What’s the Hidden Cost to Your Tech?

Most of us have something within our reach that is capable of accessing unlimited amounts of information, giving us accurate GPS location services, taking high quality photos and showing us millions of funny cat videos, and is able to fit in our pockets. Our mobile phones are amazing, and for most of us they have become a vital part of our lives, feeling more like another limb than an electronic device. But did you ever stop to think about how our phones come to be? How do they go from minerals in the ground to the high tech devices we hold in our hands? The answer might not be one you want to hear.

The hidden cost of our high tech devices is so often sadly human, and takes place at every stage of their construction. Take for example the Apple iPhone. According to The Telegraph, “Tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold are regularly used in electronics, including Apple products, and some sources are found within the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and adjoining countries. Extraction of these minerals may finance or benefit armed groups that are associated with human rights violations.” As you can see, the very beginnings of the iPhone may be tainted with human suffering in order to gain cheap minerals from struggling third world countries. The workers that obtain these minerals have to work in back braking conditions and for long, tiring stretches of time to extract the minerals required by Apples and other technology companies to be used within the wires, casings and other components of the phone. They work in dangerous conditions and often will receive only a few cents a day for their efforts.

As the production of the iPhone continues, so too do the human costs. In China, all the components of the phone come together and the phone itself is constructed. Works at the Chinese factories are made to work a minimum of 12 hours a day, where they are exposed to chemicals such a n-hexane which is used to clean screens as it evaporates quicker than other solvents. This chemical has been known to cause nerve damage and, in severe cases, paralysis. Another, carcinogenic, benzene, is used to coat certain electronic components. In 2010, the conditions at one factory were so terrible that 14 workers killed themselves. In response, the factory put up suicide nets around the buildings, rather than address the serious issues inside their factories that lead to these deaths.

So while Apple continues to pump out product after product and updated iPhone after iPhone, remember to take a minute and think about where your technology comes from, and that the price you pay at the checkout is not the only price to pay for these goods.

Zoos: Outdated Entertainment or Cruel Practice?

While much of the population has come to see having animals perform in circuses as cruel and has moved away from supporting these sorts of ventures, many people do not see zoos in this same light. Zoos are presented as being the kinder, more natural alternative to circuses. Many zoos publicise the high quality of care given to their animals, and the activities that mimic wild behaviours they implement to entertain the animals. The educational opportunities that zoos present by being able to raise awareness of the plight of many different animals are also highlighted.

However, zoos are still far from natural and the environments that they can create, no matter how full they are of stimulating activities for the animals, can not match up to the natural environment of these animals, especially the larger animals such as lions, tigers and elephants. This issue has come to the surface lately due to the production and 2013 release of a documentary by Gabriela Cowperthwaite called Blackfish. The film documents the story of Tilikum, a captive killer whale (or orca) who has been responsible for the deaths of three people during his life and who still currently resides at SeaWorld Orlando. It discusses the consequences of keeping wild animals in captivity, especially ones as intelligent as killer whales.

This is one of the best documentaries that I have seen in a long time, and I was very moved by the film. It perfectly demonstrates the issues associated with zoos, and while I do believe that SeaWorld and other zoos do a lot of great work by rescuing and rehabilitating wild animals, as well as providing education for the public about animals and their associated issues, I think that zoos should not be allowed to keep such large animals as they are far too intelligent to be locked up in small cages for all their lives and as Blackfish shows, this can have a serious impact on their mental health.

Can Suffering Be Viewed Ethically?

Whenever the news comes on the television and a reporter is shown standing in what is usually a developing country, surrounded by some great tragedy that has befallen the people of the nation, I am always struck at the emotional disconnect these journalists seem to have from their surroundings. How can they just stand there and report so objectively on the misery that these poor people are experiencing? Shouldn’t they be trying to help the victims, rather than simply capitalising off of their suffering for their nightly bulletin? I am not alone in my concern, as a discourse around this issue has been growing for some time now.

Journalists pride themselves on their objectivity, and pride themselves on not involving themselves in the stories that they are reporting, as Goodwin (1983) explains:

“The reporter is a spectator and not a participant in what he or she covers. The discipline of objective reporting, it is said, requires a dispassionate approach to the gathering and presentation of facts. Reporters are not supposed to get involved in their stories; they are not supposed to become part of the story; they are supposed to be neutral observers.”

