Essay

Introduction 

I hadn’t given much thought to how and why I use media. It was always so accessible to me that I never questioned it– it just became a part of life. It wasn’t until we were asked to examine our media use that I realised how much I actually used, and how much time I spent not actually producing content unless it was for business purposes. This made me think about what kind of relationship we have with media and technology. There have been many theories on the matter but the ones that I’ll be primarily focusing on is the technological determinism theory, and the theory that technology is neutral. When discussing technological determinism I’ll be drawing from Marshall McLuhan and Friedrich Kittler because they both debate that technology is what shapes us, whilst the neutral theory will be focused on what Barry Jones proposes. 

Evidence 

We were asked to write a blog post every day for the next seven days about our media use. This meant that by the end of each day we had to recall all the different types of media we had used, and explain what it was that we did with that media and why. In the beginning I would write down notes throughout the day so I wouldn’t forget what I had used, but by the third or fourth day I was able to recall each media use without writing it down. By this point I had realised that each day wouldn’t differ too much from the last–I was using the same media platforms, always sticking to an unintentional routine. 

The main platforms I used were Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Messenger. When I’d use Facebook for my own personal use I found that most of the time I was browsing through my news feed ‘liking’ and commenting on posts, or sometimes tagging friends and sharing content. When I used Facebook for business purposes I would be a lot more active by writing statuses or sharing various events (as described in my day two and four blog post). I used Instagram and Snapchat passively and actively, however most of the time I would be scrolling and ‘liking’ pictures, or checking ‘stories’ that my friends had posted. I used Instagram differently from Snapchat–I would post high quality photographs (mostly regarding fashion) on my Instagram whilst on Snapchat I would post things that were a lot more personal to me, and not as high quality (I also mention this in my day four post). I didn’t give too much thought in the beginning but I find it interesting that I was authoring and publishing very different content on these two mediums. 

Although there were small contributions along the week I wouldn’t consider to be myself an active author and publisher–instead I took a much more passive approach and simply scrolled through or watched content without giving too much thought on what I was doing.

Evaluation
Since I found myself going back to the same media platforms every day, and noticing that I was much more of a passive user I wondered whether technology had some control over me. Considering I wasn’t primarily using media to author or publish anything, perhaps instead media was shaping the way I was living my life. To further develop this idea I looked into a theory called ‘technological determinism’. This theory sees technology as an agent for social change (Murphie & Potts 2003, p.11), and Marshall McLuhan was a prominent theorist to discuss this theory because he believed that technology and media shaped our environments and interactions with people. McLuhan believed that “the media are extensions of human senses” (Siapera 2012, p.7), and in a reading from Eugenia Siapera (2012) she uses the example of a telephone to interpret this idea saying, “telephone extends human voice, but it also ‘amputates’ face-to-face interaction” (p.7). In this case we can also argue social media to do the same–authoring, publishing and distributing would be just another extension of our voice. In my case, using it passively would suggest that media is so ingrained in me that I’m using it as though it were a body part (an extension of myself), arguing that media and technology is changing the way we are as people.  

Friedrich Kittler is another theorist that also looks at technological determinism arguing that “media and their technologies make possible the kind of people that we are, and the societies that we have” (Siapera 2012, p.10). I found this interesting because having access to various mediums means that we are able to conceive different versions of ourselves, for example as I mentioned previously, I use Instagram and Snapchat very differently from one another. I am able to construct different versions of myself because of particular audiences I have on each medium, and because it’s made it possible for me to live out these different versions. On Instagram I posted a clear, nice photograph of myself to show what I had worn that day and also to show the street art that was featured behind me–in some ways without Instagram I don’t think I would be this person who would upload ‘ootd’ (outfit of the day) photographs. 

Although these two theorists make valid points, I admit that they don’t consider the type of impact humans make to media and technology–Barry Jones however views technology as neutral. Even though I was passive and felt as though I was stuck in this habit of having to check my social media platforms (even when there was no reason for it), I’m still given a choice as to how I want to use these platforms. Jones proposes that “any technological change has an equal capacity for the enhancement or degradation of life, depending on how it is used” (Jones in Murphie & Potts 2003, p.22). Due to being a passive user it allowed me to believe that media and technology was having some sort of an effect on me however, If I think of technology the way Jones does, I am able to shift that power back me, the user, and understand that being passive still enhanced my life in some way–Netflix and YouTube brought me entertainment when I felt the need to relax, and Instagram gave me inspiration for my own content as I glimpsed over other people’s photos. However in saying this, I would like to author and publish a lot more in the future just as I have done with my blogs. By using WordPress I was able to create my blogs which have helped me to understand the kind of media user I am, so if I can continue to use media and technology the way I want to I’m able to continuously grow to be an active content creator. 

