The Inspiration

You never know how much something will affect your life until it does. It can be music, books, friends, family… but in my case, it was a TV show. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It wasn’t just a show to me but something that shaped me into the woman I am today. As the awkward teens on the screen grew up, I found myself growing up alongside them. It wasn’t just a show to me, it was something that taught me, a young woman, that being strong and powerful wasn’t something to be afraid of.

Walking down to the tattoo parlour, jitters wracking my body, tiny sweat beads gathering on my hands, I still had no idea what I was about to get permanently sketched into my body. It had to be something that at least meant something or reminded me of the current period of life I was in. Cycling through all the options, I stopped on an idea. Buffy.

I had no idea what I wanted from the show, though. Seven seasons condensed into one tattoo is hard to incorporate, so I took to Pinterest. Pinterest, a social media platform saturated with tattoos, especially ones for fandoms. I typed in Buffy tattoos, and I could scroll for hours looking at the plethora of ideas and tattoos other fans had already gotten.

An iconic character associated with Buffy popped onto my screen. Many will know just by the phrase Grrr… Ughh… I describe him as my little zombie dude. The next thing I know I’m in the shop, sending through my design, running down to the mall to grab the cash and going under the needle. Lying on my stomach, all I could hear was the hum of the needle getting closer and closer to my skin.

Many people think the tattoo is silly, they don’t understand the reference or the meaning, but I know what it means to me and it acts as an identifier to other Buffy fans. It’s a symbol that connects me to the Buffy fandom and now forever connects Buffy to me. It may just be a tattoo of a silly little zombie to some people, but to me, it means strength, love and power. That is what Buffy represents, and now what I represent.

Though I may have been caught up with the whole tattoo of it all, I look back on the experience and realise the importance Pinterest played in that very moment. Of course I am a fan of the show and know the ins and outs of every scene of every season, but the tattoo artist or I could have come up with our own idea on what I wanted because a) he didn’t know the show and b) I was far to nervous for my creative brain to function. This got me thinking, why were there so many uploads of Buffy tattoos on the site and do other people use social media in the same way as I did to find these fan tattoos.

Fan Tattoos, History v Pop Culture

From what some of you may have seen from my pitches about this research topic, fan tattoos is something that genuinely interests me. Tattoo culture in itself has gone through a significant shift in society. Throughout histories and cultures, tattoos have represented a point of significance within particular communities. Wallace (2013), in her book Drawing with Great Needles, describes that in Native American tribes, altering the natural body through body decoration (both body paint and tattoos) projected their social role to the outside world. This is the case for many culturally centred tribes and peoples. Tattoos could identify a warrior, healer or another form of vital status to make it easier to identify the individuals and their importance to the tribe. However, from this point in history, tattoos have gone through a life cycle effect.

From tattoos being a sign of importance and respect, changed over the years due to westernisation and colonisation, the ideas and significance behind them shifted. Tattoos became a symbol of deviance and criminalisation. Australian culture is uniquely situated in tattoo culture, as many of the convicts that were forced to migrate to Australia had tattoos. Sutton (2016) described “at least 37 per cent of males and 15 per cent of the women were tattooed when they arrived.”. Tattoo culture in the convict era translated to gang affiliation and prison tattoos. A considerable amount of stigma around tattoos evolved from the stereotypes that associated tattoos with some sort of criminal activity. For many years that stigma existed, and to this day still sticks; however, many more people in today’s generation accept tattoos as meaningful symbols and works of art.

Perraudin (2018), investigated tattoos shifting from subculture to pop culture. From previously having tattoo parlours and shops being in hidden alleyways to tv shows dedicated to tattooing, it is hard to deny the significant shift. A part of this transformation comes the concept of fandom tattoos. Finding out where fandom tattoos all started, why they became so popular, the reasons why they are shared on social media platforms is extremely hard as there are no real accounts of how and why they emerged so quickly and became so popular on specific social media platforms.

tattooBy exploring multiple social media pages, sites and hashtags, it is undeniable to notice not only the unlimited content of tattoos but, especially those associated with fandoms. Pinterest is the biggest platform that I have found that produces all kinds of specific pages for fan tattoos. You can type any fandom in front of the word tattoo and a plethora of tattoo sketches and examples. Over on the side is just a few examples of doctor who tattoos that are found under the search “Doctor Who Tattoos”. You can get lost for hours in the enormous mass of tattoos that can found under this search alone.

