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Mental illness and personal identity across social media platforms.

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I live with mental illness. This is something that I rarely talk about on my Facebook profile. My Facebook profile is a manufactured image of myself. My identity on Facebook is much different to my Twitter identity, and both of these are different to my real life identity. This is a type of self branding that I do. On Facebook, I mainly post my own jokes or social commentary. In a way, Facebook is like a stand up comedy stage. I rehearse what I will post as a status update, running it through my head and editing it. There is even a ‘drafts’ section that sits at the back of my head waiting to be posted. Eventually – when I think the timing is right – I post it. And then I look at the responses I get the same way a comedian would assess how many people in the room are laughing. Some posts flop, others succeed, and sometimes I have people start real life conversations with me by bringing up a story that I recently posted on Facebook. As well as jokes, I will post what I have been doing and where I have been recently.

Like actors playing a role, they can deliberately choose to put forth identity cues or claims of self that can closely resemble or wildly differ from reality. (Source: First Monday)

Where does this tie in with mental illness? My Facebook identity is a constructed version of myself, free from mental illness. Apart from when I feel that an event or a moment calls for it, I don’t mention my mental health issues on my Facebook page. This leads to the following – very awkward – interaction I have with people when I tell them face-to-face that I struggle daily with mental illness – “But you seem so happy!” or “But you are always out doing things!”
There seems to be this strange idea that my Facebook identity and my actual identity line up 100%, but they don’t. And I never really know what to respond to people who say this to me. My immediate thought is to tell them that when I see the Facebook status update box saying “What’s on your mind?”, I figure that “suicidal thoughts” won’t go down well. No one wants to see that. So I don’t write that. I write the funny story about the stoned guy on the train eating Burger Rings that had been on the floor, while his girlfriend tells him that he is a bad person. Because it’s funny. And it made me laugh, and I want it to make other people laugh as well. Why spread the bad thoughts instead of the good ones?

The front–stage is the observable space, the setting in which explicit performances are constructed and displayed, where individuals ‘play their parts.’ There are cues and patterns to the exchange, and an awareness that the performer is in the spotlight. Less articulated, but of no less interest here, the back–stage is a more private area, where intimacy and familiarity see a relaxing of the strictures of performance.  (Source: First Monday)

If Facebook is my front-stage, Twitter is my back-stage. While in fact more public than my Facebook profile – which is only accessible to friends – my Twitter account has enough of a sense of disconnection from my every day life, friends and associates that I feel more comfortable tweeting my thoughts, including those about mental illness and how I am feeling on particular days. There is a completely different dynamic between my Facebook self and my Twitter self. My Twitter self swears a lot more, talks about terrible and dirty jokes, but also delves more into my actual thoughts and feelings. Perhaps the immediacy and the flow of Twitter allows me to feel more comfortable posting these? Within a day or two, those thoughts are buried in my Tweet history – which is currently sitting at 26.7 thousand tweets. No one is going to go back through my 26.7 thousand tweets to find out how I was feeling a few days/weeks/years ago. Tweeting thoughts and feelings is almost like dropping a stone into a fast-moving river – within minutes it could be miles downstream and you will never see it again. Twitter is an opportunity to vent toxic thoughts. As well as this, I find that the audience affects what I post. While Facebook is made up of friends, colleagues, family and people I have met in my years at University, Twitter is not. My Twitter followers are almost like the family that I chose, and therefore they get a much more “real” version of me. But even they don’t get the full picture.

Just through looking at my own interactions with different social media platforms – particularly in regards to my truthfulness and openness regarding my battle with mental illness –  I can see how I shape my online identity, and the differences of those identities across platforms. These identity differences are caused by a few factors – audience, post frequency and character limits – but really, it comes down to me, and how I have decided to control my online image and persona. For a more clear view of the real, non-constructed me – buy me a drink. That will get the words spilling.

Struggle Street viewers struggle to see the real point.

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2.5 million Australians are living under the poverty line, and this number is growing. This number constitutes almost 14% of Australians, with 1 in 4 of them being children. (ACOSS 2014) (ABC 2016) SBS’s documentary Struggle Street – aired in May 2015 – caught the label of “Poverty Porn” from many social commentators., even before it was aired. It was criticised heavily by the Blacktown mayor for being an inaccurate representation of the Mount Druitt community in which it was filmed. But my argument is that the show was not made to represent the entire Mount Druitt community, it was made to represent poverty – something that is often looked upon as just being a bludger.

