digital profit

The notion of a digital footprint is relatively new. It is essentially formed through the data trail an individual or device leaves when navigating the web. It follows how the internet is navigated and utilised; this data is then formulated into categories, and then further segmented again. This type of data collection essentially allows companies to tailor their marketing via your internet usage, which in turn entails a variety of ethical questions regarding personal privacy verses profit.

Lets break it down; 

We on average are exposed to hundreds of adverts a day, with many scholars noting that this ‘over exposure’ leaves us with two forms of memory; reflexive and selective. Adverts that fail to capture our attention are stored in reflexive memory, where we are unlikely to retain the brands message. Selective attention however can be triggered through marketing that is relevant to our current wants and needs, with the brands message more likely to be retained and then recalled when needed. This is where targeted marketing becomes essential, and your digital footprint becomes valuable to businesses.

For example; 

If you are currently in the market for a new car, and have been searching online for different deals, the next time you log into Facebook, you might notice more adverts for car dealerships near you. This form of marketing is often referred to as ‘retargeted marketing‘ and is where many of our ethical questions arise.

retargeter-story.png

Lets get technical;

The ‘retargeting’ program works by a small code, which drops an anonymous browser cookie, unnoticeable to consumers. This cookie then allows the program to target adds on social media only to those who have visited your businesses webpage.

This form of marketing is regarded as being highly effective as it drives content for those who are already within your target market, and have already demonstrated a level of interest in your product by visiting your site. It is therefore claimed by the site Re-TARGETER that “most marketers who use it see a higher ROI than from most other digital channels..”  however the statistical data for this claim is minimal.

Profit? 

A few different sections benefit financially from this sort of advertising.

Firstly the retargeting program itself, these programs are for sale online and easily downloaded onto a website for a fee.

Secondly the business itself; more effective targeted marking means less wasted money on ineffective non-targeted marketing, they also benefit if the marketing is successful and goods or services are purchased.

Thirdly Facebook; their profit margins are greatly determined by the level of advertising shown on their platform. This type of marketing is at an all time high due to the “effectiveness” of retargeted marketing.

But is it a violation of privacy? 

The short answer is yes, the long answer is no. Due to the cookies being ‘hidden’ and the consumer not giving explicit authorisation for the tracking to take place, yes it is a violation of privacy. However it is argued that in a modern digital age it would be naive to believe that your digital footprint isn’t being tracked, and therefore it is assumed that consumers have ‘reasonable knowledge’ that their online habits are being monitored. Therefore it leaves many to conclude that it is not an invasion of privacy, as consumers have reasonable knowledge of the tracking.

So where does that leave consumers? 

Consumers can either see the positives or negatives of this form of marketing. The main positive effect of this marketing is less ‘clutter’ and using more selective attention rather than reflexive. The negatives surround the concept of privacy and the notion of others making profit off your digital footprint. In reality it is out of the control of the consumers, and even the implication of government legislation  would be impossible to regulate with many of these sites being owned/ operated overseas.

The way we use the internet is constantly shifting, with the rise of new media platforms and the fall of others. Overall all consumers and businesses can really do is keep up with media trends, and adapt their marketing to suit consumers current wants and needs in this multifaceted digital environment.

digital profit

Reflection for “The Fables Of Perception”

The topic I chose to further research was the anthropomorphism of animals. This series of blog posts will attempt to identify how the process of perception through the anthropomorphism and personification of animals and the gender roles assigned to them in film and media are impacting our treatment of animals.

The format chosen was a WordPress blog. The original idea behind this choice of platform is that blogs are sharable public forums that encourage reader commentary. I wanted to format my piece to stimulate discussion; therefore I hyperlinked all of my sources so they could be easily accessed by readers. Consequently, it allows readers to make their own conclusions from the evidence provided. I felt this would encourage individuals to pursue their own facts and possibly link agreeing and disagreeing sources in the comment section to stimulate debate.

