Hindsight is a Wonderful Thing

Hindsight is a wonderful thing because it allows us to analyse past experiences with more knowledge than you had at the time. This means if we utilise critical reflection properly we can grow to make better decisions and improve ourselves. In this post I want to reflect upon the last semester and the IAB260 unit.

When I think back to before the first lecture I remember being so excited. I had never had a course that so heavily focused on the use of social media and left the complicated QUT systems (blackboard) behind. I was so excited in fact that I made a tweet on the first day.

I was excited about mixing the usual classroom with the online one and also learning a lot more about Twitter. I was not disappointed. I found the online tools worked so effectively, with the unit info on the blog site and the community on Google+ I was able to find what I was looking for and communicate easily with teachers and classmates. I even caught a nasty chest infection one week and I was able to keep up, by attending the class online through Adobe Connect. My final thoughts leaving this unit are “I wish all my units were run this way” and

Sadly there aren’t any more undergrad courses. ; n ;

But next I want to think about my performance this semester. I think I started off a little rocky. I was not used to blogging and I found a steep learning curve was involved in putting together good blog posts. My early blog posts were probably not referenced or connected to as much theory as they could have been and this showed in my “Are We A Community” post. I consider this to be one of my weakest posts and one of the topics I had the most trouble with. Having revisited this topic since, I have a better understanding of the differences between Online Networks and Online Communities but I feel that I could still benefit from researching this more.

Additionally, at the beginning of semester I had a lot of difficulty getting the hang of commenting on my peers blogs. I had trouble coming up with meaningful comments which resulted in a minimal amount of commenting at the start of semester. All I wanted to write was “This was an interesting post” which was not going to help my peers improve and was probably something they already knew. As semester progressed I feel I made an improvement in my commenting game. I would read my peers posts and understand their perspective and what they took away from their research. Then I would either ask questions to fill in blanks that had been skipped or that I didn’t understand; or I would ask them why they had a certain opinion. I feel that this kind of commenting helped me to better analyse my posts for information that could be laking and helped me to gain further knowledge and learning experiences from my peers.

That being said there were still a few blogs that I struggled to comment on, and communication with the class was not always easy. I called out to the community on Google+ for suggestions for something I could draw so that I could make an image to wrap up semester. I was hoping that people would comment things like “Robert Downey Jr Meme“, “Paper Cranes“, “twitter” or something a bit more creative but I only got a handful of responses. I really wanted this to be a community collaboration but I had trouble using the community to reach out to all of the class.

In terms of the unit content, the most interesting topic for me was probably “Artist & Internet” because I got to talk about some issues that are really important to me. I got to research and learn a lot more about copyright and creative commons. For example, prior to that week, I did not know that only the expression of the work not the idea itself is covered under copyright (IP Australia). Meaning my art is protected but my original characters are not. This was a huge surprise to me. I think my interest in this  topic showed as it is one of my longest posts.

Additionally, that same week I got involved in a large debate on the Google+ community about the ‘artist’ Richard Prince using Instagram photos for profit without the permission of the original owners. I was really interested in the reasons why some classmates where defending his actions when I thought they were obviously wrong. It made me aware of the way I look at the internet, through the eyes of a creator. It made me conscious of the fact that I always try to respect other people’s copyright to the point of asking permission even for things that are not covered under copyright. While conversely there are people stealing creative work under the guise of “fair use”. It also made me aware that I had already unconsciously considered art theft and weighed the pros and cons when I made the decision to share my work online.

The other topic I found interesting was the use of  social media in emergency situations, and I covered this in my “Sending Out an S.O.S” post. I was already aware that technology was used this way but during my research I learnt a lot about the impact that technology really has made on the preservation of life. Whether that be considering how updates on #BigWet allow residents to make educated decisions about what they should be doing, or in cases like the Lindt Cafe Siege where Technology was used to gain information from the inside and save lives.

Additionally, during the Gamification challenge I stumbled across some more interesting information on this topic. Task 9 required as to share a hashtag about citizen journalism and I began looking into the Fukushima Disaster. During my research I found an interesting video about Citizen journalism.

This video made me realise the impact citizen journalism can have in emergency situations because you’re able to hear the perspective of someone who comes from a country that does not have a strong culture around this type of social technology usage.

