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A film relies on its country of origin for overall success. Australians have an essential role in the continuance of their film industry. Funding is provided by the government as it is a cultural and economic investment. However, if there is no interest in Australian film, the investment is questioned.

In order for Australian films to maintain their relevance and presence within society, Australians themselves must support the content. Increasingly, Australians are disinterested or unaware of home productions. American films act as a distraction due to Hollywood being the leader of the international film market. According to Screen Australia, in 2017 there were a total of 36 Australian films released alongside 170 American films. This confirms the need for domestic interest in Australian content. Hollywood productions dominate on an international level. For example, Disney’s release of Avengers: Infinity War is the top grossing film of 2018 thus far. Australian films can’t compete with such a large budget and already established fan base. Breath starring Simon Baker was released during the same time. This Australian production was based on a national bestselling novel with the same title. Breath made a little over $3.2 million in the Australian box office with the competing film, Avengers: Infinity War making $21.2 million. Although the films are very different both in genre and subject matter, local films can’t keep up with action-packed blockbusters coming out of America.

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The industry itself is attempting to spread the importance of investing in one’s own film industry. Through campaigns like ‘Make It Australian’, industry professionals are communicating the economic and cultural value of the industry to the Australian government (Broinowski 2018). As Broinowski reveals, leading actors like Rose Byrne, Cate Blanchett, and Chris Hemsworth are amongst the forerunners of the campaign.  Funding for the arts is determined by the government. Following the heavy federal budget cuts, creatives wrote an open letter outlining the need for change. It stated, “our ability to keep telling Australian stories on screen is at risk, our voices in danger of being drowned out by a deluge of overseas content.” Australian feature films are typically labelled as ‘low-budget’. in the late nineties, an average film could be made for just under six million (Maher 2004).  During this time, films weren’t limited to Australian soil and receiving foreign investment was accepted. The industry underwent such ‘structural’ changes still seen today (O’Regan 2015). However, the investment ratio between domestic and foreign still struggles to find a happy medium. Australian content is based on its production and must meet the SAC test to be considered. Screen Australia enforced the SAC test as a way of regulating what is seen to be Australian. It questions the subject matte of the film, where it is being filmed and the nationalities of its production team.

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Priscilla: Queen of the Desert (1994) 

 

As mentioned above, Breath is a recent Australian film. It is a coming-of-age story set in the 1970s. However, Film critic Glenn Dunks describes it as “a movie made for middle-aged white guys and literally no one else”. The lack of diversity on screen is the main reason why audiences show limited interest in the content. Representation is key to achieving success for a film or television series. Chris Peacock poses the question – “Are Australian audiences lulled by reassurance into enjoying ignorance of themselves”. Peacock suggests that perhaps ignorance comes too easily for Australian audiences. Film and television educate its audiences on their own society. Prior to the release of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert in 1994, drag culture wasn’t yet seen on screen. Writer and director, Stephan Elliot found a perspective missing from the industry. Also, notably, the film, Samson and Delilah directed by Warwick Thornton. The film broke barriers as Thornton’s first feature started a national conversation about poverty and what an Australian love story is. As Thornton states, “It’s just as much a white story as it is a black one”. Peacock (1996) pairs the importance of Indigenous film with Indigenous art as it reinforces a national identity as well as give recognition to Indigenous culture; Australian culture. Australia’s national identity is typically seen to be male. Women are missing from the screen with only a small percentage (15 per cent) of leading roles available and 30 per cent offered as speaking roles (Siemienowicz 2015). Screen Australia’s ‘Gender Matters’ report of this year reveals that from the 37 Australian feature films last year, only 16 per cent were directed by women. The entire industry lacks representation from gender to religion to race to sexual orientation. A viewer engages with content based on whether they’ve been represented or not. Without representation, viewership diminishes thus, funding or the potential for investment into the industry does too.

