Observing city surveillance – How much do we really know?

Group 15: Andrew Blazevic, Emily McMahon, Grace Hoult and Laura Stratford

Introduction:

A significant amount of collaboration was required in order to produce a well-executed piece of work. To create this video, our group cooperated on a variety of crucial areas including; brainstorming different options and directions for the video, creating a thorough plan for the story’s layout, establishing appropriate interview questions, filming the required material and then editing that footage. Our group also established a clear message about surveillance that would be presented throughout the video. All of these elements were put together in order to create a strong story on surveillance.

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Surveillance camera on a corner of a building by Hustvedt (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The different options considered for the video:

When brainstorming and deciding on a topic for this surveillance story our group considered a range of different options and the ways that each could be portrayed, before eventually narrowing the options down to two different topics, which were webcams or street/urban surveillance. From these two options the next step taken was the brainstorming of both ideas and concepts that could be included; these points ranged from positives and negatives to possible questions, scholarly resources, as well as how the overall layout and format would look and work together in collaboration with the chosen themes.

After having considered and recorded all of this information into a Google Doc we decided by a majority vote on which one we thought would produce the most interesting story and best quality overall in terms with filming. The winner of this vote was street/urban surveillance, as this idea suited filming in the city, which was a fairly equal amount of travel for all group members. Having implemented a mind map along with various points for discussion, our topic began to have a solid foundation that we would be able to build further upon. Eventually settling on a news report format we found that there was one section requiring a lot of consideration; the use of consent forms. By choosing the news report format and including interviews, we would require consent if we were to film anyone. The forms would provide proof that we actually obtained written permission to film the interviewees.

We also considered adding comedy/satire elements, where we would pretend to be random city goers that had extreme opinions to express in the interviews. In the end we decided against this, as we thought a genuine observation of people’s beliefs and ideas would be sufficiently interesting on its own.

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Street Corner Surveillance Camera, 7th Street, SE & Pennsylvania Avenue, SE (Washington, DC) by Takomabibelot (CC BY 2.0)

The processes undertaken to prepare for and make the video:

In preparation for the video, we brainstormed a list of interview questions and picked the ones we thought would elicit the most interesting and varied responses. On the day of filming we decided to rearrange the order of the questions after a test video with one participant, as they built upon each other better this way and had less chance of overlap in terms of responses. We also scripted the introduction and conclusion sections to contextualise the interviews and give the video an overall news report theme. We had to decide upon locations, so we researched places that were well rated by photographers and cinematographers in Melbourne. Doing this allowed us to construct a clearly identifiable backdrop for our video with iconic locations such as Flinders Street station and the State Library. Some of the spots where we filmed were decided on during the actual day of filming however, as the weather made uncovered areas more difficult to film in at times.

Regarding the equipment used, we first discussed what options we had available and in the end we brought along Laura’s Nikon D90 and Andrew’s Panasonic to compare the quality. The Nikon was the final choice on the day and was placed on a tripod for all of the interview sections. The actual filming process required us to set up the frame for each shot, ask passers-by if they would like to participate, direct them as to where they should stand and then interview them. We also made sure each participant signed the previously mentioned consent forms after their interview. Emily filmed her introductory and concluding section separately using her iPhone. After the videos were filmed, the files were then shared via a Dropbox account we created. Editing was done using Adobe After Effects and Windows Movie Maker, to create the animation, add music and compile all of the video parts together into one.

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Surveillance by Jonathon McIntosh (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The intended meaning(s) or message(s) conveyed in the video:

The format of the video we have created is a news broadcast that involved the subjective responses from willing participants in Melbourne’s Central Business District. The questions asked were broad to invite a wide range of interpretation and discussion from the participants regarding their personal thoughts about surveillance. The messages we aimed to convey were that surveillance is all around us, and that people acknowledge that it is there and are thinking about it, although often on a subconscious level. Interviewing a wide range of people has provided us with a strong insight that every individual interprets what the word “surveillance” means and how it affects them differently.

