Media Content, Regulation and Convergence: It’s Time To Grow Up

This week in BCM310 we looked at media policy and content regulation in Australia.

My area of interest in the topic of media regulation surrounds the introduction of an ‘R18+’ category for games.

The National Classification Code (2005) states the following:

 “(a) adults should be able to read, hear, see and play what they want”

However, until January 2013, an ‘R18+’ classification for video games did not exist. In 2010 the Attorney-General’s Department published a ‘Final Report (2010) which summarised the findings of public submissions made in response to a discussion paper released in 2009.

I believe a good way of framing this issue is to take a look at the perspectives of the key stakeholders.

Computer game retailers were in favour of the ‘R18+’ classification as they were unable to stock games that were refused classification, including many popular titles. Managing Director of ‘EB Games’ Steve Wilson indicated that the classification issue was continuing to ‘cripple our industry and cost local jobs’  (EB Games 2010). It is interesting to note that ‘EB Games’ was responsible for collecting 34,210 submissions for the Attorney-General from their customers (Final Report, 2010), through an in-store and online campaign.

Australian gamers want unrestricted access to all games. AusGamers, an online Australian gaming community, declared their support of the ‘R18+’ classification by stating:

Australians are capable of making responsible choices about what games we play and what games we allow our children to play’  (AusGamers 2010)

Numerous organisations presented submissions that identified research which suggests that video games cause violence and aggression in game players. These parties expressed concern about the ‘effects of simulated violence on children’ (Final Report 2010, pg 17)

The Presbyterian Church believes that it is more important for children to be protected against harmful material than adults having unlimited access to media (Final Report 2010, pg 19).

———————-

The Attorney-General’s report also notes the challenges that technological convergence has for the classification of media content. The Convergence Review (2012) directly addresses this issue, noting that our current policy and regulations have not modernised to acknowledge the dilution of boundaries between media technologies.

The AIMIA (Digital Industry Association for Australia) also identified that:

“It is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between various types of media, as the distinctions between them continue to blur as a result of technological advances and what is termed ‘convergence” (AIMIA 2010)

I agree that this convergence culture has made the need for a new Classification Scheme undeniable.  Allowing the ‘R18+’ classification is a positive step in the right direction, but the ultimate goal should be a system which can be applied consistently and meaningfully across media platforms. Importantly, the Classification system must be ‘sufficiently flexible to be adaptive to technological change’ (Flew 2012, pg 14)

But can such an effective and dynamic system ever be achieved whilst simultaneously balancing the interests of stakeholders?

Thanks for reading,

Katie

 

References:

  • AIMIA 2010, ‘AIMIA submission on R18+ classification for computer games’, 24 February 2010, viewed 27 March 2013 via here.
  • Attorney-General’s Department 2010, ‘Final Report on the Public Consultation on the Possible Introduction of an R 18+ Classification for Computer Games’ Attorney-General, accesse 27 March 2013 via here.
  • AusGamers 2010, ‘EFA and AusGamers R18+ Submission’, 28 February 2010, viewed 27 March 2013 via here.
  • Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy 2012, ‘Convergence Review – Interim Report’, DBCDE, accessed 28 March 2013 via here.
  • EB Games 2010, ‘The time to be heard is now: EB Games launches R18+ Classification Petition, accessed 27 March 2013 via here.
  • Flew, T (2012), ‘Media Classification: Content regulation in an age of convergent media’, Media International Australia incorporating Culture and Policy, no. 143, pp 5-15
  • National Classification Code 2005, ComLaw, viewed 27 March 2013 via here.
  • Image sourced from here.

New Subject = BCM310 (last subject ever!)

Hi all,

My blog is alive again this semester as I will be blogging as part of BCM310: Emerging Issues in Media and Communication. This is my FINAL SUBJECT EVER for my degree! So far the subject has been very interesting so it seems as if I will be ending my degree on a good note 🙂

Hope you enjoy the new blog posts that will be appearing each week.

Katie

Week 12 Blog: I may be addicted to SL

My heels... complete with sparkle!

My heels... complete with sparkle!

