M/C Journal https://www.journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal <h1>M/C Journal</h1> <p><em>M/C Journal</em> was founded (as "M/C – A Journal of Media and Culture") in 1998 as a place of public intellectualism analysing and critiquing the meeting of media and culture. <em>M/C Journal</em> is a fully blind-, peer-reviewed academic journal, open to submissions from anyone. We take seriously the need to move ideas outward, so that our cultural debates may have some resonance with wider political and cultural interests. Each issue is organised around a one-word theme (<a href="https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/issue/archive">see our past issues</a>), and is edited by one or more guest editors with a particular interest in that theme. Each issue has a feature article which engages with the theme in some detail, followed by several shorter articles.</p> en-US <p>Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:</p><ol><li>Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licenced under a <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/" rel="license">Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivatives 4.0 Licence</a> that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.</li><li>Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.</li><li>Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (see <a href="http://opcit.eprints.org/oacitation-biblio.html" target="_new">The Effect of Open Access</a>).</li></ol> editor@media-culture.org.au (Axel Bruns) editor@media-culture.org.au (Axel Bruns) Tue, 22 Aug 2023 00:00:00 +0000 OJS http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss 60 What Got You through Lockdown? https://www.journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2991 <h1><strong>Introduction</strong></h1> <p>While individuals from marginalised and vulnerable communities have long been confronted with the task of developing coping strategies, COVID-19 lockdowns intensified the conditions under which resilience and wellbeing were/are negotiated, not only for marginalised communities but for people from all walks of life. In particular, the pandemic has highlighted in simple terms the stark divide between the “haves” and “have nots”, and how pre-existing physical conditions and material resources (or lack thereof), including adequate income, living circumstances, and access to digital and other resources, have created different conditions for people to be able to physically isolate, avoid working in conditions that put them at greater risk of exposure to the virus, and maintain up-to-date information.</p> <p>The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live, and its conditions have tested our capacity for resilience to varying degrees. Poor mental health has become an increasingly urgent concern, with almost one in ten people contemplating suicide during Victoria’s second wave and prolonged lockdown in 2020 (Ali et al.; Czeisler &amp; Rajaratnam; Paul). The question of what enables people to cope and adapt to physical distancing is critical for building a more resilient post-pandemic society.</p> <p>With the understanding that resilience is comprised of an intersection of material and immaterial resources, this project takes as its focus the material dimensions of everyday resilience. Specifically, “Objects for Everyday Resilience” explores the intersection of material objects and everyday resilience, focussing on the things that have supported mental and physical health of different sections of the community in Melbourne, Australia, during the pandemic.</p> <p>People in the Victorian city of Melbourne, Australia – including the research team authors of this article – experienced 262 days of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than any other city in the world. The infection rate was high, as was the death rate. Hospitals were in crisis attempting to deal with the influx (McReadie). During lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, all movement in the city was restricted, with 9 pm to 5 am curfews and a five-kilometre travel limit. Workplaces, schools, businesses, sports and leisure clubs were closed. One person per household could shop. Masks were mandatory at all times. PCR testing was extensive. People stayed in their homes, with no visitors.</p> <p>The city limits were closed by roadblocks. Rare instances of air travel required a hard-to-get exemption. Vaccines were delayed. The state government provided financial support for most workers who lost income from their regular work due to the restrictions. However, the financial assistance criteria rejected many casual workers, including foreign students who normally supported themselves through casual employment (McReadie). The mental health toll of protracted lockdowns on Melbourne residents was high (Klein, Tyler-Parker, and Bastian). Yet people developed measures of resilience that helped them cope with lockdown isolation (Gerrand).</p> <p>While studies of resilience have been undertaken during the pandemic, including increased attention towards the affordances of online platforms in lockdown, relatively little attention has been paid to whether and how material objects support everyday resilience. The significant amount of literature on objects and things (e.g. Whitlock) offers a wide range of potential applications when brought to bear on the material conditions of resilience in the COVID-19 pandemic as it continues to unfold. As ethnographer Paula Zuccotti notes in her study of objects that people used in lockdowns around the world, “Future Archeology of a Global Lockdown”, the everyday items we use tell us stories about how we exist (Zuccotti).</p> <p>Paying attention to the intersection of objects with resilience in everyday contexts can enable us to view resilience as a potential practice that can shape the conditions of social life that produce adversity in the first place (Chalmers). By studying relationships between material objects and people in conditions of adversity, this project aims to enhance and extend emerging understandings of multisystemic resilience (Ungar).</p> <p>Objects have been central to human history, culture, and life. According to Maurizio Ferraris, objects are characterised by four qualities: sensory-ness, manipulability, ordinariness, and relationality. “Unlike the three spheres of biological life – the mineral, the vegetable and the animal – objects and things have been customarily considered dependent on humans’ agency and presence” (Bartoloni). In everyday life, objects can enhance resilience when they are mobilised in strategies of resourcefulness and “making do” (de Certeau).</p> <p>Objects may also support the performance of identity and enable inter-subjective relations that create a sense of agency and of being at home, wherever one is located (Ahmed et al.; Gerrand). From an existential perspective, the experience of being confined in lockdown, “stuck” in one place, challenges cosmopolitan connectedness and sense of belonging. It also bears some similarities to the experiences of migrants and refugees who have endured great uncertainty, distance, and immobility due to detention or vintage of migration (Yi-Neumann et al.). It is possible that certain objects, although facilitating resilience, might also trigger mixed feelings in the individuals who relied on them during the lockdown (Svašek). From domestic accoutrements to digital objects, what kinds of things supported wellbeing in situations of confinement?</p> <h1><strong>Multisystemic Resilience in Lockdown</strong></h1> <p>It is especially useful to consider the material dimensions of resilience when working with people who have experienced trauma, marginalisation, or mental health challenges during the pandemic, as working with objects enables interaction beyond language barriers and enables alternatives to the re-telling of experiences.</p> <p>Resilience has been theorised as a social process supported (or inhibited) by a range of “everyday” intersecting external and contextual factors at individual, family, social, institutional, and economic resource levels (Ungar; Sherrieb et al.; Southwick et al.). The socio-ecological approach to resilience demonstrates that aspects of individual, family, and community resilience can be learned and reinforced (Bonanno), but they can also be eroded or weakened, depending on the dynamic interplay of various forces and influences in the social ecology of an individual or a group. This means that while factors at the level of the individual, family, community, or institutions may strengthen resistance to harms or the ability to overcome adversity in one context, the same factors can promote vulnerability and erode coping abilities in others (Rutter).</p> <p>Our project asked to what extent this social-ecological understanding of resilience might be further enhanced by attending to nonhuman materialities that can contribute or erode resilience within human relations. We were particularly interested in understanding the potential of the exhibition for creating an inclusive and welcoming space for individuals who had experienced long COVID lockdowns to safely reflect on the material conditions that supported their resilience. The aim of this exercise was not to provide answers to a problem, but to draw attention to complexity, and generate additional questions and uncertainties, as encouraged by Barone and Eisner. The exhibition, through its juxtaposition of (lockdown-induced) loneliness with the conviviality of the public exhibition format, enabled an exploration of the tension between the neoliberal imperative to physically isolate oneself and the public messaging concerning the welfare of the general populace. </p> <p>Our project emerged from insights collected on the issue of mental health during “Living Lab” Roundtables undertaken in 2020 by our Centre For Resilient and Inclusive Societies, convened as part of the <a href="https://www.crisconsortium.org/youth-diversity-wellbeing/foundation">Foundation Project</a> (Lam et al.). In particular, we deployed an object-based analysis to investigate the art- and object-based methodology in the aftermath of a potentially traumatising lockdown, particularly for individuals who may not respond as well to traditional research methods. This approach contributes to the emerging body of work exploring the affordances of visual and material methods for capturing feelings and responses generated between people and objects during the pandemic (Watson et al.).</p> <p>“Objects for Everyday Resilience” sought to facilitate greater openness to objects’ vitality (Bennett) in order to produce new encounters that further understandings of multisystemic resilience. Such insights are critically tied to human mental health and physical wellbeing. They also enabled us to develop shared resources (as described below) that support such resilience during the period of recovery from the pandemic and beyond.</p> <h1><strong>Arts and Objects as Research</strong></h1> <p>The COVID-19 pandemic provoked not only a global health response, but also a reorientation of the ways COVID-related research is conducted and disseminated. Javakhishvili et al. describe the necessity of “a complex, trauma-informed psycho-socio-political response” in the aftermath of “cultural/societal trauma” occurring at a society-wide scale, pointing out the prevalence of mental health issues following previous epidemics (1). As they note, an awareness of such trauma is necessary “to avoid re-traumatization and to facilitate recovery”, with “safety, trustworthiness, transparency, collaboration and peer support, empowerment, choice” among the key principles of trauma-informed policies, strategies, and practices (3). Our project received funding from the Centre for Resilient and Inclusive Societies (CRIS) in July 2021, and ethics approval in November 2021.</p> <p>Centring materiality, in November 2021 we circulated a “call for objects” through CRIS’ and the research team’s social media channels, and collected over 40 objects from participants of all ages for this pilot study. Our participants comprised 33 women and 10 men.</p> <p>Following is a breakdown of the self-described cultural background of some participants:</p> <p>Five Australian (including one ‘6th generation Australian’); four Vietnamese; two Caucasian; one Anglo-Australian; one Asian; one Brazilian; one British; one Caucasian/English Australian; one Filipino; one Filipino-Australian; one German/Portuguese/US; one Greek Australian; one Iranian; one Irish and Welsh; one Israeli; one Half German, Half Middle Eastern; one Middle Eastern; one Singaporean; one White British.</p> <p>Participants’ objects and stories were analysed by the team both in terms of their ‘people, place, and things’ affordances – enhancing participants’ reflections of life in the pandemic – and through the prism of their vibrancy, drawing on object-oriented ontology and materiality as method (Ravn).</p> <p>Our participants were encouraged to consider how their chosen object(s) supported their resilience during the pandemic. For example, some objects enabled linking with memories that assist in elaborating experiences of loss or grief (Trimingham Jack and Devereux). To guide those submitting objects, we asked about: 1) their relationship to the object, 2) the meaning of the object, and 3) which features of resilience are mobilised by the object.</p> <p>From an analysis of our data, we have developed a working typology of objects to understand their particular relationship role to features of resilience (social capital, temporality) and to thematise our data in relation to emerging priorities in research in multisystemic resilience, materiality, and mental health.</p> <h1><strong>Things on Display</strong></h1> <p>Whilst we were initially unable to gather in person, we built an online <a href="https://www.instagram.com/objectsforeverydayresilience/">Instagram gallery</a> (@objectsforeverydayresilience) of submitted objects, with accompanying stories from research participants. Relevant hashtags in several languages were added to each post by the research team to ensure their widest possible visibility. This gallery features objects such as a female participant’s jigsaw puzzle which “helped me to pass the downtime in an enjoyable way”. Unlike much of her life in lockdown that was consumed by chores that “did not necessarily make me feel content or happy”, jigsaw puzzles made this participant “happy for that time I was doing them, transport[ing] me out of the confines of the lockdown with landscapes and images from across the globe”.</p> <p>Another female participant submitted a picture of her worn sneakers, which she used to go on what she called her “sanity walks”. To counteract the overwhelm of “being in the house all the time with 3 (autistic) children who were doing home learning and needed a lot of support”, while attempting to work on her PhD,</p> <blockquote> <p>going for walks every day helped clear my mind, get some fresh air, keep active and have some much needed quiet / me time. I ordered these shoes online because we couldn’t go to the shops and wore them almost daily during the extended lockdowns.</p> </blockquote> <p>Books were also popular. During lockdowns, according to a female participant,</p> <blockquote> <p>reading helped me connect with the outside world and be able to entertain myself without unhealthy coping mechanisms such as scrolling endlessly through TikTok. It also helped me feel less alone during the pandemic.</p> </blockquote> <p>Another female participant found that her son’s reading gave her time to work.</p> <p>Olfactory objects provided comfort for a participant who mourned the loss of smell due to mask wearing:</p> <blockquote> <p>perfumes were my sensory transport during this time – they could evoke memories of places I’d travelled to, seasons, people, feelings and even colours. I could go to far-off places in my mind through scent even though my body was largely stationary within my home. (Female participant)</p> </blockquote> <p>Through scent objects, this participant was “able to bring the world to meet me when I was unable to go out to meet the world”.</p> <p>Other participants sought to retreat from the world through homely objects:</p> <blockquote> <p>throughout lockdown I felt that my bed became an important object to my sanity. When I felt overwhelmed, I would come to bed and take a nap which helped me feel less out of control with everything going on in the world. (Female participant)</p> <p>For an essential worker who injured her leg whilst working in a hospital, an Ikea couch enabled recovery: “the couch saved my throbbing leg for many months. It served as a place to eat, paint and rest.” (Female participant)</p> </blockquote> <p>While pets were not included as objects within this project, several participants submitted their pets’ accoutrements. A female participant who submitted a photograph of her cat’s collar and tree movingly recounts how</p> <blockquote> <p>while I was working online in lockdown, this cat tree kept my cat entertained. She was so enthusiastic while scratching (covered in her fur) she somehow managed to remove her collar.</p> <p>I call Bouny my Emotional support cat … . She really stepped up her treatments of me during the pandemic. My mother had advanced dementia and multiple lockdowns [which] meant I could not see her in the weeks leading up to her death.</p> </blockquote> <p>These objects highlight the ways in which this participant found comfort during lockdown at a time of deep grief. For other participants, blankets and shawls provided sources of comfort “since much of lockdown was either in cool weather or deepest winter”.</p> <blockquote> <p>I found myself taking [my shawl] whenever I went out for any of the permitted activities and I also went to bed with it at night. The soft texture and the warmth against my face, neck and shoulders relaxed my body and I felt comforted and safe. (Female participant)</p> </blockquote> <p>Another used a calming blanket during lockdown “for time-outs on my bed (I was confined to a tiny flat at the time and separated from my family). It gave me a safe space”. (Female participant)</p> <p>In a similar vein, journalling provided several participants with “a safe space to explore thoughts and make them more tangible, acting as a consistent mindful practice I could always turn to”.</p> <blockquote> <p>The journal provided consistency throughout the ever-changing lockdown conditions and a strong sense of stability. Recording thoughts daily allowed me to not only process adversity, but draw attention to the areas in my life which I was grateful for … even from home. (Female participant)</p> </blockquote> <p>In addition to fostering mindfulness, the creative practice of journalling enabled this participant to exercise her imagination:</p> <blockquote> <p>writing from the perspectives of other people, from friends to strangers, also allowed me to reflect on the different experiences others had during lockdown. I found this fostered empathy and motivated me to reach out and check in on others, which in turn also benefited my own mental health. (Female participant)</p> </blockquote> <p>Creative practices were critical to sustaining many participants of this study. The Norman family, for example, submitted an acrylic on canvas artwork, <em>Surviving COVID in Port Melbourne</em> (2021), as their object of resilience:</p> <blockquote> <p>this work represents the sentiments and experiences of our family after a year of successive COVID lockdowns. Each section of the canvas has been completed a member of our family – 2 parents and a 21, 18 and 14 year-old. (Norman family)</p> </blockquote> <p>Likewise, musical instruments and sound objects – whether through analogue or digital means – helped participants to stay sane in long lockdowns:</p> <blockquote> <p>wen I didn’t know what to do with myself I always turned to the guitar. (Male participant)</p> <p>Music was so important to us throughout the lockdowns. It helped us express and diffuse big feelings. We played happy songs to amplify nice moments, funny songs to cheer each other up, angry songs to dance out rage. (Family participants)</p> </blockquote> <h1><strong>Curating the Lockdown Lounge</strong></h1> <p>To enhance the capacity of our project’s connections to the wider community, and respond to the need we felt to gather in person to reflect on what it meant for each of us to endure long lockdowns, we held an <a href="https://www.crisconsortium.org/new-events/objects-exhibition">in-person exhibition</a> after COVID-19 restrictions had eased in Melbourne in November 2022.</p> <p>The decision to curate the “Lockdown Lounge” art and research exhibition featuring objects submitted by research participants was consistent with a trauma-informed approach to research as described above. According to Crowther, art exhibits have the potential to redirect viewers’ attention from “aesthetic critique” to emotional connection. They can facilitate what Moon describes as “relational aesthetics”, whereby viewers may connect with the art and artists, and enhance their awareness of the self, artist, and the world. As a form of “guided relational viewing” (Potash), art exhibits are non-coercive in that they invite responses, discussion, and emotional involvement while placing no expectation on viewers to engage with or respond to the exhibition in a particular way.</p> <p>When considering such questions, our immersive in-person exhibition featured a range of object-based installations including audio-visual and sound objects, available for viewing in our Zine, <em>The Lockdown Lounge</em> (Walimunige et al.). The living room design was inspired by French-Algerian artist Zineb Sedira’s immersive living room installation, “Dreams Don’t Have Titles”, at the 59th Venice Art Biennale’s French pavilion (Sedira), attended by project co-lead Vivian Gerrand in June 2022. The project team curated the gallery space together, which was located at Deakin University’s city conference venue, “Deakin Downtown”, in Melbourne, Australia.</p> <p><img src="https://journal.media-culture.org.au/public/site/images/meganrose/2991-other-9622-1-2-20230711-1.jpg" alt="" width="1015" height="570" /></p> <p><em>Fig. 1: The Lockdown Lounge, living room. </em>“What Got You through Lockdown?” <em>research exhibition and experience, Deakin Downtown, Melbourne, 21-25 November 2022.</em></p> <p>In the centre of the Lockdown Lounge’s living room (see fig. 1), for example, a television screen played a looped collection of popular YouTube videos, many of which had gone viral in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. There was Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, admonishing Victorians to avoid non-essential activities through the example of an illicit dinner party held that resulted in a spike in coronavirus cases in March 2020 (<em>ABC News</em>). This short video excerpt of the Premier’s press conference concluded with his advice not to “get on the beers”. While not on display in this instance, many visitors would have been familiar with the TikTok video remix made later in the pandemic that featured the same press conference, with Premier Andrews’s words spliced to encourage listeners to “get on the beers!” (Kutcher).</p> <p>We recalled the ways in which such videos provided light relief through humour at a time of grave illness and trauma: when army trucks were being summoned to carry the deceased from Northern Italian hospitals to makeshift gravesites, those of us privileged to be at home, at a remove from the ravages of the virus, shared videos of Italian mayors shouting at their constituents to “<em>vai a casa!</em>” (Go home!). Or of Italians walking fake dogs to have an excuse to go outside. We finished the loop with a reproduction of the viral Kitten Zoom Filter Mishap, in which in online American courtroom defendant Rod Ponton mistakenly dons a cat filter while telling the judge, ‘I am not a cat’.</p> <p>The extraordinary nature of living in lockdown initially appeared as an opportunity to slow down, and this pandemic induced immobility appeared to prompt a kind of “degrowth” as industries the world over paused operation and pollution levels plummeted (Gerrand). In reflection of this, we included videos in our YouTube playlist of wild animals returning to big cities, and of the waters of Venice appearing to be clear.</p> <p>These videos recalled how the pandemic has necessitated greater appreciation of the power of things. The spread of the novel coronavirus’s invisible variants has permanently altered the conditions and perceptions of human life on the planet, forcing us to dwell on the vitality intrinsic to materiality, and renewing awareness of human lives as taking place within a broader ecology of life forms (Bennett).