Communication Troubles From The Other Side of the World

I remember the day I got an e-mail from my Student Exchange Coordinators saying that I had been placed with a family in the city of Eindhoven (The Netherlands) and that I was going to be a part of this family with a mum, dad and younger brother and younger sister. I was super excited because I am the youngest here in Australia and I have ALWAYS wanted to be the oldest!

I e-mailed them as soon as I had the chance and we made a few international phone calls as well to get to know each other. After that, we skyped about 2 times before I disembarked from Australia to the Netherlands when I was 15. I had a stopover in Dubai and all I remember is walking through the terminals walking past guards, fully clothed with big guns for protection, this was the first time I was exposed to anything like this, so I quickly moved along to find my gate, sat down and got comfortable with my Harry Potter book while I called mum explaining that I was starving but too scared to walk anywhere!family

When I landed in the Netherlands, I was scared to go through customs so I chose to go through a different gate which then impacted the fact that I walked straight past my host family that came to pick me up! I tried calling them, but my phone wasn’t working, so I curled up,  sat down next to the information desk waiting for someone to come and claim me. Once all the drama of ‘lost Sam’ was sorted, I was on my way to where I called home for the next 5 months. I skyped mum as soon as I was there letting her know that I was safe and sound and I was off exploring town with my new brother and sister.

The first few months, keeping in contact with family and friends was hard – adjusting to time zones, my new school and learning a new language. Communication was always over Facebook, WhatsApp or Skype which was easy and convenient especially when I had a terrible Nokia phone that didn’t want to pick up any signal in the foreign country and no laptop besides the family computer which was limited when all 5 of us needed to use it!

Click here to see Charlotte’s initial experience communicating while abroad.

Why Look At Communication Across Time Zone?

When we realized that we both had studied abroad, Charlotte and I began talking and found ourselves comparing and contrasting our experiences. Since we were in our BCM 240: Media, Audience, Place class, our conversation began to focus on our communication while abroad and how media shaped our experiences abroad in a way that is different to what they would have been even just a few years ago. Therefore, when it came time to decide on the topic for our final project for BCM 240, we decided to look deeper into our own as well as other people’s experiences with communication across time zones, either while abroad or while communicating with friends that they met when those friends were abroad. Through a series of blog posts beginning with this one, we created a compilation of people’s experiences with media and communication across the world to create a story that shows how communication changes while people are abroad and once they return home from being abroad. We interviewed a variety of people from four different countries with varying backgrounds and levels of communication that bring together their individual stories and experiences into one narrative of comparing and contrasting experiences.

Reflection of Traffic

Hey Sam, what’s traffic?

Traffic: the movement of people or vehicles along the streets, water or air. It could be heavy traffic (which everyone hates) or no traffic (which everyone loves) (Dictionary 2016). Or there is Trafficking that is the illegal trades of people or goods for exploitation purposes (Australian Federal Police 2016).

Hold up, we’re talking about ONLINE traffic not human trafficking or transportation traffic!

Well, in that case then online traffic is the sending and receiving of data by the number of visits to a website (Marketing Terms 2016).

Hmm… Much better and much more relevant.

Let’s talk specifics:

When I became aware that it is actually really important to have people viewing your blog and important to make it discoverable and we were challenged to improve the traffic to our blogs I first thought that it was going to be impossible, because hardly anyone who follows me actually reads my blog. Although this has allowed me to only improve my blog and add necessary things that were needed. I realised that the only people that actually read my blogs are the tutorial teachers that mark my blogs for assignments, as you could see in the stats that my blog views on word press would spike at that time of the semester. When I started this subject, I would just blog and that was it, I only saw it purely for academic and university assignment purposes and not for anything else. I struggled to see the purpose of getting people to read my blogs – now it is becoming more clearly I have found that I enjoy blogging more and I see it much more than just for assignments and compulsory blogging.