Though Pinterest can be seen as the ‘Holy Grail’ of tattoo ideas. A quote I have heard many times, even from my own mouth, but equally Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter are brilliant platforms to source all your fan tattoo needs. It just about where to look.

Fandom Tattoo Pitch – Part 2

When conducting research projects, it is essential to think ethically and how your research could affect those you choose to include. Whether that be through interviews, surveys, photography or validity and reliability of research, there are standards that a researcher will have to adhere to. The MEAA Journalism Code of Ethics showcases various ways to remain ethical when publishing research and especially respecting those that choose to be an interviewee or involved in the research process.

Some codes that stand out for my project, in particular, are (MEAA, 2019):

  1. Report and interpret honestly, striving for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts. Do not suppress relevant available facts, or give distorting emphasis. Do your utmost to give a fair opportunity for reply
  2. Do not allow personal interest, or any belief, commitment, payment, gift or benefit, to undermine your accuracy, fairness or independence.
  3. Use fair, responsible and honest means to obtain material. Identify yourself and your employer before obtaining any interview for publication or broadcast. Never exploit a person’s vulnerability or ignorance of media practice
  4. Present pictures and sound which are true and accurate. Any manipulation likely to mislead should be disclosed.

tenor.gifAs I plan to include various photographs of fan tattoos and interview them on their purpose, where their ideas came from, and whether or not they shared their tattoo on social media. Potential interviewees may have some sensitive material on the background of their tattoo, which will need to be dealt with utmost care.

When I decided to get my tattoo that correlates with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it was a spur of the moment; however, the show itself had a significant impact on my life as a teen that helped shape the woman I am today. This is the primary reason I decided on the tattoo that now resides on my left shoulder blade. Though I didn’t share my own tattoo online, it is how I came across the idea when I searched for ‘Buffy tattoos’ on Pinterest.

tattooThe fact that I have a deep personal connection to the tattoo, it’s meaning and my experience with interacting with other fans in the online platform, I am fascinated to see the process other fans go through when deciding to get a fan tattoo. Furthermore, this is why I will be using a mix of autoethnography and online observation and interviews to gauge the trends that seem to appear with fandom tattoos.

Coming across a blog by Susan Kresnicka (2016) really solidified the motivation behind this research project. The quote states “You don’t get that tattoo because you are a fan of something in the book, you get that tattoo because that book is a fan of something in you.” from a close friend of Kelly Sue DeConnick regarding the plethora of tattoos, related to her works, she was being emailed. Tattoos are memories, artwork, commemorations and full of meaning. By dedicating research into media fandoms and how they create and share accordingly online will allow the space to navigate its real implications.

References:

Kresnicka, S 2016, ‘Why Understanding Fans is the New Superpower’, Variety, weblog post, 2 April, viewed 12 October 2019, <https://variety.com/2016/tv/columns/understanding-fans-superpower-troika-1201743513/&gt;

MEAA 2019, MEAA Journalist Code of Ethics. [online] Available at: https://www.meaa.org/meaa-media/code-of-ethics/ [Accessed 12 Oct. 2019].

 

Fandom Tattoo Pitch – Part 1

IMG_2229When thinking about a topic I wanted to conduct my Ethnographic research on, I automatically was drawn to the lecture on fandoms. I myself are a part of many and have become increasingly fascinated with the idea of fans and participatory culture. Studies of fans, their participatory culture, the way they behave online and various other notable areas have flooded the research forum and produced an influx of knowledge in that particular field. However, areas such as taking fandom culture to the absolute extreme are lacking. For example, fans exceedingly dedicated to their fandom, whether it be Harry Potter, Supernatural or a band/artist, some will opt to ink their bodies in commemoration or love for whichever fandom they choose. Examples of fan tattoos can be found all over social media networks, especially Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr. By exploring fan behaviours and thoughts in sharing their tattoos on online platforms, we may be able to gage why they engage in this form of participatory fan culture. 

