Privacy Matters: A follow-up of the Census failure

Australia’s recent attempt of a national Census has evoked concerns regarding privacy and trust in both business and government. As previously discussed, controversy surfaced prior to the Census date due to changes in how long Census information was stored and used. Privacy advocates, such as the NSW Council for Civil Liberties President Stephen Banks stated, “We now have some politicians calling for discriminatory action against people of a particular faith… it wouldn’t be unreasonable for them to think twice [about honestly conducting the Census]” (Burke 2016). A similar sentiment was concurred by Australian Privacy Foundation vice-chair David Vaile, “[The Census] has gone from a valuable anonymous snapshot to an identifiable longitudinal dossier on Australians, with technology now capable of cross-matching and analysing people’s private information” (Burke 2016).

These concerns were dismissed by Michael McCormack, Minister for Small Business and Census head, claiming that the census is “No worse than Facebook” in tracking and storing private data. This is a valid point, especially considering 71 Australia schools were recently involved in teen nude-sharing, whereby students were publicly posting and exchanging sexual images of their classmates over social media.

So amongst privacy and trust concerns, where does Australia exactly stand? According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, Australia is experiencing “unprecedented signals of uncertainty” (Riches 2015). The 2015 and 2016 results reveal that both the general and mass population of Australians show a general distrust for the government and businesses.

 

Edelman global trust

Mass and General Population of Australia distrust the government. (Edelman 2015)

 

From 2014 to 2015, Australia’s trust in their own government dropped from 56% to 49%, which following the 2014 election, 75% of people believed the government “fails to contribute to the greater good” (Edelman 2015). Meanwhile, trust in business likewise dropped from 59% to 48% (Edelman 2015). Despite this, Australians have showed a steady increase of trust and certainty in both social media and online search engines (Edelman 2015). Given the trends within these results,  Australians substantially trust their social media over the government.

As Karl Stefanovic once said to our former Prime Minister, “No one’s buying what you’re selling”.

In light of the Census failure, the federal government is undoubtedly in damage control, with PM Malcolm Turnbull blaming IBM for the site’s takedown. McCormack’s previous statements to trust in the government and the ‘impenetrable’ ABS have fallen on a relatively distrustful business. IBM, which has secured $2.4 billion in federal government contracts, was paid $9.6 million to host the census. However, it’s history with government departments hasn’t always been one of unrequited trust. IBM is currently foregoing a 3-year ban with the Queensland State Government following a commission of inquiry into the $1.25 billion payroll failure. This inquiry revealed that a number of IBM employees were conducting “unethical transgressions”. It’s almost humorous for Michael McCormack and the federal government to ask Australians to trust a business with the protection of their private data, when government departments themselves demonstrate a lack of trust.

If the Census failure has taught us anything, it’s that concerns regarding privacy, data storage and cyber-security are becoming a prominent issue in Australia during a period of distrust for both government and business. Whilst advocates and agencies may act to intervene in programs such as the Census in facilitating these concerns and informing the public, general distrust and uncertainty have caused Australians to question the status quo or at least remain mindful when it comes to media and privacy.

References:

Burke, K 2016, ‘Census 2016: changes an “abuse” of public’s trust’, Daily Telegraph, July 23.

‘Edelman Trust Barometer 2015 Annual Global Study: Australia’, 2015, Edelman, Online Document, <http://edelman.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/2015-Edelman-Trust-Australia-Results.pdf&gt;.

Foye, B 2016, ‘IBM breaks silence on Census fail’, CRN, August 12, <http://www.crn.com.au/news/ibm-breaks-silence-on-census-fail-433502&gt;.

Glance, D 2016, ‘As census failure blame points at IBM, why we shouldn’t be surprised by its failings’, The Conversation, August 17, <http://theconversation.com/as-census-failure-blame-points-at-ibm-why-we-shouldnt-be-surprised-by-its-failings-64038&gt;.

Riches, T 2015, ‘Trust in Australia Declines as Broken Election Promises, Economic Challenges, and Rapid Innovation and Change within Business Drive Uncertainty’, Edelman, online document, <http://edelman-au.edelman1.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Trust-In-Australia-in-2015-by-Tim-Riches.pdf&gt;.

