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Category Archives: 175 ~ Ethics of recreation & leisure

Let’s talk about racist jokes

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Chris Lilley’s latest offering has been aired on television and the result has been a backlash on social media with the hashtags #MyNameIsNOTJonah  #ChangeStartsHere and #ProudPoly. See the the following article for a background ~ Chris Lilley facing social media backlash over ‘racist’ Jonah From Tonga.

Firstly, I need to state, I support the challenge being made by people questioning the representation presented by Chris Lilley. Australia has a long history of comedy where people from a class of privilege are making fun of people from backgrounds of which they do not come from. Think of the Comedy Company, for instance, on air from 1988 to 1990 and the infamous character of Con the Fruiterer.

The polemics around this issue are important and further discussion around issues of representation, who creates representation and what meanings are imbued in these representations are pivotal to understanding how power and racism are intertwined and reinforced with stereotypes as represented by people who are not from these backgrounds.

Not being from the background is a crucial point in this discussion. You see, when I’m sitting around having a yarn with my cousins and joking about ‘our wog life’, this is very different to when a ‘whitefella’ uses the term ‘wog’ in his/her jokes. My cousins and I are proud of our backgrounds and our jokes are not imbued with a malice or derision of our ways. Instead there is an affectionate understanding of what it means to grow up in this country from a specific vantage point.

The invocation of stereotypes, by people who are not of that background, comes with a derision and malice. The tone of these representations is a put-down. Essentially, it is a position that looks down on the ‘other’, something to be ridiculed and laughed at. It comes from a position of superiority, by the class representing the ‘other’, and reinforces concepts of erasure of cultural identity whilst preferencing ideas of integration. Racist jokes end up being statements to the ‘other’ that we should become more like the dominant class and culture because they are better.

…ok so this is a start. Let’s begin… let’s talk about race and racism in all it’s manifestations because talking about it is better than pretending it doesn’t exist…

 

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A break from social media ~ reflection

After I took a week off from social media, one of the first posts I came across on Facebook contained this video. The post was followed with a series of comments about the use of phones and our loss of connection with being ‘in the moment’. Prior to my break from social media, I would have agreed that the phone is the issue but after my self-imposed break, I discovered that without the lure of social media, I rarely reached for the phone. Instead, the phone lay dormant on the table attached to the charger for hours. My break from social media, indicated it was the lure of social connection and interaction that kept that phone close at hand.

I have come across a few articles recently, debating the negatives and positives of social media. One article highlight’s narcissism, and self PR campaigns, in the individual use of social media as a misconstrued need to display a sense of constant awesomeness. On the other hand, this debate in the New York Times points to the virtues of access to an audience, self publishing and instant interaction as presenting opportunities for individual growth.

Interestingly, being without social media is not all positive, just as being constantly connected is not all positive. A friend (from my social media world) joined me in my mission to abstain from social media for a week and we shared insights about the experience via SMS. He shared this article ‘I’m still here: back online after a year without the internet’. What is interesting in this article is how the writer chronicles his personal experience of taking a year off the internet concluding that the positive/negative divide is not straight forward.

I decided to switch off social media for a week, beginning just two days before New Years Eve 2013. Celebratory times often attract increased posting, so it was going to be a challenge. The decision was spontaneous and partly based around my perception that my contributions were tired and felt somewhat laboured in the month of December. You see, I had been online since the end of 2011 diving into many social media apps including; Instagram, Facebook, Momentage, Backspaces, Twitter, Vine, Picyou, Eyeem, taada, Streamzoo, Wattpad, lightt, Tumblr, WordPress, Blogger, Pheed, Scoop.it…

and the list goes on…..

The majority of these apps were a process of trialling for evaluation purposes, so my presence was short lived. However, my presence on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Vine have been constant. I’m not certain how much time I spent online with my phone, but it was definitely daily and on all four platforms. I would check each app every morning and participate in conversations, contribute content, check events, click on posted links and read/view content shared, read collated stories from Zite, share to targeted and appropriate social networks and so on and so forth… I’m pretty sure that was just two hours in the morning. I haven’t calculated time throughout the day nor the relax time after the evening meal when the kids are in bed… To say the least, four hours of online engagement may be an underestimate….. if I was being honest… (jaw dropping to the floor in realisation!)

I was feeling socially exhausted and needed to retreat, to think and refresh. The need to question the value of my contributions, the purpose, my connections and interactions seemed quite strong both online and in real life. Even with interactions IRL (in real life) I often feel the need to retreat and gather strength so that I can be social again. I suppose the virtual world had reached that point too.

Without social media, it became apparent quickly how few my connections are. SMS, email and phone are definitely much less active and interactions come from fewer people. The world felt somewhat silent. On a positive note, I relaxed more and just took time out. I even finished a novel in one night (it was a short novel). My time with my kids was less interrupted and seemed more positive. More than anything, my kids loved how unhurried I appeared. As a qualifier, this was the holiday time so relaxation was on the menu regardless. I actually started to feel relaxed and recharged too.

