Fish are friends, NOT FOOD!

Something I came across on Facebook today. What if? Source:

I first came across the Blackfish trailer in 2015 during a university class presentation and since then, it completely transformed my opinions on animal rights. To be honest, I’ve never been a huge ‘animal lover’ or advocate. I tend to keep my distance when it comes to any sort of animal or pet except when they are on display and the purpose is to actually admire them, like a zoo. The trailer pulled me in; and by the end of the presentation I had searched as much as I could on Tilikum. I went home that day and watched it on Netflix and told everyone around me about this amazing documentary. They were just as surprised as I was, finding out I had watched a documentary, let alone one about whales.


The aim of Blackfish was to gain awareness on captivity of orcas and the use of them for entertainment purposes. SeaWorld was targeted and blamed for the mistreatment of Tilikum that resulted in the death of three individuals. It completely convinces audiences that SeaWorld was ignorant and didn’t take extreme caution and appropriate safety measures. The documentary is compelling and emotional, making viewers disturbed and empathise for Tilkium through anthropomorphism.

Anthropomorphism is used in many animal based movies and television series. It encourages viewers to ‘interpret animals’ mental and emotional states by using their own mental and emotional states’ (Demello, 2012). Basically, movies give animals human- like features, characteristics, mannerisms and emotions which allow us to be sympathetic and understanding. Blackfish does this by emphasising the importance of family within killer whale pods with scenes of separation between the parents and the calf. Interviewees further gained audience understanding by relating the orcas’ mistreatment to our human experience- ‘if you were in a bathtub for 25 years, don’t you think you’d get a little psychotic?’

Human like facial features and expressions on Finding Nemo -Source:

Classic animated, animal based movies use anthropomorphism to successfully attract kids, creating empathy and lovability that ultimately generates favouritism for the character. Finding Nemo humanises protagonists and sub characters that are considered ‘good’ while presents ‘bad’ characters and enemies as marine animals in their natural state. The non- threatening animal characters in Finding Nemo are able to communicate with protagonists, even the sharks, however those animals that pose a threat to the characters such as the bulb lighted, angler fish or the jelly fish are animalised and in their predator state. The sharks however, are presented as friends, having a commemorative meeting stating their motto, ‘fish are friends, not food’, unnatural to their real predator instincts.

The marine animals presented in Finding Nemo have humanness physical characteristics. Their eyes and mouths are significantly bigger, mimicking human characters. Their emotions are accurately represented through their facial features and expressions. These techniques used by film directors effectively presents the marine animals as friendly and lovable. This way they can successfully sell the characters through merchandise and stuffed toys rather than their natural state.

While thinking of the various animal based animated films, I found a similar connection between many. They all seem to identify humans as the top of the food chain, the most powerful and the ones that are responsible for the mistreatment and suffering of the animal protagonists. I remember watching Finding Nemo and identifying the scuba diver/ dentist as the ‘bad guy’ for taking Nemo away from his family. However, in reality, he’s just your average Australian. Nonetheless, the film encourages the idea that wild marine animals shouldn’t be kept in captivity as pets, ‘challenging the viewer to see captivity as harmful’ (DeMello, 2012).


Anthropomorphism can create a misconception and expectations that animals are like humans when they aren’t. They have a different emotions and brains that are still being studied to this day. In ways, we present animals as being the same level as us however, we treat them as if they are inferior to us. Blackfish, till this day still has an effect. Seaworld profits decreased dramatically and ‘its stock price declined by 60%’ (Chattoo, 2015). Animal rights campaigns were brought to action and reaching new audiences and supporters than ever before. Ultimately, although it may be misleading to anthropomorphise nonhuman animal characters, it promotes human understanding and generates concern for animals.



Cowperthwaite, G. 2013, ‘Filmmaker: Why I made Blackfish’ in CNN visited 28/3

DeMello, M, 2012. Animals and Society: An introduction to Human- Animal Studies, New York: Columbia, UP.

Hickman, D. 2015, Blackfish: proof that documentary can be a powerful force for change in The Conversation. Visited 28/3

Leane, E. Pfennigwerth, S. 2013. Chapter two  in Considering Animals, Ashgate, Farnham.


