Loitering and the Fear of Standing Still

Everyone I know is tired. Whether they’re students, workers, parents, all of the above, or none – I can’t think of anyone that doesn’t feel trapped within a cycle of exhaustion. Some people cope with it better than others, and for some this fatigue comes with rewards or payoffs. Not everybody wears it the same, but I’m sure everyone feels it.

It’s a time of semester where most students (and I’m sure, academic staff) are reaching peak levels of both productivity and procrastination. As those final deadlines for assignments and exams draw near, especially for those of us – like myself – who are lined up to graduate, we begin to imagine what might come next for us. Where do we want to be? How do we get there? And when does everything slow down to a point where I feel in control?

Fellow classmate Primrose touched on these anxieties briefly in her previous work – in which she revealed herself to be in the midst of a quarter-life crisis and would in a later piece of writing begin examining the way in which self-doubt can become a barrier to developing the self. Within her writing, Primrose digs into the concept of “the absent but implicit”, which Freedman (2012) describes as “constructing the meaning of an experience by comparing/contrasting it to another experience.”  It may be an incorrect assumption on my part, but I got a sense that within the arc of Primrose’s work over the semester – as I have seen to some extent in many other students – is an implied notion that a state of self-doubt is fuelling the aforementioned quarter-life crisis.

People are anxious about their futures.

“When we tell stories and process them, using reflective dialogue, we create the possibility for changes in ourselves and others” (McDrury and Alterio 2003).

This has been a big part of what we have been unpacking in our semester of studying the research on narrative practice – a therapeutic field that had been left behind following the sudden death of one of its leading voices Michael White. As another classmate Lizzy Bax concluded in her class presentation, narrative practice is always about the future.

Of course, within the institutions of the university, the government, the workplace, etc. we are already fed a certain narrative about the future. It is the narrative of the career-driven and the professional – and it maps out a linear path for us to follow. It is a narrative that is already written for us, for which we are asked to fill in the gaps. Does a CV really tell a different story whether it has your name on it rather than mine? Or whether it lists cycling as a hobby instead of knitting?

CV stands for the Latin phrase Curriculum vitae, which can be loosely translated to mean ‘the course of my life’. The CV is meant to be a personal narrative, but the external pressures of employers and the professional narrative force us down a path where we create our narratives for others. It’s a way of measuring ourselves against others, to see who is gaining a lead and who’s falling behind.

In her 2009 TED talk, Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie raised concerns about the ways in which single stories become self-actualizing when they come to represent whole groups of peoples. The impoverished African, the abject Mexican immigrant, etc. “Show a people as one thing. As only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become” (Adichie 2009). I think the professional narrative – the narrative of the career, the narrative of the CV – functions in a similar way. Following along a career path from high school to university to foot in the door to dream job is presented to us as aspirational. This is what success looks like, this is the story of the functional adult. If you don’t fit within this narrative – or if you stray from its barebones, linear plot – you are seen as a failure. Sometimes to others, often to yourself. Speaking personally and having spoken with other university students over the years, the quarter-life crisis comes from a point in your university degree where you realize you ultimately don’t know what career you want anymore, or you do but you don’t feel like you know how to get there.

In my experience at least, it’s helpful to take a different approach.

When I came upon the work of Maggie Carey I found a seminar video in which she dug deep into the benefits of “loitering” in a personal narrative. Maggie Carey (2015) explains “loitering” in story telling as a process of recalling an event, contextualizing it, acknowledging skills or values used, the effects of the event, reflecting on intentions and linking these qualities to people who recognize them in you; and draws from recent research in the field of neuroscience that suggests this process can rewire the brain in such a way as to build stronger connections for positive experiences. In other words, taking time to reflect on past life experiences and events helps us approach future incidents with more positivity.

When we take the time to think about who we want to be and how we want to be – rather than measuring ourselves against a general narrative of “success” – we are better equipped emotionally to meet the demands of our uncertain futures. This process of “loitering” that Maggie Carey advocates for in a therapy context, is in many ways a counter-narrative to the story of the professional. If success means always looking forward without ever looking back, then in the single story of the career the act of “loitering” not only becomes stigmatised as “failure”, but it becomes sustained, self-indulgent failure.

When I interviewed Andrew Whelan, his purposefully long period of unemployment – living off benefits – struck a chord with me. Because I have been on such benefits for sustained periods of time as well. As I have probably made quite clear in a previous post, I have quite complicated feelings about the way unemployment benefits schemes such as Australia’s Newstart simultaneously support and deride those who use them. But I have also found some periods spent on Newstart to be useful in their capacity to give me space to reflect and “loiter”. Andrew Whelan’s description of contemporary labour as “[Running] around like a slave serving meaningless machines; doing completely redundant, garbage tasks” was personally refreshing to hear, given how often I have been made to feel like a failure within these labour markets.