Overall I feel my tweet sums up my feelings perfectly, I loved this unit. It was such a great learning experience for me and I feel that it has made me more conscious of the way myself and others use the internet and social media sites. It has made me aware of online communities, memes, how the technology is used in other contexts (for emergencies and learning) and most importantly, this unit has changed the way I look at social technologies. I feel like I’m able to better understand the technology that I make use of everyday and also how other people use it and why. If this subject were to run again, I would definitely recommend it to everyone I know at QUT. Thanks for a great semester.

– M.

Week 12 Workshop

I had to attend this workshop online this week because I got sick but I wanted to follow along.

The first activity was to brainstorm what could be discussed in the following blog post.

What is an online community? What is a network? What’s the difference?
What is an online community?
What is a network? How are they different/similar?
Pros and Cons of online versus offline?
Where do online communities occur?
Are there more online or offline communities?
Why do they occur in online spaces?

 

 The last activity was to learn origami from YouTube.
IMG_5587Yay it worked! I don’t have fancy origami paper though…

Artist & Internet

I would like to apologise in advance that this post got a little tl;dr. I added section headings so you can skip to the sections you are most interested in. I covered a lot of topics such as Intellectual Property, Copyright, Creative commons, Miss-atttribution and ‘Renders’, Creative Communities and lastly, User Generated Content and Collaboration.

Intellectual Property, Copyright & Creative Commons

Art is a personal process that is often conducted alone in a closed studio. But what happens when you open that process up to a collaborative space? And how can you share your work freely with the world? Don’t worry the internet has got your back. Although, we know that the internet is a massively public space where your every post will live forever even if you delete it. So how can you manage the dangers associated with the loss of control over your own work, created by the nature of the internet?

In order to discuss how we can protect our work, we must first understand what Intellectual property (IP) is. IP is defined by IP Australia as

“a term that describes the application of the mind to develop something new or original. IP can exist in various forms; a new invention, brand, design or artistic creation. “

So how can you protect your IP? For the purposes of this post I will only be discussing Art, literature, music, film, broadcasts and computer programs; All of which are protected under the copyright scheme. Unlike Patents you don’t have to apply for copyright, it is automatically assigned to your original work. This means you own the rights to how your work is shared and used. Something that is important to note is that only “the owner’s original expression of ideas is protected, though not the ideas themselves. The owner has the exclusive right to use, sell or license the copyright work” (IP Australia). This means that you can create a beautiful original character and only that drawing of them will be protected not the character itself.

Understanding copyright is important because it is a very powerful tool at your disposal when it comes to protecting your work. Although if you’re trying to use online publishing methods to get your name and work out there, it can make it more difficult for your work to spread. This is were Creative Commons come into it all.

Creative Commons are a set of licences that help creators outline the rules they wish others to follow if they decide to use creative works. Almost all of the CC licences require a reference of attribution to the original artist (with the exception being content licensed under the Public domain). Other rules include Share alike (requiring the product created using the licensed work, to be shared under the same CC licence); No derivative works (meaning the original work cannot be altered in any way); or Non-commercial (restricting use of the original work in materials used for monetary gain). These rules can be applied in various combinations to allow the artist maximum control over how their work is used.

If you’re interested I found a short video by CommonCraft that explains both copyright and creative commons in very simple terms. (Unfortunately they restrict the embed feature to members, so I couldn’t add the video directly to this post).

Mis-attribution & ‘Renders’

So now that we have a good understanding of how Copyright and Creative Commons work let’s apply it to a real world situation. In the art community there is a common issue with the creation of ‘renders’. A render is traditionally defined by Wikipedia [1] [2] as

“The process of formulating, adding color, shading, and texturing of an image.”

or

“The process of generating an image from a 2D or 3D model, by means of computer programs.”

Below is an example of a 3D render called Glasses by Gilles Tran Licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

Glasses_800_edit

 

A common problem that has arised is the incorrect definition of a ‘render’, which is circulating art communities. The incorrect definition is as follows

“A closed vector path, or shape, used to cut out a 2D image in image editing software. Anything inside the path will be included after the clipping path is applied; anything outside the path will be omitted from the output.”

Meaning the character or object is ‘cut’ out of the background. This however, is actually the definition of Deep-etching or a Clipping Path. Additionally, these ‘artworks’ are rarely attributed to the original artist.