Foye, B 2016, ‘IBM breaks silence on Census fail’, CRN, August 12, <http://www.crn.com.au/news/ibm-breaks-silence-on-census-fail-433502&gt;.

Glance, D 2016, ‘As census failure blame points at IBM, why we shouldn’t be surprised by its failings’, The Conversation, August 17, <http://theconversation.com/as-census-failure-blame-points-at-ibm-why-we-shouldnt-be-surprised-by-its-failings-64038&gt;.

Image:

‘Trust Index: World’, 2015, Edelman, Online Document, <http://edelman.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/2015-Edelman-Trust-Australia-Results.pdf&gt;.

 

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The 2016 Australian Census: privacy matters and privacy matters.

Leading up to Tuesday, August 9, the 2016 Australian Census has experienced a flurry of controversy regarding privacy concerns and the question regarding religion.

SA senator Nick Xenophon, leader of the Nick Xenophon Team political party and major player in the recent election voiced concerns regarding the changes to private information, whereby the Australian Bureau of Statistics extended the period of maintaining Australian names and addresses from 18 months to four years. These concerns were likewise founded by The Australian Privacy Foundation, which urged the ABS to stop using Australian names and locations for data analysis, claiming, “We’ve now since found out they’re not being deleted at all, they’re being stored and made into unique identifiers” (Longbottom 2016).

Even former head of the ABS, Bill McLennan spoke of this year’s census as a severe breach of Australian’s privacy, labelling the changes as “the most significant invasion of privacy ever perpetrated” by the ABS (3AW 2016).

These claims have been refuted by Michael McCormack, Minister for Small Business and responsible for the Census. McCormack questioned those projecting privacy concerns, claiming that such individuals are willing to allow social media organisations such as Facebook and Twitter to track and record their private data, followed by claiming, “The ABS has never had a privacy breach, security breach on an ABS census, never” (Doran 2016).

Well, until last night. As most Australians are led to believe, the ABS was subject to a four separate ‘denial of service’ (DoS) attacks, resulting in the forced shutdown of the ABS site at 7:30pm. Early this morning McCormack reassured that the DoS attacks weren’t in fact an “attack” or “hack” but rather an “attempt to frustrate” the nation-wide survey. And it surely did “frustrate”.

There is, however, some skepticism whether the attacks actually occurred. Despite claims that the ABS site was ready to handle the mass amount of Australians accessing the online survey, RMIT internet security expert, Mark Gregory, questioned whether the attacks actually occurred, or if it was a result of too many Australians attempting to access the site for the survey.

This is a considerable argument, as this year was the first year the census was to be completed online nation-wide, and as such the ABS site could have simply been overwhelmed by the amount of Australians accessing it at once. This is supported by information provided by the Digital Attack Map, a live data visualisation of DoS attacks worldwide showed no record of data intrusion at the time.

In light of the entire issue regarding privacy concerns and the failing of the ABS site to combat the supposed DoS attacks, I was surprised to find that the Census did not include a question regarding sexuality or for same-sex couples. Considering the census is a key tool for data collection to shape policy making within both the public and private sector, it utterly failed to represent people of the LGBTIQ+ community, whilst also assuming that children have both a mother and father, and subsequently not a child of same-sex parents.

Such exclusivity is clearly a proponent of the current Liberal Party status quo, highlighted by their stance on gay marriage – a key issue of the recent election. Furthermore, it is interesting that the minister heading the Census, Michael McCormack, has been a vocal opponent of marriage equality. Furthermore, as former editor of the Daily Advertiser, McCormack wrote an editorial in May 1993 claiming homosexuals were “responsible for the greatest medical dilemma known to man – AIDS” (Glover 2010).

References:

Doran, M 2016, ‘Census 2016: Nick Xenophon to withhold name over privacy concerns’, ABC News Online, 8 August, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-08/nick-xenophon-to-withhold-name-in-census-over-privacy-concerns/7702304&gt;.

Longbottom, J 2016, ‘Census 2016: Privacy advocates say people’s names should not be retained’, ABC News Online, 22 July, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-22/privacy-advocates-express-concerns-over-2016-census/7653956&gt;.

