[BCM 300] Critical Account of Gameplay: What’s the Password?

When I first learned of the fact that I would have the opportunity to playtest and analyse several board and tabletop games during weekly BCM300 Game Experience Design seminars, I was beyond excited. How cool is that? And to be able to use board games as a vehicle through which I can experiment with iterative design and prototype production? An awesome concept!

As part of this experience, it could be argued that the practice of reflecting is key to deriving meaning from multiple sessions of play and ensuring that some of the pivotal learning moments are integrated into the game(s) that I will later go on to produce. As such, the following writing is my reflection on the gameplay I was part of in the seminars, bolstered by an analytical framework through which I consider three main elements: game mechanics, game author and manufacturer, and finally the universal nature of gameplay concepts.

For the sake of simplicity and due to unforeseen circumstances *cough cough* out of our control, I will be using one game I played in the Week 1 seminar to exemplify some of my significant learning reflections; Codenames: Pictures”.

Critical Account of Gameplay 8

GAME AUTHOR & MANUFACTURER

Codenames: Pictures is a card-based space game published by the Czech Games Edition wherein players take on the role of secret agents trying to send a secret message to their allies, all the while going head to head with enemy agents! Developed by the highly-acclaimed board game designer Vlaada Chvátil, this was my favourite game that I played during the weekly seminars.

From the start, upon first opening the box of Codenames: Pictures, it was clear that the designer knew his stuff. I marvelled at the instructions and how they laid out the game in levels of increasing complexity, presumably so that, as a player became more familiar with the game mechanics, they could seek to exert more control over the game by introducing more complicated strategies and tactics. I would later find out after conducting some background research that this progressive complexity mechanic (as well as the instructions being written in a way that allowed for such a logical progression to take place) were characteristic of Chvátil and his games.

Although the target audience of Codenames: Pictures was not obvious to me at first, as we began to play and the game got progressively more difficult, I realised that the game would be excellent at parties, with spectators crowding around oohing and ahhing at the near-misses and bold manoeuvres the game encourages. Much like Cards Against Humanity, I liked how you were forced to consider your teammates’ perspective to understand the (often unclear) implied meanings in the cooperative gameplay, which is something I would like to try and implement in my game that I will go on to create in the future.

 

THE UNIVERSAL NATURE OF GAMEPLAY CONCEPTS

Ironically, I feel that the most significant learning moment that I achieved through Codenames: Pictures occurred before any gameplay took place. In a group with Sam Cunningham, Bodhi Todd and Jordan Boyle, we were going through the game instructions and came to an added element (the assassin) which, if selected, constituted an immediate loss of the game. I asked for further clarification and Sam, having played the game before, explained the new feature, only ―and this is the important realisation I came to later upon reflection he explained the mechanic by referencing another game. Sam’s words were as follows:

“The assassin is like the eight-ball in pool. If you get it, just like when you sink the ‘black’ in pool, you lose instantly”.

It was only later on during that day that I realised the significance of what Sam had done. By drawing parallels between two (let’s be honest, very different) games, Sam got me to realise that, while games may differ in genre, materiality and mode of play, there are still some elements that are transferable across platforms. This made me consider the universal nature of some of the key concepts of games, and, in turn, got me thinking about how I may be able to reinvent a popular gameplay element of an existing game to another platform or integrate it in a different form into the game I will go on to design. After all, as Chris Moore stated in one of the seminars, “good artists copy, great artists steal”, a quote attributed to W. H. Davenport Adams.

 

GAME MECHANICS

I would argue that the narrative behind a game entertains you, while the mechanics of the game engage you as a player. This was perhaps most apparent in the fact that, while the premise of being secret agents in Codenames: Pictures gave the game context and meaning, it had little bearing on how the game was played. Instead, the deliberately ambiguous pictures on the cards permitted several unorthodox and abstract strategies to arise as the game progressed.

One such element that I thought was successful in engaging and creating a compelling arc of gameplay was the fact that the game mechanics allowed for rapid comebacks. Just when Bodhi and I thought we had the game in the bag as we were 6 cards ahead of Sam and Jordan, the opposing team decided to do a ‘Hail Mary’ play and ended up winning the game on the last round.

This gameplay mechanic, in addition to being loads of fun, meant that it was impossible to predict what the eventual outcome of the game would be as last-ditch efforts were just as valid a strategy as incremental progress towards completion. It should come as no surprise to read that I’m going to try to incorporate this sort of mechanic into my own game in the hope that I can create a more immersive and enthralling experience for my players.

Critical Account of Gameplay 1

In closing, I want to stress just how much I enjoyed these seminars and the many learning moments they generated; so much so that I went out and purchased Codenames: Pictures and a couple of other board games after class to be able to share the experience with my friends and family!

Anyway, thanks for reading, play on!

―J

[BCM 241] Apps & Media Use

Some key quotes and a visual representation of the findings of the ethnographic study can be accessed via Instagram here.

Below are several responses from participants (if you are unable to access Instagram captions)

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“My apps are arranged according to an aesthetic as opposed to any real use or accessibility. Here, I’ve colour coded my apps by grouping all the blue coloured apps together. Funnily enough, now that I’m looking at them, they are all games, social media and stuff I watch.” – Male, 21 years of age.

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“The stand-alone apps at the top of my screen are those that I use the most, such as Facebook, Instagram, VSCO and Google Maps, whereas the stand-alone apps at the bottom of the screen are ones I recently downloaded, so I just haven’t been able to put them into a folder yet. The folders themselves you can see are grouped by types of apps.” – Female, 22 years of age.

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“The main front page of my apps which is the screenshot you have contains my most used and ‘go-to’ apps that I use all the time. The four apps at the bottom of the screen are the ones that I use the most of all, so they are positioned there so that they don’t disappear when I swipe and use other screen menus.” – Female, 19 years of age.

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“My sister actually got very frustrated with the way I had all my apps sitting close to each other as it made it hard to open them quickly without having to pay a lot of attention to where you were pressing. After she changed the way I had my apps arranged, I changed them again, but this time it was because I wanted to be able to see the photo behind the apps.” – Female, 20 years of age.

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“I arranged my apps in regard to how often they are used. As I’m left handed, I guess I’ve subconsciously put each of my apps in a position that I am able to better access them while holding my phone with my dominant hand. My most used app is Facebook, so I placed it in my ideal thumb spot.” – Male, 25 years of age.

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“So I keep most of the apps that came pre-downloaded on the phone on the home screen, plus the apps that I use and need the most. Other apps that I don’t use very much, like the iTunes Store, Telstra, the App Store, Podcasts and Gmail sort of occupy the spot in the middle that I find hardest to access with one hand so that they don’t take up the good space of another app that I use more often.” – Female, 20 years of age.

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“The apps on my phone are really just all over the place, but the four down the bottom are those that I use the most. To be honest, on my phone, I just talk to people, play games and look at memes, so I’d have to say that, for the most part, I haven’t really given much thought into where I should put my apps on my phone.” – Male, 21 years of age.