However, one drawback of this format is the length of each blog post. I chose to split the 2500 word count up into 3 blogs- a 350 word intro, and two ‘main’ blogs between 800-900 words. While this is at the higher end with the majority of blogs being 500-800 words, I felt an in-depth look at the personification of sharks and the anthropomorphism of ‘The Jungle Book’ would have a greater impact on viewers than 4-5 short posts. The shorter blogs in my opinion would have only touch on the topics without serious analysis, or a brief analysis that doesn’t look at both sides of the argument. I did consider a webpage instead, however I felt that webpages are more information centred, and usually have limited or no commenting sections, which means the debate would have to occur in a different forum.

The main sources chosen; “Relative Frequency of Personification and Spatial Metaphors in Literature Written for Children V Adults‘ , ‘Learning About Real Animals From Anthropomorphic media‘ and ‘The Jungle Book- Anthropomorphic‘ all greatly impacted on my theories presented. One draw back from these sources was they often focused on current perceptions, and held little scientific evidence that negatively portraying animals to children would have an effect on the person in their adult life. However most agreed that negatively portraying animals and placing unjust stereotypical general roles upon them could impact how children associate certain animals, which may have an adverse effect on their perceptions in adulthood.

Another drawback was WordPress’ update that only allowed videos to be posted by purchasing an upgrade. This was an expensive undertaking that I feel could have been avoided on another blogging site. However as WordPress is the most well known and trusted blogging forum, used by many BCM and Journalism students, it was the practical choice.

Overall changes could have been made to avoid certain problems, but when I weighed up my options, a WordPress account with my layout seemed to most for  and efficient way to present my findings, along side my thesis at the top of both blogs, so that no matter which post was read first, the readers would have a clear understanding of what was being discussed.

Reflection for “The Fables Of Perception”

The Fables Of Perception-Humans

Why do we struggle to present animals as just animals? Why are we compelled to add, change, construct and ultimately interfere with the perceptions of animals, in order to satisfy some strange compulsion?  The two following posts  in the series “The Fables Of Perceptions” (Sharks & ‘The Jungle Book’) will attempt to explain if such compulsions are to strengthen and reassure our own superiority, or if it is just simply the only way we can comprehend animal patterns and behaviour.

Our perceptions of animals has become a critical issue in recent years as the welfare and use of animals in society has become a serious debate. We are being forced to question if we truly believe animal inferiority is a justification for our behaviour towards them and if it is possible to change our perceptions and consequential actions.

It is believed that the only true way to re-shape an image long term is to ‘correctly’ teach it to children. This notion of ‘reteaching’ children is an essential tool in permanently changing perceptions, as children are more likely to yield to a way of thinking than adults. Adult perceptions are innately harder to change, as they are too deeply ingrained, therefore the only way the perception of animals is likely to change, is with the next generation who have not been exposed to negative stereotyped of some animal species.

The main sources used in the two posts* look at how; knowledge, perceptions and the anthropomorphism of animals shape children’s learning and how strongly it impacts on their future actions. All sources agree that strong negative animal portrayals will influence how a child perceives that animal. However there isn’t enough conclusive evidence to say that it will definitely shape how they view creatures in adult life, but many conclude that it is a strong possibility.

Therefore it is up to personal interpretation to determine whether movies can have this level of impact. Both blogs present the facts, the opinions of scholars and an array of sources so that readers can decide for themselves whether they believe that animal perceptions need to be altered or if the impacts of perceptions are simply for dramatic purposes.

* “Relative Frequency of Personification and Spatial Metaphors in Literature Written for Children V Adults’ , ‘Learning About Real Animals From Anthropomorphic media’ and ‘The Jungle Book- Anthropomorphic’

The Fables Of Perception-Humans

The Fables Of Perception- The Jungle Book.

This series of blog posts will attempt to identify how the process of perception through anthropomorphism and personification of animals and the gender roles assigned to them in film and media are impacting our treatment of anim-als.

