The Anthropocene – Linda Safarik

‘Every living thing affects its surroundings. But humanity is now influencing every aspect of the Earth on a scale akin to the great forces of nature.’ (Anthropocene 2014, para. 1). Since the 1950s, the planet has experienced a significant shift in the in the scale and speed of change which has lead this era to be identified as the ‘Great Acceleration’. During this time the population tripled and the global economy, driven by new technology, exploded. This growth disrupted ecology by creating an increased demand for natural resources, causing pollution levels to rise. The acceleration is an ongoing problem and has caused global disruptions to the earth ecosystem, such as climate change, causing it to become more unpredictable and threaten its ability to support a global community (Anthropocene 2014).

Anthropocene is a neologism that refers to the world we are living in where geologically significant conditions and processes are profoundly altered by human activities (Globaia 2014). The concern of living in this era has resulted in several organisations taking different approaches to address the current issues. The non-profit organisation, Globaia, aims to raise awareness concerning this among society. They are an organisation that is committed to transforming perceptions in order to overcome the obstacles we have created and ultimately have a desire to bring a sense of peace in the relationships that connect humans to each other and our planet. Globaia (2014) uses visual communication as a tool to raise awareness about the issues in a really provocative and engaging way.

Other organisations are approaching the problem through research. The international research initiative, Future Earth (2014), is in the process of developing the knowledge for responding effectively to global environment change and is supporting the transition towards global sustainability in the future. To achieve global sustainability Future Earth believes in the importance of researching the Earth’s ecological system and its behaviours and encourages collaboration between disciplines in order to develop processes to address the issues. Working in an interdisciplinary environment will help deliver the knowledge that will support decisions and actions towards sustainability (Future Earth 2014).

The Venus Project (2014) is a corporation, designed by futurist Jacque Fresco, and proposes how society in the future will become more sustainable and overcome global issues. He looks at redesigning our culture so that war, poverty, hunger, debt and human suffering can be completely prevented. He also believes that using a ‘resource-based economy’, where goods, services and information are free, is better because there is no money in society and resources are distributed among people instead (Fresco 2012). The Venus Project (2014) has even developed a visual representation of how they believe the future would look and have designed everything from futuristic urban city systems to housing, transportation and energy.

Jacque Fresco has received criticism for the way he proposes to overcome the global issues and many people believe that his ideals will not work in practice, but what is interesting about the project is that it is thought provoking and encourages discussion and debate about whether the future solution is plausible (Ulrich 2011). Whether The Venus Project (2014) is an ideal solution for the future or not is irrelevant, the importance of the project is that people are responding and reacting to his proposals which is facilitating discussion about how we will begin to envision a better future that tackles the pressing environmental concerns we are currently facing. If there is going to be any kind of shift in our society that will lead us to a better, more sustainable future, then people need to collaborate and come up with creative solutions collectively.


Anthropocene, 2014, The Great Acceleration, viewed on 18 August 2014,

Fresco, J. 2012, Resource Based Economy, video recording, TED, YouTube, viewed 18 August 2014,

Future Earth, 2014, Who We Are, viewed on 18 August 2014,

Future Earth, 2014, Global Sustainable Development, viewed on 18 August 2014,>

Globaia, 2014, Cartography of the Anthropocene, viewed on 18 August 2014,

The Venus Project, 2014, The Venus Project, viewed on 18 August 2014,

Ulrich, E. 2011, A Summary and Criticism of the Documentary Film “Zeitgeist Addedum”, News of Interest.TV, viewed on 18 August 2014,



Mobile phones and physical human interaction – Sophie Chan

‘This link between device and person has obviously altered our conversations’

(Professor Richard Ling, – )

For decades we have used mobile phones to aid with verbal and visual communication. Unfortunately, over this period time we have not realised how constant engagement with these devices has modified human interaction. Ever since the first device, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000x in 1973 (Smith, – ); advancement with technology has allowed new platforms that extend mobile phones from pure communication. Actions such as recording a video, capturing a picture and interacting with the countless number of apps, are now all mindless actions.

I personally agree that my mobile phone is one of my most important possessions as it provides connection and entertainment. But what to extent should we let it dictate our everyday lives? Etiquette expert Diana Mather states ‘they should always be off and out of sight during meals, meetings, parties’ (2014), which depicts the consistent frequency that people allow their devices to disrupt face-to-face human interaction. The Cologne Institute for Economic Research Team had complied a variety of areas that mobile phones have impacted our social behaviour (Bingham, 2013). Situations such as important conversations, meetings or intimacy with a significant other ; have all been re-prioritised. This mindset or habit – if you like, has granted the mobile phone access to the private timeframes of our lives, barricading us from realising that we take physical human interaction for granted.