I found my thought processes seemed less hurried and distracted. I could think about what ‘it’ is about social media that is positive and consider the benefits of social networks online. I certainly missed my interactions and conversations with people that I connected with online and was looking forward to the time I could interact again. I discovered finding articles of interest, with no-one to share, made the conversation and knowledge construction seem far less interesting and rewarding without the social media platforms.

Without social media, the web is very static. Just reading articles and not contributing to conversation and adding to knowledge is something I tire from quickly. I suppose, knowledge is constructive and involves conversation. Social media has enabled this. With the networks that are formed, based around communities of interest, we are able to obtain various insights and access to information that is pertinent to specific interest areas. This helps to build on our thoughts, triggering connections with ideas we have come across and prompting further sharing and knowledge construction. In my social media networks, my communities of interest have developed around street art, writing, information access, arts, filmmaking and activism. With these areas I’ve connected with groups and conversations specific to these areas. Not all the people I connect with are connected with each other. Instead communities exist as various circles of interest that sometimes intersect but mostly remain distinct. Ultimately, this is what I view as a positive aspect of social media alongside the possibility of extending online relationships to real life relationships and vice versa.

So in 2014, one of my key resolutions is to increase my collaborative creative efforts with people from my social media world with a focus on improving both online and ‘in real life’ interactions. It is this aspect of social media, over the past couple of years, that has provided the most rewarding experiences. Clearly, this is the ultimate positive enablement of virtual communities.

Another resolution is to take breaks from social media. After a week’s break, I came back feeling refreshed, filled with ideas and wanting to contribute again. I’ve identified social interaction in the virtual world as no different to social interaction IRL, in terms of the need for retreat to replenish… in my case anyway. Just as I need a break to recharge IRL I also need this in the virtual world. Otherwise, I start feeling exhausted and unable to contribute.

 

 

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13 Project ~ Cyber Safety for Global Citizenship

Click on the image to go to the website and explore the cyber smart initiatives

Click on the image to go to the website and explore cyber smart initiatives

The primary school, where I currently work, is in the midst of investigating safe social networking sites for children. There is an acceptance that children are connected to technology on a daily basis, using it for educational and recreational purposes and in support of global citizenship. As a consequence, cyber safety is a significant focus. Currently, our students participate in many online environments including blogs, and posting to Vimeo.

The release of national statistics in 2012 by the minister for education, Peter Garrett point to disturbing figures of the prevalence of cyber bullying in his Be Bold Stop Bullying Facebook Campaign Launch. This is a major concern for the school community highlighting the need for constant revision of cyber safety practices. This has contributed to a greater focus by the school in assessing our current efforts and discovering where we can improve.

As part of this school-wide initiative, I investigated library based initiatives in support of schools’ efforts to promote cyber safety. I discovered the 13 project via a thread on the OZTLnet list serve and then investigated further. 13 Project was launched on 1st March 2013 by school library associations across Australia in recognition of the important role of school libraries and participation of school library staff in schools’ efforts to help keep their students safe online.

As a librarian, in a school based environment, being able to locate resources and provide access to these resources is of primary importance. This professional learning activity enabled a connection with the information needs of the school community and the library in resourcing those needs. Via the 13 project, some of the resources mentioned were areas our school identified for investigation, namely social networking sites that are safe environments for children in this age group. I evaluated the suggested social networking site Skooville. After the initial evaluation I shared the online resources from 13 project with teachers in our school and provided a recommendation of the Skooville program to be considered for implementation across the school. I attended the morning briefing during Cyber safety week and discussed this resource with staff thus saving them time in investigation of this important area.

Discovering a national library-based advocacy initiative, with a focus on cyber safety, was the most significant learning from this activity. With the networks to library professionals accessed via OZTLnet I can transfer the learning and extend the library into the school. This affirms the importance of the library for school based initiatives with a focus on curriculum and community needs. One of the tools particularly useful to school administration is the Safe Schools toolkit  as it provides an online audit tool to help with school prioritisation in this area. This information was shared with the leading teachers.

At this stage, I can see there is more that can be done by the library and staff in this area. Prior to this, our library had no knowledge of 13 project and the Skooville site. This activity has enabled the beginning of this knowledge and connecting with the wider school as a result.

The next step in this professional learning will be to involve the school in some of the other suggested initiatives as part of the National Cyber Security Awareness week. This will be explored for the next year.

Cybersafety is an ongoing learning curve needing constant evaluation and awareness raising. 13 project is a great starting place and resource.

 

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Censorship of Children’s Books ~ Banned Books Week

Working in a school library, censorship is a constant focus with challenges to the provision of information coming from many angles, including teachers, the government, community and parents. Edwards (2006) states that the challenge to books has been increasing in recent years and most common reasons for challenges include morality, obscenity, profanities and, witchcraft and occult themes from wizards to ghosts.