Knowing what we know about IP, Copyright and Creative Commons, it’s easy to see that this practice does not correctly follow the licensing rules and regulations. Unfortunately, even with the current laws it is difficult to discourage this kind of behaviour and the best sites can do is the remove art and ban users who re-offend.

Creative Communities & User Generated Content

So if you take into account how even with the best efforts of law on our sides there will still be issues of art theft and mis-attribution, why risk online platforms for exposure? Wouldn’t offline methods work better? Not necessarily.

No matter what method of sharing you use there will always be risks involved and you shouldn’t be discouraged so soon. One of the main benefits to consider is that online platforms give you access to a wider audience and a large range of associated benefits. Depending on where you share your work online these may be slightly different, but I’m going to draw from my experience with DeviantArt.

One of the main benefits I have found is access to large community of people who have a shared interest. The community is full of people with varying knowledge and I have found it to be the main contributor to my learning experience. There are lots of great artists who are always so generous with their knowledge and do a great job at answering questions. Additionally, it is inevitable that you will be more experienced in something than someone else. This means you will have an opportunity to experience the opposite end by sharing your knowledge to help others learn. This is a priceless opportunity because, to steal the wise words of Roman philosopher Seneca, “While we teach, we learn” (Additionally, I found an interesting article by Annie Murphy Paul in TIME that explores the phenomenon she calls The Protégé Effect).

Beyond the benefits of online communities there is a unique opportunity for ‘User Generated Content’. In my time on DeviantArt I’ve seen a couple of interesting instances of this. Instances that go beyond users submitting their work to the community and instead incorporate the community into the artworks. One example of this is Collaborations.

Collaborations can be a lot of fun and can incorporate as many people as you want. They involve multiple artists contributing to a single artwork, this can be each artist contributing a character to a scene or one artist drawing the line art and someone else colouring it in. Another example was from an artist I ‘watch’, who called out for their community to submit a one word comment. The artist then took these comments and incorporated them into a single artwork.

It is these unique interactions that would not be possible without the connection between Artists and the Internet. If you have anything interesting you’d like to add or any questions let me know in the comments below. Or let me know your opinion, what you think is the biggest advantage the internet provides the creative community? This can be artists, writers, or makers of any kind. Also let me know what you create and share on the internet? I’d love to know more about what you are all interested in.

And if you read the whole thing, thanks soo much!
Have a good day~
-M.

Week 8 Practical Activity

This week, the practical activity was to try out a Quantified life type app or tool and post about it. Problem is I’m really bad at keeping track of my ‘Quantified life’ and I honestly have no interest in that data.

The whole point of the QS movement and lifestyle is that you use the data collected to make a change in your life. But I know that if I used a QS tool for a week I wouldn’t look at the data once, so I’m really not motivated to sign up to a service I will never use.

Additionally, this semester I am under the pump programming 3 websites from scratch. As a relatively weak programmer this translates to me spending a lot of time sitting with my computer. So I’m sure the data would be pretty boring: Exercise, 0; Blood pressure: who knows.

Although, a challenge is a challenge so if you can think of a QS app that I should try let me know in the comments and I’ll update this post.

<update 17th May 2015>

I decided to give lifelogging a try to see how I felt about it. I can’t afford a health tracker based on wearable technology (such as a fitbit) so I opted for a mobile app. I decided to try the free app ‘Waterlogged’, which allows you to enter information about the amount of water you’ve consumed to make sure you reach the heathy target.

I had a lot of trouble remembering to enter data when I had a drink, and I fell behind considerably. After a couple of days I had a very incomplete overview of my water consumption habits. I don’t think manual lifelogging is for me. Maybe I should try a more automated app like a sleep tracker? Does anyone have any suggestions of an app that might suit me better?

</update>

Life in the Data

post4

Time is an abstract concept which we define by using clocks and dates; But these are just tools constructed to create meaning. In a 2006 post,  Gary van Warmerdam stated,

Until you eliminate these paradigms from your mind you are essentially looking at something with glasses on that distort what you see. What we are left with is events and experiences of creation with no reference to their past or expectation of the future. We are in the present moment. It’s a big place, but in spite of this difficult to find and stay in.”