The ‘Jungle Book’ is a classic Walt Disney animation based on Rudyard Kipling’s books. The film carries on the tradition of anthropomorphising animals in order to capture an audience and tell the tale of a young abandoned boy named Mowgli. The original film debuted in 1967 and then was remade for a 2016 audience,  with 21st century modifications.

This remake of the classic film has sparked many to question if the core notions of human-animal interaction have stayed consistent, or if 50 years later society has altered their views and perceptions. Ultimately there was always going to be some level of change,  as society develops, with our views being shaped and re-shaped constantly, especially in the digital age. The clear standout difference between the 1967 and the 2016 film is the animation has changed from cartoons to green-screen animation. Whilst this isn’t surprising given the technological advances and the expectations of multi-million dollar films today, it does impact on how the animals are portrayed, as the ‘cute and cuddly’ animations have shifted to more savage realistic depictions as seen in the comparative images above.

It has been suggested that Mowgli is the only true human to see animals as his equals, and in many cases his superiors. This role reversal was controversial at the time, with a young boy being raised by a she-wolf, a jaguar as a father figure and a bear as a uncle. This redefined how we as a society viewed the ‘family unit’ and human superiority over animals. Often these animals are presented as ‘savage’ and devoid of emotion with a primal ‘kill’ instinct, the original movie challenged these preconceived notions by showing the ‘human’ side, the loving and tender nature of the animals, caring for an orphaned boy.

This ‘softer’ side was much more primal in the original film, where its primary goal was to appeal to children.  The 2016 film however shows a much more primitive version of the creatures, where the hunting and feeding instincts come first, and the nurturing and caring instincts come second. Perhaps this was to cater to a more adult audience, as many who watched the original are now adults. It has been claimed that “personification comes disguised in many other figurative devises, and that it pervades many other aspects of the human condition.” (McKay DG 2009 pg 81) 

Perhaps the personifications of animals were purposely shifted to create a more dramatic, suspenseful movie to cater to a more sophisticated audience. However does it undo or reinforce the perception that humans are above animals, and ultimately superior in every way?

monkey king louie

The original and current film both present ‘King Louie’ as an ape who wishes to learn the power of “man’s red flower” (fire) in order to become a human. This is the ultimate personification of an animal; he literally wishes to become human and in both films threatens violence if his wishes are not met. None of the monkeys in either films appear to be female; its a ‘boys club’ in the monkey world as they present the human male characteristics of aggression, dominance and gratuitous violence. This notion shows “the deep truths and insights into human and animal condition.. using animals in anthropomorphic manner to give moral lessons” (Daniel J. 2011 pg. 43) However this lesson when taught to children could forever shape how they interact with animals, believing that all animals, or our closest living relatives monkeys, all innately wish to be human and possess stereotypical human traits.

This ultimately pushes human projections onto the animals, that otherwise are non-existent. The animal is still behaving as an animal, we are merely interpreting the animals behaviour in human terms. Another interesting factor to add is how King Louie is presented in both films; in the original one as seen in the picture above, he is small, silly and relatively harmless looking. In the 2016 movie Louie is the size of a building, and given ‘Mafia’ traits to enhance his dominance and threatening demeanour. It is also interesting to note that King Louie wasn’t an original character in the Jungle Book either, he was created by Disney to provide comic relief and was never meant to be a truly threatening character. His re-shaping into the power hungry ape presented today was meant to instil fear, and as noted in ‘The Fables Of Perception; Sharks’  inserting unnecessary fear into the general public can have destructive impacts, especially when animal perceptions are at stake.

Whilst these two films hold many of the same core ideas and ultimately tell a very similar story, they are presented in very different ways. It would appear that the 2016 version caters to a more desensitised audience who value fear and suspense over the family values the original film represents. Ultimately the anthropomorphism of the animals may have adverse impacts in both films, as children learn from what they are shown. Therefore it is important that we as the general public do not let movies instill unnecessary fear into our community, nor should we let them teach unjust perceptions of animals to children.