</p> <p>Within this posthuman perspective, distinctions between life and matter are blurred, and humans are displaced from a hierarchical ontological centre. In an essay titled “The Go Slow Party”, anthropologist Michael Taussig theorises a “mastery of non-mastery” that yields to the life of the object. This yielding – a necessary response to the conditions of the pandemic – can enable greater attentiveness to the interconnectedness and enmeshment of all things, leading to broader understandings of self and of resilience.</p> <p>To understand how participants responded to the exhibition, we asked them to respond to the following questions in the form of open-ended comments:</p> <ul> <li>What if anything affected you most?</li> <li>Did any of the objects resonate with you?</li> <li>Did the exhibition provide a safe environment for you to reflect on your sense of resilience during the pandemic?</li> </ul> <p><img src="https://journal.media-culture.org.au/public/site/images/meganrose/2991-other-9621-1-2-20230711-1.jpg" alt="" width="1015" height="676" /></p> <p><em>Fig. 2: Research exhibition participant standing beside artwork by the Norman family: </em>Surviving COVID in Port Melbourne<em>, acrylic on canvas (2021), The Lockdown Lounge.</em></p> <p>Through curating the art exhibition, we engaged in what Wang et al. describe as “art as research”, whereby the artist-researcher aims to “gain a deeper understanding of what art, art creation, or an artistic installation can do or activate … either in terms of personal experiences or environmental circumstances” (15). As Wang et al. write, “the act of creating is simultaneously the act of researching”, neither of which can be distinguished from one another (15).</p> <p>Accordingly, the process of curating the gallery space triggered memories of living in lockdown for members of our team, including one male youth researcher who remembers:</p> <blockquote> <p>as the space gradually began to be populated with object submissions … the objects began to find their place … . We slowly developed an understanding of the specific configurations of objects and the feelings that these combinations potentially could invoke. </p> <p>As we negotiated where my object might be placed, I felt an odd sense of melancholy seeing my record player and guitar at the exhibition, reminiscing about the music that I used to play and listen to with my family when we were all in lockdown … . As my Bon Iver record spun, and the familiar melodies rung out into the space, I felt as if I was sharing an intimate memory with others … . It also reminded me of the times when I had felt the most uplifted, when I was with family, near and far, knowing that we all were a unit.</p> </blockquote> <p>Another of our youth researcher team members served as an assistant curator and agreed to monitor the gallery space by being there for most of the five days of the exhibition’s opening to the public. She describes her work in the gallery thus:</p> <blockquote> <p>my role involved general exhibition upkeep – setup, answering visitor inquiries and monitoring the space – which meant being in the exhibition space for around 7.5 hours a day. Although it cannot be fully compared to living through Melbourne’s lockdowns, being in a space meant to mimic that time meant that comparisons naturally arose. I can see similarities between the things that supported my resilience during the lockdowns and the things that made my time at the gallery enjoyable.</p> </blockquote> <p>Through engaging with the gallery, this researcher was reminded of how spending time engaging in hands-on tasks made physical distancing more manageable. Spending time in the exhibition space also facilitated her experience of the lockdowns and the material conditions supporting resilience. She reflects that</p> <blockquote> <p>the hands-on, creative tasks of setting up the exhibition space and helping design a brochure reminded me of how I turned to baking so I could create something using my hands … . In the beginning, I approached my time at the gallery as a requirement of my work in this project … . Looking back now, I believe I understand both the person I was those years ago, and resilience itself, a little bit better.</p> </blockquote> <p><img src="https://journal.media-culture.org.au/public/site/images/meganrose/2991-research-results-9712-1-15-20230816.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p><em>Fig. 3: Research exhibition participant wearing an Oculus virtual reality headset, watching the film </em>Melbourne Locked Down <em>(van Leeuwen), The Lockdown Lounge, November 2022.</em></p> <p>As these examples demonstrate, complex assemblages of people, places, and things during the COVID-19 pandemic were, and are, “suffused with multisensory and affective feelings”; exploring the ways affect is distributed through socio-spatialities of human experience enables researchers to better unpack individuals’ COVID experiences in ways that include their surroundings (Lupton). This was further evident in the feedback received from participants who attended the exhibition.</p> <h1><strong>Exhibition Feedback</strong></h1> <p>Feedback from participants suggested that the public exhibition format enabled them to explore this tension between isolation and orientation to the greater good in a safe and inclusive way (e.g. fig. 2). For Harry (29/m/Argentinian/New Zealand), interacting with the exhibition “reminded me that I wasn’t the only one that went through it”, while Sam (40/m/Chinese Australian) resonated with “many … people’s testimonials” of how objects helped support their resilience during long periods of confinement.</p> <p>Sam further added that participating in the exhibition was a “pleasant, friendly experience”, and that “everyone found something to do”, speaking to the convivial and inclusive nature of the exhibition. This resonates with Chaplin’s observation that “the production and reception of visual art works are social processes” that cannot be understood with reference to aesthetic factors alone (161-2). In the quotes above, it is evident that participants’ experience of the exhibition was inherently entwined with the sociality of the exhibition, evoking a sense of connection to others who had experienced the pandemic (in Harry’s case), and other exhibition attendees, whom he observed “all found something to do”.</p> <p>Additionally, participants’ responses highlighted the crucial role of the “artist researcher”, whom Wang et al. describe as qualitative researchers who use “artistically inspired methods or approaches” to blend research and art to connect with participants (10). In particular, the curation of the exhibition was something participants highlighted as key to facilitating their recollections of the pandemic in ways that were relatable. Nala (19/f/East-African Australian) commented that “the room’s layout allowed for this the most”: “the room was curated so well, it encaptured [sic] all the various stages of COVID lockdown – it made me feel like I was 16 again”.</p> <p>Returning to Wang et al.’s description of “art as research” as a means through which artist researchers can “gain a deeper understanding of what art, art creation, or an artistic installation can do or activate” (15), participant responses suggest that the curation of Lockdown Lounge as a trauma-informed art exhibition allowed participants to re-experience the pandemic lockdowns in ways that did not re-traumatise, but enabled the past and present to coexist safely and meaningfully for participants.</p> <h1><strong>Conclusion: Object-Oriented Wellbeing</strong></h1> <p>From different sections of the community, “Objects for Everyday Resilience” collected things that tell stories about how people coped in long lockdowns. Displaying the objects and practices that sustained us through the peak of the COVID-19 health crisis helped our participants to safely reflect on their experiences of living through long lockdowns. The variety of objects submitted and displayed draws our attention to the complex nuances of resilience and its material and immaterial intersections.</p> <p>These contributions composed, as fig. 1 illustrates, an almost accidentally curated diorama of a typical lockdown scene, imitating not only the materiality of living room itself but something also, through the very process of contribution, of the strange collectivity that the city of Melbourne experienced during lockdown periods. Precisely partitioned within domestic zones (with important differences for many “essential workers”, residents of public housing high-rises, and other exceptions), lockdowns enforced a different and necessarily unifying rhythm: attention to daily briefings on COVID numbers, affective responses to the heaves and sighs of infection rates, mourning over a new and untameable cause of loss of life, and routine check-ins on newly isolated friends and family.</p> <p>In hindsight, as the city has regained – perhaps redoubled, a sign of impatience with earlier governmental languages of austerity and moderation? – its economic and hedonistic pulse, there are also signs that any lockdown collectivity – which we also acknowledge was always partial and differentiated – has dispersed into the fragmentation of social interests and differences typical of late capitalism.</p> <p>The fascination with “public” objects – the Northface jacket of the state premier, COVID masks and testing kits, even toilet paper rolls, serving metonymically for a shared panic over scarcity – has receded. To the point, less than two years on, of this media attention being a scarcely remembered dream. The Lockdown Lounge is an example of a regathering of experiences through a process that, through its methods, also serves as a reminder of a common sociality integral to resilience. Our project highlights the role of objects- and arts-based research approaches in understanding the resources required to enhance and enable pandemic recovery and multisystemic wellbeing.</p> <h2><strong>Acknowledgments</strong></h2> <p>We would like to thank the Centre for Resilient and Inclusive Societies for their funding and support of the Objects for Everyday Resilience Project. Thanks also to the Alfred Deakin Institute’s Mobilities, Diversity and Multiculturalism Stream for providing a supplementary grant for our research exhibition. Objects for Everyday Resilience received ethics clearance from Deakin University in November 2021, project ID: 2021-275. </p> <h2><strong>References</strong></h2> <p><em>ABC News</em>. “’No Getting on the Beers’ at Home with Mates as Coronavirus Clampdown Increases.” Daniel Andrews Coronavirus Press Conference, 22 Mar. 2020. &lt;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2020/mar/23/no-getting-on-the-beers-at-home-with-mates-as-coronavirus-clampdown-increases-video">https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2020/mar/23/no-getting-on-the-beers-at-home-with-mates-as-coronavirus-clampdown-increases-video</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Ahmed, Sara, et al. <em>Uprootings, Regrounding: Questions of Home and Migration</em>. 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Zine published by the Centre for Resilient and Inclusive Societies, Deakin University, Melbourne, 2023.</p> <p>Watson, Ash, et al. “Fieldwork at Your Fingertips: Creative Methods for Social Research under Lockdown.” <em>Nature</em> 3 Mar. 2021. &lt;<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00566-2">https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00566-2</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Yi-Neumann, Friedemann, et al. <em>Material Culture and (Forced) Migration. </em>London: UCL P, 2021.</p> <p>Zuccotti, Paula. ‘‘Future Archaeology of a Global Lockdown." 2021.</p> Vivian Gerrand, Kim Lam, Liam Magee, Pam Nilan, Hiruni Walimunige, David Cao Copyright (c) 2023 Vivian Sophie Gerrand, Kim Lam, Liam Magee, Pam Nilan, Hiruni Walimunige, David Cao http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0 https://www.journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2991 Wed, 23 Aug 2023 00:00:00 +0000 Garihma (to Care for) https://www.journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2982 <h1><strong>“Garihmato—Look after, to Care for”</strong></h1> <p>Melaleuca Alternifolia, commonly called Tea Tree, only grows naturally in the lands of the Bundjalung people from north coast New South Wales. The particular medicinal properties of the Tea Tree have been used for thousands of years, and the Tree and its effects on land, water, and people form part of Bundjalung oral histories and spiritual governance. </p> <p>This article explores media about Tea Tree from the 1990s to 2020s in print media through agricultural media and magazines, as well as online media through TikTok. This combination highlights the generational positionality between the authors as Mother/Daughter and as different consumers of media, with Kath mainly consuming print and Phoebe consuming online. It also utilises a synergy through timing, with the 1990s being when Kath was in her 20s and the 2020s being Phoebe’s time in her 20s.</p> <p>Through analysing the tropes and messaging surrounding Tea Tree, we as Bundjalung women unearth the continued colonisation and exploitation of First Nations knowledges by the health and wellbeing sector – from the mainstream pharmaceutical industry to alternative wellbeing to user-generated travel content. This article considers these areas.</p> <p>Ultimately, acknowledgements of Indigenous land or origins of knowledge are not enough. We call for a structural reaffirmation and recontextualisation of First Nations’ ancestral medicines.</p> <h1><strong>Cultural Positioning</strong></h1> <p>Our family has an audio recording of our Githabal ancestor Granny Dorothy (Williams) Webb being interviewed by Terry Crowley, a linguist who was recording the Bundjalung language in the 1970s. This recording of Granny forms part of the body of language resources published in the Crowley’s <em>The Middle Clarence Dialects of Bandjalang</em>.</p> <p>In one section of the recording, Crowley quizzes Granny on the names for different trees. When he asks about Tea Tree, Granny quickly responds “bulam” (also sometimes spelt “bulihm”) and then attempts to begin a story on how the bark “bulam-ga” was used for shelters. Crowley abruptly stops her reminiscence as he has no interest in the ethnographic detail, just the linguistic material. Had he allowed her to speak further, he would have known that Granny had much more to say on Tea Tree.</p> <p>Some parts of her knowledge would have not been spoken to him, however, as Tea Tree, in particular Ti Tree Lake, formed a part of her women’s knowledge. As Granny’s female descendants, we operationalise our cultural connection to Bulam/Tea Tree in this article while being mindful and respectful of the importance of keeping certain knowledge within our female genealogy. We remain faithful to Granny’s language and to her teachings which we are privileged to know through oral history from her daughters Gertie and Esther Webb and her granddaughter Julianne Butler.</p> <h1><strong>The Context of ‘Wellbeing’</strong></h1> <p>The World Health Organisation states in its Constitution that “health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” (WHO). While noting that this definition is a significant improvement on exclusively bio-medical definitions, we argue that there is still room for a further expansion. In critiquing the WHO definition, Sartorius (662) notes a third dimension of health, which is “a state of balance, an equilibrium that an individual has established within himself and between himself and his social and physical environment”. The inclusion of the environment resonates more deeply with many Aboriginal philosophies but remains problematic due to its individualistic nature, removed from culture, community, and Connection to Country. </p> <p>Through industry research, understandings of ‘wellness’ from the ‘health and wellbeing’ sector at large appear to remain fluid to consumer demands. In a 2021 report, “Wellness in 2030”, research shows that “consumers are spending more on wellness than they ever have before. Wellness is now a $1.5 trillion market globally” (Chopra et al.). Rather than provide a definition of what ‘wellness’ means, the report focusses on six ‘wellness categories’ as identified by consumers: health, fitness, nutrition, appearance, sleep, and mindfulness. From this we can understand that the ‘health and wellness’ industry might not promote a secure philosophy of wellness because, as inherently capitalist enterprises, they want to be responsive to social trends in order to secure profit. </p> <p>For Aboriginal peoples, our understanding of wellbeing is much more concrete. Culture is inextricably connected to Country, and the guardianship of that relationship is a foundation for life and a key indicator of wellbeing (Grieves 2; Oliver 1). Put simply, “if the land is sick, you are sick” (Kenyon). Conversely, the belief that “if you look after the country, the country will look after you” (Weir et al.) has framed a multi-generational cultural governance grounded in The Dreaming. Therefore, this article proceeds on an understanding of wellbeing beyond the limitation of mainstream definitions – we understand wellbeing as being place-based, enculturated, and grounded in action not aspiration. Our case study on the wellbeing representations in media promoting Tea Tree in various forms such as oils and immersive experience speak to this framing.</p> <h1><strong>Bulam (<em>Melaleuca Alternifolia</em>)</strong></h1> <p>Many Australians are familiar with Tea Tree but are unaware that one particular variant, <em>Melaleuca </em><em>Alternifolia</em>, only grows naturally within the lands of the Bundjalung people. In addition to continuing oral histories, it was noted in various journals in the early colonial period that Bundjalung people used Bulam (<em>Tea Tree</em>) for a range of uses – to cover shelter, to line the coolamons which held jarjum (<em>children</em>), and for a range of medicinal purposes for its antiseptic, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. Bulam could also be used as a diluted drink, or as a crushed oil rubbed on wounds, with the added advantage of also repelling insects (Murray 693).</p> <p>Additionally, Tea Tree occupies a revered place in Bundjalung beliefs and practices through its transformation of Country. We contend that the phrase “Country makes us healthy” is not a metaphor but a deeply held cultural norm with spiritual and physical attributes. In regard to Bulam/Tea Tree, it is important to acknowledge that there are bodies of water in Bundjalung Country which are ringed by Tea Tree, in particular Ti Tree Lake. The healing properties of the water are enhanced by the infusion from leaves into the water, giving it antibacterial properties; these waters are seen as Women’s sites and are particularly important as birthing places.</p> <p>It is contended that the name Tea Tree comes from the recording of Captain James Cook’s 1770 mapping of the Australian eastern coastline. Coming ashore, Cook and his party witnessed Bundjalung people making a ‘tea coloured’ drink from the leaves of the tree. A number of sailors also used the leaves for tea (Drury 11). Neither the sailors, nor Joseph Banks who collected samples, were aware of the potential health benefits of the Tea Tree. Some early colonists in the north coast region did use the leaves medicinally but it was widely unknown amongst non-Indigenous people until the twentieth century (Drury 19).</p> <p>It was not until the 1920s that Tea Tree was produced and marketed by Arthur Penfold, an Australian chemist. Marketed as an oil, it is claimed that soldiers during World War II were given Tea Tree oil for use in the trenches (Australian Tea Tree Industry Association). However, with the advent of antibiotics, Tea Tree fell out of favour as a remedy, but recent interest, from both pharmaceutical and alternative medicine sectors, has seen a steady growth in production and promotion of Tea Tree for viable wound care globally (Jones).</p> <h1><strong>Unpacking Ethnocentrism, ‘Common Sense’, and Settler-Colonial Extractivism </strong></h1> <p>Australia has since developed a flourishing market for ‘herbal remedies’ which is dominated by Western and Chinese medicinal products. While Indigenous Medicines are experiencing growing popularity, they have traditionally held a very small market share (Wohlmuth et al.). Interestingly, while some Indigenous medicines have been used to develop Indigenous-owned micro-economies (Oliver), Tea Tree products have predominantly been distributed by non-Indigenous people. This is problematic because it removes the product from its broader cultural context and does not recognise Indigenous Intellectual and Cultural Property Rights. In fact, the marketing of Tea Tree oil in some contexts displays a distinct ethnocentrism.</p> <p>We understand ‘ethnocentrism’ to refer to individual and systemically entrenched beliefs in the perceived ‘rightness’ of the perspectives and processes of a person’s own group. Ethnocentrism also identifies that this belief in the ‘rightness’ of their own community acts alongside an aversion and disdain for ‘outsiders’ and their ways. This belief often enforces loyalty along ethnic lines in order to consolidate power, wealth, and resources in order to deprive the ‘outsider’. Notions of ethnocentrism have been present in the Australian social, cultural, and political consciousness for centuries (Cole)</p> <p>Another idea to consider with Australian ethnocentrism is theorist Antonio Gramsci’s concept of ‘common sense’. He argues that, while individuals of a social group may hold its conception of the world, the same group may repeat rhetoric that is not their own due to the ideas' prevalence in ‘normal times’. This is when the repetition of ‘common sense’ understandings becomes “not independent and autonomous, but submissive and subordinate” (Gramsci).</p> <p>Many of the media representations we unpack later in this article can be understood as repetitions of settler-colonial ‘common sense’ which reinforce and value the supposed ‘supremacy’ of white non-Indigenous understandings while trivialising or disregarding First Nations ways.</p> <p>Consequently, this brings the issue of ethnocentrism beyond individual acts to highlight the extractive nature of settler-colonial nations, which premise themselves on the ‘elimination of the native’ and our ways of being, knowing, and doing (Kauanui). This elimination does not have to be purely genocidal but also includes the appropriation and assimilation of First Nations people, resources, and knowledge.</p> <p>Mississauga Nishnaabeg writer Leanne Simpson from northern Turtle Island (Canada) argues that</p> <blockquote> <p>extraction and assimilation go together. Colonialism has always extracted the indigenous … every part of our culture that is seemingly useful to the extractivist mindset gets extracted … and assimilated into the culture of the settlers without regard for the people and the knowledge that created it. (Klein)</p> </blockquote> <p>In our analysis of media representations below, we will see many examples of what this section seeks to explain. Media will trivialise or dismiss First Nations people and knowledge through extraction, appropriation, and assimilation of our resources into their own ethnocentric understandings.</p> <h1><strong>Tea Tree Oil Use in ‘Australia’, 1990s-2020s</strong></h1> <p> In the 1990s, as Tea Tree oil began to expand in the market, the <em>Australian Financial Review</em> published an article entitled “Bringing Tea-Tree Oil Out of the Swamp” (Brown). The article’s provocative introduction asserted:</p> <blockquote> <p>the world's first big plantation producer of tea-tree oil discovered early that its product's folksy image was not easy to shed. Decades of labelling as a bush remedy was a disadvantage when the product was eventually promoted as scientifically proven medicine. However, the company has succeeded in convincing consumers that the native product is a quality one, and the result has been the birth of a new industry.</p> </blockquote> <p>In deconstructing these assertions through a Bundjalung lens we have much to say!</p> <p>Firstly, it is a peculiarly Western lens which denigrates swampland. The late anthropologist Deborah Bird Rose (1996) gave voice to many of the Aboriginal perspectives which she had heard, contending that ‘wilderness’ is a construction of the West. For Aboriginal people, swamp is still sacred: it is the home of the Tea Tree and is not perceived as lesser, but rather as an interdependent element of the broader landscape, of the health of waterways, teeming with food and medicines.