Creating a news based broadcast that shows these varied responses encourages the viewer to think of surveillance critically and develop their own opinion on the issue. We didn’t want to make a video structured in a way that would tell viewers how they should think and feel about surveillance. Instead, our video shows arguments both for and against surveillance in order to generate thought and discussion.

It was evident in the interviews that people have been thinking about surveillance, how it is a significant part of our lives, and how we come in contact with it every day – sometimes without realising it. The goal of the video was to get more people consciously thinking about surveillance in a city environment, rather than offering a strong opinion for or against it.

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A ‘nest’ of surveillance cameras by Pawel Zdziarski (CC BY 2.5)

Conclusion:

Overall the planning and execution involved in creating and publishing the final product was achieved through large amounts of online collaboration on various platforms, where all members were heavily involved in the creative process. Our group made sure that a thorough amount of planning went into this to ensure that we could create the best video possible.

 

Video link:Click here

Creative commons media used:

Image: Map of the world by Mediengestalter (CC0 Public Domain)

Music: News Intro Sound by Maximilien (CC by 3.0 AU)

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It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a…drone?

But what is a drone anyway? If you’ve been living under a rock (perhaps trying to avoid surveillance), let me give you the basic idea. Drones can be defined simply as ‘small aircraft without onboard pilots’ (Mcneal 2016, p.354). Think of a remote control helicopter, but taken to the next level. These devices have cameras built into them so their flight path can be controlled from great distances. As per usual when it comes to rapidly advancing technology, drones have become more affordable and it is now quite realistic for average civilians to have their very own drone. But what are the consequences of this?

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Drones by Andrew Turner (CC BY 2.0)

Firstly, having this kind of technology at our disposal is a source of great entertainment. Youtuber Marques Brownlee and EDM producer Deadmau5 showed the fun of simply flying drones around. Another popular Youtube content creator, Pewdiepie, managed to attach his phone to a drone in order to play the game Pokemon Go without leaving his home. Moreover, there are many practical uses such as farmers using drones to measure crop growth, flying them to your doorstep to deliver packages, or tackling search and rescue operations using infrared to spot body heat. Drones are especially well-suited for surveillance purposes, but this poses an ethical dilemma. Should anyone with enough money to buy these remote-controlled aircraft be allowed to fly them without restrictions? And if not, how could restrictions be enforced?

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Drone by Tony Alter (CC BY 2.0)

If  we can utilise drones to take photos and video of whatever we choose, this inevitably leads to invasion of privacy. Imagine a child at the beach, like in the picture above, who suddenly notices a drone watching them from above. Unlike someone hiding in a bush for example, a drone is not so easy to chase down or identify. Furthermore, celebrities have suffered from increased paparazzi harassment via drones and partly due to their rallying against this, ‘the Governor of California signed a bill making flying a device over private property to capture sound and video a physical invasion of privacy’ (Tate 2016, p.80). There are numerous other laws in place that govern issues in this area, but legislation alone doesn’t mean this behaviour will stop.

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Protests by Karan Jain (CC BY SA-2.0)

On the other hand, drones do have positive benefits to society in the context of surveillance as well. Expanding on my previous post about surveillance and the police, drones can be used in similar ways. Waghorn (2016) explores the use of drones in protests, stating that protestors can create a panopticon, where the police watching over them also feel the threat of being watched and are more likely to act justly. While not without flaw, this method could certainly assist in preventing police brutality, or at least obtaining evidence of such occurrences.

Although I have tried to discuss some of the relevant points about drones, particularly regarding surveillance, this is a multi-faceted issue and one side I haven’t covered here is that of military drones. This is a very controversial area and worth exploring further if you found this post interesting, so if you’d like to, you can listen to this short podcast I created:

References

McNeal, GS 2016, ‘Drones and the Future of Aerial Surveillance’, George Washington Law Review, 84, 2, p. 354, Publisher Provided Full Text Searching File, EBSCOhost, viewed 10 September 2016.