Although these reporters do not directly involve themselves in the lives of those whose stories they share, they do involve themselves indirectly. By broadcasting the events that have occurred to their audiences, people who would have otherwise remained blissfully unaware of the experiences that those suffering are going through are informed. This however brings up the notion as to whether we are viewing the suffering of others as entertainment, and if so does the benefit gained from this viewing (raising awareness of issues that may lead to aid for the people affected) outweigh the negatives?

I agree with Smith and Novak (2003, p.42) who say that the manner in which these events of suffering are presented is of the utmost importance, in particular the language used when reporting on them: “False witness, idle chatter, gossip, slander, and abuse are to be avoided, not only in their obvious forms, but also in their covert ones. The covert forms – subtle belittling, ‘accidental’ tactlessness, barbed wit – are often more vicious because their motives are veiled.” As long as the intent behind the presentation of these stories is pure and the reporting is not tainted with a biased eye, then I think that viewing the suffering of others may be positive, as it brings these situations to light, and can help create positive traction behind the story and may eventually help cause real change in regards to the suffering of those whose stories are being told.

References:

Goodwin, H.E. 1983. Groping for ethics in journalism Ames Iowa State University Press, Iowa

Smith, H. and Novak, P. (2003) Buddhism : A Concise Introduction. Harper San Francisco: New York.

The Power of the “Selfie”

Since the time humans learned how to make pictures we have been finding a way to leave a record of ourselves; we have felt an innate need to share our interests, our achievements, and our lives through images.

In the past, due to the high costs of having a portrait painted, most of the pictures created recorded the lives of the powerful and the wealthy as they tried to leave their mark on the world around them. This continued well into the 19th and early 20th centuries, even with the invention of the photographic camera. As the cost of these new devices was still relatively high for the average person, photographs were seen to be used for recording special events and were usually very formal occasions, but as the technology improved and the costs of these devices has plummeted, the self portrait (or “selfie”) quickly emerged as an extremely popular way of expressing ourselves. The phenomenon is so popular that it even became the title of a short-lived loose re-make of “My Fair Lady” in 2014.

Karen Gillian starring as Eliza Doolittle in 2014’s “Selfie”

However, this new method of expression has resulted in rather a lot of controversy, with a stark divide between those who are pro-selfie, and those who are against it. One of the most prolific areas of debate about the value of the selfie is in regards to its role in female empowerment.

Those that believe that the selfie is simply a narcissistic tool for seeking validation say that the selfie is a cry for attention. It is seen as being simply a “a high tech reflection of the f****d up way society teaches women that their most important quality is their physical attractiveness.”

However, I stand with the alternative way of thinking; those who believe that the selfie can be seen as sparking a feminist photo revolution. Taking a photograph of yourself and uploading it for the world to see, especially when you do not represent the dominant culture’s idea of beauty can be seen as empowering act of self-love. In a world where the mainstream media is forever showing us the same carbon copy of what it is to be beautiful and worthy of attention (i.e. predominantly thin, white, able bodied and cis-gendered), seeing the wide variety of beauty that actually exists is a real statement. As Amy McCarthy writes, “the personal is political and our bodies are perhaps the biggest representation of that.” By embracing our bodies in every shape and size that they come in, we are able to show the world that being female is not a single experience, but a myriad of different stories and figures.

Representation of Australian Asylum Seeker Issue in Domestic and International Media

Despite recognising the right of asylum and being a signatory of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, Australia has some of the strictest regulations when it comes to asylum seekers and their attempts to enter Australia. For decades now, the subject of asylum seekers has been an extremely contentious one in this country, with the media frequently at the forefront of this never-ending debate. The media’s portrayal of asylum seekers through their choice of reporting and commentary has the ability to shape the thinking of the nation in regards to this divisive issue. The representation of asylum seekers and their efforts to seek refuge in Australia are reported differently domestically and abroad, as these analyses below demonstrate.

Courier Mail – Andrew Bolt Says Refugee Lobby Motivated by Insane Hatred Of Tony Abbott

In this piece, right-wing columnist Andrew Bolt defends the government’s decision to forcibly return 41 Sri Lankan asylum seekers in July this year. Bolt appears to consciously choose inflammatory diction in his writing, such as calling asylum seekers “boat people” – a phrase which has been largely abandoned by most media outlets due to its negative and backwards connotations. Bolt also presents the audience with rhetorical questions – “So were [the Sri Lankans] ‘refugees’? Were they truly the ‘persecuted’…?” By putting the words refugees and persecuted into quotation marks, Bolt presents sarcasm in his writing, as though he has answered his own rhetorical question before it has even been asked.