</p> <p>Secondly, we note the usage of “folksy image” and “bush remedy” as hurdles to be overcome. Given that both of these, particularly ‘bush medicines’, are coded to Aboriginality, this presents another layer of disconnection of the emplaced and enculturated nature of Tea Tree. In fact, later studies have shown that there is strong uptake and identification with traditional medicines exactly from that basis. For instance, interviewees from clinics distributing traditional remedies recall, “blackfellas and whitefellas come and tell us, ‘I’m feeling better from your bush medicine, can I get some more?’” (Oliver). Additionally, if we consider the global market, the WHO estimates that “60% of the world’s population relies on herbal medicine and about 80% of the population in developing countries depends almost totally on it for their primary health care needs” (Khan). Therefore, we contend that the ‘disadvantage’ is in targeting the ethnocentric Western market, which is masked by an apparent global outlook.</p> <p>This year, in “Three Tales from Tea Tree Farmers”, an article published in <em>The Farmer Magazine</em>, the developing ‘Australian’ Tea Tree industry is foregrounded in the by-line with “First Nations people have understood the value of Australian tea tree oil for thousands of years” (Hadgraft). This is particularly ironic given the content of the article itself: white face after white face come through the editorial shots of farmers with their crop, and not another whisper of the Aboriginal people and knowledges the article leads with. In this and other business-focussed articles, the Tea Tree narrative transcends its literal grounding.</p> <p>In contrast, a range of alternative medicine commentators do acknowledge the centrality of Bundjalung culture to Tea Tree’s curative potential, but place Aboriginal knowledges in a liminal space – a kind of choose-your-own-adventure – which samples across belief systems and practices to create a hybrid model which weakens Aboriginal cultural authority. We note that these erasures and slippages are not necessarily made from malice, but nevertheless constitute a problematic narrative through an Aboriginal lens.</p> <p>For example, Madelaine West, in “The Only Way to Create a Kinder World Together”, lauds the Tea Tree-infused lake waters in the Bundjalung nation as a kind of New Age transformative landscape. She comments:</p> <blockquote> <p>since time immemorial, these lakes have been a sacred Indigenous birthing place and meeting ground of the First Nation tribes of the Arakwal-Bundjalung people. Historically a ‘girls only’-type affair, many Indigenous men still observe this practice.</p> </blockquote> <p>It should be noted here that ‘girls only’ seems to hearken to the literary tradition of girls' adventure fiction – the self-sufficient tomboy who challenges gender norms. While this trope has, and can, continue to serve to empower young women, there has often been a racialised element to this narrative (McRobbie and McCabe 1981). In the context of Tea Tree, it is salient to note that Women’s Business transcends the girls-only trope as the framing of spiritual authority with severe consequences for those men who transgress this element of lore (Bird-Rose 36-8). Thus West’s contention of the personified <em>Lake</em> sits in direct contravention to her stated position that “it is not for me to interpret nor appropriate the culture of the traditional custodians of this region”.</p> <blockquote> <p>The warm, soothing waters of these lakes offer up their healing properties to one and all ... they don't discriminate along lines of colour, creed, residence or orientation. They just hold you in their fluid, forgiving embrace, wash you clean, heal your hurts and soothe your soul. (West)</p> </blockquote> <p>We note that there is no problem in personifying the body of water as this directly correlates to international movements to the legal personhood of waterways, such as the Whanganui River in Aotearoa (New Zealand), or recognition as a living entity such as the Yarra River in Victoria. What should be noted, however, is that within the context of international instruments like the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and various national and state policies, First Nations people (in particular Traditional Owners) are central to the representation of engagement with water (Pelizzon et al.). In this context it would include a culturally mediated guardianship on who may bathe in the waters, which speaks to a respect for cultural traditions and consultation for permission to use the waters.</p> <p>There is an ongoing tension for First Nations people attempting to negotiate this preferred power-sharing with local, state, and national governments while their Country continues to be desecrated by ignorant and selfish visitors.</p> <p>Despite lack of support from the state, First Nations peoples regularly attempt to exert their own environmental governance and authority over sacred sites on their Country, with one way being through the use of signs informing guests of the nature of the area. Similar to our special lakes in Bundjalung Country, Kuku Yalanji people from the Daintree have the Blue Hole Pool, which is a healing and birthing place reserved for women’s business.</p> <blockquote> <p>Kuku Yalanji Traditional Owners have struggled for years to protect this site, as non-Indigenous people have decided to make the pool a regular swimming spot. Multiple erected signs are constantly dismissed and a boom gate installed to stop vehicles has been broken multiple times by disgruntled visitors. (Hollis)</p> </blockquote> <p>Protecting these lakes has hit another obstacle with the rise of #traveltok in the 2020s, a subsection of media on the user-generated short form video-sharing app <em>TikTok</em> dedicated to sharing the best spots to travel. All someone has to search for is ‘swimming hole daintree’, and videos show overwhelmingly non-Indigenous tourists (of all genders) sharing their travels to the Blue Hole Pool. One video shows a girl with her friends trespassing past the aforementioned boom gate (TikTok a), and another video shows a young man filming himself in the sacred women’s pool with the caption “Add this to your bucket list in Queensland!” (TikTok b). Ironically, a number of commenters note that he would have had to ignore numerous signs warning him to not swim. However, the video still garnered 2,200 likes, and over 700 people have saved the video.</p> <p>A similar search for ‘Ti Tree Lake’ reveals comparable content. The first video belongs to a young woman, Rhiannon, presumably in her early 20s, who declares in a voiceover that “this is one of the best places to swim in Australia”, before listing off the health and wellbeing benefits of the Tea Tree-infused lake (TikTok c). While she acknowledges in the second half of the video that the lake is “valued” by Indigenous women after birth, she fails to name Bundjalung people for her audience of 508,000 views, and instead closes her content on how nice her hair felt afterwards. Through this type of media content creation, a young white woman has assumed the right to promote one of Bundjalung Nation’s most significant sites. Another video nearby in the search list shows a young man bathing in our women’s lake (TikTok d).</p> <p>West and Rhiannon are certainly not alone in their shaping of the lake as a natural healing place through a lens of wellbeing language. A letter to the editor complaining of men using the lake took a far different approach to a gender prohibition, adding dismay that the lake was being used by men seeking random sexual hook-ups. In speaking of the significance of the Country, the author writes, “once upon a time it was an Aboriginal birthing ground. Yeah fellas, a sacred women’s area”. Ironically the concern of what had been ‘lost’ was also framed through a nostalgic appreciation where</p> <blockquote> <p>20 years ago I used to come here with my girlfriends and we would swim in the tea-tree lake, dive deep to retrieve the mineral rich mud from the bottom and lie in the sun until it had dried. It was the ultimate day spa. (Leonard)</p> </blockquote> <p>While noting this conversational tone, there is nevertheless a deep disjuncture between a sacred women's area and a day spa. We argue that the significance of Tea Tree lakes is not open to appropriation through reinterpretation, not through a female empowerment and revitalisation agenda nor a neo-spiritual agenda which arose in the 2015 media discussion on a non-Aboriginal Victorian couple’s decision to give birth in Taylors Lake, reported by the <em>Byron Shire News</em>. In the paper’s next weekly edition, they gave voice to Arakwal custodians who commented:</p> <blockquote> <p>Taylors Lake or Ti Tree Lake is the most significant Aboriginal women's site in the Byron Shire … . The lake belongs to all Bundjalung women and holds deep spiritual significance to us, and our men never go there out of respect … . This woman speaks about her respect for Aboriginal culture but did not ask our permission. We were horrified when we saw the picture in the paper of this man in the sacred women's lake. (Kay cited in C222morrow)</p> </blockquote> <p>This last example particularly exemplifies the attempted ‘elimination’ of First Peoples through the attempted appropriation and assimilation of Indigenous practice. This absorption of the practice of bathing in these lakes into non-Indigenous practices attempts to displace Indigenous peoples from our Country, our sacred sites, and our knowledge. Through the re-framing of these places as ‘wellness’ tools or feminist liberation, we are experiencing the continued colonisation of our special places, which are our birthright as encultured female members of First Nations groups. </p> <h1><strong>Calls to Action</strong></h1> <p>There is a trend in academic literature which provides the scope of problems which plague Indigenous peoples. Our article concludes not with a restatement of the issues, but with a series of Calls to Action. Every day that we do not empower Traditional Owners in the management of their own Country is another day that sites such as Ti Tree Lake are desecrated and culturally significant plants like bulam are exploited. This requires individual and broader systemic change:</p> <ul> <li>Non-Indigenous peoples seeking healing and enlightenment from Country must be mindful that they are guests in those spaces. Wilfully ignoring Indigenous protocols or seeing protocols as a “pick and mix” option devalues Country.</li> <li>Social media guidelines for platforms such as TikTok must include avenues to flag or remove or add warnings for culturally insensitive content. This requires ongoing collaboration with First Nations people to further refine what content breaches these guidelines. Content creators must also adapt to community feedback.</li> <li>There must be legal recognition of Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP) regarding First Nations’ knowledge of Country.</li> <li>First Nations people must be empowered to economically benefit from their knowledge as business owners and entrepreneurs utilising their individual, familial, and communal knowledge.</li> <li>Local, state, and national governments must empower Traditional Ecological Governance systems.</li> <li>Acknowledgement is not enough, sovereignty and land back.</li> </ul> <p>#notyourdamndayspa.</p> <h2><strong>References</strong></h2> <p>Australian Tea Tree Oil Industry Association. “About Australian Tea Tree Oil.” 10 June 2023 &lt;<a href="https://teatree.org.au/teatree_about.php">https://teatree.org.au/teatree_about.php</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Bird-Rose, Deborah. <em>Nourishing Terrains: Australian Aboriginal Views of Landscape and Wilderness. </em>Australian Heritage Commission, 1996.</p> <p>Brown, Jamie. “Bringing Tea-Tree Oil Out of the Swamp.” <em>Financial Review</em> 17 Apr. 1994. &lt;<a href="https://www.afr.com/companies/bringing-tea-tree-oil-out-of-the-swamp-19940117-kate3">https://www.afr.com/companies/bringing-tea-tree-oil-out-of-the-swamp-19940117-kate3</a>&gt;.</p> <p>C222morrow. “Arakwal Condemn Birth Plans for Women’s Lake.” 19 Feb. 2015. &lt;<u><a href="https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/byron-shire/arakwal-condemn-birth-plans-for-womens-lake/news-story/2ff9913bd37ce6a3cb3fa1edb45af0f4">https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/byron-shire/arakwal-condemn-birth-plans-for-womens-lake/news-story/2ff9913bd37ce6a3cb3fa1edb45af0f4</a></u>&gt;.</p> <p>Chopra, Manish, et al. “Wellness in 2030.” 22 July 2021 &lt;<a href="https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/consumer-packaged-goods/our-insights/wellness-in-2030">https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/consumer-packaged-goods/our-insights/wellness-in-2030</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Cole, Douglas. “‘The Crimson Thread of Kinship’: Ethnic Ideas in Australia, 1870–1914.” <em>Historical Studies</em> <span class="volume_issue">14.56 </span>(1971): <span class="page_range">511-525.</span> </p> <p>Crowley, Terry. <em>The Middle Clarence Dialects of Bandjalang</em>. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, 1978.</p> <p>Drury, Susan. <em>Tea Tree Oil: A Medicine Kit in a Bottle. </em>Unity Press, 1996.</p> <p>Gramsci, Antonio. <em>Selections from the Prison Notebooks</em>. 6th ed. London: Wishart, 1980.</p> <p>Grieves, Vicki<em>. </em><em>Aboriginal Spirituality: Aboriginal Philosophy, the Basis of Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing</em>. Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health, 2009.</p> <p>Hadgraft, Bev. “Three Tales from Tea Tree Farmers.” <em>The Farmer </em>13 Feb. 2023. &lt;<a href="https://thefarmermagazine.com.au/tea-tree-tales/">https://thefarmermagazine.com.au/tea-tree-tales/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Hollis, Hannah. “Ignoring 'No Entry' Signs at Women's Sacred Site Has Consequences, Says Custodian.” <em>SBS</em> 31 Mar. 2016 .&lt;<a href="https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/article/ignoring-no-entry-signs-at-womens-sacred-site-has-consequences-says-custodian/2pvigi9gx">https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/article/ignoring-no-entry-signs-at-womens-sacred-site-has-consequences-says-custodian/2pvigi9gx</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Jones, Greg. “Indigenous Medicine – A Fusion of Ritual and Remedy.” <em>The Conversation</em> 5 Dec. 2014. &lt;<a href="https://theconversation.com/indigenous-medicine-a-fusion-of-ritual-and-remedy-33142">https://theconversation.com/indigenous-medicine-a-fusion-of-ritual-and-remedy-33142</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Kahn, Mohd S.A., and Iqbal Ahmed. “Herbal Medicine: Current Trends and Future Prospects.” <em>New Look </em><em>to Phytomedicine</em>. Academic Press, 2019.</p> <p>Kauanui, J. Kēhaulani. “‘A Structure, Not an Event’: Settler Colonialism and Enduring Indigeneity.” <em>Emergent Critical Analytics for Alternative Humanities</em>, 2016. &lt;<a href="https://csalateral.org/issue/5-1/forum-alt-humanities-settler-colonialism-enduring-indigeneity-kauanui/">https://csalateral.org/issue/5-1/forum-alt-humanities-settler-colonialism-enduring-indigeneity-kauanui/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Keyon, Georgia. “‘If the land is sick, you are sick’: An Aboriginal Approach to Mental Health in Times of Drought.” 8 Jun. 2023 &lt;<a href="https://scroll.in/pulse/921558/if-the-land-is-sick-you-are-sick-an-aboriginal-approach-to-mental-health-in-times-of-drought">https://scroll.in/pulse/921558/if-the-land-is-sick-you-are-sick-an-aboriginal-approach-to-mental-health-in-times-of-drought</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Klein, Naomi. “Dancing the World into Being: A Conversation with Idle No More’s Leanne Simpson.” <em>Yes Magazine</em> 6 Mar. 2013. &lt;<a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/social-justice/2013/03/06/dancing-the-world-into-being-a-conversation-with-idle-no-more-leanne-simpson">https://www.yesmagazine.org/social-justice/2013/03/06/dancing-the-world-into-being-a-conversation-with-idle-no-more-leanne-simpson</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Leonard, Ali. “Stop Shagging at the Tea-Tree Lake.” 20 May 2023 &lt;<a href="https://www.echo.net.au/2018/01/stop-shagging-tea-tree-lake/">https://www.echo.net.au/2018/01/stop-shagging-tea-tree-lake/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>McRobbie, Angela, and Trisha McCabe. <em>Feminism for Girls: An Adventure Story. </em>Routledge, 2013.</p> <p>Murray, Michael. “Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree).” <em>Textbook of Natural Medicine</em>. 5th ed. 2020.</p> <p>Oliver, Stefani. “The Role of Traditional Medicine Practice in Primary Health Care within Aboriginal Australia: A Review of the Literature.” <em>Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine </em>9.46 (2013).</p> <p>Pelizzon, Alessandro, Erin O’Donnell, and Anne Poelina. “Australia’s Rivers are Ancestral Beings.” 29 May 2023 &lt;<a href="https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/australia-s-rivers-are-ancestral-beings">https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/australia-s-rivers-are-ancestral-beings</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Sartorius, Norman. “The Meanings of Health and Its Promotion.” <em>Croatian Medical Journal</em> 47 (2006): 662-64.</p> <p>Tik Tok a. 30 May 2023 &lt;<a href="https://vt.tiktok.com/ZSLMykWMF/">https://vt.tiktok.com/ZSLMykWMF/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Tik Tok b. 30 May 2023 &lt;<a href="https://vt.tiktok.com/ZSLMyqr4a/">https://vt.tiktok.com/ZSLMyqr4a/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Tik Tok c. 30 May 2023 &lt;<a href="https://vt.tiktok.com/ZSLMf29Vm/">https://vt.tiktok.com/ZSLMf29Vm/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Tik Tok d. 30 May 2023 &lt;<a href="https://vt.tiktok.com/ZSLMfmSGN/">https://vt.tiktok.com/ZSLMfmSGN/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Weir, Jessica, and Kara Youngtob. <em>The Benefits Associated with Caring for Country</em>. AIATSIS, 2009.</p> <p>West, Madelaine. “The Only Way to Create a Kinder World Together.” 20 May 2023 &lt;<a href="https://honey.nine.com.au/latest/ti-tree-lakes-madeleine-west/945298a0-15cb-4831-a269-6ed431b81b31">https://honey.nine.com.au/latest/ti-tree-lakes-madeleine-west/945298a0-15cb-4831-a269-6ed431b81b31</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Wohlmuth, Hans, Chris Oliver, and Pradeep Nathan. “A Review of the Status of Western Herbal Medicine in Australia.” <em>Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy</em> 2.2 (2002): 33-46.</p> <p>WHO. “Constitution.” 6 June 2023 &lt;<a href="https://www.who.int/about/governance/constitution">https://www.who.int/about/governance/constitution</a>&gt;.</p> Kathleen Butler, Phoebe McIlwraith Copyright (c) 2023 Kathleen Butler, Phoebe McIlwraith http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0 https://www.journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2982 Fri, 25 Aug 2023 00:00:00 +0000 More-than-Human Wellbeing https://www.journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2976 <h1><strong>Introduction</strong></h1> <p>The concept of ‘wellbeing’ is typically thought of in human-centric ways, referring to the affective feelings and bodily sensations that people may have which inform their sense of health, safety, and connection. However, as our everyday lives, identities, relationships, and embodiments become digitised and datafied, ‘wellbeing’ has taken on new practices and meanings. The use of digital technologies such as mobile and wearable devices, social media platforms, and networks of information mediate our interactions with others, as well as the ways we conceptualise what it means to be human, including where the body begins and ends. In turn, digital health technologies and ‘wellness’ cultures such as those promoted on social media sites such as Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Facebook have also shaped our understanding of ‘wellness’ and ‘wellbeing’, their parameters, and how they ought to be practiced and felt (Baker; Lupton <em>Digital Health; </em>Lupton et al.).</p> <p>For millennia, aspects of human bodies have been documented and materialised in a variety of ways to help people understand states of health and illness: including relationships to the environments in which they lived. Indigenous and other non-Western cosmologies have long emphasised the kinds of vibrancies and distributed agencies that are part of reciprocal more-than-human ‘manifestings’ of kinships, and have called for all people to adopt the role of stewards of the ecosystem (Bawaka Country et al.; Hernández et al.; Kimmerer; Rots; Todd; Tynan). In Western cultures, ideas of the human body that reach back to ancient times adopt a perspective that viewed the continuous flows of forces (the four humours) in conjunction with the elements of air, wind, earth, and fire inside and outside the body as contributing to states of health or ill health. It was believed that good health was maintained by ensuring a balance between these factors, including acknowledgement of the role played by climactic, ecological, and celestial conditions (Hartnell; Lagay).</p> <p>A more-than-human approach is beginning to be re-introduced into Western cultures through political activism and academic thinking about the harms to the planet caused by human actions, including global warming and climate crises, loss of habitats and ecological biodiversity, increased incidence of extreme weather events such as bushfires, floods, and cyclones, and emerging novel pathogens affecting the health not only of humans but of other living things (Lewis; Lupton <em>Covid Societies; </em>Lupton <em>Internet of Animals; </em>Neimanis et al.). Contemporary Western more-than-human philosophers argue for the importance of acknowledging our kinship with other living and non-living things as a way of repositioning ourselves within the cosmos and working towards better health and wellbeing for the planet (Abram; Braidotti; Plumwood). As these approaches emphasise, health, wellbeing, and kinship are always imbricated within material-social assemblages of humans and non-digital things which are constantly changing, and thereby generating emergent rather than fixed capacities (Lupton "Human-Centric"; Lupton et al.).</p> <p>In this article, we describe our <em>More-than-Human Wellbein</em>g exhibition. To date, new media, Internet, and communication studies have not devoted as much attention to more-than-human theory. It is this more-than-digital <em>and</em> more-than-human approach to health information and wellbeing that marks out our research program as particularly distinctive. Our research focusses on the many and varied digital and non-digital forms that information about health and bodies takes. We are interested in health data as they are made and form part of the objects and activities of people’s everyday lives and aim to expand the human-centric approach offered in digital health by positioning human health and embodiment as always imbricated within more-than-human ecosystems. We acknowledge that all environments (natural and human-built) are intertwined with humans, and that to a greater or lesser extent, all are configured with and through the often exploitative and extractive practices and ideologies of those living in late modern societies in which people are positioned as superior to and autonomous from other living things.</p> <p>Together with more-than-human scholarship, we take inspiration from work in which arts-based, multisensory, and museum curation methods are employed to draw attention to the intertwining of people and ecologies (Endt-Jones; Howes). Our exhibition was planned as a research translation and engagement project, communicating several of our studies’ findings in arts-based media (Lupton "Embodying"). In what follows, we outline the concepts leading to the creation of our exhibits and describe how these pieces materialise and extend more-than-human concepts of wellbeing and care. Five of the exhibits we created for this exhibition are discussed. They all draw on our research findings across a range of studies, together with more-than-human theory and medical history (Lupton "More-Than-Human"). We describe how we used these pieces to materialise more-than-human concepts of health, wellbeing, and kinship in ways that we hoped would provoke critical thought, affective responses, and open capacities for action for contributing to both human and nonhuman flourishing. The background, thinking, and modes of making leading to the creation of ‘Cabinet of Human/Digital/Data Curiosities’, ‘Smartphone Fungi’, ‘Hand of Signs’, ‘Silken Anatomies’, and ‘Talking/Flowers’ are explained below.</p> <h1><strong>Bodily Curios</strong></h1> <p>Vaughan Wozniak-O’Connor and Deborah Lupton. <em>Cabinet of Human/Digital/Data Curiosities</em>. Reclaimed timber, found objects, resin 3D prints. 2023.</p> <p><img src="https://journal.media-culture.org.au/public/site/images/meganrose/img-1415.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p><em>Fig. 1: </em>Cabinet of Human/Digital/Data Curiosities<em>.