Though there is little academic literature on fan tattoos and their motivations behind getting them, there are many media articles regarding the extremes fans go to participate in their fandoms. In an article from The Week, Kelli Marshall examines what tattoos can inform us about modern fandoms. Marshal articulates, “while fans apply tattoos for various reasons, the tattoos virtually always represent something significant in their lives.”(Marshall, 2014). In the article, a woman is interviewed about her Gene Kelley tattoo, and she furthers the notion that these tattoos represent not only something they love but something that has shaped them by saying, “tattoos are expressions of things you love and how you’d like others to see you.” (Marshall, 2014).  

One book in particular carefully studies the use of Pinterest as a platform of ideating, sharing and connecting fans with each other, especially tattoos. The book, Television, Social Media and fan culture looks at a case study from which Buzzfeed shares ’50 fantastic ‘Doctor Who’ Tattoos’ that are all found on Pinterest (eds Slade et al. 2015, p.309). A significant idea that Slade et al. (eds, 2015, p.309) mentioned was that sharing tattoos online had become a trend, so much so that there was enough evidence to compile a long list of fandom tattoo, in their case, Doctor Who. As a pattern has been identified, it would be interesting to research and understand why people, a) share their fan tattoos online and b) the determination behind getting a fan tattoo.

Die-cut vinyl sticker_ Mutant Works LogoFrom the End of Buffy the Vampire SlayerFrom my own personal experiences with obtaining a fan tattoo (a little character from the end credit scene of my favourite show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), I already have some insight on why someone may choose to showcase their fan tattoos online and to participate in that form of extreme fan culture. From what I have begun to read, there is some decent background information that I can use to start my focus on the online platforms fans use the most when sharing tattoo ideas and their own completed works.

Stay tuned for part two that goes into ethical considerations, methods and report format!

References:

Marshall, K 2014, What tattoos can teach us about modern fandom. [online] Theweek.com. Available at: https://theweek.com/articles/445000/what-tattoos-teach-about-modern-fandom [Accessed 7 Oct. 2019]. 

Slade, A, Narro, A, Givens-Carroll, D (eds) 2015, Television, Social Media and Fan Culture, Lexington Books, New York. 

 

The Digital World

Many would agree that most of our lives in the 21st century is online. If you disagree, then maybe you are still living in the 20th century. All around us, we are surrounded by digital devices and social media, projecting an image of what we want people to see. In Wilcox and Stephens journal article, it describes that people lean towards presenting a socially desirable, positive self-view to others when they are online or on social media such as Facebook and Instagram.” (2013). In my own experience, this is precisely true, and from unashamedly stalking others Facebook and Instagram pages, I cannot fault this idea.

profile gifI myself only post the most glamorous moments of my life online to show the people I am ‘friends’ with how good my life is, or at least how good I want them to THINK it is. It’s not difficult to comprehend why we don’t showcase the bad stuff that goes on in our lives. The difficult things we individually go through aren’t things that we like to publicise to everyone we know, sometimes to even our closest friends. However, even with this in mind, Facebook profiles have been shown to reflect actual characteristics as opposed to idealised characteristics that do not represent one’s actual personality (Wilcox & Stephens, 2013)

Scrolling through Facebook, it is easy to dive down into a deep hole of profile clicking and content consumption. It might seem quite harmless, clicking onto a person’s profile, maybe its a friend, a friend of a friend, or someone you don’t even know, but in any case, you click on it and start a visual scan of their lives. Glancing at their profile picture, or the past five, seeing mutual friends, what they like, what they share, it all informs your idea of who they are.

Postill and Pink in an article about Social Media and the Digital Researcher describe that “the rapid growth of social media platforms, applications, practices and activity are threefold. They create new sites for ethnographic fieldwork, foster new types of ethnographic practice and invite critical perspectives on the theoretical frames that dominate internet studies…” (2012). Whether it is conscious or not, we are continually learning new things about people through their social media pages. If we take it one step further, we can evaluate the patterns of peoples lives regarding their culture, age bracket, and so on. 

On my own profile above, you can see just a few things about me, what I find important enough to share and a few posts that I have been tagged in. At first glance, this is all just pointless information that is processed and immediately forgotten. But looking at it, trying to decipher who I am, what can you learn? To give you a blatant detail that you can without a doubt see, I am a Parramatta Eels fan. What else can you find out?