Is the exploitation worth it?

During high school, whilst learning about historical wars and international issues, I came across poverty porn. Back then, I didn’t realise what it was and the impact it had on people, including myself. I distinctively remember the first time I saw the iconic image of the Napalm girl, photographed from the Vietnam war in 1972 by photographer Nick Ut. She was naked, running through the streets of Vietnam terrified, with smoke and dismay behind her. I didn’t understand the overall purpose and just thought it was a ‘good shot’ demonstrating the occurrences of the war. I remember thinking, why would you just simply stand there and take a photo? Why didn’t he help her?


The Nalpalm Girl ‘The Terror of the War’ Source:


But, I understand now. Poverty porn is ‘any type of media- written, photographed or filmed’ which exploits the poor’s condition in order to generate the necessary sympathy for selling newspapers or increasing charitable donations or support for a given cause’ (Aidthoughts, 2009). It serves a purpose as a tool to gain viewers’ attention and promote anger and outrage from the conditions that the stereotypical poverty porn photographs demonstrate. However, does it work?

Well I can say that it worked for me. Witnessing images of malnourished children on the verge of their lives definitely causes an emotional impact. It makes people feel uncomfortable, disconnected and guilty. It made me want to donate and involve myself into charitable organisations. However, as bad as it sounds, I didn’t. Yes, I do donate towards poverty stricken countries when I can, but I didn’t become an advocate. And this is an issue with the purpose of poverty porn. I don’t believe it causes activism but rather charity. It presents an idea that those that are financially secure can donate and are the only ones that can make a difference, depending entirely on western countries. It lacks to identify the empowerment and dedication to actually treat poverty rather than its symptoms and to generate a deeper understanding of poverty to structurally change long term.

Another issue with poverty porn is the argument that it’s exploiting the subjects and invading their privacy. It’s hard to distinguish what is fake and over exaggerated. When we think of Africa and the people, we think of malnourished children with pot bellies in the hot scorching sun, with no water and food and flies flying on their faces. Why? Because that’s the image we are presented with, through media. It’s hard to recognise and promote equality when we are using these exploiting images to create meaning and awareness; because ultimately, we are identifying these children as poor, and identifying ourselves as saviours.

#TheAfricatheMediaNeverShowsYou Source:

Most of the time, the communities we are faced with from poverty porn are just a small fraction of that country. Diana Salah introduced a hashtag #TheAfricatheMediaNeverShowsYou that demonstrated accumulated images from users of glass skyscrapers, beautiful landscapes and loving communities in Africa that are seemingly forgotten.We risk cultural misunderstanding from poverty porn and associate it with the country as a whole. Ultimately, we must question the use of poverty porn and ask if the result outweighs the means.

Are we becoming a narcissistic society?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, we have all come across a ‘selfie’. Whether it is through ‘liking’ a friend’s selfie on social media, taking one yourself or just stumbling past the renowned, controversial Kim Kardashian nude selfie on the news, we’ve all been confronted with selfies. Ones, more influential and representative than others, the selfie trend has grown immensely and have evolved to be generated for various reasons.

Kim Kardashion and Emily Ratajkowski take another controversial mirror selfie Source:


Self- portraits have always been around, but the term ‘selfie’ and their growth have been identified due to the increasing availability and production of front camera phones and social media. Growing online platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are enforcing the production and circulation of self- generated digital photographs. It was reported by ‘Google that approximately 93 million selfies were taken per day on Android models alone in 2014 (Brandt, 2014)’. Many argue that selfies are a form of self- expression while others identify it as an influencing force of a narcissist culture, however, it comes down to the context of the image and what it’s used for.

Selfies have become significantly influential in regards to women and their self- branding online. It’s transitioned to be more than just a photograph that’s posted on Instagram. For some organisations, selfies are an advertising tool to endorse their products through micro- celebrities. The idea of the micro- celebrity has increased significantly with individuals taking selfies and posting them online; drawing a huge following and attention from the public, fans and sponsors. However, it also brings an airbrushed, unnatural representation of themselves, creating a brand from the self- representation they are trying to achieve through their selfies.