But clocks aren’t the only tools be use to keep track of time, with the rise of the Quantified Self (QS) Movement. QS people record data about their everyday life and activities. They record the number of steps taken, heart rate, calories burnt, food & drink consumed, how well they slept and more. This data is used to inform decisions about how they should change their daily activities to live a better life. However, it’s not just wearable life tracking devices, people also track their experiences by keeping a log of them on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

I find the draw to these QS technologies intriguing, because while they can monitor a myriad of things they all seem to revolve around fitness and heath; and so a good life is defined as a fit and healthy life? Both of my sisters (and most of their friends) own a FitBit and I watch them frequently checking thier statistics and jumping through hoops to meet their quotas. It reminds me of a funny blog post I saw a while ago by Jacqueline Maley.

” It wanted me to take 10,000 steps a day and I quickly became its slave, walking unnecessarily and even jiggling more in an attempt to please it.

The app could also be paired with a calorie counter that told my master how much I had consumed in a day. The omniscient creature would then calculate whether I had arrived at an energy deficit. If I had, my wristband would communicate warm congratulations. Sometimes it even vibrated in approval, and I would feel a surge of disproportionate pride which was actually a strong signal that the relationship had become unhealthy.

Soon, the fitness tracker went from fun gadget to panopticon. I began to believe it saw everything, and the things it didn’t see – for example, if I accidentally left it at home while off for a run – seemed pointless if it couldn’t record them.

As with all technology, my black manacle-master is fast becoming out-dated. I find myself eyeing others on the market that can measure my heart rate, or tell me exactly how many hours I have left to live on earth.

But the truth is I am too frightened to upgrade. It will know.”

It’s at this point that you’re probably wondering what QS systems I use in my everyday life. The truth is, None. I don’t wear any life tracking devices, I don’t track my food and drink intake, I don’t track sleep records or workouts and I don’t even check the scales. In terms of my social media, I don’t really keep a ‘lifelog’ and I mostly post links to videos and articles I find interesting or interesting things I see during my everyday life. I rarely post important life moments online like holidays or significant celebrations. In fact, early this year when I got notified about my “Facebook Year in Review” it was all pretty boring (Why do my fiends even read my posts?).

When it came to writing this blog post and I thought about how much I really don’t track my life I was stumped by what to write about, and when I read some other people’s posts, about how they maintain a QS life, I started to wonder if I was unusual for not monitoring my daily input and output of energy. So instead I’m going to try to write objectively.

I was trying to determine the main draw to QS systems, when I decided it would be completely unique to each person. Ranging from someone dealing with health issues who needs to improve their fitness/heath, to someone who just enjoys being fit and/or loves data. I decided the main entertainment draws would be the inclusion of social technologies and gameification.

Fitbit allows you to compare your data to your friends’ data, so if you love running you can compete with your friends without having to actually go for a run together. This might be inspiring if you aren’t as strong as your friends and you want to improve or if you just like seeing how much further and harder you can run compared to everyone you know. Additionally, there is the added entertainment of Fitbit Badges, achievements for hitting specific milestones. There is nothing better than the feeling of accomplishment and with fitbit tracking you know when you’ve reached a goal instead of just running aimlessly for weeks with no feedback.

When you look at it that way it’s easy to see why these tools are motivational and why Jacqueline described working out without them as pointless. However, when you’re using these tools you’re generating a lot of personal data, so how is it used and is there a privacy issue? I did some research on two of the leading wearable QS technologies that I am aware of (yes I know there are plenty more), Fitbit and Apple Watch.

Firstly, I read the Apple and FitBit Privacy Policy to see how they deal with personal information (Both Policies were very similar so I’m just going to use examples from the Fitbit policy). Immediately under “What data is shared with Third Parties?” is “First and foremost: We don’t sell any data that could identify you.” Meaning they do sell your personal information but only after it has been properly de-identified (this is even written in the policy). In terms of identifiable information, they can share it when you direct them to (sharing to social media) or under specific legal curcumstances. Fitbit can release your personal information if it is required by law, regulation or a legal process (Side note: I found an actual case where FitBit data was used in court). Fitbit states that a user will be notified by email in the event of this, but only if the court allows them to. Lastly, your personal information can be transferred or sold if Fitbit were to sell, merge, bankrupt, sell assets or reorganise their company.

All of this seems fairly reasonable to me and complies with the Australian Privacy Act 1988 (C2015C00089). Obviously Fitbit need to protect themselves legally and also manage their users privacy and best interests. This means that the data collected is used to research, troubleshoot and improve their product and service and to protect against fraud and criminal activities.