</em></p> <p><img src="https://journal.media-culture.org.au/public/site/images/meganrose/img-1417.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p><em>Fig. 2: Detail from </em>Cabinet of Human/Digital/Data Curiosities<em>.</em></p> <p>The objects we have placed in <em>Cabinet of Human/Digital/Data Curiosities</em> (figs. 1 and 2) mix together such things from the past as prosthetic human eyeballs and teeth used in medicine and dentistry in earlier eras. This collection of found and manufactured objects, both old and new, draws on the concept of the ‘cabinet of curiosities’, also known as cabinets of wonder, which first became popular in the sixteenth century. Artefacts were assembled together for viewing in a room or a display case. The items were chosen for being notable in some way by the curator, including objects from natural history, antiquities, and religious relics, as well as works of art. These collections, purchased, curated, and assembled by members of the nobility or the wealthy as a marker of refinement, knowledge, or social status, were the precursor of museums (Endt-Jones). We see digital devices such as mobile phones as one of a multitude of ways that operate to document and preserve elements of human embodiment – indeed, as contemporary ‘cabinets of curiosities’.</p> <p>Our cabinet also refers to the tradition of medical museums, which display preserved human organs, body parts, and tissue in glass bottles for pedagogical purposes. Under this model of health, specimens of both ‘ideal’ health and also ‘ill’ health – abnormalities in the flesh – were documented as a means of categorising wellbeing. Museums such as these would often treat diseased and disabled bodies as oddities and artefacts of ‘curiosity’. In this work, we reimagine and wind back this way of thinking, through displaying and drawing attention and curiosity towards signs of the body and the everyday. We are showing that wellbeing is more than a process of categorisation, comparison, or measurement of ‘ideal’ or ‘abnormal’; it is in the traces we leave behind us when we return to the earth. Our information data are human remains, moving as endless constellations of the interior and exterior of the body (Lupton <em>Data Selves</em>).</p> <p>In this artwork, both reclaimed wood and 3D-printed resin were used as a synergy between the natural and synthetic. Taking our cue from the manner of display of these items in medical museums, we have added our own curios, including 3D-printed body organs sprouting fungi (fig. 2), as a way of demonstrating the entanglements between humans and the fungal kingdom. Interspersed among these relics of human bodies is a discarded mobile phone with its screen badly shattered. It is displayed as a more recent antiquated object for making images and collecting, storing, and displaying information and images about human bodies, which itself is subject to disastrous events despite its original high-tech veneer of glossy impermeability. Technologies are more-than-flesh as human-made simulacra of body parts. Our wellbeing is sensed and made sense of through bodies’ entanglements of human and nonhuman. These curios both materialise traces of our bodies and wellbeing and extend our bodies into the physical spaces we inhabit and through which we move.</p> <h1><strong>Reading the Traces and Signs</strong></h1> <p>Vaughan Wozniak-O’Connor and Deborah Lupton. <em>Smartphone Fungi</em>. Recycled European oak, 3D printed resin, CNC carved plywood. 2023</p> <p>Vaughan Wozniak-O’Connor and Deborah Lupton. <em>Hand of Signs</em>. Laser-etched walnut and plywood. 2023.</p> <div style="display: flex;"> <div style="flex: 20%;"><img src="https://journal.media-culture.org.au/public/site/images/meganrose/mceclip1.jpg" /></div> <div style="flex: 20%;"><img src="https://journal.media-culture.org.au/public/site/images/meganrose/mthw-35.jpg" alt="" /></div> </div> <p><em>Fig. 3: </em>Smartphone Fungi<em>.</em> / <em>Fig. 4: Detail from </em>Smartphone Fungi<em>.</em></p> <p>Wellbeing is also a process of mark-making, realised through the reciprocal impressions we leave on each other and the world around us. In <em>Smart Phone Fungi</em> (figs. 3 and 4) we capture the idea of ‘recording’ that takes place between people, technologies, and the natural world. It was inspired by a huge tree which members of our team noticed on a bush walk in the Blue Mountains, near Sydney, Australia. Growing from this tree were fungi of similar size and shape to the smartphone that was used to capture the image. In our interpretation, a piece of reclaimed timber was used to represent the tree, itself marked by its human use, and fungal shapes replicating those on the tree were produced using computer numerical controlled (CNC) carving. The central timber post is covered with human and more-than-human traces, such as old tool marks, weather damage, and wood borer holes. Alongside these traces, the CNC-carved fungi forms add a conspicuously digital layer of human intervention.</p> <p><img src="https://journal.media-culture.org.au/public/site/images/meganrose/image-8.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p><em>Fig. 5: </em>Hand of Signs<em>.</em></p> <p>In <em>Hand of Signs</em> (fig. 5), we extend this idea of both organic and digital data traces as something that can be ‘read’ or interpreted. Inspired by the practice of palmistry, this work re-interprets line reading, the historical wooden anatomical model, and human body scanning as ways of reading for signs of wellbeing in past and future. Palm readers interpret people’s character, health, longevity, and other aspects of their lives through the creases and traces of development, wear, and deteriorations in the skin of our hands (Chinn). Life leaves its traces on our palms. The piece also refers to the newer tradition of digitising human bodies (Lupton <em>Quantified Self</em>; Lupton et al.), employing scanning and data visualising technologies, which uses spatial GPS data to deduce patterns of human activity. For both palmistry and in more contemporary monitoring technologies, one’s wellbeing can be deduced through the map: the lines of the palm and the errant traces collected by satellites and sensors.</p> <p>To reflect this relation between mapping and palmistry, our updated anatomical model references both the contours of 3D geospatial data and of the human palm. However, this piece looks to represent more layers of data beyond those captured by GPS data. By using reclaimed wood to construct this human hand model, we are again making an analogy between the marks of growth and life that timber displays and those that the human body bears and develops as people move through more-than-worlds throughout their lifespans. The piece also seeks to draw attention to the various ‘signs’ that have been used across centuries to interpret the current and future health and wellbeing of humans (once markings on or morphologies of the body, now often the digitised visualisations of the internal operations and physical movements of the body that are generated by digital health technologies), superimposing older and newer modes of corporeal knowledge.</p> <h1><strong>Layers of Mediation</strong></h1> <p>Megan Rose. <em>Silken Anatomies</em>. Digital print on satin and yoryu silk chiffon. 2023.</p> <p>Ash Watson. <em>Talking/Flowers</em>. Collage and digital inkjet on paper. 2023.</p> <p><img src="https://journal.media-culture.org.au/public/site/images/meganrose/image-11.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p><em>Fig. 6: Detail from </em>Silken Anatomies<em>.</em></p> <p>The ways that we come to sense and understand wellbeing are also mediated through the reproductive interplay of natural and technological elements. <em>Silken Anatomies</em> (fig. 6) was inspired by anatomical prints from the Renaissance showing details of the interiors of human bodies and organs together with living things and objects from the natural world. These webs of interconnectivity were thought to be key to wellbeing and health. Produced at scale through metal engraving and woodblock printing, these natural history and compendia took on major importance as part of these educational resources (Kemp; Swan). In an effort to extend the reach of artefacts beyond their tangible presence, libraries globally have sought to create open access digital scans of historic medical and botanical illustrations. The images reconfigured in <em>Silken Anatomies</em> were downloaded from the Wellcome Trust’s online archive and have been reimagined through digital enhancement and sublimation dye techniques.</p> <p>Referencing shrouds, the yoryu silk panels enfold exhibition visitors, who were able to touch and pass through the silks, causing them to billow in response to human movement. We bring together an animal-made material (crafted by silkworms) with more-than-human images featuring both humans and other living creatures. The vibrancies of these beautifully engraved and coloured anatomical images are given a new life and a new feel, both affectively and sensuously, through this piece. We can both see and touch these more-than-human illustrations that speak to us of the early modern natural science visualisations that underpin contemporary digital images of the human body and the more-than-human world. The vibrancies of these beautifully engraved and coloured anatomical plates are given a new life and a new feel, both affectively and sensuously. The digital is returned to the tangible.</p> <p><img src="https://journal.media-culture.org.au/public/site/images/meganrose/flowers-zine.jpg" alt="" width="820" height="694" /></p> <p><em>Fig. 7: Detail from </em>Talking/Flowers<em>.</em></p> <p>Even in increasingly digitised healthcare environments, paper and other printed materials remain central documents in the landscape of health and wellbeing. Zines are small-scale, DIY, and typically handcrafted publications, which are often made to express creators’ thoughts and feelings about health and wellbeing (Lupton "Health Zines"; Watson and Bennett). <em>Talking/Flowers</em> (fig. 7), a zine of visual and textual work, explores the materialities of health information and healthcare encounters by creatively layering a diverse range of materials: clippings from MRI scans, digitally warped and recoloured images from medical infographics, and found poetry made from research publications. In this way, the zine remixes and reconstitutes key documents of authority in health institutions which continue to take primacy as evidence. While vital in the pipeline of diagnosis and treatment, such documents can become black boxes of meaning, and serve to distance health professionals from consumers and consumers from agentic understandings of their own health.</p> <p>These evidentiary materials are brought together here with other imagery, textures, and recollections of personal experience; the pages also feature leaves, flowers, fungi, and oceanic tones. Oceans, pools, rivers, lakes, and other coastal forms or waterways offer all-consuming sensory spaces in which people can find calm, balance, buoyancy, and connection with the wider world. Aqua tides, purple eddies, and misshapen pearls flow through the pages as the golden thread of the zine’s aesthetic theme. Also featured are three original poems. The first and third poems, ‘talking to a doctor’ and ‘talking to other people’, explore moments of relational vulnerability. The second poem, ‘untitled’, is a found poem made from the conclusions of sociologist Talcott Parsons’s 1975 article on the sick role reconsidered. In each of these poems, information and communication jar the encounters and more-than-human metaphors hold space for complex feelings. The cover similarly merges imagery from botanical and historical medical illustrations with a silver shell, evoking the morphological dimensions that connect the more-than-human. Exhibition visitors were able to turn the pages of the original copy of the zine, and were invited to take a printed copy away with them.</p> <h1><strong>Conclusion</strong></h1> <p><em>More-than-Human Wellbeing</em> is an exhibition which aims to expand the horizons of how we understand wellbeing and our entanglements with the world. Our exhibition was designed to draw on our research into the more-than-human dimensions of health and wellbeing in the context of an increasingly digitised and datafied world. We wanted to attune visitors to the relational connections and multisensory ways of knowing that develop with and through people’s encounters and entanglements with creatures, things, and spaces. We sought to demonstrate that in this digital age, in which digital devices and software are often considered the most accurate and insightful ways to monitor and measure health and wellbeing, multisensory and affective engagements with elements of the natural environment remain crucial to understanding our bodies and health. Through engagements with our artworks, we hoped that new capacities for visitors’ learning and thinking about the relational and distributed dimensions of more-than-human wellbeing would be opened.</p> <p>While traditionally thought of as human-centered, we explore human health and wellbeing as interconnected with both the natural and technological. We used materials from the natural world – timber, paper materials, and silk fabric – in our artworks to capture both the multigenerational traces and entanglements between humans and plant matter. Recent works of natural and cultural history have drawn attention to the mysterious and important worlds of the fungi kingdom and its role in supporting and living symbiotically with other life on earth, including humans as well as plants (Sheldrake; Tsing). We also made sure to acknowledge this third kingdom of living things in our artworks. We combined these images and materials from nature with digitised modes of printing and fabrication to highlight the intersections of the digital with the non-digital in representations and sensory feelings of health and wellbeing. We disrupt and make strange signs of traditional human-centric medicine through reconfigurations, bricolage, and re-imaginations of more-than-human wellbeing. As humans we are interconnected with the natural world, and the signs of these meetings can be traced and read. Through our artistic creations, we hope to re-orient people towards this more open way of thinking about wellbeing. Working with arts practices and creative data visualisations, both digital and analogue, we bring to the fore the role that more-than-human agents play in mediating and making these convivial more-than-digital connections.</p> <h2><strong>Acknowledgments</strong></h2> <p>This research was funded by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society (CE200100005) and a Faculty of Arts, Design &amp; Architecture collaboration grant. UNSW Library provided financial and curatorial support for the mounting of the exhibition.</p> <h2><strong>References</strong></h2> <p>Abram, David. "Wild Ethics and Participatory Science: Thinking between the Body and the Breathing Earth." <em>Planet. Volume 1. Kinship: Belonging in a World of Relations</em>. Eds. 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"The Legacy of Humoral Medicine." <em>AMA Journal of Ethics </em>4.7 (2002): 206-208.</p> <p>Lewis, Bradley. "Planetary Health Humanities—Responding to Covid Times." <em>Journal of Medical Humanities </em>42.1 (2021): 3-16. DOI: 10.1007/s10912-020-09670-2.</p> <p>Lupton, Deborah. <em>Covid Societies: Theorising the Coronavirus Crisis.</em> Routledge, 2022.</p> <p>———. <em>Data Selves: More-than-Human Perspectives.</em> Polity Press, 2019.</p> <p>———. <em>Digital Health: Critical and Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives.</em> Routledge, 2017.</p> <p>———. "Embodying Social Science Research – the Exhibition as a Form of Multi-Sensory Research Communication." <em>LSE Impact of the Social Sciences</em>, 2023. &lt;<a href="https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2023/07/12/embodying-social-science-research-the-exhibition-as-a-form-of-multi-sensory-research-communication/">https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2023/07/12/embodying-social-science-research-the-exhibition-as-a-form-of-multi-sensory-research-communication/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>———. "From Human-Centric Digital Health to Digital One Health: Crucial New Directions for Mutual Flourishing." <em>Digital Health </em>8 (2022). DOI: 10.1177/20552076221129103.</p> <p>———. "Health Zines: Hand-Made and Heart-Felt." <em>Routledge Handbook of Health and Media</em>. Eds. Lester Friedman and Therese Jones. Routledge, 2022. 65-76.</p> <p>———. <em>The Internet of Animals: Human-Animals Relationships in the Digital Age.</em> Polity Press, 2023.</p> <p>———. "The More-than-Human Wellbeing Exhibition." &lt;<a href="https://dlupton.com/">https://dlupton.com/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>———. <em>The Quantified Self: A Sociology of Self-Tracking.</em> Polity Press, 2016.</p> <p>Lupton, Deborah, et al. "Digitized and Datafied Embodiment: A More-than-Human Approach." <em>Palgrave Handbook of Critical Posthumanism</em>. Eds. Stefan Herbrechter et al. Springer International Publishing, 2022. 1-23. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-42681-1_65-1.</p> <p>Neimanis, Astrida, et al. "Four Problems, Four Directions for Environmental Humanities: Toward Critical Posthumanities for the Anthropocene." <em>Ethics &amp; the Environment</em> 20.1 (2015): 67-97.</p> <p>Plumwood, Val. <em>Feminism and the Mastery of Nature.</em> Routledge, 2002.</p> <p>Rots, Aike P. <em>Shinto, Nature and Ideology in Contemporary Japan: Making Sacred Forests.</em> Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017.</p> <p>Sheldrake, Merlin. <em>Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds &amp; Shape Our Futures.</em> Random House, 2020.</p> <p>Swan, Claudia. "Illustrated Natural History." <em>Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe</em>. Ed. Susan Dackerman. Harvard Art Museums, 2011. 186-191.</p> <p>Todd, Zoe. "An Indigenous Feminist's Take on the Ontological Turn: ‘Ontology’ Is Just Another Word for Colonialism." <em>Journal of Historical Sociology </em>29.1 (2016): 4-22.</p> <p>Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. <em>The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins.</em> Princeton UP, 2015.</p> <p>Tynan, Lauren. "What Is Relationality? Indigenous Knowledges, Practices and Responsibilities with Kin." <em>cultural geographies </em>28.4 (2021): 597-610. DOI: 10.1177/14744740211029287.</p> <p>Watson, Ash, and Andy Bennett. "The Felt Value of Reading Zines." <em>American Journal of Cultural Sociology </em>9.2 (2021): 115-149. DOi: 10.1057/s41290-020-00108-9.</p> Deborah Lupton, Vaughan Wozniak-O'Connor, Megan Catherine Rose, Ash Watson Copyright (c) 2023 Deborah Lupton, Vaughan Wozniak-O'Connor, Megan Catherine Rose, Ash Watson http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0 https://www.journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2976 Fri, 25 Aug 2023 00:00:00 +0000 Reading in Uncertain Times https://www.journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2983 <p>We are living in uncertain times. Recent and ongoing crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and natural disasters, and increasing geopolitical and economic instability, have arguably led to a growing awareness of our existential precarity. Recent studies suggest that mental health is poor: among the general population, 24.4% experience anxiety and 22.9% suffer from symptoms of depression. These figures rise to an alarming 41.1% and 32.5% respectively in vulnerable populations (Bower et al.). As Maree Teesson, Director of the University of Sydney’s Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use, points out, “what worries me is that rather than having an intense recovery phase [after the pandemic] in Australia we’ve had further crises, including marked increases in costs of living and natural disasters, all of which we know exacerbate mental health problems” (anon.).</p> <p>How do we not only survive but flourish in such times? As we are coming up against the financial as well as conceptual limitations of biomedically informed approaches to mental health (McDonald and Hollenbach 5), the therapeutic potential of the arts is receiving renewed attention. While art, music, and writing therapy are widely recognised, bibliotherapy, although practiced in clinical as well as many informal settings, is less prominent in our cultural imagination – perhaps because the creativity in the act of reading is less obvious, perhaps because our reading practices tend to bleed into each other: we read for pleasure, distraction, information, guidance, etc., often all at the same time. And yet, research shows that bibliotherapy can make significant contributions to mental health (Monroy-Fraustro et al.). In our article, we explore how the practice of Shared Reading, a form of creative bibliotherapy, can nurture the wellbeing of individuals and communities in our uncertain times.</p> <p>Neither a book club nor a self-help group, Shared Reading brings a small group of people together to listen to a story and a poem, which are read out by a trained facilitator, who gently guides the conversation to tease out the emotional undercurrents of the text, to reflect on literary characters and their predicaments, and generally use literature as a springboard for broader reflections on life and personal experience. The format combines the benefits of reading with those of being part of a community. The positive effects have been documented in a range of studies: Shared Reading has the capacity to reduce anxiety, alleviate symptoms of depression, increase confidence, and, importantly, create a sense of connectedness and social inclusion in a non-medicalised setting (see Billington <em>Reading</em>; Davis <em>Literature</em>; Dowrick et al.; Pettersson).</p> <p>While Shared Reading has been extensively researched from the perspective of specific mental health issues, less attention has been paid to how it contributes to an overall sense of flourishing in which a person feels good about their life (emotional wellbeing) and functions well within it (psychological and social wellbeing) – as opposed to subsisting in a state of languishing characterised by feelings of “emptiness”, “stagnation”, and “quiet despair” (Keyes 210), without amounting to actual mental illness (Keyes et al. 2367). The distinction between languishing and mental illness is crucial to avoid conflation of “normal human sadness” (Haslam and DeDeyne n.p.) and “common human sorrows – normality under severe strain” (Billington, <em>Literature</em> 2) – with the pathological psychological states of mental illness. Understanding what makes us flourish is important, not least because Keyes’s findings suggest that flourishing in life may foster resilience and provide a “stress buffer” against challenging life events and transitions (218), while languishing individuals may be more susceptible to mental illness (213). The flourishing individual, it seems, is better placed to make the best of ‘the mingled yarn’ of their life (<em>All’s Well That Ends Well</em>, Act 4, Scene 3).</p> <p>The workings and effects of Shared Reading can best be captured with current concepts of eudaimonic wellbeing, which expand Aristotle’s notion of human flourishing by integrating the fulfilment of psychological needs (see Huta; Besser-Jones). Aristotle’s idea of eudaimonia is characterised by reason and moderation in aiming for an embodiment of particular virtues or excellences. Ryan, Huta, and Deci update Aristotle’s normative concept of the good life into the mindful, freely chosen pursuit of intrinsic goals, such as personal growth, relationships, and community. A eudaimonic life, they argue, will satisfy basic psychological needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence. Like Aristotle, they consider pleasure and positive affect as welcome by-products rather than goals in themselves. Besser-Jones concurs:</p> <blockquote> <p>we have needs to experience competency over our environments and as such to engage in experiences that allow us to exercise our skills; to experience belongingness with others, to both care for others and be cared for by others; to experience autonomy through selecting and pursuing goals with which we identify. When we engage in these activities in an ongoing fashion, we experience eudaimonic well-being. (Besser-Jones 190)</p> </blockquote> <p>Significantly, the eudaimonic life is one of active reflection and conscious volition (Besser-Jones 187), rather than passive acquiescence to either outside forces or inner drives. Mindfulness is a crucial ingredient, enabling a person to see “what is true” in their inner and outer experience (Ryan, Huta, &amp; Deci 158). Research suggests that the fruits of such a life may include a sense of meaning, enhanced vitality, inner peace, and even physical health (Ryan, Huta, &amp; Deci 161–2).