The Google Effect of life, my digital storytelling

Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, and the things you never want to lose.

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Ever since I can remember right before dawn, my nan would take my little hands between hers and we would walk outside where she would pull up a chair, and I would lie on top of her with my little pale legs sticking out the side.  She always had a different story to tell.

I remember the story of Joao de Barro; John of mud, an elderly man who had nothing, and yet when poverty hit he helped others to build houses made out of mud facing the sun, so they too would always remember there is light. This taught me simplicity and humbleness. She told me the story of Amor; Love. A tale of  how the sun and the moon fell deeply in love, but their love did not agree with the rest of the universe, and although this meant they would be separated, the rest of the world would be showered with light, warmth and love, and so I learnt that not everything works out in our favour, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t for the better. Between those there was many others, I remember them so vividly that it is as if I can hear her voice whispering them in my ear as I write.

Now our worlds are kilometers apart and every Sunday night when I call my little old lady, right before we hang up she always asks me the same question: ‘Tell me Moara, do you still remember that story I used to tell you…?’.

Being so far away from your family places a great deal of pressure in our minds, in our memories. We tend to dwell on the past and that is why remembering is so important. When we packed our entire lives into seven boxes before shipping them off to Australia, I remember my mum writing FRAGILE in big red letters all around one box, just that one box. I asked her if that’s where she had placed by barbie dolls, she smiled and she said yes, along with all of our photo albums. Now I understand that it was the most fragile box of all, it contained things far too previous to forget.

As I sit here and think about how much things have changed, I swipe through my phone that I hold so close and so tight to me, because heaven forbid that my little portable box gets scratched, cracked or wet, it  too contains many of my precious memories.

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So why is it that I don’t need to look back each day through my photo albums to know exactly what the photos look like, and why is it I can quote my nan’s tales word for word, and yet I sit here and scroll through the same old photos and information I have stored on my iPhone like it is new? My 84 year old nan remembers everything about everyone, phone numbers, recipes and birthdays, and so did I at one stage, so has our capacity to remember been reduced by technology?

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If I were to present my nan with a brand new iPad and teach her how to join Facebook and surf the web, would I start seeing early signs of dementia on her? Turns out I’m not far from the truth! It’s called the Google Effect.

Is our brain a permanent complete archive we seem to think it is? Whether the internet is a solid functional archive or not we have a tendency to treat it like it is. We upload our thoughts, appointments, documents, we google facts we need instantly, we treat it like this off board extension of our minds. So how is leaning on the internet changing our actual memory?

Intense internet usage is making our brain better at multitasking and quick decision making – Hebbs rule – the more you work on an area, the stronger it gets. Cells that fire together, wire together!

Are we trading off some cognitive skills in the process or just growing into humanity?

Brain = Computer
Computer = Hard drive
Hard drive = Full
Brain = Full?

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If we are using our brains as a hard drive, is it possible that we will eventually run out of room? We believe that we are freeing up our memories for more important things, but I feel like we definitely haven’t reached our full memory capacity, if that’s even a possibility.

According to Nelson Cowan – University of Missouri ‘The magical mystery four: How is working memory capacity limited, why?’ Our brain has a billion neurons and each of those connects to a thousand of its neighbours, they all help each other to store multiple memories, so it’s really not the long term memory we need to worry about. It feels like we are freeing up space in our brains because we are taking things out of our short term memory, which he explains can only hold 2-4 things at a time, however, not leaving things there stops it from converting them into a long term memory.

It’s that feeling of short term overload that’s really letting the internet affect us. When we are writing an essay and checking the internet, Facebook, Tweeter, getting an email, well that’s our four things limit. We are always putting ourselves into a place where we are overloading and swapping things into that short term memory.

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Cognitive scientist Torkel Klinberg explains in The over flowing brain – Information overload and the limits of working memory that when we are operating at full capacity our brain finds destruction exponentially more destructing, so the more we are bouncing around from page to page, thing to thing online, the more likely we are to leave those things behind for something new, and none of that leads to the process of important information. If we don’t process it, we don’t remember it.

The concern here is that because of the internet we are wiring our brains to constantly scan for information without taking it in, losing our ability for long term memorization.