So considering all of this, and a post by Deborah Lupton, we can see the significant benefits of a QS lifestyle is the increased sense of control over fitness and health; and success stories like that of  “Dan Hon, who has type 2 diabetes and uses the Nike Fuelband and the Fitbit to monitor his physical activity levels as well as a digital blood glucose meter and weight scales. He reported that the combination of these technologies had allowed him to reduce his blood sugar levels to normal and that he had ‘healed myself through data’ (see here for his story)”.

Although, as with anything, there are pitfalls. Some users have complained, calling them inconvenient or uncomfortable to wear; And it has been reported that the devices are often not compatible with some types of smartphones and then there are the obvious privacy concerns related to the use of this technology.

Overall, I believe it depends entirely upon the person and I probably won’t be joining the QS movement for a while (unless I suddenly pull $1000.00 out of thin air for the new Watch).

Let me know what you think about current QS technology and lifestyles in the comments below or on the Google+ community. As someone who doesn’t track all aspects of their life I would be really interested in your thoughts and opinions. Is there anything you think I didn’t consider or you think I got wrong? Or let me know why you like monitoring your everyday activities?

Thanks for Reading (I know it got kind of long).
– M.

Identity Map

Identity Map3

Character MapThe Personality Map is colour coded to correspond with the Identity Map. The personality map is intended to illustrate how I act as a few of the roles mentioned above. The Lurker was not included in the Identity map even though it is one of my online identities. This is because I tend to lurk on all of the sites that I also contribute to.

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Critical Reflection

Social Technologies are becoming strongly integrated in modern life, So much so that we can tend to take them for granted. Social Media is a great way to stay up to date with friends, family, and current news events. It’s also a great way to keep in contact with people who are geographically distant. To many people my age, Social Technologies are second nature and sometimes I can tend to post and interact on these technologies without considering how I am portraying myself. This assignment gave me the opportunity to take a step back from myself and analyse how I use online platforms and the identities I portray myself as.

The first task was to create a Persona Poster based off our own personal information. I’ve made persona posters before but apparently not well as this was a huge learning experience. Throughout the process I learnt a lot about myself and how my use of social technologies is strongly dependant on my personal goals, likes, dislikes and usual day. This was interesting because prior to this activity I wasn’t even consciously aware of my personal goals.

In my persona, a constant pain point was getting information slowly. This was referenced in my hatred of slow ISP and slow buffering. But it didn’t stop there because I also prefer graphically designed sites, sites which are intuitive to navigate and sites that utilise infographics; all of which increase the speed of information absorption. Lastly, I frequently consume information in video format. This is partially because I’m a very visual person and videos can include animations or imagery that helps to illustrate the point, but also because listening to someone explain something is faster than reading something. I hadn’t previously realised how concerned I am with time. I wonder if this need for immediacy of information is caused by actually time constraints or just because I’m used to an information rich world.

Another lesson I learnt about myself is the way I use technology. I realised that I habitually check Facebook and Twitter on my daily commute. I check more out of boredom than curiosity and I realised I check these two platforms because they are the least data intensive (as I have a tiny prepaid plan). This habitual checking is causing me to use my phone significantly more than my other devices and possibly more than necessary (I’m going to try to look out the windows more). Having realised this behaviour, I find that the following tweet really speaks to me.

But my Persona is a look at myself as an offline identity and how that translates to how I use technology. Online I have multiple personalities depending on the context. These personalities were explored in my Identity Map. In certain spaces I act as ‘Myself’, I speak casually and post updates about my life or link to videos and articles that I find interesting. The Melissa in these spaces is pretty much the same as the Melissa you would meet in real life; enthusiastic, dramatic and funny. The only slight exception to this is Twitter, where I am still myself but I give out less personal information so I’m more of a faceless stranger.

In other spaces I am a “Professional”. In my art spaces I am an ‘Artist’. I describe this Melissa as professional because she takes her work seriously. Conciously participating in the community to learn and improve, also sharing her knowledge to help other artists grow. This Melissa acts as an art student and an art teacher and talks in a more relaxed and familiar manner.