</p> <p>Shared Reading contributes to eudaimonic wellbeing in several ways. Rather than fostering wellbeing through a cumulation of moments of hedonic pleasure (see Diener), Shared Reading does not provide exclusively pleasurable experiences; instead it creates “a little community ... whose first concern is the serious business of living” (Billington, <em>Literature</em> 132). While this undoubtedly affords moments of heightened positive affect, participants may also experience heightened negative affect. However, engagement with the negative through literature can, in fact, positively contribute to a deepened sense of purpose, meaning, and connection with others (Ryff &amp; Singer 10), and thereby contribute to an improved sense of psychological wellbeing (Billington et al. 267-8; see also Davis et al., <em>Literature </em>19) as tensions, uncertainties, and memories can be articulated, contextualised and, ultimately, integrated (McNicol 23–40). In that respect Shared Reading resonates with Vittersø’s reflection that “eudaimonic well-being is strange. It contains a kind of complex goodness that is not necessarily associated with pleasure – and it may be valued only after a bit of reflection” (Vittersø 254). As a practice, Shared Reading unfolds its full potential over time in accordance with eudaimonism, which defines wellbeing as “an active state ... that, while experiential, requires agency and ongoing activity” (Besser-Jones 187).</p> <p>Given the limited scope of this article, we want to focus on just some of the ways in which Shared Reading contributes to eudaimonic wellbeing by offering opportunities for self-growth and greater autonomy through a sense of connectedness, which may lead to a greater sense of overall liveness and a fuller experience of the amplitude of human life. Corcoran and Oatley note that “the interpersonal context in which to think about human challenges and complex, day-to-day human situations” in reading groups is “a luxury that is not typically afforded by pressured, busy and demanding lives, but which is invaluable as an underpinning life resource to enhance sustainable psychological wellbeing” (338). Throughout our exploration, we will draw on surveys and interviews with Shared Reading participants from a pilot study at La Trobe University, in which, together with Senior Lecturer Sara James, we ran five groups for eight weeks in a range of community settings in greater Melbourne. Three of these groups, at Yarra Libraries and the La Trobe University Library as well as the Warrandyte Neighbourhood House, were conducted face-to-face. Two more groups, one with outpatient cancer survivors at Ringwood Hospital and one with La Trobe University alumni, were held on Zoom. The study consisted of 27 participants – 20 female, 6 male, and one non-binary – ranging from young adulthood to elderly. All participants self-selected to join after advertising campaigns in conjunction with our partner institutions; participation in the research component of the project was entirely voluntary. All participants, whose statements we quote, have been de-identified. The positive effects on both a sense of personal autonomy and social connection are reflected in our research findings: 92.5% of the participants found they had grown more confident since joining the group. 92.6% of the participants reported that the groups helped them understand themselves better, while 77.7% found the sessions helped them relate to others in a deeper way.</p> <p>In Shared Reading the connection between reader and text expands into connections formed within the group. Recognising aspects of one’s own life in a story is powerful in “confirming that I am not entirely alone, that there are others who think or feel like me. Through this experience of affiliation, I feel myself acknowledged; I am rescued from the fear of invisibility, from the terror of not being seen” (Felski 54). In this way, even solitary reading has the capacity to normalise a broad range of individual experiences and to stave off loneliness. We find friends in books. In Shared Reading this moment of connection is intensified and multiplied by also offering recognition from others – groups bond quickly. Beth, a shy participant who struggles with anxiety, found “it was really, really special to find a way to really honestly understand someone else without judgement, which is hard to do”. She reported that the sessions had increased her confidence because she “felt seen” within the group. A number of participants commented on the depth and quality of the conversations and found the groups “nourishing” or “nurturing”. By focussing on the text, meaningful and even personal conversations spring up that are not easily had in other contexts.</p> <p>Such rich and intimate encounters with the text and others are predicated on the practice of joint “close” or “deep” reading. By immersing oneself in the text, the borders between self and text become porous. In “bringing the work into existence as an imaginary space within oneself” (Miller 38), we allow the text to “get under our skin” in an act of “compenetration” (Rosenblatt 12). This process holds significant transformative potential, as Radway notes: when reading, “‘I’ become something other than what I have been and inhabit thoughts other than those I have been able to conceive before” (13). Billington credits reading as a unique form of thinking in its own right (<em>Literature </em>115–37). Thinking with the text collaboratively can deepen into self-reflection through our internal and external conversations with the voices of others (Archer 458–472). Self-reflexivity becomes a relational process in which individuals experiment with new modes of selfhood and ways of relating to others (Holmes 139–41). This resonates with research into Shared Reading, which suggests an “impact upon psychological wellbeing by improving a sense of <em>personal growth through increased self-development</em>” (Davis et al., <em>Values</em> 7). In fact, one of the strongest themes to emerge from the post-program interviews was how strongly participants appreciated the broadening of inner horizons through the group conversations. Reading itself offers “a literary rendering of how worlds create selves, but also of how selves perceive and react to worlds made up of other selves” (Felski 132). It involves exercising the imagination; it is the practice of “going out from one’s self toward other lives” and stimulates “sympathy, fellowship, spirituality and [the] morality of being human” (Donoghue 73; see also Charon). Shared Reading fosters self-growth as a relational activity, as group participant Ian describes:</p> <blockquote> <p>[Shared Reading] will open up a world to your own feelings and views ... and expand that beyond your expectations ... . As a group you have that cross-fertilisation of emotions, feelings, experiences. ... It is amazing what it will do for your own mental wellbeing, your own intellectual stimulation, and your sense of engagement with your fellow human being.</p> </blockquote> <p>Ian’s statement captures something integral to Shared Reading and to eudaimonic flourishing: a sense of “liveness” and vibrancy. Participants experience the literature freshly during the session, without preparation – indeed without warning – as to what will be encountered (Davis, <em>Reading </em>4). Participant Anna notes: “you really have to be in the moment, present to the text”. Nina likens this quality of attention to that of “meditating and connecting at the same time”, which resonates with the mindfulness of a eudaimonic life (Ryan, Huta, &amp; Deci 158). Literature can enliven us by disrupting habitual patterns of response, defences, pat attitudes and opinions; it nudges us, so to speak, out of the “insidiously lazy default language” (Davis, <em>Reader</em> 3) of familiar, well-worn conceptual and linguistic paths into unexplored territory.</p> <p>The reader may be caught off guard when a story abruptly triggers an emotion, a memory, or some other element of inner experience (Billington, <em>Literature</em> 91–93), which then emerges, often haltingly, into the light of conscious thought. Such ambushing is recognised by both facilitators and researchers when a participant’s normal fluency falters or breaks down into a “creative inarticulacy” (Davis et al. 11–14) as they actively, arduously attempt to express what the literature has summoned (Billington, <em>Literature</em> 91–2). Such linguistic groping signals the emergence of fresh insight; it is personal growth in action. Anna relates how Sharma Shields’s story “The Mcgugle Account” exhumed a long-buried memory: “it really disturbed me a lot. And it was not until a week or so later that I recognised what it was … that it summoned up in me, a memory of something that had happened … [that] I’d always felt a lot of shame about. And I’ve never, I’ve never really shared it with anybody”. She continues, “and it was so good to talk about it and process something I’ve not been able to [<em>indistinct</em>] for 30 years”. Anna experiences a moment of “recovery” or “awakening” (Billington, <em>Literature</em> 88) as a “second chance” (Davis, <em>Reading </em>14) to return to an experience and reframe, maybe even redeem it. Davis notes that</p> <blockquote> <p>literature widens and enriches the human norm [by] accepting and allowing for trauma, troubles, inadequacies, and other experiences usually classed as negative or even pathological. It is a process of recovery – in the deeper sense of spontaneously retrieving for use experiences and qualities that were lost, regretted or made redundant. (Davis et al. <em>Values</em>, 33)</p> </blockquote> <p>Similarly, Beth describes what happened when another participant recalled an argument with his ex-wife:</p> <blockquote> <p>we all laughed, really, which is quite a tender moment and it’s really a vulnerable expression of something that was potentially really painful in someone’s past. But for some reason we all laughed, and it was fine. He was happy with us laughing too …. . I can’t remember many, many moments like that where we just – yeah , collectively kind of laughed about this. This life. Yeah.</p> </blockquote> <p>The laughter shared during such moments expresses relief, reassurance that we are not alone in the painful experiences of “this life”. These are moments of connection and of re-storying or recuperating a painful past.</p> <p>The sense of vitality is often palpable, manifesting sometimes as an alert stillness – a taut “leaning in” (Davis et al., <em>Value</em> 9) to what’s being read –, at others as an eruption into laughter as we have seen. In its embrace of the full spectrum of human experience it is “as though literature itself said implicitly ‘Nothing human is alien to me’” (Billington, <em>Literature</em> 3). Within this capacious, generous space, participants can grow into a more expansive self-awareness. Beth explains:</p> <blockquote> <p>I find it hard to understand what I’m feeling sometimes and articulate that, and through the stories and through the group and through the process, I found that easier. Which was such a surprise to me. Because that wasn’t what I thought would happen. … I can’t quite place what it is about the experience that had that catalyst for me … . And there was something in each of the stories that was really relatable, and I found that it just drew something out of me that I wasn’t expecting then.</p> </blockquote> <p>“Alive”, “enriched”, and “stimulated” are some of the participants’ descriptors for how they feel in Shared Reading sessions. As with any practice, these feelings deepen and spread into other areas of life over time. Tom, who describes “reading as a way of life”, explains its power: “to be an appreciator of the text is a practice in itself without being a writer of text or a critic. … And the more I appreciate, the better my life becomes”. After the program, Beth reported that she started exploring the library in more detail, and one of the groups started meeting at the pub to share reading tips, discuss “ideas”, and catch up.</p> <p>As has perhaps become clear, in Shared Reading the individual aspects of a eudaimonic life work together synergistically to promote a sense of eudaimonic wellbeing. The attentive and sincere engagement with literature and its representations of human complexity facilitates connection and reflection that may inspire self-growth and an overall sense of vitality. In the practice of reading together these aspects remain entangled and interdependent, reinforcing each other over time into a sense of eudaimonic wellbeing that can accommodate pain or negative affect and potentially transform them into something meaningful. The process of restoration, of unfolding, articulating, and reintegrating what was submerged, considered lost, or pushed aside is never linear, often surprising, and never complete, just as expressions of eudaimonic flourishing are unique to each individual and bear all the complexity of human experience.</p> <h2><strong>References</strong></h2> <p>Anon. “Moving On from COVID Means Facing Its Impact on Mental Health, Say Experts.” Sydney University, 9 Mar. 2023. &lt;<a href="https://www.sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2023/03/09/moving-on-from-covid-means-facing-its-impact-on-mental-health--s.html">https://www.sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2023/03/09/moving-on-from-covid-means-facing-its-impact-on-mental-health--s.html</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Archer, Margaret. <em>Structure, Agency and the Internal Conversation. </em>Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2003.</p> <p>Besser-Jones, Lorraine. “Eudaimonism.” <em>The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Well-Being</em>. Ed. Guy Fletcher. London: Routledge, 2015. 187–96.</p> <p>Billington, Josie. <em>Is Literature Healthy?</em> Oxford: Oxford UP, 2016.</p> <p>Billington, Josie, ed. <em>Reading and Mental Health, </em>Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.</p> <p>Billington, Josie, Rhiannon Corcoran, Megan Watkins, Mette Steenberg, Charlotte Christiansen, Nicolai Ladegaard, and Don Kuiken. “Quantitative Methods.” <em>Reading and Mental Health</em>. Ed. Josie Billington. Palgrave Macmillan, 2019. 265–92.</p> <p>Bower, Marlee, Scarlett Smout, Amarina Donohoe-Bales, Siobhan O’Dean, Lily Teesson, Julia Boyle, Denise Lim, Andrew Nguyen, Alison L. Calear, Philip J. Batterham, Kevin Gournay, and Maree Teesson. “A Hidden Pandemic? An Umbrella Review of Global Evidence on Mental Health in the Time of COVID-19.” <em>Frontiers in Psychiatry</em> 14 (Mar. 2023): 1–19.</p> <p>Charon, Rita. “The Narrative Road to Empathy.” <em>Empathy and the Practice of Medicine: Beyond Pills and the Scalpel. </em>Eds. H.M. Spiro, M.G. McCrea Curnen, E. Peschel and D. St. James. New Haven: Yale UP. 147-59.</p> <p>Corcoran, Rhiannon, and Keith Oatley. “Reading and Psychology I. Reading Minds: Fiction and Its Relation to the Mental Worlds of Self and Others.” <em>Reading and Mental Health</em>. Ed. Josie Billington. Palgrave Macmillan, 2019. 331–43.</p> <p>Davis, Philip. <em>Reading and the Reader: The Literary Agenda. </em>Oxford: Oxford UP, 2013.</p> <p>———. <em>Reading for Life. </em>Oxford: Oxford UP, 2020.</p> <p>Davis, Philip, et al. <em>Cultural Value: Assessing the Intrinsic Value of The Reader Organisation’s Shared Reading Scheme</em>. The Reader Organisation UK, 2014. &lt;<u><a href="https://www.thereader.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Cultural-Value.pdf">https://www.thereader.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Cultural-Value.pdf</a></u>&gt;.</p> <p>Davis, Philip, et al. <em>What Literature Can Do (An Investigation into the Effectiveness of Shared Reading as a Whole Population Health Intervention)</em>. The Reader Organisation UK, 2015. &lt;<a href="https://www.thereader.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/What-Literature-Can-Do.pdf">https://www.thereader.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/What-Literature-Can-Do.pdf</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Diener, Edward. <em>The Science of Wellbeing: The Collected Works of Ed Diener</em>. New York: Springer, 2009.</p> <p>Donoghue, Denis. <em>The Practice of Reading. </em>New Haven CT: Yale UP, 2000.</p> <p>Dowrick, Christopher, Josie Billington, Jude Robinson, Andrew Hamer, and Clare Williams. “Get into Reading as an Intervention for Common Mental Health Problems: Exploring Catalysts for Change.” <em>Medical Humanities </em>38.1 (2012): 15–20.</p> <p>Felski, Rita. <em>Uses of Literature</em>. Chichester: Wiley, 2011.</p> <p>Monroy-Fraustro, Daniela, Isaac Maldonado-Castellanos, Monical Aboites-Molina, Susana Rodriguez, Perla Sueiras, Nelly F. Altamirano-Bustamante, Adalberto de Hoyos-Bermea, and Myriam M. Altamirano-Bustamante. “Bibliotherapy as a Non-Pharmaceutical Intervention to Enhance Mental Health in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Mixed Methods Systematic Review and Bioethical Meta-Analysis.” <em>Frontiers in Public Health</em> 9 (Mar. 2021): 1-15.</p> <p>Haslam, N., and Simon De Deyne, “Mental Health vs. Wellbeing, Health and Medicine.”<em>Pursuit</em> 19 July 2021. &lt;<u><a href="https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/mental-health-wellbeing">https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/mental-health-wellbeing</a></u>&gt;.</p> <p>McDonald, Robin Alex, and Julie Hollenbach. Introduction. <em>Re/Imagining Depression: Creative Approaches to “Feeling Bad”</em>. Eds. Julie Hollenbach and Robin Alex McDonald. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021. 1–11.</p> <p>Holmes, Mary. “The Emotionalization of Reflexivity.” <em>Sociology</em> 44.1 (2010): 139–54.</p> <p>Huta, Veronika. “Eudaimonia.” <em>Oxford Handbook of Happiness</em>. Eds. Ilona Boniwell, Susan A. David, and Amanda Conley Ayers. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2013. 201–13.</p> <p>Keyes, Corey L.M. “The Mental Health Continuum: From Languishing to Flourishing in Life.” <em>Journal of Health and Social Behavior</em> 43.2 (June 2002): 207–22.</p> <p>Keyes, Corey L.M., Satvinder S. Dhingra, and Eduardo J. Simoes. “Change in Level of Positive Mental Health as a Predictor of Future Risk of Mental Illness.” <em>American Journal of Public Health</em> 100.12 (Dec. 2010): 2366–71.</p> <p>McNicol, Sarah. “Theories of Bibliotherapy.” <em>Bibliotherapy. </em>Eds. Sarah McNichol and Liz Brewster. London: Facet Publishing, 2018. 23–40.</p> <p>Miller, J. Hillis. <em>On Literature</em>. London: Routledge, 2002.</p> <p>Pettersson, Cecilia. “Psychological Well-Being, Improved Self-Confidence, and Social Capacity: Bibliotherapy from a User Perspective.” <em>Journal of Poetry Therapy</em> 31.2 (2018): 124–34.</p> <p>Radway Janice A. <em>A Feeling for Books: The Book-of-the-Month Club, Literary Taste, and Middle-Class Desire</em>. Chapel Hill: U North Carolina P, 1997.</p> <p>Rosenblatt, Louise M. <em>The Reader, the Text, the Poem: The Transactional Theory of the Literary Work</em>. Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois UP, 1978.</p> <p>Ryan, Richard M., Veronika Huta, and Edward L. Deci. “Living Well: A Self-Determination Theory Perspective on Eudaimonia.” <em>Journal of Happiness Studies</em> 9 (2008): 139–70.</p> <p>Ryff, Carol D., and Burton H. Singer. “The Contours of Positive Human Health.” <em>Psychological Inquiry</em> 9.1 (1998): 1–28.</p> <p>Vittersø, Joar. “The Feeling of Excellent Functioning: Hedonic and Eudaimonic Emotions.” <em>Handbook of Eudaimonic Well-Being</em>. Ed. Joar Vittersø. Cham: Springer, 2016. 253–76.</p> Juliane Roemhild, Melinda Turner Copyright (c) 2023 Juliane Roemhild, Melinda Turner http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0 https://www.journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2983 Fri, 25 Aug 2023 00:00:00 +0000 Metaphors for Wellbeing https://www.journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2979 <p>In my career as a writing teacher, I have frequently encountered writers who struggle with their writing. Common ways of teaching writing may be partly to blame. David Smith et al. found in their research that students do not necessarily learn to write better essays “by following prescriptions for good writing and/or imitating examples of good writing” (337), which is, unfortunately, a common way for teaching writing. Smith et al.’s study showed that in order to become better writers, students need “conceptual understandings of the essay writing process” (327). Having too narrow a concept of what writing is also poses a problem for students. Jonathan Alexander et al. argue that teachers need to adopt new metaphors for writing so that they can “take into account the expanded sense of literate possibilities available to those whom we teach” (120). Analysing common metaphors that describe the writing process, Alexander et al. assert that we need new metaphors for thinking about the writing process because doing so will provide us with a more expansive understanding of the conceptions of and practices of writing in which people engage. </p> <p>While Alexander et al. do not suggest having students create their own metaphors, my sense was that the process of creating new writing metaphors could help students become better writers by inviting them to conceptualise a more expansive and personally meaningful sense of writing processes. In this essay, I explore how metaphors can be useful in writing pedagogy because they can help students be more successful writers through expanding their conceptions of the writing process. An expanded sense of the writing process can thus contribute to students’ wellbeing as writers. </p> <p>What is the connection between metaphors and wellbeing? In offering a definition, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson posit that “the essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another” (5). Lakoff and Johnson highlight that “our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature” (p. 3). Based on this assertion, being aware of our metaphors is important because “our concepts structure what we perceive, how we get around in the world, and how we relate to other people. Our conceptual system thus plays a central role in defining our everyday realities” (Lakoff and Johnson 3). </p> <p>Wellbeing is less easily defined, given that there is little agreement across and even within disciplines about what it is and what it includes. There seem to be two dominant strands of definitions – one that is labelled “hedonistic” and focusses on wellbeing as being about positive feelings, and another that is labelled “eudemonic” and associated with “meeting full potential as a member of society” (Simons and Baldwin 990). Gemma Simons and David Baldwin offer a definition that combines these two main strands: “wellbeing is a state of positive feelings and meeting full potential in the world” (990). Other scholars focus on the process through which wellbeing is created when they define the term. While he focusses less on positive feelings than other scholars do, Amartya Sen adds an important dimension to the definition of wellbeing, arguing that “one’s capability set determines one’s wellbeing by providing one with the ability to live out a meaningful life that one has reason to value” (Jongbloed and Andres 3). Richard Davidson’s extensive neural research adds another dimension to the conversation, arguing that wellbeing is a skill that we can learn and strengthen through expanding our ways of thinking and being in the world. If we consider these three definitions together, we arrive at a useful combined definition of wellbeing, one that emphasises the importance of having positive feelings and meeting one’s full potential through capably developing the skills that meaningfully contribute to one’s sense of potential in society.</p> <p>When we put this definition of wellbeing in conversation with the definition of metaphor, we can see the ways that our metaphors can contribute to wellbeing by helping us clarify and expand our thinking about our practices and their effects in the world. The metaphors we use to conceptualise our experiences, thus, can contribute to our wellbeing. Helen Spandler et al.’s research illustrates this point clearly. They researched a men’s mental health program that used football as a metaphor for talking about emotions. They found that using the football metaphor was an effective way for the participants because it “helped to make the discussion of psychological issues safer, accessible, and comprehensible. This familiarity helped participants re-frame their own lives, understand them differently and learn new coping strategies” (Spandler et al. 552). By providing the men with familiar and valued language through which they could “do emotion” (Spandler et al. 552), the metaphor helped to challenge the stigma attached to mental health services. The football metaphor served as a “cognitive bridge’ (Stott et al.) which enables personal experiences and emotions to be understood and communicated” (Spandler et al. 552). There was nothing magical about the football metaphor itself; rather, it was important that the metaphor have value for the individuals and provide them with a conceptual lens through which to re-see their experiences and practices. </p> <p>It follows, then, that different metaphors of writing could be “cognitive bridges” that provide different language to conceptualise writing practices. These metaphors could influence writing practices in dynamic ways. As Lakoff and Johnson assert, “new metaphors have the power to create a new reality ... . Changes in our conceptual system do change what is real for us and affect how we perceive the world and act upon those perceptions” (145-6). Therefore, new writing metaphors have the potential to strengthen writing wellbeing through expanding our conceptions of writing practices and skills.