The promise of the middle-class “good life” through hard work and education is increasingly uncertain if not impossible, especially when considered alongside the notion of affluenza. (The Conversation 2015)

Australia is a country that often uses the idea of the “Aussie battler”. This is a vision of an every day, working class Australian who doesn’t make a fuss about their hardships and just gets on with it. From my personal experience – those who refer to themselves as Aussie battlers are well about the poverty line. Those with dual incomes, two cars, a holiday home. But they are battling with the choice of whether or not to buy a boat or send their kids to private school. They are battlers, and anyone living below the poverty line obviously just isn’t battling hard enough.

Many people from Mount Druitt – including the Blacktown mayor – were shocked at the misrepresentation of their community. But they have missed the point. Struggle Street was not made to vilify Mount Druitt, it was made to expose the often ignored, deeply entrenched poverty that is in Australian communities. This is a documentary that could have been filmed anywhere in Australia. It could have been filmed here in Wollongong. I grew up and went to school in Kiama, one of the more privileged areas in the Illawarra – yet I went to school with someone who was set on fire by her ice addict boyfriend. You do not have to look far to find poverty in your own community. Struggle Street just pulled the blindfold off and forced people to be exposed to the less-than-comfortable truths of poverty, mental illness and drug addiction.

The bogan provokes (mostly) disgust and denigration. The bogan taps into fears, insecurities and a sense of injustice of the educated middle classes producing a forms of downward envy and “disgusted subject”. (The Conversation 2015)

With this in mind, Struggle Street was not perfect. It did play very heavily on the “bogan” stereotype, as well as being accompanied by a dramatic and condescending voiceover. But it created space for a dialogue that we need to have. Poverty, homelessness and drug addiction is either treated with disgust or completely overlooked in Australian society. Struggle Street puts a face to these people who suffer every day. People were angry because it made them uncomfortable.  People watched as Struggle Street showed Ashley and Peta put on a birthday party for their grandchild, despite the fact that Ashley and his mate have to scavenge scrap metal on weekends to earn extra cash. This is not a story of those who have “slipped through the cracks” as the voice over says. It is the story of those who have fallen into the chasm of entrenched poverty, with very little chance of getting out.

Despite the show’s issues – the dramatic voiceover and the controversy of the fart – Struggle Street is something the Australian public needs to see. It is something that we have ignored for a very long time.


Struggle Street was shocking because it pushed all this in our faces. This is what being marginalised feels like. This is what drug addiction is. This is what struggle means. (The Guardian 2015)

The Racecaller Critique

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The Racecaller is a DIGC302 project that started off as a podcast but ultimately manifested as an online magazine. Personally I believe that this change in trajectory was the right thing to do, for a few reasons.

Firstly, podcasts personally do not appeal to me. I am much more of a visual person that an audio person and I find it hard to sit down and listen to podcasts. I also think that a magazine is much more appropriate for her target audience. She stated in her beta presentation that her audience was people who do not have much to do with the racing industry. She wants to change the stigma associated with racing and expose some of the human element of horse racing, not just the stupid hats and bogans getting drunk and gambling.  She wants to provide a contrast to the elitist views of racing and focus on the stories of the racehorses, jockeys and stablehands, rather than focussing on the party and socialite atmosphere of the races.  And I feel like this isn’t made clear enough by the name “The Racecaller”, which would turn people off listening to a podcast if they were not interested in racing. They would probably assume it was just about exactly what the name suggests – commentating races.

Secondly, Georgie admitted that her strengths lay in writing and photography, rather than in podcasting. She had never recorded or put together a podcast before, and it also relies on having the people that you want to interview available all at the same time. Given that every photo in the 54 page magazine except for one was taken by here, she was right. The images in the magazine are absolutely beautiful, and suit the format perfectly.