Tate, A 2016, ‘Miley Cyrus and the Attack of the Drones: The Right of Publicity and Tabloid Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems’, Texas Review Of Entertainment & Sports Law, 17, 1, pp. 73-99, Legal Source, EBSCOhost, viewed 10 September 2016.

Waghorn, NJ 2016, ‘Watching the watchmen: resisting drones and the “protester panopticon”‘, Geographica Helvetica, 71, 2, pp. 99-108, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 10 September 2016.

F*** the police!

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Film the Police at Occupy Wall Street by Timothy Krause (CC BY 2.0)

Did you know that to date in 2016, 754 Americans have been killed by police officers, 113 of whom were completely unarmed? The Guardian has created a webpage called The Counted to number of every one of these incidents. The website states that ‘The US government has no comprehensive record of the number of people killed by law enforcement. This lack of basic data has been glaring amid the protests, riots and worldwide debate set in motion by the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014. It is clearly shown that those belonging to certain minority groups (Native American, Black, Hispanic) are killed far more frequently than White Americans. The data shared by the site is incredibly important and clearly shows how powerful online media can be for tracking those in positions of power, while helping marginalised citizens to hold these people accountable. In addition to this however, those who feel police are abusing the authority they possess have taken to filming incidents via mobile phones.

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Police Brutality by Christopher Dombres (CC0 1.0)

With widespread access to mobile phones with recording capabilities, #filmthepolice has grown in popularity across the web, so much so that musicians have created songs about the issue. Academics have also discussed the issue. Bock (2016, p.14) argues “Cop-watching, as it is informally called, is not a matter of merely reacting to events; it actively seeks opportunities to film police at work. These witness accounts, supported by video evidence, challenge the authority of police and traditional media.”The inclusion of the media in this statement is noteworthy, as quite often “the mainstream media report the police version of events, with very little independent investigation. Rarely is the police account questioned, however fantastic it may appear”(Martinot 2013, p.60). This has made it even more vital for those involved in incidents to report the truth. As such, certain apps have been created to help capture video footage more discreetly and upload the files automatically, in case officers abuse their power and try to confiscate your phone. While the ability to film and share these events is certainly beneficial, it doesn’t stop corruption or resolve the issue altogether.

The issue of surveillance and the police goes even deeper when we look at how the police are surveilling us. Investigations of terrorist activity via the NYPD may have gone against court mandated rules.

Targeting one specific group in this way is racial profiling and is an injustice that furthers negative stereotypes of those who are or appear to be Muslims. Similarly, in another response to potential terrorist activity, Muslim students have been monitored in British state schools as part of the governments Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) initiative (Sian 2015). The PVE focused on areas with ‘a population of 5% or more of Muslims’ (Sian 2015, p.185) and Sian argues that this initiative essentially used Islamophobic logic to make staff spy on students. Although this isn’t police surveillance, it is a further example of authority figures watching Muslims due to fear and discrimination, rather than legitimate reasoning. The following video demonstrates this once more:  

As a White Australian who is not religious, I find it quite sad that something as trivial as a beard could be cause for discrimination. Not sad for myself, as it may have been a coincidence and is not a frequent problem for me, but sad for those who are part of minority groups and are treated unfairly as a result. In spite of its great potential to be misused, especially by those in a position of power, modern surveillance can be used for the good of the public too. Just remember, you have the power to watch those who are watching you.

References

Bock, MA 2016, ‘Film the Police! Cop-Watching and Its Embodied Narratives’, Journal Of Communication, 1, p. 13, Academic OneFile, EBSCOhost, viewed 3 September 2016.

Martinot, S 2013, ‘On the Epidemic of Police Killings’, Social Justice, 39, 4, pp. 52-75, Education Source, EBSCOhost, viewed 3 September 2016.

Sian, KP 2015, ‘Spies, surveillance and stakeouts: monitoring Muslim moves in British state schools’, Race, Ethnicity & Education, 18, 2, pp. 183-201, Education Source, EBSCOhost, viewed 8 September 2016.