</p> <p>This sense of possibility led me to create an assignment for my college-level students that asked them to create new writing metaphors for themselves. These writers’ metaphors highlight the power of metaphors to shape perceptions and guide actions. Although all of my students’ metaphors were fascinating, I share three in particular that illustrate how metaphors can be used in education to help students increase positive attitudes toward writing, imagine ways that writing can help them develop their sense of purpose, and explore how their writing connects them to society – which are all important aspects of wellbeing. (Please note that the students’ writing I quote from in this article was collected through study procedures approved by my institution’s Institutional Research Board. I have written permission from these individuals to quote from the essays that they wrote for my class, and I am using a pseudonym for each of them.)</p> <h2><strong>Astrid’s Confidence</strong></h2> <p>When she entered my class, Astrid lacked confidence in her writing and was frustrated because “writing and confidence are going to be very important in my future professional writing goals. How can I become a successful writer if I am not confident in my writing?” Because of previous experiences she had had with writing in school, she had decided that she was not a very good writer. However, one night she watched episodes of <em>Dancing with the Stars</em>, a reality television show in which celebrities are paired together to win a dance competition, and she realised that her writing mirrored the path of learning illustrated by the dancers in the show. Watching the dancers develop skills inspired Astrid to reconceptualise her writing experiences. </p> <p>Astrid’s creation of her metaphor helped her see that she was a growing writer who would continue to develop. She began to see herself as <em>in process</em>. Comparing her writing to <em>Dancing with the Stars</em> gave her hope that her confidence in herself would grow. She wrote:</p> <blockquote> <p>by the end of the season, the person who wins the mirrorball trophy has no doubt in themselves whatsoever and that star knows they deserved to be exactly where they are. For my writing, I want to experience this feeling. I want to be self-confident in my writing and know that I have achieved everything in my writing for a reason. Even though I have not reached that goal right now that is okay because I am stuck in a ‘very uncomfortable tango’ and my new metaphor is going to help me sway with the dance one ‘week’ at a time. </p> </blockquote> <p>Astrid acknowledged that to be successful in achieving her goals, she had to build a different relationship with writing. The process helped her to re-imagine that relationship through the lens of what Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset which helped her develop more positive feelings about her writing and her potential. </p> <p>Astrid’s wellbeing as a writer increased as she conceptualised her practices differently. Through the construction of a new metaphor, she gained an understanding of her underlying conceptions of writing and how they were impacting on her. Creating a more positive. relatable metaphor helped her in the ways that the football metaphor helped the men in Spandler et al.’s study, giving her a new language to reconceptualise her writing practices. As Sen argues, our sense of wellbeing can increase when we expand our capabilities. By focussing on writing as a set of improvable skills, Astrid was able to begin to build a more positive relationship with writing. </p> <h2><strong>Kyle’s Infinite Space</strong></h2> <p>Kyle’s metaphor compared writing to a loosely defined idea of “space”, which he defines as “an infinite area that’s filled with infinite possibilities and infinite stars and planets that continue to expand into infinity”. As he wrote in his essay for my class, though, the process of creating a metaphor was not necessarily an easy one:</p> <blockquote> <p>every time that I had thought about a potential metaphor for this project, it never really clicked with me. Nothing that I could think of felt right or felt that had fit in a way. Even now, with the metaphor that I’ve chosen, ‘Space,’ I still feel unsure about that being my true choice.</p> </blockquote> <p>But his fascination with space and its sense of infinite possibilities attracted him to the metaphor. In his reflections on the process of creating a new metaphor, he admitted that “persisting through my own thoughts to get to the metaphor that resonated with me ... really made me think about my writing and how I felt about my future with it”. He related to this metaphor in much the same way that the men in Spandler et al.’s study related to football, and it thus built a cognitive bridge for him between a concept that he valued (space) and a practice that challenged him (writing).</p> <p>Even with his reservations about this metaphor, Kyle found the new metaphor to be helpful in providing him with “a way to think about the infinite possibilities that I possess”. In the past, Kyle had experienced stress when thinking about his writing projects because they became all-encompassing in his mind. His new metaphor helped him to re-conceptualise the purpose of his writing: “space allows me to think about the future of my writing with no stress. With it, I recognize my own place in the universe and the grand scheme of things”. Gaining this new perspective on writing freed Kyle “to make sure that doing writing that I love is the only writing that I’m doing ... . I want to continue to have those infinite possibilities and those infinite ideas to span across my career. Space contextualizes that idea in just one word”. As Helen Sword advocates, “ideally, your chosen metaphor will exemplify your core values, reflect your own lived experience, and lead you toward a pleasurable space of writing” (241). Kyle’s metaphor did exactly this: it improved his wellbeing as a writer by managing the stress of taking himself and everything he does too seriously. His metaphor provided</p> <blockquote> <p>a form of reassurance to myself. It helps contextualize that idea and how I can empower my own writing to become only writing that I want to write. To encourage myself in the future with my career to make choices that can make writing and my life the best and most enjoyable it can be. To ensure myself of my decisions, rather than stressing over little minute things. It allows my writing to become my writing, the way it is now, and the way that it will grow until the heat death of the universe. </p> </blockquote> <p>There is a sense of hope and humility in the vision of writing that his metaphor encourages him to adopt. </p> <p>What seems clear from Kyle’s metaphor is that the process of creating it helped him clarify his sense of his purpose in the world. The Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley University identifies purpose as one their Ten Keys to Wellbeing, which are based on extensive scientific research on wellbeing and happiness. The Center’s Website describes purpose as follows: “to psychologists, purpose is an abiding intention to achieve a long-term goal that is both personally meaningful and makes a positive mark on the world” (Greater Good, “Purpose”). Kyle’s metaphor spoke to his purpose to write material that is valuable to him. He wanted his own personally constructed meanings to be the guiding force in his writing career and the writing he undertakes. Creating a new writing metaphor, although challenging for him, showed him “how stepping into a metaphor to represent a part of your life can change how you view that part from a new angle”. Through his space metaphor, Kyle was able to identify and connect more deeply to his purpose, thus the process of metaphor creation enhanced his wellbeing. Through a more expansive sense of writing that gave him more positive feelings toward his capabilities, Kyle’s metaphor likewise strengthened his wellbeing as a writer. </p> <h2><strong>Jasper’s Community</strong></h2> <p>Jasper’s metaphor compared the process of writing to the experience of making s’mores around a campfire with friends. Embracing “the entirety of the experience”, Jasper’s metaphor emphasised that while writing may seem like a solitary adventure, it’s actually a very social experience, a view which challenges the dominant narrative of the writer writing alone. Through the creation of the metaphor, Jasper reflected on the ways his community both shapes his writing and supports him as a writer.</p> <p>Social connection played a significant role in Jasper’s “making s’mores” metaphor. He wrote that “the community that surrounds writing in all its forms is crucial to an individual’s writing development and skills ... . The joy and inspiration I am gifted from these people makes writing a pleasurable experience that is meant to be shared, rather than a task that is to be completed”. The community emphasised in his metaphor helped Jasper to conceptualise writing through a positive lens that illustrated writing’s social meaning. In describing his metaphor, Jasper was careful to emphasise that the joy comes not necessarily from eating s’mores (i.e. the final product) but comes through the process of making s’mores (i.e. the writing process). Through his metaphor, he thought about his writing practices more expansively. </p> <p>Jasper acknowledges that those around him inspired and shaped his writing, that his ideas are socially influenced: </p> <blockquote> <p>the ideas I get for things like characters or plot often come from people that I know personally, or they existed historically. In the novel I am currently working on, one of my integral characters (specifically their friendship with the main character) is based on certain aspects of a friendship I developed during my first semester of school ... . These relationships are important to me in real life so why would they not be heavily reflected in my writing?</p> </blockquote> <p>His metaphor foregrounded a sense of connection he felt with those in his life and creating the metaphor allowed him to recognise that his writing was situated in the fabric of his life. </p> <p>Another of the Greater Good Science Center’s Ten Keys to Wellbeing is social connection, which they define as “a valuable resource in life, creating moments of positivity and fun, supporting us through good times and bad, and exposing us to new ideas and new people” (Greater Good, “Social Connection”). Creating this new writing metaphor emphasised for Jasper that his community was not only a source of inspiration but also of support. Jasper’s metaphor emphasises this sense of connection, and makes him more aware of the important role that it plays in his writing wellbeing. This view of writing aids his wellbeing as a writer because it provides him with what he calls a “coping mechanism” that helps him to be more successful in his writing: “when my assignments and personal projects become daunting and frightening, I know that I just need to go sit by the fire, take a deep breath, and make myself a s’more”. Thus, his metaphor helps him reach his writing potential more fully.</p> <h1><strong>Conclusion</strong></h1> <p>What these three examples reveal is that creating new writing metaphors can enhance writing wellbeing by increasing confidence in writing, clarifying sense of purpose for writing, and highlighting the importance of social connections to writing. By experiencing one thing in terms of another – metaphorical thinking – students were able to create writing metaphors that supported their writing wellbeing through increasing their positive feelings about writing, expanding their sense of possibilities with/in writing, and illustrating the meaning their writing can have to them and their communities. The metaphor assignment thus helped students build important cognitive bridges that helped them be more successful writers and strengthened their writing wellbeing. </p> <h2><strong>References</strong></h2> <p>Alexander, Jonathan, Karen Lunsford, and Carl Whithaus. “Toward Wayfinding: A Metaphor for Understanding Writing Experiences.” <em>Written Communication</em> 37.1 (2020): 104–131.</p> <p>Davidson, Richard. “The Four Keys to Wellbeing.” <em>Greater Good Magazine</em> 21 Mar. 2016. &lt;<a href="https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_four_keys_to_well_being">https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_four_keys_to_well_being</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Dweck, Carol. <em>Mindset: The New Psychology of Success</em>. New York: Random House, 2007. </p> <p>Greater Good Science Center. “What Is Purpose.” <em>Greater Good Magazine</em> 8 June 2023. &lt;<a href="https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/purpose/definition#what-is-purpose">https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/purpose/definition#what-is-purpose</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Greater Good Science Center. “Social Connection Defined.” <em>Greater Good Magazine</em> 8 June 2023 .&lt;<a href="https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/social_connection/definition#why-practice-social-connection">https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/social_connection/definition#why-practice-social-connection</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Jongbloed, Janine, and Lesley Andres. “Elucidating the Constructs Happiness and Wellbeing: A Mixed-Methods Approach.” <em>International Journal of Wellbeing</em> 5.3 (2015): 1–20.</p> <p>Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson. <em>Metaphors We Live By</em>. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2003. </p> <p>Sen, Amartya. <em>Commodities and Capabilities</em>. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999.</p> <p>Simons, Gemma, and David Baldwin. “A Critical Review of the Definition of ‘Wellbeing’ for Doctors and Their Patients in a Post Covid-19 Era.” <em>International Journal of Social Psychiatry</em> 67.8 (2021): 984–991.</p> <p>Smith, David, et al. “The Impact of Students’ Approaches to Essay Writing on the Quality of Their Essays.” <em>Assessment &amp; Evaluation in Higher Education</em> 24.3 (1999): 327–338.</p> <p>Spandler, Helen, et al. “Football Metaphor and Mental Well-Being: An Evaluation of It’s a Goal! Programme.” <em>Journal of Mental Health</em> 22.6 (2013): 544–554.</p> <p>Stott, Richard, et al. <em>Oxford Guide to Metaphor in CBT: Building Cognitive Bridges</em>. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010.</p> <p>Sword, Helen. <em>Writing with Pleasure</em>. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2023. </p> Patricia Webb Copyright (c) 2023 Patricia Webb http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0 https://www.journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2979 Tue, 22 Aug 2023 00:00:00 +0000 Representing Online Hostility against Women https://www.journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2980 <p>On 6 March 2023, the Australian journalist Lisa Millar appeared on the television programme <em>ABC News Breakfast</em> (of which she is a host) wearing a skirt with a thigh-exposing slit. Photographs of this appearance were circulated on Twitter alongside misogynist commentary about the choice of attire. Millar addressed this commentary on air, admonishing not only those who posted it but also the media outlets where it was republished.</p> <p>This article uses the Millar case as a prism through which to pursue the question: “what are the ethical considerations for journalists when representing online hostility against women?” The article suggests that journalistic representations are significant not only because they help construct public understandings of the issues being reported, but because of the repetition that necessarily constitutes representation. The very term “representation” connotes the “re-presentation” of something past; in the case study, journalists – through graphically depicting the hostility Millar has endured – ­have effectively (and probably unintentionally) exacerbated that hostility. The article concludes with a list of ethical considerations and explores how journalists may negotiate these when reporting on misogynist online abuse.</p> <h1><strong>Online Hostility against Women: Research Gap</strong></h1> <p>Online hostility is “a cultural condition which has emerged as a practice of communication; and an attitude or mode of disposition towards others that reflects and is produced by the instantaneity of online communication” (Thompson and Cover 1771). The term encompasses a range of practices that are designed primarily or exclusively to offend, degrade, or subjugate. These practices include trolling (posting content to generate heightened responses), doxing (posting personal details – e.g., home addresses – online without permission), and cyberbullying. </p> <p>The study to which this article belongs seeks to contribute to ongoing research into online hostility directed against women. Researchers have demonstrated that this hostility reflects and exacerbates broader gender inequality (Jane, “Back”), and that it has a parlous impact on wellbeing, especially for those who are abused online and those who witness or are otherwise made aware of this abuse. Online hostility can cause psychological damage (Vakhitova et al.) and make victims reluctant to participate in online fora; Millar herself left Twitter in 2021 after being abused on that platform (Quinn). Online hostility against women can be amplified by prejudices including racism, as witnessed in online attacks against African-American actress Leslie Jones (Lawson) and Sudanese-Australian Muslim commentator Yassmin Abdel-Magied (Fyfe).</p> <p>A growing corpus of scholarship has investigated hostility against female journalists. Fiona Martin notes that “journalists are disproportionately subject to online violence due to the public nature of their work, their focus on covering and analysing aspects of societal conflict and their normative watchdog role” (75). Martin further acknowledges that women journalists “are subject to more frequent, image-oriented and sexualised violence, with deeper structural and social roots and more significant impacts than for men in their profession” (75). Millar’s 2023 Twitter attackers made hostile comments about her physical appearance; victims can be maligned on account of other factors, too, including their ethnicity, sexual identity, or religion. Online hostility against female journalists has also taken the form of rape and death threats (Jane, “Back”), and social media posts attacking them for working in traditionally “masculine” journalistic domains such as sports reporting (Antunovic).</p> <p>Currently, little research exists on journalistic representations of online hostility against women. This is striking given the pivotal roles that journalistic reportage still plays in constructing public understandings of social issues. An exception is a 2017 study which found that “media frames of trolling reinforce the normalisation of online violence against women as an extension of or proxy for gendered violence” (Lumsden and Morgan 936). This study’s findings echo studies of the ways in which “offline” violence against women (including rape and murder) has been represented in media texts (e.g., Morgan).</p> <h1><strong>Representation: Politics and Repetition </strong></h1> <p>This article is premised firstly on the argument that representation is an inherently ideological endeavour. Stuart Hall suggests this when he argues that representation “connects meaning and language to culture”; it gives form/s to the way we view and experience the world, legitimising and challenging dominant power systems (Hall 1). This kind of argument has informed feminist scholarship on how mediatised representations of violence against women reinforce gendered power imbalances and stereotypes; the 2017 study cited above is one example.</p> <p>Secondly, the article argues that the power of representation lies in the logic of repetition. This is suggested by the word itself; the object of representation is re-presented, staged again via the deployment of language and visuals – sometimes on multiple occasions. In a to-camera address recorded during <em>ABC Breakfast News</em> on 8 March 2023 (not coincidentally, International Women’s Day), Millar remarked: “that [her online abuse] then ended up online on some news sites where the photos and the abuse were republished made me angry”.</p> <p>The journalistic reportage cited by Millar re-presents that hostility – which was already highly public by virtue of the target’s media profile and by its enactment on Twitter – in public fora (including media outlets that publish journalism). In doing so, this reportage risks granting legitimacy to that hostility; the latter becomes worthy of repeating, even as it may be framed as problematic. In this respect, there are echoes of reportage on right-wing extremists, which – while sometimes well-intentioned – has given those actors “a level of visibility and legitimacy that even they could scarcely believe” (Phillips 32). (It should be acknowledged that online hostility is not perpetrated only by those aligned with a specific political disposition.)</p> <p>Further, journalistic representations of online hostility against women involve the re-presentation of hostility that has – in some cases – been re-presented multiple times on social media platforms. Research has demonstrated that hostile comments and the resharing of abusive content “by very large or uncountable numbers of individuals” can amplify the hostility’s force (Thompson and Cover 1772). This appears to have been the case with Millar; shots of the skirt were shared even by those claiming to defend her, as were vituperative comments about the clothing, and these were shared <em>yet again </em>in certain media coverage (on the 8 March broadcast, Millar’s co-host Michael Rowland identifies <em>news.com.au</em> and<em> Daily Mail</em> as publishers of this coverage). That coverage could then be shared and re-shared on social media.</p> <h1><strong>Ethical Considerations for Journalists </strong></h1> <p>This section begins the task – one that is beyond the scope of a single article – of outlining the ethical considerations journalists should make in producing representations of online hostility against women. The section is informed by ongoing scholarship on media ethics, and especially two of its key aims: mitigating harm and maximising equitable participation in online spaces, including social media platforms (Johnson). The section draws on insights from extant scholarship on media representations of violence against women. The following considerations may be adapted to studies of ethical reportage on racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia.</p> <p>The first consideration involves abandoning gendered stereotypes. Stuart Hall argues that “stereotypes get <em>hold </em>of the few, ‘simple, vivid, memorable, easily grasped and widely recognized’ characteristics about a person, reduce everything about the person to those traits, <em>exaggerate</em> and<em> simplify </em>them” (247; emphasis in original). The simplicity of stereotypes and their familiarity among audiences could make them a convenient go-to for journalists. Feminist media scholars have critiqued the stereotyping of female victims as either “undeserving” innocents or “deserving” (sexually active, revealingly dressed) vamps (Benedict; Morgan). Journalist Ginger Gorman has critiqued the stereotyping of online hostility proponents as bizarre, unhinged, Other; these include the “loner in his mum’s basement” (24). In fact, Gorman argues, these individuals exist within the same society as “we” all do, one where gender inequality still holds currency; they are not rare bad actors (Gorman 264).