sit down and film an autoethnography to include in my video. In this autoethnography, I will observe the footage and reflect on what I saw and experienced at the Princess Polly event. I also plan to reflect on my own attitude towards Jeffree Star and the other youtubers and discuss how my views of particular influencers have changed since experiencing them in real life as opposed to online. I will also interview other fans to gauge different perspectives.

Conclusively, I will produce a vlog style video that draws conclusions based on the fandom surrounding Jeffree star, and how it is, he managed to build such a large following, by way of social media. The video will include footage from the event I attended, as well as my own opinions and observations. I will also interview my friends who attended the event who were fans of Jeffree star prior to the event, in order to find out what it is that attracts them to someone who has made a living purely by posting videos on YouTube.

BCM241

The Rundown: My Ethnographic Research Project

I have always been interested in fashion and beauty together with the lifestyles of those I aspire to be like. Typically, icons worthy of our aspiration are recognised celebrities inclusive of Beyoncé, Britney spears, Leonardo DiCaprio and the like. Though, with the proliferation of social media, it seems people do not have to be generically famous to retain a substantial following.yt_1200-vfl4C3T0K
Since the age of 10, I have been a frequent user of the social media platform; YouTube. I am ‘subscribed’ to countless individuals who post videos ranging from makeup tutorials, fashion look books and first impressions of products, to simple vlogs that narrate the content creator’s daily activities and allow me to virtually follow them around, experiencing their day to day lives.

YouTube’s ‘beauty community’ is made up of individuals who create videos relating to all things fashion, beauty and lifestyles. While this is a niche selection of videos, as compared to the endless amounts of content available on YouTube, the popularity of these types of videos and this community as whole, has grown rapidly over the past few years. This has inspired me to carry out an ethnographic study relating to the fandom surrounding social media ‘influencers’, specifically those who are a part of the YouTube ‘beauty community’.

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Recently it occurred to me that, not only do I watch individual’s videos on YouTube, I also follow these ‘influencers’ on other social media platforms and allow them to saturate my Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook. This is what led me to the idea for my ethnographic study. I wanted to decipher what it is that labels someone a social media ‘influencer’, what the criteria is and how it is that these people who post YouTube videos and promote brands via social media have a following as big as generic celebrities such as Kim Kardashian or Kylie Jenner.

Through my ethnographic study, I hope to explore how it is that ‘self-made celebrities’ who began their careers by posting YouTube videos, have managed to accumulate such a large following and fan base. I wish to focus on these fans and I also wish to explore how the idea of the typical ‘Screaming female fan’ often described as ‘fanatic’, has been subverted, when it comes to fandoms surrounding homosexual and transgender beauty gurus, which takes away the concept of hysteria created by girls who long to be romantically involved with their male celebrity crushes.

Fan content around makeup is among the most lucrative because of makeups core relationship to consumption cultures, branding and structures of capital. Branded makeup products used in the videos of beauty gurus and the consumption surrounding them, indoctrinates fans into both the ideologies of fandom and postfeminist consumer citizenship (The Routledge Companion to Media Fandom). The same can be said for fashion, but I question how youtubers and social media influencers can become notable by posting vlogs, that consist of clips of what the induvial had for breakfast, their morning routine, them hanging out with friends and other typical every day activities, that I myself am guilty of being interested in. Often, these content creators are ordinary people, not unlike myself. Often these people are the same gender, same age and have the same interests and lifestyle as me, so what is it that makes them special enough to be labelled an ‘influencer’ and consequently have their own fans, and what is it that drives these fans to be dedicated to seemingly ‘ordinary’ people?

About me

About me

Hello,

My name is Shaneese Royal and I would like to personally welcome you to my blog.

This blog consists of all the work I have completed as a Communications and Media student at the University of Wollongong Australia.

I major in journalism and, as such, both communications and journalism work features on my blog.

In my personal life, I enjoy all things fashion, photography, videography, travel, friends and family.

For any enquiries, please don’t hesitate to contact me at:

Email: Shaneese.royal @ yahoo.com.au

(All other social media handles can bee found on the side bar of my blog)

BCM241

Love Me Tinder, Love Me Sweet

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“Love me tender, love me sweet, never let me go. You have made my life complete and I love you so.”

Oh, how the world has changed since 1956. The year that Elvis Presley released the chart topping, ‘Love me tender’. The 1950’s saw the concept of love and relationships romanticised and intimacy consisted of courtship and hand holding. Today, we have become acclimatised to ‘screened intimacy’, with the proliferation of the internet and social media, making way for the rise in popularity of online dating as a preferred method of meeting ‘the one’.