In class this week we had the opportunity to explore the virtual world Second Life (SL).  I made my account a few weeks before the class in preparation and had a quick look at how SL works, but I couldn’t work out how to change the camera angle to be looking from my avatar’s perspective, and I found customising my avatar very confusing, so I decided to wait until the class.  During class, I spent time getting used to navigating my avatar, customising my appearance and exploring the world.  It was only until I logged in back at home that I was able to have a more in-depth experience with the game.

I was wandering around some random newbie world when I bumped into an avatar called Merlin. He seemed pretty nice, and he was new like me, so we decided to explore together. We found some random little cottage, however we had trouble working out how to open the door (I worked it out in the end!). Once Merlin left, I continued to explore, but was getting annoyed by the male avatars who kept hitting on me.

This is the outfit that I was given, including the purple wings that were given to me by another player. I saw his wings and told him how awesome they were, so he kindly showed me where he got them from!

This is the outfit that I was given, including the purple wings that were given to me by another player. I saw his wings and told him how awesome they were, so he kindly showed me where he got them from!

I decided to go to one of the main islands where the new players gather in order to meet some new people. Once my page loaded I noticed that there was a voice conversation occurring between 3 or 4 players.  They were actually having a pretty in-depth philosophical discussion about Second Life and the actual world and they seemed quite educated. Then, they somehow managed to veer their discussion onto topics such as gender and how virginity is valued in various cultures.  I couldn’t help but sit there and eavesdrop for a bit… however I didn’t have the confidence to butt in and join the conversation – and definitely not using voice!

My poor avatar was probably suffering from shock – 1 minute ago she was surrounded by men soliciting her attention, the next she’s listening to a heated debate about society and culture!

In that same location later on I met some experienced players with whom I had a lovely conversation. One of the girls then told me that my outfit screamed ‘NEW PLAYER’ and she decided to give me a whole new outfit. It was unbelievable! I can’t believe I was drooling over a gorgeous pair of virtual high heels. She gave me the heels, some black leather pants, a black corset top, new hair, a new body shape (sexy female shape? oh dear) and a tan. I thought that this was probably not going to help the problem of male avatars hitting on me, especially when the female shape was very well endowed and the top definitely accentuated it. I discovered how to adjust my shape and made myself a bit shorter, and with a smaller chest!

Later, I met another two people who I proceeded to converse with. I told them that I was a university student who was on SL as part of a class, and they seemed really interested and answered heaps of questions that I had. It was kind of amusing actually – we ended up discussing issues such as identity, gender and personality. The conversation began with discussion about time zones, but managed to develop to involve questions such as ‘does gender shape society, or does society shape gender?’ and whether people who use SL behave with a completely different personality, or are just exploring another side of their actual personality.  Turns out I had had a very academic discussion with a guy from Queensland and a forty-one year old from the US. Who knew?

When I was exploring a romantic beach, I met a person called Romeo (original, no?). He was a true gentleman and politely asked me if I would like to dance with him.

When I was exploring a romantic beach, I met a person called Romeo (original, no?). He was a true gentleman and politely asked me if I would like to dance with him.

I found SL to be very interesting. It is amazing how so many people treat this game as seriously as an actual life.  I thought it was funny how one player said ‘brb’ because ‘real life is interrupting’ – it was almost as if he considered SL his first life, not his second! Most things you can do in the actual world seem to be able to be done in SL; the fact that most of the content is user-generated means that the possibilities are pretty much endless.

SL does cause some problems, however. I had a discussion with some people on SL about relationships on SL and how they were taken as being the same as those in RL. The woman I was speaking to had a relationship on SL for around two years and even met the man in RL. She said that he was very similar to his SL avatar. Divorce is an issue with regards to SL relationships. I actually met a SL divorce lawyer who said she got a lot of business from SL couples who needed their assets split. A VIRTUAL DIVORCE LAWYER? Are you kidding me?  Another issue we talked about was those people who were couples in both RL and SL, and whether cheating with another avatar on SL could be considered to be the same as cheating in the actual world.  People seem to think that it is, which is fairly mind-blowing. I mean, SL is a pretty immersive game, but is it really an extension of the actual world? It’s kind of scary how involved people are getting in SL… and as the world becomes even more realistic, people are going to become involved even more so.

Overall, I found my experiences in Second Life to be intriguing. I’ve played online worlds before, but never one that was such a mirror of our actual world. I made quite a few friends, and am now slightly concerned that I am becoming addicted to SL at a very inconvenient time of the semester!

