Australia and the Stick of Censorship


I recently did something illegal and for the first time I can actually say the government made me do it without it being a convenient lie used to pass blame onto someone else. That’s right I did something outrageously rebellious and it was all because of censorship.

Let me start of by saying that before South Park the Stick of Truth’s release in Australia, I had full intention of legitimately purchasing that game and was in fact eagerly awaiting its release. That was until I found out that the Australian version of the game, despite the introduction of an R18+ rating, had been edited to meet so called moral standards. Well I certainly was not going to pay full price for a game that had content removed because someone deemed it too inappropriate for my 21 year old self to handle. So I did the only logical thing to do in that situation and downloaded the full version for free off the internet. Sorry gaming industry I wanted to give you my money, I really did.


The R18+ category was a much needed step in the right direction for Australia considering the average age of the Australian gamer is 32 and 76% of our gamers are aged 18 and over. (Interactive Games & Entertainment Association)

Until Jan. 1, 2013, Australia was one of the few developed countries in the world to not have an R18+ classification for video games. The highest rating for video games was MA15+, which meant that any game that the country’s Classification Board found too mature for the MA15+ category was Refused Classification and effectively banned from sale.

This meant that people over the age of 18 living in Australia were restricted to playing games suited to 15 year old’s and younger. To me this just seems ridiculous. Especially when other media industries like film are not nannied  in this way. Adult gamers were literally being treated like kids and being told what is too mature for them all because the government failed to recognise the gaming industry as little more than a form of children’s entertainment. On top of this, due to the lack of an 18+ rating, several games made it into the M15+ category that in all honesty really shouldn’t have.

It’s a win for the gamers who wanted to have the opportunity as adults to purchase these games, but it’s also a win for parents because they can be more confident that games that are age-inappropriate will not be available to people under 18.

I remember when I was younger how much I wanted GTA San Andreas. I convinced my mother who knew nothing about games to buy it for me. Eventually she saw me playing it after months of strategically hiding it from her and lets just say she was furious. However by that point it was too late. I’m fine by the way, not emotionally scarred by any means, not violent, not a criminal, not even drug or sex addicted; What a shock! But in all fairness I probably shouldn’t have been playing it.


So what about now? I thought the introduction of an 18+ rating was supposed to prevent the banning of games but here I am downloading games illegally because the government won’t let me play them. I am a consenting adult and yet I am still restricted in the content I am allowed to expose myself to because of where I live.


This reminds of Hägerstrand’s Constraints Theory discussed in an earlier post of mine. My actions or ‘movements’ within the realm of space and time were impacted upon by the constraint of authority that existed due to my location.

The whole situation also makes me think back to my time learning about Mills Harm Principle in my philosophy class. This principle suggests that ‘The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of civilized society, against their will, is to prevent harm to others. Their own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant’. What this means in terms of video gaming is that people should have to right to expose themselves to as much gratuitous violence, sex, drugs or profanity as they please because people have the right to determine what does and does not harm them. The issue with gaming is people have the conception that the interactive nature of playing games somehow has more of an influence than passively watching a film or listening to music.

For example Saints Row 4 was refused classification in Australia because it associated the in game taking of illicit drugs with incentives or rewards such as speed boosts and super strength. Meanwhile, the movie Limitless centers around characters receiving a massive IQ boost, and all the perks that go along with it, from an illegal drug and made it through classification just fine. The hypocrisy here seems to imply that there is a perceived difference between the mature content shown in video games and the mature content shown in movies.


It is for this reason why several scenes were cut from Stick of Truth. The classification board felt that the showing of anal probing after being abducted by aliens promoted sexual violence towards children in real life. Um OK then.

After playing the whole game, I can see why the scense were considered so controversial but I don’t feel particularly influenced by them. All and all I can definitely see why the game needed an R18+ rating which I think is fine as long as that restriction is enforced but what I cant seem to understand is why the censors believe those scenes were inappropriate compared to the rest of the game.

Given the content that the player is exposed to cutting out these short scenes is like taking a cup of water out off a swimming pool and calling it dry.


Cushing, T 2013, Australian Government Finally Begins Treating Gamers Like Adults; Approves New ‘R18+’ Rating, Tech Dirt, weblog post, 4 January, viewed 29 September 2014, <;.

Corbett, J 2001, Torsten Hägerstrand: Time Geography, Center for Spatially Integrated Social Sciences, viewed 29 September 2014, <;.

gfunk101, 2014, The Australian Government VS South Park: The Stick of Truth, House of Geekery, weblog, 26 April, viewed 29 September 2014, <;.

Interactive Games & Entertainment Association 2014, Digital Australia 2014, Bond University: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, viewed 29 September 2014, <;.