In 2015, Australian YouTuber and Instagram micro- celebrity, Essena O’Neill, posted a video for her 500,000 followers discussing her decision to quit social media. She deleted all her sponsored posts and dramatically edited the captions identifying the hours of effort it took to gain a single, ‘perfect’ photo for Instagram that wasn’t ‘real life’.


O’Neill captioned her photo stating that ‘Instagram girls only show you what they want; sucked in stomach, strategic poses, pushed up boobs, wearing clothes from a company with no purpose’. Gaining $2000AUD per photo featuring marketing products, it was her main source of income. O’Neill discussed that power social media had over her; transitioning to someone who ‘validated their self- esteem and self- worth over likes and comments’. She created a brand and online persona that dramatically described a perfect, luxurious, lifestyle in the hopes to gain social approval and fame.

Other micro- celebrities such as Kayla Itsines, a 24 year old personal trainer, branded herself on Instagram through her #fitspiration posts. Her fame rose due to various posts of clients who had dramatic weight loss and muscle transformations. With 5.7million followers she created her own athletic clothing line, fitness studios, ‘Sweat with Kayla’ app and Beach Body Guides that have proven to be successful worldwide, making her a renowned fitness micro- celebrity.

#fitspirtation Transformation posts by clients- Kayla Itsines on her Instagram Source:

In the 21st century digital age, it’s challenging to neglect the influence of a selfie, however there will always be discussion and disapproval over its powerful influence or narcissistic self-presentation. It’s easy to manipulate images through Photoshop and photo editing apps, but also by presenting an unrealistic image of themselves that abandons reality. However, once they are posted online, you can’t control the way people interpret the image.



Berger, A 2011, ‘The Branded Self: On the Semiotics of Identity’, The American Sociologist, vol. 42, no. 2/3, pp. 232-237.

Hunt, E 2015, ‘Essena O’Neill quits Instagram claiming Social Media ‘is not real life’, The Guardian, visited March 17th.

Ohlheiser, A 2016, ‘Essena O’Neill: what happened in the months after Instagram star quit social media’, Independent UK. visited March 17th




Individual Digital Artefact: @linhdoesjapan_

The individual research project practices autoethnography by allowing us to document personal experiences of a particular culture, different to my own and brings further research to allow social, cultural and political understandings of the experience (Ellis, 2011). By personally travelling to Japan and visiting Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo, I was able to document my experience, incorporating myself in the culture that generated comparisons to my own culture which brought perceptions of Japan that assisted in enabling a better understanding of the society. From previous perceptions of Japan through media exposure, expectations were made in terms of its culture and heritage as well as social aspects. However, when travelling through Japan these perceptions were significantly different to what was expected, therefore demonstrating my own personal culture interfering with the present experience.

My own previous perceptions of Japan were generated due to media exposure, especially through anime, such as Pokémon and Sailor Moon. Others would be through movies such as Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift which was completely set in Tokyo. Scenes were mostly of lively cities with tall, illuminated buildings and lights that filled the streets. With this image of Tokyo set, a bright, busy city was expected and impacted on my overall perception of Japan. When actually visiting Tokyo, I was faced with quiet, clean roads with little foot traffic and minimal transportation machinery. Japan is also known for being highly technological and predominately focuses on consumer electronics and auto motives. This assumption brought high expectations for Japan to be modernised and advanced. Although this was met at times, it was also surprising to see older buildings, architecture and cars. Most technological advancements that were faced through day to day occurrences were the use of vending machines and touch screens when personally ordering your food, which is rare in Australia.

Through research, I later realised that many tourism images of Japan’s lively nightlife were taken of popular tourist destinations that are known to be busier such as Dontonburi and the Shibuya Crossing that were filled with restaurants, bars, street food and shopping.