Images are screenshots taken in-game from Second Life

Week 11 Blog: A Second Life

Second Life?

This week’s article by Boellstorff (2008) discusses Second Life and the concepts of visuality and land, lag, afk (away-from-keyboard), immersion and presence found in online virtual worlds.  What I found interesting about this article was the distinction Boellstorff emphasises between ‘being online (or “in-world”) versus offline’ (pg 108).

For most online game players, virtual worlds allow an escape from reality to a place where they have an element of control over their surroundings.  When we log onto Second Life, our attention focuses to this alternative world whilst the problems that exist in our actual lives are put out of mind for the time being.

I think that a characteristic of many virtual online world players is the desire to keep the online ‘virtual’ life and the offline world separate. In this article, Boellstorff (2008) talks about the controversy over whether voice should be added as a feature of Second Life.  Some residents believed that the ability to use voice would damage this ‘border’ between their real lives and their virtual life and would therefore “destroy the fantasy” (Boellstorff 2008, pg 114) – in other words, the immersion of the player into the virtual world would be impacted. I understand this concern as I am a player of an online world and I am against anything that that threatens to bridge the gap between my offline and online persona. When the virtual world that I play introduced a Facebook application that identified your Facebook friends who also played the game and vice versa, I refused to install the application.

I guess this is why they call it Second Life – players desire their online life to be separate to their actual lives.

– Katie Challita 3663620

References:

Boellstorff, Tom (2008), Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human, Princeton: Princeton University Press, [pp.93-117]

Image sourced from http://www.eslweb.org/virtualworlds.htm

Week 10 Blog: Cease and Desist! Property and Propriety©

Early intellectual property issues perhaps?

This week’s article by Coombe and Herman (2001) discuss intellectual property and corporate propriety on the Internet.  Corporations are finding it increasingly difficult to monitor and protect their brand image due to the fact that the Web provides the ‘technological means and social and cultural conditions’ for the public to ‘evade their subject positions as mere consumers of corporate imagery’ (Coombe & Herman 2001, pg 920).

A major point of the article is the ‘intertwined relationship between property and propriety’ (pg 923). The article references Steve Jones (1993, cited by Coombe & Herman 2001) who identifies that the word ‘property’ means ‘one’s own’, referring to ownership, whereas propriety refers to a behavioural standard. He suggests that intellectual property links the two concepts.

Various examples are provided in the article (Coombe & Herman 2001) of companies attempting to protect their intellectual property. Coca-Cola issued a cease-and-desist letter to a website displaying collections of vintage Coca-Cola bottles and cans. Warner Bros did the same to owners of Harry Potter fan sites. In additions, numerous companies have attempted to shutdown websites which provide ‘cultural commentary and artistic appropriation’ of their brand (Detritus.net, cited by Coombe & Herman 2001, pg 933).

I can understand why a company would want to shut down a defamatory website which is spreading false information. However, I think it is counterproductive for massive corporations to shut down fan sites, collector’s sites, and any other sites which do not defame or attempt to profit from the brand. I believe companies should be trying to cultivate and promote these online communities as they reflect positively on the brand and provide further brand exposure at no expense. In my opinion, the censorship of these websites can be seen as a failure to allow freedom of speech.

– Katie Challita 3663620

References:

Coombe, R & Herman, A 2001, ‘Culture Wars on the Net: Intellectual Property and Corporate Propriety in Digital Environments,’ The South Atlantic Quarterly, vol. 100 issue 4, pp.919-947

Image sourced from http://offthemark.com/search-results/key/intellectual+property/

Week 9 Blog: Earth to Google!

La Perouse Sydney

GE screenshot of Bare Island - Blue icons are Panaramio Photos

This week’s article by Munster (2008) discusses ‘Google Earth‘ (GE), a revolutionary program in Google’s forever expanding artillery of internet products.  GE  allows users to ‘travel the world through a virtual globe and view satellite imagery, maps, terrain, 3D buildings, and much more’ (Google Earth 2010).

Munster (2008) considers whether GE can be viewed as ‘sociable media’, identifying that whilst using the program is a solitary process which distinguishes it from sites such as Friendster, the social aspect of GE  ‘resides elsewhere and adjacent to the virtual globe’ (pg  131). The community can be found on the online Google Earth Community site, as well as on unofficial sites such as Google Earth Hacks (Munster 2008).