Polites, H 2013, Why R18+ ratings are still a losing game, Technology Spectator, weblog post, 12 July, viewed 28 September 2014, <;.


Why Aussies Don’t Watch Aussie Films


Chris Hemsworth, Margot Robbie, Cate Blanchett, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Isla Fisher, Ryan Kwanten… Hollywood loves our Aussie actors and so do we. The thing is we seem to love watching them in American films but pay little attention to them in our own; unless of course  it’s a flashy Hollywood-financed spectacle such as Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby.


According to 2011 analysis by Screen Australia, only nine per cent of all viewings of Australian films occur at the box office. The other 91 per cent are spread across TV and DVD (Roach 2014). It is a curious dilemma as to why Australians are so against watching Australian movies at the cinema when from DVD sales it is apparent they do actually want to watch them.

Out of 100 Australian feature films released between 2007 and 2009 a total audience was reached of 101 million viewings (Goves 2012). When worded as such this statistic doesn’t seem too bad  but when you consider the fact that more than 50 million of those viewings were for just four titles: Australia, Mao’s Last Dancer, Bran Nue Dae and Knowing it gets a little underwhelming. Looking further down the spectrum we discover the top 20 films accounted for 76 million views, which brings forth the question who watched the bottom 80?

My thoughts… NOT MANY IF ANY!

So what is it exactly about Australian film that stops us from flocking to the Cinema?  Many like to pass the blame on Piracy, that darn unstoppable force of evil.


But this belief operates under the assumption that if torrenting didn’t exist people would undoubtedly go and see these films. I believe piracy, although a factor, is more of a result than a cause. Why is it that Australians will go and see an American movie but wait to download an Australian one? There are others who claim the reason is availability as many Australian films are limited to CBD locations and are only run for short periods of time. Again I believe this to be a result rather than a cause. The reason why the screening is limited is simply because the movies aren’t popular enough. Cinemas cut the screening because they are actually loosing money.

After investigating this issue on my own by asking people around me and by hitting up the World Wide Inter Web, I have come to the hypothesis that the reason for our lack of interest is the result of instrumental conditioning. Being exposed to the same style of film over and over again has shaped our perception of the Australian film industry as a whole; stigmatising it if you will.  Film critique Luke Buckmaster sums it up perfectly when he writes…

“Australian producers have long battled public sentiment that locally produced features are one of two things. The first, that they are morose hard-hitting dramas that explore the “human condition.” The sort of stories that follow characters who battle drug addictions, grieve over deceased family members and live dreadfully unhappy lives….The other perception is that when it’s not busy depressing us with films about cancer Australian films are cringe-inducing “g’day mate” comedies. The sort of face-palm productions geared towards jokes featuring things as stereotypically nationalistic as shrimps on a barbie.” (2014)

Writer for The Monthly, Louis Nowra, set out to watch most of the Australian films released in 2009 because he wanted to grasp the condition of the Australian film industry. This is what he wrote

“The general consensus was that Australian films were grim… While Hollywood epitomises illusion and dreams, we are suspicious of ornate language, wit and the visually extravagant. Our humour is daggy and safe. We extol the ordinary over the extraordinary. Many of the films this year have gloried in downbeat naturalism, as if somehow great truths were being revealed.”(2009)

Now I’m not saying deep and thought provoking Australian dramas aren’t good,  I think a lot are great and sometimes a cheesy bogan comedy is just what the doctor ordered, but the truth of the matter is these types of films are not the kind you rush to the cinema for or even consider paying to see. To me they are the type of movies you watch at home because they are on and are surprisingly taken aback by how good they are. Let’s face it no one wants to go out and watch depressing movies with their friends.

Think about Australian film in the 90’s Strictly Ballroom, Muriel’s Wedding, The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert ,  Babe and now take a look at Australian film in the 00’s Rabbit-Proof Fence (indigenous inequality), Japanese Story (romantic tragedy), Look Both Ways (confronting cancer),  Romulus My Father (immigrant family battles adversity), The Black Balloon (family with autistic son)… the intense drama goes on and on.

Screen Shot from Beautiful Kate (2009)

Screen Shot from Beautiful Kate (2009)

So, if these films, while great, have proven to be unsuccessful at the box office, why does Australia keep heading down the same path. Once again Luke Buckmaster explains it perfectly for me.

“It is the result of decisions made by baby boomers at government-funded film bodies who, threw their weight behind serious and/or distinctively Australian films.

That’s just the way it is, at some point somewhere down the line, someone with power  decided that the only films worth funding were those that were “Serious and/or distinctively Australian” and in the Film industry he who has the funding has the final say.

