New Zealand

My 2-week itinerary for the South Island of New Zealand in Summer.

After 2 days back in Australia, post-Borneo, came the family road trip in New Zealand. We were hitting up the South Island, hiring a motor home for 2 weeks. It doesn’t sound like a lot of time but we definitely fit a lot in. Driving 8am-8pm  pretty much everyday, going on walks, hiking glaciers, sinking NZ brews, hiring helicopters, swimming in glacial lakes… We checked off a serious list in the time we had.

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We flew in to Christchurch and it was one week after a major earthquake in the South Island. Every local we talked to thought we were, quote… “Fucking crazy” to be in the country! It didn’t worry us too much. Maybe only my middle brother Tim, who checked the GeoNet app every ten minutes to read into the aftershocks. After loading up our rig with a lot of groceries and a lot of booze, we hit the road. We started by following the art trail set up throughout Christchurch. After a beautiful day wandering the incredible rebuilt city, we had a killer meal at the Engineers Bar before heading North to a campground by a river just north of the city. The next morning, we changed routes after some research, avoiding the north of the island due to road closures and aftershocks. Instead, we headed for Arthur’s Pass.

Arthur’s pass took us a full day and around every corner we were all blown away. This road is so diverse; from flat fields full of sheep, to rocky hills covered in boulders, to ski slopes, to snow-capped mountains, to engineering feats. It truly was a shocking start to this trip in all of the right ways. My brothers were already claiming NZ to be their favourite country, two days in.

From Arthur’s Pass we then headed up to Pancake rocks which was to be the furthest north we would head in this trip. Following the winding coastal road and ending the day at Monteith’s Brewery Greymouth, it was a great way to spend day 2.

The following day I searched Instagram for some ideas along the road we were taking. I have never used this as a way to find travel ideas, but it was an amazing way to find hidden gems that we may have missed otherwise. With the users of Instagram as our travel guide, they brought to light Hokitika Gorge which was one of my favourite places on the trip. The milky turquoise river and surrounding misty rainforest was one of the most beautiful walks. It was about 5 minutes from the car park, so the walk was not too strenuous at all. We set up camp late that night and enjoyed ciders and cards. We had such a nice time each night, talking, laughing and just having family time in general. Even after arguing about where to park the rig for 40 minutes earlier that evening.

Day 4 was glacier day! Franz Joseph Glacier and Fox Glacier only half an hour apart, so we were able to drive freely between the two in the same day. We visited the tourist information centre to get some advice on which was best to hike considering the misty conditions. We waited it out for some better conditions over lunch in the van as everything in those towns was very expensive. That afternoon we walked to the viewpoint of Franz Joseph Glacier. Most of the trails were shut due to the danger of ice melt. Through the clouds we did get a glimpse of the glacier for about 20 minutes, which was all we need for a family picture and then we were on our way. We ended the day at Bruce Bay. This beach was covered in the most amazing driftwood as far as the eye could see! However, watch out for the plague of sandflies if you ever camp here, you really couldn’t spend too much time outside exploring.

I woke up in Bruce Bay on my 22nd Birthday. We had a lovely day driving, with some incredible stop off points. We found a place called Blue Pools where we spotted some backpackers jumping off a bridge into the turquoise glacial lake below. We jumped in on the action literally. When your body hit the water it burnt your skin it was that cold! I have never tried to leave a body of water so quickly. My poor mum had to watch all her babies take the leap into the lake with all of those tourist onlookers. Sorry mum but It was an experience with my brothers that I’ll never forget. We then sun-baked on the stones by the river to warm up before heading back up the hill to have a lunch at Haast Pass. We even got to rip out the lay bag and have a beer in the sunshine. We ended this day at Wanaka, setting up camp in a caravan park to take advantage of the hot showers and went out for honestly the best Italian feast ever! The beef cheeks gnocchi was just out of this world, it melted away in your mouth. This town was foodie heaven. It was my kind of town.

The next morning, we had a wander around town and some lunch by the lake before heading on towards Arrowtown and then onwards to Queenstown, where we booked in a few days of adventure. There are plenty of places selling the adrenaline tours in the village, so you can pre-book or take your luck when you arrive like we did. Price wise, I don’t believe there was much difference. They don’t call it the adrenaline capital of the world for nothing! On that note, we managed to fit in the luge that evening which is honestly some of the best fun and the site has amazing views. It’s bobsleds without the tracks, and you pick up some serious speed. We purchased 8 runs and we loved every damn minute of it. You get air, you can run into your brothers. So worth the $$$.