Glover, B 2010, ‘Homophobic slurs haunt McCormack’, Daily Advertiser, 12 August, <http://www.dailyadvertiser.com.au/story/735465/homophobic-slurs-haunt-mccormack/&gt;.

3AW 2010, ‘Former ABS boss Bill McLennan has serious privacy concerns about Census’, August 9, <https://wordpress.com/post/validissuesnotissues.wordpress.com/668&gt;.

Star Wars 7: The 4DX Experience

It was my last night after 8 long months in China. I had been an adventurous traveler, so I just felt like an easy going night. It was then I decided to see the latest Star Wars film in the fullest of 4DX glory. [MILD SPOILERS AHEAD]

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4DX expands on 3D by providing the movie-goer an additional dimension to the cinematic experience. If the idea of watching a film is to escape, or enter a dream-like reality, there is no greater distraction to that idea then 4DX. It’s like a snooze alarm perpetually waking you from visual slumber. That’s if a snooze alarm utilised chair and feet movement, vibration and tickling; water, air and scent spray; smoke machines; strobes; and other effects to emulate rainstorms, snow or lightning. Well… all that combined with 3D. That sounds like a terrible, yet exciting snooze alarm.

So how was the experience?

After rushing down a Big Mac from next door, I entered the UME Cinema located in Shuangjing, Beijing. The admission price was ¥120, four times more expensive then watching the film in peasant 3D in Chengdu.

As I entered the cinema with my 3D glasses in hand, I already notice that the seats are greatly customised.

 

As the movie starts in the village on Jakku, the chair is subtly moving you forwards and backwards. It is almost unnoticeable. There are definite rumbles and vibrations in the seats.

IMG_20160120_214051

The air and water… ‘shooter’, placed on the back of the chair in front of you.

Immediately as Kylo Ren and his storm trooper army descend to the village, a quick burst of air and water shoot into your face. This feature occurred commonly throughout the film.

 

 

As the battle in the opening of the film continues, blaster fire was complimented with a series of disorientating ‘lightning flashes’ from strobes situated throughout the cinema. Then, as we are first introduced to the film’s antagonist, Kylo Ren, the sweet scent of ambiguous flowers is shot straight up my nostrils. This is combined with a hazy puff of smoke from the smoke machines nearby the screen.

 

Although 4DX is an insanely fun experience, within the first 20 minutes of Star Wars I knew it might be too much to handle. Perhaps woofing down a Big Mac wasn’t the best idea before entering, or that 2.5 hours is too long in an additional dimension.I’m also surprised they don’t hand out motion sickness bags with your 3D glasses and ticket. As a cinematic experience, 4DX is definitely not for those who wish to relax and watch a movie, but if you feel like trying something new or different then it is a lot of fun!

 

 

 

 

Yangshuo Part 1: Times and Tribulations

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Firstly, Yangshuo is fucking mental. The most amazing sights. Delicious Food. Ridiculous activities. And strangely enough, a warm and welcoming expat community full of the craziest people from around the globe.

The more pretentious might describe Yangshuo as not a Chinese village or city – but a concept. I hate those people.

Getting to Yangshuo, however, is a different matter.

Tom - Worst Brit Alive

Tom – Worst Brit Alive

At this point in my China travels, I had been with my newfound best mate Tom, a loosey goosey British protester for about 3 weeks. Tom can best be described as the worst Brit alive. He hates tea, he hates cricket, he hates gin, and his not all fond of the Queen either (ask to see his tattoo).

So Tom and I were heading from Guangzhou in Guangdong province on a 7 hour bus journey to the large village called Yangshuo, just shy of Guilin. Tom and I were slow-train veterans at this point, but nothing could prepare us for, what we thought, would be a simple bus ride through the countryside.

This is partly our fault. The night previous we got on the booze; 4 yuan Baijiu (60% Chinese liquor) might be hard to swallow, but Jesus Christ will it get you fucking wasted. So. Riding on zero sleep and still quite drunk Tom and myself jump on the small, cramped bus to paradise.