Overall its a balancing act, weighing up which is more valued to society; removing unjust perceptions or cinematic entertainment.

The Fables Of Perception- The Jungle Book.

The Fables Of Perception- Sharks.

This series of blog posts will attempt to identify how the process of perception through anthropomorphism and personification of animals and the gender roles assigned to them in film and media are impacting our treatment of animals.

Perception is a tool in which we use to disseminate and make sense of the world around us. This notion of how we interpret our surroundings on the surface seems harmless, simply a way in which our brain processes information into categories. However in the 21st century individual and collective perceptions are becoming hazards and potentially detrimental to society.

It appears that our perceptions of animals have become skewed over the years, both biologically and socially. Consequently we favour some over others based on their ability to mirror what we believe are human qualities; a close knit family unit, a clearly defined community group, and the ability to show emotion through facial expressions (Clark J. 2013 )  Those animals who don’t perpetuate our idealistic notions we call mechanical or primitive.

jaws

One prime example of this deeply ingrained way of thinking can be noted in the 1975 film ‘Jaws’, directed by Steven Spielberg. It has been noted by the media, public and scholars that this film changed the way a generation viewed sharks. One film’s perception of a creature deemed to be ‘rogue’ killing for pleasure and revenge ultimately demonised sharks, and has had long-term detrimental effects for the species. Whilst this may not have been Spielberg’s intention when it was released, since the film’s debut sharks have been painted as serial killers, leading many to vote for bills and legislation to actively kill sharks for ‘safety.’ This can be noted in Western Australia’s shark culling laws in 2014 make reference to this ‘rogue shark theory’ presented almost over 40 years ago.

The film depicts a shark that consciously targets swimmers to murder, creating a ‘Man v Nature’ showdown which ultimately results in the shark’s death and the town’s celebration and liberation from the killings. For decades communities believed this theorsharkqy was accurate, that sharks would target humans to kill for revenge or enjoyment, even though no statical data could ever prove the theory. It has since been well documented that sharks attack surfers for two reasons, over fishing in their feeding grounds pushing them closer to shore and secondly because from underneath surfboards look like a seals torso. Combined with the kicking and splashing of the surfer, it gives the shark the impression the seal is injured and therefore an easy target, not because of some sociopathic-shark revenge cycle.

One movie’s depiction of a creature, personified as a monster, almost endangered an entire species because it instilled a false fear in the general public.

This is the danger of yielding the power of perception. Humans think in patterns; once something is well ingrained in our minds, and especially in society’s collective thought, it is often extremely difficult to change. A stand out attempt to re-shape the image of sharks in mainstream film is the 2003 movie ‘Finding Nemo.’ The film attempted to reverse the perception of sharks as evil by repackaging them as ‘vegetarian sharks’ with the famous slogan ‘fish are friends, not food.’ It has been argued that this personification was specifically created to re-train a generation of children to be more sympathetic towards sharks to undo years of demonising and consequential culling as seen in the image below.

nemo

It has been claimed that we as a society have glazed over the “cultural and social input that shapes the content and development of children’s factual knowledge and conceptual reasoning.” (Geerdes, 2015. pg. 20) The article measures the effects the personification of animals in films and its effects on children; how it shapes their learning and understanding. ‘Finding Nemo’ presents sharks to children as an animal to be cautious of, but not to be feared as mindless killers who will attack without provocation.  Another interesting perception the film added was the assigned gender roles of the sharks. Predominantly sharks in film are portrayed as male, as they exhibit the classic male traits of dominance, propensity to violence, strength and leadership. This ‘male dominance’ stereotype ‘Finding Nemo’ perpetuated may result in a extremely adverse impact on children, as it reinforces already strong gender inequality that the sharks are strong and powerful (as males)  and the only other female role is a dim-witted fish and ultimately a ‘damsel in distress.’

Which of the two perceptions created through the personifications are more dangerous in the long-term, especially when viewed by children?