A still from the film 'Samson and Delilah'.
Samson and Delilah (2009)

Another contributing factor to the issue of funding is based on access to the content. Films are mainly distributed via cinemas. Mark Peranson identifies film festivals
“as an alternative distribution network” where films whether marketable or not are shown in a public space (Carroll Harris 2017). Film distribution is vital in getting viewership. The process begins with film festivals, where the films are tested to an audience who are industry educated. Typically, independent films are showcased as it is more “affordable” than other forms of distribution (Carroll Harris 2017). According to Lauren Carroll Harris, the test is whether screenings sell out. This gives the audience influence over what they want to see in cinemas. If there is a great desire to see a film based on ticket sales, the film will be distributed further. Film festivals allow for a targeted audience to be revealed. This will increase the film’s revenue if they know who to sell it to. Ultimately, films are an investment both culturally and economically. Funding is required for films to be made but also during the process of distribution as the Australian public must be aware of the releases.

Australians must support their own industry by increasing the demand for the local like in the 1970s with Ozploitation films. The Australian government might determine how much funding is appropriate for the film industry but Australians also play a vital role in making that calculation.

N E O 東 京

So, Akira (1988) is only a year away… Is an apocalypse looming?

Akira brought Japanese culture to the West which gave Western productions an inspiration board to bounce ideas off. VICE’s Tom Usher reveals how the following forms of Western content drew from Akira:

  • Midnight Special (2016)
  • Chronicle (2012)
  • Inception (2010)
  • Looper (2012)
  • Stranger Things (2016 – )

All the films above share similarities based on young children having powers and the overall dystopian setting. No cultural experience is the same for the characters within their fictional worlds. However, if I were to watch all of them back-to-back, my experience wouldn’t change as it would require the films to be outside Western culture.

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created using Ellis reading

The mix of autobiography and ethnography creates autoethnography. Autoethnography is defined as both a ‘process’ and ‘product’ as Ellis (2011) states “to do and to write“. One’s cultural makeup determines how they understand the world, how they understand texts. As the above graphic shows, one must fathom what personal experiences they’ve had so they can identify their cultural experience. By achieving this, the process of autoethnography can occur. The product comes later. Japanese films like Akira increase my cultural experience as I watch. However, it goes beyond storytelling, as a researcher, one must ‘analyse’ their experiences (Allen 2016).

The act of live-tweeting #BCM320 is the process of autoethnography whilst the tweet is the product. Twitter encourages hindsight as a possibility. This allows you to look back; remove yourself from the moment. By reflecting and observing your product you can remember the process whilst understanding how your personal and cultural experiences influenced both. download

This meme above indicates how cultures can interact with their content. Shakira is a Colombian singer-songwriter who lives in America and now she is a part of the Japanese culture of anime. The following meme was created as a reversal of the one above:

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The act of researching can be ’emotional’ according to Ellis (2011) as you unlock yourself through autoethnography.  To conclude, he states:

Consequently, personal stories can be therapeutic for authors as we write to make sense of ourselves and our experiences, purge our burdens, and question canonical stories—conventional, authoritative, and “projective” storylines that “plot” how “ideal social selves” should live.

Gojira – hhhhh !

Before Godzilla, there was Gojira. 

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Gojira (ゴジラ), Dir. 本多猪四, Producer田中友幸, 東宝株式会社

Different cultures are fascinating as they offer you something you haven’t yet experienced. I am Australian. That’s it. My culture consists of Sunday roasts, books, art, alcohol and calling people ‘love’ unintentionally. A list that could be improved.

Gojira showcases a culture unlike my own. A culture that is affected by the threat of war and the invasion of a foreign creature. Interestingly, Gojira was created following the Hiroshima bombings during the Second World War. Gojira is the villain but shouldn’t it be nuclear weaponry? Gojira came to exist following human interference? Are we our own villains when it comes to experiencing something foreign?

Last year, I went on exchange for a semester in England. Previously, I had not been out of Australia but always wanted to, hence, the trip.

* cliché * My whole perspective changed.