Conclusion 

I explored whether media and technology were the ones shaping who we are or if we did have some control. Although media and technology allows us to author, publish, and distribute, it doesn’t completely control who we are and doesn’t have strict instructions on how to use it. Instead, we are given the option to use media and technology the way we like and to tailor it to suit our needs and interests. Even though I concluded that I was a passive user, it doesn’t necessarily suggest that media and technology has control over me it just means that if I want to become an active user, I have the option to author and publish content more frequently. It’s also important to acknowledge that there were outside factors that resulted in my passive behaviour such as, university projects and socialising with friends. Therefore, it would be interesting to see if I were to conduct the same research project on a different week, if it would have the same results. I also would’ve liked to note down how much time was spent using media due to a notification compared to when I didn’t receive a notification– it would have shown whether or not technology encourages our media use. 

By documenting this process it has allowed me to identify in what areas I can improve on when using media–especially as a music industry student. In my field I need to become visible in the community in order to network and also to show that I have an understanding of what is happening in the industry. In my internships I’m always producing content and so it would great if I could continue that in my own personal use. 

Word Count: 1417
References 

Murphie, A & Potts, J 2003, ‘Theoretical Frameworks’, in Culture and Technology, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, pp. 11-38. 

Siapera, E 2012, ‘Understanding New Media’, in Understanding New Media, Sage Publications, London United Kingdom, pp. 2-16.
– S.

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Reflection.

In the beginning I was nervous to find out how much media I was actually using. It was kind of like having someone ask you to note down the nutritional values of everything you ate… you knew it wasn’t going to be good. But as mentioned in my ‘evidence’ post it wasn’t as bad I thought it would be. However, I know I did spend a lot of time on media platforms such as YouTube so, it would be good to write down just how much time was spent on each media, and what the ratio was between when I would use media to be active and distribute content to friends, and when I would use media because of notifications from friends wanting to show me something. I realise that would be much more challenging to know especially when half the time you’re not even realising what you’re doing but it would it interesting.

I discussed in my ‘evaluation’ post that I was a passive user of media rather than an active one, and with that I proposed multiple questions with the focus being on whether media and technology are actually influencing us. I  would like to approach this topic for my essay because I felt that I was using media without thinking, as though it were just a part of me. Using media sometimes was like watching the world go by and not doing anything about it. I would like it to be more than just mindless scrolls through the newsfeed or consistently double tapping on my screen to ‘like’ various Instagram posts. I would like to contribute a lot more online especially when it comes to my future line of work. As a music industry student you have to be visible online and use media to be as creative as possible to be able to sell something.

Therefore, I will be looking at different theories focusing on the relationship between people and technology.

-S.

 

Evaluation 

During this research project I realised that it was much easier keeping up with that I used than I thought. In my head I would go through every social media platform like I was reciting the alphabet. This also told me that even though my time on each media platform would vary from day to day, it also showed me that I had a daily routine that I would unknowingly stick to. It was around the fourth day when I noticed that I was placing unnecessary pressure to do something different because I felt as though I was stuck in this cycle and I was just doing things out of habit rather than doing it as a necessity–but I knew I had to do things that came naturally to me rather than doing something because I had to document it.

I also noticed that majority the time I would passively use media. I would just watch things, or ‘like’ it, or just simply scroll to look at different content– I wasn’t actually producing content myself. Sometimes I would upload a photo on Instagram or share things on my Facebook page but it’s not something I do frequently, unless I’m using social media for business purposes. It made me question does media influence me or do I influence media even when I think I’m being passive? How much is technology shaping us? I mean… there was a time when I used to sit the lounge room and watch TV but now I sit in my room and use my computer to stream television shows. In my weekly blog posts I would write why I did what I did, and I mentioned how I use Snapchat and Instagram differently from each other. Do I use them differently because it’s the way I wanted it to be or is it because the media influences me to use it that way?

-S.

Evidence.

Last week we were asked to keep track of our media use for a whole week and write up a blog post about what it was that we used and why.  In the beginning I thought that it going to be impossible having to keep track of every little thing I was doing, so to make sure I wouldn’t forget anything I would keep notes of every platform I had used.