Unlike Munster, I believe GE is a form of sociable media due to a few capabilities it possesses. Zoning in on my local area, I noticed that clicking a logo over the hospital leads to an excerpt from the hospital’s Wikipedia page; similarly, the local sports club has a logo which leads to an excerpt from its Yellow Pages business listing. Most striking, however, is the ability for users to upload photos – after creating a ‘Panaramio’ account, I decided to upload a picture that I took at La Perouse and  mark its location on the satellite images. Once my image has been reviewed, it will appear on the GE program. I would consider this ‘folksonomy’ as there is the ‘user-generated tagging of content’ (Warschauer and Grimes 2007, pg 2). I think that this strengthens the argument that GE is a form of social network; tagging functions provide a link between the separate GE community and the actual GE globe, ensuring that the social aspect of the program is not necessarily removed from its visual environment.

– Katie Challita 3663620

References:

Munster, Anna (2008), ‘Welcome to Google Earth’, Critical Digitial Studies: A Reader, eds Arthur Kroker and Marilouise Kroker, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, pp. 398-416

Warschauer, Mark and Grimes, Douglas (2007) ‘Audience, Authorship and Artefact: The Emergent Semiotics of Web 2.0,’ Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, vol 27, pp. 1-23)

Google Earth 2010, ‘About Google Earth: What is Google Earth?, accessed 18/9/2010 via http://earth.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=176145

Image is a screenshot from Google Earth

Week 7 Blog: Texting and Teenage Trysts

Text Messages and Dating

The article for this week, by Cupples and Thompson (2010), discusses cell phone technologies and how they interplay with teenage social relationships.  The impact of cell phone convergence on ‘dating and participation in the heterosexual economy’ is explored, including how this communication affects the gender identity of teenage girls (Cupples & Thompson 2010, pg 2). 

The article identifies that text messaging in the early stages of the relationship allows for the avoidance of awkward silences (Cupples & Thompson 2010). In addition, texting is a form of status indicator; if you are sending and receiving texts, you know that you are part of a social network, and more importantly others know too (Cupples & Thompson 2010). The use of text messaging is also important for maintaining gender roles within social relationships. Cupples & Thompson determined that texting allows teenage girls to show interest in the opposite sex without impacting on the masculinity of the boy. It also allows them to ‘preserve dominant feminine understandings of themselves’ even though they are undermining these understandings by expressing their interests via text (Cupples & Thompson 2010, pg 8).

However, I think an important feature of texting that must be mentioned is that teenagers are able to think about, edit and re-write a response before they reply.  For example,  if a boy asks a girl out on a date in a face-to-face situation, the girl is expected to reply straight away with a response; however, if she was asked via text message, she would have more time to word an appropriate response.

– Katie Challita 3663620

References:

Cupples, J & Thompson, L 2010, ‘Heterotextuality and Digital Foreplay,’ Feminist Media Studies, vol.10, issue 1, pp1-17

Image sourced from here.

Week 5 Blog: Networks of Social Interaction

social media timeline

This week’s reading by boyd and Ellison (2008) focuses on the definition and history of Social Network Sites (SNSs) and their progression as the Web has advanced.  I agree with the distinction made between the terms social network site and social networking site; although these terms are often used interchangeably, boyd and Ellison (2008) decided to use the term network rather than networking. Networking ‘emphasizes relationship initiation, often between strangers’ (boyd & Ellison 2008, pg 211) but this is not the primary function of many SNSs. Most users of SNSs are not ‘networking’ as in attempting to meet new people, but are connecting with people already in their social network (boyd & Ellison 2008).

A history of SNSs is explored in the article (2008), demonstrating their transformation as the popularity of such sites has increased and the capabilities of the Web expanded.  Early SNSs such as SixDegrees.com, Friendster and Ryze were eventually replaced with sites such as MySpace and Facebook that are highly user-responsive and able to be easily manipulated by users to suit their own personal tastes and preferences.