The growth of the internet and various social media applications has transformed the way, in which, we initiate and maintain personal relationships. Messages, photographs, videos and texts can all be exchanged through cyberspace, in an effort to impress the recipient in the hopes of scoring a date. The process of finding and encountering romance is fundamentally different to the ‘love me tender’ days, as new forms of media allow for individualised needs to be met, in terms of a preferred way to meet and pursue new people.

With 20,000 new downloads each day (Wortham, 2013), Tinder has, arguably, become the most popular dating application with over 10 million daily users, looking for that special someone. The name itself, together with the bonfire icon that accompanies the brand name, insinuates that once users have found a match, sparks will inevitably fly and ignite the fires of passion.

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This insinuation, however, was not the result of my most recent Tinder encounter. Upon matching on Tinder, myself and ‘he who shall not be named’, began conversing via the applications messaging system. We then continued this conversation on various other social media outlets, inclusive of Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. After chatting online, on and off for a couple of months, we finally decided it was time to bite the bullet and meet up, face to face (dun dun dun).

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Upon arrival to our date location and meeting each other for the first time, it was clear that there was, however assured by the name and icon of the Tinder application, no spark between the two of us. After the initial date, we both agreed not to see each other again, although we have remained friends till this day (online that is).

This experience, to Elvis Presley, would surely, have seemed otherworldly, meeting someone initially online, with chemistry flying across text messages, to having absolutely no chemistry at all in the real, physical world. This auto ethnographic recount of a failed tinder date has informed my thinking about how we understand the concept of screened intimacies and why people feel more comfortable conversing online as opposed to in person. It has also prompted me to ponder on why it is it may seem as though there is chemistry between two people in an online setting, but when tasked with meeting and maintaining conversation in the real world, this is evidently not the case.

To my failed tinder date, I thank you for being my muse for this blogpost, for without you I would have never known awkward silence like I did that day.


References 

Sumter, S 2017, ‘Love me Tinder: Untangling emerging adults’ motivations for using the dating application Tinder’ Telematics and Informatics, Vol. 34, No. 1, pp. 3-7 

James, J 2015,’ MOBILE DATING IN THE DIGITAL AGE: COMPUTER-MEDIATED COMMUNICATION AND RELATIONSHIP BUILDING ON TINDER’ Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 1-21

David, G 2016, ‘Screened Intimacies: Tinder and the Swipe Logic’ Social Media and Society, Vol. 1, No.11, pp. 1-5

BCM241

Bambi: A Cinema Experience

My mother’s cinema going experience, at my age, was extremely different to that, of my own. Back then, going to the ‘pictures’ was all the rage, while these days, there is a vast decline in cinema attendance due to the proliferation of television and movie streaming services. This decline can also be attributed to pirating and the trend of illegal downloads of all things media and entertainment.

Swedish geographer, Torsten Hagerstrand developed the time geography model as a way of gaining perspective on spatial and temporal processes and events such as social interaction, ecological interaction, social and environmental change, and biographies of individuals. The model consists of three constraints inclusive of capability constraints, coupling constraints and authority constraints. Each constraint seeks to explain limitations on peoples experience with particular spaces and can be used in relation to the weeks topic of cinema.

When I asked my mum to relay her most memorable cinema experience as a child, in an attempt to conduct an ethnographic study, she recounted her childhood, living across the road from a drive-in cinema. She told me the story of her and her friends slipping underneath the gates of the drive in and setting up camp next to one of the speakers, on a pole, and watching the movie. While this was a sweet anecdote, I opted to ask her about another experience she recalled of the cinema. One that wasn’t illegal.

Bambi was the first movie my mother remembers seeing at the cinemas. At 8 years old, my mother was taken by her own mother, on an hour train trip to the cinema in Parramatta. This hour train trip relates directly to Hagerstrand’s authority constraints which includes location. These days it takes me ten minutes to get to my local shopping centre, which also happens to be home to my local movie theatre.

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In relation to authority constraints, she (my mother) remembers a very strict no talking rule, and while she remembers advertisements showing before the film, she doesn’t remember any ads prompting viewers to turn off their mobile phones, like we see in the cinemas today, as they simply didn’t have mobile phones back when my mum was a child.

In regards to capability constraints, mum said the movies were expensive and she was only able to attend as a treat, every once in a while. This is quite different to my experience of cinema going, as I attend the movies quite often and not as the result of any particular occasion.

Finally, focusing on coupling restraints, mum recalls the movies not being open very late, “definitely not as late as they are these days”. She also said the scheduling was less frequent and the movies only showed once or twice per day.

As for the experience of the movie itself, let’s just say there were tears when (SPOILER ALERT) Bambi’s mum died, and mum now claims to be traumatised by the movie.

So, it seems, Hagerstrand’s model is applicable to any space, inclusive of the cinema space, of which, has changed dramatically since the good old days of Bambi screening once a day and having to take an hour train trip, only to cry and never want to watch the movie again.


References