Growing up with Invisible Animals

I’m sure animals have magic powers!

When your friends’ cat chooses to come over and let you stroke it, when your dog sleeps on your bed all day while your sick, when the cow in the field comes closer to you as you call – you feel so incredibly lucky because they chose you. Anyone who owns a pet cat and even some dogs know that they are an animal with complete free thinking and will, they will do and go as they please, and if they choose to get out of that snuggle, they damn well will do it right then and there. However ‘domesticated’ we believe they are (my dog is more of a princess than canine), I instead think they have us wrapped around their little paw. About 63% of Australian households have a pet according to the RSCPA site. There is a reason that us Aussies keep our furry friends around as well as they are said to teach invaluable lessons to kids from a young age:

  • Higher self-esteem
  • Greater reading ability
  • Increased empathy and compassion
  • Higher sense of adventure

There are also increased health benefits such as a higher immune system, less respiratory tract infections and positive responses from children with autism, other spectrum disorders or ADHD.

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Life time buddies!

John Berger also agrees that animals poses a sort of magic:

“Animals first entered the imagination as messengers and promises … And the choice of a given species as magical, tameable and alimentary was originally determined by the habits, proximity and “invitation” of the animal in question.”

Here Berger is discussing the role of pets in our imagination and homes. Not only do they provide limitless affection and love, but owners of pets seem to develop their own method of communication, a way for both owner and pet to coexist comfortably and lovingly.

Do other animals have that same voice?

There are other relationships we build with animals over time, these are fueled by representations in the media. The films we watch allow an exposure to a variety of animals and their characters. Drawing on cliches, films, generally family films, will cast one animal as the hero and one as the villain. A couple of examples are:fishy-facts-about-finding-nemo-1038609473-apr-1-2014-1-600x400

  • 101 Dalmatians (1961) – the dogs are the hero and fur wearing humans are the villain.
  • Finding Nemo (2003) – the fish are the hero’s, people are villains and sharks also presented as potential villains (plot twist!).
  • Bambi (1942) – the hunters are the villains.
  •  Chicken Run (2000) – chickens are heroic whereas pie eating humans are villains.cruella-de-vil-angry

In all these instances- people are the imminent threat, the ones imposing danger, and yet the animals out smart us and break free. The films often cover serious issues being experienced in real life: wearing fur for fashion, issues with the Great Barrier Reef, hunting for sport, and chicken farming. However, even in these feel good films, where animals triumph, there is something not quite right: the animals are given human like qualities in order for audiences to feel relate-ability. So in actuality, do they have a voice?

Are we allowing animals to be just that, animals? Or instead are we putting them in scenarios where the imitate human life? When we invite them into our homes they are given a human name (some are perfectly fitting others are cringe worthy, look here), asked to be a part of the family, the day trips, sleeping on the furniture, eating our food, a part of exercise programs, learning good manners. We want to train the animal to be appropriate to live with us.

In this same way, when movies are about animals, they exhibit toned down characteristics, subtle violence (or in the case of finding Nemo, a complete change of basic instincts- vegan sharks?) and instead award them with bravery, family love and humor in a language that humans associate with.

“With their parallel lives, animals offer man a companionship which is different from any offered by human exchange … Such an unspeaking companionship was felt to be so equal that often one finds the conviction that it was man who lacked the capacity to speak with animals.”

 

I’m not saying this is wrong, or even that it is animal cruelty, in fact animals love being a part of the family as much as we love having them involved. However, we have to consider when we are imposing our own views on our furry companions, and when we have gone too far.

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References:

One Green Planet 2016, Why it is important to raise kids around animals,  accessed 2nd of April 2016, http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/why-it-is-important-to-raise-kids-around-animals/

Brain Pickings 2016, Why Look at Animals: John Berger on what our relationship with our fellow beings reveals about us, accessed 2nd of April 2016,  https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/04/01/why-look-at-animals-john-berger-about-looking/.

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“But first, let me take a selfie.”