As picturesque as the views may be, our seats only provided enough leg space for a malnourished dwarf. And to our luck, our seats were placed in the middle-right side. This, for some reason was where the bus drivers bed was located. This crudely welded and inserted bed stopped both of us from reclining our chairs even a FUCKING FRACTION. Then, while we wait for the other passengers to take their seats, the middle-aged Cantonese ladies in front of us proceeded to batter our knees to recline their seats. One would presume that after the initial 4-5 attempts you would quit trying. But both these ladies families egged them on. Throughout the 7 hour journey, every 40-43 seconds one of these excruciatingly loud ladies with matching pink ‘Colvin Klain’ shirts would reel back with unfathomable strength. Lastly the bus blared this 12 minute movie on repeat for the entirety of the journey.  Jesus Christ I think I was  murderously tired and irritated by the time the bus ride finished.

Anyway, Tom and myself endure hell and we finally arrive in the beautiful town of Yangshuo… or so we thought.

Yangshuo South Bus Station is most definitely south and most definitely not a station. Essentially, the bus dropped us off on an empty intersection roughly 20km from the town. Tom with his dual backpacker backpacks and myself with my huge video camera backpack and fancy suitcase hail a man on a motorcycle with a trailer connected to the back. Hopefully this tuk-tuk-esque man will drop us to our much needed accommodation. I showed him the address in Chinese and the man loaded us on and we rode off into the oncoming sunset.

The motorcycle/trailer man, who will now be referred as Kenny, rode about 6km before stopping and calling a mate. From what I understood through his mumbling half Chinese half slurred jibberish conversation was that he was calling a mate to pick us up. At this point Tom and I were expectedly livid but we had to trust in Kenny, he was our last hope.

Kenny’s friend (who will now be referred to as Kenny 2), who also owned a motorcycle/trailer rocked up and we were told to go with him. Again, trusting in Kenny 2, we rode into the now pitch black night on a 1960s diesel guzzling moto-trailer. Kenny 2 drove for about 10 minutes before pulling over a local bus stop. Again in a mumbling Chinese/jitter he tells us to get on the green bus.

Fuck me right?

So Tom and myself wait ever so patiently whilst chain-smoking our frustrations away. Kenny and Kenny 2 had in effect delivered us to another bus stop rather than our accommodation.

Regardless, we jump aboard the green ‘bus’, which was populated by a mixture of school children, pensioners and farm people. Our fake smiles were met with piercing gazes and confused looks that could only translate into “Why the even fuck are you on this bus?”.

The beautiful 'hidden' town of Yangshuo

The beautiful ‘hidden’ town of Yangshuo

We ride this bus for about another 25 minutes (at this point we arrived 2-3 hours earlier)  and finally we get told to get the fuck off by the accommodating bus driver. At last we are somewhere that doesn’t quite look like the middle of nowhere.

I was informed Yangshuo was a small village. Nup. This densely populated village with a million or two Chinese tourists made Sydney Harbour on New Years look slow.

Again with all our baggage and in such an exasperated state, we navigate this crowd without a single fuck to get our hostel. Children and the elderly were not spared.

Goon: God how I have missed you

Goon: God how I have missed you

We finally arrive, drop our luggage, head to bar where I am served good ol’ Aussie goon. I would like to say all this effort was worth that glass of sweet sweet fruity lexia but seriously: Fuck Chinese Buses.

Representing the ‘Other’ – Boat People: Half Boat, Half People.

Katie Hopkin's article in the Sun, UK (Shoebat, 2015).

Katie Hopkin’s article in the Sun, UK (Shoebat, 2015).

Recently, the UK conservative columnist Katie Hopkins wrote an article in the Sun that asked Britain to ‘Get Australian’ when dealing with ‘cockroaches’, also known as Boat People. Her xenophobic statements received world-wide outrage, including from the Society of Black Lawyers chairman Peter Herbert, who compared Hopkins’ term ‘cockroaches’ as echoing “the use of the word to describe the Tutsi minority and Hutu moderates during the 1994 Rwanda genocide.” (Knott, 2015).

The notorious ‘Boat People’ are a percentage of refugees that have copped flak in the media so aggressively, it has become one of the hot topics of political debate during election periods since 2001. Bob Carr, former Minister for Foreign Affairs in 2013 wrote an opinion piece for the Daily Telegraph stating that ‘Boat People’ accounted for 20% of asylum seeking refugees (Carr, 2013). Unfortunately the true number is less than 2% (Taylor, 2013).