There needs to be more research conducted into why Australians are not attending the Cinema when it comes to Australian films. We need to look deeper into what it is that demotivates them so as well as get an insight into what things the Australian public is looking for in a film. If we cannot find a way to alleviate this preconceived melancholic association that is  constricting the  Australian Film Industry’s success we may very well be stuck watching nothing but Hollywood for eternity.


Buckmaster, L 2014, Australian Cinema is Still Big, it’s the Audience that Got Small, Daily Review, weblog post, 2 September, viewed 26 September 2014, <;.

Groves, D 2011, Who’s Watching Aussie Films?, SBS, viewed 26 September 2014, <;.

McLeod, S 2007, B.F Skinner -Operant Conditioning, Simply Psychology, viewed 26 September 2014, <;.

Nowra, L 2009, ‘Nowhere Near Hollywood’, The Monthly, 22 February, viewed 26 September 2014, <;.

Roach, V 2014, ‘Local Audiences Snub Australian Filmmakers Yet Hollywood Loves Them’, News.Com, 14 September, viewed 26 September, <;.

Screen Australia 2009, Australian films in the marketplace: Analysis of Release Strategies and Box Office Performance, Screen Australia, viewed 26 September 2014, <;>.

The Phone of Silence


Smart phones are amazing, they allow us to stay connected, informed and entertained regardless of where we are. As a result of this ease of access the rules of when and where it is appropriate to use them are becoming non existent. We see people using them on trains, in cafes and restaurants, walking down the street and even crossing the road. The frequency of their use in these public spaces is creating a new dynamic of social standards that is changing the nature of public space dramatically.

What I have observed simply by spending time in public space is that people often use their mobile devices as a way to exit public space. Young people know that a stranger is not going to communicate with them if they put their earphones in. I find myself doing it too. If I am alone in a public area and have no friends to communicate with I sometimes feel awkward. So I  go on my phone to make is seem as though I am doing something and so that I have somewhere to look. Most of the time I am not even engaged in what I am looking at on the screen; mindlessly scrolling up and down the same news feed without actually reading anything. I just do it as a way of leaving an uncomfortable shared environment.

“Smart phones, in short, have given users the impression that they move through communal spaces as if in private bubbles…They feel that everywhere they are, they have their privacy…Smart phones have created portable private personal territories”.(Badger 2012)


It is strange how phones have become like a safety net, where you can escape social interaction at will and feel secure knowing that no one knows what you are doing.This false sense of security extends so far, that people have become comfortable, having loud mobile conversations in public areas, playing songs out load and watching videos on full volume without hesitation or concern for established social norms for acceptable public behavior. You would not start yelling at the top of your voice in public for fear of social embarrassment, so why is it then OK to play music on a train?

“As the use of mobile phone in public spaces is increasing, it is leading to the change in social order by blurring the boundary between public and private spaces. What one would typically call a public place is slowly becoming pockets of individual private spaces where people exhibit behaviors as if they were by themselves'” (Geiger 2013).


This is creating a new plain of existence somewhere between your physical presence in the public world and your virtual presence in your own private sphere. Leading to a domain of semi public space where you are in populated area but your activities are isolated to your own bubble that others cannot access.


“The whole idea of public/private as binary is becoming much more complex; instead of thinking about public and private, we have to think about the private sphere becoming more dominant in public”…”For the smart-phone users, they’re totally, constantly engaged with the private sphere, and it’s reducing the basic roles of public space.”…”Smart phones, combine numerous spheres: your social network, your email, your news source, your live personal conversations, when you’re interacting with each of those spheres while walking through a public park, which social code do you follow?” (Hatuka 2012).

If personal devices have the ability to isolate, then public devices such as large screen TVs in open areas should thereby have the ability to connect. This is the traditional idea of media, whereby families would gather around a television set and strangers would stand side by side at store fronts to share a media experience. This off course is not always the case, particularly today where people use TV screens in public areas, again as a way to avoid social interaction. I can however think of a time when I witnessed this togetherness through public media occur.

I was at Uni Center, a shared space at my university campus, where power-points and bean bags are readily available for people to curl up and engage in personal media activities. One day The Lion King was projected on the wall for everyone to watch and the way people began interacting simultaneously with this film surprised me. Suddenly people looked up from their laptop screens started watching the projection together. Personal space failed to become a factor for separation as people were now comfortable with moving the beanbags together in front of the screen to get a better view. Before they were all sitting in isolated sections, now they were lying next to one another bonding over their love of the Lion King. Before the film there was silence; broken only by the sounds of typing, mouse clicks and the occasional you tube video. Once the film started people began singing along, repeating the memorable lines and laughing out loud. I couldn’t believe how the simple act of playing a movie in public changed the entire social dynamic of the space.