Queenstown is very expensive, so we drove the rig outside of the town that evening to set up camp in the free camping zone. If your van has a self contained sticker on it, you are allowed to camp in these zones. We did see some guys sleeping in their car next to us get a fine unfortunately. Queenstown especially is super strict on free campers just as an FYI.

We were up bright and early on day 7 and kicked off the the adventure with the terrifying shotover jet. These things skim over as little as 10cm of water and go very very close to rock walls and trees on the banks. Absolutely insane. We then jumped into our very thick wetsuits for the white water rafting tour. The bus ride up to the drop in zone, was more gnarly than the rafting itself. Our mini bus with trailer hugged this cliff road as cars passed by. Lucky we had a very talented driver and a charming French guide to take our minds of the danger. We jumped in the raft and had a very quick 101 lesson of rafting as the runs got progressively more intense. We never flipped the raft which was nice as even with our thick suits, the water was freezing. The adrenaline was pumping near the end as we went through caves and popped out of a small waterfall. It was so much fun. We then filled our stomachs with the famous Fergburger! Apparently you can’t leave Queenstown without trying this bad boy. The locals advise Devils Burger instead of, but i’ll you be the judge. We then went out to the Havana Cuban Rum Bar for a night out. It happened to be Crate day too, so the town was pumping with people partying. Crate day is an unofficial holiday in NZ, where people buy crates of beer and just drink in the parks in the afternoon sun. Such a fun idea. Our time here has even convinced my brother Tim to move to Queenstown. He actually moved just this weekend that has past.

Day 9 we headed towards Milford Sound. We decided to skip the walk and the boat offerings and my parents went straight for the spontaneous Helicopters! What an absolute trip and a memory I will never forget. We had a chopper and a pilot who said he would take us wherever for 30 minutes. 1. Glacier 2. Milford Sound waterfall 3. The ocean for some potential whale spotting. It was so incredible to see the glacier from the sky and he was nice enough to stop on top of the glacier for a family pic and snow ball fight. This was something that was so unexpected, but it absolutely brought the trip to the next level. This was the first time in a helicopter for me and it was quite a way to crack that cherry. Afterwards, we went on a bit of a bushwalk before finding camp and trying to come down off the buzz with a few drinks and dinner. I perfected cooking rice on the stove top that night which was a huge feat for me as well. We camped at Te Anau Downs.

Day 10, we decided to stick around the national park for some more bushwalking and chilling out. Mirror lakes was a highlight and it is just of the road. A great place for some tricky photography!

Day 11 we continued on down south to Invercargill on the South coast, the famous hometown of Burt Munro, the World’s Fastest Indian which was exciting for my brothers and Dad who enjoyed the film growing up. We then found our free camp just before dark at Haldane Bay. Roads around here were not sealed and in our big rig, it was slow going.

We left early the next morning to continue along the coast towards Nugget Point. We had a full day driving (well my Dad did) and we made it Dunedin in time for a quick brew at the Speights Brewery by the fire place. Just before dark we went to the reserve at Taiaroa Hill were you can see the incredible albatross, seals and maybe even a penguin if you are lucky.

Day 13 we had a drive through the eclectic University houses around the University of Otago. These houses had very clever names and makes you really jealous that you aren’t a part of the culture there. We then headed north for a full day of spotting seals along the coast line near Moeraki for the amazing rock formations and wildlife. It was amazing to be so close to such huge seals. We then had a stop off in a little town called Oamaru. This town was an absolute gem and I wish we could have spent more time here. Make sure you have a wander through Steampunk HQ. It is a wild metal museum and the owner is hilarious. Such a cool experience, and very clever art installations. After experiencing the taste of White Bait, we were off inland where we set up free camp on Aviemore Dam. We looked like we were on a boat you could camp so close to the waters edge. It was a great end to another huge day of adventuring.

Here it comes the last full day of the trip (the worst part of any trip). Where the heck did all of the time go? We drove direct to Mt Cook Village for a beautiful day of hikes and swims in glacial lakes. We were even able to see proper icebergs in the lakes cracking away. It was happening right before our eyes, it was incredible. After some lunch in the sunshine, we drove towards Lake Tekapo for our last night. We stayed in the local caravan park as it was getting dark, however it was very expensive so I don’t recommend it. The facilities were ok though and I enjoyed a nice hot shower. The lake was also surrounded by the incredible Lupins. We saw these flowers all over the South Island and they are stunning! When I think of NZ, I will now include lupins in the memory mix.