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“I like to arrange my apps in the most aesthetically and visually pleasing way possible, so the arrangement of my apps up the top are to be as pretty as possible. However, the couple of apps down the bottom are the ones that I use the most, so they are easy to tap into regardless of what hand I am holding my phone in.” – Female, 18 years of age.

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“I have a big phone and I’m right handed, so I hardly use any of the top two rows of apps. Moving down though, the third row of apps from the top is where I find it easiest to reach with my thumb, so that’s where the majority of my most used apps live. I tend to keep a lot of my apps in folders sorted by category, so that way I know where everything is without wasting time searching for it, especially if it’s an app I hardly use.” – Female, 21 years of age.

Contextual & Reflective Component:

Marshall McLuhan once famously stated that “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us” (McLuhan, Agel & Fiore, 2008). As such, this quote has been a contributing source of inspiration for this ethnographic research project, an investigation into where apps are located on people’s smartphones, and why they are arranged in such a way.

The research design and process was as follows:

I collected several screenshots of participant’s home screens and app-use analytics (to see a correlation between the position of apps and their relative use), as well as a brief quote from each participant explaining the positioning of their apps and some of their app-use behaviours. This visual data was then reformatted (for presentation upon a different platform, Instagram), with the quotes edited for clarity and any identifying information being omitted for confidentiality purposes. I selected Instagram as the best place to present my findings uniquely and creatively as the platform harnesses the visual elements of this investigation, with the aggregated square panes offering the possibility for comparison between the layouts of different participant’s home screens. With this in mind, my research project is intended to be enjoyed visually and on a mobile device on Instagram if possible to emphasise the immensely visual medium steeped with personal meaning. The purpose of this accompanying blog post, therefore, is to provide some background rationale to the Instagram aggregation of ethnographic information and allow me to share some of the investigation’s main findings.

Perhaps one of the most pertinent discoveries that have come to light through conducting my ethnographic research has been the existence of three main types of people when considering how they justify the arrangement of their apps on their home screen. The three types of people I have identified include; those who position apps based upon aesthetics or visual features, those who position apps in accordance to their relative frequency of use and accessibility, and a combination of both.

Some participants arranged their apps in a way that was most appealing to the eye and visually pleasurable. Of these individuals, some achieved this by segregating apps based upon their icon colours, devoting rows, columns or even entire screens to a specific colour or palette. Others arranged their apps by how they appeared visually but instead focussed on where their apps were not present. Here, the apps themselves were not the point of visual interest, rather the lack of apps in a particular area permitted the viewing of what would otherwise be covered over and hidden. This was especially apparent for participants who wished to be able to see their wallpaper background at all times, meaning that they positioned apps in a way that didn’t obstruct a view of the wallpaper. These insights gained from analysing participant data provide an invaluable glimpse into the complex and incredibly personal nature of the positioning of apps and how they are used to consume media.

Conversely, other participants indicated that they set out the apps in accordance with how often they use the apps and the areas of the phone that are more easily accessed invariably tended to be where the most used apps were positioned. In this way, for some participants, the arrangement of apps is less about how they visually appear and more about how the position in which the apps are placed on the phone reflects how often the apps get used. This was a surprising discovery, for it compelled me to ‘track’ the position of similar apps across each of the screenshots to see if some of the more commonly-used apps appeared in similar positions on phones. And indeed, a lot of participants, if not all of them, have their messaging apps, (such as iMessage and Facebook Messenger) music apps, (such as Spotify and Apple Music) and their most used social media apps (most commonly Facebook and Instagram) positioned at the bottom bar of their phone. If I didn’t know any better, I would have simply disregarded this point of commonality as being purely coincidental, but have instead further unpacked the finding and have concluded that there are two potential reasons as to why the similar apps occupy similar positions across multiple phones. As is the classic question we as ethnographers must consider when conducting and analysing research, with Ellis et al suggesting that “ethnographers ask: ‘How useful is this information?’” (Ellis, 2010). The two primary reasons behind the same apps appearing in the same place are a) the fact that, on average, the bottom bar is considered to be the most easily accessible position on the phone screen (and thus users tend to accordingly place their most-used apps there for convenience; and b) some of the common apps, such as Phone and iMessage come pre-downloaded on the phone and are already placed in that position as a default (Apple, 2019). Such accessibility considerations exemplify the powerful role that positioning plays in the overall use of apps and the media consumption behaviours they ultimately permit.

The third type of phone and app users that I have identified are those that consider both the aesthetic and functional properties of their apps and how their apps are positioned. I think it is important to also realise that for the most part, much of the justification behind placing apps where they are is a subconscious decision that takes place perhaps without the individual ever explicitly considering the rationale behind their decision. As such, a lot of the conclusions I have come to above have been through my own analysis and from inferring from what is known. Sadly, little research (academic or otherwise) has been conducted into this specific area of investigation, as it seems that the seemingly more pressing subjects of media addiction (Dredge, 2018) and the effects of too much screen time on social and cognitive development (Whillans, 2018) have garnered more scholarly attention in recent years.

Through my attempts to categorise and draw parallels between some of the data points I have collected throughout my research for this project, I experienced an epiphany that I feel may be more valuable than the research findings themselves. After analysing a number of different screenshots and trawling through experiential information, I realised that the data I was synthesising was so personal and meaningful, that to even begin to be able to unpack it whilst preserving its inherent meaning, no other research methodology would be suitable for such a task. I feel that Ellis et al encapsulate this notion superbly by suggesting that, “even though some researchers still assume that research can be done from a neutral, impersonal, and objective stance, most now recognise that such an assumption is not tenable” (Ellis, 2010). Indeed, I feel as though the aforementioned information and research findings simply wouldn’t be able to be fully articulated through any other research practice other than that of the ethnographic methodology because it takes into account so much personal, subjective and opinion-based information (Méndez, 2013). For so long, I had been under the impression that subjectivity is bad and should be avoided at all costs in research, so I admit that I had initially failed to recognise the fact that, whilst adhering to some specific guidelines and tenants governing the quality of research practice (Wall, 2008), the ethnographic methodology can offer immensely valuable information that is both evocative and meaningful.

Indeed, it is through completing this investigative project that I have started to understand not only the key dynamics at play when considering the location and use of apps on our smartphones, but also the unique insight that can be gained by engaging in ethnographic research.

***

Sources:

Apple, (2019). Apple. [website] Available at: https://www.apple.com/ [Accessed 2 Nov. 2019].

Dredge, S. (2018). Mobile phone addiction? It’s time to take back control. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/jan/27/mobile-phone-addiction-apps-break-the-habit-take-back-control [Accessed 3 Nov. 2019].

Ellis, Carolyn; Adams, Tony E. & Bochner, Arthur P. (2010). Autoethnography: An Overview [40 paragraphs]. [online] Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(1), Art. 10. Available at: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1101108 [Accessed 1 Nov. 2019].

Méndez, M. (2013). Autoethnography as a research method: Advantages, limitations and criticisms. [online] Scielo.org.co. Available at: http://www.scielo.org.co/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0123-46412013000200010 [Accessed 5 Nov. 2019].

Wall, S. (2008). Easier Said than Done: Writing an Autoethnography. [online] Journals.sagepub.com. Available at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/160940690800700103 [Accessed 5 Nov. 2019].