When I presented the findings of my interview to the class, I remember clearly a fellow student Oliver being unable to comprehend being on unemployment benefits for so long. I remember him explaining that he’d “never be able to do that.” He is not the only young person I know of who has expressed a deep desire to avoid these systems at all costs. In many instances of career uncertainty, I have reminded people that this system does exist and whilst it is riddled with its own set of problems, for those of us with certain privileges such as low overheads and cost of living it can give us an opportunity for some breathing space whilst we try to find work. We don’t have to have a certain goal and we don’t have to be running towards it, guns blazing. This is just what we’ve been told to make us more productive with fewer rewards. This is exactly how internships become exploitation.

Of course the viability of “loitering” is inherently tied to privilege. I’m not from a poor family, I only have to support myself, I am mostly able-bodied, and I am definitely treated better in these institutions because I present as educated and polite. I am not marginalized or discriminated against in any way. There are many factors that benefit me which allow me to treat “loitering” as a very real option. It isn’t an option for everyone, but for many young university students I come across who fear the great, unknown void of their futures – I think it’s much more doable and far less scary than what they think. I think a big part of what holds them back is that they have invested substantial amounts of time and money into following the career path.

‘Won’t standing still look bad on my CV?’

Of course, this is just one of the many trains of thought I have had the privilege of following in the context of this subject. This final piece of writing could just as easily have been a dozen other, different pieces – each just as applicable and personally worth writing. So, closing out I want to share with you my plans for the immediate future. In the spirit of loitering, I have registered another blog under my own name (Angus Baillie) where I plan to continue indulging and writing out the kind of ideas and thoughts I have had over the past semester. I will be working on my own voice – my own narrative – over the next 6 months as I take time off before I begin honours in 2017. In many ways, that blog will be a far more accurate summation of everything I have gained from the semester I spent in this class, with all the interesting people I got to talk to whilst I was there.

That’s all I plan to do for now, and I can honestly say that thought makes me excited and happy. If nothing else, I hope I have helped encourage you to find something that makes you feel the same way. Or, at the very least, I hope I helped you feel like less of a failure for not meeting the impossible standards echoed throughout the bullshit world of professionalism.

The Single Story of the Unemployed

“Stories are a fundamental part of life used on a daily basis as a means of self-expression and as a way to make sense of life.” Weick (1995)

Narratives are how human beings make sense of the world, and of themselves. Storytelling allows us to be active in the way we learn and shape meaning, through the process of reflecting on past experiences (Josephs 2008). In my previous blog post on the topic of narrative practices, I touched on my own experiences in constructing a narrative around my experiences with employment. As you may recall, it’s a negative one. But even if you weren’t familiar with my previous writing on my struggles as a job seeker, I think most people would naturally assume a negative experience was being shared. There are multiple reasons for my thinking this: unemployment is high right now (especially where I live), people seem to express joy much less publically than they express misery, etc. Another factor is that it’s much easier to experience negative affects than positive ones.

Did you know there’s a neurobiological explanation for this? Well it gets even cooler than that. Because there is also a neurobiological solution and it comes in the form of narrative practice. In her talk (embedded below) Maggie Carey simply and concisely explains some new findings from Marie-Nathalie Beaudoin and Jeffry Zimmerman (2015) that link narrative practice to neurobiology in ways that have profound implications for the future of this field. The reason negative emotions like dread or sadness consume us so completely, so easily, is because the neurological pathways for these emotions are much thicker and smoother than other pathways – allowing them to carry more information more quickly in our brain. The reason for this makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint, where immediate threats need to trigger a substantial reaction instantaneously in order to ensure our survival (Carey 2015). So it’s good for any time we need to defend ourselves from a bear, but it becomes crippling when we are trying to persevere with job applications through a sustained period of unemployment.

It would be quite sad if the story ended here, with our sense of self beholden to all our most negative thoughts and experiences, but there are ways we can get around this. In her video, Maggie Carey (2015) explains and demonstrates how the act of “loitering” in story telling (ie. moving through the process of recalling an event, contextualizing it, acknowledging skills or values used, the effects of the event, reflecting on intentions, linking these qualities to people who recognize them in you) in the context of constructing narrative through questions can rewire the brain in such a way as to build stronger connections for positive experiences. This process of constructing a narrative around a positive event through asking deeper and more reflexive questions is exactly how narrative therapy (as well as any other narrative practice) works to construct a self-identity. It also has exciting implications for the ability of fully, biologically developed adults to be able to change and construct new self-identities in a way that has historically thought to be impossible (Carey 2015). Understanding the importance and purpose of these questions in narrative practice will certainly be helpful when it comes to applying the process in real world situations.

