Struggle Street: Poverty Porn and Mediated Suffering

It is incredibly hard not to feel incredibly cynical whilst watching videos of wealthy celebrities such as Jack Black visiting poverty-stricken countries. Although it is well-intentioned, it is also incredibly hard not to feel slightly patronised when a celebrity attempts to help those who suffer from various problems such as poverty, illness  and malnutrition, but then return home and continue to make millions of dollars, whilst those who are suffering continue to do so. Now, this may just be the cynic in me, but videos such as Jack Black’s visit to Uganda for Comic Relief are very problematic and are veering towards exploitation. The same can be said for the incredibly controversial programme “Struggle Street” which observes the lives  of struggling Australian families who live on the fringe of society. This issue is sometimes referred to as “poverty porn” and is the topic for this week’s post.

For this week’s topic, I will be using “Struggle Steet” to explore the issue of poverty porn and why it is so problematic. Before I begin, I will just state that having watched the first episode of SBS’s infamous programme “Struggle Street”, I was deeply disturbed by the way in which the people were represented and the invasive nature of the programme. The question remains, however, is whether the producers were well-meaning in their intentions, or whether they were intent on manipulating the representation of the people on the program from the start. Regardless of the intentions, the effect the show has had on those represented on the show has been destructive.  In an article on news.com.au, Peta Kennedy uses words such as “hurt” and “humiliated” to describe the way in which she felt after watching the show and seeing how she was represented.  However, producer David Galloway claims that the show is attempting to go “ beyond the stereotype and finding out why you end up in Mount Druitt” (2015). This may be the case, but having watched the show, the programme does little to explain the stereotype and in fact heightens the stereotypes by showing these people at their worst and hence manipulating the way we perceive these people, who are looked down upon by many and continue to struggle every day. Additionally, the incredibly problematic use of narration makes the show feel much more like a generic reality-television show, rather than a substantial exploration of the problems that these individuals go through and the way  they are treated by the government.

Having said this, attempting to address the issue of poverty through films and documentaries without coming off as patronising and exploitative and is incredibly difficult. This is why I believe that poverty porn will continue to be an issue in the future and will continue to divide people. However, the optimist in me hopes that one day documentaries and media coverage of poverty will instigate positive change, rather than being part of the problem.

 

References

Willis, C 2015, ‘Struggle Street mum Peta Kennedy says SBS documentary ‘has ripped us apart’’, News, May 11th, viewed 28th March 2016, < http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/tv/reality-tv/struggle-street-mum-peta-kennedy-says-sbs-documentary-has-ripped-us-apart/news-story/b73ac50de773884c7591b4db835d3adf&gt;

Kalina, P 2015, ‘Struggle Street is a raw insight to life at the edges of Australian society’, Sydney Morning Herald, April 30th, viewed 28th March 2016, < http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/struggle-street-is-a-raw-insight-to-life-at-the-edges-of-australian-society-20150423-1mqz40.html&gt;

How do I look: Selfies and the Quantified Self

As I sit on a packed train heading towards the city, I notice three girls sitting across from me. Whilst I type this, they are adjusting their appearance, using their camera as a mirror. In the age of social media, this could only mean one thing: they were going to take a selfie.  In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years, a selfie is essentially a digital self-portrait taken by a smart-phone. Selfies have emerged in the wake of the social media age, which has changed the way we communicate with others, for better or for worse.

One of the major issues concerning the ‘selfie’ phenomenon is that of narcissism and the obsessive search for reverence from others.  In fact, the emergence of the media platforms ‘Snapchat’ and ‘Instagram’ have arguably elevated this problem to a higher level and has only intensified the most concerning issue of body image, which I will discuss later. Living in the age of social media, it is indisputable that narcissistic behaviour has spiked. The idea of “updating your status” or “tweeting” are narcissistic in principal.  However, the rise of selfies  have arguably taken narcissism to a new level.  Eric B. Weiser states that “selfies seem inherently to contain the most explicit elements of ostentation and self-propagation” (2015, pg. 477). Instagram, with features  such as hashtags, likes and followers is arguably much more susceptible to narcissism. Because of those fore-mentioned features, people become so obsessed with how many “likes” they get, that their posts are determined by what they think others will like, rather than what they themselves find to be interesting. The obsession for “likes” also leads to, particularly with females, someone exposing a little too much of themselves, which leads me to my second point: body image.

selfie1

Body image, particularly for females, has been an issue long before the ‘selfie culture’. However, there is no denying that the anxieties about how we individually perceive our bodies has heightened significantly in the age of the selfie. Helen Briggs says that “the more women are exposed to “selfies” and other photos on social media, the more they compare themselves negatively” (2014).  However, Pamela B. Rutledge believes that they are “a by-product technology-enabled self-exploration” (2013).  Both of these arguments have equal amounts of truth in them. The argument, in regards to body image, can swing both ways, as selfies can both cause anxieties about how we see ourselves compared to others but can also instigate positive change to improve our self-esteem. As a pessimistic person, I am more akin to Brigg’s argument that selfies are harmful to the way we see ourselves, particularly for females. That being said, I do enjoy taking the occasional selfie and do have a Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook account. So in a sense, I am part of the problem. Whether selfies are a real problem, however, is another question.

References

Briggs, H 2014, ‘ ‘Selfie’ body image warning issued’, BBC News, 10th April, viewed 25th March 2016,  <http: http://www.bbc.com/news/health-26952394&gt;  

Rutledge B., P 2013, ‘ #Selfies: Narcissism or Self-Exploration?’, Psychology Today, 18th April, viewed 25th March 2016, <http: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/positively-media/201304/selfies-narcissism-or-self-exploration&gt;

Weiser, EB 2015, ‘#Me: Narcissism and its facets as predictors of selfie-posting frequency’, Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 86, pp. 477-481. Available from: 10.1016/j.paid.2015.07.007. [26 March 2016].

 

Voices of Fairy Meadow- MEDA101

When first approaching the task of creating an audio-snapshot of a single location in Fairy Meadow, I thought that a conceptual idea would have to be chosen before recordings were made. However, after having made numerous recordings and having experimented with those recordings, I realized that I needed a different approach. After discussing in depth during a tutorial about the various  temporal techniques in selected audio pieces by sound artists such as Michael Snow, I managed to identify a recurring sound within a few of the recordings I had made: background conversations. This led me to decide that my next sound recordings would focus more on the various conversations that occur in Fairy Meadow. However, having been particularly interested in the surreal atmosphere in Michael Snow’s piece “Wavelength”, I decided to manipulate all of the sounds I captured to create an atmospheric and unsettling audioscape of conversations. This also came from my feeling of hearing numerous voices speaking and not knowing what the conversations were about. I think there is something quite unsettling behind that idea. So that was what I attempted to create in my 1-minute audioscape.

Audioscape link: https://soundcloud.com/max-clement-214629312/voices-of-fairy-meadow-meda101