Whillans, A. (2018). Spending too much time on your phone? Behavioural science has an app for that. [online] The Conversation. Available at: http://theconversation.com/spending-too-much-time-on-your-phone-behavioral-science-has-an-app-for-that-105025 [Accessed 3 Nov. 2019].

[BCM 215] Adaptation Arcade Contextual Essay & Reflection

You can access my DA podcast here and my DA capstone blog post here.

My Digital Artefact is an exploration of movie adaptations of video games. Originally, as indicated in my initial Digital Artefact pitch, I aimed to just create several podcast episodes featuring special guests and unpacking various movie adaptations of video games. However, after reflecting upon my Digital Artefact in its Beta presentation stage, I realised that, at least in its initial form, my DA was not analytical enough. Moreover, while it engaged with several game media paratexts, I had not critically analysed the content throughout my multiple podcast episodes. As such, I decided to also write an accompanying ‘capstone’ blog post to ensure that the DA not only adhered better to the BCM 215 subject marking criteria but also to challenge myself by utilising a framework and analytical structure I wasn’t used to.

The analysis in my DA considered the concepts of modality and technique as being part of the affective response in an audience when participating in entertainment, whether it be viewing a movie or playing a game. This triangulated approach and investigative framework provided a basis for a more detailed and meaningful critical analysis to be achieved in my overall Digital Artefact. My Digital Artefact is therefore not only a podcast but a multimodal analysis of movies and video games as media paratexts and the implications of the formats of participation on the entertainment experience.

In addition to the development and application of an analytical framework to structure my inquiry, I also drew upon a range of sources to bolster the value and depth of my investigation. I considered and utilised the works of Jenkins and the theories of media convergence, Moore’s examination(s) of the concept of affect and Hall’s encoding and decoding model of semiotics and meaning making. Furthermore, I gained significant inspiration from the analytical framework that Mitew & Moore employed as part of their analysis of the history of internet games and play. I hoped that by considering a number of scholars and integrating academic research into my capstone blog post, I formed a strong basis from which I was able to build upon and add to with other sources in a logical progression. However, as I don’t expect my audience to have to be experts on the subject, I felt that it would also be worthwhile to incorporate other, non-academic sources into my analysis. To do this, I turned to a variety of other sources, such as John Carmack, the game developer of Doom, and popular websites including IGN and Giant Bomb forums to see what others thought about the technique, modality and affect as the central elements I was considering. Add to this, I even incorporated a historical scope into my analysis by considering the Lumiere brothers and the development and use of consoles to influence audience effect. By doing so, I am proud to say that I feel that I have deeply engaged with several of the core subject topics explored in the weekly lectures and subject readings by encompassing the concepts of media archaeology, audience participation and affect into my multimodal Digital Artefact.

By creating a multimodal exploration of filmic adaptations of video games and the role of affect in the consumption of entertainment media, I feel like I’ve created a worthwhile and valuable resource that the general public can enjoy over multiple platforms. Not only does having a DA located in multiple places increase the likelihood of it gaining traction with an audience in a specific niche by casting a wide net, but the DA itself is designed for those who consume media in all forms and across platforms. The public utility of my Digital Artefact and the critical media analysis it entails is, therefore, the fact that it makes the subject matter of adaptation, paratext, translation and affect more accessible to a wider audience. In my podcasts, I have explored the various adaptations of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and World of Warcraft, both popular media series that have meant that I am engaging with current content that is relevant to my audience. In addition to this, the Digital Artefact also has utility for me personally, as indicated in my initial project pitch, for it has provided me with the opportunity to better understand some of the key dynamics involved with the entertainment paradigm that exists in the digital world and develop my speaking, writing and research skills.

Throughout my Digital Artefact journey, I have recognised and responded to feedback in a number of ways. As indicated in my Beta pitch, I changed the format and structure of my podcast to better adhere to the FIST principles and not burn myself out trying to produce too much content in response to feedback from my peers. One of my good friends also followed my podcast closely and suggested that to increase the quality and coherence of my speaking, I consider practising my presentation skills whilst being recorded. Providing me with a link to a video by Fantano detailing how to be more articulate when speaking, he encouraged me to contemplate how the way in which I talk impacts my listeners. In response to this feedback, I took the recommendations on board and focused on further developing my speaking skills, particularly by trying to reduce the number of times I say ‘um’ and ‘uh’. Shout out to Eli, as after the third episode of my podcast dropped, he thought that my speaking and the way I interacted with my guest speaker was far more entertaining and enjoyable. Overall, I am happy that I have been able to respond to feedback positively and have viewed the identified areas in need of improvement as opportunities to further develop and hone my digital skillset.

All things considered, I feel as though I have successfully conducted a critical analysis into game media texts and paratexts through the utilisation of a triangulated framework and multimodal approach. Over the past number of weeks, I have thoroughly enjoyed delving into the subject of games and I feel that there is immense value in exploring the implications of our participatory behaviour and media consumption activities. Even if don’t draw upon the research that I have conducted as part of this DA again in the future, I have learned how to develop and apply an analytical framework in my research, provide convivial and constructive feedback to others and be able to respond to audience advice to optimise my work, and look forward to continuing to develop these skills in the future.

Thank you for tuning in throughout my Digital Artefact journey and as always, if you want to be entertained, all you have to do is press play.

***

Sources:

Carmack, J. (2018). “This old quote still pops up…”. [online] Twitter.com. Available at: https://twitter.com/id_aa_carmack/status/1030511549688016899?lang=en

Fantano, A. (2019). How to be more articulate. [online] Youtube, Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kM8_h_eB_s

Gameranx YouTube. (2019). Evolution of Video Game Controllers. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgWRcGVyszE

Giant Bomb Forum. (2019). Is controller vibration a vital part of your gaming experience? – General Discussion – Giant Bomb. [online] Available at: https://www.giantbomb.com/forums/general-discussion-30/is-controller-vibration-a-vital-part-of-your-gamin-472133/

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press.

Martin, P. (2019). Lights! Camera! Action! How the Lumière brothers invented the movies. [online] Nationalgeographic.com. Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/magazine/2019/01-02/creation-of-the-motion-picture-lumiere-brothers/

Mitew, T. & Moore, C. (2017). Histories of internet games and play: space, technique, and modality. The Routledge companion to global internet histories. Ed.G. Goggin & M. J. McLelland. London, United Kingdom: Routledge, 448-460.

Moore, C. (2011). Game Studies – Hats of Affect: A Study of Affect, Achievements and Hats in Team Fortress 2. [online] Gamestudies.org. Available at: http://gamestudies.org/1101/articles/moore

Murdock, G. (2017). Encoding and Decoding. The International Encyclopaedia of Media Effects. [online] Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/9781118783764.wbieme0113

Nix, M. (2016). The History of 3D Movie Tech – IGN. [online] IGN. Available at: https://au.ign.com/articles/2010/04/23/the-history-of-3d-movie-tech

Adaptation Arcade #4 – Analysis of Affect, Modality & Technique

Here in the Adaptation Arcade, we have explored several case studies of filmic adaptations of video games and have discussed the implications of the translated elements on the audience and the overall participatory experience. However, we haven’t yet conducted an analysis of the affective quality of both entertainment formats as part of the translation process. That is, until now.