Lastly, I act as a ‘Professional Student’. In these spaces I’m not as casual. I communicate in a more proper fashion and interact with other students. Interestingly I categorise my use of Vimeo under this identity while YouTube is a part of my slightly more relaxed ‘Professional Artist’ identity. Although I post similar content to Vimeo I view it as a more official site than YouTube and use it as a more professional tool.

After completing my Identity Map I noticed something I didn’t expect. I listed my role as an employee under my ‘Personal’ identity. This is because I have some people I work with ‘friended’ on Facebook, additionally I generally like to keep my content pretty clean and employment friendly. Interestingly, I didn’t have myself listed as an employee in my ‘Professional work’ identity. I believe this is because I do not have a LinkedIn account and I’m not marketing myself for business on any of my networks. As I am hopefully graduating University at the end of this year I will be aiming to change this, however not with LinkedIn. I have purchased the domain MelissaKroes.com and I will be converting this into an online portfolio at the conclusion of semester. This will be a completely professional space and the start of a new Online Identity.

Apart from the personal discoveries I made throughout this assignment, I also learnt a lot about the production of Personas and Identity maps. I had previously created personas before as a part of my Creative Industries studies, so heading into the assignment I felt confident. However, after beginning I realised I really didn’t know anything about how to make a good persona. Previously I had been taught to imagine an ideal user and a more realistic user, and to then make up personas about them. While it is true that some details can be fabricated (Name, photo, some demographics, etc) it’s mostly incorrect. Personas rely on a large amount of research into the product audience to ensure the persona you create will actually be helpful in your development phase. I also learnt more about how personas are used in development teams. Previously I had been told to create personas for my projects, these personas would be delivered as part of the documentation but I rarely referred to them during development. I learnt that if you aren’t going to refer to your personas it’s largely a wasted effort. Personas are like mood boards, they are created as a reference tool for what you are working towards. If you are working in a large development team personas are an important tool to ensure all members understand the functionality that the intended user wants and needs, and to ensure they aren’t basing decisions off their own personal requirements.

In terms of the Identity Map, I was completely inexperienced. I’d never heard the term before and it had never even occurred to me that identities were something that could be described visually. I had previously considered how I acted differently on different platforms; Sometimes this was a conscious choice to act a certain way, though not always. However the act of sitting down and categorising all of my behaviour like this was refreshing. This has been an invaluable experience because it allowed me to see how I can better structure my online identities. This will impact how I use online technologies when I am managing a “Professional / Freelancer” identity.

As I am looking to enter the Graphic Design industry, the learnings I took away from this assignment are priceless. I now have a stronger understanding of how personas are actually used in the development industry and I am now confident that I can create personas that would be helpful to a project. Additionally, I have an increased understanding of how people use social technologies and how this use can vary dramatically between people depending on their personal motivations. I also, have a greater insight into my own use of social technologies which I will be able to use to my advantage when marketing myself online.

It is because Social Technologies are becoming so strongly integrated in modern life that is is important to understand how different people use them. I feel like this assignment has been the start of a crucial learning experience for me and I will continue to consider the effect social technologies have on everyday life and how they are used.

 

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Creative Commons Source List

Typeface:

Lakesight by Måns Grebäck is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Social Media Icon Packs:

Somacro: Social Media Icon Pack by Veo Design is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Social Media Vector by Freepik is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Infographic Icons: (Sourced from The Noun Project)

Birthday Cupcake by Josephine Aucoin is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Woman by Jasmin May is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Graduation Cap by Nick Green is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Telephone by Hayley Warren is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Mouse by Camila Bertoco is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Love by Marek Polakovic is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Heart Beat by Ealancheliyan S is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Medal by Mundo is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Broken Heart by Dave Tappy is licensed under Public Domain CC0.

Shooting Star by Justin Church is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

News by Casper Jensen is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Profile by Casper Jensen is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Paper Clip by Casper Jensen is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Smartphone by George Agpoon is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Tablet by Pham Thi Dieu Linh is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Laptop by Edward Boatman is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Play by Convoy is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Speaker by Vania Platonov is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Full Screen by NAS is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Alarm by Christopher Holm-Hansen is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Train by Misirlou is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Stack of Books by Jeremy J Bristol is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Sandwich by Tom Glass Jr. is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Soup by Tom Glass Jr. is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Sleep by Mayene de La Cruz is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Arrow by Juan Pablo Bravo is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Heart by Irene Hoffman is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Brain by Max Hancock is licensed under Public Domain CC0.