England isn’t even that foreign to Australians but the unfamiliarity of a different place was addictive. The different cultures in my flat alone welcomed me to the world beyond what I knew. I had a flatmate from Mongolia, her name was Daria. She would tell me stories of her home – mainly about how cold it gets. I told her I hadn’t even seen snow properly. It was a shocking experience for the both of us. Travelling and film share the ability to transport you from your own context.

Gojira took me to 1956 Japan where an entire community is fearing for their lives because of a giant, nuclear lizard. I empathised with the characters even though I couldn’t understand their language. One’s cultural framework dictates how a text is valued to the individual. As someone interested in history, Gojira demonstrates how filmmaking has evolved but also how a war impacts the wider community.

Following Gojira, I also watched Cowboy Bebop, my first anime television experience. I stopped after episode six when Faye decided to eat her Dog’s food. I haven’t watched much Asian content besides Studio Ghibli productions, like Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away but this subject is already changing that. Add Gojira to the list.

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* running towards more content *

 

Live tweeting is stressful…

Week 1:

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My live tweeting experience began with week’s one’s Ghost in the Shell (1995). I hadn’t seen this film before but knew of its existence in relation to film studies. I tweeted a quote, “Countless ingredients to make up the human body and mind” as I found it interesting in terms of humans being produced in a non-organic setting.  Although, this tweet didn’t receive much engagement I still thought it was a stimulating quote to share.

Week 3:

31369403_1696077747096433_4802580525707427840_nFor the screening of Johnny Mnemonic (1995), I chose to add humour into my tweeting. This reflected how I saw the movie. As a collective, students didn’t take the film too seriously. I created a meme based on Ice-T’s character. I used intertextuality to engage with a variety of audiences. Ice-T most prominent role is Detective Tutuola in Law and Order: SVU. This tweet received eleven likes and two retweets, therefore it successfully engaged with #BCM325.

Week 4:

The Matrix (1999) was the chosen film for week four. I had already seen it but my perspective had altered. I used a direct quote to tweet, “Human beings are no longer born, but are grown”. This quote summarised the entire experience for me. Artificial Intelligence is developing this idea that humans can be grown. I also found @CelenaScava98’s tweet about the recent tech scandal regarding Cambridge an interesting link as it revives The Matrix into today’s news.

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Week 5:

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Be Right Back, an episode of Black Mirror was week five’s chosen text. This episode was gripping as it addressed numerous themes relative to the subject overall. The key theme I took out of it was the relationship between machinery and humanity. Often this relationship is negatively shown. However, Domhnall Gleeson’s character is a cyborg that isn’t feared ironically because of his humanity. A key tweet from this week was a question. I asked, “Is sex with a cyborg masturbation?” I found this interesting as the episode showed sex scenes between a human and a machine. This attracted attention within the BCM325 hashtag. Today, we find a lot of pleasure in our devices but I hadn’t thought of this element of pleasure before

Week 7:

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Another episode of Black Mirror was screened in week seven. The episode, Hated in the Nation engages with countless ideas regarding technology and our relationship with it. It included elements of technology that we already know but also hybrid cars, self-replication, smart house, remote traffic and transparent screens, to name a few. Twitter was being shown as villainous which I tweeted about and questioned. @geeewizz_’s reply to my tweet as I began to question my questions. I wondered whether Twitter was the villain but @geeewizz_ stressed that may be the humans who “embody” social media are without realising.

Week 8:

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@MeggenP7’s tweet for week eight instantly interested me as it was both relevant to the text (Blade Runner: 1982) but also to the subject as a whole. Artificial Intelligence is controversial as it forces us to see what the future may be like. Do we want to know what we are yet to know? @MeggenP7 asked whether attaching our own thoughts to AI characters is the same as regular fictitious characters in television shows or films. I think we look for humanity to connect with characters or beings. AI characters can showcase aspects of humanity despite not being human.