This great video give us a short demonstration of transactive memory:

Transactive memory is essentially using our friends and family as reference materials to remember things for us. Google is our global transactive friend for everything.

Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips: Columbia University study published in a science magazine, showed two groups of people a list of facts to memorise, they told one group that the file with the list would be deleted later and said nothing to the second group. The group that thought the file had been deleted remembered more facts than the group who was unaware of it. In a secondary test, people were told the facts and then showed what folder they were in on a hard drive. People were more likely to remember the folder location than the actual facts and that goes back to the brain restructure the above Youtube video talks about. We are getting better at finding and organizing but potentially worse at deep focus.

As I ponder over all the overload of information I have just retrieved while researching, I think of my nan, a lady wise as time, and how she came to learn everything she knows today and passed on her wisdom to me and I have now shared some of that with you, (my readers), but will google pass on all of this to my kids in a swipe of a finger? And if so, when we are gone and all that is left are highly tech-savvy humans to run the world, they will pose the search of the questions, but who will do the answering?

We do not remember days, we remember moments. The richness of life lies in memories we have forgotten.” – Cesare Pavese

BCM240… I did it!

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BCM240 introduced me to ways in which media audiences have been constructed and analysed since the early twentieth century. Throughout this semester, we’ve examined the history of industry and theoretical assumptions about audience motivation, behaviour and experience. We’ve looked at alternatives to theories of reception and consumption, including the concept of the media user as media producer, and perhaps most importantly, used a range of different creative tools to explore and represent the importance of space, place and locality to our understanding of media practice.

Week one of blogging to me, was very important because it allowed me to gain a sense of space inside the media world, I began to understand what it all meant to be part of something never ending. Looking back at my first post Loading…  readers can see how overwhelmed I was by so much information and technology that become available to me. Even more important was what I came across on my week one reading topics  where Doreen Massey talks about the process through which one learns interview. Of never disposing of an idea, but rather reformulate them. I began to write down everything, the necessary and unnecessary to recycle later. What stood out to me the most and I feel is evident in all my blog posts was Doreen Massey questioning/reforming our belonging to a landscape to that of whether a landscape belong to us. Not only in BCM240 but throughout my entire blog, this is an ongoing question of belonging that I ask myself all the time.

A guide to collaborative ethnography was probably the most influential reading for me. It allowed me to fully understand the concept of studying people and really understanding what it was like to be someone other than me. It put space and media a little bit more in perspective for me because I began to take into consideration all aspects of individuals in order to further my knowledge about them. This also outlined the importance of collaborative work and how both the author and the audience benefit from collaborating, perhaps in ways that we didn’t even know we would. I feel that out of all my blog posts, All the different channels of life  and Ethnology, it matters! Where my two favourites and most meaningful.

Sherry Tuckle’s connected, but alone? TED talk was incredible and on our week’s topic of domestic broadband changing the way we understand the experience and meaning of home, or (reforming the question here) is this a continuation of earlier technological impacts on place? I was once again shocked to find just how much was going on in the space and media around me that I had been clearly missing all this time. All these discoveries were recorded on my Weaving the Web post  where I explored my mother’s way of life with a Sherry Tuckle’s perspective. Although I did not blog about measuring the audience in week three, ‘Media consumption or ‘audiencing’ can only be understood as part of a practice that is not itself about the media … ‘, Nick Couldry, ‘Theorising Media as Practice’, Social Semiotics, 14:2, pp.115-132 now made perfect sense to me as I had to step out of the media scope in order to understand what it meant to m famil and I. I then began to apply this theory to my everyday studies of media, audience and place.

For week five Once upon a movie… I decided to blog about an even that happened in my life where both Michel Foucault’s heterotopia and  Hägerstrand’s time geography theory took place, by taking my Aunt to the movies. I feel that in this blog piece I was more specific to details about my aunt to show the various categories of group she fell into, as well as a lot of detail of our geographical journey to our final destination which at the end, didn’t end up mattering.

As the next weeks approached, I felt that regardless of the topic being discussed, I was starting to apply all the concepts of media and space that I had previously learned with this subject to my everyday activities, I began to stop and observe people and how they were interacting with technology and with each other. I began to take notice what it meant by being in the public eye, question things like privacy and consent and freedom.