Before I had started the blog posts I already had the idea that I was going to repeat myself at some point, especially because I know how much I’m frequently on Facebook. As I wrote the first blog about what I had used in the last 24 hours, I wondered how every other day was going to differ. I found that during my week, after writing up each blog post, the main platforms I would use are Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, Snapchat and YouTube.

At times the media I used was task based, which meant that I was using it because I needed to use it for my internships or for uni work. But in saying that I still used media personally because it was my way of winding down.

I also noticed that the amount of media used did vary from day to day. Sometimes I would spend various hours on YouTube or using various different social media platforms which meant that day was my ‘down time’ day, other times I would spend most of my time emailing or on Facebook which meant they were work days, and other times I would hardly use media at all and that would usually mean my day was busy with uni work or I was around friends.

– S.

My Media Use #7.

Final Day. 

In the first ‘My Media Use’ blog I mentioned that I didn’t really do too much because I was at uni all day. Well seeing as it was Monday…again, the same thing applies. It was the day of back to back classes and lectures, and had very little time to check anything. In the morning I opened up that weather app so I would know if it was going to be hot or cold– knowing Melbourne it would be both, and then later I opened up Spotify to listen to music on the way to uni and also on the way home. I use this time to either listen to new albums that I’ve been meaning to listen to or just random songs I feel in the mood for.

During my first one hour break I opened up Google Docs and worked on an essay. At times I would receive messages from a friend on Messenger so I would open that up on my phone and reply back. When my second one hour break came along I was mostly socialising with friends but at one point I did receive a notification on Instagram telling me that my friend replied back on a post that I had tagged her in– I responded with a ‘like’. As I was already on Instagram I did a quick scroll to see if there was any photos that I liked. After my break I went back onto SquareSpace to work on my career portfolio and I added a few pictures of my past projects. When I got home I worked on a few blog posts on WordPress and then watched the latest episode of Bob’s Burgers off a streaming site.

Most of this day was around uni work or completing work in class and it was less about using media for personal use. I think the two places I spent the most time on was Messenger and WordPress. Messenger was used to chat about random topics and also trying to plan a time to meet up. WordPress was used for working on blogs and basically trying not to fall behind.

– S.

 

My Media Use #6.

Day Six. 

Sunday, also known as the day where you finally begin all that work that you decided not to do throughout the week. Firstly, I opened the Wunderlist app which showed me a checklist of things that needed to be completed. I added a few more things on the list as a way of motivating myself to actually do them. Once I completed a piece of work or activity, I simply just click on the little box beside it and it disappears. The app is not just available on the iPhone but it’s able to be installed on iPads and MacBooks, so I’m able to use it across multiple devices. Most of the work was done by using Google Docs and Google Drive, but I also used a blog website called SquareSpace, and another site called Canva. In between all that work I unfortunately was able to get easily side tracked by checking out Snapchat stories and ‘liking’ Instagram pictures.

I used Google Docs to start drafting up a reflection piece I have to write for another class, and I also used Google Drive to upload pictures and videos needed for my career portfolio project. I did this knowing that I wasn’t going to take my laptop into uni the next day (which already has the files stored), instead I was going to use my iPad and I knew that using Google Drive was the easiest and accessible place to store my files whilst being on a different device. As mentioned before, I also used SquareSpace and Canva. These two websites were also used to work on my career portfolio project. I’m using SquareSpace to create an online portfolio where future employers can go and look at all the projects I have worked on in the past as well as getting to know who I am. Once I signed up, I chose a neat and simple theme that I thought would look aesthetically pleasing and professional. It took me a few tries to understand how to customise my page but once I knew what to do I was able to start creating a homepage, about me, CV page, and a past projects page. I used Canva to design an image for the homepage and to also redesign my resume. This can be done by using templates (that you can redesign), or you can start from scratch and use the different elements that they provide. Canva has a very user friendly interface which makes it easy for people to design things such as resumes, album covers, posters etc. It’s also great for people who have zero patience for Photoshop such as myself.

Although I was able to squeeze in a little time for my own online habits, most of my media use was dedicated to uni work.

– S.

My Media Use #5.

Day Five.