</p> <p>The second consideration involves interviewing or otherwise obtaining quotes from victims. This should involve the cultivation of trauma literacy and, relatedly, an awareness of how certain lines of questioning can distress victims and journalists (Seely). In the case study under review, Millar decided to speak publicly about her online abuse and, in doing so, received support from her colleagues and television network employer (Meade). She had the platform and the (apparent) willingness to respond to her abusers. Her distress is nevertheless palpable in the 8 March broadcast.</p> <p>The third consideration concerns the explicitness of the detail provided about online hostility. This is especially contentious. Media scholar Emma A. Jane argues that</p> <blockquote> <p>a less explicit and more polite way of discussing [online hostility against women] may have the unintended consequence of both hiding from view its distinct characteristics and social, political and ethical upshots, and even blinding us to its existence and proliferation – of implying that it circulates only infrequently and/or only in the far flung fringes of the cybersphere. However, research … provides ample evidence to support the contention that gendered vitriol is proliferating in the cybersphere; so much so that issuing graphic rape and death threats has become a standard discursive move online. (“Back” 558)</p> </blockquote> <p>Jane is clarifying why she has chosen to report – sometimes verbatim – online misogyny. Her words have relevance for journalism. No ethical representation of online hostility against women should downplay its seriousness or frame it as being either an aberrant phenomenon or simply lively (but not necessarily injurious) banter. Jane has elsewhere chronicled the “economic vandalism” (her term) wrought by hostility directed against women workers, including journalists (Jane, “Gendered”).</p> <p>Nonetheless, Millar’s 8 March statement demonstrates that repeating online hostility in detail can (further) distress victims. This can also expand the reach of the hostility, and frame it as somehow worth repeating (even if only for the purpose of critique). The two media outlets accused by Michael Rowland of doing this both proclaim to abhor the abuse and do so via the florid language that is redolent of tabloid media. <em>News.com.au</em> describes the abuse as “sickening” (Borg); <em>Daily Mail</em> labels the abusers “vile online trolls” whose commentary was “disgustingly personal” (Milienos). The abhorrence is diminished by the republication in both pieces of abuse directed against Millar. One of these articles even quotes the tweets of a high-profile Australian Twitter user who – in admonishing Millar’s attackers – posted screenshots of abusive commentary.</p> <p>The fourth consideration involves acknowledging the systemic nature of online hostility against women. This does not comprise isolated acts of aggression against individuals. For instance, where there is space permitting, journalists could cite statistics regarding this hostility and its prevalence. In her 8 March address, Millar stated:</p> <blockquote> <p> [I am] angry on behalf of myself, and also on behalf of other women, young women who see those stories and see someone like me being violently abused day after day … I worry it might make [young women] think that no progress has been made and that it’s not worth it to be a woman in the public arena.</p> </blockquote> <p>Millar emphasises that online hostility does not impact only on its targets; it can potentially have a prohibitive impact on the public participation of <em>all</em> women, especially – though not only – when the target has a media profile. “Public participation” can entail working as a journalist or even using social media.</p> <p>The fifth, and perhaps most challenging, consideration entails how exactly more ethical journalistic representations of online hostility might be encouraged or welcomed in the contemporary mediascape. This consideration is as much for policymakers and journalism researchers as journalists themselves. The current Australian Federal Minister for Women, Katy Gallagher, described the republishing of hostile commentary about Millar as “providing clickbait to generate readers” (cited in May). This may seem simplistic – sensationalism and gendered stereotypes are not recent phenomena –, but it is a reminder that their commercial viability persists. There has been public outrage against gendered online hostility; statements by Rowland and myriad Twitter users (some of them journalists) exemplify this. Such outrage can have beneficial outcomes; for instance, research has demonstrated that online “call outs” against misogyny and sexism can publicly emphasise the harms it causes and, therefore, its unacceptability (Mendes et al.). These call outs ­– which include hashtag movements such as #MeToo and screenshots of threatening direct messages – can help attach negative meanings to sexist practices. Nonetheless, outrage in itself cannot prevent or necessarily even restrict hostility.</p> <p>For ethical journalistic representations of online hostility against women to flourish in any tangible sense, widespread institutional changes are required. The ethical considerations listed above could be taught within university journalism curricula, in the same way that trauma literacy has been (Seely; Thompson); in fairness, such teachings might well be underway. Those considerations could also inform guidelines for journalistic reportage of online hostility. There are already several (actual or proposed) guidelines for reporting on violence against women (e.g., Our Watch), as well as “digital safety strategies for women journalists” (Martin 74).</p> <p>Finally, ethical journalistic representations of online hostility against women must be accompanied by proper regulation of this hostility. Such regulations have been the topic of impassioned debate amongst media outlets and politicians in jurisdictions that include Australia (Beckett). Ethical representations – whatever these might look like (and they will necessarily be as diverse as journalism itself) – would have limited benefit in environments where the hostile actors are permitted to remain on the platforms where they abused others.</p> <p>This article has argued for the importance of ethical journalistic representations of online hostility against women. This hostility threatens the wellbeing of its victims and those who witness or are otherwise aware of the abuse; that threat is amplified when the hostile behaviour itself is re-presented, either by journalists or everyday social media users, in graphic detail. Those points have been teased out via the case study of Australian television journalist Lisa Millar. Millar’s Twitter abuse, and the subsequent reportage of that abuse, highlights a need for representations that educate audiences on the harms of online hostility without exacerbating those harms.</p> <h2><strong>References </strong></h2> <p><em>ABC News</em>. “Lisa Millar Addresses 'Disgusting' Social Media Commentary Live on News Breakfast.” 8 Mar. 2023. &lt;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aILng4ECoME">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aILng4ECoME</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Antunovic, Dunja. “‘We Wouldn’t Say It to Their Faces’: Online Harassment, Women Sports Journalists, and Feminism.” <em>Feminist Media Studies</em> 19.3 (2019): 428-442.</p> <p>Beckett, Jennifer. “The Government’s Planned ‘Anti-Troll’ Laws Won’t Help Most Victims of Online Trolling.” <em>The Conversation</em> 29 Nov. 2021. &lt;<a href="https://theconversation.com/the-governments-planned-anti-troll-laws-wont-help-most-victims-of-online-trolling-172743">https://theconversation.com/the-governments-planned-anti-troll-laws-wont-help-most-victims-of-online-trolling-172743</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Benedict, Helen. <em>Virgin or Vamp: How the Press Covers Sex Crimes</em>. New York and Oxford: Oxford UP, 1992.</p> <p>Borg, Rebecca. “‘Just Plain Gutless’: Aussie Twitter Users Slam Online Trolls for Sickening Lisa Millar Comments.” <em>News.com.au</em> 8 Mar. 2023. &lt;<a href="https://www.news.com.au/entertainment/tv/morning-shows/just-plain-gutless-aussie-twitter-users-slam-online-trolls-for-sickening-lisa-millar-comments/news-story/e17e839f0d0b789e600a8b6c44daf4a0">https://www.news.com.au/entertainment/tv/morning-shows/just-plain-gutless-aussie-twitter-users-slam-online-trolls-for-sickening-lisa-millar-comments/news-story/e17e839f0d0b789e600a8b6c44daf4a0</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Fyfe, Melissa. “Yassmin Abdel-Magied on Becoming 'Australia's Most Publicly Hated Muslim'.” <em>Sydney Morning Herald</em> 18 Aug 2017. &lt;<a href="https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/yassmin-abdelmagied-on-becoming-australias-most-publicly-hated-muslim-20170816-gxxb7d.html">https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/yassmin-abdelmagied-on-becoming-australias-most-publicly-hated-muslim-20170816-gxxb7d.html</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Gorman, Ginger. <em>Troll Hunting: Inside the World of Online Hate and Its Human Fallout.</em> Melbourne: Hardie Grant, 2019.</p> <p>Hall, Stuart. “The Spectacle of the ‘Other’.” <em>Representation</em>. 2nd ed. Eds. Stuart Hall, Jessica Evans, and Sean Nixon. UK: Open University, 2013. 215-275.</p> <p>Jane, Emma A. “‘Back to the Kitchen, Cunt’: Speaking the Unspeakable about Online Misogyny.” <em>Continuum</em> 28.4 (2014): 558-570.</p> <p>———. “Gendered Cyberhate as Workplace Harassment and Economic Vandalism.” <em>Feminist Media Studies</em> 18.4 (2018): 575-591.</p> <p>Johnson, Brett Gregory. “Speech, Harm, and the Duties of Digital Intermediaries: Conceptualizing Platform Ethics.” <em>Journal of Media Ethics</em> 32.1 (2017): 16-27.</p> <p>Lawson, Caitlin E. “Platform Vulnerabilities: Harassment and Misogynoir in the Digital Attack on Leslie Jones.” <em>Information, Communication &amp; Society</em> 21.6 (2018): 818-833.</p> <p>Lumsden, Karen, and Heather Morgan. “Media Framing of Trolling and Online Abuse: Silencing Strategies, Symbolic Violence, and Victim Blaming.” <em>Feminist Media Studies</em> 17.6 (2017): 926-940.</p> <p>Martin, Fiona. “Tackling Gendered Violence Online: Evaluating Digital Safety Strategies for Women Journalists.” <em>Australian Journalism Review</em> 40.2 (2018): 73-89.</p> <p>May, Natasha. “ABC Host Lisa Millar Reveals Anger But Also Hope after News Sites Republish ‘Foul’ Online Abuse.” <em>The Guardian</em> 8 Mar. 2023. &lt;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/2023/mar/08/lisa-millar-abc-news-breakfast-host-daily-mail-news-com-au-international-womens-day-iwd-2023-dress-outfit-clothes-online-twitter-trolls-abuse">https://www.theguardian.com/media/2023/mar/08/lisa-millar-abc-news-breakfast-host-daily-mail-news-com-au-international-womens-day-iwd-2023-dress-outfit-clothes-online-twitter-trolls-abuse</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Meade, Amanda. “ABC Accuses News Corp and Daily Mail of Amplifying Misogynist Twitter Abuse of Lisa Millar.” <em>The Guardian</em> 7 Mar. 2023. &lt;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/2023/mar/07/lisa-millar-news-breakfast-abc-accuses-news-corp-daily-mail-amplifying-misogynist-twitter-trolls-abuse-tv-host-outfit">https://www.theguardian.com/media/2023/mar/07/lisa-millar-news-breakfast-abc-accuses-news-corp-daily-mail-amplifying-misogynist-twitter-trolls-abuse-tv-host-outfit</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Mendes, Kaitlynn, Jessica Ringrose, and Jessalynn Keller. "#MeToo and the Promise and Pitfalls of Challenging Rape Culture through Digital Feminist Activism." <em>European Journal of Women's Studies</em> 25.2 (2018): 236-246.</p> <p>Milienos, Antoinette. “Sickening Twitter Trolls Hit a New Low as Their Vile Insults against ABC Host Lisa Millar Get Disgustingly Personal More than a Year after She Was Bullied off the Platform.” <em>Daily Mail</em> 6 Mar. 2023. &lt;<a href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11824903/Lisa-Millar-ABC-News-Breakfast-host-targeted-Twitter-trolls-television-outfit.html">https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11824903/Lisa-Millar-ABC-News-Breakfast-host-targeted-Twitter-trolls-television-outfit.html</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Morgan, Karen. “Cheating Wives and Vice Girls: The Construction of a Culture of Resignation.” <em>Women's Studies International Forum</em> 29.5 (2006): 489-498.</p> <p>Our Watch. <em>How to Report on Violence against Women and Their Children</em>. National Edition, 2019. &lt;<a href="https://media-cdn.ourwatch.org.au/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2019/09/09000510/OW3989_NAT_REPORTING-GUIDELINES_WEB_FA.pdf">https://media-cdn.ourwatch.org.au/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2019/09/09000510/OW3989_NAT_REPORTING-GUIDELINES_WEB_FA.pdf</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Phillips, Whitney. “The Oxygen of Amplification.” <em>Data &amp; Society</em>, 2018. &lt;<a href="https://datasociety.net/library/oxygen-of-amplification/">https://datasociety.net/library/oxygen-of-amplification/</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Quinn, Karl. “‘I Wasn’t Looking to Make a Fuss’: Why Journalists Are Giving Up on Twitter.” <em>Sydney Morning Herald</em> 17 Sep. 2021. &lt;<a href="https://www.smh.com.au/culture/tv-and-radio/i-wasn-t-looking-to-make-a-fuss-why-journalists-are-giving-up-on-twitter-20210916-p58sa5.html">https://www.smh.com.au/culture/tv-and-radio/i-wasn-t-looking-to-make-a-fuss-why-journalists-are-giving-up-on-twitter-20210916-p58sa5.html</a>&gt;.</p> <p>Seely, Natalee. “Fostering Trauma Literacy: From the Classroom to the Newsroom.” <em>Journalism &amp; Mass Communication Educator</em> 75.1 (2020): 116-130.</p> <p>Thompson, Jay Daniel. “Can Trolling Be Taught? Educating Journalism Students to Identify and Manage Trolling – an Ethical Necessity.” <em>Ethical Space</em> 17.2 (2020): 30-37.</p> <p>Thompson, Jay Daniel, and Rob Cover. “Digital Hostility, Internet Pile-Ons and Shaming: A Case Study.” <em>Convergence</em> 28.6 (2022): 1770-1782.</p> <p>Vakhitova, Zarina I., Clair L. Alston-Knox, Ellen Reeves, and Rob I. Mawby. “Explaining Victim Impact from Cyber Abuse: An Exploratory Mixed Methods Analysis.” <em>Deviant Behavior</em> 43.10 (2022): 1153-1172.</p> Jay Daniel Thompson Copyright (c) 2023 Jay Daniel Thompson http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0 https://www.journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2980 Tue, 22 Aug 2023 00:00:00 +0000 “Something has to change” https://www.journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2978 <p>In April 2022, I found myself in the Harold Pinter Theatre on the West End, waiting to watch Jodie Comer star as protagonist Tessa Ensler in Suzie Miller’s <em>Prima Facie. </em>Surprised that after two years of on-and-off-again lockdowns due to COVID-19, I had finally made it all the way overseas to see this Australian play on the British stage, I asked the person next to me if they were excited to see the show. She was a young, twenty-something woman who smiled and said, “I can’t wait to see Jodie Comer in the flesh”. I asked what she knew about the play, and she told me a friend had given her a ticket because she was a Jodie Comer fan and that she did not know anything about the play before coming tonight. I was apprehensive on her behalf, knowing she was about to see a profound performance of a woman processing her own rape on stage, without forewarning. I realised in this moment how far this play had come in a brief period, from its first small run at the Stables Theatre in Sydney to London’s West End, in spite of a global pandemic. After the play ended, I turned to ask my neighbour what she thought. She was crying. After several moments, she praised Comer’s performance, launching into her thoughts on how powerful this play was, how profound an impact it could have for discussions of sexual assault.</p> <p><em>Prima Facie’</em>s international success, emerging in the wake of the #MeToo movement and COVID-19 pandemic, seems like no coincidence. The negative impact of these two cataclysmic and simultaneous—in that they have impacted and intersected in Western society since their initial emergence—events on the collective health and wellbeing of society cannot be understated (Sehrbrock). They highlight the need to consider how we can enact change within our structural systems to foster frameworks that support our most vulnerable. If we acknowledge the potential for contemporary theatre as a site for political change, we can evaluate its vital role in the wake of such events in framing the problematic issues that exist within society, such as rape culture, as something we can and should critically reflect upon; something <em>Prima Facie </em>has the power to do. While <em>Prima Facie</em> does not have the ability to lessen the impact of COVID-19, its run on the West End marked the beginning of a return—in Western countries at least—to live theatre and events, and as such, a return to the commentary on life and society that theatre can provide. Leading theatre scholar Lisa Fitzpatrick asserts that contemporary rape plays “emerge from personal and collective experience” (220), showing us that contemporary theatre like <em>Prima Facie</em> is created both because of, and to provide a discourse on, real-world situations. This article will argue that <em>Prima Facie </em>has immense value in reshaping what wellbeing means to us in light of these global events—particularly in relation to the #MeToo Movement, which centred women's voices and experiences in contemporary legal and political spheres—and thus shows the possibility for shifting policies, practices, and perceptions to promote and protect the <em>self.</em> The play expertly interrogates the political, legal, and social systems in which those in a liberal democracy, like Australia—and by extension, the UK and USA—all live; those which arguably have been established with the overall wellbeing and benefit of society in mind.</p> <p>The play’s protagonist, Tessa Ensler, is an accomplished criminal barrister who has built her career representing defendants accused of sexual assault. When Tessa herself is the victim of a rape, she faces the reality that society’s legal and political systems, while pursuing 'legal truth’—the idea that truth in a courtroom is often shaped by cultural beliefs and perceptions, rather than objective truth (Tidmarsh and Hamilton 2)—, do not make adequate adjustments for a woman’s lived experience of sexual assault. Shannon Taylor elaborates on this from her own experience as a sexual assault victim when she states that</p> <blockquote> <p>fact is capitulated and, under the male gaze of patriarchy and arguments of legal dialect where concepts of truth, morality, ethics and justice are foreign entities, the experience, the evidence of survivors is oftentimes rendered useless, or at best fragmented, diluted, sanitised, modified. (Taylor 64)</p> </blockquote> <p>Victims of sexual assault are in a unique position as the complainant and (usually) sole witness in a prosecution case and thus bear a greater burden than many other types of crimes (Taslitz 6). These cases can fail to recognise the trauma undergone by a woman in such a position, and the struggle to provide convincing evidence in legal prosecution—or, as in most cases, absolution—of the defendant. Moreover, the staggeringly low conviction rate for sexual assault, which sits at less than one percent (Daly and Bouhours 566), does not bode well for an alleged victim’s confidence in reporting such a crime, or agreeing to stand trial if an eventual prosecution were to happen. The audience is positioned to witness Tessa peel back the patriarchal layers of the legal system and look at the socio-cultural barriers that have held victims of sexual assault back from achieving justice: “we do not interrogate the law’s own assumptions, instead we persist in interrogating the victim … there cannot be any more excuses. It must change” (Miller 93). Thus, the spectators of <em>Prima Facie</em> are left with the play’s final words, “something has to change” (Miller 97), lingering on, challenging them to conceive of a system where the wellbeing of sexual assault victims is prioritised alongside the pursuit of legal truth. It ultimately calls for a revision of the systems that exist, and for the promotion of significant, systemic change, both to better the wellbeing of individual victims, but also our society as a whole. Miller attacks these systems in a strategic manner, persuading the audience into sharing in this belief that for society to achieve wellbeing for all its members, it must ameliorate the parts that neglect and damage our most vulnerable. Tessa’s journey over the course of the play has the power to threaten these systems within society, highlighting the ways in which they expose victims of sexual assault to re-traumatisation, social rejection, and a statistically likely loss in court (Spohn 89).</p> <p>Tessa’s story arc is presented to the audience as symptomatic of the systems—specifically the law—that uphold problematic representations of rape and its victims in society. Tessa is first presented to the audience as a young, determined criminal barrister with an uncompromising stance towards the sexual assault cases she takes on. She argues that it is not her job to determine if the crime happened, but rather “find holes in the case and keep the police honest. Protect society” (Miller 31). Tessa holds firm to the belief that the law is fair and just, that innocent until proven guilty is “the bedrock of how you keep a society civilised” (Miller 30) and “if a few guilty people get off then it’s because the job wasn’t done well enough by the prosecutor and the police” (Miller 35). The audience watch Tessa cross-examine alleged victims of rape; doing so with disarming frankness, posturing that she is testing the law, “test[ing] her word, her version of the story” (Miller 41). In reality, she is conforming to the long-held socio-cultural belief that, despite rape being a deeply personal trauma against oneself, complainants must remain clear and “composed” (Miller 41) to have a chance at winning their case within the rules of the law, upheld via gendered scripts of what a rape victim <em>should </em>look like (Donat and D’Emilio; Fraser; Herman; Ullman). Feminist scholar Tara Roeder grapples with this struggle for women who testify in rape cases, as they “will indeed find themselves under intense pressure to tell clear, concise, and coherent accounts of the violence they have undergone” (18), which can serve to challenge and deny their experience if not presented in the neat package that the legal system demands. This ideology begins to waiver when Tessa is sexually assaulted by her colleague Julian. In acting out the particulars of her own rape on stage—by not only someone Tessa knows, but someone she works with and has been dating—Tessa reminds the audience that rape is not only more pervasive and common in society than acknowledged, but that it can often happen in a way that is less clear cut than is often socially understood.</p> <p>Tessa becomes the voice of reason in a culturally complex issue, positioned on both ‘sides’ of the law—a defence barrister and later victim—and thus in an impossible situation of an adversarial legal system which demands that one side wins and the other loses. This highlights the problematic nature of legal processes being a game, where the ‘winner’ of the case is which lawyer tells the best version of their client’s story (Miller 35). What this system fails to acknowledge is that the reality of attending a trial—where they are in many ways positioned as being ‘on trial’—and having to recall an immense bodily and mental trauma whilst on the stand may often expose rape victims to social ostracism and denial. Additionally, in many cases the absence of corroborative evidence in a rape case is enough to tip the scales in favour of the defendant, yet this is the paradoxical nature of rape: sometimes all you have is your word against theirs. Literature and Human Rights scholar Eleni Coundouriotis unpacks the mechanics of this tension in her article “You Only Have Your Word”, making it evident that “the sexual assault complainant’s testimony has unique significance because it carries most of the burden of proof on the issue of consent” (366), and, despite being a witness to the crime being committed, their testimony can be easily dissected within a trial, and positioned to the judge or jury—depending on the case—as not true by its very nature of being a <em>story.