BCM310, Uncategorized

Capturing Crises

Photographs have a prolific ability to evoke the deepest of memories, inspire the staunchest of non-believers and transform a story of unimaginable hardship into one that provokes change and help.

Today, we are blessed with the media coming to us with information that covers every angle from  every inch of the globe. We are bombarded with news stories everywhere we turn – from checking your Facebook  news updates whilst on the loo to reading the paper whilst waiting for a coffee.

And now, more than ever, we are connecting with people from all over the world in different time zones and cultures. We are slowly developing an understanding and empathetic view of the world around us. It appears to be a beautiful thing. But do not be mislead by this utopian view of the media, we are also witnessing some of the most barbaric atrocities that we have ever seen.

The unbelievable stories of escape from desecrated cities, the complete and utter chaos caused by environmental tragedies and the narrative of human suffering as individuals flee from the most harrowing and gruesome circumstances are also being transmitted into our lives.

Michal Kimmelman presents a different and somewhat unattractive opinion about how we are not reacting to these poignant images the way we used to:

It was one thing to try to wake humanity up to suffering in the world via photographs from the early years of the last century…when most people saw distant places and learned of faraway disasters through photographs, but it is another thing to try to do so now, when the number of images that flash across television and computer screens diminishes the value of any single image you may see.

It is almost as if each image comes with a needle full of a powerful anaesthetic. We are becoming numb. Numb to the emaciated children, the howling mothers sprawling across bombed streets and the tens of thousands fleeing their homes in the hope of finding a safe place to stay.

But, is it because these atrocities are not happening on our doorsteps, that we are becoming somewhat bored of the same images, the same captions, the same notions, issues, crises? Campbell (2011) suggests that we are only motivated once the suffering is coupled with symbolic proximity.

We incite change when we can relate to it.

 

It’s a tricky business to get people to look at other people they may have spent a great deal of time trying, consciously or otherwise, not to notice (Kimmelman, 2001)

 

When the controversial image of a young Syrian refugee who washed up dead on a Turkish beach sparked great debate and outrage, we began to notice.

We thought of our children and we immediately put ourselves in that family’s position. However right or wrong that may have been, we began to realise the human cost of this epidemic. It was no longer about the numbers, the statistics, the enlarged images of tens of thousands of people fleeing their homes with headlines slurring lies. It was a young boy, in a red t-shirt, who so tragically lost his life in the hope of finding a safer home.

As Ingrid Sischy an art critic and writer stated in the New York Times (Kimmelman, 2001, p.2),

Beautification of tragedy results in pictures that ultimately reinforce our passivity toward the experience they reveal

The image – however opposed to it you may be – worked in a sense as it reignited a tired debate over the dispersion of Syrian refugees. It was something that was not beautiful. It was raw, poignant and extremely harrowing. It brought it home for all of us. It put a name to a crisis. And names make individuals.

It is obvious that there is a huge gap between our heightened awareness and our limited response to incite change.We need to start putting names to these crises, not a photograph that is black and white and so artistically done that we cannot connect on the simplest of emotional levels. We need to notice.

 

Sources:

Campbell, D, 2001, ‘The problem with regarding the photograph of suffering as ‘pornography’,https://www.david-campbell.org/2011/01/21/problem-with-regarding-photography-of-suffering-as-pornography/

Kimmelman, M, 2001, ‘Photography review; Can Suffering Be Too Beautiful?’ The New York Times, p.1-4, http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/13/arts/photography-review-can-suffering-be-too-beautiful.html?pagewanted=all

 

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BCM310, Uncategorized

Quality vs. Quantity

In a world that is increasingly becoming self-absorbed, technology is an easy thing to blame as it is constantly adapting to meet our everyday needs.

The true narcissist in all of us, is once again being awakened by new technological advancements which include the countless apps and devices that are tracking our health, fitness, lifestyles, sleeping patterns and who can forget our…ahh… bowel movements.

Society as a whole has set some of the most unbelievable and unrealistic standards of perfection – which are hard not to subscribe to – and for those who do not fit into the teeny tiny parameters, we are constantly fighting an uphill battle in order to achieve said perfection.

With hashtags such as ‘fitspo’, a nation gripped by the rising obesity and Type 2 diabetes epidemics and the introduction of superfoods, technology has moved swiftly to accommodate for those of us who want to take matters into our own hands and improve our lifestyles by constant monitoring.

But by constantly monitoring our habits, are we only perpetuating these entrenched obsessions with numbers? From weight to whey and from sneaking an extra biscuit to skipping an extra kilometre, we are turning ourselves into number addicts.

Welcome to the quantified self.

The quantified self is any individual engaged in the self-tracking of any kind of biological, physical, behavioural, or environmental information – Swan, 2013

The quantified self, the numbers man, the digital dude. Whatever it may be, it is a craze that is sweeping the health and wellbeing community. Tracey (2013) found that seven out of ten adults regularly track some aspect of their health and over 60% of those adults track restrictively, their diets, weight and exercise regimes.

We have once again become slaves to technology. First it was social media and now it is the examination of ‘the self’.

Being able to measure something gives us the sense that we can control it. We can work to improve it, whether it’s a marketing campaign or our productivity or our health. Having measurements readily available can also make us forget about all the things we cannot measure – Walker Rettberg 2014, p.62

But the distinct line in the sand is yet to be drawn. The nature of these numbers means that it is a slippery slope into an obsessive addiction to track every minute, every detail of our lives.

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Gary Wolf ended his Cannes Ted Talk with this poignant statement:

The self is just our operation centre, our consciousness, our moral compass. So, if we want to act more effectively in the world, we have to get to know ourselves better.

But at what cost? By strapping a technologically advanced device to our bodies, does it really mean that we know ourselves better? Or give us greater insight?

Yes, you may know how much coffee you drink or how well you sleep. But what happened to just soaking up every ounce of the day and just experiencing life through your own technologically advanced devices – your eyes, your skin, your tastebuds and all the other wonderful senses.

I do agree, in part, that there is some benefit to knowing these numbers but only if you have a medical condition or need it as a way to kickstart your motivation. But I do not see the long-term benefits of knowing yourself through these numbers. What happens if you lose it? Will your brain forget to tell your body that you are hungry? Or that you will forget that consuming twelve cups of coffee may not be beneficial for you?

I would much rather enjoy the quality life by not having to worry about what the quantity of numbers say today. Eat that extra doughnut, walk that extra mile or skip it because you cannot be bothered, get to bed earlier and wake up earlier.

My philosophy is that we need to step away from technology and start enjoying what is in front of us. We do not need numbers and devices to tell us that going for a walk improves our moods. Life is about balance and I can rarely get numbers to balance for me.

Because when was the last time a number made you truly happy?

Sources:

Swan, M, (2013), ‘The Quantified Self: Fundamental Disruption in Big Data Science and Biological Discovery’ Big Data, vol. 1 no.2, p.5

Walker Rettberg , J, (2014)‘ Seeing Ourselves Through Technology: How We Use Selfies, Blogs and Wearable Devices to See and Shape Ourselves’ Quantified Selves, p.62

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