Day 14, we left by 9am for the drive straight back to Christchurch to sadly end our little NZ adventure for now. We returned our van and got a lift from the hire company back at the airport, not before stopping off for some fresh roadside cherries before we jumped on our flight back to Sydney.

Highlights:

  • Helicopter flight over Milford Sound & the Glacier
  • Italian food @ Francesca’s Italian Kitchen in Lake Wanaka
  • The amazing Lupin flowers as far as the eye can see.. All over the South Island
  • Steampunk HQ, Oamaru
  • The local Dairy’s (milk bar/corner stores) for Ice-cream… So much Ice-cream
  • The beautiful local ciders and wines everywhere
  • Spending time with my incredible Family!!!
  • Tim sleepwalking and falling on to my youngest brother Bailey.
  • The family trash talk
  • The family stories and laughs each night
  • Our little camping dinners
  • The crystal clear water
  • How well NZ caters for free campers
  • The out of this world bushwalks
  • Whenever we ate out, the food was always top notch in quality & produce

I hope I have convinced you guys to head to the South Island and have a drive around. I 100% can guarantee you will NOT be disappointed. It is an incredible country. I will also be heading back soon I am sure of it. So if you have any tips to share with me, please do in the comments. I would love to hear them.

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Borneo

Finishing my studies at University has been the first big change for me over the past few months. University has been the best four years of my life and now that’s finishing. The University lifestyle does not stop as easy as it starts put it that way. That time has been fun and rewarding and relaxed, inclusive of all of those late night study stresses. It is now that I have come to truly be appreciative of it all… Off course when it has finished. However, I know that the friends, the memories, the experiences, the knowledge, that is all coming along with me in life. So it is all going to be ok.

Moving on from University I was planning a gap year. A year of of travelling with my partner Jon. We would go from South America to the US, Canada, through China and Russia, down to Spain and Portugal. I was saving, planning and preparing for this adventure, telling a few people about it. However, a couple weeks out from my final examinations at the end of last year, I received a call from my internship host company offering me a full-time position in the Media Industry. It was a great opportunity, that essentially fell into my lap. I had to take it, right? This was something that I knew I wanted. But did I want it yet? The answer was that I really I wasn’t sure… But what I did know, was that I was handed an opportunity, a great one and so I took it. So far it has proven to be a fantastic decision. A year or two of full-time work will only help me save and plan for an even better journey. I’m cutting back, saving up and eventually, hoping to take off with Jon on a beautiful adventure abroad.

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So with these changes shaking me up a little, I booked a graduation trip to Borneo straight after my University exams finished back in November last year. The goal of this trip was to see the Orangutans in the wild. With dwindling numbers, it was important for me to see them in their natural environment. And that I did!! They are such gorgeous animals, so intelligent and strong. I could have watched them all day if I were able to. But the reality was I was visiting the Orangutans natural environment, at the Sepilok reserve in Eastern Borneo. Humans were only allowed into the park for fundraising purposes for four hours a day, which looking back I am grateful for, as this kept the reserve strictly educational and preserved the rights of the animals to be safe in their natural environment. You couldn’t touch them, you couldn’t feed them, you couldn’t even get close enough for a damn selfie, and that is the way it should be.

The second item on the agenda for Borneo was hiking Mt Kinabalu. With very little research and planning, we walked into a storm of high quotes and ridiculously over the top deals to climb this mountain. The lowest we could get it down to for the 2-day hike was around $600 each. Not being avid climbers, we passed this opportunity on and decided instead to spend our money on a beach hut on the South China Sea. We booked a beautiful treehouse villa for 5 nights on Manukan Island. We saw the vast mountain in the distance and instead spent our time sleeping on the beach, swimming, drinking, playing cards and eating. We found some serenity on our private beach which was needed after a busy few days in Singapore and finishing University exams a few days earlier.

To close our trip, we decided to splash some cash on a tour to see the famous Proboscis Monkey. Included in this trip was seeing the Fireflies on an evening boat trip which also sounded intriguing. We talked South Korean politics with a lovely couple we met and also debriefed about the recent success of Trump in the US election. We talked about how when we flew out of Australia, Hilary was winning and upon landing in Changi Airport, we found out it was quite the opposite. Anyway, politics aside, we definitely heard the Proboscis monkey and saw their obscure noses and long tails which achieved another goal of the trip!  I didn’t manage any pictures unfortunately, but do yourself a favour and google them! The fireflies were also magical specs in the balmy evening sky. I really recommend this tour on a stay in Borneo, it was an unexpected highlight getting the two in one.