The importance of narrative in the construction of our sense of self and of others has profound implications for all of us around the world – and not just on the individual level. There is great power in the process of storytelling as it is from this that we give ourselves and others the opportunity to change and grow (McDrury and Alterio 2003). If we recognize the value of storytelling in this sense, then we must also acknowledge the dangers in limiting the scope of the stories we share – especially when it comes to marginalized groups. In her TED talk (embedded below), Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, talks about the risks associated with only allowing a single narrative to speak for a person or people. Using her own experiences as a Nigerian woman, she recalls her experiences from a very early age reading British and American children’s books, and the ways in which this literature shaped her early understanding of what storytelling actually is (ie. It is about traditionally “white” experiences by default) (Adichie 2009). Adichie (2009) unpacks the idea that narratives become self-actualizing (which aren’t necessarily good or bad) when internalized by those for whom the narrative represents, and when allowed to exist as stereotypes outside of this. For example, she recalls her experience in university getting her literature critiqued by an American college professor who derided the work for not being “authentically African”. In other words, the characters in her novel were too much like him and didn’t fall in line with the poverty and pity narrative that is the sole representation of African peoples in the West. Adichie (2009) goes on to recall her own experiences in Mexico where her own single narrative about the “abject immigrant” (which was internalized from media and politics in the US) was challenged.

“Show a people as one thing. As only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become.” (Adichie 2009)

This ties in heavily with the research being demonstrated in Maggie Carey’s video. It provides another example of the way in which negative experiences are allowed to more easily become the dominant narrative. It is clear that these single stories for cultures and peoples outside of the West are being created and cultivated by different media personalities and bodies within the West. It is not the peoples themselves who are telling this single story. It should be rather obvious then, that the way around this is to allow people the platforms and the agency needed to share and construct their own narratives. No two Nigerians will have the same lives, just as no two people of any race or nationality will. To paint whole groups of people with a single narrative brush harms everyone, and limits the kinds of people we allow individuals to be.

I think, upon reflection, this is what I begin to hate most about being a job seeker – the unemployment narrative. A few weeks back in a different subject a classmate of mine wrote a rather excellent blog post on how it feels to have internalized that narrative – one of being lazy, uneducated, less capable, unhygienic, parasitic, etc. It’s a narrative that punches down and is wielded by those with the most power and influence as a political tool. As a jobseeker on unemployment benefits with Centrelink (faux-optimistically named “Newstart”) you are required to attend regular job seeker “activities” along with your unemployed brethren. You are seen as a problem to be tackled, rather than a person in a socioeconomic situation that is a symptom of a much larger and more complex problem.

I empathized with my classmate’s experience, because I have felt it too.

At this point, I must acknowledge I am projecting. But what he wrote presented a good opportunity to talk about my own story. In my previous blog post I spoke about the mental toll it takes on me when I am applying for jobs en masse, over an extended period of time. This is something I have to engage with as a part of meeting the requirements for my Centrelink payments. And in the context of Australia’s current political climate – “the age of entitlement is over” – this bureaucratic process tells its own narrative. It’s a story that tells you that you need to try harder, that this situation is your fault. It’s a narrative that implicitly tells you that you can’t be trusted – not with money, not with your career, and not with your own wellbeing. It’s a story that robs you of your agency and identity, as you wait in line with all the other job seekers and judge each other – wondering which amongst us is the worst off, which of us has done this to themselves. I don’t like to think like this, and I am ashamed to admit to it, but when you are vulnerable this is how the narrative of the unemployed gets to you. You feel bad about it, but you take small comfort in knowing that each of them is feeling the same. And that all of us are being judged by those who sign off on our paperwork. It’s awful and it’s silly. It might not even be true? But when you’re there, it feels true, so it is true. It’s a narrative that becomes true, eventually, no matter how deeply you don’t believe it.

As you send out countless applications for entry level jobs, without hearing back from any employers for months on end, you start to feel like the loser the politicians, the media, and the whole damn system imply that you are. As I write this, it occurs to me that it was in this first big stretch of unemployment that I got into blogging. It felt good writing about myself – about my thoughts, feelings and tastes – because I was doing it at a time where I had felt so robbed of my self-identity. This was many years ago now, and on the odd occasion I look back on these older blogs and squirm at the tool I used to be. I didn’t write nearly as well then as I do now, after many years of practice. But what’s interesting to me is that after everything I have learnt recently about narrative practice, I realize now that it wasn’t just my writing that developed over the past 7 years or so, but my identity as well.