Finally, he states that the Sri Lankan’s “…presumably lived in the safety of the established refugee camps.” This bold presumptuousness perfectly demonstrates Bolt’s arrogant reporting on the issue – he doesn’t need proof or facts to back up his statements, he can just put the word “presumably” and have an audience believe him wholeheartedly.

Julie Bishop Interview on BBC Radio 4

In this radio interview between Julie Bishop and BBC Radio 4 presenter John Humphreys, Humphreys is clearly antagonistic towards Bishop and Australia’s methods of dealing with asylum seekers. While Bishop is explaining the government’s reasoning behind offshore processing, Humphreys interjects, asking, “You could still treat them humanely, couldn’t you?” He then later interrupts again “What, are they holiday camps, are they?” This further supports the notion that his reporting is meant to be aggressive and attempts to make Bishop falter.

He then goes on to use very graphic and confronting imagery in describing the asylum seeker camps, calling them “breeding grounds for rape, rioting, malaria, and mental illness that bear the look and feel of concentration camps”, that are “effectively… a Guantanamo Bay”. This strong commentary demonstrates Humphreys’ firm opposition to the Australian government’s treatment of asylum seekers.

SMH -India was the ‘obvious place’ to send 157 Sri Lankan asylum seekers: Immigration
The reporting style here appears to be moderately impartial, as it gives equal space within the article to both opponents of the government’s approach including Hugh de Krester from the Human Rights Law Centre, and those from the government itself, such as quotations from Scott Morison defending the government’s decision – “The Australian government always seeks to ensure that its international obligations are met and we do that on each occasion and we don’t refoul people and we never have and we certainly haven’t done that as a government.”

The photographs chosen to accompany the article show the Sri Lankan asylum seekers looking anxiously over their shoulders at the airport at Cocos Island in July. This photo elicits a feeling of compassion from those viewing the photograph. It could be said that this sways the reporting style away from impartial and towards a sympathy with the asylum seekers.

Nauru Asylum Seekers Sew Lips Shut In Protest Over Cambodia Transfer 

By specifically and repeatedly referencing the fact that children are involved in this extreme form of protest, the author of this article is aiming to show the desperate lengths that these asylum seekers are forced to go to in order to protest about plans to move them to Cambodia, after they had already spent more than a year in detention. The accompanying photograph, with all but the graphic image of the a man with his lips stitched shut blurred, shocks with reader into realising the reality of the situation.

The inclusion of a quote by Scott Morrison saying that the government had expected “a bit of reaction” to the news that people on Nauru wouldn’t be able to come to Australia, is commentary on the government’s unperturbed nature in regards to asylum seekers and their plight.

UN to Give Evidence in Australian Asylum Seeker Test Case

The reporting style in this article is very critical of Australia and their handling of asylum seekers, specifically the legality of the management of the 157 Sri Lankan asylum seekers. By choosing to write that the intervention of the UN high Commission for Refugees in the matter ”reflected the level of international concern over Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers on the high seas”, this article demonstrates a disapproval of the nation’s actions towards asylum seekers. The article also has a photograph of Tony Abbott, mid sentence with a dumbfounded expression on his face. This attempts to portray Tony Abbott, and by extension – Australia, as idiotic and imperceptive.

Australia Faces Asylum Court Challenges 

This BBC article examines the federal court hearing over the case of a baby born in Brisbane to asylum seeker parents, as well as the case of the 157 Sri Lankan asylum seekers. This article’s reporting style is highly informative, and does not appear to possess any large amount of bias. The informative nature of the article is demonstrated through the dot point summaries of “Australia and asylum”. The inclusion of these summaries show a conscious targeting of overseas audiences who would most likely be unaware of Australia’s asylum seeker policies or history etc. The inclusion of an explanation of the Rohingya people and their history also sets the article as an authority on the issue.

Australia Hands Asylum Seekers Back to Sri Lanka

India’s Business Standard article uses strong language in reference to claims by human rights group, stating “Tamils could face torture, rape and long-term detention if they were returned.” By emphasising the awful, graphic conditions with which the Sri Lankan refugees may be met, the article reports from a sympathetic angle. Other language used in the article also supports this notion, such as claims that Australia was “returning [asylum seekers] involuntarily to a country in which they had a well-founded fear of persecution.” By saying that their fears were “well-founded”, the article demonises Australia, by making the nation appear as iron-fisted and without empathy or mercy.