The following piece will thus engage in such an examination by employing a triangulated analytical framework to bolster the overall depth of research. The main elements that will be considered are the technique and modality and how these impact the audience affect, or as Christopher Moore posits, “states of being rather than explicit manifestations or interpretations of emotions”, which each arguably have a bearing on the relative quality of any movie adaptation(s) of video game(s).

The technique is the technology involved with the entertainment format and the medium through which it is made available. It is helpful to think of the technique as being the ‘hardware’ that allows for the participation with and consumption of the entertainment to occur. To understand the key technical aspects underpinning the more forward-facing entertainment dynamics and thus their affective quality, we will examine the technology involved in both video gaming and also a (cinema) film screening.

Movies are reliant upon a screen to be consumed and, historically speaking, little has changed in the film-viewing-format since the first projected moving pictures were presented in 1895 by the Lumière brothers in Paris. The first films were relatively short by modern standards, at only a few minutes or less in duration and were screened anywhere where a room could be darkened. Of course, while movies today also incorporate colour and sound, as well as other visual technologies, such as 3-dimensional viewing with specialised glasses, the participatory format is still that of the consumption of visual stimuli.

Similarly, video games are also fundamentally reliant upon screens to visually represent the game being played. Maria Katsaridou draws parallels between films and video games by suggesting that “like film, digital games are screen-based, and as such utilise many cinematic features”. However, while both modes of entertainment utilise a screen, the formats for participation offered differ greatly. As Katsaridou further explains, “while in parallel they are stressing out a central difference, which is the games’ interactivity: “what distinguishes them [games] from other media, is that a game has to be played”.

Where films as an entertainment format do not respond to one’s actions as a participant, as Jing Shi et al indicate, video games incorporate the participation of the player so that their actions have a bearing on the visual stimuli illustrated on the screen. As such, the video game ‘hardware’ encompasses a number of controllers, keyboards, joysticks and other technological tools that a player can manipulate to interact with the game, whereas films do not. Even with touchscreen or virtual reality gaming, the fingers, arms or indeed the entire body are physically involved and are part of the organic hardware. Moreover, it is these tools that are used to influence the audience affective response to the games; the controllers can be programmed to vibrate and shake to provide tactile and haptic feedback and further immerse the player in the video game, enhancing their participatory experience. Conversely, lacking a controller to physically interact with viewers, movies employ techniques that influence the audience in other ways. These include surround sound audio, sprays of water or blasts of air (at least, in some high-end cinemas) and even the camera angles themselves, with the ‘found footage’ cinematography style not unlike that of the FPS (first-person shooter) POV (point of view) style seen in video games to further engross the viewer. The modes of consumption and participation dictated by the entertainment format are crucial to the overall experience as they have a direct impact on the audience’s affective response.

So too, does the second pillar in our analytical approach have an impact on the affective quality of the entertainment medium; the concept of modality. While there are multiple ways to interpret the concept of modality, my understanding of the word is that it encompasses the entertainment genre(s) and mode(s) of consumption relating to the entertainment content, a notion that stems from the work of Christopher Moore and Teodor Mitew. The relative opposite to the technique and that which is technology and format related, the modality refers to the software and meaning making process through participation. To understand the modality and its impact upon the affective quality of entertainment, we will examine the genre, modes of participation and the relationship of the content on the overall experience.

While both movies and video games have content, that is, material that is consumed by an audience, the mode of consumption and participation granted by the format differs greatly. In the words of Gonzalo Frasca, “to claim that there is no difference between games and [movie-based] narratives is to ignore essential qualities of both categories”.

In a film, due to the audience’s inability to interact with what is taking place on the screen, Andrew Rivera proposes that the entirety of the content is story-based. This format usually follows a narrative arc, where the characters are introduced, the antagonist is identified and the plot unfolds thereafter. In a video game, however, the player’s active participation and actions are what moves the ‘story’ on. In the words of Michael Moore, “agency and interactivity are fundamental to game play”. As the video game responds to the player’s actions, the player must, in turn, respond to the actions of the video game. As such, the story in a video game is secondary to that of gameplay. Furthermore, John Carmack, the programmer of the video game Doom, encapsulated this appropriately when he suggested that the “story in a game is like a story in a porn movie. It’s expected to be there, but it’s not that important”. This isn’t, of course, to say that story is unimportant in video games, rather, that it is the gameplay as opposed to the story that ultimately takes priority as it is arguably where the entertainment resides within that medium. Conversely, the story is the priority in movies as the audience cannot directly interact with the content and thus entertainment is instead derived from participating and witnessing the story unfold.

The genres or thematic categories of entertainment are also reflective of the differences in consumption as dictated by format. Admittedly, while there is a degree of overlap in genres in movies and video games, such as action, adventure and fantasy, it could be argued that these are indicative of the strong technological similarities that the two entertainment mediums share and the well-recognised tropes that exist in our media culture.

The genres in films are based around the story arc, which, as explored before, forms the content that is consumable by an audience. Such genres include romance, comedy and drama, where the viewer is immersed into the storyline and the narrative arc is specifically designed to make the audience participate by becoming invested in the events that take place on the screen. Importantly, while the story is paramount in the film format, the content itself has little inherent meaning. The meaning is only derived from the content when it is viewed, for the audience brings with it a unique perceptual framework that is subconsciously employed in the meaning making process. Such is Stuart Hall’s encoding and decoding model of semiotics, where, in films, the on-screen characters and the situations in which they find themselves that act as the vehicles through which audiences can explore and reflect upon. In short, it is the viewer that gives the film meaning, but only if they are adequately invested in the content to participate.

Unlike that of films, the genre of video games is dictated by gameplay. Genres in this entertainment format include puzzle, strategy and multiplayer, where the format involves a task-object cause and effect dynamic for active player participation and exploration of content. Here, the genre behaves in a similar way to movies, as the various parameters set by the medium encourage players to ‘put themselves in the shoes’ of the represented characters in various situations. Only, in video games, the players are the virtual characters, so instead of giving the content meaning through participation by watching, players derive meaning through participating in action. In this way, it is helpful to think of the characters, not as entities, or even avatars, but vessels through which the player can bring more meaning to the game and thus achieve a more rewarding and evocative experience.

The genre and modes of consumption are thus key components to the overall entertainment experience as they influence the affective quality of the medium and the value of meaning that can be derived through participating and engaging.

Henry Jenkins suggests that the “circulation of media content… across different media systems depends heavily on consumers’ active participation”. As such, the technique and modality of video games and films are critical considerations in the affect equation, for they influence the act of participation, play and viewing. Furthermore, this also points to the value of entertainment in evoking an affect response in an audience and allowing for thought, reflection, speculation and experimentation to take place for deeper understanding to be achieved. Put simply, I belive that it is the affective quality that gives entertainment its value as opposed to the content or platform on which it is based. The affect allows us to feel an embodied response to that which we are consuming.