The Principles of Narrative Practice

Anyone who has been through an extended period of unemployment knows the mental toll it takes on a person to push on and keep applying for jobs. You see the same selection criteria advertised over and over again – excellent communicator, highly organized, effective in a team, high customer service skills, experience preferred – and yet the more you answer these questions without any success, the less confident you become in your answers and yourself. The less able you are to convince your prospective employers that you have the skills they’re after, the more you doubt that you possess them – and if you’re anything like me, you came into this mess with plenty of doubts as it is.

Arguably, a large part of the issue above is the approach we take to justifying our place in the workforce. Nobody really understands what employers want, least of all the employers themselves. But everyone thinks they have some idea of what they need to say – the magic words they need to use – to get their foot in the door. The problem with this approach is that if you haven’t grounded these answers in an understanding of your own values and virtues, you will find it hard to make these traits that you’ve ascribed yourself ring true. I have referred to my own “excellent customer service skills” many hundreds of times in resumes and cover letters, but the number of times I have successfully followed through with a story that actually illustrates this boast I can probably count on one hand.

The problem is, we’ve been encouraged to think backwards.

Narrative practice is a tool for storying your professional identity by allowing you to discover and understand skills and values you possess through the medium of storytelling (The Dulwich Centre n.d.). In other words, through the construction of narrative around personal events we are able to create a sense of how we operate as individuals, and what skills and values motivate us to operate in this manner. In the end we can unpack the story of our professional selves to reveal what unique values and skills we possess that feel authentic to us – and we will have a clear example of these qualities in action by retelling the narrative thread that lead us to discover them.

But this process allows for more than simply helping us to develop a more convincing resume. Through an understanding of our values and motivations, we can start to align ourselves with careers that suit us, or assess whether we are in a job/career/walk of life that feels authentic to us.

Adapting this method, I was paired up with fellow classmates to interview each other using prompting questions that were adapted – with permission – from the works of Maggie Carey at Narrative Practices Adelaide. Initial questioning was used to establish a recent event, with further questions to dig deeper into context, motivations, and consequences – with a bulk of the questions in the latter half of the interview designed to encourage reflection on the event and connect them to past experiences, intentions, and how these connect to what is important to the person.

It’s still early days but I have already started to understand things about myself that I didn’t quite have a grip on before. Through a simple interview about applying for the Dean’s Scholar program, I was able to unearth a lot of new ways to look at my personal qualities. I like to take advantage of opportunities where they exist. I am willing to be proactive in developing myself and trying new things. I am humble, but also prone to downplaying myself pre-emptively with humour – which can sometimes develop into actual self-doubt. I like to stay ahead of my work and achieve, but I don’t like to take myself too seriously. I take comfort in the fact that life is fleeting and all the systems and bureaucracies that stand in my way and tell me I’m not good enough are broken, fabricated, and meaningless – whilst never forgetting the harm they do to vulnerable people.

And last, but not least, I find marketing to be mostly revolting.

On Power and Portraying Poverty

In the main stream media there are two poverty tropes that we generally see get played out. There’s the pitiable foreigner who comes from a hopeless world to whom we owe our charity and sympathy. Then there’s our domestic, ‘home grown’ poor who definitely deserve to be poor because we live in Australia where things are just and fair, and all you need to do to get ahead is scrub up, fall in line, and work hard. The images below illustrate these common tropes. Continue reading

The Quantified Diabetic

It was my second day in hospital. It was 2001 and I was 13 years old – the oldest patient in the Children’s Ward. I had just started high school and I remember wondering if my small pool of friends had noticed I was gone. I wondered if they knew somehow that I was sick; that the day before my life had completely changed. I had learnt a lot in that one day. Learnt that I was Diabetic. When the doctor diagnosed me I thought I was dying, then I learnt I wasn’t. Diabetes isn’t terminal. Not anymore. I remember the nurse came in to test my blood – a process that involves quick, shallow skin penetration with a needle to draw a small drop of blood from a fingertip, which is then drawn up into a small, digital device that measures the concentration of glucose in your blood in millimoles per litre. I remember wanting to get better. I wanted to own my fate and take back control of my life.

“I’m ready to test it myself now,” I told the nurse.