I believe that SNSs are popular because they provide a simple way for people to remain in contact regardless of their geographic location.  However, there is also an element of self-presentation; friendship links ‘serve as identity markers for the profile owner’ (boyd & Ellison 2008, pg 220) and affect how we are seen by others.  SNSs raise many privacy issues as they are ‘challenging legal conceptions of privacy’ (boyd & Ellison 2008, pg 222) and have been the source of moral panic in the past. Most SNSs have responded to these concerns through amendments to privacy policies and by raising awareness of these matters.

– Katie Challita 3663620

References:

boyd, dana & Ellison, Nicole (2008), ‘Social Network Sites: Definition, History and Scholarship,’, Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, vol.13, pp.210-230

Image sourced from http://janeknight.typepad.com/socialmedia/2009/10/a-history-of-social-media.html

Week 4 Blog: Facebook – The Commodification of Socialisation?

FaceBook

This week’s article by Cohen (2008) focuses on Facebook and the issues of privacy, the commodification of information, and the potential for social networking sites (SNS) to be used to create alternative messages. These areas were analysed through a gender-based lens, concentrating on young women and their perceptions of these issues.

The focus groups in the study found that SNS ‘present few opportunities for disseminating alternative messages or images about female sexuality’ (Cohen 2008, pg 211). I agree that the design constraints of Facebook limit the ability to communicate messages; however, I think that Facebook is a valid tool for raising awareness of social issues and could be used in conjunction with a more direct and proactive approach. High exposure and the possibility of online peer-to-peer communication and sharing indicate a possibility for wide-spread distribution of positive messages.

Participants of the study failed to see the potential of Facebook for communicating alternative messages due to its commercial aims – user-provided information is sold to third parties who can then specifically pursue their target market (Cohen 2008, pg 211-212).  When I turned eighteen I noticed an immediate change in the advertisements on my Facebook page.  My age (eighteen), gender (female) and relationship status (single), resulted in advertisements for dating websites featuring images of young men – these advertisements would not have appeared if I was under 18, male or in a relationship.

The focus groups determined that whilst they were ‘enthusiastic about the social possibilities of Facebook’ (Cohen 2008, pg 212), the commercialistic nature of Facebook and its functional constraints limited the potential for SNS to be used to project alternative messages especially about female sexuality.

– Katie Challita 3663620

References:

Cohen, N 2008, ‘Gendering Facebook: Privacy and Commodification’, Journal of Feminist Media Studies, vol.8 issue.2, pp. 201-214

Image from Facebook.com‘s Official Facebook group

Week 3 Blog: Social Research with New Media Technologies

Survey

This article by Murthy (2008) focuses on ethnography and the reluctance of academics to utilise the internet and technological methods of research to gather information and data for analysis.  I agree with Murthy’s conclusion that a combination of digital research methods and traditional, physical ethnography is necessary to achieve a balanced, comprehensive study.

Murthy’s article links with the Warschauer and Grimes (2007) article as it explores how the affordances of Web 2.0, specifically online questionnaires, digital video, social networking sites and blogs, provide amazing potential for ethnographers.  Murthy indicates that offline questionnaires were an ‘extremely costly and labour intensive affair’ (2008, pg 842); however, Web 2.0 allows researchers to easily construct polls and analyse associated data, and users to complete these polls without difficulty. Social networking websites give researchers greater access to suitable respondents and the ability to ‘invisibly observe the social interactions of page members’ (Murthy 2008, pg 845).  Blogs provide a platform for researchers and respondents to engage in communication, and digital video allows researchers to gather video data and to upload and embed videos into their blogs.

The potential that these technologies provide social researchers is great; however, I agree with Murthy that they should be used with caution.  Ethical issues such as lurking (2008, pg 840) and the use of the words of Internet users without their permission (2008, pg 845) must be addressed. In addition, the Internet does not represent an accurate stratification of society – a divide exists due to differences in internet accessibility, disabilities, language barriers and age (2008, pg 848).  This further strengthens the notion that digital and physical ethnography used simultaneously would result in more meaningful social research.

– Katie Challita 3663620

References:

Murthy, Dhiraj 2008, ‘Digital Ethnography: An Examination of the Use of New Technologies for Social Research’, Sociology, vol 42, no 5, pp.837-855.

Warschauer, Mark and Grimes, Douglas (2007) ‘Audience, Authorship and Artefact: The Emergent Semiotics of Web 2.0,’ Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, vol 27, pp. 1-23)

Imaged sourced from http://www.axiom-mr.com/online-surveys/