Japanese food in Australia is mainly presented as Sushi with little other varieties. Sushi is even westernised with early influences from America such as the avocado and California roll (Sakamoto & Allen, 2011). Rice on the outside of sushi was also a western creation to cater to those that didn’t like the outer seaweed texture- which is what we mainly see in sushi establishments in Australia (Warren, 2013). With this westernised sushi that I had grown to enjoy, traditional sushi in Japan was far better than expected. Rather than rolls, most sushi was presented as nigiri and were raw fish with various types and cuts that aren’t presented in western culture. This is due to the norms of westernised culture in which we are comfortable in consuming. Many find raw fish hard to consume due to the texture as well as the state of the fish, however having raw fish is very common in Japan. The price also influences the fresh state of raw fish in Australia where most restaurants may be freezing their raw fish before defrosting and serving; whereas due to its cheap and easy availability in Japan, it’s fresh and of high quality (Korpesio, 2012). In western restaurants, wasabi is optional with soy sauce; whereas in Japan readily served in the sushi depending on the chefs eating recommendations- thus making the experience authentic and makes one question the heavily westernised Japanese in Australia.

When consuming Japanese dishes, Okonomiyaki and Takoyaki, I was able to taste distinct flavours that aren’t apparent in Japanese foods available in Australia. However, being from a Vietnamese background, comparison to Banh Xeo (Vietnamese savoury pancake) and Fish Balls was made. Pancakes in western cultures are generally sweet and have toppings poured on top, thus savoury pancakes are very strange. Okonomiyaki is a pancake/ omelette with batter as well as meats, vegetables and sauces and is cooked in front of you to be eaten hot and fresh. Thus, due to my own Vietnamese background, I was able to find familiarity between the savoury Vietnamese pancake that was enjoyed from childhood to the infamous Japanese Okonomiyaki.

Walking through temples and shrines, many tourists as well as locals were wearing the traditional garment, the Kimono. The traditional gown was worn daily, but due to the Meiji Restoration in 1868, westernisation of their daily lifestyles spread throughout Japan. The Kimono is now worn during important festivals and formal occasions as a sign of politeness and formalities. Women are mostly seen wearing kimono’s compared to men when going to temples and shrines to give thanks for good health and life (Funabiki, 2014). The term, Kimono is familiar to those in western cultures due to it being used to describe any form of silk dressing gown or oriental style frock that is adapted from the traditional garment. Its westernisation means it’s worn in more relaxed settings or casually or as a bath robe and is very different to the original. The westernisation of the Kimono that we are exposed to allows awareness and identification of the gown as a traditional Japanese dress and highlights the key points by infusing the oriental patterns and silk common to Kimonos as well as other Asian traditional gowns.

The ‘Kimono Gown’ available in Australian clothing retailers (Cotton On Body)

By incorporating ourselves into a culture and society other than your own and further gain social, cultural and political understanding, thus expanding on our previous knowledge of the social norms and values presented in Japanese culture. With further research and reflective analysis of my travels through Japan, I was able to make sense of the culture by comparing it to my own, thus having my own culture and perceptions of Japan evidently influence my experience. Exploring Japan and its social and cultural norms has allowed a better understanding and challenged assumptions of the world.




Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. 2011 ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1

Funabiki. T, 2014, ‘The mysteries of the Kimono’ in TimeOut Tokyo. visited 26/10

‘Kimono Gown’, Cotton on Body

Korpesio. K, 2012 ‘Japanese Culture in Australia’ in AGFG. visited 26/10

Sakamoto. R, Allen. M, 2011, ‘There’s something fishy about that sushi: how Japan interprets the global sushi boom’ Japan Forum, 23:1, pp.100- 102

Smith, R. 2014, ‘World Pancake Recipe: Okonomiyaki from Japan’ visited 26/10

Warren, 2013, ‘The Difference between authentic Japanese sushi and sushi around the world’ in visited 26/10




Digital Asia

Korean Pop

Korean Pop, otherwise known as K-Pop, is a multi-billion-dollar industry and the hub of music in Korea. Given the nickname ‘Hallyu’, K-Pop as an industry is highly regarded as the ‘Hollywood’ of Asia. As a result of social media platforms, K-Pop and its artists have become household names within a widespread Korean diaspora. By being readily accessible on a number of platforms — most notably YouTube, K-Pop has successfully transgressed former boundaries and borders, reaching audiences on a large scale. It is often noted that the industry specifically tailors its music and artists to reach Western audiences, as Dr. Roald Maliangkayadds “marketing to non-Koreans” is a norm. The K-Pop genre is distinctly characterised by its embodiment of audiovisual elements and often incorporates several stylistic elements including that of dance-pop, electropop and R&B.