 

Ritualistic Television

Throughout my almost 20 years of being alive on this earth, I can easily say my connection with television has changed over the years. I have some very prominent memories of watching TV as a child, and now, all significant parts of my daily ritual.

One of the first memories that come to mind is rushing home from school of an afternoon into my Nan’s house to switch on ABC kids to watch the afternoon away until Mum came back from work. There were many shows kids born in the late 90s – the early 2000s remember all too well. A few of the well-known favourites I remember quite clearly including Angelina Ballerina, Franny’s Feet, Postman Pat, Bottletop Bill and Round the Twist. These are a few of the most memorable of shows from my primary school days along with two, all be it very different, shows that still have me traumatised today.

Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids being one, already tells you from the name that it was terrifying for a little girl who much preferred shows about girls putting on a new pair of shoes and travelling the world (Franny’s Feet). Watching back on it now, it wasn’t half as bad as I had initially thought, but I can say it wasn’t a pleasant experience. However, there was one show in particular that I knew, as soon as it came on, the TV was off. It was the show Soupe Opera. It was weird in every way, and I can easily say that it is a show that didn’t especially make me like the idea of vegetables or fruits like I think it was supposed to. After first watching it, I thought never again, and that’s when I switched the TV off to try to do some homework. Emphasis on try.

In a Penn State Article by the Applied Social Psychology faculty, they detail that many childhood memories are closely related to watching Saturday Morning cartoons (2014). This is a memory I can closely relate to myself, watching them with my Dad every Saturday before getting on with the day, playing board games, or going to the park. They further suggest that there was a time slot for cartoons reserved for Saturday mornings that is now part of a daily routine (2014). My Saturday ritual vanished throughout the years as the cartoons became everyday viewing and those laughs on a Saturday not forgotten but appreciated. 

Nowadays, I find watching television more as comfort while I do other things such as cook, study or write a blog. Yes, I may have Netflix on in the background now as I write this. I find the TV is more or less, for me, used to fill the silence while I do other things in my busy life. Yet this is a new ritual I undertake as a part of my daily life.

Watching TV socially or as a solo experience, as Saxbe et al. establish in their article, that television is an essential part of a persons life whether it be with family, friends or by yourself (2011). Spending time with family while watching TV is the most common form of bonding and becomes a natural part of the lives of many. Ritualistic television watching is a significant component of the lives of many, with the many, not realising it is a ritual at all. With this in mind, do you have a ritualistic relationship with TV?

 

 

The Screens Around Us

When looking around us, screens are a largpart of our society that we generally overlook. But, when we start paying attention, you begin to realise their role in society. After our lecture on Media use and Public Spaces, I began to take a step back and look at how people interacted with their screens in various settings.

Screen Shot 2019-08-21 at 7.36.22 pm

One of my first observations was how people interacted with their phones on the bus. I catch a bus too and from university so on my way home, I looked up and down the bus, and I noticed that the majority had their heads stuck into their phone screens watching or looking at something much more entertaining. A large portion used earphones to drown out the hum of the bus and the few conversations that were to be had with friends they happened to have along for the ride. I must admit, I am usually one of the majority when it comes to reaching into my pocket for my phone to escape the possible interaction with people I am unfamiliar with, and it made me wonder, what people are actually using their screens for?

Are people so scared of talking to someone new that they will bury their eyes into their phone instead of enjoying, not only the view but, people around them? Well, I guess from my own experience and conversations with others, that this could be in fact, true.

It is very unlike the meet-cute situations you see in stereotypical rom-coms where you bump into someone on the street or on the bus and a whole romance starts. In a realistic society, fitting today’s way of life, it is more likely you would bump into someone due to either party or both being engaged in the screens around them instead of the world. So what is the purpose of screens, social media, smartphones, etc.?