Considering this, to me, the crux of the creation of successful and meaningful filmic adaptations of video games is perhaps not a question of “how can this video game content be adapted into a movie?” but rather, “how can the affective quality the video game evokes be effectively translated into a movie?”

But that, dear audience, is something we are only beginning to explore.

As always, all you have to do if you want to be entertained is just press play.

***

Sources:

Carmack, J. (2018). “This old quote still pops up…”. [online] Twitter.com. Available at: https://twitter.com/id_aa_carmack/status/1030511549688016899?lang=en

Ciancia, M. (2013). What Is Transmedia? Projects and Thoughts beyond the Buzzword. [online] Available at: https://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/bitstream/handle/2123/9649/whatistransmedia.pdf;jsessionid=63C87409D44D36EB3B83B51537403529?sequence=1

Eventcinemas.com.au. (2019). 4DX – Event Cinemas. [online] Available at: https://www.eventcinemas.com.au/Promotions/4DX#cinemas=11

Fabricatore, C. (2019). Gameplay and Game Mechanics Design: A Key to Quality in Videogames. [online] Oecd.org. Available at: http://www.oecd.org/education/ceri/39414829.pdf

Fenton, S. (2017). How videogame graphics and movie VFX are converging. [online] Creative Bloq. Available at: https://www.creativebloq.com/features/how-videogame-graphics-and-movie-vfx-are-converging

Frasca, G. (1999). Ludology Meets Narratology: Similitude and differences between (video) games and narrative. [online] Available at: https://ludology.typepad.com/weblog/articles/ludology.htm

Gameranx YouTube. (2019). Evolution of Video Game Controllers. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgWRcGVyszE

Giant Bomb Forum. (2019). Is controller vibration a vital part of your gaming experience? – General Discussion – Giant Bomb. [online] Available at: https://www.giantbomb.com/forums/general-discussion-30/is-controller-vibration-a-vital-part-of-your-gamin-472133/

History.com. (2009). First commercial movie screened. [online] Available at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-commercial-movie-screened

Jackson, M. (2019). The 11 Best Found Footage Movies. [online] Mentalfloss.com. Available at: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/588499/best-found-footage-movies

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press.

Katsaridou, M. (2014). Adaptation of Video Games into Films: The Adventures of the Narrative. [online] Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317337060_ADAPTATION_OF_VIDEO_GAMES_INTO_FILMS_THE_ADVENTURES_OF_THE_NARRATIVE

Martin, P. (2019). Lights! Camera! Action! How the Lumière brothers invented the movies. [online] Nationalgeographic.com. Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/magazine/2019/01-02/creation-of-the-motion-picture-lumiere-brothers/

Mitew, T. & Moore, C. (2017). Histories of internet games and play: space, technique, and modality. The Routledge companion to global internet histories. Ed.G. Goggin & M. J. McLelland. London, United Kingdom: Routledge, 448-460.

Moore, C. (2011). Game Studies – Hats of Affect: A Study of Affect, Achievements and Hats in Team Fortress 2. [online] Gamestudies.org. Available at: http://gamestudies.org/1101/articles/moore

Moore, M, (2010). Adaptation and New Media. Adaptation, Volume 3, Issue 2. 179–192. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/adaptation/apq010

Murdock, G. (2017). Encoding and Decoding. The International Encyclopaedia of Media Effects. [online] Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/9781118783764.wbieme0113

Nix, M. (2016). The History of 3D Movie Tech – IGN. [online] IGN. Available at: https://au.ign.com/articles/2010/04/23/the-history-of-3d-movie-tech

Rivera, A. (2017). Why Video Game Movies Don’t Work (and Why Jumanji Does) | NowThis Nerd. [online] YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5AaSPSBow_A&t=254s

Shi, J., Renwick, R., Turner, N., Kirsh, B. (2019). Understanding the lives of problem gamers: The meaning, purpose, and influences of video gaming. University of Toronto. [online] Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563219301153

[BCM 302] DA Contextual Essay & Reflection

You can view my TikTok Digital Artefact here.

Project Summary

My Digital Artefact is creating content and becoming an ‘influencer’ on the platform of TikTok.

As indicated in my initial pitch, my Digital Artefact was originally going to be several reviews for each episode of the new season of ‘Ballers’, an American HBO television show now in its fifth series. Based on YouTube, I intended to utilise the online hype surrounding the new season to memetic hitchhike and generate audience engagement and traction before the new season’s release in Australia next year. In doing so, I rationalised, I could be positioned as a key expert in the field for the Australian viewers when the hype begins domestically early in 2020.

However, as I discuss in my Beta Pitch and progress report, after consulting with my peers and responding to their feedback, I realised that the review format immediately placed me into the role of a consumer, where I wasn’t adding anything new and didn’t have a lot of agency over the content I was creating. As such, I decided to pivot away from the passive consumer position I had initially occupied and instead turned to a new platform where I could challenge myself and further develop my skills as a content creator; TikTok.

Although I was hesitant to completely change my Digital Artefact at first, after listening to Gary Vaynerchuk talk about the advantages of TikTok (I follow him on Instagram and you should too) and conducting some research of my own into the platform, I was convinced that a DA on TikTok would be a rewarding learning experience, and I wasn’t disappointed. As an emerging media platform, it was always my intention to eventually leverage my knowledge and/or following that I would gain from using the platform for any of my future endeavours and projects.

As for my Digital Artefact, I have created dozens of short videos and skits to ensure that my content appeals to a wide audience. As such, I feel that my Digital Artefact not only has social utility for other users of the platform by adding unique and varied content into their feeds, but my TikTok DA also has a clear utility for me personally. As I am an aspiring actor and would like to pursue a career in the entertainment industry, it is immensely valuable to have the opportunity to practice producing a variety of content and develop my skills and in doing so, gain a better understanding of the key dynamics involved with TikTok as a new digital paradigm and platform.

My production method for creating TikTok videos adheres to the FIST principles and I have thus experienced little difficulty with optimising the content creation procedure. Although the total time it takes me to create a video differs greatly, I can generally produce a video from start to finish in approximately 5 minutes, meaning that the production is particularly fast and I can respond to changes in my audience or the platform rapidly. TikTok is inexpensive as the app itself is free and I can film, edit and upload videos all on my phone, negating the need for expensive cameras or equipment. I ensure that I don’t overcomplicate the process of creating content and am driven by the simple ‘less is more’ approach. Due to these considerations, creating content on TikTok is fairly straightforward and tiny, making it manageable to do over and over again.

The content creation process generally follows the below progression:

  1. I come up with a content idea. This could simply be an idea that has randomly popped into my head, or one that has been inspired by a song I hear, or an interaction between people I witness. It could be another TikTok that I am inspired by or one that I can replicate or remix to add my own flair or a unique spin on. Moreover, it could be something relatable, humorous, absurd, unique or mundane, but more importantly, the central idea has to be part of a larger associative chain to be entertaining for an audience.
  2. I record the content, utilising whatever environment I am in (for instance, props, clothes or other people) to add further interest and appeal should I feel it is necessary.
  3. I edit the video(s). Depending on where the idea stemmed from, this may involve adding music, filming several takes to create transitions or contextualising the content with additional text or name tags to allow the content to be consumed without audio or with low volume.
  4. I upload the content, adding any relevant hashtag(s) and caption(s) as I see fit.