</em> For legal truth, however, it must be ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ as to whether the crime was committed: a difficult thing to determine in issues of consent, as “the defence doesn’t have to prove she did not consent[,] you just have to point out that HE DID NOT KNOW there was NO CONSENT. That it was <em>reasonable</em> for him to think it was okay” (Miller 40). The ultimate difficulty in trying a rape case is that there will almost always be ‘reasonable’ doubt as to the events that took place. The audience sees Tessa process this in real time after she is raped, where she acknowledges the fallibility of the law—and her own previously espoused beliefs—in the attempted prosecution of alleged rapists, and in protecting the women who have been raped.</p> <p>It is only when Tessa faces the same system as a victim, complainant, and witness that she begins to question whether the legal system deserves her unwavering faith. Tessa realises while giving her own testimony that it is more likely that “the events described by the victim in her testimony are usually ambiguous” (Harrison et al. 27) and thus less likely to fit the ‘rape script’ expected of them. Tessa once believed that the peripheral details of a rape (such as what the victim was wearing, how her hands were positioned, how often she attempted to say no, how much she had to drink) are key to determining the legitimacy of the rape occurring. Yet as Tessa herself learns: “as a victim-survivor, let me tell you that the rape and perpetrator are vividly recalled, the peripheral details not so clearly” (Miller 94). Only upon experiencing this first-hand is Tessa—and by extension the audience—able to see that the legal system is not actually fair and just in all cases. Miller emphasises this arduous process for rape victims, reinforcing that it can be re-traumatising to “relive their humiliating experience and then doubted as to their motives for reporting a hideous crime against their person” (7). As the audience go on this journey with Tessa, they are exposed to the idea that to establish better personal and legal outcomes for rape victims, we must reshape the way in which we not only try rape cases, but how we perceive victims themselves.</p> <p>Tessa’s rape is portrayed as emblematic of a larger societal issue that is rooted in the structural systems that have long favoured those accused of sexual assault, rather than those victimised by it. Andrew Taslitz captures this when he states that “despite several decades of a renewed women’s movement and increasing attention to the problem of rape, judges and juries continue to be sceptical of rape, demanding greater proof than for many other types of crimes and demonstrating deep suspicion of victims” (6). <em>Prima Facie</em> shows the law’s inability—shaped by preconceived rape stereotypes coupled with complex patriarchal gender dynamics—to try rape cases in a way that accounts for the lived experience of women and the complicated nuances of rape. <em>Prima Facie </em>proposes that the law’s inadequate grasp of the victim’s mental state after the event, and inability to find ways to interrogate or prosecute the accused in a manner that protects their victims, are to its detriment. This is not to say that the solution for rape cases is to absolve victims from having to testify about their experience, but to explore other methods for pinpointing the truth without re-traumatising victims. In the writer’s note of <em>Prima Facie, </em>Miller reinforces this idea when she posits that “for Tessa, seeing the law for what it is, an imperfect human construct, constantly evolving within social changes, frees her to find her voice and call us all to action” (9).<em> Prima Facie </em>does not attempt to provide solutions, but challenges us to consider how we are complicit in the systems that do not protect some of its vulnerable members, and thus ask ourselves what we can do to reimagine the way society could and <em>should </em>change for the better.</p> <p>What <em>Prima Facie </em>does successfully is to politicise the criminal justice system to question our ability to evolve as a society if we are effectively unable to interrogate how the law is failing its most vulnerable. Miller builds a relatable and engaging narrative of an individual who understands and supports the system but is confronted with the reality that she is unable to receive justice within this system. In doing so, the audience is presented with a subversive rape narrative—that is, a narrative in which the patriarchal structures that protect and uphold rape culture are being interrogated and challenged to reveal their flaws and demand socio-cultural change—that is not only hard to ignore, but one that challenges us to consider how these systems are working against us to impede our achievement of individual and collective wellbeing. Roeder captures the nuanced power of subversive rape stories filtering into social conscience, asserting that “the continued construction—and the ethical reception—of rape narratives … can not only help victims of violence regain control of their own experience but are valuable in expanding narrowly conceived social constructions of what rape victims ‘are like’” (27-8). Miller’s play positions the audience as witness to a relatable, witty, and intelligent woman as the victim of such a crime who can rebuild herself in the aftermath, despite the system’s fallibilities and inclination to silence and erase her experience.</p> <p>Like the audience member who sat beside me at <em>Prima Facie</em>’s West End debut, and who had such an emotional reaction to the play’s subject matter, it is easy to see how bearing witness to Tessa’s rape and the subsequent trial is vital. It can generate necessary discourse about the value in challenging these systems to promote individual wellbeing for victims of sexual assault, and by extension, push us towards creating a better, more just society. Tessa’s experience in the court room is “shaped by the male experience, its cases decided by generations of male judges and its statutes legislated by generations of male politicians” (Miller 7), which she highlights can fail to accept a victim’s testimony as truth if it does not fit within the patriarchal rules of ‘rape’. The audience are encouraged through Tessa’s story to consider their own complicity in such systems, as a direct result of societal misconceptions about rape and rape victims being shaped by the male—or patriarchal—experience. The audience are presented with multiple rape narratives in <em>Prima Facie, </em>leading us to see Tessa’s trial, testimony, and cross-examination, aptly titled in the play as “the Silencing” (Miller 81), as the hardest to watch. Miller weaves a complex tapestry, which reminds us that fundamentally,</p> <blockquote> <p>each story of rape varies in its particulars; there is no one narrative that can contain these explosive and singular moments of disruption. Yet, placed beside each other, these experiences … function as a reminder of the complex power associated with not only the telling, but the hearing, of such stories. (Roeder 28)</p> </blockquote> <p>After the audience is led to this conclusion, the play’s voice of reckoning demands of them that something must change—and that this change begins with them.</p> <p>Miller does not ask this only of the average theatre-goer, but of those who have the power to make a difference. For its opening run with Griffin Theatre Company in Sydney, <em>Prima Facie </em>staged a one-night performance specifically for female judges, barristers, solicitors, lawyers, and politicians, followed by what Miller describes as “a long and exciting discussion where played out before me was an authentic intersection between art and social change” (Miller 8). Miller saw the positive reception to the play as “a beacon of hope for future generations” (Miller 8), as she witnessed the Law Reform Commission attend a matinee, and a series of boys’ schools attend the production. Additionally, many performances internationally and in Australia have been followed by poignant Q&amp;As, positioning this play as a site for political and social change. This is achieved by placing the production team alongside professionals within the field of law to promote these discussions. Miller saw the potential for this play not only to challenge social perceptions of rape held by people within society, but also as a driving force for enacting real and tangible change to the systems by generating discourse with those who, like (the fictional) Tessa, work within such systems. Similarly, for its West End debut, <em>Prima Facie </em>collaborated with <em>The Schools Consent Project,</em> gifting tickets to partner school groups, providing support to students who attended, and donating some of its profits to this not-for-profit organisation. The founder of <em>The Schools Consent Project, </em>Kate Parker, spoke of this collaboration as crucial, in that</p> <blockquote> <p>the play shines a critical spotlight on the themes of consent, the criminal justice system and the female experience – topics we discuss daily with young people in classrooms across the country in our lawyer-led workshops on consent. The production is radical for a West End stage, as is its willingness to have a wider community reach. We are very excited about the impact of this partnership on the behaviour and thinking of the young people we work with. (qtd. in Wood, par. 3)</p> </blockquote> <p>The targeted community outreach linked to its West End run has propelled <em>Prima Facie</em>’s impact beyond the theoretical—or fictional—and into the practical, promoting new ways of thinking about the systems within which society operate, and encouraging those who will effectively dominate the system’s future to consider ways in which we can change.</p> <p>The collective wellbeing of society and its individuals can be brought about by the types of theatrical narratives that have emerged in the contemporary era, like <em>Prima Facie</em>, as it encourages a necessary discourse about the pervasiveness of rape and the fallibilities of the (still) patriarchal systems we have in place through which to examine and test accusations of this kind. This fallibility is preventing society from becoming <em>better</em>; improving for the greater good of all who belong to it. For us to do so, we must consider how our collective complicity in such systems has only contributed to its success in neglecting rape victims at their most vulnerable. Lester Brathwaite captures this eloquently in his review of <em>Prima Facie’</em>s Broadway review for <em>Entertainment Weekly</em> when he writes: “the emotional and physical toll of a performance like this, and the truths it brings to light, is akin to a public service” (par. 16). The play and performance’s ability to reveal the layers of oppression that sit beneath the surface of society and force the audience to look within are powerful, and potentially transformative.</p> <h2><strong>References</strong></h2> <p>Bix, Brian H. "Linguistic Meaning and Legal Truth." <em>Law and Language: Current Legal</em> Issues. Vol. 15. Eds. Michael Freeman and Fiona Smith. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2013. 34-44.</p> <p>Coundouriotis, Eleni. “‘You Only Have Your Word’: Rape and Testimony.” <em>Human Rights </em><em>Quarterly</em> 35. 2 (2013): 365–85.</p> <p>Daly, Kathleen, and Brigitte Bouhours. “Rape and Attrition in the Legal Process: A Comparative Analysis of Five Countries.” <em>Crime and Justice</em> 39.1 (2010): 565–650.</p> <p>Donat, P., and J. D'Emilio. “A Feminist Redefinition of Rape and Sexual Assault: Historical Foundations and Change.” <em>Journal of Social Issues</em> 48 (1992): 9–22.</p> <p>Fitzpatrick, Lisa. “Signifying Rape: Problems of Representing Sexual Violence on Stage.” <em>Feminism, Literature and Rape Narratives: Violence and Violation</em>. Eds. Sorcha Gunne and Zoe Brigley Thompson. London: Routledge, 2010. 154–165.</p> <p>Fraser, Courtney. “From Ladies First to Asking for It: Benevolent Sexism in the Maintenance of Rape Culture.” <em>California Law Review</em> 103 (2015): 141–203.</p> <p>Harrison D.H. Lee, Jason M. Tangen, Blake M. McKimmie, and Barbara M. Masser. “Guided by the Rape Schema: The Influence of Event Order on How Jurors Evaluate the Victim’s Testimony in Cases of Rape.” <em>Psychology, Crime &amp; Law</em> 29.1 (2022): 25–55.</p> <p>Herman, Dianne F. “The Rape Culture.” <em>Culture</em> 1.10 (1988): 45–53.</p> <p>Miller, Suzie. <em>Prima Facie. </em>London: Nick Hern Books, 2022.</p> <p>Roeder, Tara. “‘You Have to Confess’: Rape and the Politics of Storytelling.” <em>Journal of </em><em>Feminist Scholarship</em> 9 (2015): 18–29.</p> <p>Sehrbrock, Joachim. “Social Justice on the Couch: Collapse and Repair of Social Thirdness.” <em>British Journal of Psychotherapy</em> 37.4 (2021): 673–689.</p> <p>Spohn, Cassia. “Sexual Assault Case Processing: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same.” <em>International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy</em> 9.1 (2020): 86–94.</p> <p>Taslitz, Andrew E. <em>Rape and the Culture of the Courtroom</em>. New York: NYU Press, 1999.</p> <p>Taylor, Shannon. “Sexual Assault and the Law – a Diary of a Victim/Survivor's Experience.” <em>Women against Violence: An Australian Feminist Journal</em> 5 (1998): 64–72.</p> <p>Tidmarsh, Patrick, and Gemma Hamilton. “Misconceptions of Sexual Crimes against Adult Victims: Barriers to Justice.” <em>Australian Institute of Criminology: Trends &amp; Issues in </em><em>Crime and Criminal Justice </em>611 (2020): 1–18.</p> <p>Ullman, Sarah E. “The Social Context of Talking about Sexual Assault.” <em>Talking about </em><em>Sexual Assault: Society's Response to Survivors</em>. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2010.</p> <p>Wood, Alex. “West End <em>Prima Facie</em> with Jodie Comer Partners with Schools Consent Project.” <em>WhatsOnStage</em>, 15 Mar. 2022. &lt;<a href="https://www.whatsonstage.com/london-theatre/news/west-end-prima-facie-jodie-comer-school-consent_56107.html">https://www.whatsonstage.com/london-theatre/news/west-end-prima-facie-jodie-comer-school-consent_56107.html</a>&gt;.</p> Bridget Mac Eochagain Copyright (c) 2023 Bridget Mac Eochagain http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0 https://www.journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2978 Tue, 22 Aug 2023 00:00:00 +0000 Wellbeing https://www.journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/3010 <p>Wellbeing is now officially acknowledged as a vital part of human societies, with the Australian government’s federal treasurer Jim Chalmers implementing a “wellbeing budget” in October 2022 that would seek to “measure what matters” and enable proactive strategies to enhance society (Wright). This could not be more welcome as we live through climate catastrophes – floods, hurricanes, and heat-waves leading to unprecedented burning, and experiences of burnout – from surviving cost-of-living, health, and housing crises, and grappling with advances in AI technologies amid escalating global uncertainty. And yet, when wellbeing is invoked without being matched, for example, by the progressive taxation of billionaires and corporations whose concentration of wealth is accelerating these crises, ever greater numbers will languish instead of flourishing. </p> <p>This languishing is, of course, unevenly experienced. It has already been endured on a larger scale by inhabitants of the so-called Global South than those of the North, and by emerging, rather than established, generations whose prospects of a liveable future continue to be eroded and, as economist Alison Pennington puts it, “f’d”.</p> <p>How can Earth’s inhabitants be well while its lifeforms are continually degraded by extractivism? On- and offline violence, COVID-19, neofascism, and datafication present formidable challenges to wellbeing. As we move into hotter and faster worlds whose technologies amplify as much as they might mitigate historical injustices, the need to create, find, and secure wellbeing will only grow. We are therefore heartened by this issue’s case studies of wellbeing, which provide vital contributions to thinking with and beyond our present states of depletion. </p> <p>With a clear understanding of what it isn’t, what is wellbeing? This issue of <em>M/C Journal</em> emerges from a symposium held in 2022 on Cultures of Wellbeing by the Cultural Sociology Thematic Group of The Australian Sociological Association. In response to multisystemic crises and the urgent need to re-imagine human futures, we called for papers that explore cultures of wellbeing. Beyond individual survival, we asked, what cultures, systems, and structures are needed to enable human flourishing at the crossroads of the climate emergency (with its attendant environmental and health crises), an infodemic, and growing inequality? </p> <p>In designing an Eventbrite invitation for our symposium, we sought suitable pictures of wellbeing through Internet image-searches. These yielded generic, pastel, and corporatised results: wellness stock images and rainbow word clouds that poorly represented the nuances of our thinking. Our eventual choice, also this issue’s cover image, is a photograph of colourful fungi growing on Gadubanud (Katabanut) Country in the Otway rainforest of Victoria. Captured by artist CJ Conway, and reproduced with permission, this image features entangled, flourishing material life-forms that reinforce and rely on one another. In contrast to atomised, flattened neoliberal wellness paradigms, these myriad mushrooming existences cannot thrive in isolation, and depend on textured systems of nurturing. </p> <p>Such systems are observed by First Nations’ issue contributors Kathleen Butler and Phoebe McIlwraith in their article “Garihma (to Care for): Examining Recent Media Coverage of Bulihm (Tea Tree) through a Cultural Lens”, in which the authors affirm their culture’s inextricable link to Country and “the guardianship of that relationship [as] a foundation for life and a key indicator of wellbeing”. Drawing on their exploration of Tea Tree oil in wellness cultures reproduced in print media and TikTok, Butler and McIlwraith highlight the role this phenomenon has played in the continued colonisation and exploitation of First Nations knowledges. As Tea Tree only grows on the lands of the Bundjalung people from North Coast New South Wales, and has been used for thousands of years as part of oral histories and spiritual governance, Butler and McIlwraith call for the structural reaffirmation and recontextualisation of First Nations ancestral medicines.</p> <p>Our understanding of wellbeing, therefore, comprises connectedness, the material and the immaterial, and more-than-human mutually flourishing entanglements. As Deborah Lupton, Vaughan Wozniak-O'Connor, Megan Rose, and Ash Watson accordingly reflect in their article on “More-than-Human Wellbeing: Materialising the Relations, Affects, and Agencies of Health, Kinship, and Care”, wellbeing is “a process of mark-making, realised through the reciprocal impressions we leave on each other and the world around us”. Lupton et al. present us with ways of exploring wellbeing through nature, showing how dis/connections can facilitate and inhibit this. In providing insights into the <em>More-than-Human</em> <em>Wellbeing</em> exhibition, Lupton et al. explore health and wellbeing in a digitised and datafied world. Through a series of interactive works, they attune visitors to multisensory ways of knowing that emerge from their entanglements with the digital and more-than digital things that have the potential to open capacities for health, kinship, and care. </p> <p>This interconnected, entangled, reciprocal, and more-than-human quality of wellbeing is of a piece with multisystemic theories of resilience (Ungar). As Vivian Gerrand, Kim Lam, Liam Magee, Pam Nilan, Hiruni Walimunige, and David Cao write in their feature article about object-oriented wellbeing, “What Got You through Lockdown?”, socio-ecological, strengths-based approaches to resilience and their role in wellbeing go beyond mere individual attributes. The authors view resilience and wellbeing as everyday social processes that are contingent on the resources people can access (Masten). Gerrand et al. take stock of such resources in their objects-based project that worked with material things that helped people endure confinement in Melbourne’s long lockdowns (2020-21). In their collection of objects from Victorian-based participants and curation of an art exhibition that arranges and interrogates these objects, Gerrand et al. sought to extend socio-ecological conceptions of resilience and the ways in which nonhuman materialities can contribute to everyday wellbeing during times of adversity. </p> <p>Wellbeing not only pertains to withstanding hardship, but also flourishing in spite of these conditions. As Juliane Roemhild and Melinda Turner explore in their article, the practice of Shared Reading, a form of creative bibliotherapy, can nurture the wellbeing of individuals and communities in our uncertain times. Flourishing entails both feeling good about one’s life, as well as being able to function inside of its paradigms, something that is enabled by shared encounters with books. This is in contrast to a sense of “stagnation” and “quiet despair” (Keyes) that might arise in unwanted isolation from others or when one feels alone in one’s experiences. To flourish in this regard reflects Aristotle’s concept of eudaimonic well-being through the way one reaches their full potential in the ecology within which they are situated. This stands in contrast to hedonistic well-being that is centred on the happiness and pleasure of the individual.</p> <p>Patricia Webb complicates this categorisation of wellbeing by combining both the needs of the individual and their ability to flourish in society through her article on the transformative potential of metaphors in creative writing. Through meeting one’s own potential, individuals can develop the skills to flourish. Webb explores how metaphors in creative writing expand our thinking and our practices and their effects in the world. Through the power of the metaphor we are able to better articulate our meanings and think outside the box. Webb explores how we think and act through the metaphor and relate to others through the conceptual system it offers.</p> <p>The latter two articles, by Jay Daniel Thompson and Bridget Mac Eochagain, consider threats to wellbeing. These appear in online spaces, where women’s wellbeing is often threatened by harassment and trolling, and in the trauma of sexual assault. Following a case study of the online harassment of Australian Journalist Lisa Millar this year, Thompson traces the contours of sexual violence and harassment and its amplification and reproduction through news reportage. In doing so, the author points to Hall’s observation of re-presentation, by which signal-boosting violence can not only raise awareness but further amplify the violence experienced through ecologies of outrage. Thompson explores and offers critical guidance for how within this context online misogyny might be ethically reported on.</p> <p>Bridget Mac Eochagain considers the role of theatre plays in exploring the parameters of wellbeing, through their ability to interrogate the political, legal, and social systems in which we live. Through a case study of Suzie Miller’s one-woman play <em>Prima Facie</em>, Mac Eochagain explores how the lived experiences and trauma of sexual assault survivors are often overlooked in structural efforts to reach “legal truths”. This compounds sexual violence. Theatrical engagements that make visible these often taken-for-granted structures, therefore, offer promising avenues for justice, empowering change, and wellbeing. For Mac Eochagain, <em>Prima Facie</em> presents audiences in the wake of the global pandemic and systemic unrest with a chance to begin healing through seeing themselves in the protagonists’ struggles.</p> <p>Our contributors’ explorations define and deepen our understanding of wellbeing in adverse times. Dreaming of mushrooming (not death caps!), we encourage you to savour their insights and be well.</p> <h2><strong>References</strong></h2> <p>Keyes, Corey L.M. “The Mental Health Continuum: From Languishing to Flourishing in Life.” <em>Journal of Health and Social Behavior</em> 43.2 (June 2002): 207–22.</p> <p>Masten, Ann S. “Ordinary Magic. Resilience Processes in Development.” <em>American Psychologis</em>t 56.3 (2001): 227–238.</p> <p>Pennington, Alison. <em>Generation F’d? How Young Australians Can Reclaim Their Uncertain Futures.</em> Hardie Grant, 2023.</p> <p>Ungar, Michael, ed. <em>Multisystemic Resilience: Adaptation and Transformation in Contexts of Change</em>. Oxford UP, 2021.</p> <p>Wright, Shane. “‘Not about Ashrams and Yoga Retreats’: Nation’s Wellbeing a Focus of October Budget.” <em>The Age</em> 19 Oct. 2022.</p> Vivian Gerrand, Megan Catherine Rose Copyright (c) 2023 Vivian Sophie Gerrand, Megan Catherine Rose http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0 https://www.journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/3010 Wed, 23 Aug 2023 00:00:00 +0000