It appears in this case we are unable to revert our perceptions with out further personifying the shark. We cannot simply view them as creatures who live a different lifestyle than us, we feel compelled to insert some form of humanistic qualities onto them to be able to understand them, comprehend their thoughts and decisions. Therefore we must be conscious about the images we create in our films and how we teach it to the generations to follow.

 

The Fables Of Perception- Sharks.

The Cute Culture

Ever since man began to domesticate animals, they have played an integral part of civilisation’s development. Once just hunted for food and clothing, animals became integrated into society as an essential part of the satisfying of human needs. The domestication of cats and dogs as pets furthered advanced animals as a desired aspect of human development. Dogs were first believed to be domesticated somewhere between 13,000 to 30,000 years ago and cats around 9,000 years ago. Both were used as  companions, but also as working animals, supplementing their existence with useful attributes.

However it wasn’t until much later in our evolution that we find hints to the anthropomorphism of animals in ancient civilizations. Cave paintings from opposite sides of the earth show animals being integrated into human forms. Depictions of ‘ancient mermaids’, a mix between human and fish, have been discovered as early as 19,000 years ago. Coined ‘mermaids’ archeologists ponder if these images were created from the dreams of early fishermen, imagining themselves with fish-like qualities to assist them in their hunting.

mermaids

Similar depictions of animals with human-like qualities can be seen all through early Egypt as ‘gods’ with the heads of wild beasts. Similar depictions are abundant in Greek mythology as great beasts, half man half human like the Minotaur.

 

Perhaps this was the simplest way early man’s interaction and interpretation of animals could be presented. By giving them human qualities, it was easier to understand their social groups and emotions. This is a characteristic we as humans have not ‘grown out of’ as we developed. In the 21st Century we are still unable to emotionally connect with animals without inserting human like characteristics upon them. Almost every wild life documentary features a protagonist, antagonist and some kind of tragedy or great love, very similar to the movies we watch. MeerKat Manor is a prime example of this. Filmed in 2005 the popular television series followed a group of meerkats. The series projected  blatant human like features and behaviours onto the animals; giving them names, placing our societal makeup onto theirs, even adding music to assist in the dramatisation of their lives.

It can be questioned if we would care about the meerkats if they didn’t exhibit similar social bonds to us- the ‘family unit’ with a mother and father taking care of infants, teaching them to walk, communicate and learn. The attraction of the meerkats may well be attributed to their close human like qualities. Hence, it can be suggested that without such qualities, we would cease to care or empathise with them.

However this raises the question of why we care. What are the features within these animals that increased our empathy towards them? An evolutionary scientist Irenaus Eibl-Eibesfedlt names three key aspects that we are drawn too;

“(a) large head relative to body size, rounded head; (b) large, protruding forehead; (c) large eyes relative to face, eyes below midline of head; (d) rounded, protruding cheeks; (e) rounded body shape; and (f) soft, elastic body surfaces.”

Therefore our reaction when we view species we find ‘cute’ is a disarmed attraction; this comes from our hard-wired instinct to care for infant humans. Such protective feelings are then projected onto animals that portray such qualities, and our instincts tell us to not harm this creature and to instead nurture it. This is exemplified in our reactions to perceived unattractive animals, especially those who trigger ‘fear reactions’ like sharks.  ‘Shark Week’ is a yearly televised event  where our interest and intrigue in these creatures is explored without human qualities being posed onto the shark. Instead we attribute its actions to instincts like killing and hunting, and as such we place no emotions onto the shark as we believe they have none. We therefore describe them with more ‘machine’ and ‘mechanical’ like qualities, build for the purpose of killing and breeding only.

 

Overall it appears our perceptions of animals have become skewed over the years, both biologically and socially, and consequently we favour some over others based on their ability to mirror what we believe are human qualities. Those animals that don’t perpetuate our idealistic notions  we call mechanical or primitive. Now that increasingly numbers of animals are becoming extinct or endangered perhaps it is time to reevaluate this type of selective thinking, putting ourselves on the same level as the animals, instead of prioritising our needs over theirs.