This was the first step in a life-long journey of self-quantification.

diabetes

Image sourced from here.

The ‘quantified self’ movement emerged as a consequence of globally networked communities and the emergence of commercial, wearable technology (Wolf 2010). Data regarding variable such as time, geographical location, temperature, movement, and sound can be collected through sensors and shared through networks – allowing it to be collected, stored, processed, interpreted, and shared amongst communities of people who are interested in understanding and unravelling the mysteries of their own bodies and lives (Swan 2012; Wolf 2010). In this sense the human body is joining laptops, smart phones, cars, fridges, buildings and a whole host of other networked devices in an Internet of Things ecosystem – and it can be used to create new narratives and understanding of ourselves and our surroundings that have never before been possible, because human beings have massive flaws that computers don’t (Swan 2012).

network-782707_960_720

Image of the Internet of Things sourced from here.

When it comes to producing useful data about my Diabetes management, I am a very flawed person. I do not use any networked devices at all – just my glucometer and a record book to record the date and my blood sugar levels before every meal throughout the day. This is correlated to the insulin doses I take throughout the day to ensure they are meeting my health needs. The time of day is imprecise and I often forget to write doses or levels down (or sometimes I deliberately omit them, when they are too depressing or shameful). Other variables such as exercise, what I ate, and levels of sleep or anxiety are never recorded at all – despite the fact that videos like this demonstrate the use in understanding these other factors.

So why aren’t I doing more? Why am I not wearing a Fitbit and taking thorough record to share online with other Diabetics on Quantified Self forums? Well there are, of course, security concerns about freely generating this much data about my lifestyle and health (and how complacent I have been with it at times) that could be accessed and used to judge my suitability for healthcare (Michael 2013). There’s also a concern about cost – these are all expensive pieces of tech for a university student living out of home. But perhaps my biggest resistance to the idea of thoroughly quantifying myself is that is has no end game. There is no goal that gets reached. It’s just an endless stream of numbers getting crunched, graphs getting generated, inefficiencies being resolved. This is all well and good as things improve – exhausting, but good. But then I know the day will come when the numbers will inevitably start to slip. My optimized results will get worse every day – and I will have to accept that they won’t be getting any better. Because no matter how much you fine-tune every aspect of your life, it’s hard to shake the thought that one day we all stop measuring ourselves. One way or another.

The Stories of Physical Games and Us

The Stories of Physical Games and Us‘ is a digital storytelling project by Angus Baillie conducted in collaboration with Claudia Blanche and Richard. It is meant to be evocative of the complex ways in which the lives of human beings are entangled with videogame media as it exists physically and digitally.

The project includes images, audio, and the written word. At some points in the story audio narration will be automatically triggered, so please be aware of this if you are experiencing this project in a public space or if you have your volume turned up.

Thank you.

Reflection

My initial idea for the project was sparked when I was listening to an episode of Isometric – a videogame podcast I follow on a weekly basis. In episode 74 (titled ‘Bowser Has His Good Days’) the hosts discussed the merits and appeal of a new videogame system being crowd sourced on Indiegogo called the Retro VGS, which aims to revive cartridge-based gaming by allowing current developers to create cartridges for games that only currently exist digitally (McFerran 2015). In a discussion of why a console like this would matter in an environment where digital distribution is often celebrated, Isometric host Maddy Myers (2015) suggests that the Retro VGS console is less about the software elements games, but instead about viewing games as “art objects” and imagining how a game that exists in a purely digital form would look if it occupied a physical space in our homes, on our shelves; complete with box and sticker art, packaging, and a game manual.

There were limitations on conducting an ethnographic study on audience relationships with the Retro VGS. The console itself isn’t commercially available yet and the limited number of backers for the project are strangers on the internet with whom it would be find and conduct an interview in an ethical way within such a limited time frame. But I was interested in the idea that Maddy Myers had put forward and wanted to more closely examine the relationships people have with their physical, videogame media.

My initial process for the digital story was to conduct some broad background research on topics to do with physical videogame media and their relationships with audiences and culture. My research began with Alien Phenomenology by Ian Bogost, which is a book that attempts to define and explore a new posthuman, object-oriented philosophy. Although I never referred to the text directly within the digital story, Bogost’s (2012) work was most useful in my thinking about this project when he deconstructed the multiple ways in which the notoriously disastrous 1982 videogame adaptation of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial for the Atari Video Computer System could be defined in terms of its specific hardware components, digital design, physical dimensions and presence, existence as a product, system of rules, experience, scarcity, historical and cultural context, etc.

