Visual Archive: Mediated Intimacies

Since the dawn of social media, things which were once considered incredibly private and intimate are now on show for the whole world to see on multiple different platforms. Every time I visit the hospital, Facebook recognises where I am and asks me to ‘Check-in” to inform my friends. As I scroll through my news feed I’m updated on what people had for dinner, what medication they’re on and sometimes even what colour underwear they’re wearing. This instant access to information practically anywhere in the world is all made capable by a small device in our pockets. Are we ever really alone anymore? I’ve noticed recently that I’ve altered my behaviour for fear that someone might record me and put me on the internet – no more skinny dipping in the sea! Being able to access such intimate moments online, sometime filmed without the subjects permission can be really confusing when it comes to what is public and what is private. Schwarz wrote that ‘Intimacy is usually an emotional effect of discrimination in access to ‘information […]and often strengthened by spatial seclusion’ (2011:75) But if intimate moments are now shared with a wider audience does that devalue how intimate the moment is? Schwarz goes on to summarise Simmel:

‘Secrecy is an act of producing value: since certain information is denied to the many, it turns into a valuable possession which may be given to others. The private/secret not only creates barriers between people, but also helps to bring such barriers down through the technique of confession‘

Technology is completely changing the way we understand social behaviours and the introduction of instant messaging has another layer to how we interact – ‘IM turns the conversation with the romantic partner into a frontstage performance and introduces a backstage event – the conversation with the best friend. Curiously enough, both take place simultaneously, thus redefining intimacy.’(2011:75). Conversations using instant messaging is far from private and as someone who suffers from social anxiety and paranoia, I always feel like I’m ‘on guard’ when engaging in such a practice. Typically groups of friends engage in the exchange of ‘screen-captures’ of instant messaging either with a potential partner or possibly with a friend. Shwarz goes on to elaborate on this:

‘They share the chat-protocols with each other in real time. Obviously, ‘kiss and tell’ is nothing new. But here the peers are given objective evidence, direct access to […] the intimate conversation as an objectified experience, often in real time. Since evidence is distributed in real time, the ‘kissing event’ […] and the ‘telling event’ […] can no longer be distinguished: they collapse into a single event, in which a boy sends protocol extracts to his friend while simultaneously chatting with the girl. The girls, being unaware of the real-time sharing, may have experienced the conversations as intimate ones, whereas for the boys intimacy was qualified, turning into a quasiperformance: while they indeed kept parts of the conversations private, they still shared highlights with each other in real time (thus informationally privileging the bond between them over bonds with girls).’ (2011:77)

I for one am guilty of this practice, in the early stages of my relationship with my partner, I would share things that he would say to me with my girlfriends. As our relationship has progressed his thoughts and opinions are much more valuable to me and I couldn’t even comprehend sharing our conversations with someone else. I cannot measure whether or not this is typical of flourishing relationships but it would certainly be interesting to find out if these intimacy’s become more respected as a relationship progresses.

It seems apparent that mass sharing of these intimacies online only tends to reinforce the idea’s on ‘the good life’. Celebrities sharing pictures of themselves drinking champagne in the bath, magical and wondrous wedding proposals, live streams of wedding receptions. We’re surrounded by media that in reality we’re never going to be able to match up with or achieve -‘Keeping up with the Joneses’. If we are constantly measuring ourselves against these standards that society sets then how can we ever be ‘happy’. I would define myself as the epitome of a kill-joy, Ahmed(2010):

‘So, yes, let’s take the figure of the feminist killjoy seriously. Does the feminist kill other people’s joy by pointing out moments of sexism? Or does she expose the bad feelings that get hidden, displaced, or negated under public signs of joy? Does bad feeling enter the room when somebody expresses anger about things, or could anger be the moment when the bad feelings that circulate through objects get brought to the surface in a certain way?’