Lastly, I have to point out its not always peachy… I had my whinges of course as I do in any backpacking trip, with swollen feet from the heat, too much rubbish and pollution in the ocean, not the best food I have had travelling, and being scared to death by a little rainbow snake and geckos. But that is travel. That is adventure and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I ticked off seeing two of the most amazing monkeys in the world in their natural environments and I got to relax on the South China Sea with my Best Friend Jon. It was a beautiful trip.

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Singapore Round One & Two

For a very small island, Singapore sure does not disappoint when it comes to entertainment, food and culture. The buzzing city is filled with Singaporeans, Expatriates and Tourists from all over the world and with that, comes a vibrant mix of cuisines, languages and personalities. For a country I had only ever thought of as a stop over destination, Singapore has now  quickly become one of my favourite places in the world.

The first reason is of course the incredible food. In Singapore, you can eat food from all over Asia, in the one place! Hawkers Markets like the famous La Pau Sat, are filled to the brim with Indian food, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian, and Singaporean foods. You name it, it will be there. You can have a lot of fun trying foods from all over Asia, in a bustling marketplace, drinking cold Tiger beer or fresh juices. If you manage to get to one of these markets, please try the Satay cooked by being fanned over coals, it will change your perspective on satay for the rest of your life!

Singapore is one degree north of the Equator, so this means that the heat is out of this world. Air-conditioning is everywhere, however I quite enjoy the tropical humidity when walking about and then the huge afternoon storms like Niagara Falls. There is plenty of greenery in this well engineered island, with the government aiming to have a park within a 10-minute walk from every home in their sustainable development plans. Despite the urbanisation all around, lush green botanical gardens and parks soften this city, making it a truly beautiful space.

Culturally, Singapore may look like a Western society when you see brands like Uber and McDonalds and hear English being spoken everywhere. However, Singapore like any country has got an incredible history, with both inspirational aspects and dark memories. I learnt a lot about this on my first visit to Singapore back in July 2016, when the reason of my visit was for a UOW Business Study Tour. Here we had a fantastic guide Stephanie, who has been living in Singapore for over 20 years and had a lot to share with us. Aside from Stephanie’s knowledge she shared with us on Singapore’s history, business and trade life and Singaporean culture, Steph gave us the heads up to visit the National Museum of Singapore that has a brilliant timeline of the country, with guided English tours running everyday. Due to timing, I did not get to get to see this exhibit until my second visit in October 2016 when I visited with my partner Jon. You find out that Singapore has gone through some very dark times with the Japanese occupation, moving through to the constant back of fourth of the country being tied to Malaysia, to the countries independence and modernity of the country with very clever social engineering. If you have an hour in Singapore, check this exhibit out with a tour guide, it will be well worth your time.

There are many things that interested me about Singaporean society, such as the overwhelming statistic that 91% of residents owned their homes. Public Housing is prominent throughout Singapore, but not as we in Australia may know it. The government own a lot of the residential buildings and encourage/make available the property to purchase for the average income earner, which is an incredible feat to have so many people owning their homes. A further thing that shocked me was the large portion of elderly people working in hospitality roles due to the absence of a pension system. It is a culture that traditionally, younger generations will look after their elderly family. However, you may find a 70-year-old hobbling over collecting your bowl after your meal, because if they don’t have any family, they will continue to work right throughout their lives. On a side note, a pension system is now in place, but it doesn’t help a lot of the current elderly society. Of course no country is perfect and even with the social systems in place, there are still issues. However, overall Singapore is a nation to be rivalled and is extremely interesting to learn about it’s successes over the years.

There is no shortage of things to do either. Shopping, eating out, Broadway shows, beaches, hikes, theme parks, architectural feats, gardens, museums, markets… You really cannot get board in Singapore. I have now spent 10 busy days total there and still have things I would like to see and do and of course EAT! I will now try to always turn Singapore into a short stay if passing through, or even make it a destination on it’s own, with Scoot flights from Sydney as cheap as $139, which is cheaper than a domestic flight! The heat, the food, the shops, the entertainment, the culture, it is well worth a visit. If you have been to Singapore, shoot me a message or comment below and please let me know of your experience!

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Digital Storytelling

My second blog on digital storytelling is to highlight the importance of using the Internet to share stories, however big or small.