Sweet Jesus, it’s Saturday! You can just hear it…the beer bottles clanking, Beyoncé asking for all the single ladies, and your heels hitting against one another in your hand after you’ve decided enough was enough. At least that’s how I pictured my Saturday. In reality, I had a lovely lunch with friends whilst playing lawn bowls and then that night I decided to binge watch a bunch of shows. It was wild! In all seriousness though, my media usage was all about that YouTube and streaming life.

Yes, I checked my Facebook, replied to friends on Messenger and checked out my Instagram but, most of my hours were poured into catching up on shows such as New Girl, Bob’s Burgers, The 100, Young & Hungry, and Baby Daddy...just to name a few. I then jumped on YouTube and began to sing along with more karaoke videos, I watched people talk about their ouija board experiences, and then watched people actually playing with the ouija board. I can’t even begin to explain how I ended up watching those videos; YouTube is a dark place. I believe at one point I was watching Shane Dawson’s videos and then on the side, YouTube recommended I watch a YouTuber talk about her ouija board experiences…it snowballed from there. I’m not sure why I fall into the trap of watching ‘recommended’ videos but I think it’s because for me, YouTube is a place where I know I can kill time. I’m able to watch videos from people I subscribe to but, I can also watch strange things that manage to entertain me; Until it reaches that point where you know you’ve gone too far down the rabbit hole. I don’t just watch videos but I’m also active, whether that means liking a video, a comment, writing my own comment, or even sharing a video to Twitter and/or Facebook. This time, I wasn’t overly active, I only managed to ‘like’ a few videos and comments.

Lastly, I used a streaming website where you can watch a ton of different shows. It may or may not be legal but, it’s out there. I found this website through a friend’s recommendation, and I use it because I don’t have Foxtel (where I would normally find most of these shows). I do use Netflix regularly but they don’t have all the shows I watch, but even if they did they’re always one season behind and I like to stay up to date with all the latest episodes. New Girl for example, is available to watch on Free To Air TV but I don’t watch it because, not only has my laptop also become my own personal television but also because it’s always an episode behind. I’m terribly impatient if it’s not obvious already. This website allows me to click on the title of the show and show me all the episodes that have been released for that show. Once I click the name of the episode, it takes me to a page where a video file appears and I press play.

Like I said… it was wild!

– S.

 

My Media Use #4.

Day Four.

It’s a Friday morning. I wake up, roll on my side, grab my phone and check to see if there are any notifications. I see one from Facebook, I tap the app to see who its from and fall disappointed when I see that it’s just someone who has commented on a post that I liked. I continue to take a stroll down my news feed to see all kinds of animal videos (specifically dogs and cats), and humorous memes which I call my friend over to check out, “look! this is hilarious!” I say. Later in the day, as I’m sitting at my desk at my internship, I’m asked to do various jobs that requires using Facebook. My boss selects me to be an admin on their Facebook page which allows me to add content. I spend my time writing and scheduling posts to their Facebook page so that their profile is active with their followers, as well as promoting their artists. I do this by writing up the post and then clicking the drop down button next to the word ‘publish’ which will then give me the option to ‘schedule’, from there I choose the time and date the post should go live. I also share the artist’s gig to my own personal profile so that its reach increases, and if also by chance any friends would be interested in attending. I also used Spotify in the workplace because of all the music recommendations; I used the platform to save albums so that I’m able to listen to them off my phone later whether I’m on or offline.

After a long day of Facebooking and chatting about all things music, I use Snapchat to take a quick ‘snap’ of the outfit I had been wearing and post it to ‘my story’. I then take a selfie of me in the car (as a passenger…don’t drive and snap!) and write about how I was on my way to a trivia night. Throughout the night I take pictures of the trivia night as well as a video of a friend of mine winning a prize, and I also upload those onto ‘my story’. Snapchat is usually the place where I post random and somewhat interesting things. I use it to show my friends what I’m up to as well as sharing outfit ideas. It’s a place where I am my most casual self; I know that on Snapchat I can be a bit weird or share things I know only my close friends would want to see, rather than a bunch of strangers from Instagram who just prefer to see the highlights of your day. I admit that I use Snapchat on a personal level compared to how I use Instagram. It’s kind of like a ‘before’ and ‘after’ shot… the ‘before’ picture would be uploaded to Snapchat whilst the ‘after’ would be on Instagram.

The link below basically describes what I’m talking about.

http://www.smosh.com/smosh-pit/memes/26-funniest-examples-snapchat-vs-instagram-meme

– S.

 

My Media Use #3.

Day Three. 