Prison-esque appearance of Manus Island (Stewert, 2012).

Prison-esque appearance of Manus Island (Stewert, 2012).

So why are Boat People represented so negatively in both media and politics? Unfortunately boat people have become subject to the concept of ‘othering’. The term ‘boat people’ differentiates these ‘type’ of people from other asylum seekers. As such, the repeated use of the term in the media and by politicians has resulted in the dehumanization of refugees that arrive via boat, whereby their image is comparable to ‘others’ (McDougall & Fletcher, 2002).

Prime Minister Rudd’s decision to send all asylum seekers by boat to Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island detention centre in 2013 has resulted in further forms of dehumanization. If we view images of Nauru, Christmas, or Manus Islands, or even mainland Australian detention centres, they perpetuate the imagery of prisons. And of course, as Youtuber FriendlyJordies  put it, “You don’t go to detention unless you’re naughty”. But at least prisoners are given a time with their sentence. Refugees that are detained are often undetermined periods of time to both maintain the security of Australia boarders, whilst also processing the Visa applications.

It’s saddening, however, that despite supposed measures by various governments since Keating, children occupy these detention centres. Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs claims that there are now more children than ever in immigration detention centres (Norman, 2013), even though various allegations of rape and abuse, as well as a rising number of mental illness cases are all occurring in said centres (Laughland, 2013; Doherty & Farrell 2015).

In fact, the UN this year found that various Australian Asylum Seeker policies violate the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Human Rights Law Centre, 2015).

So what can be done to combat the issue of dehumanization of asylum seekers?

Firstly, there is currently a petition by Get Up to raise awareness of children in detention centres.

Furthermore, the media and politicians alike need to refrain from dehumanizing asylum seekers as ‘boat people’. This, however, is difficult considering the controversial political climate, which, with Katie Hopkins as a key example, stretches far beyond our lonely borders.

Sources:

Carr, B 2013, ‘Why we’ll fight smugglers’, Sunday Telegraph, July 7, viewed 14 May 2015, <http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/opinion/why-well-fight-smugglers/story-fni0cwl5-1226675268230&gt;.

Doherty, B & Farrell, P 2015, ‘Rapes and fears for safety on Nauru uncovered by independent Moss review’, The Guardian, March 20, viewed May 14 2015, <http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/mar/20/rapes-and-fears-for-safety-on-nauru-uncovered-by-independent-moss-review&gt;

Human Rights Law Centre 2015, ‘UN finds Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers violates the Convention Against Torture’, HRLC, 9 March, viewed 14 May 2015, <http://hrlc.org.au/un-finds-australias-treatment-of-asylum-seekers-violates-the-convention-against-torture/&gt;.

Knott, M 2015, ‘Conservative columnist Katie Hopkins reported to police over asylum seeker views’, Sunday Morning Herald, 21 April, viewed 14 May 2015, <http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/conservative-columnist-katie-hopkins-reported-to-police-over-asylum-seeker-views-20150421-1mpjr7.html&gt;.

Laughland, O 2013, ‘Manus Island detainees ‘raped and abused’ with full knowledge of staff’, The Guardian, 24 July, 14 May 2015, <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/24/manus-island-rape-detainees&gt;.

McDougall, J & Fletcher, D 2002 ‘Dehumanising the boat people’, Social Alternatives, Vol. 21, No. 4, p. 33 – 36.

Norman, J 2013, ‘http://www.abc.net.au/news/federal-election-2013/policy/asylum-seekers/’ ABC, viewed 14 May 2015, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/federal-election-2013/policy/asylum-seekers/&gt;.

Katie Hopkin’s Article – The Sun, Shoebat 2015, viewed 14 May 2015, <http://shoebat.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/katie-hopkin-article1.jpg&gt;

Manus Island Detention Centre, Stewert, J 2012, viewed 14 May 2015, <http://www.abc.net.au/reslib/201210/r1018312_11528599.jpg&gt;

Taylor, S 2013, ‘FactCheck: are boat people now 20% of our immigration program?’,The Conversation, 22 July, viewed 14 May 2015 <http://theconversation.com/factcheck-are-boat-people-now-20-of-our-immigration-program-16006&gt;.

There’s No Mirages in this Desert of Broken TVs and Computers.