Yes, I probably would fit into the bracket of the ‘feminist killjoy’, but there are so many more concepts that the joy needs kicked right out of and stomped all over the floor. Capitalism, Neolibralism, Racism, any form of ‘-ism’. But is it anymore ‘killing-the-joy’ than challenging the status quo? Does that make me a heretic? A rebel? Insubordinate? All these words sound so negative yet I can’t help but think that the world would be much more progressive if more people thought the same. It could be possibly my extended route through education of media but critical thinking is now so second nature to me that I do not think I will be ever blinded into accepting and living ‘the good life’ narrative. Yet, despite my opinions and thoughts, I’m sure that out there, someone who views my ‘mediated intimacies’ online, could believe that I am already in fact living ‘a good life’. Subjectivity in this debate is always going to be so important because although by western standards I may not be living ‘a good life’ or rejecting the constraints of ‘a good life’, to others I’m sure I must seem very fortunate to have my life… (There goes the kill joy again).

Ahmed, S. (2010). Feminist Killjoys (And Other Willful Subjects). The Barnard Center for Research on Women.

Schwarz, O. (2011) ‘Who moved my conversation? Instant messaging, intertextuality and new regimes of intimacy and truth’ Media, Culture & Society. 33 (1), 71-87

 

Visual Archive: Precarity of Life

Precarity is now a shared social feeling. In the UK, the adoption of zero hour contracts have added more uncertainty and anxiety towards the job market. I used to be on a zero hour contract. Being on a zero hour contract means that if you’re ill, there is no sick pay. If you need time for the family, there is no holiday pay. If there is no work for you, there is no pay. The British government boasted about the adoption of zero hour contracts, claiming that they benefit flexible people like students as they can work around their hours of study. The problem with zero hour contracts is in the name, you’re contracted zero hours a week. This means that if the institution or company you work for has no work for you at that time, then you don’t work. You live under the control of the company to work when is best for them, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid, if you don’t get paid, you can’t pay bills, if you cannot pay bills that increases stress and anxiety.

Jeremy Corbyn(2016) highlighted the precarity of zero hour contracts in 2016, ‘Zero hours contracts are not allowed in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland and Spain. It seems we’re the odd one out.” Although this highlights the social problems that go along with zero hour contracts, the UK is not completely alone. Countries like Norway and Sweden also have introduced zero hour contracts. Despite this the list of counties in the European Union that have banned or disregard zero hour contracts is much longer than the countries that do. With Britain’s exit from the European Union and the loss of European laws and legislation, it’s worrying to think that concepts like zero hour contracts could become more frequently used.

My experience working on a zero hours contract was relatively positive until illness struck. In 2016 on returning from a work experience placement in Costa Rica, I became ill with a stomach parasite, which required me to take an extensive period off work. During this time I had little to no contact with my employer and of course no income to pay my bills or buy medication. This was extremely problematic and damaging as the pressure and guilt of being off from work made my recovery longer than expected. After returning to work and picking up someone else’s job role on top of my own, I though I’d gained loyalty from my employer and proved my worth and value to the institution. On the 10th of April 2017, I received a call, not from my employer, but from a colleague. With no warning, no notice, I was told that I was no longer needed for the institution and they had no work for me for the foreseeable future. My world in that instant crashed before me, how was I going to pay for me masters degree now? I needed that job to see my way through university, I needed that job to pay for my tuition fees and for money to live on. In this moment I am living in a constant state of precarity, I have four months to find a job and gather together the money I need to pay off my tuition. Loosing my main source of income has not come without it’s difficulties, the increase of uncertainty has led to my anxiety attacks to increase more than they ever have done before. After talking with my psychotherapist, the increase in my anxiety has become so much that medication like my only option to regain control over my mind and my situation. The most precarious thing of all is that the institution that honoured me such a opportunity and retracted it, is the same institution in which I study, promotes wellness and such critical thinking. C’est la vie.

McKinney, C. (2016). Zero hours contracts: is the UK “the odd one out”?. [online] Full Fact. Available at: https://fullfact.org/law/zero-hours-contracts-uk-europe/ [Accessed 9 May 2017].

 

East Winds Film Festival – Week Six

This week we’re in Paris! As a cohort we travelled to Paris to conduct a research trip, I was caught up in other commitments for another module so didn’t have much involvement in the film festival this week. I know the other production team are working on videography in Paris this week with our presenters so I am really excited to see what they have been working on!