Since assessment one (1) I have taken on the feedback to improve my blog, my writing and to gather traffic, after reading the comments from my tutor I realised that my blog needed to undergo a major facelift. I’ve done some tweaking to get the most out of my WordPress site and hope to keep it going throughout my degree, and hopefully after graduating also as it can be used as a portfolio. The following points are ways that I have improved my blog:

  • Regular tweeting
  • Adding a twitter column to my site
  • Tag and category usage
  • Updated the appearance of the blog
  • Having personalised posts and not just posting for uni
  • Use of images even creating a GIF
  • The use of hyperlinks on the blogs backing up my referencing

Every time I post a blog, I now like to tweet to the twitter-sphere and let them know that I have uploaded a blog. I will always tag it #BCM240 to attract the attention of fellow students and teachers. If I have enough characters, I will also use the hashtag (#) tool to attract more attention. Having done this for the last 3 or 4 weeks, I have noticed a spike in views to my blog, it was a small spike, but it was a start. Here is a sample of a blog that I tweeted out for week 9’s blog:

screenshot-8

From the image above you can also see that I tweet regularly, whether it is a retweet about something exciting happening (The Chainsmokers new song ‘All we know’ – if you haven’t heard it, go check it out!). Or even if I am tweeting about something on TV, I am learning the ways of tweeting and understanding the importance of generative traffic to your sites (yes I am a major amateur to Twitter).

screenshot-9screenshot-10

On my Blog site, when I revamped it, I did a few things which I personally think made it more appealing. Firstly put categories into tabs on my main page to allow viewers to find blogs easier. You can see this in the above picture. I feel that this makes it easier for UOW readers to find what they are looking for. When I graduate, I plan on changing these because I am aware that readers are probably unlikely to understand what the subject codes mean, but for now, my main audience is Communication and Media audiences. Secondly I added a twitter column to the side of my blog along with a tags section. I found this more appealing visually as well as it having links to other social media accounts of mine attracting more attention to my Twitter account, thus giving followers regular updates of my blog.

 

During the break I was lucky enough to get out and explore and I have always loved taking photos so I decided to add in a “Creative Editing” Category to my WordPress site. Having added this section allowed me to find my creative side with images and adding this section to my blog boosted traffic to my site dramatically. I had received comments on my photos from a professional photographer with some constructive criticism allowing me to understand more about photography and explore more options with my camera. Having personalised a part of my WordPress motivates me to continue improving my site and to continue my passions that I lost a few years ago.

When blogging about facts, I discovered that if there are images on the blog, people are more likely to look into, explore ideas and keep reading. Over the last month or so, I have been adding in visuals to my blog posts which improved traffic to my website. I even created a GIF file of my attention span which took me a long time, but showed me the benefits when I posted my blog. It was originally going to be a video upload, but I didn’t want to pay so I spent hours cutting, cropping and turning the file into a GIF image. Personally, even if it doesn’t attract a lot of traffic, I still am proud of the improvements my blogs have seen from my first semester at uni to now.

To show that my blog has seen improvements of trafficking, view the image below to see the results of the number of views over the past few months.

screenshot-11

While numbers of views are important, I believe that it is important to reach a global market, not just the University of Wollongong community. Check out who’s been checking out my blog in different countries and how they have been able to find out about my posts (either via Facebook or Twitter or WordPress itself):

screenshot-12

I cannot be certain which of the strategies that I have specifically spoken about has allowed my views to increase but as a combination of all of these strategies my blog site has seen an increase in views. I believe that the advice from teachers and others has helped to improve my WordPress blog site and it is exciting to see my site blossom.

 

References:

Australian Federal Police (2016) Human trafficking. Viewed 3 October 2016, <https://www.afp.gov.au/what-we-do/crime-types/human-trafficking>.

ChainsmokersVEVO (2016) The Chainsmokers – all we know (audio) ft. Phoebe Ryan, Viewed 3 October 2016, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEi_XBg2Fpk>.

Dictionary (2016) ‘The definition of traffic’, viewed 3 October 2016, <http://www.dictionary.com/browse/traffic>.

Marketing Terms (2016) Website Traffic. Viewed 3 October 2016 <http://www.marketingterms.com/dictionary/web_site_traffic/>.