Screen Shot 2019-08-21 at 7.36.09 pmIn an article written by Jursland and Denstadli, they describe the uses of smartphones and tablets on public transport (2017). Many people use their phones to utilise their time on public transport and make it their own space. They note that many people that carry a form of screen with them on public transport such as a laptop, phone or tablet, often have a more positive outlook on their journey. However, an intriguing study Jursland and Denstadli reviewed as a part of their paper, described that mobile technology created a sense of isolation and that having a connection with another on the bus or train, left them in a more positive mood (2017).

Screens are around us everywhere. TV, smart fridges, on University campus, wherever you look, it won’t be hard to find a screen. Yet, with screens becoming a part of our daily lives, many are still against them and worry about their potential dangers. Moral panics surrounding new technology is not uncommon, (see article here for one of many perspectives on the matter) but there is a battle for both sides of the argument. Where do you stand?

Cinematic Experience

There is nothing better than going to the cinema to see a movie you have been so hyped about seeing on the big screen for more than a year. It was safe to say that Avengers: Endgame was that movie for me (enough so I decided seeing it more than once was necessary). After the traumatising end of Avengers: Infinity War, I was ready for a resolution and my heart to be unbroken; however, the encounter was one of the worst I have had in a cinema ever.

First Viewing

The first mistake was going to the Greater Union Cinema in Wollongong. If anyone knows anything about this cinema, you know it is cramped, old and decked with some of the most uncomfortable seats you could imagine. The cinema was packed, and after a rushed attempt to get to the movie on time, a friend and I were able to grab two seats in the middle section of the cinema. The disaster began there, as our seats were placed right in front of some very inquisitive kids that didn’t quite comprehend the ability not to ask questions every two seconds before the movie even began. We became frustrated very quickly and within minutes of the film officially starting, we managed to manoeuvre our way to another two seats a few rows ahead to the left, leaving the noise behind us. A moment of bliss was all I had before realising, the before mentions awful seats, were even worse as mine was no longer screwed in correctly and would shift every time I moved. Worst of all, due to the rush to get to the cinema, the rite of passage of enjoying a box of popcorn and overly watered-down soft drink was stolen from me. Overall the experience wasn’t good regardless of how incredible the film was.

Second Viewing

Due to the low standard of the first experience, I was eager to rectify it by seeing the movie again. This time I was able to see the film at Hoyts Warrawong on a date, and as a preface, there wasn’t another. It is essential to notice that although the seating considerably improved with the recliner seats, the company and the position of the seats made the experience, again, not one I would choose to relive. Being in the first row of the cinema is not a place you want to be, craning your neck to watch a movie that is three hours long is undeniably not comfortable. Not only being physically uncomfortable but being uncomfortable with the company is no better. Although this watch through was much better, again I was let down and left with a feeling of unmet expectations.

Third Viewing

I was, however, given the chance to give the cinematic experience another shot to get it right. Third times a charm, right? Right, it was. Seeing the movie in Reading Cinemas Rouse Hill in gold class, things were already looking up. I had my Mum by my side, good bougie gold class food, popcorn, drink, recliner seats (in a good position near the back), and an indisputably fantastic film. It was familiar, and it was perfect in every way affording me the opportunity to genuinely enjoy the overall experience.

Research Reflection

Upon reaching the end of the research process there are many things that I have learnt along the way. As a quick reminder, the question I was focusing on was the correlation between commuting distance to the university and early morning class motivations. From what I found during the research project, there was a moderate correlation between the length of the distance and the individual’s motivation for the class.

The strongest finding I had was that people living for than 60 minutes away struggled the most due to their long commutes. I really enjoyed the entire research process and I realised the importance that research has and how it can affect the lives of others. However, if I were to redo this project, there are a few things I would do differently.

Due to the depth of the research project, it was very limited in the data that I could collect. If in the future I had the opportunity to create a full-scale research project, I would have more data to analyse and hopefully a stronger finding in the end. A wider-scale investigation into commuting distances and early morning classes could produce a more influential finding to convince the University of the problems their students are truly facing.

Another part of the project I would like to adapt is my research methods. I used interviews and a survey to collect my data which were very helpful in both collecting qualitative and quantitative data. However, I would like to conduct more interviews to gather further viewpoints and possibly also conduct a group interview to get ideas bouncing off of each other, to possibly gather ideas on how their situation can improve.