Furthermore, electronic communication has changed the traditional notion of communication. ‘The mobile phone serves another purpose, namely channel for phatic interaction’ (Ling, 2007) An example of this is a scenario that was mentioned by Richard Ling in ‘Mobile communication and mediated ritual’ where mobile phones can provide imperative connection between teenage couples who live separately. In situations like this, endearing messages sent to one another on a day to day basis often strip value and emotion from words such as ‘I love you’, as just the acknowledgement of the communication determines the success or failure of the relationship. (Ling, 2007)

An experiment conducted by University of Essex researchers, Andrew K. Przybylski and Netta Weinstein had exposed the negative impact of a mere mobile phone’s presence. They placed pairs of strangers in a private booths where a book was placed out of their direct line of sight. In addition, a notebook was present in one pairs’ peripheral vision, while the other pair would see a mobile phone. These pairs where then asked to exchange a personal story of an event occurred within the last month for 10 minutes. After each experiment, the difference between having a mobile present at the scene and not was obvious. From the interviews Prysbylski and Weinstein conducted, they discovered that while the mobile phone was present during the interaction, communication was poor and both strangers distant towards one another. In conclusion, without the presence of a mobile phone would enhance human social interaction and allow ‘more feelings of closeness, trust, and empathy – particularly when trying to have a meaningful conversation’ (Bingham, 2013).

Whilst we have all to thank for mobile phones providing us with constant connection and becoming an ‘extension of the body’ (Bingham, 2013), they have unconsciously posed as negative influences to our social behaviours. Mobile phones have become so immersed in our lives that we alter ourselves to fit this ever-evolving technology. I am only afraid that our dependence on these devices will only devaluate our social abilities.


  1. Ling R, 2007, ‘Mobile communication and mediated ritual’. Available online at: [Accessed 18/8/14]
  2. Smith S, 2014, ‘Are mobile phones killing the art of conversation?’. Available online at: [Accessed 18/8/14]
  3. Bingham J, 2013, ‘Mobile phones destroying people’s private lives’. Available online at:  [Accessed 18/8/14]
  4. Duerson H M, 2012, ‘Your cell phone is ruining your relationship’.  Available online at: [Accessed 18/8/14]
  5. Smith G, 2013, ‘ Forty Year Mobile Phone Anniversary: Motorola DynaTAC’. Available online at: [Accessed 18/8/14]



Ethics and Dataveillance – Isabella Smythe

‘Mass data collection and surveillance will force you to look over your shoulder and see nothing, but know that there is someone, somewhere, collecting data; and in a sense, watching every move you make’
(Donahue, – )

Our everyday actions are being tracked electronically, from using credit cards at the supermarkets to browsing the internet, or even updating a Facebook status to create ‘personal data profiles’, which are then used to improve direct advertising all the way to protecting national security (Donahue, – ).

So where do we draw this ethical line between companies and governments using lateral surveillance of personal details, which we actively choose to post online, and exploiting individual expression and privacy? The answer, is that this line cannot be clearly drawn, it is rather a blurry circle, linking our choices in what we post, or say to the people who want to use this information for not only our safety but also to manipulate us into retail.

In the US, Target analyses information about what their customers are buying. ‘ A young woman buying unscented lotion, a large handbag, zinc and magnesium supplements and a brightly coloured rug is likely to be pregnant. So Target dispatches coupons for baby clothes’ (Stilgherrian, 2014), this caused outrage and Target was forced to apologise to the girl, only to find out weeks later that they were actually right. Although seemingly harmless, it’s this confronting idea that multi-national corporations know more about ourselves then we do, that drives such controversy around data surveillance.

Furthermore, Google and Facebook use fine grade relational data, our details and what we search, to find ads which would appeal to each individual. What I type in the blog post today, may influence what ads I see when I check Facebook tomorrow. Another example of this is the Edward Snowden controversy of 2013, in which he revealed to The Guardian (UK) that the NSA (National Security Agency) had been accessing data from the public phones, as well as social media as use for national security (Lyon, 2014). Although this may seem invasive, there is also the idea that by posting personal details it enables ‘civic participation’ as well as terrorism protection, and does direct us to ads for things we are actually interested in, we just need to be knowledgeable that this information is going into a public forum and be savvy about what we post (Raley, 2013).