I remember the first time I arrived into Shanghai, China. I had never travelled overseas – let alone by myself, so imaginably I was equally anxious and nervous. It was about 2 am, I was jetlagged having travelled a 16 hour route, and all I wanted to do was get off this compact budget airline.

Finally. After several hours the pilot, in broken Malay-English, announced we were arriving into Pudong Airport, Shanghai. I was fortunate enough to have a window seat, so I desperately searched for the world’s largest, most innovative city below me through the thick cloud. Suddenly the familiar bumping and bouncing of the plane’s wheels landing disturbed my concentration.

Side-by-side image of the smog density in Shanghai. (Weisenthal, 2013).

Side-by-side image of the smog density in Shanghai. (Weisenthal, 2013).

I couldn’t see anything. The city’s hazy smog blanketed the sky like a giant snow globe. For the following month I yearned to see the blue sky again.

While I am on exchange in China this year, I’ll be a 4-hour drive from Guiyu, Guangdong. Guiyu has adopted the un-coveted title as one of the World’s most polluted towns. AMTA last year found that only 4% of the E-waste is correctly recycled (AMTA, 2015). Guiyu, housing about 150,000 people, is just one of many areas in China that have become home to mass landfills and illegal recycling plants. In fact, of Guiyu’s twenty-eight villages, twenty are involved in the informal recycling of E-waste (Wang et. al, 2013, p. 22).  This disastrous phenomena led to a UN Report released in December that determined Guiyu’s water and soil contained deadly levels of mercury, lead and other toxins (Baldé et. al, 2014). This is combined with the archaic methods local workers use of burning and acid baths to recover valuable metals such as gold, copper and silver that are worth €48 billion (Baldé et, al, 2014).

Guiyu, Guandong, China. Broken circuit boards bank up along water sources (Amirthalingam, 2015).

Guiyu, Guandong, China. Broken circuit boards bank up along water sources (Amirthalingam, 2015).

The issue of electronic waste is becoming exponentially worse each year. Considering both  first-world and developing nations purchase and consistently replace their electronic goods, it’s no surprise that in UN report, it was declared that 41.8 million tonnes of electronic waste was generated that year (Jozuka, 2015).

So how do we solve this devastating issue? It is possible that, considering the value of the wasted metals within the waste, various stake holders could be engaged and encouraged to uphold correct recycling methods and safety. Unfortunately for China, it has recognised that voluntary methods of electronic product recycling is not effective. As a result, China has implemented pilot methods of third-party e-waste recycling centres (Zhong & Schiller, 2014, p. 141). The process is in its early stages, but hopes to move to a national level soon. Unfortuantely, the millions of tonnes may keep building up. And when more than 90% of the world’s E-waste is not even recycled safely, detrimental damage to the environment not only in China but domestically will continue.

Sources:

AMTA 2015, ‘Toxic Australian e-waste dumped on China’, Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association, viewed 14 May 2015, <http://www.amta.org.au/pages/About.AMTA&gt;.

Before and After – Shanghai, Weisenthal, J 2013, Business Insider, viewed 14 May 2015, <http://static.businessinsider.com/image/52a1aaddeab8ea056568f741/image.jpg&gt;.

E-Waste in Guiyu, Amirthalingam, V 2015, Slideshare, viewed 14 May <https://sometimesinteresting.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/guiyu-5.jpg&gt;

Baldé, C.P, Wang, F, Kuehr, R., Huisman, J 2015, ‘The global e-waste monitor – 2014’, United Nations University, IAS – SCYCLE, Bonn, Germany, <http://i.unu.edu/media/unu.edu/news/52624/UNU-1stGlobal-E-Waste-Monitor-2014-small.pdf&gt;

Jozuka, E 2015, ‘The World Produced a Staggering 41.8 Million Tonnes of E-Waste in 2014’, Vice: Motherboard, viewed 14 May 2015, <http://motherboard.vice.com/read/the-world-produced-a-staggering-418-million-tonnes-of-e-waste-in-2014&gt;.

Wang, F, Ruediger, K, Alquist, D & Li, J 2013, ‘E-Waste In China: A Country Report’, StEP, United Nations University, April 5, viewed 14 May 2015, <http://collections.unu.edu/eserv/UNU:1624/ewaste-in-china.pdf&gt;.