In my last media studies blog I spoke about the inequalities and challenges that exist for freelance digital storytellers. I specifically addressed Brandon Stanton and his Humans of New York Project (HONY), to highlight the fact that even the most successful, may still have encountered and/or still do encounter, challenges with Freelance work. Today I want to move aside from the challenges faced by the storyteller and instead discuss how beneficial digital storytelling can be for the everyday person. Digital storytelling is as a method that breaks down boundaries between people who may not ever have contact with each other usually. It is a way to unite individuals, creating a community narrative across the world via a range of platforms such as blogs, websites, or social media, using images, video or sound.

The HONY project is perhaps one of the most recognised and obvious example for digital storytelling across the globe. However, taking it down a notch, there are hundreds and thousands of examples of digital storytelling, just as impactful and influential as HONY. Social media platforms are the most common way for people to share their stories everyday. People can ‘share micro-videos’ (Clemons D 2014) of the Olympics via Snapchat to people all over the world. Individuals can create mass movements and communicate stories via Twitter with action campaigns such as #freethenipple or #heforshe. You can share videos and vlogs through platforms like YouTube, Vine or Vimeo and become a citizen journalist. There is a stack of platforms out there giving each individual with very basic internet and tools a voice. Whether that story is shared with a group of 10 or 1,000,000, the story is out there.

Camelia Gradinaru released a journal article in 2015, outlining how technology is such a huge part of our lives now, it has become an “important instrument through which we can construct and manage our identity. The discursive nature of new media accentuated the importance of storytelling” (Gradinaru C, 2015). Any person, who has access to the internet can create their story digitally and disseminate that publicly. Online communities and social media platforms are giving people a place to voice their story and what an incredible power that is.

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Moreover, from the everyday citizen of the world, digital storytelling is a very useful tool in education.  In 2013, young Chilean students used digital storytelling to explore the changes with engagement between Chile with the Antarctic. This case study highlights and suggests that “citizen engagement with critical scientific data and decisions affect the future and is more pertinent than ever” (Salazar J.F and Barticevic E, 2015). These students via digital storytelling methods, are contributing to conversation much bigger than just their local communities and that is really exciting.

To conclude, digital storytelling may have inequalities for those who choose to make it a career. However, I believe the positive affects that come from the power of digital storytelling from both professionals and everyday people, lead to a positive and collaborative discourse the world over. Storytelling is engrained in humanity and this new method is just as valid and critical to society than ever before. It allows individuals to break down inequalities, to have a shared voice, to collaborate and to be innovative. Thanks to the internet, the scope of storytelling is bigger than ever before and that has allowed for incredible outcomes such as Chilean students contributing to scientific data or mass movement discourse leading to social media campaigns. The internet is a serious platform for the everyday human to break down inequalities around the world through storytelling.

Here are some further videos on the importance of digital storytelling:

 

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Sources:

Clemons, DC 2014, ‘Fostering Diversity Through Digital Storytelling’, Public Relations Tactics, 21, 4, p. 9, Health Business Elite, EBSCOhost, viewed 24 August 2016.

GRADINARU, C 2015, ‘Digital Storytelling as Public Discourse’, Argumentum: Journal The Seminar Of Discursive Logic, Argumentation Theory & Rhetoric, 13, 2, pp. 66-79, Communication & Mass Media Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 24 August 2016

Image, retrieved from <http://wponlinesupport.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/online-community.jpg.&gt;

Salazar, J, & Barticevic, E 2015, ‘Digital Storytelling Antarctica’, Critical Arts: A South-North Journal Of Cultural & Media Studies, 29, 5, p. 576, Publisher Provided Full Text Searching File, EBSCOhost, viewed 24 August 2016.

Stanton, B 2016, Humans of New York, retrieved from <http://www.humansofnewyork.com/about>

 

 

MALAYSIA

A short piece on my experience in KL Malaysia as part of a University subject thanks to the Australian Government NCP scholarships.

To head to the International airport for a University subject was not something I was expecting to experience. Thanks to UOW and the Australian Government, myself and 20 other peers got to fly over to Malaysia and Singapore for a beautiful 10-day experience. We kicked it if off flying with Air Asia direct to Kuala Lumpur. The majority of the group flew with Singapore Airlines, however a handful of us decided to save some of our scholarship and rough it. I had asked friends about the experience with the airline and was preparing myself for eight hours with no entertainment, no food and intense air-conditioning. I arrived armed with my snacks, books and a comfy jumper. I am a really great sleeper so I was not worried about the budget flight at all. I’m pretty short so do not find snuggling up on an economy seats to be that bad, however I can’t speak for everyone. It was a dragged out trip without a movie or two, however I got there in one piece, my luggage arrived and I even got given a meal. I really can’t complain too much considering the flight was around $280.

