Friday, August 24, 2012

Power to the people

For the third time in just over a year, I've felt compelled to write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. It's a good outlet for venting, for publicity, and for offering a counter-argument to articles/other letter writers. So far I've written letters about waiting for insurance decisions and the Save TVNZ7 campaign. Now I can add "disputing other academics' research" to the list (if they print the letter, I'll scan & post it). Oh dear, I'm turning into that archetypal over-educated suburban noisemaker who likes seeing their name in print.

It's not that I think the research in question is wrong, it's just narrowly-focused. It's not what's in the research, it's what isn't. I shifted from Media/Communications across to Cultural Studies because I felt I needed to understand and look at not just media, but the wider social environment in which it operates. The research in question (from a Marketing lecturer) looked at the use of social media during and after the Chch/Canterbury quakes, and found that social media platforms served as virtual community spaces where people could meet and share information.

Which is all well and good - if you have access to this electronic world. My own research in this area also found some positive uses for social media and the internet but, overwhelmingly, respondents reported difficulties in accessing any kind of electronic media - mainly due to lack of power. It's hard enough to watch television (let alone surf the 'net) when you have no electricity, and some respondents to my survey were without power at home for over 8 weeks.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Putting it right

The Press have a weekly column called 'Putting it right' in which they note the errors of their ways, as pointed out by readers. I was in that column a few months ago, after a reporter corresponding by email assumed I was male and wrote an article quoting research by a 'Mr' V. I'm not convinced that as many people would've seen the correction as read the original article, but it's the putting right that counts... right?

Assumptions can lead to problems. I remember being told at primary school that you should never assume, for you will only make an ass out of u and me. Since that day I've never forgotten how to spell the word, but I've fallen prey to its meaning many times.

For example, you'd be forgiven for thinking that I haven't been updating much recently because I've been busy grading tests/exams/assignments or planning and delivering lectures. Which is true, to a certain extent.

You might have assumed, as did I, that there would have been regular, excited updates on this blog at every stage of the build & fitout process. Believe me, that was the intention in the beginning, and I have been taking lots of photos.

But then again, you might assume that when you contract a design-&-build company to build your house, they have robust systems and procedures for the entire process. Systems that have been tested and proven over the many years they have been operating. You tell them what you want, they design it the way you want, and then they build it for you while you sit back and pop in once a week for a quick look-see.

You might also assume that a simple, single-level dwelling on a flat, suburban section would not present an extraordinary challenge.

You would possibly even assume, when entering the final week before hand-over, that the list of things to do & issues to sort out would be dwindling, not growing.

But, during this build, there seem to have been a number of assumptions made at various points - by many different people in the twisted chain - that have turned round to bite us in the ass, one by one. And sometimes, just for fun, the screwups hold hands and gang up on us, arriving in groups of three or four.