To better understand my content creation process, below is one of my TikTok videos that exemplify the aforementioned procedure:

You can view the above TikTok directly here.

Here, the content idea was utilising the “achievement unlocked” filter, so the skit itself focussed around giving the achievement a secondary, humorous meaning. The associative chain here relates to the videogame Minecraft, where when the player collects wood, an achievement notification appears, displaying the message “getting wood”. However, the humour of the skit stems from the pictured Minecraft girlfriend, so a different type of wood is acquired by the illustrated character. Of course, the joke relies upon the viewer’s prior knowledge of Minecraft, so the content won’t necessarily make sense to everyone. The skit itself has been enhanced with popular music and also features text to capture an array of users regardless of whether or not they are using TikTok with volume. Furthermore, the video is accompanied by a few relevant hashtags to ensure that it is included in the maximum aggregated streams of content on the platform to increase its potential audience reach.

The audience for my TikTok is a relatively young demographic. I attribute this to the fact that these people are the early adopters of the TikTok platform and as such, make up the large majority of its users. My audience consumes a vast array of content online and is also native to the digital platform, having grown up constantly consuming media. It is important to note that my audience on TikTok is therefore different to some of my previous Digital Artefact’s audiences. In the past, the majority of my audiences have not only been older, (or my age) but they have been far less accustomed to the constant barrage of communication and inescapable media saturation than that of their younger counterparts. As such, these differences presented some unique challenges for me to appeal to my new audience on TikTok and meant that I had to develop and implement some new strategies to better suit my viewers, such as creating more obscure and niche content that was unlike anything else found on the platform to increase its relative value.

Analysis of Important Learning Moments

Below are some examples of the content I produced on TikTok, the feedback received from my audience and what I learned as a result:

You can view the above TikTok directly here.

The TikTok above is the first-ever video I created for the platform and as part of my new DA. I had recently downloaded the app at the time and it was immediately apparent that some of the most popular and viral videos were those that featured music as part of the pictured short story arc. One such song that was popular at the time was Ke$ha’s ‘Praying’, which saw people utilising the high pitched singing in various scenarios. As such, I jumped into creating a video centred on waking up in the morning and realising that your phone hadn’t been charging overnight, with the moment of understanding being indicated by a squeal of disbelief. I enlisted the help of a friend to film the video as I wasn’t yet aware of the self-timer and auto-capture modes through which I could record myself on my own. What I expected would only take 5 minutes or so to film, edit and upload ended up taking upwards of half an hour. I attribute this to my overall lack of knowledge regarding the platform and also my inexperience with the editing tools provided on the app. After assisting me with recording this first video, my friend vowed to never have anything to do with TikTok ever again, so safe to say that a) I was on my own with creating my content; and b) my friend won’t be getting my autograph when I become TikTok famous!

Before uploading my first video, I was under the impression that it would be incredibly popular. In my mind, the mixture of humour, music and relatability meant that it was the epitome of something that would go viral and ‘blow up’. However, the video only received a total of 11 likes and didn’t generate any meaningful engagement, especially because it was viewed 118 times to date. I think that I felt that my TikTok would be more popular than it would eventually turn out to be due to the fact that when I first skimmed through the platform, I noticed hundreds of videos made by everyday people garnering millions of views, likes and shares. For this reason, I gained an inaccurate perception of TikTok virility and incorrectly came to the conclusion that millions of views were commonplace. After posting my first TikTok and receiving less engagement than what I expected, I realised that such an occurrence is fairly rare and this meant that going forward, I adopted a more realistic perspective on engagement and outcomes from TikToks.

You can view the above TikTok directly here.

The TikTok above is a product of my discovery that to make TikTok videos, I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. After spending far too much time thinking about new ideas for content, I realised that the content that people find humorous and respond well to is all inherently the same. Recognising this, I turned to r/Memes and r/MemeEconomy on Reddit for inspiration. What I found was that many picture-based memes could be easily translated into video form. As such, this TikTok was a direct video adaptation of the popular “comedy gold” meme, as seen below, where I identified the central elements and translated them to suit a different format and audience.

This is indicative of a key developmental step in my content creation process, for I learned to think more abstractly about where I could find ideas for the content I was producing.

In addition to being a pivotal moment of learning, the TikTok overhead is also, at the time of writing, my most viewed video. Having been watched more than 1100 times, this TikTok has more than double the total number of views that my second most-watched video received. Despite this, the video was only liked 10 times, meaning that it converted less than 1 per cent of the viewership into likes. To me, this meant that it didn’t generate any meaningful engagement, shares or comments and as such, although being viewed many times, the TikTok video didn’t gain much traction with my audience.

You can view the above TikTok directly here.

The above TikTok was aimed at a gym-going audience and was an experiment to research into some of the more specialised niches and audience groups that exist on the platform. Inspired by a skit by my good friend Jayden, who I have partnered with on Instagram in the past, the TikTok featured someone preparing a protein shake while others around them express concern about what they could be doing.  The TikTok marked the first time I utilised the self-recording editing feature and thus meant that I was well and truly independently producing my own content as I didn’t have to rely on someone to record the video for me.

Perhaps most importantly, this TikTok is my video that to date has received the most likes, garnering a total of 37. Having been viewed 272 times, this means that my video achieved a 7 per cent conversion rate of views to likes. I originally attributed this relative success to the visual humour the TikTok employed, but when I tried to utilise a similar formula afterwards in subsequent videos, those videos didn’t experience similar engagement. Instead, upon reflection, I imagine that the above TikTok fared so well due to the combination of visual comedy, absurd content and unique story arc. After attempting to replicate the format of the video, it became apparent that each of the elements included relied upon each other to ‘work’ and that the value of them as a whole was greater than the sum of its parts. As such, in my future TikToks, I tried to incorporate several components together to bolster the overall viewing experience of my audience.

Reflective Conclusion

Reflecting on the whole Digital Artefact journey, I am incredibly pleased with what I have accomplished, but perhaps more so with what I have learned along the way. Admittedly, by some of the more traditional metrics of success, such as likes, followers and shares, my TikTok hasn’t fared well. However, I think it is important to note that I wasn’t concerned about gaining a following with this Digital Artefact because I’ve already achieved this in my previous Instagram DA. As such, I have already learned how to leverage a following to obtain sponsorships, brand endorsement deals and modelling contracts, so there was no additional value in doing so again for this Digital Artefact.

Rather, what I intended to achieve with my TikTok DA from the very beginning when I pivoted away from a review series was to use this as an opportunity to learn as much as possible and challenge myself by applying that which I have learned. By this metric, I am pleased to say that I feel that my Digital Artefact has been hugely successful. Having read Ries’ “Positioning: The Battle for your Mind” and Taleb’s “The Black Swan”, not only have I learned about positioning, positive serendipity and the power of asymmetry but, as I indicate in my Beta Pitch, I have been able to experiment with such concepts and apply my learning. I have become far more comfortable with getting uncomfortable in a foreign platform with an unfamiliar audience and have started to view the unknown as an untapped and invaluable opportunity for growth. By embarking upon my TikTok journey, I have been able to further develop my skills and hone my digital literacy and knowledge regarding the convergence, aggregation and consumption of content and media in an emergent media platform.