Live tweeting over the course of eight weeks has been surprisingly challenging as you must be actively thinking whilst engaging. It is a useful tool to have for media students as you are required to absorb texts (in all forms), regularly.

 

 

Research Update: Drones are Artists

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Active externalism is defined by Terry Dartnell (2001) as a belief in the mind to “extend” itself beyond human flesh. The notion that since civilisation and the production of tools, humans have been extending themselves with early forms of technology. Roudavski (2016) states “the human mind one can encounter today depend on technologies and practices of communicating, remembering and planning”. The most basic example of this is the pencil. It is a tool that is used to communicate, remember and plan.

7cb69211bcc292bc877c7a7cccdb6d68.jpgHistorically, humans have been inventing tools since the Stone Age with basic hunting instruments.  The development of technologies continued and boomed with Industrialisation from the 18th century. The printing press changed the game (so to speak) as it influenced how humanity could collaborate with forms of technology to produce. It advanced humanity through the idea of printing. Andy Clark’s Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence (2003) suggests that we have always been cyborgs. The question is raised whether we have been cyborg-like since civilisation and with the creation of language or more recently with devices? Clark claims notebooks act as a continuation of our thoughts, therefore are a form of technology in extending our mind. Despite the connection between our minds and bodies, boundaries still remain. These boundaries offer the chance to enhance our surface self through the various forms of technology. In today’s context, we are overwhelmed with the numerous versions of technology that have the ability to extend our fleshed self. For example, drone technology as it autonomously listens to instructions given by its controller; its human.

Typically, drones are associated with military aspects of a country’s government. Negative connotations follow drones as they are used in warfare.  Not all drones are predators which are referred to as an ‘unmanned aerial vehicle’. The political shift that occurred post 9/11 increased to the use of drones within environments of war. However, through the commercialisation of drones for the everyday person, they no longer have the one purpose. Drones can be predators but also filmmakers, photographers, and artists.  Their purpose has grown with today’s society and culture. Drones extend the paintbrush for the artist. The canvas is no longer limited by what the human hand can do but how the drone can be directed to create. A paintbrush is another example of Clark’s notion of tools increasing our human potential. As Donna Haraway writes in A Cyborg Manifesto (1991), “writing, power, technology are old partners in Western stories of the origin of civilization”.  When thinking of artificial intelligence, the feeling of fear surrounds society.

A new aspect of the creative process is added to the use of drones as one must negotiate with space in order to include the drone as a collaborator of the work. The artist must allow room for the drone’s participation. The engagement between the artist (human) and the drone is necessary for the art to be made. The exhibition, First Person View at the Knockdown Centre in Maspeth, Queens highlights this idea of space. In this exhibition, the public is encouraged to fly the drones provided. This removes the boundaries of being human and our inability to fly and adapt our size to fit certain spaces. The attendees become the drone, thus the drone becomes an extension of themselves.

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Belquer, D & Vavarella, E (2016) MNEMODRONE: Chapter 3

 

An example of this includes the MNEMODRONE project. This project is directed by artist, Daniel Belquer as it attempts to share human memories with a drone. The aim of this project is to allow a drone to “access a database of human memories and freely perform actions in response to external situations” (Vavarella 2016, p. 71). As a form of artificial intelligence, the drone becomes its own entity. DisplayDrone (2013) is another example of how drones are given the ability to exhibit ideas within the public sphere. This display in Germany allows a drone, alongside a projector to “spontaneously create public displays” (Scheible 2017, p. 48). Yet another example is Laura Poitras’ spring 2016 exhibition, Astro Noise celebrates how a drone can create as if it were human. Astro Noise exhibited in New York at the Whitney Museum, it showcased “…feeds of encrypted data, collected by an Israeli drone, intercepted by British surveillance, and released by Snowden” (Vanderburg 2016, p. 7). Interestingly, this piece debates the relationship between art and politics through drone technology.

The question continues, can things; technologies be as creative as humans? Is this even possible since our creativity comes from our emotions? Humanity can be restrictive to how we create but ultimately, it forces us to create.