In terms of improvement, having guest authors to provide different perspectives would have been very interesting. When writing a whole magazine by yourself, your own bias can slip in, even without intending it to. There is no such thing as completely objective writing. By having other authors it would have provided a more diverse perspective. However, time constraints and obviously financial restraints would have prevented this. It is one thing to ask someone to take some time out of their day to be interviewed by you – it is another to ask them to sit down and write an article for you. That is very much stretching the friendship, and without offering payment in return for their writing, it would be very hard to get content.
Another aspect I would have liked to have seen in the magazine would be a piece either written by an anti-racing advocate or addressing anti-racing sentiments. I come from a family of horse lovers who tend to dislike the racing industry as a whole. While often the trainers, jockeys and stablehands are not in the wrong – they love those horses as they would love their children – the owners no longer want a horse when it proves to be unprofitable. While there are many places that take and adopt ex racing horses, some are simply killed. Wastage in the racing industry is a huge problem that tends to be swept under the rug and ignored. I would have liked to have seen an article on this, perhaps in the form of interviewing a few people in the industry to find out their thoughts on it. This was something I suggested to George during her original pitch, to have a podcast that had both pro and anti racing guests.

The Racecaller magazine provides a great mix between a beginner’s guide/introduction to racing, interviews with trainers and opinion pieces.  It is clear that her access to the racing industry heavily helped with this project. Her family is involved in the racing industry, so her access to take photos or interview trainers was much better than what it would have been had anyone else in the class done a similar project.  She was able to get access to trainers and jockeys for interviews and provide us with an almost homely insight to the real people behind racing, not just the people with the money.

The final project of a 54 page magazine shows the amount of dedication and work that was put into this project. Without undermining the hard work of everyone else in the class, it seems almost unparalleled by other projects. Everyone put a lot of work into their projects but the beta presentation for The Racecaller was beyond my expectations, especially considering she working on an unfamiliar platform, with no background in graphic design.

The story of a pleb in Gold Class

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Coming off the back of my last post about how much I love the movies, here is my recollection of the one and only time I have been to a Gold Class cinema event.

I haven’t been to Gold Class before because the closest one is Sydney, and I really cannot be bothered going that far. Also, if there’s one thing you should know about me other than the fact that I like going to the movies – I’m a tightarse. I won’t pay more than I have to for anything. But I was on holidays in Perth, visiting my (at the time) partner, and he found out that I had never been to Gold Class and decided to change that. He paid for the tickets (thankfully, or I would have had a heart attack), so I can’t comment on how much they cost, but I knew they weren’t cheap. Then we encountered our first issue: popcorn.

Before the movie, you walk down a long corridor and enter the “Gold Class Lounge”, where you can sip cocktails and wear long gloves and tell endearing stories before the movie starts. It is also where you order your overpriced food, and decide when it will be delivered to you in the movie. And this conversation happened*

Me: “Can’t I just go back to the concession desk and get popcorn there, it’s $5 cheaper”
Him: “But this popcorn comes in a silver bowl”
Me: “It’s the same damn popcorn!”
Him: “We’re in Gold Class, we arent having pleb popcorn!”

So I made him pay for the expensive popcorn, and that was that. He also ordered some beer to be delivered to him at specific times in the movie. And I got given a glass of coke, rather than a cup with a lid. I felt that this could only end badly, with no cupholders, and a glass of coke in the dark. I’m going to kick it over, and lose my coke! Alas, I didn’t, which is good because I would have cried if I did.

The whole cinema housed 24 people. Three rows, with a pair of seats on each end, separated by an aisle from four seats in the middle. We were in one of the pairs of seats on the end. I sat down, popped my recliner up and lay backwards. Then realised I was staring at the ceiling. Which is not good for movie watching. I dereclined a bit – I don’t think that is a word, but I’m making it one – and the movie starts.

Midway through I get up to go to the toilet, and turn around to accidentally intrude on an intense make out scene. She is on top of him, in the one seat, and they are just going at it. I briefly wonder if they paid for two seats or one, and then continue to wonder why they paid $60+ to make out. You can make out at home for free.

I came back from the toilet, nudged my boyfriend to whisper “The people behind us are going at it”, and she shushed me so that he could continue watching Avengers: Age of Ultron without me constantly asking what was happening. Because lets be honest, I have no idea what is happening in those movies.

The movie ended, we left and he asked me if I enjoyed Gold Class. I said yes, because he paid. But really, I think I am more suited to the pleb cinemas.