Aside from Bogost’s work, I quickly found that the research of most relevance to my topic fell under the purview of researchers such as McDonough (2011), Newman (2009; 2012), and Guttenbrunner, Becker, and Rauber (2010); who are all interested in the practices and importance of archiving videogame media as historical, cultural artefacts, the unique challenges that come with preserving the contextually important peripheral objects and packaging, and the idea that digital videogames exist as unstable, constantly changing artefacts.

With a solid foundation of background research under my belt, I decided to use the #BCM240 hashtag to put the call out on Twitter for people who might be interesting in sharing their own, personal stories with physical games media. In an attempt to produce a more collaborative text, I wanted to allow the people I spoke with the chance to share the stories they wanted to tell in a way that they were both comfortable and able to do. Out of respect for both the subjects and the personal nature of the subject matter, I tried to work alongside participants without too much ‘directing’ or ‘prompting’ in the hope that it would foster the production of a collaborative text that will be of benefit to collaborators, demographics and researchers alike (Lassiter 2005).

Because of the approach I took, allowing contributors to tell the stories they want to tell on their own terms, I was presented with a range of digital multimedia to be used in my digital story. In order to best use this variety of media types in a single digital story, I decided that Prezi would have all the tools to allow me to fit these pieces together. Prezi works well in that it allows for the user to engage with the story at their own pace, whilst also connecting the dots for a range of media types in a way that is able to form a coherent whole and maintain a narrative arc (Zaharov-Reutt 2015).

Finally, upon completion I decided to share the digital story I made – along with the reflection – here on my blog along with my other university, creative, and critical video game writing. This was just a natural extension of the process I’ve been engaged with all semester; making my blog a hub for things that I have been involved in creating. This way of promoting myself and my work within a networked social media ecology (which includes my Twitter account) is meant as a simple way of best utilizing the networked audience paradigm we currently find ourselves working within in an online environment (Marwick and boyd 2011). It’s worth noting that in this project I managed to gather people interested in sharing their stories through my social media networks, meaning that my constant attempts at using Twitter and WordPress dynamically has largely done what I set out to achieve: the creation of an engaged writing community, consisting primarily of my immediate peers and any other interested parties who are of just one degree of separation (Jones 2012). These are points I largely covered in much more detail in another reflective post I published here a few weeks ago. By using what I learnt from this I was able to make this digital storytelling project an extension on these processes.

I just wish I could have gotten the blasted Prezi to embed in the blog properly!

 


References

Bogost, I 2012, ‘Alien Phenomenology’, Posthumanities, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

Guttenbrunner, M, Becker, C, and Rauber, A 2010, ‘Keeping the Game Alive: Evaluating Strategies for the Preservation of Console Video Games’, International Journal of Digital Curation, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 64-90, viewed 2 November 2015 <http://www.ijdc.net/index.php/ijdc/article/view/147>

Jones, SR 2012, ‘Digital Access’, Teaching Exceptional Children, 45, 2, pp. 16-23, Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 3 October 2015, <http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=e48b2e3f-9122-473b-bbd3-f39cfbf02bff@sessionmgr4001&vid=1&hid=4211>

Lassiter, L E 2005, ‘Defining Collaborative Ethnography’, in Lassiter (ed), The Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethnography, University of Chicago Press, pp. 15-24, viewed 2 November 2015 <http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/468909.html>

McDonough, JP 2011, ‘Packaging videogames for long-term preservation: Integrating FRBR and the OAIS reference model’, Journal Of The American Society For Information Science & Technology, 62, 1, pp. 171-184, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 29 October 2015 <http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=5f92bb94-97db-4e52-b58e-f42dd2adf265@sessionmgr4003&vid=1&hid=4108>

McFerran, D 2015, ‘The Retro VGS Wants To Revive The Glory Days Of Cartridge-Based Home Consoles’, Nintendolife, 22 September, viewed 2 November <http://www.nintendolife.com/news/2015/09/the_retro_vgs_wants_to_revive_the_glory_days_of_cartridge-based_home_consoles>

Marwick, A, & Boyd, D 2011, ‘I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience’, New Media & Society, 13, 1, pp. 114-133, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 3 October 2015.

Myers, M 2015, ‘Bowser Has His Good Days’, in G Dow, M Myers, B Wu, and S Lubitz (eds), Isometric, Relay FM, 28 September, viewed 2 November 2015 <http://www.relay.fm/isometric/74>

Newman, J 2012, ‘Ports and patches: Digital games as unstable objects’, Convergence: The Journal Of Research Into New Media Technologies, 18, 2, pp. 135-142, Communication & Mass Media Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 29 October 2015.

Newman, J 2009, ‘Save the Videogame! The National Videogame Archive: Preservation, Supersession and Obsolescence’, M/C Journal, 12.3, July, viewed 29 October 2015 <http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/167>.

Zaharov-Reutt, A 2015, ‘VIDEO: Prezi cracks Nutshell of fun and simple visual storytelling’, IT Wire, 11 February, viewed 2 November 2015 <http://www.itwire.com/your-it-news/home-it/66937-video-prezi-cracks-nutshell-of-fun-and-simple-visual-storytelling>

A Critique of “Roaming South”: A Class Project by Lydia Crates

Roaming South is a digital project by Lydia Crates and it can be found here.

Throughout the semester I have been closely following the work of Lydia Crates, who has been working on a digital project by the name of Roaming South. In its current beta form, Roaming South exists as a highly stylized travel blog that aims to draw attention to local dining, events, and businesses found in the South Coast and Illawarra regions NSW.

The aim of the project was to showcase the South Coast and Illawarra region as a place of art, culture, and adventure in a way that appeals to outgoing, young adults. It was not created with a tourism focus in mind, but rather as a way of getting other young people to see the Illawarra area the way that Lydia herself sees it: as “the new Melbourne.”

The project has changed quite a bit since its inception and pitch from several weeks ago. Initially named The Wandering Wolf, the project was first going to be more focused on formal reviews and features on local shop and business owners; which involved writing and sending our questionnaires for business owners to fill out and return. However initial efforts to reach out to local businesses for their time and support proved fruitless after Lydia sent out 20 questionnaires and follow up emails, only to receive nothing in return.

At this early stage in the project it was also Lydia’s intention to remain distanced from the website and the businesses she was featuring. However, after the lack of co-operation from local businesses it became obvious to Lydia that she would need a different approach, which was when she made the decision to make the website more of a curated guide to the Illawarra and South Coast – putting herself at centre stage as the personality behind the curation.

To accompany this shift in direction for the project, Lydia also shifted her methodology to include posts that essentially operate as a personal travel blog but with a broader public audience in mind. Because you get such a clear picture of who Lydia is as a person she suddenly becomes a face behind the opinions and reviews that are featured on the website, which serves her purpose well. It was also around this time that she changed the name of the project from The Wandering Wolf to Roaming South, which is a much more illuminating title for newcomers and is a little more distinctive (I remember Googling ‘The Wandering Wolf’ when Lydia pitched it and finding multiple other blogs, websites and Tumblr accounts with that name.

The methodology of the project encompasses two distinct processes: one for the setup, layout, and design of the website, and one for the research and creation of content. Over the course of setting up the website, Lydia had to learn some CSS coding in order to tweak some elements of the WordPress template she was using, such as the width of the posts, text size, font, and the integration of Instagram posts in the side bar. Bypassing the usual channels of research, Lydia was able to enlist the help of her boyfriend (a programmer) who was able to mentor her directly and assist her with ensuring that her tweaks and changes worked properly before she made them live features of her website.

When it came to researching and sourcing things to review and write about, Lydia’s process was a simple matter of trying new places to eat, being more adventurous, and always keeping her project in mind as she travelled and ‘went out’ locally. Lydia would often have Roaming South on her mind and would always keep her ears and eyes open for places she hadn’t visited yet.

An additional arm of the Roaming South project and extension of her methodology was seen in Lydia’s use of a dedicated Roaming South Instagram account. The Instagram account has been active for around 7 weeks at time of writing and has making around 2-3 regular posts per week. The posts continue that same clean, minimalist white aesthetic that the website itself utilizes, and regularly features food, wares, scenery and events from the Illawarra – often with a pair of sunglasses or other unobtrusive personal item that reminds followers of the personality to which Roaming South is inseparably attached. Aside from providing a visual component to Roaming South, the Instagram account has been utilized in the hopes of encouraging and maintaining attention on the main website.

Although Lydia does report a spike in activity for newer posts on the website whenever she makes a new post on Instagram, I feel like she could achieve better results if she were to advertise new website posts explicitly (with hyperlinks) in the text of Instagram posts. At the moment, as far as I can tell the only link to the Roaming South website on the Instagram account is found within the bio – which keeps it out of the main feed for followers of the account in a way that does less to encourage web traffic from established followers. Although Lydia’s use of ‘@ tagging’ of local businesses and artists is an excellent way of networking, directing followers, and encouraging new followers from the established audiences of other accounts.

At this stage there is still nothing included under the Roaming South “Shop” menu, and for her audience it seems unclear what this section is supposed to be providing. Is Roaming South itself going to be a merchandise vendor, or will this be a location for other online businesses? I’m sure Lydia is aware that this section should either be fixed or axed after beta.

Despite the name change I still think the website would benefit from more clearly stating its regional focus for the sake of audience clarity. Although it does say in the “about” page that it’s Illawarra focused, it might be a good idea to include it in a descriptive tagline or something like that featured in a more obvious, immediate location on the home page (eg below the Title/logo).

My advice would be to include an Illawarra themed tagline here somewhere.

My advice would be to include an Illawarra themed tagline here somewhere.

I would also suggest Lydia considered featuring some of the business start-ups that have been the projects of her fellow classmates. Gemma herself has a strong Instagram presence, brand, and network for her baked goods business ‘Gemmcraft’, and in a lot of ways I think their audiences for creative, artistic, “foodie” types would largely overlap in ways that would potentially be of great mutual benefit.

From here Lydia wants to continue growing and refining her blog; making changes where it’s needed and canning sections that are no longer working (her example being the “Events” page). As she carries on with Roaming South Lydia wants to try aiming for an even more personal tone in her writing and making it more about “life in the South Coast.” At the moment Lydia is seriously considering opening up the website for writing about other areas. This is in response to feeling constrained by the local focus she has had up until now, however I do worry that if she were to do so it would weaken and even diminish what she has built so far. I would suggest that if she continued her Illawarra and South Coast focus she would be able to dig deeper, finding more obscure and interesting things in the process and establishing the Roaming South as a guide and uniquely thorough insight into the region for young adults in their twenties.

Learning to Count

19

20
Glad that’s over.

21
What’s happening? Who am I? What happened last night?

22
Teen romances and first loves, they aren’t meant to last.
It’s time to find ‘me’.

23
Searching…data not found.
Filling shelves while I wait.
Fell in love with a dream.
Spooned my pillow.

24
I have a plan.
I think?
Step one anyway.
Head down. It’s the journey that matters.

25
High school. Same building.
New pool of pupils.
Nobody remembers my friends streaking at swimming practice.

26
Friend is having a baby.
Dick went from displayed publically to deployed reproductively.
Photos on Facebook.
“Congratulations!”
I’ve sure been single a long time.

Almost 30
Uni undercover.
Studying amongst students younger than the year 7 kids.
Still unemployed.
Single.

Basically 30
Head down.
It’s the journey that matters.

29. 30. What’s the difference?
I can do 30 twice.

What comes next?
I’m still learning to count.

Trending

Some movie trailer’s trending.

It’s all about the place.

It’s on Facebook and on Twitter,

Getting all up in my face.

Why oh why is a trailer trending?
Why’s everyone excited?

Before YouTube we all hated them,

Now everyone’s delighted to lay eyes

Upon the prize that is this hype; which I despise.

A tasty little teaser made to tempt you from your task.

Some scenes to spark the questions you’re all aching just to ask.

Some hints and hidden Easter Eggs are waiting to be found.

The franchises’ fevered fan base throwing theories all around.

“Did you see that secret symbol flash at 1 minute forty-three?

It’s alluding to a character of some obscurity.

I’ve read the graphic novel so it’s plain as day to me.”

How much better would it be
without a different movie trailer trending every single week?

Straight Male Tinder

Oh she looks nice!

Swipe right.

Body’s tight.

Swipe right.

I read her bio and she seems like just my type.

Swipe right.

Brows on point.

Swipe right.

Is that a joint?

Swipe right.

White girls with dreads and half-shaved heads.

Shrug. Sure!

Swipe right.

Oooh too young.

Swipe left.

Single mum.

Swipe left.

In every single pic there’s more than one.

Swipe left.

Account’s a joke.

Swipe left.

She’s with a bloke.

Swipe left.

She’s successful
and it’s regretful she’d never date someone broke.

Swipe left.


It’s a match.
We swiped right.
She’s quite a catch
and she swiped right
Punching above my weight,
need something cool to say
“Hey  thanks for swiping right.”
“Sup?”
She replied!
She swiped right.
Have I died?
Why’d she swipe right?
High off my luck
I say
“not much.
You up to anything fun tonight?”

I wait a while
And swipe right
Through more of my pile
Swipe right, right right.
She replies
“I’m looking for sex with guys
if you click this link…”
Ugh, spam.
Delete.
Oh she seems nice!
Swipe right.
Her body’s tight.
Swipe right.
Are they real?
I want to feel
so I’ll swipe right
::Out of Likes today::