Next level learning: Using gamification in education

I have made this video as a way to explore gamification and how it aims to enhance user engagement in the present. I specifically put the focus on its use in educational settings, and thus the ‘users’ I talk about are actually students. My main points include:

  • what gamification is – essentially putting game elements into something that isn’t a game
  • why it interests me – I’m a gamer who studies media and education so I consider it a fun and beneficial tool
  • why people use it – to affect behaviour
  • how it can be beneficial or detrimental in various settings (especially the classroom)

In order to create the video, I brainstormed my own ideas on gamification and used academic research to help me examine the topic further. I scripted out everything I would say and then considered where I could include acting, text and other things besides simply talking directly to the camera.

The font I used was sourced through dafont and is free for non-commercial use. All the other visual content was of my own creation. I used a Panasonic digital camera to record and only used myself and one other anonymous person as actors. For audio, I used the creative commons search on Soundcloud and typed in keywords such as ‘8-bit’, ‘chiptune’ and ‘game’ to find music that fit with the overall theme of the video.

To draw on my scholarly sources, I decided it would be best just to mention the authors by name and then paraphrase or read out direct quotes (which I displayed on screen). Following this, I discussed the meaning, gave relevant examples and further extrapolated ideas from the research.

I faced several challenges in the process of completing this task. First of all, I found that remembering long chunks of text was difficult and a waste of time. In response to this, I adopted the style of many vloggers on Youtube and used jumpcuts between shorter lengths of speech. This also helped me to save the viewers time, as I cut out breaths in between sentences through most of the video and although it might seem like a minute detail, it actually cut down the overall length of the piece. Another challenge was getting my video to upload in time. I exported the file at a high quality after rendering the first time and this made the upload take far too long to be worthwhile. I cancelled the first upload and then reduced the quality twice afterwards. The final video only took about half an hour to upload but I could not see any clear difference in the visuals or audio.

I have made videos in the past but those were mostly in high school so this experience refreshed my memory when it came to using the editing software iMovie. I do find it somewhat limiting as I think it could have more options, but for a free program it is decent enough. I did actually learn one new editing skill this time around, which is how to make flashing titles (for the intro and outro) by looking at another Youtuber’s tutorial video. Furthermore, I’m still in the process of learning how to use the camera (which I borrowed from my dad) as I’ve only used it once before. It’s similar to most digital cameras but the functions and interface took some time to get used to. Lastly, in relation to the content of the video, I learned that gamification has been used in society much more than I ever knew, and in ways that I was unaware of. I also learned that extrinsic motivators don’t always affect learning negatively.

My broader online activity and engagement

Since my last assignment I have become much more active on Twitter, engaging with many other users and following a lot more as well. I’ve also created a few short videos in response to different online media topics and posted again on this blog. See Tiffit Tally for more evidence.

Creative Commons and other free use sources (in order of appearance)

8 – Bit Madness – Tyler Dunn (free for non-commercial use)

Chiptune Sample – Raedon (CC BY 3.o)

Hold My Gameboy – Nerdspasm (CC BY 3.o)

Tired From Wandering – Patashu ft. Bynary Fission (CC BY 3.o)

Chiptune – Sonic Potions (CC BY-SA 3.o)

Reference List

Faiella, F & Ricciardi, M 2015, ‘Gamification and learning: a review of issues and research’, Journal of e-Learning and Knowledge Society, vol. 11, no. 3, pp. 13-21.

Kim, B 2015, Understanding Gamification, Library Technology Reports, USA.

Leaning, M 2015, ‘A study of the use of games and gamification to enhance student engagement, experience and achievement on a theory-based course of an undergraduate media degree’, Journal of Media Practice, vol. 16, no. 2, pp.155-70.