Australia’s Refugee Problem 

The opening paragraph of this article immediately sets the scene for the type of commentary used throughout. Australia is said to be pursuing “draconian measures to deter people without visas from entering the country by boat.” This harsh, strong language shows that the article is extremely critical of Australia’s action in regards to asylum seekers who arrive by boat. As the New York Times is a well known, well respected publication, the views expressed in the article are very likely to be read be people from all around the world, and therefore any condemnation of Australia would likely be more impactful than that of smaller international media outlets.

Australia Returns Asylum Seekers to Sri Lanka

The photo accompanying this article shows Tamil refugees looking forlorn, dispirited, and malnourished. This photo is displayed at the top of the article, therefore setting the tone of the rest of the article as compassionate towards the asylum seekers’ situation. The article’s choice to describe the history of the ethnic Tamils, as having “survived a lengthy civil war between government troops and the now-defeated separatist Tamil Tiger rebels” shows that they are reporting from an educated perspective, and that their support for the Tamil asylum seekers is well informed. Al Jazeera also has a very broad and wide reaching audience, which means that their opinion holds a lot of weight in many different countries. Therefore, what they publish about Australia and their treatment of asylum seekers will influence many others.

Australia Facing International Condemnation After Turning Around Sri Lankan’s at Sea 

The Independent’s article raises many points that have been mentioned previously in regards to the 157 Tamil asylum seekers. It relies heavily on quotes from the UN High Commission for Refugees, who it reports expressed “profound concern” over Australia’s at sea processing of asylum seekers.  It also alleges that the asylum seekers will face “rigorous imprisonment” in Sri Lanka; though do not give a source for this. This makes the legitimacy and trustworthiness of the fact itself, and possibly and the remainder of the article questionable.

It is also interesting to note, that while the article itself is reporting from a centre-left position, the comments at the bottom of the article are almost all right wing, or at least aggressively anti-asylum seekers.

 

Gift Giving Behaviour

The products and services that we give as gifts hold more meaning to us than our regular everyday purchases. This is because gifts frequently hold an extra layer of meaning to the giver and/or receiver of the gift. They are a nonverbal way of communicating our feelings towards another person. This symbolic meaning behind gifts has lead to their association with events in our lives such as birthdays, engagements, graduations, and weddings. Then, of course, there are the special days that are set-aside on the calendar as days that require particular attention, such as Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and of course the ultimate gift giving occasion – Christmas.

 

Gifting behaviour takes place between a giver and a recipient and may seen as voluntary (e.g. ‘I saw this and thought of you’), or an obligation (e.g. ‘I had to get them a gift’) It includes gifts given to (and received from) others and gifts to oneself, or self-gifts (e.g. ‘I deserve this because…’).

Wolfinbarger states in her 1990 research article that “gifts are more valuable to participants for the symbols involved than for the material benefits exchanged”. Her findings also suggest that the more selfless the gift is seem to be by the receiver, the more the gift tended to be aligned with the receiver own self image, and were often dissimilar with the giver’s self image. This shows that when giving gifts, consumers who think more about the recipient’s desires and feelings about the gift rather than their own are more likely to be seen in a positive light by the recipient of the gift.

So next time you’re out shopping for a present for a friend, loved one or even a general acquaintance, think about why you’re buying it for them. Is it because you want to express your feelings to them, or is it merely because it is expected that you should buy them a gift? This will have a big impact on the type of gift you choose, and the likelihood of the recipient enjoying your gift.

 

Reference List:

 

 Shiffman, L. G., O’cass, A., Angela, P. and Carlson, J. 2014. Consumer Behaviour. 6th ed. French’s Forest, New South Wales: Pearson.

 

Finley Wolfinbarger, M 1990, ‘Motivations and Symbolism in Gift-Giving Behavior’, Advances In Consumer Research, Vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 699-706, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost,

Crystal Pepsi – A Cautionary Tale About the Importance of Consumer Research

Image

In the early 1990’s, “new-age” beverages were all the rage, with marketers placing particular emphasise on the connection between clarity, purity and healthiness. In late 1992, Pepsi launched Crystal Pepsi – a clear coloured, caffeine-free alternative to regular cola drinks, which they hoped would help them tap into this new health conscious market.

After three months Crystal Pepsi captured a national market share of 2.4%, however this quickly declined and ended up with an annual share of 1.1% in 1993. The product would ultimately go on to be seen as a gross failure, with all stock being pulled off the market only two years later in 1994. The key question to consider here, is why? How did a product launched by one of the biggest soft drink companies in the world still manage to fail to find a place in the market? The answer lies in consumer research.

