Last Sunday, myself and four others went to the cinema to see the first episode of the new series of Doctor Who. Despite the fact that the screening was expensive, did not allow the use of discounted or free tickets, and had in fact been on free-to-air television in the morning and was screening for free again that night, the cinema was packed. This is probably more of a reflection of Doctor Who fans or “Whovians” than an accurate representation of cinema attendance though. There is something special about going into a packed cinema and experiencing a show or movie that everyone in the cinema has a shared love for. The audience was very vocal without being rude and making it hard to hear what was happening and my friends and I left on a massive high because hey, Doctor Who fans are amazing.
According to Torsten Hagerstrand there exist three constraints to cinema attendance:
Capability: Can I get there?
Coupling: Can I get there at the right time?
Authority: Am I allowed to be there?
I was able to navigate these constraints very easily. This is because my friends and I had already been planning it for a couple of weeks, and living in Sydney means that getting to the cinema is very easy. I also feel very comfortable at the cinema as I go so often. The hardest part was probably actually resisting the urge to watch the new episode before going to see it at the cinema. I felt very comfortable in the screening because I myself am a Whovian and felt like I could relate to and understand my fellow audience members. This is different to the experience I had this time last year when I went with my best friend to see The Day of the Doctor at the movies. She was and is a massive Whovian but I had never seen an episode in my life. I felt like I didn’t know what was going on and I couldn’t relate to the other people in the cinema because they were laughing at jokes I didn’t understand and becoming emotional over revelations I had no emotional connection to. It is for this reason I know that if someone in the cinema last week wasn’t a Doctor Who fan they may not have felt very comfortable or allowed to be there.
Overall this experience was a very positive one. And going to the cinema is still one of my favourite things ever.
Last week at a family dinner my grandfather (henceforth known as Bapak) handed my 10 year old cousin his mobile and asked him to find some text messages. Bapak swore he had received two that morning but because he didn’t open them immediately they had disappeared. My cousin finds twelve-times-tables difficult but he is an expert at technology. After about 15 seconds of navigating the phone, my cousin announced that there were no unread text messages and Bapak must have accidentally deleted them. This was closely followed by protests from Bapak.
“I didn’t delete them! I’m not that old! The phone does it by itself. It’s happened before. It just deletes them automatically if I don’t open them straight away. It’s a stupidphone not a smartphone!”
After everyone at the table had a go at trying to find the lost messages it was decided that they must have been accidentally deleted or there hadn’t been any in the first place. Bapak looked slightly perplexed but eventually started laughing.
“Maybe I am that old.”
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that less than half of Australian aged 65 years and over are regular internet users. They cite that paying bills or banking online are the most predominant uses of the internet by senior Australians, followed closely by accessing government websites. Pew Research provides many reasons for why the elderly partake in much less internet use such as:
Paranoia about new technology and
Being afraid of difficult to use new technology
None of these reasons apply to Bapak. He is mentally and physically very healthy, he is very open to technology that he considers improves his life (despite the aforementioned outburst about stupidphones), and if he gets shown how to do something he can usually do it on his own afterwards. By that logic he should be a seasoned internet user, surfing the web for Jamie Oliver recipes and cat videos. However he only accesses the internet at most once a day to check his email and maybe look at a news site. He never goes over his internet plan that includes 5GB a month of data, while my family recently upgraded to unlimited after regularly exceeding our 200GB a month plan.
When I asked him if the internet was important to him his immediate answer was “No. It’s convenient but by no means is it a big part of my life.”
So it’s probably not a surprise that Bapak wasn’t very affected by the news that the NBN was not yet available in his area.
“I would much rather live my life around my family than around the computer anyway.”
My house is quite small, considering five people and a cat live in it. We have three bedrooms, one bathroom and a space which serves as kitchen, dining room and living room. Yet in this tiny space there are four televisions- one in each bedroom and a big one in the living room. My house is hardly unique however- most homes these days have multiple televisions because they are almost considered as basic a necessity as a toilet. This was not always the case though.
My grandparents (who I callIbu andBapak) got their first television in 1961 when my mother was less than a year old. It was an extremely expensive black-and-white box with rabbit ears which received 4 channels. The reception wasn’t great, it was prone to interference and the picture would roll. Despite this my grandparents loved it. In fact prior to buying their own, they would go over to a friend’s house every Friday night and watch their TV. Because television was such an alien thing in those days, Ibu recalls feeling physically exhausted on Saturday morning.
Although all the photos we see of families watching early TVs depict the viewers sitting very close to the screen, my grandparents remember sitting as far away from it as possible, and my mother and uncle were encouraged to do the same. They also always had a light on while the TV was on and Bapak remembers needing to purchase a television licence for 25 pounds a year.
In the early days of television in Australia, my mum says, TV was more about entertainment.
“The shows that were on didn’t try to make you think about or reflect on life- they were just light entertainment.”
The biggest shows on TV were late-night comedy shows equivalent toJay Lenonow, things likeThe Graham Kennedy ShowandHey Hey It’s Saturday. It wasn’t until the 1970s that this changed, during the latter period of the Vietnam War. Suddenly real life and true horror was being experienced in people’s homes. Thehuge reactionto these horrific images indirectly ended the War, and showed TV show producers that people responded to real-life. This, my mum theorises, is why television shows such as M*A*S*Hwere such a huge success.
My grandparents eventually upgraded to a colour television in 1976, just in time for the Olympics, because they love their sport. Recently they bought a new flat-screen so they can watch all their sport in high definition.
The consumption of media has historically been a social undertaking, from families crowding around impressive free-standing wooden radios in the 1920s, to extended family and friends jamming themselves into tiny living rooms to bask in the glow of the first televisions in the 1950s. Today media is largely inescapable, and with the introduction of portable media devices such as smartphones and tablets the majority of us are never without a form of digital media constantly connecting us to other people. Isn’t it ironic then that in some respects media is now less social and more isolating than ever?
Take my brothers interaction with media for example. Bradley and Matthew are twins, which means my parents don’t feel as bad about continuing to make them share a room at 15. Their room is small, always a mess, and lacking in any decor that identifies it as a loved space. However in the middle of the chaos, beside the desk covered in unfinished homework and chocolate wrappers, is a flat screen 40-inch hi-def television. Connected to this is a PlayStation, a Wii and an X-box. On any given day a couple of laptops, a mobile phone or two, an iPod or a Nintendo DS could be lying on the floor.
They both spend the majority of their time at home together in that room. But rarely speak to each other. If Matthew is playing FIFA on the X-box then chances are Bradley’s watching YouTube on his laptop. If Bradley’s playing a game on his iPod then Matthew’s probably…still playing FIFA actually. That boy spends most of his life controlling pixels in the shape of men to kick other pixels in the shape of soccer balls. Sometimes they even Facebook message each other from different devices.