As we leave these little personal crumbs of information, there is always someone there to pick up after us and electronically track each and every step, as we get lost in the wild woods of metadata swirling around us. What we have to ask ourselves is, are we victims of a surveillant world run by the seemingly unmonitored ‘witches’ of government and mega corporations, or is it our fault for leaving these crumbs to be collected in the first place?

  1. Raley, Rita. 2013, ‘Dataveillance and countervailiance’ in Gitelman L. (ed) ‘Raw data is an oxymoron. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, pp.131-9
  2. Lyon, David. 2014, ‘Surveillance, Snowden, and Bid Data: Capacities, Consequences, Critique.’ Available Online at: [Accessed 15/8/14]
  3. Donahue, Joseph. -, ‘Ethical Issues of Data Surveillance’. Available Online at: [Accessed 15/8/14]
  4. Stilgherrian. February 22, 2012, ‘You are what you surf, buy or tweet’, Sydney Morning Herald Online. Available Online at: [Accessed 15/8/14]
  5. Image Sourced Online: 2011, ‘Surveillance Department Lessons you can learn online’. Available Online at: [Accessed 20/8/14]

Social Media and Big Data- Jacqueline Briggs

‘But data does not just exist, it has to be generated,’ (Manovich 2002)[1]. The rapid expansion of active social media use in the past decade has created an avenue for which big data can be easily generated and stored. Controversy around companies keeping big data has sparked privacy concerns amongst users and has also arose questions for the effectiveness of keeping such data.


It is well understood that technology is advancing at an exponential rate creating it difficult for adequate government regulations to keep up. The protection of privacy is a paramount concern when considering the use and aggregation of big data, especially within social media sites.


Facebook, with over 950 million members, is rife with big data collection. 2.5 billion content items are shared per day, including status updates, wall posts, photos videos and comments, while there is over 500+ terabytes of new data ingested into the databases every day. Jay Parikh, vice president of Infrastructure Engineering at Facebook says, ‘Big data simply is about having insight and using it to make impact on your business.’[2] He further explains that if you are not taking advantage of the data that you are collecting than it is just useless. So if Facebook stores every click that you make, every like and every comment you send what does it mean to you and is there a reason behind this.


Big data in relation to social media creates a separate trajectory due to the personal nature of the data collected, which cannot usually be collected anywhere else. The benefits to us as social media users can gain is receiving insights into our own lives that we might have never achieved on our own. If one was to visualize this data it could help us make sense of the social dynamics surrounding us. Below is a graph[3] displaying a users relationships from LinkedIn, which allows us to see how he is related to his colleagues and how closely there are related to each other. By social media sites collating our data they can ultimately help match up friends and those who we should be connected with.



Cameron Uganec’s LinkedIn network, visualized.

Many companies use Big Data as a way to provide their service for free. Taking Facebook or Google for example, they are both free sites to use however as they can collate your data they can specifically target advertisements to suit your personal needs. This is a way for Facebook or Google to generate money through you indirectly. Companies like Facebook or Google who harvest our data and use for advertising might not be a bad thing but is it the most effective? One search for an orange dress can create the same shade of orange dresses appear on your advertisements for a month later. Thus sometimes the collection and aggregation of data might not be accurately representing the needs of the person. Being able to set your own advertising you are interested in could curb this problem and ultimately show that big data may not be ‘all knowing’ and can be up for interpretation.


If we understand the extent of information that social media can collect about our personal lives would we instead prefer to pay a fee for the use of the site instead of the stark trade off between privacy and a free service? ‘After all, our privacy is a human right, it’s guaranteed under the universal declaration of human rights, and it’s an element of human dignity and autonomy and our own personal security. And the fact that corporations and governments are now putting us under this kind of intensive surveillance and are then able to control us or manipulate us, perhaps there needs to be a check on this unfettered use of our private information.’[4]

[1] Manovich L, 2002, ‘The Anti- Sublime Ideal in Data Art’.

[2] Preimesberger C, 2012, How Facebook is handling all that really big data, eWeek, <>.

[3] Uganec C, 2013, Social Media, Big Data And Visualisation, Hootsuite, <;.

[4] Fraser M, 2014, Social media, data and property rights, ABC, <;.