Frame by Paul Stevens is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Splatter by Pasquale Ottaiano is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Turtle by Unrecognised MJ is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Identification by Mark Shorter is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Loading by Mister Pixel is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Graph by Yaroslav Samoilov is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Secure by Wayne Thayer is licensed under Public Domain CC0.

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Sending Out an S.O.S

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We live in an extremely connected world, with 74% of adults using Social Media. Every day we are logging into our devices to watch videos of cats, and to check if Polly really did dye her hair another ridiculous colour. It has become so ingrained in everyday life for our generation (90% of 18 – 29 year olds) that it’s almost considered abnormal to not maintain an online presence. I believe the main draw is the convenience of the Internet; connecting you to anyone, anywhere around the world. It is this convenience that makes it the ideal tool for use during emergency situations.

The Australian Government stated “Recent disaster events, in Australia and internationally, have demonstrated the importance of social media, not only in delivering vital information to the community during emergency events, but also in strengthening relationships between emergency services and Australian communities. There is also an increasing awareness of the benefits of crowdsourcing, for example, to gain critical intelligence on emergencies and natural disasters.

This got me thinking about how I use technology during these times of crisis. In order to explain this I have to tell you a little bit more about myself. I grew up in Victoria and moved to Queensland in 2008. This means I left all my old friends and family back in the cold southern state. My new home in Queensland is about an hour north of Brisbane, making for a lovely commute to Uni everyday and putting me well out of the spotlight for most events. It’s because of my geographic location that when I sat down to write this post I thought “I’ve never been involved in a Natural Disaster though…” But indirectly I think I have.

I remember using Facebook during the 2010-11 Brisbane floods to update friends and family. Although, I wasn’t directly in an effected area, I still took to Facebook to let everyone I know I was OK. This was because my family weren’t local and didn’t know how widespread the disaster was.

Great Brisbane flood of 2011. Contact erik@erikveland.com for licensing.

McDonald’s Milton – Brisbane Floods by Erik K Veland is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Additionally, I remember updating my Facebook on March 8th 2013, after Police Shut down Queen’s Street Mall due to an incident with a gunman. On that day I was supposed to be walking through that section of the CBD on my way home, but I had left earlier due to a class cancellation.

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Lockdown – Police take cover & Lockdown – Evacuating civilians by Brad Wood is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Recently, I signed up to popular site Twitter (Yay for knowing every time a minor celebrity buys Starbucks) and I used it to monitor #TCMarcia and #BigWet. Obviously I am not quite that far north, so I used it to stay updated. As a newbie to the platform I found it really interesting to see how the authorities kept the public updated on their efforts and possible hazards to be cautious off. It was also interesting to see first hand accounts of the devistation some people were experiencing. Also, all the of people dangerously braving the conditions for a photo op. :/

IDL TIFF file

Cyclones Lam & Marcia by NASA is licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

At the time I really didn’t consider how important that information could be to some people, nor did I even question the fact that this information was so readily available to me at the click of a button. Having taken a step back I can see that in times of crisis this information can be the difference between life and death for some people in desperate need of help. Additionally, this information can be used after the emergency situation is over to analyse how well the event was handled and to make improvements to the system.

For example, it is interesting to consider the large role Social Media played in the recent siege of Lindt Cafe. Sydney Morning Herald reported that police followed “conversations on Twitter to inform their tactical response as well as monitoring Facebook posts by the 18 men and women trapped inside the cafe.” It makes you wonder how much worse the outcome could have been without this inside intelligence.

Having reflected upon the various emergency situations that I’ve experienced in person and online; I feel confident about how I would respond to a situation. Of course this is only in terms of how I would manage it online, as I would probably also call emergency services (000) given the circumstances.

If I were to be directly involved in a disaster I would probably update Facebook first to contact my personal network of friends and family. Then, I would keep people updated about my situation on Twitter, as it’s a public format and I would be able to engage more directly with the authorities managing the situation. I would also use Twitter as a tool to stay updated on developments that could effect my situation.

That is really the extent of my experience on the topic and I hope you found some of this interesting. I will be investigating alternative emergengy communication platforms that might be useful to me in future so feel free to let me know what you like to use in the comments below? Or let me know of any new technologies you’ve heard about?

Thanks for Reading,
– M.