Thursday’s are usually a chill day for me. I have a bit more time to do what I want to do, and usually that means the media usage is quite high. This week however my Thursday was spent among friends so my usage wasn’t as high as it would normally. I spent the first few hours of the day coming up with choreography for a dance class, and then also listening to different playlists that would appear on my homepage on Spotify such as, ‘Throwback Thursday’.

I also uploaded a photo onto Instagram. My friend had taken the photo of me on my iPhone from last weekend when we went out for brunch, and I decided that now was a better time than any to upload it. I say this because I uploaded another photo a few days earlier and I like to leave some time in between each upload. I post photos not only to share it with my friends but also to share it with people who I think will like the kind of photos I upload (which is why I find tagging extremely useful). However, it’s always such a process when uploading a photo onto Instagram; first you have to decide which of the few hundred photos you took is the best one, and then when uploading it you choose how you want to edit it. In my case, I barely use filters, nowadays it’s all about that brightness and contrast. After the editing process comes the caption and tags. On my Instagram I like to put a name of a song as my caption. I do this to express an emotion I may have felt at the time or because I felt the song captures the story behind the photo. I also think it’s a good way to share songs that I think people should listen to. Sometimes I already have a song in mind, other times I search for songs on Spotify by looking up ‘mood playlists’.

Later in the day I went back onto Instagram to check how many people had liked the photo. I received a few followers and decided to check out their own content. One Instagrammer in particular was a musician, and the kind of photos he had were beautifully shot. I liked his aesthetic, so I clicked on a link in his bio that took me to his website. From there, I clicked on another link that would send me to his SoundCloud page so that I could check out his music. I enjoy finding music this way because sometimes you find hidden gems. I also received a comment on my photo from a fellow Melbournian asking where I had found the street art so I responded back telling them where to go. I always enjoy it when people leave comments or ask questions because it means people like the content I produce and it makes me want to upload frequently.

– S.

My Media Use #2.

Day Two. 

The sound of my alarm awakens me. I get out of bed and open up the weather application on my phone to help me determine what style of clothing to wear–it’s the first media usage of my day. As I make my way to my internship, I place my headphones on and start listening to the Graduation album by Kanye West via Spotify. The rest of my media usage mainly takes place at my internship; I checked and sent emails and mainly used Facebook. My activity on Facebook consisted of sharing events, liking posts made by the venue, and looking up RMIT club pages that I could inform about the venue. When I used it for personal use I would ‘like’ videos and photos that would appear on my newsfeed. I also tagged my friend in a post because the joke reminded me of the two of us.

Later that day I spent majority of my time on Messenger, YouTube, and Instagram. I used Messenger to chat with friends, although… I’m not even sure if I would call it chatting. Most of the time it was using gifs to describe our reactions to things. Nowadays a gif is worth a thousand words. I also sent some YouTube videos to friends via Messenger by copying and pasting the URL to them. I thought they would find the content entertaining.

I was on YouTube for quite some time. I would watch videos that were recently uploaded by YouTubers that I subscribe to, and I would watch videos that were recommended to me by YouTube. Sometimes they can be relevant, other times not so much. A recommended video that popped up on my home page was about a young woman whose husband had recently passed away. I was so shocked by the title that I clicked on it and heard her story. Although I had never seen this YouTuber before I was so touched by her story that I felt the need to comment on it, sending her my condolences. As I scrolled down on the comments section of the video it was filled with kind words of support that I ‘liked’ a few of the comments made (mostly the ones that made their way into the ‘top comments’). After watching a few more videos, I used the search bar on YouTube to find ‘karaoke videos’. I enjoy singing and I try to practice as much as I can, so I use the instrumental videos of my favourite songs to sing along with.

Lastly, I opened up Instagram to check out the latest photos that had been uploaded by people I follow whether that be friends or strangers. Instagram immediately notified me at the bottom of my screen that I had received 19 new followers. I immediately questioned this because I hadn’t posted anything new in a few days and it happened way too quickly. I clicked the love heart symbol at the bottom and it showed me every recent activity that was made on my page. I read the names of all 19 “people” and noticed they were just spam accounts. One by one I went through them all reporting their profile to Instagram. Although they may have boosted my numbers, the idea that they’re not active Instagrammers and that they actually have no interest in my content really bothers me. Instagram is a place where I share my love for music and fashion, and so connecting with real content creators that share the same interests as I do is important to me.

– S.