Me looking away from my laptop  to the projection in front of me. Behind me people were gathered and singing along. Next to me is my friend lying down, mind the crotch :)

Me looking away from my laptop to the projection in front of me. Behind me people were gathered and singing along. Next to me is my friend lying down, mind the crotch 🙂


Badger, E 2012, How Smart Phones Are Turning Our Public Places Into Private Ones, CityLab, weblog post, 16 May, viewed 14 September 2014, <;.

Geiger, S 2013, Mobile Phone Usage in Public Places, INFO 203, weblog post, 1 April, viewed 14 September 2014, <;.

Hatuka, T 2012, Smart Phones Are Changing Real World Privacy Settings,
Science Daily, viewed 14 September 2014, <;.

You Shall Not MULTITASK!


Multitasking, it’s something we are all guilty of. To be honest I’m doing it right now and I bet you are too. In my opinion the concept of multitasking just makes sense, why do one thing when you can do EVERYTHING?

This kid gets it…


In terms of getting things done multitasking equals productivity right? Efficiency in it’s most basic definition is to get more done in less time. From this viewpoint multitasking is key and particularly paramount for anyone leading a busy life in this modern age. Since the introduction of convergent technologies like that of the inter-web and the smart-phone, multitasking is not only facilitated, it is encouraged. Our lives have become so media saturated that multitasking isn’t even a skill anymore it’s a social norm. But what if I told you our brains were barley capable of multitasking and what we were actually doing was simply diverting attention and veering on the path of distraction…


Psychologist Kendra Cherry says that  multitasking, within the brain, is managed by what are known as mental executive functions. These executive functions control and manage other cognitive processes and determine how, when and in what order certain tasks are performed.

According to researchers Meyer, Evans and Rubinstein (2001) there are two stages to the executive control process. Goal Shifting (deciding to do one thing instead of another) and Role Activation (changing from the rules for the previous task to rules for the new task). Productivity can be reduced by as much as 40 percent by the mental blocks created when people switch tasks. This is because it takes time to adjust to the context and processes of the new task. While the time it takes to adjust is minimal, constantly swapping back and forth causes an accumulation of delay.

A study on the effects of multitasking in the learning environment by Helene Hembrooke and Geri Gay (2003) found that students who have their laptops open during lectures and freely browse unrelated material have a significant decrease in short-term recall of lecture information than those who keep their laptops closed.

They suggest the reason for this is that in the context of learning, the implementation of wireless technology, introduces additional visual and/or auditory  information, aboveand beyond the visual and auditory information presented by the instructor.
“There is a limited processing channel that information is filtered through; when this channel becomes overloaded some information is filtered out while other information is selected for further processing”…”Maintaining a balance between what is required by the message, and the distribution of already limited resources to process that information thoroughly, is the juggling act of the information processor”…”Disproportionate allocation of resources may result from conscious and intentional mechanisms inherent to the individual, or attributes intrinsic to the information or message” (Hembrooke & Gay, pp. 47-50).
To put all that simply, the amount of information your brain can process at one time is limited and so it only concentrates on selective information, being exposed to too much info at once causes the brain focus less on each thing and you are more inclined to pay closer attention to thing you are most interested in or the thing that is most exciting.
To further simplify that… Lecture plus Facebook equals Facebook minus Lecture when it comes to recollection.
This study while very important considering the regularity of laptop use in lectures; is completely unsurprising. What’s interesting is the not results of the study but rather the questions it generates. If we know we can’t concentrate on two things at once why do we allow ourselves to get distracted? Why are we still continuing to attempt multitasking during lectures?

These are questions that I can not answer being a student guilty this practice myself.  (However, not in BCM240 because that lecture is too exciting and I would never want to lose concentration). I still believe my self able to multitask despite the fact I know can’t and  I am especially guilty of doodling during lectures and tutorials :S

I’m not saying that multitasking is not important, it is extremely useful and has subsequently become a major part of functioning society. What we need to do is determine when multitasking is effective and when it is merely a hindrance to concentration. The only way I feel to do that is to find a healthy medium between doing several things quickly and doing one thing well.


Cherry, K 2014, Multitasking The Cognitive Costs of Multitasking, About Education, viewed 13 September 2014, <;.

Hembrooke, H & Gay, G 2003, ‘The Laptop and the Lecture: The Effects of Multitasking in Learning Environments’, Journal of Computing in Higher Education, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 46-64.

Rubinstein, J Meyer, D & Evens, J 2001, ‘Executive Control of Cognitive Processes in Task Switching’, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, vol. 27, no. 4, pp. 763-797.