Reflection

I arrived at this topic when I met Charlotte from the USA and we made a connection talking about how we both enjoy travelling. When having to link the narrative design to a topic of our choice, we wanted to focus on communication across time zones as we both know it can be tricky to stay in contact while abroad and when you return home. We both love travelling and have both experienced being a student studying abroad for at least 6 months. I believe that it was a good decision to pair up with Charlotte as we built a friendship and worked really well together bouncing off each others ideas and learning new things. The topic choice, I believe, was a good choice as we both have experience in this area and we were able to find people to interview easily through our university connections. Our goals for the assessment were to achieve a final result that allowed us to show that communication across different time zones can present itself with challenges, although not always necessary.

Our research is based off primary research that we gathered ourselves. As this was a narrative story project, we found it best not to use many other resources besides our own. Although to help us with our digital story telling foundation, we referred to the Nick Couldry article to help us conduct our assessment. We organised interviews with 4 students that are studying abroad at UOW with very different stories and backgrounds. The research method of interviews was a positive aspect of the project as we were able to create a video adding another platform to our digital project. The one struggle we had during the planning stage was ensuring it stayed within the requirements of media relativism. Once we had worked out the basis of our research, we had many ideas and struggled to decide what was going to be the strongest points to our narrative story. My background of studying and working overseas influenced what I thought was going to be the end result. From my experience I was expecting that once overseas, students didn’t keep in contact with home very much, if at all, and once returning it was hard to stay in contact as students adjusted back to their old lives. The project was produced on the platform, WordPress, with a video element showing an edited version of our interviews. While I wish that we were able to be a bit more creative with our presentation, the blog was what we felt comfortable doing. Adding in the video element was a fun learning experience for the both of us as we learnt the basic editing skills and were able to expand the project onto another platform of media presentation. Presenting this assessment, I personally would have presented our findings on a different platform such as a video, although I am happy with our results  of the final project for the subject, Media, Audience and Place.  The introduction is at the bottom of the page, thus meaning you need to work backwards for the narrative story and was justified as it is a series of blog post for the effect.

Having the background knowledge of studying abroad and Charlotte being connected to many international students at iHouse, we were able to easily relate to the topic with our background knowledge. This assessment as been a huge learning curve for me as managing multiple assignments and other commitments outside of university has allowed me to focus on my time management skills and how to approach assessments before the deadline. Learning about iMovie was also a new stepping stone for me. I had used the program before, but about 6 years ago, so I was not updated with the technology. It took a lot of clicking and playing with the program before working out how to effectively use the program and complete editing before the date that Charlotte and I set for ourselves.

The research with the international students that we conducted was the highlight of my experience working on this project as I got to implement the ethics that I learnt from BCM210 into this assignment (as well as making new friends). I created a Participation information sheet which students read and signed before we started the filming process. It informed the students that they were a part of academic research, that they would be filmed for academic purposes and that they could remove themselves from the project at any time with no questions asked.

This research can be used in future for students that are considering studying abroad. It can also be useful for individuals that are looking for secondary research based off personal experiences. The research shows that as time goes on for the student abroad they are more settled with their new life, thus they make less contact with friends and family at home. Time zones can not be deemed as a problem unless there is an emergency they needed to contact home for. Research also showed that the students were able to get live updates with friends via Facebook and Snapchat which allowed them to talk less, but still stay updated. The geographical distance made a huge impact on how often they would make contact across time zones but the apps made it so easy for any given time.

Overall, I am satisfied with the presentation of the narrative project and it has helped me develop confidence, video editing skills and a more professional outlook. Charlotte and I worked well as a team overcoming differences with ideas to find a common ground while exploring new ways to go about things. I could not have asked for a better International student to work with on this project.

 

Larger Time Differences Mean More Sporadic Communication

Through talking to students about their experiences communicating across time zones, we found that people don’t usually have a big problem with the time zones. Generally technology provides people with a way to connect to family and friends outside of Australia. People found that connecting to people overseas was very relaxed and that they were able to reply whenever they have the time, even if it’s not instantly, thanks to social media, allowing them to pick up conversations where they left off. However, if people were put into a situation where they needed to contact home immediately, they have found this difficult due to time differences.

We found that the greater the physical geographical distance, and therefore time difference, the less consistent communication that people had with family and friends back home. The people who contact friends and family in America all discussed the fact that their communication is much more sporadic, as in they respond to messages and Snapchats on their on time when they wake up and see them. Multiple people that we interviewed mentioned the convenience of using Snapchat, as it allows them to follow their friends days and lives through their Snapchat stories. Overall, communication to home and friends abroad lessens as time goes on, regardless of the geographical space, because students become more comfortable and confident in their own environment and establish a way of life. Students can be more relaxed about their communication since technology and social media has made it extremely easy to communicate across time zones at almost any given time.

Home Doesn’t Feel Like Home

Since returning home from The Netherlands and my other travels and having met amazing people, it has been hard to stay in contact. It was easy at first, we both would make time to chat and also be missing each other, but as time went on, our lives continued and we became so busy that it was months between conversations, and even then, the time zones were hard to deal with because you would be going to bed as they were waking up, so between my sleepy eyes and their tired waking eyes, it was hard to hold a conversation.

Relationships defiantly changed, I didn’t have the same friendship group when I returned to high school for my senior year, the connections I thought I made with my friends back home while I was away weren’t what they seemed. I had changed, I grew up, matured, while some friends seemed to still be immature and stuck in their own world. It was frustrating, all I wanted to do was spend time with friends, or have a decent conversation while I struggled with being home, but I couldn’t. This struggle made me connect with friends from overseas more. In this sense, I made other friends and connected with other people, which allowed me to open up.

I’ve been home for about 5 years now from the Netherlands, and I still speak to my host family. Very rarely, but we still catch up from time to time. My friends from the Netherlands don’t contact me much, but I always see what they are up to on Facebook, so it’s nice to a degree to still have those connections.

I’ve been back from the States for a couple of months now and I keep in contact with some my colleagues on a monthly/odd basis. Facebook and Snapchat keeps me updated with what people are up to, so there isn’t much to talk about when you do strike a conversation. When I head back to the States I know relationships will definitely have changed. One friend has had a baby since I left, I love Facebook and Instagram for this reason – being able to see pictures.

I think it’s clear to see that communication across time zones is difficult for some as they have to adjust to time differences when contacting friends and family from home. From experience relationships will always change because as you travel and experience different things from around the world, the people you left behind stay the same.

Click here to see Charlotte’s hopes of communicating with friends from abroad after returning home.

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.

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>.