Daily Archives: October 14, 2016

No Safe Spaces. Part of the Whole

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Safe Spaces are a problematic idea for Universities. On one hand they give groups of people the ‘freedom’ to go somewhere and be themselves. On the other who gets to say what groups need a specific space on campus and why do they need a space for themselves. Safe Spaces are places where students who feel they have been marginalized by either their sex, ethnicity, religion or sexuality can go and be themselves (with other people like them) free from any metal or physical strain. But how do you go justifying the feeling of marginalization and present this feeling as a problem for the entire University to solve and not a sole issue.

There is an ideal in society to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. To give a voice for those that do not have a voice of their own. While a simple idea the acting of this is to give people who are marginalized in society the opportunity and to teach the abilities of equity for all. But that is all of society. When we simplify the area to Universities – where the fight for Safe Spaces is currently occurring. Then we have to look at what Universities and higher education represents. Universities are the next stage in academia, a challenge for people’s perceptions of the world and, for the development into adulthood. They are accessible for anyone at any time of their life, it is the independence of the student that dictates the role in which higher education will play in their life and the success the student will get from attending. Universities are a safe place to talk, to live, to experience and to attend. The understanding of intellectual freedom underlines the understanding for what information is presented and why it is presented. When we are presented information (opinions, facts and discussions) that we do not like we know that they are not being shown to us for the purpose of mental harm but for intellectual enlightenment. To further understand why we have our point-of-view and why we do not have the point-of-view of others. The intention is not malicious but a safe engagement of information we otherwise would not engage with ourselves. Our lecturers, tutors, peers and other academics that we share the higher education experience with are debates, challenges and utilities to further get a sense of self-understanding and self-growth. Every University has an understanding of what is expected and what is understood even when it is not said so clearly.

Safe Spaces are challenging this representation of Universities and other higher education institutions by condemning that they are not safe, that there is a significant amount of students that are marginalized for who they are and nothing or very little is being done about it. These Safe Spaces are a solution to this perceived problem. The fights are in our Universities so the problem must be somewhere within. On the website the demands there is a list of at least 88 American higher education institutions that demand change for the systemic and structural racism that they believe is apparent on campuses. Under each school there are a number of demands that are expected to be undertaken on each campus to make up for and fix this injustice. Though it is one thing to believe the outcry of the student population it is another to provide adequate empirical evidence to support this claim – which has yet to happen. For each demand being made there is no specific understanding to how the demand should be done within the university. There are demands calling out certain faculty members of the Universities and demand that they create and enforce the plan that is then to be upheld. This pressure on Universities to abide by these demands has been having a negative effect on the University. University of Missouri for example has had instances revolving around faculty members and student protests. This barrage of bad publicity caused by groups pushing for justice has crippled the University. Missouri has faced a significant decline in student enrolments, a decline in alumni donations, the athletic football team has resigned, faculty members are getting sacked for partaking in the commotion irresponsibly and faculty members are also resigning if they are caught against the loud and vocal group. The University is a reflection of the students. When the students have caused a ruckus in their own University they are condemning the entire University to the public even for those who are not involved.

To create Safe Spaces on campus is to say that the campus is unsafe. That there are problem areas for certain minority groups that are a constant occurrence. For a university to have such a space is unimaginable – a space where there is constant aggression and offensive material to specific groups of people. Where is this space? When we give people areas in which they can escape to we separate the student body. When the entire University is a safe space then the entire student body can be a source for empowerment, confidence, communication and of course safety. But when we separate the student body into identity, then we have people engaging with only certain identities. We also force out identities of people by giving them a reason to feel marginalized. When we give people a reason to not feel like a piece of a whole collective they are automatically on the outside and that is not what Universities are about.

The phrase “Safe Space” has negative connotations attached to it – residing from the identity politics popularized by Intersectional Feminism Safe Spaces are seen as places to escape to when someone cannot handle some form of mental strain. The physical build of Safe Spaces has been described as a place where people can colour in, calm down reading a book, watch videos of puppies playing and escape from what caused them harm. While this is an escape it does not prove to be a solution to the problem, merely a temporary quick fix. What ailed the person can still happen, the person still has to leave the safe space and dealing with the issue at hand can still arise. This understanding provides the connotation that the inability to find a solution to the mental anguish that people will face at University is nothing but hypersensitivity.