Crowdfundamentals

What is crowdfunding? If you’ve been living under a rock (or under some kind of dystopian anti-technology regime), then let me break it down for you. Crowdfunding typically involves using online platforms to raise money for causes, business/product ideas, events and much more. As I have backed many campaigns before and created one with my partner earlier in the month, I figured I’d make this post to share some quick tips and tricks to get you started: 

Have a clear goal
Basically, have a solid plan for what you’ll be putting the funds towards and try your best to estimate how much you’ll need. Remember though, some sites are more flexible than others and will allow you change your monetary goal as you see fit.

Make a pitch that you can actually back up
As a study by Galuszka and Bystrov (2014) found, the main reason people supported projects by musicians was that they liked the music and wanted to download it. If you have a quality product, there are people out there willing to pay for it. So don’t just say it’s great, make it great!

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Exploding Kittens, an example of a great game that I couldn’t help but throw my money at.

Pick the appropriate platform
Some crowdfunding sites are used for very different purposes. Gofundme is aimed at causes and charity, while kickstarter and indiegogo can be used for products, art projects, etc. Search around and find the one that suits your needs.

Be wary of fees
The sites I’ve mentioned all charge varying fees (around 7-10 percent) so keep this in mind. Also, consider asking for offline donations as some sites will allow you to list these on your campaign page without incurring additional charges.

Consider opening a new bank account
I’d highly recommend this as it keeps the money nice and organised, separate from your personal savings. Aim for an account with high interest to gain yourself that little bit extra.

Use a video 
This way you can talk directly to your potential backers and it looks much more sincere, personal and interesting than a wall of text alone (see my example below). You may want to make a longer video if your pitch is more elaborate.

Ask people to share on social media if they can’t afford to give money
They’ll feel good for helping out and you get more exposure. It’s a win-win.

Make an effort offline as well
For our campaign to support underprivileged students in Vanuatu, my partner and I organised a pancake breakfast for our friends where everyone who came donated $10. This is just one example, but being creative and extending your efforts beyond the digital world can be of great benefit.

I hope you found these tips useful. Feel free to add any of your own in the comments section.

 

 

Reference list

Galuszka, P and Bystrov, V 2014, ‘The rise of fanvestors: a study of a crowdfunding community’, First Monday: Peer-Reviewed Journal on the Internet, vol. 19, no. 5, http://firstmonday.org/article/view/4117/4072.

 

IDENTIFYING ONLINE IDENTITY

Do we really know who we’re talking to online? Is our online identity real, constructed or perhaps both? Considering these questions, this first section of my post will cover a personal experience with catfishing. In high school, a random lady who I didn’t know personally added me on Facebook in a seemingly innocent attempt to befriend me. At first I was unaware that this person was not actually who they claimed to be, and being quite young, I fell for the fake persona. They were using the pictures of a relatively underground American model/wrestler and using an alias. The pictures used were mostly candid and with friends; they were not obvious modelling pictures. After interacting with this person who claimed to be interested in some of the things I had publicly liked on my profile (eg. television shows like How I Met Your Mother), one day I became suspicious. When I noticed that, among other things, they had a very small amount of Facebook friends, I did a Google reverse image search and found I was being deceived with someone else’s likeness that didn’t belong to this user’s name.

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Silhouette by Praveen – edited by Andrew Blazevic (CC BY 2.0)

This story highlights how simple it is to steal another person’s identity online. As Poster (cited in Poletti & Rak 2014, p.9) contends, identity in modern society is “an aspect of consciousness (an awareness of continuity in time and space) and a complex of media content contained in information machines that combine to define an individual”. Our identities aren’t just what we know or believe about ourselves anymore, they are also comprised of the media we create and share across the Internet. This means that we have a huge amount of potential control over how others perceive us. Even without stealing a person’s likeness, one may be inclined to make their life look more fun and interesting by faking an entire holiday for example. The situations I’ve mentioned thus far may seem somewhat extreme, but the selection and omission of even small details from our online profiles can dramatically affect online identity.

I have three main parts to my online identity. These are my more professional academic accounts, my music related profiles and my personal sites. I approach all of these in different ways, as each targets a specific audience. The following tweets are examples from each of the online personas I’ve mentioned which demonstrate these differences.