Zhong, H & Schiller, S 2013, ‘Exploring a third-party e-waste recycling system under the extended producer responsibility framework in China’ in Solving the e-waste problem: An interdisciplinary compilation of international e-waste research, StEP, United Nations University, viewed 14 May 2015, <http://www.step-initiative.org/files/step/_documents/edited%20Volume.pdf&gt;.

How Africa by Toto taught me that the ‘Dark Continent’ was full of drums echoing through the night

This past weekend I was lucky enough to enjoy the electrifying sounds of some of Australia’s top artists at Groovin’ in the Moo in Maitland. Somewhere in between the classic-rocking style of The Preatures and the harder-rocking style of You Me at Six, the song ‘Africa’ by Toto thundered excitingly over the crowd of thousands.

I am not, of course, a music plebeian. I screamed, shouted and insanely cheered every lyric of that 80s hit. And, of course, so did the thousands of Australians present in the crowd. It was interesting, however, how even more than 30 years since the song’s release that opening line resonates so clearly with such a crowd.

“I hear the drums echoing tonight”. It perpetuates the imagery of tribal drums beating loudly; echoing throughout the unspecific, yet dangerously adventurous ‘Africa’. Toto’s love ballad isn’t particularly negative in connotation, but it perpetuates how representations of Africa in the media are often generalised, and rather Orientalist.

30 years ago we associate Africa with archaic tribes, both uncivilized and barbarous. More recently Africa is associated with sensationalised news reports about Ebola, music festivals promoting awareness of famine and HIV AIDS, or Hollywood films and social media campaigns depicting child soldiers, genocide and blood diamonds. And although these are realistic issues, as addressed by Njogu, our knowledge of Africa is predominately from Western interpretation and context, whereby we perceive Africa as the ‘dark continent’ (2009, p. 77). This is reaffirmed by Tsikata, as even though the 55 nation states within Africa vary differently in “customs, traditions and daily practices”, in global media flows these states are “often treated as one under the continental appellation of ‘Africa” (Tsikata, 2014, p. 34).

'Living in Bonadage, 1992, The Nollywood straight-to-video that changed the industry,

‘Living in Bonadage’, 1992, The Nollywood straight-to-video that changed the industry.

So how is Africa combating hundreds of years of falsified representation? One avenue has been the wildly successful Nollywood industry. Nollywood, being the film industry of Nigeria, is currently the third-largest film industry in the world. As Adesokan claims, Nollywood is evidence of how African countries are individualising themselves and rejecting previous Western interpretations of ‘otherness’ by projecting self-representation (2012, p. 81). Nollywood currently employs upwards of half a million to a million people, and their straight to video releases are favoured not only in neighbouring African countries, but worldwide (Chamley, 2012).

What is most interesting about the development of Nollywood films is that they are distinctively Nigerian, not just ‘African’, and as such have promoted an individualised culture and identity. Similar trends can be seen in African nations with developing media industries such as Ghana, which boasts 170 radio station and over 50 television stations (Tsikata, 2014, p.41); or Uganda which has a growing ultra-violent local film industry.

It appears that we have much more to look forward to from Africa other than the killer synth-solo performed by Toto’s David Paich.

Sources:

Adesokan, A 2012, ‘Nollywood and the idea of the Nigerian cinema’ Journal of African Cinemas vol. 4, no.1, p. 81–98.

Chamley, S 2012, ‘New Nollywood cinema: From home-video productions back to the big screen’, Cineaste: America’s Leading Magazine on the Art and Politics of the Cinema vol. 37, no. 3, p. 21–27.

Tsikata, PY 2014, ‘The historical and contemporary representation of Africa in global media flows: Can the continent speak back for itself on its own terms?’, South African Journal for Communication Theory and Research, vol. 40, no. 1, p. 34 – 48.

Njogu, Kimani, and Middleton, John F.M., eds. Media and Identity in Africa. Edinburgh, GBR: Edinburgh University Press, 2009. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 12 May 2015.

Living In Bondage Film Poster 1992, Nollywood Week Paris, Nigeria, viewed 13 May 2015, <http://static.theculturetrip.com/images/56-194044-livingposter.jpg&gt;.