Moreover, I have thoroughly enjoyed discussing, optimising and developing not only my Digital Artefact but that of my peers as well over the course of this semester. This ride has been incredibly rewarding and I look forward to all the Digital Artefacts I will be able to undertake in the future. Many thanks to my peers and of course to Ted for sharing this journey with me and to you, my readers, for tuning in along the way.

I don’t think there is anything else to say except for that fact that:

I’ll see you online (and if you can’t take a hint, on TikTok too!).

-JC

***

Sources:

GaryVee Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4v-BcAs3Z4

Business Insider – https://www.businessinsider.com.au/tiktok-app-online-website-video-sharing-2019-7?r=US&IR=T

LifePles TikTok Compilations – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zpi93uQDrag

r/Memes – https://www.reddit.com/r/memes/

r/MemeEconomy – https://www.reddit.com/r/MemeEconomy/

Al Ries – https://www.amazon.com.au/Positioning-Battle-Your-Al-Ries-ebook/dp/B006B7LQ90

Nassim Taleb – https://www.amazon.com.au/Black-Swan-Impact-Highly-Improbable-ebook/dp/B002RI99IM/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+black+swan&qid=1572496053&s=digital-text&sr=1-1

StayHipp Trend Guides – https://stayhipp.com/guides/a-guide-to-trends-on-tiktok/

Youtube TikTok Compilations – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnU4lqlbJGk

Mediakix TikTok Trend watch – https://mediakix.com/blog/tik-tok-trends/

Spotify Trending Charts – https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1pMB5VwjH6fzf8ldHch1IG

In addition to the above sources, I also feel that it is important to give credit to those who provided me with inspiration or assistance throughout the course of my DA journey:

Jayden Rembacher – https://www.instagram.com/jayden.rembacherr/?hl=en

Georgie Piccirilli – https://www.tiktok.com/@georgieroxursox

Tyran Tuckey – https://www.tiktok.com/@tiktoktuck_

Teodor Mitew – https://twitter.com/tedmitew

[BCM 241] Digital Ethnography on the Media? There’s an App for that…

The app icons stop wobbling as I finish moving each of them to their desired spots on the home screen of my iPhone. Spotify, Snapchat, Twitter and Reddit now inhabit the prime real estate down the bottom of my screen. From their vantage position, I can imagine them boasting to all the other apps that I tend to use less frequently;

“Too bad that Josh doesn’t use you as often as he uses us!” Twitter mocks.

The heckling continues as Spotify shuffles a new playlist, ‘Songs for Losers’.

“You’ve been placed out of easy finger-reach! You mad bro?” Reddit jeers.

Adding insult to injury, Snapchat dons the puppy-dog filter and sticks its pixelated tongue out.

I consider the apps now located on the bottom banner of my iPhone’s screen and the validity of their insults and taunts.

I can’t deny that I placed the apps down there specifically for the sake of convenience, for not only do I use the particular apps the most, but the area in which they are now located is most accessible for the way I hold my iPhone and the size of my hand.

This gets me thinking, is this the way that everyone else arranges their smartphone home screens? To afford them the optimum accessibility and convenience? Are there other factors at play here that I am not yet aware of?

Immediately the words of the late Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan spring to mind; “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us” (McLuhan, Agel & Fiore, 2008). With an understanding of our technology ―and therefore the media it permits access to― as being an extension of oneself or one’s abilities (Mitchell, 2005), are these external tools negatively impacting our behaviour?

Enter my proposed research area of inquiry; an ethnographic investigation into the utilisation and arrangement of mobile apps on smartphone home screens in relation to the media and technology.

This study aims to explore two main elements: firstly, the relationship between the accessibility of apps, their location and their relative frequency of use and secondly, the impact that such factors have on the media consumption behaviours of users.

In a technologically-dependent and media-saturated world (Sherry, 2002), I feel that a study of this style will be particularly relevant and meaningful in furthering my understanding of my own media use and interactions with technology. Moreover, my proposed topic of exploration benefits greatly from the utilisation of the ethnographic methodology, as this personal and experience-oriented research practice will arguably offer several unique and evocative insights into the nature of media accessibility and use.

More specifically, I feel that the best methodology through which I can conduct research is digital ethnography. The ethnographic examination I plan to undertake will be obtaining two screenshots from participants with smartphones, one of which being a screenshot of their home screen (or the screen they use most frequently if they have apps spread out over multiple pages) and the other being a screenshot of the app usage analytics in their phone’s settings. These images will provide a visual representation of the organisation of the user’s apps and app usage and act as a point of comparison between participants. Accompanying these screenshots, I plan to ask each participant to briefly explain why their apps are arranged that way and why their media consumption behaviours are the way they are to further contextualise their activity and rationale behind their consumption behaviours.

As my ethnographic research involves others, there are ethical considerations that must be acknowledged and addressed during both the research and reporting phases of the investigation. As Bodurtha and Gyure suggest, “ethics are paramount to the informed consent process” (Bodurtha & Gyure, 2014) that is, ethically speaking, wilful and informed consent must be gained from all participants recruited as part of all research conducted. As such, my ethnographic methodology of obtaining screenshots and contextual information involves gaining consent from participants and also explaining the purpose of my investigation.

I plan to allow each participant to change their wallpaper (to remove any identifying photos or pictures should they wish to do so before providing the screenshot) and intend to only retain each’s participant’s age and gender as distinguishing contextual information. While the participants, unfortunately, cannot remain anonymous by virtue of the research design, for I am directly responsible for the recruitment of my respondents, I can offer such individuals confidentiality by withholding their identity from publication.

In addition, I aim to also provide each contributing participant with the link to my blog so that they will be fully aware of how they have been represented throughout the investigation as well as my contact details should any of the respondents wish to withdraw their consent at any stage.

As is the case with any worthwhile investigative endeavour, there are several stakeholders involved with my proposed project. The key stakeholder groups include the smartphone users themselves, ―as it is from these participants that I am sourcing much of the primary ethnographic data that will form the basis for my investigation― and media creators and app developers as these entities are directly invested in gaining a better understanding of the consumption behaviours of their users. Moreover, smartphone companies as the designers of various mobile phones may also have a vested interest in learning more about the habits and needs of their customers as this knowledge could present an opportunity to optimise accessibility and increase overall consumer satisfaction. By understanding what impacts users and the rationale behind their specific preferences, both media bodies and technological corporations alike will be able to perfect their products and services in the rapidly-developing and ever-changing media and technology landscape.

In addition to these aforementioned external stakeholders, I would consider myself to be another party interested in gaining a better understanding of media use regarding smartphones. As an aspiring actor and model operating in the media and entertainment industry, the success and longevity of my future career is dependent upon my ability to navigate the complex new digital paradigm that consumers now reach on their personal devices. Indeed, smartphones, tablets and laptops are disrupting numerous industries (Tapscott & Babu, 2019) and changing how the media is accessed and consumed (Kenney et al., 2015) and I intend to do everything in my power to utilise this shift to my advantage.