The State Library of Victoria provides a list of ten most challenged books and on that list is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

Some issues confronted at the school level can pertain to covert forms of censorship contradicting standards for professional practice and the commitment to provision of access to information that has a right to be represented in the school community (Asheim, 2009). In this regard reference is made to value judgments by library staff in the selection process, leading to exclusion of resources or making access to information difficult. This is evident in the following examples

  • Expressed preferences for certain formats over others.
  • Positioning of books/information where it is not easily accessed.

The focus of this professional development activity is to highlight a commitment to the promotion and advocacy for freedom of information and the rights to reading. By committing to raising awareness amongst the school community I have chosen to investigate Banned Books Week; celebrating the freedom to read.

Banned Books Week is held during September 22-28, 2013 and associated activities for potential inclusion in the school library program during this time are being investigated.

Why is this important?

In discussion with teachers, parents and staff, I have learnt that censorship is highly emotive when it concerns children as the audience of information. Many have strongly formed attitudes that in turn impact on objectivity in this area including collection selection. Choosing to raise awareness with a Banned Books Week program provides an avenue to explore censorship in a manner that feels safe and non confronting. Some of the books on the list are highly valued by many, thus providing an avenue to delve into this topical area whilst promoting critical reflection.

Being able to instigate discussion around censorship is important for my professional practice and commitment to advocacy for the right to provide access to information objectively is demonstrated in this programming.

Exploring Banned Books week provides an insight into activities that can be implemented at a school level; including displays of books that have been challenged, readings of passages by students and teachers and displaying lists of the challenged books over an historical timeline. Coming across the lists of books that have been challenged, provides a tremendous insight into the need to continue raising awareness as it is ongoing and increasing.

National Archives Australia provides a great resource exploring Books and Magazines Banned in Australia from the 1920’s to 1970’s. The University of Melbourne has a website, Banned Books in Australia linked to ‘A Special Collections ~ Art in the library exhibition’.

Why not visit Banned Books Week Virtual Read-out and hear some passages of books being read

Asheim, L., (2009) Not Censorship but Selection, Children’s Literature in Eduction, 40(3), 197-216.

Edwards, H., (2006) Censorship of Kids books on the rise, The Age, April 30 2006.

 

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Street art verses Advertising?

Living in Melbourne provides the wonderful opportunity to experience an amazing urban gallery. The art scene is an incredibly healthy one with diverse artworks adorning lane-ways, buildings, warehouses and gallery spaces. Urban art contributes to the joy of life as it provides moments to stop and ponder, contemplate some ideas, or just enjoy the talent that is given to the world free to enjoy.

As a personal preference, I welcome urban art more than the unsolicited advertising assaulting our public spaces. Banksy’s position on advertising is an interesting one and, whether you agree with it or not, it is certainly worth pondering in this context.

People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are the Advertisers and they are laughing at you.

You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.

…Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.

You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.

Moving along…. A favourite pleasure is documenting the changing landscape and the wonderful contributions of artists to the streets of Melbourne. When artists pop in to visit from other places in Australia, or from other countries it is an incredible rush to dash and and capture the new artwork. As it is so ephemeral, what is here today may be gone tomorrow, the ability to document with a camera is one way of sharing and hopefully capturing the moment that was.

I’ve decided to share some of my photos that I capture on this blog and I will start with a small selection from Melbourne artists…

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Scaling the tower by Baby Guerilla in Clifton Hill

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Flight to Freedom by Baby Guerilla in Brunswick

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I stopped wearing a watch after the funeral… Collaboration by Kaff-eine and Precious Little in Brunswick

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Rainbow Shower, a collaboration with Suki and Be Free in Brunswick

 

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Banned Book Week ~ 24th September to 1st October

BBW poster shared by American Library Association (ALA)

Courtesy of ALA TechSource I have been alerted to Banned Books Week. Following is the list of books challenged and/or banned in 2009/2010. You will notice that amongst the list is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Diary of Anne Frank and closer to home, The Twilight Series was “Banned in Australia (2009) for primary school students because the series is too

racy.”

To obtain lists of earlier years you can visit the ALA free downloads page where you find PDF lists from the years 2004-2005 onwards. It provides a snapshot of a trend in censorship. Mapping Censorship provides a visual geographical representation in the USA.

Banned Books Week is a celebration of the freedom to read, starting in 1982 and occurring as an annual event since. For more information visit the Banned Books Week site and the ALA Banned Books Week: celebrating the freedom to read page. You may even want to upload a reading of a passage from a banned or challenged book to the Banned Books Week youtube channel.

I’m off to reread Brave New World by Aldous Huxley!

 

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More than just books ~ Plug in and Power up

I came across the post titled Battery lantern being recharged at Darien Library reposted on Tame the Web.  What is highlighted is how the services of a library are so expansive these days. I too plug in when I visit libraries and sometimes this includes my phone or even video camera if I am filming as well as the laptop. The following video demonstrates that even during times of natural disasters the Library comes in to save the day. A big Hooray for Libraries!

 

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