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Tweets from @andrew_blazevic, @harbourthehope and my private profile respectively.

In the first tweet I am making a comment about controversial social media that we discussed in class, with the unit hashtag included to prompt discussion with students and teachers. The next tweet is an attempt to promote my band’s recently released EP with the Soundcloud link included. The last example is an entry for a competition to win a free hoodie, formatted in the way specified by the competition runners. Although each of these only portray part of who I am, I have consciously built each one to address a certain group of people and, to some extent, I keep them separate. In contrast to this, to develop a more relatable version of themselves, famous actors often try to merge their private and public selves, or at least make it appear this way. One example is from Vin Diesel who decided to share on Facebook a moment from a

special lunch meeting where my father said something so dead on… He said… ‘Confidence is the most important thing that you can teach someone… if you can teach them confidence, you don’t have to teach them anything else’… Thanks for the love. (Diesel cited in Marshall 2010, p.40)

Marshall (2010) mentions this in the relation to Goffman’s work on performativity, pointing out that celebrities such as Diesel are very aware of how they portray their lives online. The different aspects of an individual’s identity can be separated or combined in strategic ways. I might post memes in rapid succession or reblog niche interests on my private twitter, but I avoid this on the other profiles to avoid annoying or disengaging my followers. A celebrity however, may be more likely to share memes or pictures of their lunch, in order to appeal to the everyman. Essentially, just as one might choose to act friendly and professional through speech and and clothing in a job interview, there are many ways to act or perform our identities online as well.

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Venn diagram created with easel.ly

The more I explore my online identity, the more I learn about how to effectively develop a following. From viewing analytics on my band’s Facebook page, I have seen that we gained the most interaction on performance videos and links to our original songs. Photos had less of a response and statuses that just included text had the least of all (they didn’t even show up on the charts). I’ve also observed some limitations with expressing my identity online, particularly in the professional sense. Although I have a LinkedIn profile, I don’t have much relevant work experience to the field of education yet. As such, I have not had any contact from potential employers on this profile. My  page is quite new and bare right now, and I haven’t reached out to people at this point in time, but I do aim to do so in the future. Regardless, it appears that in some ways our digital selves are limited by what we do in the physical world.

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Analytics from the Harbour The Hope Facebook page

Since the catfishing incident mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, I have gotten older, more skeptical and more aware of social media practices. I no longer accept friend requests from people I don’t know. Issues arise however for young people as they are more concerned with immediate emotional rewards than thinking about how actions such as posting a nude selfie could affect their future. Gabriel (2014, p.107) argues that young people “need to learn ethical conduct and are still at risk from the unique issues presented by social media, like privacy, consent and online predators”. I concur with this statement, especially since it is near impossible to remove something permanently from the internet once it has been uploaded. Even though Gabriel (2014) does suggest that part of teenagers’ growth and development comes from navigating the online space and making mistakes, it is still a precarious situation. I believe that parents and teachers should help youths in the learning process to avoid dangers and negative behaviours online. Luckily, I was just left with an embarrassing story, but there’s no harm in educating people when it comes to the exploration our online selves.

My broader online activity and engagement

For ALC203, I have been quite active on my academic twitter account. I frequently find useful materials to retweet, post my own thoughts on concepts brought up in class and engage with other students and teachers. I make sure to use the unit hashtag only for relevant posts and exclude it from anything else I post. I also created an about.me page as a hub for other online profiles. Since creating it, I’ve updated it to express what’s happening in my student life currently, and it has been featured on the about.me twitter page.

Reference list

Gabriel, F 2014, ‘Sexting, selfies and self-harm: young people, social media and the performance of self-development’, Media International Australia, no. 151, pp. 104-12.

Marshall, PD 2010, ‘The promotion and presentation of the self: celebrity as marker of presentational media’, Celebrity Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 35-48.

Poletti, A and Rak, J 2014, ‘Introduction: Digital Dialogues’, in Poletti, A and Rak, J, Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, pp. 3-11.