 

The Cute Culture

The Human Zoo -Mediated Suffering

human zoo

It’s a showcase, designed to captivate its audience like an exhibit at the zoo. The presentation of peers, fellow humans undergoing deep emotional or physical trauma broadcasted for our entertainment.

It’s the looking glass of emotion; we as the audience collectively empathize on the most superficial level possible, whilst internally secretly taking satisfaction from the exhibit. It’s the sadistic paradigm in which most reality or ‘true stories’ television is centered around. If the emotional trauma placed upon us was too much of a burden to endure, we wouldn’t watch if it was truly too sad to enjoy.

So why then do we protest such shows a being ‘terrible’ yet click the “yes I’m still here” notification on Netflix? Simple, TV is almost like medication, it allows us to insert ourselves into horrible situations. Hence, the popularity of series such ‘Serial Killer Sunday’, a weekly documentary on real life serial killers. We immerse ourselves in this world to fill some deep level of voyeurism and for the next 40 minutes the viewer can experience the world from a serial killers’ eyes; experience what they experience; feel what they feel in great detail. We watch the actors preform horrific ‘recreation scenes’ of brutal murders, unable to look away as we marvel at the showcase preformed in front of us, the same way we would watch a seal balance a ball on its nose at the zoo.

What are we really experiencing then? In short it’s a break from reality, an act we wouldn’t usually see in our mundane lives. It’s mediated suffering in order for us to feel emotions we couldn’t produce on our own. Andrew Hargadon published the journal “Digital creativity” with the main feature explored being ‘the pleasures of immersion and engagement.’ It notes the emotions individuals experience whilst playing war based video games. He describes it as a ‘flow’ state, in which the individual separates reality from the game, actively killing fellow ‘online players’ then mocking them for their inability to ‘stay alive’ during the game, often replaying the scenes in which their ‘kill shot’ was effective. This act would be considered greatly inhumane in real-world setting, yet the player’s disengagement from reality allows their internal satisfaction to show through.

The widely asked question is therefore ‘why are these shows and/or games so enormously popular?’ The article ‘Do You Want To Watch‘ goes a step deeper questioning the collective strength of the fan bases, and their demands for more content. The easiest answer is the audience’s desensitisation to the graphic content being absorbed. The adrenalin produced by the body adds to the enjoyment of the exhibit, like watching the crocodiles lunge at large chunks of meat at the zoo, we feel the same levels of the chemical making our hairs stand on end during that ‘kill shot’ or brutal murder scene. However the damage that happens to your mind after this exertion is what is truly is worrying, commonly called ‘viewer fatigue.’ The murder scenes must increase in horrific nature for the viewer to continue to experience the same level of enjoyment, the kill shots must become harder to execute or kill larger quantities of players. Therefore the popularity and demand for ‘gruesome’ content grows as the mass-viewer desensitisation intensifies.

Translated into the real world it forces many to question if these experiences make people immune to real suffering they fail to be able to distinguish the abject horror they have witness verses real suffering in real situations. If such ‘mediated suffering’ is truly damaging us as individuals and as a community at large, is this escape from reality worth risking our empathy levels, how does such graphic content influence us in real life. Does it make looking at suffering easier in real world situations? If we’ve watched 13 seasons of ‘Serial Killer Sunday’ does it make looking at real suffering of victims of war easier because the viewer has seen worse on television? Such questions are hard to answer due to the subjective and personalized nature of not only each individual’s definition of ‘real world suffering’ but also each individual’s level of desensitization to it.

References;

Hargadon A, 2010 ‘The Pleasures Of Immersion and Engagement’ Digital creativity vol 12 pg 153-166 accessed 20/3/2016

Keisner J, 2008 ‘Do Yo Want To Watch’ ‘Interdisciplinary Studies’ vol 37 pages 411-427 accessed 20/3/2016

 

 

The Human Zoo -Mediated Suffering