Once upon a movie…

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Here is a little something you need to know about my aunty. She is a fantastic person, she has read every book in the library, learnt French without ever taking any lessons, she knows everything about everything, but she doesn’t leave the house. Her biggest fear in life is getting lost and this causes her massive panic attacks. She cared for my uncle for ten years as he was bed bound. In those ten years she only ever left the house in small periods of 30-45 minutes where she would visit my grandparents and go to the bank, the only two things she could not do over the internet. This began by her fearing that he would fall or need something while she wasn’t there, and after a while she began to notice the world changing out there and how she was not a part of it, so year by year she left the house even less.

With my uncle sadly passing away, my aunty became overwhelmed with so much free time in her life. It wasn’t until I went to visit that anyone had invited her to do something a little extraordinary, like going to the movies.

The funny thing here is that we probably had more fun trying to get there than we actually did watching the movie. Only knowing how to drive from her house to my nan’s house and back, and me having spent the last few years growing up in Australia, made getting there a little more complicated. Just putting it out there, the town where I am from in Brazil is as big as the Wollongong campus and that’s it.

We decided it would be best to print out a map directing us straight there, due to google maps unfortunately not working in either of our smart phones.

The journey that was meant to take exactly seven minutes, ended up taking twenty five. She didn’t care, neither did I. Of course we missed the first turn of the map because being as sophisticated as I am, I waited for the paper in my hands to tell me to turn right in five hundred meters and, of course it didn’t. From then on we kept guessing the way by judging places and houses that looked familiar, but the entire town looked familiar…we saw it every day!

It was probably the funniest  day we had both had in a long time. By the time we got to the movies we had missed our session, we bought the later one instead, some popcorn and sat out the front eating it as if it were the old times. My aunty began to tell me about the first time she had ever been to the movies and how magnificent it all was, and now forty-five years later she was having the same feeling, butterflies in her stomach and just as excited as she was when she was ten.

Hagestrand might have put it in technical terms, but I will put it in my own, the geographical journey is just as important, if not more than the destination itself.

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Weaving the Web

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A lot like Sherry Turkle from her brilliant connected, but alone? TED talk, my mother is a psychologist but also a total hippie who places a flower on top of the microwave to reduce electronic waves being transmitted, charges her phone down the stairs so she doesn’t develop brain cancer, fights with me for having my phone on the table, yet has her iPad attached to her hip.

I’ve always found my mum to be quite contradictory to her own demands, but she is a mum after all right? (Do what I say, not what I do type of thing). However, Sherry’s talk made me realise that perhaps my mum doesn’t know that she is in fact paradoxical to her own believes.

My mum takes comfort in knowing that she is not using the internet to alienate herself but rather to help others to connect again, to do better and be better. She only shares links to greater goods of charities, budda quotes, she shares videos of the homeless being fed and animals being rescued, she tags her friends in friendship memes and posts hundreds of photos inviting internet users to go outside. So does that make it okay for her ‘right’ use of the internet?

I started thinking about Black-and-White Mary, a philosophy by a property dualist that believes that physicalist and functionalist stories about the mind cannot capture the qualitative features of experience. Ideology plays a great role in technology because it controls the information being given, it manipulates us into thinking we are feeling something when in reality, we are not. Are we beginning to exchange the real emotional for the fictional?

My mum feels it is okay for her to spend her time online because she has already experienced things that I have not, she wants me to live in the present and she is encouraging others to do the same by living in her past and sharing her thoughts online now. That may be why my grandparents refuse to learn about the internet, or why they would most likely reject the idea of the sociable robots that Sherry refers to, because in reality it would be like telling them we don’t have the time or patience to sit and talk to them now, but here is something to take your mind of it.

In truth we do turn to technology when we are most vulnerable, and this is where we start to lose our intimacy because we believe that we can turn our attention wherever we want and divert our thoughts and feelings. It’s not always because we post something on Facebook that we are heard, and that will make us feel even more unnoticed. So I applaud my mother and my grandparents for having raised me in a house that encourages me to share my problems with them, not with the web. I admire my grandparents for not being scared of being lonely, embracing the fact that they don’t need technology to feel happy and connected, sure a visit or two would be good, but sometimes it doesn’t happen they get it, they just rather experience things for themselves rather than over a screen.

‘Write me a letter that I can keep, that I can drip coffee on and smell the dust when I pull it out in a few years, I want to read your handwriting and picture you thinking about what to write. Anyone can buy the internet but not everyone can buy my thoughts’ – Terezina Marcucci, 85 year old grandmother and best woman I know.

Ethnology… It matters!

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Let me just start by admitting that prior to this BCM240 class/lecture/reading I had absolutely no idea what collaborative ethnography was or how it could ever work in my favour. A week later and it’s all I can think and talk about.

So what is ethnography?

The study of human races and cultures

In a way that already suggests to me that every ethnography must be collaborative, how else are we supposed to apprehend an entire race and culture of an individual without his/hers collaboration?

‘Ethnography is, by definition, collaborative. In the communities in which we work, study, or practice, we cannot possibly carry out our unique craft without engaging others in the context of their real, everyday lives. Building on these collaborative relationships between the ethnographer and her or his interlocutors, we create our ethnographic texts. To be sure, we all practice collaboration in one form or another when we do ethnography. But collaborative ethnography moves collaboration from its taken-for-granted background and positions it on center stage.’ The Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethnography.

I feel that perhaps the reason why it is so powerful to me, is because I want to share my culture with others, I want them to understand what it really feels like to be born in my country, to grow up with my values, and then suddenly have to adapt to new values.  Values that I also want to take in and fathom as much of as possible. So in a way life is a collaborative ethnography. How can we not take and give a little of ourselves everyday to those around us? We feel empathy for the old gentleman who can no longer walk, we feel anxious for our team before a game, we feel happy for the girl who did well in class, but mostly, they too, feel something when they see you.

But what about my grandma?  An 85 year old lady who can no longer travel or leave her house, does collaborative ethnography not affect her because she is no longer seen by society? I feel as if it does, every day inside her own home. As I interviewed both my grandmother and my mum (please refer to my last post), she shared memories so fund that we were able to feel and understand her better than we have before, we were also grateful because it added to what we knew about our family culture.

As I thought more deeply into the real meaning of ethnography for me, I began to discover that it is more common than not. The old photos that we keep and take out every odd year, the old Christmas cards and birthday cards buried under a box somewhere, the sticky notes on the fridge, the videos and photos recorded on iPhones and iPads, I now understand why Facebook is so popular and why we are ever so eager to share and like endless photos and pages, simply because…   We keep what we have by giving it away’.