The requirements that this project needed did limit how much I could put into the project and findings that I could draw from the data. I believe if there was more time and more research ability, the project would turn out with stronger conclusions. Either way, I enjoyed the entire process and can see where things can be improved. Hopefully, later on down the track, I will have more learning opportunities like this to develop my skills in research.

 

The University Student Experience

The Project

No one shares the same experience, even when sharing the same environment and situations. There are many factors that affect a person’s experience, especially at university. Some of these factors include Age, Gender, Race, Socioeconomic Status, Religion and the list goes on. In my research project, I am proposing, looking into how a student’s daily commute to university affects their motivations and attitudes towards morning classes. From personal experience, the commute to University can either be a breeze or a struggle. If you are either using public transport like buses or trains, or personal means such as a car, bike or walking, it could affect the ease or unease of attending early morning classes.

Background Information

Personally, I catch the free bus to the University of Wollongong. On one hand, this is a great way to get to university as, it is free, a short walk to the bus stop and, the buses come every ten minutes. However, it has its downsides such as the buses are very busy in the mornings, resulting in the possibility of not getting on multiple buses (which I have witnessed multiple times and have experienced myself), the buses are also rarely on time and regularly late due to the busyness, making them unreliable. Nevertheless, my commute to university was once extremely easy as I was a Koolobong resident (which is on campus living accommodation) and was able to make the short five-minute walk to attend class. This is just one example of the different attitudes on commuting to university.

Time Bound.  

Every student must make their way to university, no matter where they are located and many cannot help the fact they have early morning classes. These can include compulsory lectures, tutorials or pass sessions which may only be at certain times, causing students to have no other choice but to start at 8:30 or 9:30am. Due to the time frame available, and the context of my project, I will stay within the students that are a part of the BCM212 cohort, and get the primary data that I will require in a timely manner.

I have narrowed down my topic ideas to the effect of students’ daily commute on their attitudes, not just to university in general, but in particular morning classes. By doing this, I have provided myself with a small section to focus on which will be able to be completed in the time frame of this Semester.

The Evidence

Many researchers have looked at various aspects of student experiences, including transport issues to university/college. Many have also done research on the effects of morning classes on different individuals. However, neither issues have been connected, thus one of the reasons I would like to take part in researching it more.

In an article by Watson, Barber and Dziurawiec, they explore the financial strain of University students and how daily transportation to university adds to the pressure. Throughout the article, they explain the detriment of low funds on students’ stress and the many factors, such as transport, adds to this. A direct quote from the article states, “students who are unable to afford transport in order to attend classes and social outings in order to catch up with friends are likely to perceive their financial situation negatively, which is likely to result in poorer wellbeing.”. This is just one aspect of how a daily commute can affect the lives of students suggesting a clear issue to be researched.

Studies into early morning classes and their effectiveness have also been researched. Evans, Kelley P and Kelley J created a study to showcase that University start times have no consideration for the optimal learning states for students. Many students require a later start time to accommodate for their chronotypes which affect the time that is most ideal for learning. They go on to say that adolescence and individuals in early adulthood require a moved wake up a schedule of two to three hours behind those of Adults and Children.

The Sydney Morning Herald investigated long commuting times to university and how this affects their social lives on campus. In the article, Porter interviews students that live on campus at their universities and students that have to commute from the suburbs. The article exemplifies the daily struggles university students undertake when travelling to university. It also quotes from a report by the Australian Council of Educational Research that students living on campus have higher engagement with their studies and staff than those living off campus with a long journey.

As it can be seen through these sources, there is a clear issue to be explored. Daily commutes of students can affect many parts of their life. On an academic level, there may be more effects than University co-ordinators may realise.

References

  1. Watson, S Barber, B, Dziurawiec, S 2014, ‘The Role of Economizing and Financial Strain in Australian University Students’ Psychological Well-Being’, Journal of Family and Economic Issues, vol. 36, no. 3, pp. 421–433. 
  2.  Evans, MDR, Kelley, P, Kelley, J 2017, ‘Identifying the Best Times for Cognitive Functioning Using New Methods: Matching University Times to Undergraduate Chronotypes’, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 
  3. Porter, L 2016, ‘Suburban students pack their bags for uni colleges’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 March.