References:

  • Dartnell T, 2004, ‘We Have Always Been… Cyborgs’, Metascience, 13, pp. 139 -181.
  • Haraway, D 1991, ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’, Routledge, p. 13.
  • Roudavski, S 2016, ‘Field creativity and post-anthropocentrism’, Digital Creativity, 27:1, pp. 7-23.
  • Scheible J, 2017, ‘Using Drones for Art and Evergaming’, Pervasive Computing, 16:1, pp. 48-56.
  • Vanderburg C, 2016, ‘Drone Art’, Culture Front: Dissent, University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 7-10.
  • Vavarella E, 2016, ‘Interview with the drone: experimenting with post-anthropocentric art practice’, Digital Creativity, 27:1, pp. 71-81.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dronea Vinci?

Science fiction directs how cyberculture is understood, it does not attempt to predict the future but reflects the now as today’s society is virtual. Technology is overtaking our lives whether we like it or not.

Drones have been conversation starters since they became available to purchase within the public. They previously were only associated with military operations and hush-hush government surveillance. They were born into the tech world with no creative intention. However, drones today are commonly used by photographers, filmmakers, bloggers, and artists. Artist, James Bridle states, “One way of looking at drones is as a natural extension of the internet” he continues to explain, “in terms of allowing sight and vision at a distance.”

With the growth of technology, surveillance has increased. Drones are devices often used to spy on individuals and the public. Artists work to spread awareness of this through art and ironically the inclusion of drones. Drones no longer have a singular connotation of fear but are now seen positively through art. Artists continue to incorporate technology into their practice to enhance their audience’s experience.

The Wall Street Journal documented a preview of a month-long exhibition called ‘First Person View’ at the Knockdown Center in Maspeth, Queens. This exhibition allows the public to fly drones within the art space. One’s perspective is heightened by the limitless nature of being a drone, you can go into small spaces, fly high and observe from above. In the act of becoming a drone, attendees are given the opportunity to enhance their experience through technology. Drones offer artists a greater perspective, literally and figuratively. They educate you on the possibilities that come with technology advancements. Co-curator, Vanessa Thill says the intention was to make the human eye not the primary viewer.”

Artists commentate on their social and political surroundings in an effort to make sense of the world and push for positive change. Like art, science fiction “expresses cultural anxieties and desires through a set of concepts, tropes and themes.”

Rajeev Basu’s “Drones of New York” establishes a positive notion of drone technology by collaborating with artists to turn the drones themselves into art as they observe New York citizens on their day-to-day. Ai Weiwei, well-known artist and activist uses drones as a part of his exhibition with Park Avenue Armory in New York to show the public the seriousness of surveillance in today’s world. Weiwei, alongside Jacques Herzog and Pierre De Meuron showcase the reality of going virtual as public surveillance increases. The exhibition, ‘Hansel and Gretel’ made attendees feel very uneasy, unsettling. I think we take for granted that we’re always constantly being watched…all the information that we give out is being tracked in some way or another.”

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The drones themselves are also the artists as they begin to hold the paintbrush. I want to explore the potential for drones to be directed by artists or people interested in developing that new relationship, whether it be by experimenting with a drone’s ability to step into the role as an artist or research how drones are becoming art themselves. Technology and art are not ‘new friends’ but continue to evolve both separately and in sync. Museums and art spaces are beginning to establish the presence of drones and more advanced technology as they compete with the virtual world that is today.

The following clip shows a drone as an artist, painting dots which ultimately translate into portraits. Using software, the drone can be shown the pattern of the eventual portrait, hence the drone can create portraits. Can a drone become the next Da Vinci? Picasso? Frida Kahlo? Will artificial intelligence evolve so much so that we are eliminated, creatively? These questions begin to formulate when you see a drone transform into an artist. Although, the drones do have to be directed in order to become creators; artists; painters themselves. They need us?