I look forward to conducting my investigation into the impact of media and technology on consumer behaviour and activity as it will bolster my knowledge about not only the digital world around us but perhaps what compels us to come back to our screens, time and time again.

* * *

References:

Bodurtha, J. and Gyure, M. (2014). Practical Considerations for Implementing Research Recruitment Etiquette. [online] PubMed Central (PMC). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4324645/ [Accessed 8 Oct. 2019].

Kenney, M., Rouvinen, P. & Zysman, J. (2015). The Digital Disruption and its Societal Impacts. Journal of Industry, Competition and Trade, Volume 15, Issue 1, pages 1 – 4.

McLuhan, M., Agel, J. & Fiore, Q. (2008). The Medium is The Massage. London: Penguin, pages 6 – 7.

Mitchell, W. (2005). There Are No Visual Media. Journal of Visual Culture, Volume 4, Issue 2, pages 257 – 266.

Sherry, J. (2002). Media Saturation and Entertainment-Education, Communication Theory, Volume 12, Issue 2, pages 206 – 224.

Tapscott, D. & Babu, R. (2019). The Digital Economy: Promise and Peril in the Age of Networked Intelligence. [online] Semanticscholar.org. Available at: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/a832/0ab8d4a6c0a1d0578c6e01288b03cb00de4a.pdf [Accessed 9 Oct. 2019].

[BCM 320] Religion, Spirituality and Autoethnography, Oh My!

The topic and value of religion and spirituality have always been an interesting concept to me, particularly because I grew up in a non-religious household. That is, not a family unit that directly rejected religious practices or beliefs, but rather, one that granted both my younger sister and I the freedom to make our own decision(s) as to what we chose (and continue to choose) to believe in or subscribe to. But, despite this, I feel that it is important for me to indicate that while I don’t think that I am a religious person, this by no means implies that I’m not spiritual. Of course, as is the case with almost everything else, the notion of ‘spirituality’ differs greatly from person to person due to the unique way that each of us decode our surroundings to derive meaning from experiences to make sense of the world around us (Hall, 2006). To me, spirituality is about finding solace in something greater than oneself, a ‘happy place’, if you will. For me, my ‘spirituality’ can be found in the wonder and awe you feel going to the beach or inhabiting the natural environment outdoors. My spirituality can also be found in various activities I regularly undertake to ‘anchor’ myself; working out at the gym is a prime example of this. By a similar token, religion is also about finding fulfilment in something else, so where do I draw the line?

To me, the key distinction between religion and spirituality is a reliance upon some sort of belief system, with religion being almost entirely dependent upon a socially constructed set of values and ideological faiths. This has seen stories, myths and belief structures go on to become immensely meaningful for people seeking comfort amidst periods of adversity or uncertainty (Walsh, 2009). Religion is, in my opinion, a self-prescribed pacification tool, a means for emotional security. After some thought, I have concluded that this perception of mine stems from the fact that, for the majority of my life, I have been an ‘outsider’, or ‘non-believer’ when it comes to religion. I’ve never prayed, never read the bible and ―*gasp*― never gone to church. As such, the ideologies, practices and doctrines that religions encompass seem rather foreign to me, bizarre even. And, as every B-grade Action or Superhero flick trying to pry a moral into its narrative arc has illustrated, when we encounter something unknown or something unfamiliar to us, we generally respond to it negatively or in a counterproductive way. Moreover, we often fail, ―at least, initially― to recognise the potential the unknown offers us for growth, improvement or something greater to occur within ourselves. Such a concept may explain my cynical and largely apathetic attitude towards religion, where I long ago deemed that pursuing religion was not worth my time and from that mindset evolved the perceptual framework I still possess to this day.

As such, I was particularly interested in the prospect of visiting the Nan Tien Temple as part of our group autoethnographic investigation and subsequent creation of a Digital Artefact, as it presented me with a real opportunity to reassess my understanding of religion and spirituality. And, after visiting the Temple field site and conducting autoethnographic research, I have to admit that my cynicism towards religion may have been a bit heavy-handed and arguably based upon a relative lack of knowledge and experience regarding the topic.

Upon entering the Temple, I was very surprised that the monks opened us in with open arms, for they didn’t know who we were. They gave us pungent sticks of incense that we could put outside and leave smouldering, encouraged us to make prayers kneeling on the embroidered cushions and allowed us to ring a large brass bell overlooking the rolling hillside. The monks, despite having no prior connection to us whatsoever, really celebrated our presence at the Temple in a way that I could never have anticipated or predicted. And I think it was this that disrupted my rather entrenched ways of thinking.
The warm welcome Jasmyn, Allanah and I received at the Nan Tien Temple was a stark contrast to other experiences I’ve had with religion and places of worship. When I brushed shoulders with religion in Primary and High School, it always felt like something that was being forced down my throat. Heaven forbid the fact that you wanted to opt-out of the in-class scripture lessons! I had to bring home a permission note each term for my mum to sign to consent to her son going and sitting in the library and studying! I didn’t even attend a religious school! Needless to say, throughout my schooling life, religion felt like something that was not only unnecessary but something that was a waste of time.

In light of this, I found it interesting how comfortable I was made to feel in the Nan Tien Temple as a total stranger and an outsider. The peaceful serenity of the environment and the inviting atmosphere with signage in Mandarin as well as translated English were conducive to ease me into the exploration of a culture and set of practices I was decidedly unfamiliar with. Indeed, as I said in the Digital Artefact Vlog, I can’t imagine that if I went into a Catholic Church unannounced and attempted to engage in the various rituals that they would be as tolerant and as inviting as the monks were in the Nan Tien Temple. Similarly, if I was to go to a Mosque and decide to do something similar, I doubt that they would respond positively to an ‘outsider’ in their midst. The incredibly hospitable treatment we were met with in the Nan Tien Temple floored me and would eventually go on to inspire me to write about my autoethnographic experience(s) with religion and spirituality, or what you’re currently reading! Admittedly, I feel as though it should be noted that I did visit the Temple to investigate Buddhist culture and its associated practices, so whether I would have responded to my experiences there differently had I attended for other reasons remains unclear (Anderson, 2006).

Overall, my time at the Nan Tien Temple proved to be incredibly rewarding; not only from a research perspective, as Jasmyn, Allanah and I were able to vlog and gather a variety of field notes to be used in the creation of the final Digital Artefact, but I was challenged in a way that I had not anticipated. The Temple visit opened my eyes to a welcoming and uniquely meaningful side of religion that I did not know existed. Ironically, it seems that we don’t know what we don’t know and one of the best ways to expand our knowledge is to reconsider that which we already ‘know’. Such is the power of reflexivity and ultimately the value of autoethnography.

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References:

Anderson, L. (2006) Analytic Autoethnography, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 35(4), pp. 373 – 395. doi: 10.1177/0891241605280449.

Hall, S. (2006). Culture, Media, language. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Walsh, F. (2009). Religion, spirituality, and the family: Multifaith perspectives. In F. Walsh (Editor), Spiritual resources in family therapy. New York, NY, US: Guilford Press. pp. 3 – 30.