UNODC (2007) What is human trafficking? Viewed 3 October 2016, <https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/what-is-human-trafficking.html>.

All images are from my personal social media accounts:

www.twitter.com   (@SammScholte)

www.wordpress.com (https://itissamiam.wordpress.com/)

 

 

Say what?! I don’t own my photos anymore?!

When you think about media regulation, do you think about all of those T&C’s that you clicked ‘I agree’ to without even reading what you were accepting? I know I do, and I am now very aware from my previous studies at UOW that Facebook own every photo that I post and can just take it without your permission. Were you aware? Below is a snippet Facebook’s “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities”:

  1. Privacy

Your privacy is very important to us. We designed our Data Policy to make important disclosures about how you can use Facebook to share with others and how we collect and can use your content and information. We encourage you to read the Data Policy, and to use it to help you make informed decisions.

  1. Sharing Your Content and Information

You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition:

  1. For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

So let’s get this straight, I own everything I post, but in ways, Facebook can take my information and use it as their own? Hmm… Seems logical right? My issue is that they can take your information without asking your permission, and what has the basis of last few weeks of this subject been about – asking permission before taking photos or information or things from an individual and using it as your own.

Meet the Smith’s, a typical American family from Missouri, 2 children with a mum and a dad. Happy and smiling for a family Christmas portrait, they never thought that they would hear from their family friend travelling in Prague where they spotted their faces on an advertisement for a grocery store in the Czech Republic. Kennedy (2009) explained that when the mother of the family posted her photo of her family on multiple social media sites (in high revolution, I must add), she never expected to have a random store owner on the other side of the world to use the photo. The family was complimented with a bottle of wine and the photo was removed from the advertising. This example is one of many were individuals have posted photos online unconsciously knowing that it could be used anywhere in the world by anyone.

 

This reveals major anxieties for anyone that hears about these stories as I can imagine, the fear of the photos they may put online or anybody being able to use these phones would incite some form of fear for some individuals. In most cases you will find that businesses protect their rights against being able to use consumer images through their terms and conditions THAT WE DONT READ! It’s a big long trap of extra reading to people don’t generally have time for, so it’s something that just gets skipped over, but then revealing that imagines may be used for marketing purposes if you click accept.

There is regulation in the media as a whole through T&C’s along with laws and codes of conducts that producing media need to follow for example; The Commercial Television Code of Conduct which is often advertised on television and the radio making consumers aware of the practices that commercials should be following when advertising. They allow you to have a say and openly contact the practice to report of any behaviours that you consider not appropriate.

Personal regulations that I had growing up was time limits on the computer, I had to make my parents (well my mum – dad doesn’t know how to use computers) aware if I was making a new e-mail account and I wasn’t allowed on the computer after dinner unless it was for homework purposes which was pretty strictly controlled. Having these restrictions allowed me to get out and about and be less focused on technology when I was growing up. Now a days, I don’t have restrictions, my phone goes to bed with me, it wakes me up in the morning, my laptop goes with me wherever I need it and I’m never told to get off the computer so mum can make phone calls, we all have a wide range of access to the internet if needed (through our phones and all) so there’s never a problem in our family – at least with technology usage. It wasn’t just phones and technology that was monitored when I was younger, television shows were restricted also. I was never allowed to watch the Simpsons, Home and Away, Neighbours and so forth. I’m not really sure why, and I constantly felt deprived as my friends would always talk about the latest episodes or quote shows, but now when I look back at it, I don’t really mind that much.

Regulations restrict you from doing certain things, and they are constantly in place to keep other users online safe from unwanted content. While we may not have time to read through the T&C’s it is important to consider where your photos might end up if you aren’t aware of what companies can do with your content such as videos and pictures you put out there for your ‘friends’ (AKA the world!) to see.

 

REFERENCE

Facebook (2015) Terms of service. Viewed 22 September 2016, <https://www.facebook.com/legal/terms>.

Kennedy, M. (2009) American family’s web photo ends up as Czech advertisement. Viewed 22 September 2016 <https://www.theguardian.com/media/2009/jun/11/smith-family-photo-czech-advertisement>.