* this is from memory, so I could be wrong on some of the specific wording

I Laugh Loud and Often

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I. Fucking. Love. The movies. I will go every week if money permits, and I have been

  • Twice in one day
  • To the last movie of the night, then the first of the day the next morning
  • Midnight screenings
  • To see the same movie three times
  • To the movies alone

These are five things, off the top of my head, that people do not often do. But I really, really love the movies. Funnily enough, at the cinema is ust about the only place I watch movies. I rarely watch movies at home, as I don’t really have the attention span to dedicate 90 – 130 minutes on one thing. But at the movies I don’t have anything to distract me. I go to the movies so often I have the app RunPee on my phone’s home screen. For someone with a weak bladder like me (sometimes I can’t even make it through a one hour lecture), but enjoys caffeinated beverages, RunPee is a lifesaver. It tells you when you can go to the toilet, how long for, and what you missed while you were gone. It is amazing.

Plus, I love the trailers. The trailers are so exciting. As Natalie Tran puts it – “THE PREVIEWS ARE PART OF THE MOVIE EXPERIENCE!”

I go to the movies so much that I have a VIP CineBuzz card, for people who go to the movies more than 10 times a year. I get free popcorn refills. Lets be honest though, no one ever runs out of popcorn, but I always run out of Coke. I would prefer free Coke refills. For clarity’s sake, here are the movies I have seen this year:


And it is not enough. There are plenty of movies that I wanted to see but missed out on seeing.

So as you can see, I jumped at the chance to go see a movie and call it studying for uni.

I organised with Angus to go and see Trainwreck in Shellharbour. Definitely not Wollongong, because I do not like their popcorn, and the entrance is right in the middle of the cinema, splitting the cinema into two halves, which are either too far forward or too far back. So Shellharbour it is. You can read about Angus’ exploits in getting to the cinema here.

We purchased our tickets, and the lady serving us asked suggestively “Do you guys want seats at the back?” to which I answered “No thank you, Row F please”. Because that is my favourite row at this particular cinema complex. Little did I know it was in one of the strange cinemas where the screen is slightly further away than others. So we moved forward one row, to row F, to be perfectly positioned in the cinema. Until someone came and sat in front of me. Then I couldnt put my feet up on the seat. So I had to move the other side of Angus. But then he was on my right, and not on my left, and people are ALWAYS on my left when I go to the cinema. And suddenly, everything was wrong.

This was the first time I have been to the movies while actively “monitoring” so to speak, my behaviour. It brought me to the conclusion that I am overly weird and fussy. But I pushed through, watched the movie (Trainwreck, it was rather hilarious and it had John Cena’s butt). Unfortunately though, anyone who has ever shared a tutorial with me will know that I laugh loudly. Its more like a prolonged cackle. And while I love the movies, I also spend the entire movie acutely aware that other people are laughing at my laugh. Or staring at me every time I laugh. Which is sometimes rather uncomfortable.


I left the cinema pretty happy with my choice of movie, and despite what Angus’ post says, CineBuzz is the best rewards card out there. $8 student tickets on weekdays, with a free movie after every 6th movie. If you buy just the ticket and bring your own food, thats $48 for seven movies (including your free one). Bloody bargain, mate.


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Is “consumer engagement” is another word for “free advertising”?

With cameras and social media so accessible to the general public, paid photography jobs are decreasing because they are not needed as often. Why pay someone to come up with advertising photos, when you can get them for free?

Many companies do this – especially fashion companies – pick up images off social media (mainly Twitter and Instagram) that have used one of their hashtags, and display them in advertising and on their websites.

Last month, an Instagram user had a photo of her daughter lifted from her (public) Instagram and displayed on the Crocs website. This was without her consent or knowledge. Personally, the part I find most strange is that you can hardly even see her Crocs. After displaying her photo on the website, they commented, a fairly long, stock standard copy/paste comment with “Please respond with #CrocsOK.” to accept the terms and conditions, linking to a legal document at the end of the comment. I have followed this link and found this:

We do not claim any copyrights in the Content. However, by agreeing to these terms you are granting us and our subsidiaries, affiliates, successors and assigns, a nonexclusive, fully paid, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, transferable license (with the right to sublicense through unlimited levels of sublicensees) to use, copy, modify, distribute, publicly display and perform, publish, transmit, remove, retain repurpose, and commercialize the Content in any and all media or form of communication whether now existing or hereafter developed, without obtaining additional consent, without restriction or notification, and without compensating you in any way, and to authorize others to do the same.