Art is always advancing as is technology. The two are great interests of mine, thus why I want to delve into art where drone technology is present. I intend to research further, establishing what it means to be an artist in this world driven by technology and the idea of being online. Can a drone be an artist?

References:

 

Let’s reflect

RESEARCH, REsearch, reSEARCH, research, re s e a r c  h… r     e  s  e a   r c  h.

These thirteen weeks have been interesting, stressful and a learning experience. As I conclude this research paper, I can reflect on the process as a whole.

Overall, it has allowed my abilities as a researcher to develop further than before. This improvement is based on how I tackle sources, including my own primary data (survey) and from there, how I analyse what I have gathered. As a student, this is incredibly valuable as research is so often a requirement. I used both primary and secondary sources as I wanted to have access to as much information as possible, in regard to this topic. Research isn’t as simple as many would assume. Yes, it includes a search engine of some sort but it also includes the use of accountability, flexibility and integrity.

Accountability refers to a researcher’s duty to the public, including one’s stakeholders and the participants when gathering any form of primary data. In my case, I created a survey as a way of gathering primary information. Prior to beginning the survey I attached a greeting which included an introduction, my key contact details (my email: sm918@uowmail.edu.au, twitter handle: @sophemacy and link to my blog: www.sophemacy.wordpress.com) and this short statement – “By beginning this survey, you’re consenting to your answers being used in this research project”. This is important as a researcher as you’re responsible for making your participants aware of how their data is being used and where their information is published. A researcher is also accountable for how their participants react or respond to the findings which makes your contact details vital so communication can occur.

Another research value to consider is flexibility as it is needed as a researcher. Flexibility coincides with a researcher’s ability to adapt when you don’t acquire what you initially thought or anticipated. For instance, I had to be flexible about the number of survey responses I received. As researchers, we can never be certain of an outcome. Despite posting my link onto Twitter and pinning it directly to my page, responses were still coming in slowly. I then posted it to Facebook and the BCM212 moodle page which allowed me to gather more data. However, this resulted in less than twenty responses overall. As Dr. Kate Bowles stated in a lecture, “We need to develop companion skills: adaptability, and ability to work calmly within uncertainty” (2017). Although, I had a limited number of responses, the responses I did have were detailed and gave me the data which I used in my final report. In Tolerating AmbiguityDugan alludes to how we dislike the feeling of “being uncertain” as we see it as a “liability” but ultimately, we can adapt to the circumstances we are given. This is a fundamental part of the researching process. 

Lastly, the use of integrity is fundamental as a researcher builds from the ideas of others. Within the University of Wollongong’s Academic Integrity Policy it states “academic integrity is foundational to the work of the whole academic community, including students, teachers, researchers, coordinators and administrators” (UOW, 2011). We all have a great responsibility to reference and cite our sources. Throughout this process of researching, I used a separate document to reference directly after finding a source. This made it easier to see where I was getting ideas from and each source’s value to my project. To remain ethical, researchers must uphold the value of integrity. 

Initially, I intended to post regular updates via Twitter for my stakeholders but due to the word limit I used this platform (my blog) instead. Other than that, I followed my communication plan and Gantt chart to the best of my ability. I saw the value in following a schedule as it’s difficult to cram researching into your weekly timetable. The results I gathered and interpreted have been essential to my final report. I followed my initial plan for methodology as I used primary data from my survey as well as secondary sources. Creating a survey online via Google Forms allowed it to be spread quite easily, as simple as copy and paste. I promoted my survey to my stakeholders via Twitter and Facebook. This was beneficial to the process as it gave me more time to research as I wasn’t spending time physically handing out sheets of paper and creating pie charts and graphs myself. Google Forms was a great tool as it would automatically summarise my quantitative results.

I plan to remain updated with memetic theory and its evolution. I’m constantly engaging with memes and literature so I’ll continue to make the connection between them both.

Feel free to read my initial proposal if you wish to know how I began this process.

I’d thought I would end with a meme:

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References: