Conducting this research taught me myriad lessons. The first being, that research is not linear, and regardless of how much the researcher strategises, events are likely to occur that will disrupt the original research plan.

During the conception of this project, there were two pivotal events that reinforced the contention that research is messy.

The first was that from the outset, I had planned to carry out my research in three forms: observational research, qualitative research (using focus groups), and quantitative research (using online surveys). It was hypothesized that marrying these methods of understanding would build a comprehensive and cohesive finished project. This is supported by Kitsakorn, who suggests that in sociological studies, it is pertinent to encompass multiple genres of methodology to create a project that is equally resilient and airtight (2017).

However, due to time constraints it was soon recognised that to complete the project, and to do so with the integrity that research commands, one methodology would have to be deserted.

It was decided that qualitative research would not be utilized for this research. This was elected on the basis that the qualitative research would likely yield enough data for its own follow-up study.

The outcome of this research project presents clear trends about the behaviours exhibited by students in lectures, however, it failed to expose why these patterns have emerged. It is suggested that the ‘why?’ will take the shape of a qualitative study in the form of interviews and focus groups with the BCM212 students to further express the current space of the contemporary lecture theatre. Although this project was hindered by the absence of a qualitative research component, it has also provided a solid foundation for future research.

It is posited by Feeney & Sult that to optimise the likelihood of a successful project, pre-planning is essential (2011). For this project, pre-planning meant creating a realistic risk matrix as well as a project timeline, to split the greater event into smaller, easy-to-manage tasks. However, during the conception of the risk matrix, the risk of a delayed lecture was not considered.

This delay – due to the lecturer suffering an illness – meant that the observational research that was due to take place over week 9 and week 10 instead had to take place in week 9 and week 11. This small hurdle meant that the project was to be delayed for a week. While I could have utilized the observational information yielded from one lecture, I felt that this would compromise the overall value of my project as a smaller sample would be inefficient.

According to Phillips, good research demands mutual attitudes of respect, integrity and reciprocity between the researchers and the participants (2010). It is this notion of careful consideration that guided this research project. The collection of observational data meant that there was a slew of potential ethical challenges regarding surveillance and gaining consent to take field notes on students’ behaviours.

As I mentioned in the report, it was devised that I contact the BCM212 course coordinator to gain permission to study the lecture. This decision was made so to give non-consenting students ample time to voice their concerns. The alternative to this method was to propose the observational research at the beginning of each lecture and invite any questions or declination from students. However, the latter option is flawed in that it not only compromises the behaviours of students (from knowing who is observing them), but more importantly, it singles out the students that request to not be included in the data set. This has the potential to isolate individuals and thus, does not align with ethical research principals as discussed by Phillips (2015).

A vital part of all research is not only conducting the study ethically, but also to follow through with communications for participants wanting to keep track of the study (Goertzen 2017). My project adhered to this guideline through linking my WordPress and Twitter accounts into the description of each methodology. The Amelia Fragments is my university WordPress website where the findings of the research can be found, and my Twitter handle, @AmeliaFynes, is where anyone with any queries about the project can contact me. It is in the interest of respectable research practice that the researcher can be contactable in the case of questions about the study, or proposals for follow-up studies (Feeney & Sult 2011).

 

All in all, I found this exercise to be beneficial, challenging, enjoyable, and like all authentic research, totally messy.

 

– A m e l i a

 

References:

Feeney, M & Sult, L 2011, ‘Project Management in Practice: Implementing a Process to Ensure Accountability and Success’, Journal of Library Administration, vol. 51, no. 7-8, pp. 744-763.

Goertzen, M.J 2017, ‘Introduction to Quantitative Research and Data’, Library Technology Reports May/June 2017, vol. 53, no. 4, pp. 12-18.

Kitsakorn, L 2017, Research Methodologies for Beginners, Pan Stanford Publishing, Singapore.

Phillips, A 2010, ‘Researchers, snoopers and spies – the legal and ethical challenges facing observational research’, International Journal of Market Research, vol. 52, no. 2, pp. 275-278.

 

The online questionnaire yielded a response of 20 participants. One of the most prominent findings from this research was that 45% of students claimed that they ‘never’ attended the BCM212 lecture. This response was echoed through the observational data collection. Within the first sample (from the first lecture), it was noted that there were 28 students present. The second sample reflected similar data, with 22 students present.

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This finding is complemented by the claim from 20% of students that they never access the lecture via Echo360 and equally, never attend the lecture in person. This means that these students’ BCM212 experience is limited only to tutorials and the lecture slides.

A further observation to note is that when field notes were being conducted, it was counted that in the first sample, 82% of students were seen to be using their mobile phones on at least one occasion. This finding is echoed through the second sample, which showed 80% of students used their mobile phones on at least one occasion. On the online questionnaire, 86.6% of students conceded to using one or more of their technological devices to do something other than access course materials.

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It can be seen below, that the most popular sites for web surfing are Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

According to the online survey, 75% of students engage in conversations with their peers during the lecture. This is supported by the observational research. Within the first sample, 70% of students were seen to be engaging in conversation. This statistic is reflected through the second sample, that revealed 80% of students to be engaging socially with other students during the lecture. The casual nature of the lecture theatre is also reflected in small but consistent numbers of students eating and drinking during the lecture, as well as arriving late and leaving early.

It must also be considered that students taking this course are overwhelmingly female, and in in their very early 20s. It is imperative to note these factors and understand that while this research aims to record a snapshot of the current BCM212 environment, it can be assumed that a different audience may yield a different response.

This research indicates that the environment of learning has changed rapidly since the ‘traditional’ state of the classroom. Technology is now ubiquitous, and with more Australians enrolled in tertiary education than ever before, there appears to be a casualness that is apparent in the BCM212 lectures that may have not been previously seen when Universities were built on exclusivity.

Hi!

If you’re reading this post, it probably means that you’ve either answered my survey regarding behaviours in BCM212 lectures or you’re just following along with my research. In either case, welcome!

Since the conception of my original idea, I have come across various different road blocks. This is to be expected, research is all about trial and error.

The first problem I found, was that I originally casted the net too wide in terms of my research question. I wanted to analyse the contemporary lecture theatre, and put different courses under the microscope to create a comparative study – identifying connections and disconnections between tertiary disciplines. However, while this behaviour analysis still interests me – it is too big of a study to conduct for this specific research assignment.

The second issue that arose was that during my background research study, I was dealt with the news that my pooch had a cancer in one of his feet. While this is a solely personal event, it caused me a lot of distress and as a result, university work was put on the back burner for a week. Oreo has since had surgery and is back to being in good waggly health. This event illustrates that while researchers can plan and prepare for risk and harm minimisation, sometimes events arise completely out of the blue.

I have sought permission to conduct observational research on and during the BCM212 lecture and am excited to see what sort of results arise. Watch this space!

If you are a BCM212 student, you can still answer my survey here. Please comment or tweet me @AmeliaFynes if I can assist you with your research too. We’re all in this together!

When I was all but 7, my parents took my siblings and I on a holiday to Bali where in true Australian-middle-class fashion, we all got sunburnt, got our hair braided so tight that it began to snap at the roots and I got a particularly repulsive strain of the notorious “Bali Belly”. The sort of holiday that was great at the time – but in retrospect is reminiscent of an early 2000s Australiana that borrowed far too many themes from The Castle. We’ve all grown a lot since. I swear.

One of the things about this trip that comes to my mind almost immediately (second to vomiting out my nose into a drop toilet), is a young man we met while hopping between tourism hotspots.

Any details about this man have escaped me. What was so memorable about him is that walking beside him on all fours was a Macaque monkey. Dressed in tiny handmade clothes. On a leash. It’s perfect monkey hands looked more like my own hands than the man’s did.

I felt my tiny not-even-a-decade-old heart break. I felt sad. Confused. Sickened. It unsettled me to see this wild thing being made to perform for its master. It unsettled me that there was a master, visible in such a point blank, starkly obvious way. There appeared to be no shame about the animal abuse that was so clear to me, a child.

ad_202206874We apply human characteristics to animals because it makes life simpler for us. We are a very clever species, but we are a self-centred one and we are only capable of seeing the world through our own lens, polished by our life experiences and our personal consciousness. The danger with anthropomorphising animals is that while it makes life neater for us, it also makes wild animals become responsible for their actions. They become worthy of reward or culpable for punishment (Nauert). This holds animals to a standard that they simply don’t qualify for. That they cannot fulfil because they shouldn’t even be in the competition. Is a dog deserving of a smack because it didn’t understand your command? Of course not. It may not even understand the difference between behaviour and misbehaviour. It may not understand anything in the same way that humans do.

A continual argument for anthropomorphising animals is that doing so helps humans feel empathy towards wild animals, and in turn, treat them better. Protect the reef. Stop the Yulin Dog Meat Festival. Preserve our natural wildlife.

But if we all had baby pandas in our homes to dress in children’s wear and spoon feed, would we care more about the destruction of natural bamboo forests? Maybe we would. But maybe we would not.

This concept was drawn upon in the case of Zoos Victoria’s Lunar, the anthropomorphised figurehead of Leadbeater Possums. Research revealed that visitors of the zoo were able to apply human characteristics to mascot Lunar, which were then translated to live Leadbeater possums. This demonstrated a relationship between anthropomorphism, emotional connection and attitudes of conservation (Skibins, Smith & O’Brien).

However, it’s important to note that Lunar is not a living Leadbeater possum, but a fictional character. This is vastly different from humanising a wild animal for our own relatability, which we often seem to do, see: monkeys riding bikes in South East Asia, dancing bears in Russia, the online art trade that profits from elephant-made artworks.

The question to raise here – and interestingly, I have found this particular question occur in each blog thus far – is does the ends qualify the means?

Is humanising, making us lose our humanity?

References:

Nauert, R. 2015, ‘Why Do We Anthropomorphize?’, Psych Central, retrieved on March 30, 2017 <https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/03/01/why-do-we-anthropomorphize/11766.html&gt;

Skibins, J, Smith, A & O’Brien, J 2015 ‘Can Anthropomorphism Help Save the Leadbeater’s Possum’, IZE Journal, vol. 51, pp. 22-25.

Part 1.

I have been one of the lucky ones. I came from a family that valued education. For the majority of my life there were two substantial and consistent incomes feeding through our house. When things were hard, my siblings and I were none the wiser. It’s only years later my mother has divulged details of once having only $25 to feed our family for the week. She was nervous. That nervousness multiplied when I came down with a sickness that required antibiotics for the price of $13. That left us with $12 to keep 5 bellies from grumbling. We ate a lot of rice and canned beans. While sometimes things were tough for us on Crittenden Road, we were never truly in the throes of poorness. We were always looking in from the outside.

The cycle of poverty is a vicious one. A lack of critical resources like education, government services and financial support is engulfing generations of Australia’s poorest with the feeling that they just can’t seem to get ahead. Like cancer, generational poverty can seem nearly impossible to escape from. And just like cancer, poverty’s impacts are wide-reaching, devastating and multi-dimensional.

It does seem bizarre to compare poverty to cancer – but what I’m trying to do is draw attention to the fact that both of these issues are killing Australians, but the framing differs vastly.

Poverty impacts impoverished people. So does cancer; the difference is that cancer impacts rich people too. For this reason, fundraisers for cancer research are seemingly taking place almost every weekend. The nation’s empathy for those effected by cancer can be illustrated with the $15 million that was raised for cancer research in 2015 (Cancer Council 2016).

We recognise that people don’t choose cancer. But so many of us are unable to apply the same logic to generational poverty. Why not? 13.3% of Australia’s population is living below the poverty line (Australian Council of Social Services 2016). I find it hard to imagine any of these almost 3 million people actively choose to suffer. To wonder how food is going to end up on the table. To internalise their ostracism from the better-off.

Watching the cringe-worthy and sadistic SBS’s Struggle Street, you can almost hear the groans of “get off drugs”, “eat better food”, “get a job.”

Struggle Street isn’t a program shedding light on the sick and needy. It’s poverty porn. It is framed in a way that permeates classism. The outro music plays and we recline on our sofas and exhale the deep breath of people who didn’t have to trade salvaged copper for coinage. “What sad people” we think to ourselves. The irony is palpable.

Part 2.

 

We need to feel that an issue is relatable to feel compelled towards making a difference. There is so much suffering in the world. And so many attempts to lessen that suffering. There’s Kick-starters for cost-efficient water-purifying systems in Rwanda, there’s Facebook call-outs inviting each person to donate $2 to the local women’s shelter, there’s the same man selling The Big Issue outside Redfern Station every single morning. There’s an inundation of problems that require attention and funding, and a slew of campaigns to help. To fight hunger. To kill poverty. To fix.

Because of this inundation of “donate now” buttons and “change a life” banners, us privileged, White-Wings-instead-of-Homebrand types are finding it harder to decipher which account numbers to dial in. A first world non-problem, but a non-problem that not-for-profit organisations are all too aware of.

So sometimes, they get dirty. They risk devaluing their organisation to bring in extra funds. It is exemplified in Jack Black’s feature for Red Nose Day.

Let’s talk about the painfully repugnant, “what if this was your son/cousin/nephew?” trope.

The subject depicted is certainly someone’s son. He’s someone’s child. Maybe someone’s brother. He might be someone’s nephew. That’s not why we should care about him. We should care about him because he is a person. Because he matters and his life is valuable.

These campaigns are invariably aimed at the white and privileged, and clearly play on the idea that these people like to think they care about the less fortunate. But in truth, they are only able to bring themselves to care when it is framed in a way that involves them. This doesn’t encourage an attitude of true compassion, it frames a legitimate issue in a way that fosters egocentric ideologies and elitism.

References:

Australian Council of Social Service 2016, Poverty in Australia Report, ACOSS, viewed 27 March 2016, < http://www.acoss.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Poverty-in-Australia-2016.pdf&gt;

Cancer Council 2016, Research Highlights 2016/15, Cancer Council NSW, viewed 22 March 2016, < https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Cancer-Council-NSW_Research-Annual-Report-2015-16.pdf&gt;

The projector buzzed into action and the notorious Kim Kardashian nude bathroom selfie settled into the light. Our class, staring at Kim’s plummeting curves, and Kim, the Venus, staring at her reflection through her iPhone. A matrix of gazes.

Another student queried as to, “why couldn’t she just put a sports bra on?”
She could do that, she chose not to.

Lindsay Kite, an American academic in the field of body image and media contends that “you don’t have to show your body to prove that you value your body… we don’t ask men to prove their confidence by sharing their bodies online” (Murphy 2016).

This double standard can be visualised in a study on undergraduate male and female students and their relationships with objectified body consciousness, physical self-conceptions and self-reported physical activity. It is unsurprising that women reported significantly higher levels of body shame and body surveillance than their male counterparts (John & Ebbeck 2008). Male empowerment is not often connected to physical appearance because males haven’t been systematically conditioned that way, as women have.

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I can see the argument against nude selfies. As feminists, we want equal footing. We want women to feel that they are not to be reduced to only their physical appearance, their sexuality, and the services they can offer men. Following this train of thought, taking and sharing revealing photos that show the body may be viewed as working in opposition to these aspirations. In short: showing women in little or no clothing could be just another way to objectify them, to tell them that their primary worth rests in their appearance.

While this view makes sense in a lot of ways, I don’t believe that it is so cut-and-dry – this interpretation feels eerily simple, and vastly incomplete.
As I mentioned earlier, women have been told for centuries that their bodies are the business of everyone. That they ought to look a certain way. Act a certain way. Be a certain way.

Since it’s conception, the media, marketing and advertising has been telling its audience that women are always being watched by men. A study conducted in 2000 on the analysis of gender relations and patriarchal constructs in tourism images recognised that the language and imagery in tourism promotion privileges the male heterosexual gaze (Pritchard & Morgan 2000). Pritchard & Morgan continue to suggest that this reflects society and the media’s values, rather than an anti-feminist agenda from the tourism industry itself.

Our society has been landscaped in a way to appeal to the male gaze. It’s a patriarchal one. One that favours the white male’s way of viewing the world. In a society built by the white cis-gendered man, as women we often only see ourselves how we ought to be seen – through the eyes of a man. We forget how to conceive ourselves through our own lens.

This is why reclaiming our bodies from these oppressive ideologies is just so important. To snatch them away from the male gaze and represent them how we, the women in these bodies want them to be represented.

Our female bodies (and I don’t mean anatomically female, I mean any person who identifies as female) are evidence that the male gaze represents a warped, unrealistic view of the world. Our bodies are our own, stretch marks, scars, lots of cellulite or none, dark complexions or fair ones, size 18 or size 6: they are ours. Taking selfies is a way for women to control how they are seen – to reinstate our sense of self. An important point to note here is also that having a body that does align with intrinsically feminine traits is not a crime either. Big breasts are not anti-feminist, but demonising other women due to their cup size, is.

This is an excerpt I always return to, because too often ‘vanity’ is misplaced into this conversation: “You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, put a mirror in her hand and called the painting “Vanity,” thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for your own pleasure”John Berger.

Our female bodies are not for the consumption of men. They are for us. They are strong, complex, imperfect, worthy subjects, and our patriarchal society has tried so hard to tell us otherwise, but I’m trying not to listen. Maybe I’ll just start taking my selfies with headphones in.

 

References:

John, D & Ebbeck V 2008, Gender-Differentiated Associations among Objectified Boy Consciousness, Self-Conceptions and Physical Activity, Sex Roles, vol. 58, no. 9-10, pp. 623-632.

Murphy, M 2016, INTERVIEW: Lindsay Kite on empowerment, body positivity, objectification, and the Internet, Feminist Current, weblog post, 29 March, viewed 9 March 2017, <http://www.feministcurrent.com/2016/03/29/interview-lindsay-kite-on-empowerment-body-positivity-and-selfies&gt;

Pritchard, A & Morgan, NJ 2000, Privileging the male gaze: Gendered tourism landscapes, Annals of Tourism Research, vol. 27, no. 4, pp. 884-904.

The man that raised me was a journalist. More importantly, he was a writer. A book lover. A man whose voice never dominates but will always cut through the noise. A man who had the capacity to not decorate, but to create spaces with words. As a child, I would watch him tie himself in knots over stories he was writing. He would lean over the computer and agonise over each keystroke. He was a perfectionist. But some of his most influential work came off-the-cuff.

He would recall stories to me of his time in the Courier Mail newsroom. A boozy, romantic time when the inked word still reigned supreme and the building was a hotbed for creatives, eccentrics and 80s perms.

He would describe details that no one else would think to notice. The tone a co-worker

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Celebrating my Dad’s birthday earlier this month.

took when she would request her coffee to be “strong and milky” (what?), the shapes the cigarette smoke took as it shimmied to the ceiling, how each colleague sat, the yells across the office, the scent of Mount Gay. I wasn’t there – I wasn’t even alive, yet this space to me is textured, the details so clear – that I feel like I could have been. My Dad saw spaces through a lens of enquiry. He viewed what some would see as the mundane, in technicolour.

This pronounced storytelling has influenced me to look at spaces with further depth. To strive to understand each individual space in a social, cultural and political context. This is not assigning meaning where it is absent, but understanding that meaning is omnipresent and shapes our everyday lives.

In this project, I will attempt to understand the modes of meaning that operate in a contemporary university lecture hall, I will ask the question, “what shape does an Australian lecture hall take in 2017?”. This means understanding institutional values, modes of authority and social practice amongst lecturers and students alike. I will start large and as my research progresses, I envision my questioning to narrow, become more specific and more defined.

I will focus on both the physical and virtual spaces of lecture theatres through coupling both ethnographic research made possible through a series of one-on-one interviews and statistical data through surveys.

Ethnography as a means of data collection is so important because our lives aren’t just a combination of 1s and 0s. They are rich and complicated, and to represent others respectfully, it is imperative to understand that. Just like my Dad did.

– A m e l i a

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