We walked out of the airport to a slap in the face from the heat, welcome to the equator! We jumped in a cab and arrived at the most outrages looking hotel you can imagine. It was way to extravagant for a bunch of University students who were only there to sleep, but we just had to soak up the experience. We were in Malaysia for four days to learn about the business environment, including opportunities and challenges the region is facing.

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We had the weekend to explore and so myself, Ben, Cam and Lizzie hit the town in style in our air-conditioned minivan. We wont be doing that again as taxi cab vouchers are super expensive from the hotel. You can just walk outside of the hotel and around the corner to find metered cabs which are a bargain. We wandered the Little India precinct and afterwards had lunch in a Hawker’s market. I had a spicy Char Kway Teow and fresh juice costing a total of $3. We then caught the train out to the Batu Caves, which also only cost a few dollars. The stairs, the smells, the monkeys, it was all happening at the caves, I’m really glad I went, this was one of my highlights of KL.

My next highlight… THE FOOD! Oh man I could not get enough of all the amazing dishes available. I could eat a different dish for the rest of my life at a Hawker’s market, there are just so many things to try. Each stall does 10-20 dishes really well and so you are overwhelmed with choice walking into one of these places. I pretty much was taking on a three course meal twice a day just because it was so affordable and tasted amazing. This was on top of the huge hotel buffet breakfast!

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A second highlight would have to be an evening out in KL. I have to mention the heli-pad bar. We took an elevator to the top of a building that looked absolutely dead, no signage, there were no people, it kind of looked like it was being renovated downstairs. All very confusing. However, much to our delight when we arrived at the top, we were welcomed by bar staff who took our orders, made our cocktails and then we went up a stairwell to the heli-pad that was converted into a chilled out bar space. Tables and chairs were spread out, with a rope barricade around the rim of the roof. It was all very relaxed. I don’t know if alcohol and an open roof without a reinforced barricade would fly in Australia, but it was really cool. The experience was awesome, we got to watch the sunset and it was great for some group shots with the famous Petronas Towers as a backdrop.

I was not really sure what to expect in regards to the academic side of things and it was a little relaxed, however that worked well as it allowed for a lot of extra time for activities. Overall we did learn a lot about business etiquette and how business runs in the ASEAN region which was very insightful. Similarly, we also received really great advice on applying for international jobs and how to stand out.

I tainted my last day with a hangover, that was a bit of a buzz kill. I have truly learnt from the experience and it just isn’t worth it. I really mean that, much better to keep hydrated with water or fresh juice I have decided, especially whilst travelling. As for KL itself, pretty great for food and shopping. If I get the chance to head back to Malaysia, I would really like to explore the national parks in the north and the islands off the coast of Malaysia.

I hope to have the Singapore post up shortly. I just have a lot of pictures to go through!! Thanks for reading!

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Challenges faced by Freelance Digital Storytellers in the Creative Industries

Digital storytelling is a powerful tool to share and create cultural records (Lundby K, 2008). However, for individuals who choose to work in the creative industries, deciding to produce content that highlights the beauty of humanity can come at a cost. Freelance and creative roles have a lot of challenges involved when it comes to lifestyles, career progression and job security. I want to highlight one of the global success stories of a digital storyteller and show how inequalities still exist even in the best case scenario.

Brandon Stanton is New York based photographer that is known the world over for his digital storytelling. Brandon found a niche of sharing the people of New York’s stories and pictures on social media. Starting out as a no-name photographer in 2010, Brandon now has over “20 million followers on social media” (HONY, 2016). The Humans of New York (HONY) project began with the aim of photographing and collating 10,000 images of New Yorkers. Via social media, stories of strangers on the streets of New York city are shared by people all over the world. Something as simple as a quote alongside an image of a stranger, has become a powerful storytelling tool that millions of people view and share thanks to Brandon Stanton.

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If I had to define Brandon’s career, perhaps it aligns best to a freelance photographer. “According to Deloitte Human Capital trends report, more than 30 percent of the U.S. workforce now consists of freelance or contract workers” (Wooldridge S, 2016). Scott Wooldridge outlined, that such a trend can be connected to the ‘digital revolution which is forcing companies to become much more flexible with their workforces’ (Wooldridge S, 2016). The internet has allowed for incredible opportunities for individuals and businesses alike, to co-create and share ideas as well as allowing for innovation regardless of location. Brandon’s career kicked off thanks to social media and the Internet. Whilst there are significant benefits aligned to freelance work and the digital economy, there are many challenges that come alongside such a career. Freelance work has spiraled thanks to the internet but perhaps is generating and increasing many inequalities for individuals in the creative industries.