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Selfie (both verb and noun): A picture taken of yourself (with potentially others in the photo) that is planned to be uploaded to social media. Usually taken by an individual with their arm outstretched using a front facing camera, or through using the reflection of a mirror.  The subject/s of the selfie will also be posed in any number of key poses:

  • Duck-lips selfie
  • Hand on hip (always a classic)
  • ‘Hot dog’ or ‘legs’ selfie
  • Candidly posing with coffee/shopping bags/puppy (insert object)
  • #freshhairselfie
  • At the gym selfie
  • No makeup selfie

*For a complete list with pictures click here .

The act of taking a selfie (or self-portrait) is done for many reasons: an expression of self identity (“Damn I look hot today”), to display affection (“I love my bae”) or to document travels (“selfie with the Eiffel Tower”). The taking of such photographs greatly differs between individuals as does the motivation behind the image. It is important to note, that although they are often regarded as meaningless or narcissistic (which more often that not is true) the action of taking a selfie breaks across so many age, gender, political, economic, education level and social statuses. In other words EVERYONE loves a selfie.

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How many celebrities can you squeeze into one selfie at the Oscars? This many!

 

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Bill Nye takes a selfie with US President Barack Obama and Neil deGrassse Tyson at the White House

There has been a complete shift in the online world, social media has gained traction, new platforms have been introduced to facilitate conversation through images and a greater range of products have entered the market, with their sole focus to increase the ease of taking selfies. With the introduction of Snapchat, selfies are now interactive, time sensitive and incredibly easy to share. The idea is to grow community and relationships on a different level to other social media platforms, and this does so successfully.

New Products– The Selfie stick  reached its height of ‘popularity’ in 2014, attracting the attention of international tourists and insta-fame wanna-be’s alike. Banned at all Disney Parks, the Louvre and many other famous sites in 2015, the selfie stick has also been the cause of a number of deaths last year. selfie-lifestyle

LG have just released a new High-End V10 Smartphone  with two front facing cameras that allow for a greater selfie taking experience. There is also a great increase in the number of photo apps available to ensure that each selfie can be carefully edited and manipulated. With tools such as blemish fixing, fake tanning and even slimming effects it is this side of the selfie evolution that is increasingly narcissistic and conceited. The seven best photo editing apps are here.

This then leads to a discussion of a new form of currency moving across the digital realm: the rise in attention economy.  Whereby individuals disseminate countless pieces of information about themselves, photos, videos, opinions, all in the hope that their social media followers will respond positively. This usage of media has changed the way brands advertisement themselves with users of these media platforms becoming their spokesperson.

Through media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and Youtube there has a come growth in the micro-celebrityevery day people who develop a skill/message/identity that can be expressed across different media channels. The people are celebrities because  of the media outlet yet are not bound to experiencing fame purely on the platform. These people are accessible, they create content that is meant to be commented on, to be shared and liked. Communication is far greater and intimate across these channels and there is a sense of validation across all users. Bringing back the topic of narcissism and selfies: is the act of taking a selfie narcissistic if it is an expected and wanted act by your followers?

This is how media is shaping lives – through selfies, through social media taking one vain act and making it valuable and accessible to all. The documentary below depicts one micro-celebrities interaction with social media and how it has been used by him to create his own self brand.

Insta-Fame and the Micro Celebrity: Shawn Megira


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/86023743″>INSTAFAME DOCUMENTARY</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/sylvainlabs”>Sylvain Labs</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

References

Digital Trends 2016, 10 Best apps for the perfect selfie, accessed 14th of March 2016, http://www.digitaltrends.com/photography/best-selfie-apps/.

Minq 2016, 19 Bros who nailed these basic girl instagram poses, accessed 14th of March 2016, http://www.minq.com/style/11945/19-bros-who-nailed-these-basic-girl-instagram-poses/#page=2.

Social Media Week 2016, Instafame: the rise of the micro-celebrity, accessed 15th of March 2016, http://socialmediaweek.org/blog/2014/04/instafame-rise-microcelebrity/.

Style Caster 2016, The 7 best photo editing apps, accessed 14th of March 2016, http://stylecaster.com/beauty/best-photo-editing-app/.

 

Urban Dictionary 2016, Selfie, accessed 13th of March 2016, http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Selfie.