While in early 1992, PepsiCo did achieve good feedback about the product from the market in Providence, Denver and Dallas, the consumer research undertaken was nowhere near thorough enough. One of the primary appeals of Crystal Pepsi was the fact that it was clear in colour, yet still retained the original Pepsi taste. Its marketing slogan was “You’ve never seen a taste like this”. If PepsiCo had conducted more rigorous research, they would have discovered, the strong correlation that exists between the colour of a beverage and the way it is perceived by consumers. Such research was conducted by F.J. Francis of the Department of Food Science at the University of Massachusetts (1995, p.150) who found that colour affects flavour quality (how “true” it tastes) and the overall acceptability of the drink (how much people enjoy it). Consumers have come to associate clear coloured soft-drinks with a lemon/lemonade flavour, such as found in Sprite. By keeping the original Pepsi flavour, yet implementing the clear colour, consumers were left confused and ultimately discouraged from buying the product.

PepsiCo learned an extremely valuable lesson from the failed launch of Crystal Pepsi: the importance of consumer research in introducing a new product into the market can not be overlooked.

References

Francis, F.J. 1995, ‘Quality As Influenced By Color’, Food Quality and Preference, vol. 6, no.3, p149 – 155

Xiao, W 2008, ‘The Competitive and Welfare Effects of New Product Introduction: The Case of Crystal Pepsi’, Food Marketing Policy Centre, vol.1, no.112, p.1- 4

Wind, J & Mahajan, V 1987, ‘Journal of Product Innovation Management’, vol. 4, no. 1, p. 43-49

A Reflection on BCM111

It is hard to believe that my time studying International Media and Communications (and with it my first year of university) is almost over. While going into this subject I thought that I was fairly well versed with international media, I have quickly learned that there is far more to international media than the production of media in different countries.

One of the most interesting things I found was the extent of the thought that goes into ‘translating’ a comedy from one nation/culture to another, and how often these ventures fail due to cultural differences and accepted character types/tropes/etc within a particular nation/culture.

Studying International Media and Communications has opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities in creating and consuming content from around the world. It has shown me that barriers between nations have been basically removed due to the impact of globalisation. I have also learned that Hollywood may very well be at the end of its reign as top-dog in the production of media, as India and Nigeria have both produced more content (i.e. movies) for the last few years running than the USA, and also have the ability to transcend across traditional borders with many Bollywood films now being shown in Western countries, including Australia.

Climate change and fair journalism: can they go hand in hand?

Climate change is still represented as a controversial topic in many news stories, but should it be? A recent report shows that 95% of scientists believe that not only is climate change real, but it is caused by human influences on the Earth. So why are many journalists presenting stories that suggest it is a 50/50 split of climate change deniers to accepters of climate change? It may be due to the popular practice of enforcing a ‘superficial balance’ – that is, telling both sides of the story regardless of their relevance.

A study out of the U.S. has found that superficial balance may actually be a form of informational bias. Bud Ward, in his article “Journalism Ethics and Climate Change Reporting in A Period of Intense Media Uncertainty”, describes this practice as “providing space disproportionate to its scientific credibility to perspectives running counter to what is now widely accepted as the ‘established’ scientific judgement.”

So, can climate change and fair journalism go hand in hand?  It doesn’t seem so. At least nto until the superficial balance has been corrected.

Who counts in Global Media? News Values

“It may be more useful to recognize that globalizing media and journalism simply mean that the creators, objects, and consumers of news are less likely to share the same nation-state frame of reference. To the extent that certain transnational media emphasize this approach to news, we may call it ‘global journalism’” (Reese 2010)

It is a well-known fact that Australian news organisations and channels do not always value news unless they believe that it has relevance to the vast majority of their audiences. It is for this reason that we are much more likely to get insignificant stories about a koala giving birth somewhere in a zoo, rather than hard-hitting stories such as following the conflict in Syria.

A great example of this is the Arab Spring. Peter Lee-Wright in his article “News Values: An Assessment of News Priorities Through a Comparative Analysis of Arab Spring Anniversary Coverage”. Many Western nations failed to properly cover the event, and those that did only really glanced over the issue. The main reasons for this lack of coverage may be put down to differing political agendas, difficulty gaining access to the Middle East and the areas of conflict, and the need to filter the news stories for a local audience.

However it’s not all bad news, as many other news sources are arising to fill in the gaps left by traditional Western news agencies, such as the Middle East based Al Jazeera, Global Voices and many other individual blogs. These non-traditional news sources  cover a greater range of news stories and often cover them in greater detail than news organisations such as News Limited may have done.