Looking back through my blog posts now, I feel that by learning how to use collaborative ethnography, it gave me the key I needed to be able to better communicate with my family, allowing me to travel back in time and re-live those days, gaining information to what media and space was like back then. Not only was this very influential to me as a person, learning about my history, I also saw the importance that we as writers, communicators, ethnographers have in our audience. I hope that this was evident throughout my blog, how much I enjoyed writing it and connecting it to what was my own understanding of all the lectures and theories I have uncovered this semester.

Although I did not blog about all the things I learnt and ideas I developed (I could write a book…volumes) BCM240 helped me to grasp media audience theory with an understanding of its current issues, their contexts and developments over time. I am now able to engage media with new ideas and ways of thinking. I can better critically analyse issues being exposed, better acknowledge the work and ideas of others and convey them effectively using a variety of modes. Writing my blog in particular helped me to recognize how cultures can shape communication. I am now more aware of how different decisions affect different people, thus learning to make ethically informed choices. Appreciating and respecting diversity even more and acting as part of local, national and global professional blogs.

By completing this subject, I hope that my blog was able to demonstrate my understanding of key theories of media user experience as they change over time.  I hope they will show that I can apply ideas about space and place to the experiences of the media audience and my own. I am now capable of extending my capacity for writing for online readership, and will be able to demonstrate my ability by creating my digital storytelling portfolio (coming soon…) to examine the ways in which space and place shape the practices of media users like me.

Excuse me, can I use your photo on my blog?

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For one of my journalism subjects last semester, I was asked to go around campus (Wollongong) and take a photo of things that stood out for me, things that constructed my mind about ‘uni life’.

Uni life to me, consists of bean bags, food, uni bar, angry ducks, printer queues, stairs, coffee, lots of coffee and bare feet (yes, I am a creative arts student). So how was I going to capture all of that in one shot?  As I walked around the pond I came face to face with the perfect scenery. On my left I had a girl sitting on the grass, mid bite through an apple, with bare feet! In front of me, a girl laying on the grass sun baking with TWO cups of coffee, I had three ducks goosing around, and just in time for my shot I turned around to perfect the angle and boom, there was uni bar in the background, I felt this might be a heaven sign for a career change into photography.

The photo was edited – because even Johnny Depp looks better with a filter – and uploaded on to my very public blog. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I found myself on the grass, mid bite through my chocolate cake and bare feet, watching other students with cameras capturing their ‘uni life’ moment that I realized that maybe I didn’t want my photo taken and uploaded into someone else’s blog, facebook or anywhere for that matter. I might have been picture perfect for them but I had messy hair, no make up, chocolate on my white shirt and my toe nails were half painted (it was a Monday). This made me feel so uncomfortable about having taken the photo those previous weeks, how did I not consider asking for consent?

Sure its art, but do we have the right to make people uncomfortable for art? I started thinking about the fine line we might cross as artists, as ethnographers, as everyday people. Does being in a public sphere automatically decrease our right to privacy?

We gain, or in most cases lessen, the level of ownership over ourselves when entering places. We are constantly being filmed or watched to insure we behave accordantly. While choosing to do basic things such as shopping, we are entering an invisible agreement where we allow all types of personal information to be displayed. What time I entered a premises, what I bought, what I wore, how I paid. These are everyday things that we are perhaps unaware of, and sure enough they don’t bother most people.  I don’t remember the last time I felt that my privacy had been breached in a shopping centre, if anything made me feel saver knowing someone, somewhere is watching me.

But what about a park? An university campus? Would I be more cautious of my actions if I thought someone was watching me? For whatever reason? Would my actions change?

I am the first one to put my hand up and argue that art cannot be forced. Asking someone to pose does not always deliver the same depth of a spontaneous picture. Perhaps being exposed to a controlled world gives us the false sense that we too are in titled to exposure.

By no way or mean do I write this post as a discouragement to other artists to stop exploring the hidden beauty that we humans are. I understand the act of asking for consent is not always ideal, but perhaps, engage with the person you are admiring and put yourself in their shoes. We as artist are sure to find another creative way of resembling the same picture without breaching any privacy.

What I’ve learnt this week, is how to open my mind and minimize the risk of singling a person out. Focusing on other details such as hands, movements, distances will make it easier for us to use it later in a public space, after all anyone makes a beautiful story.