Authors David Hesmondhalgh and Sarah Baker wrote about the challenges surrounding freelance work in Media, in their book Creative Labour. Hesmondhalgh and Baker specify that freelancers in media industries encounter issues with ‘pay, work hours, job security, quality of working life, unions, self-esteem, autonomy and freedom’ (Hesmondhalgh D & Baker S, 2011). Freelancers like Brandon may have 20 million social media followers, however they need to ensure that their work remains relevant (job security), that they manage to generate an income (fair pay), also that they keep their freedom with their creative work (autonomy).

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In continuation, Brandon decided to take his HONY project to other countries around the world. What would have happened if this authentic approach to digital storytelling from the Streets of NY did not take off when based say in India or in Kenya? Creating such a niche could have limited Brandon creatively. Moreover, Brendon describes the challenge of becoming credible in the industry, saying he was repeatedly told, “how delusional do you have to be to think you are going to be a successful photographer with no experience” (HONY, 2016).  Similarly, Brandon speaks about “not having money to go out, eat out or go to bars for six months when he started out” (HONY, 2016). I’m sure this is perhaps the case for many creative as they try to discover a platform for themselves and generate an audience. Furthermore, not all freelancers and creative individuals may have such a successful story as Brandon. His story is one of the best case scenarios, now having two best selling books collating his best work, Humans of New York and Humans of New York Stories.

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The internet is a tool that has opened up a world of opportunities in regards to digital storytelling and has enabled successes such as HONY. However, for the freelancers out there, trying to find their feet in the digital world, the challenges are evident. There are a lot of resources out there on the Internet to help address the issue freelancers face. For example, a UK based blog called the Precarious Workers Brigade,  have created guides and tools to surviving internships and avoiding free labour in the creative industries. Unions are another fantastic way for freelancers to have some support in their careers. Moreover in Australia, the Government body, Fair Work Ombudsman have created laws and regulations surrounding unpaid work or unpaid internships. Digital storytellers are just one role in the creative industries that may be subject to the challenges surrounding freelance work. An individual may not be on the same level as Brandon Stanton, however regardless of this fact, it is important to consider the help out there, so that you can have more time to challenge your creativity and share stories through the Internet.

See Brandon Stanton speak about the Humans of New York project here.

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Sources:
Hesmondhalgh, D. and Baker, S., 2013. Creative labour: Media work in three cultural industries. Routledge.

Image, viewed August 09, 2016, retrieved from <http://christandpopculture.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Humans_of_New_York_1-29iylcx.png&gt;

Image, viewed August 09, 2016, retrieved from <http://petapixel.com/assets/uploads/2015/10/humansofnewyorkcovers.jpg&gt;

Lundby, K., 2008. Digital storytelling, mediatized stories: Self-representations in new media (Vol. 52). Peter Lang.

Precarious Workers Brigade, 2016, retrieved from <http://precariousworkersbrigade.tumblr.com/survivinginternships&gt;

Stanton, B 2016, “Humans of New York”, viewed August 9, 2016, retrieved from < http://www.humansofnewyork.com/about>

Wooldridge, S 2016, ‘THE FREELANCE ECONOMY’, Benefits Selling, 14, 3, pp. 34-35, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 08 August 2016.

 

Singapore & Malaysia trip planning

Winter break from University has finally come around and this is the last holiday of my undergraduate course. A bittersweet milestone as I come to complete my double bachelors. So to celebrate, I have enrolled myself in a holiday subject! It isn’t as nerdy as it sounds. This subject enables me to travel overseas, whilst also receiving a Government scholarship which means it is a FREE TRIP!

Next weekend I am heading off to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as well as Singapore for two busy weeks. The trip is with the UOW Business Faculty and we are jetting off to build relationships with our neighbouring region, South-East Asia. I have saved every dollar of my scholarship and booked the cheapest flights possible, flying with Air Asia to KL and home with Scoot to Sydney. I will however not be roughing it accommodation wise, as the University have booked us into 4-5 start hotels for the trip. I am sure I can live with that.

We have consistently been reminded that this is a subject and we will have to undertake academic work. However they have given us plenty of “free-days” and here are some of the sights I have planned, after speaking to Family and Friends…

Kuala Lumpur:
Taking it to the streets for FOOD!