Sistar is a South Korean girl group established in 2010 under the…

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Watching M-rated TV shows at 12

Growing up with parents who didn’t watch Australian television much, my media exposure wasn’t regulated at all. They basically allowed us to watch any television and movies that we wanted and never really checked what we were watching. The only media regulation that we were faced with was being able to watch TV after 9pm, which was bedtime, thus impacting our ability to watch M and MA15+ television programs. However, during the school holidays, this wasn’t a problem and I was freely allowed to watch Law & Order: SVU and movies after 9pm. Yes, this could be considered an issue because watching a violent, sexual crime based TV show in primary school wasn’t the best thing, considering I had nightmares about it, but my parents just didn’t know. They never watched Australian TV and even if they did, they wouldn’t understand a lot of the language. This just meant that by 12, although I may not have known what it meant, I knew every apparent swear word, violent sex crimes and the American legal system.


I remember I watched my first R rated movie when I was in year 6 at a friends’ house. We watched a graphic fighting movie, which I remember till this day and I was absolutely terrified. I unfortunately found it ‘cool’ that I could go to school and tell my friends that I had watched an R rated movie and my parents didn’t care. But now that I think about it, they never knew about the movie rating system back then due to not being faced with it themselves. Through this I learnt the media regulation system in Australia and began to regulate my own media exposure.


When visiting movie theatres, I knew I couldn’t watch a MA15+ movie with my friends without my parents present, and usually this was the case. The Australian classification system provides movies and video games with advisory classifications that assist with parent’s decision to allow viewership. At cinemas, MA15+ isn’t recommended for those under the age of 15 due to classified content (drug use, sexual and language content) however, it can still be viewed as long as they are accompanied by a parent or guardian over the age of 18. This is an example of current media regulation enforced by governmental authorities. Viewership of M- classified movies at home may be harder for authorities to regulate but that’s where the overall regulation enforced by parents and guardians are practised- which was indefinitely absent for me, as an adolescent.

Australian Classification for movies and games Source:


Media regulation constitutes the idea of media space that demonstrates the ‘existence of media forms within social space and the cultural visions of a physical space transcended by technology and emergent virtual pathways of communication’ (Couldry & McCarthy, 2004). The regulation of movies through classified ratings enforces the media space and place as it impacts what is being demonstrated and shown to society. For children under the age of 15, the movie classification protects them from strong impacting movies that may have coarse language and violent behaviour thus, restricting what is suitable for them to watch. This form of regulation links with media space in demonstrating what children are confined to and limiting their media exposure.

Check out this article by lesson bucket to read more about media regulation in Australia as well as controversies from this. Let me know in the comments below on how your media was regulated as a child and if it was totally opposite to what I was faced with!


Australian government, department of communications and the arts, ‘Information for Parents’ in Classification.

Couldry, N. McCarthy, A. 2004, ‘Media Space: Place, Scale and Culture in a Media age’, Routledge, New York, pp. 8

Lamb, B. 2013, ‘Media Regulation.

Japan through my eyes

Digital Asia

Experiencing the unique Japanese culture, I was able to distinguish differences from my own. Being from a westernised culture, there were many significant confusions and cultural misinterpretations, however past and present research has allowed an understanding of this cultural experience.


A cultural model by Hofstede distinguishes various cultures through five dimensions of power distance, individualism vs collectivism, masculinity vs femininity, uncertainty avoidance and long term vs short term orientation. This allows an understanding of Japanese culture by comparing it to Australian culture through these five dimensions enabling to make sense of my experience. Japan is a hierarchical society with importance to age and power which isn’t significantly different to Australia. Bowing is a form of greeting and respect consistent in Japan especially when entering an establishment. When entering restaurants a formal loud greeting from staff followed by a bow was practised. This is understood as being an…

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