Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Not Number Twenty-Eight

I've put this out there a few times now: I am not keen on blogging. I see it as a largely narcissistic endeavour that is more interested in talking than holding a conversation (this is a common view among forumites). Yet, as should be clear, I am a reasonably prolific blogger who has made around three posts a month for the year to date. June and July will quite likely have more posts than that (this is June's fourth). I write these with a particular awareness of the narcissism because a) I spend a lot of time writing about me and b) there is no evidence of any readership beyond me. But I want a readership for two reasons. There's the obvious implication of the preceding discussion (i.e. my ego demands a readership... as opposed to a haphazard few readers/site visitors) but I really want to talk about this stuff that I write about. In some sense, then, this blog exists primarily as a socially acceptable version of talking to myself. I am sounding out ideas and trying to host conversations that don't really exist in the way I want them to,

It's pretty clear what sort of conversations I am interested in. Look at the labels with more than twelve instances. We have: Education (27), New Zealand (19), auckland university (17), personal views (12) and achievement (12). Now, that personal views one is pretty nebulous as it covers my thoughts on big things like Art and Charity, a couple of extended course-reviews that build on my comments at student course review and a couple of reflections (mostly on uni but also one on Lord of the Flies). Basically, personal views has been used to mark anything where my opinions could be somewhat controversial (Art and Charity) as well as to signpost some necessary things about "This is the opinion of one particular dude". Oh, well, I am not the world's best labeller. However, I am good enough at it that one can clearly see that there is an interest in primarily education and secondarily New Zealand. That's something to bear in mind.

Earlier today I decided to have a look at Reddit. I don't like Reddit. It takes a good idea (i.e. a forum) but incorporates a very Facebook/Twitter mentality which results in the upvote mechanism which is horrible. I guess this explains its broader appeal. It's dissimilar enough from Facebook to cultivate an air of superiority among Redditors yet the way it works fundamentally appeals to the mindset of the younger internet user (which is, theoretically, me but I believe Reddit's average age is mid-twenties, which is not me: these are people old enough to feel as though there is something objective justification to sentiments like "the internet's gone downhill"). End rant. The point I was trying to establish (and I know that I can just edit out the reddit rant but this feels more organic) is that I looked at r/uni (goes to a specific US university), r/university (not really active approx. 500 members) and even r/college (which was exactly as American as I expected it to be). I went out to one of the larger and certainly one of the more granular sites out there looking for a conversation and I did not find it.

As the people who I did Business 101 and also those who joined my for Business 102 would know, I am big on relevance. Not in the way the pathetic whiners who go, "But, sir, when will we ever use complex numbers? quadratics?" do but in the sense that when we are given examples to help us understand concepts, they need to be relevant otherwise they aren't fit for purpose. This is a big issue with the Bovee and Thill textbook that we had for Business (both courses): how many people had ever heard of Red Ants Pants? Examples like that became more like product placement than the learning tools I hope they were intended to be (although, hey, could be both: hence the hope). The whiners miss the point whereas my questions of relevance cut deeply at the core of the point.

that being said, in all fairness to the whiners, my views are influenced by my anti-American sentiments: we live in NZ dammit, is it too much to ask to have a little NZ output? The answer, of course, is yes. We are stuck with soap operas and reality television (which, these days, also includes our news because it is like a weird perverted blend between Keeping up with Kardashians, weather reports and infotainment. The first bit happens because most of NZ's celebrities are theoretically newsreaders). In other words, we are either stuck with convoluted plot lines that only make sense because they indoctrinate hook viewers from a young age (the outside observer is aware of just how weird things really are), or we get fake realness. At no point does NZ ever produce anything capable of representing part of a conversation. Hell, even things as contained as CSI are capable of joining discussions on things like prostitution, drug and gun control or terrorism. We don't do docos either. This runs extremely deeply. But we also see that this little attack on the state of NZ's media is also a reaction to US cultural imperialism.

US Cultural Imperialism is a somewhat dubious term. After all, our broadcasters choose to view the material and I choose, every now and again, to watch things like the Unigene Buzzfeed video. The term should probably really be US Cultural Dominance where everything else is crowded out. Of course, there is another angle... imperialism is relevant because it's pervaded our mindset. The US has, in the past and continues to do so today, to preach a particular message which is a romanticised idealisation of the way that the US is. For countries like NZ this is problematic. We have a twisted mindset where we both share and make feeble objections to the way the US is. But our broadcasters are even more stuck because we are enough like the US that we sort of seem to respond in certain ways and our population is too small to make certain things economical. So a lot of data is really US data, and we don't produce anything because our population is too small. Except, this isn't really true. If we weren't convinced by quirks of history and US policy that there was something righteous about that romantic view, then we'd actually have something akin to the BBC or the ABC. But, no, TVNZ is nothing like either of those and TV3 is not our version of ITV. They used to be closer, not even that long ago, but now we have made conscious decisions to destroy any uniqueness of NZ culture. Instead we are content with a few mythologies around biculturalism, rugby and environmental friendliness, all of which become less true as each second ticks by.

So, what does that mean in the context of this blog? Well, it's a fairly reactionary thing, is it not? We have a blog, then, that exists largely to try and talk about a particular experience of university in NZ. In theory, Craccum is where it should happen but Craccum's in a bit of an identity crisis (sand slightly more popular than this unread blog) and the current editors are... I guess the best way of putting it is that to me, the editors and I are currently embroiled in a spat in the letters section so we're not getting along. Also, the commute to uni model that I adopt has been declared, in no uncertain terms, a Bad Thing by one of the columnists so yeah. Which, I guess, why it was probably easier, in this particular instance, to point out a few core things rather than start the discussion. Which is the problem with blogging. Without comments, without equal input, there is no real genesis of ideas except whatever happens to take my fancy. That's a big problem if you are trying, on some level, to hold a different (and hopefully better) conversation. These last three blogs all came from a list of topics conceived late at night in the wee hours. Some were written quite late as well. I want to talk about Education in NZ, usually specifically University in NZ, and sometimes NZ more generally.

But, yeah, a clever reader may have noticed that I do like talking about myself and, indeed, just generally want to be talking about things directly relevant to me. It's a very Harry-centric viewpoint... I now even read purely because I catch trains (although, hey, it is very interesting).

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