Looking over Science D.I.Y. – student critique

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In the past few weeks I have been monitoring Sarah’s Science D.I.Y Digital Artefact for DIGC302 which deals with presenting theories and problems of science in a simple and understandable way for a mass audience. Sarah is studying a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Communication and Media Studies at the University of Wollongong and finds that there are misconceptions in science and it is misrepresented in the media today. The goal of this project is to fight those misconceptions around science by making videos to explain what the science is around everyday topics. You can find Sarah contributing to the media platform Chattr and posting on her WordPress blog.

While those sites are not the direct place for which this assignment has been published they still contain examples of content and the passion Sarah has for science. The couple videos created at the moment have been posted to Sarah’s personal Facebook Page. Fortunately, with the personal change of security settings I am unable to link to the videos as they are set to a private setting other than public. I do have to question a couple of things about posting science videos to Facebook. When it comes to creating videos to fight the misconceptions of science I would not find it adequate to keep them on a private setting – as exposure for those videos to hit a wide audience is limited to either no one, friends or, friends of friends. This makes the audience smaller and restricts the virality of the video and the message wanting to get across. A simple change of the viewing setting to public would be an easy fix.

When I think science I do not automatically go to Facebook for answers – well if I want right answers that is. If I am stuck on a science question or want to know something about science. Like the following: If I got a water bottle out of the refrigerator and put the bottle in cold room, a hot room and a room-temperature room. Would the rate at which condensation appears be the same on each bottle? I do not know how I would even start looking on Facebook for videos relating to this issue. As I can see on Facebook there isn’t an option to search for videos let alone specific science videos. Choosing Facebook as a place to publish videos for the intention of academia I find is the wrong platform. If YouTube was chosen you would have a channel and a destination for which people can come and watch your videos. YouTube is also the second most popular search engine as to find video evidence for curious minds about curious questions. This would be important in gaining traffic to your videos (with adequate tags for finding it of course) and allow an engagement with the other videos being made. YouTube also gives the freedom to link the videos to other websites which in this case I could of linked to this critique. YouTube also creates a sense of community with both creators and consumers being able to engage with either other. Facebook has a community but it is more your personal community made of friends and well wishers.

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Presentation wise there is a lot of information condensed into only a couple of minutes in the videos. While there is a need to convey understanding of the topics in an appropriate amount of time – time that the audience can keep focus on the video, the visual appeal of the video is also a key aspect for that engagement. One of the videos presents an understanding as to why the human body feels hot when it is 37 Celsius outside while the human body has a resting body temperature around the same degree. There is a lot of information being presented – so much that I would need to watch the video multiple times to get through everything being said and to understand what is being said. This isn’t helped by Sarah talking so fast (nerves?). Visually the engagement with the audience is limited – while just watching Sarah stare at the camera lens, as if starring at the viewer, there is no need to watch the video, just listen to it. This may be good for people who want to do something else while listening to it – but the speed in which Sarah talks makes me question this style of viewing for the video. Calming the nerves and talking a bit slower would aide in the presentation of the video. Having a script, going over it, recording and listening back to it will show how engaged someone can be with the information being said. While Sarah may be a fast talker in the videos it is the information being presented that is the key aspect for the video. If the information is understandable for a wide audience – the elderly with potential hearing loss, students, academics and kids or a specific target audience if that is what Sarah is aiming for then the speed of talking is of minimal concern.

While I personally enjoy watching informative videos about science – Vsauce and Numberphile on YouTube for example. There is a structure and pattern to those videos that engages the audience and maintains that engagement. While I do not know what Sarah watches on YouTube or her personal science heroes. Looking at how those channels present their information and the structure for which they show their videos would be a good start in developing her own identity and space by looking at what aspects she likes and does not like. It is an interesting choice incorporating science in a humanities/digital media based project. While science is not everyone’s cup-of-tea it is always good to see the cross incorporation of academic disciplines.