That is a hefty freedom of license to give your photography away with just a #CrocsOK hashtag. What sticks out to me in that licensing is “modify”, “irrevocable” and “without compensating”.
Firstly – putting on my photographers hat here – to modify a photo that has been given to you is a big no. You just do not do it. If you are not happy with the photo, you can go back to the photographer and ask them to change it, but you do not change other peoples work. Even if it is just an Instagram photo.
Secondly – how many people click through to that link and read these terms and conditions before signing away their photo with a #CrocsOK.

Since when has a hashtag comment become a form of legal consent?

Olapic, one of the marketing companies that collects photos for brands from social media had a spokesperson state that photos can sometimes be lifted and used on website without asking permission, as tagging a company in a post is a form of implied consent.

In the same New York Times article I just linked, a 23 year old states that a particular clothing company has used her social media photos over 6 times, and “even once sent her a $25 gift card”. This has encouraged her to buy more, post more photos and advertise for them more.

And it is not just a few companies. Nike, Calvin Klein, and even the New York Times themselves showcase user generated photos in ways that continue to toe the line between editorial content, consumer engagement and advertising.

If $25 is enough money to convince someone to advertise for you, no wonder its hard to get a paying photography gig.

Cameras in public spaces

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Let’s be honest, photos most likely exist of you online, without your knowledge. It just happens.

Perhaps you got caught in the background of someone’s selfie, glaring with contempt at their camera, like this poor fellow did to my Soundwave selfie.

Or maybe – like I was alerted to recently – someone takes a photo of you standing at a concert, looking confused and unimpressed.

Or you just happen to be one of the few stuck in the photo I took of the excessively long line at the RTA.

Or it could be more deliberate. This is a photo I took on campus, when asked to take a photo of someone interacting with a screen. Click, done, 15 seconds to upload (thanks to the lack of NBN), and its now on the internet.

Lastly, it could be this – my favourite type – the deliberate selfie to catch something weird happening in the background. To demonstrate, here is a photo of my friend, with some weird PDA going on in the background.


Street photography has been around for decades, and the essence of most street photography is that the person you are photographing does not know they are being photographed. Street photography is a raw, unconstructed view of life.

However one thing to distinguish here is between photography and taking a photo. Taking a photo does not make you a photographer, and taking a photo of someone without them knowing is not automatically street photography. The photo I took on campus, as part of this project, is not art. Its just a photo of some dude that I took without him knowing. However, I do not believe that there is anything ethically wrong with that. I am not using his photo in any commercial way, nor am I using it to defame him in any way. However I do agree with Colberg’s sentiment that if I was approached and asked to delete it, I would. In regards to the photo of the PDA, while it certainly does make me think “should I be posting this?”, there is no obvious recognisable features in that photo to identify an individual, so I do not really have an issue posting it. But I would delete if I was asked to.

But this brings me to the hard part. That was just a phone photo, not a photo that I take pride in.

If this was a photo that I had taken as a “proper” photo, as an art piece, I am not entirely sure I would delete it if asked. Or if I did, it would be very, very begrudgingly. The next photo in this post is one of my favourite photos I have taken. This was only a few months after I started photography, so looking at it now I can see some technical issues with it (the background is overexposed and distracting), but in terms of the feeling of the photo, it still remains one of my favourites.

This photo was taken at the MCG, right after the siren went to signal the Melbourne Demons beating the GWS Giants. It was a hard fought match, and I believe from memory, it was the first game Melbourne had won that season. Historically, Melbourne is the oldest club in the AFL, but has had a very tumultuous few decades. They are currently one of only two teams (set to be three unless St Kilda pull a miracle next year) who have not won a premiership in 50 years. Yet they have a supporter base which remains staunchly loyal, and this photo that I took encapsulates the pride that you have in your footy team, even when they – for lack of a better word – suck.

When the issue was raised in the tutorial about photographing children without their parent’s consent, my mind was instantly drawn to my other favourite photo from this game.

A boy not old enough to really understand what football is, sitting on his father’s shoulders in his oversized Melbourne guernsey, watching his flag billow in the breeze. Again, had I been asked to delete this, I am not sure that I can say with confidence that I would have. I caught a beautiful moment here, and it actually saddens me a little bit to know that the subjects of this photo do not know that it is out there.

As a budding photographer, ethical issues such as this are at the forefront of my mind, however I do not believe that there is a blanket way to address them, other than looking at each photo on a case by case basis and assessing its context, intent and distribution.