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Thean Hou Temple

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Batu Caves

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Petronas Towers by Night

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Singapore:

Gardens by the Bay

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A stroll down Emerald Hill Road

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A cocktail at Cé La Vi

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Trying Peranakan food

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A stroll down Haji Lane in the evening

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Mud Crab is a MUST

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If anyone reading has any other must-sees, please comment below; I would love to hear them. Looking forward to blogging about it all!

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Image Sources:
http://chasingplaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Slider-Jalan-Alor-food-street.jpg.
https://www.lonelyplanet.com/malaysia/kuala-lumpur/sights/religious/thean-hou-temple#js-tab-photos.
http://static.asiawebdirect.com/m/kl/portals/visit-malaysia-com/homepage/kl-tours/half-day-batucave/tourParagraphs/tourbt/BucketList/02/image2/batu-01.jpg.
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/malaysia/kuala-lumpur/sights/architecture/petronas-towers.
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/singapore/sights/parks-gardens/gardens-bay.
http://hype.my/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Peranakan-Homes-1024×685.jpg.
http://q-ec.bstatic.com/images/hotel/840×460/151/15197605.jpg.
https://cn-production.s3.amazonaws.com/reviews/travel/houseofperanakansfoodspread.jpg.
https://cn-production.s3.amazonaws.com/reviews/travel/houseofperanakansfoodspread.jpg.
http://assets.cougar.nineentertainment.com.au/Assets/GourmetTraveller/2013/05/07/4229/1112GT-classic-chilli-crab-628.jpg?Image=%2FAssets%2FGourmetTraveller%2F2013%2F05%2F07%2F4229%2F1112GT-classic-chilli-crab-628.jpg&Height=733&Width=628&Constrain=True&AllowUpSizing=False&Mode=Crop.

 

CAIRNS

A long weekend to North QLD to escape university and catch up my exchange girlfriends!

It is rare that I get a chance to take some time to appreciate the true beauty of the travel opportunities that surround me here in Australia. When I got news that my beautiful exchange friend Taylor was choosing to come over for her graduation trip, I jumped at the opportunity to meet up with her. It was in the middle of my University session, right when all my midterms and assessments were due, however I couldn’t let the opportunity fly by. So I booked 4 days in lovely sunny Cairns in northern QLD.

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Taylor and her best friend Janessa are from Ontario in Eastern Canada. For them I knew the heat, beaches, food, culture and scenery would be an incredible experience. Palm trees, Indian curries, Thai salads, white sandy beaches and sunshine are some of the things that I take for granted and get to experience so often. It was great to be surrounded by two amazing travel partners who got me excited about exploring Australia.

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I flew with Virgin Australia up the east coast of Australia from Sydney, which only took about 3 hours. The return flight cost me $260 which was surprising. When I landed, I split a cab with three women from Ireland to get into the centre of town. There was a local bus and airport shuttle however it did incur a bit of a wait and I was so excited to hit the wine and meet up with the girls. We enjoyed a good old Aussie BBQ, also meeting some lovely German travellers.

It was amazing to hear how travellers get around, found long-term accommodation, found work and moreover what they felt of Australia as a country. It was extremely interesting to hear how travellers do it. I find Australia very expensive to travel in, so it was nice to get some tips on how exactly it is done right. When you are a local you have a very different perspective on the traveling and accommodation options.

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Taylor, Janessa and I hired a car through AVIS, and arriving late for the pickup enabled me to get upgraded to a sport model. We found the back doors on the third day of our trip, which was hilarious. Poor Janessa was climbing through as if it was a two-door every day. Sporty cars are very deceiving. Having the car was the best way to head north and explore the coastline. We traveled to Kuranda, Port Douglas, Palm Cove, the Daintree rainforest and even right up to Cape Tribulation, the end of the bitumen road north!

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The wildlife was very intimidating up north, even for an Australian. There is always an unsettling feeling of salt-water crocodiles as well as having face-sized colourful spiders swinging around the bush walks. The beaches have stinger nets, crocodile warnings, stinger safety kits (vinegar) and lifeguard sign warnings as you enter and also on the beach as well. Very different to the NSW South coast. The coastline is a little churned up in this area and not the picturesque Great Barrier Reef, with the turquoise coloured water you expect. However it is warm, the sand is white and I was with beautiful company, so I loved every minute of my long weekend.

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I highly recommend taking the opportunity to spend a few hundred dollars to visit the stunning locations around Australia. It doesn’t take much and staying in hostels and taking advantage of free tourist attractions such as bush walks, local markets, lagoons and beaches can help save you a bucket load. Splitting costs with a few friends is also a fantastic way to experience the best there is on offer. Start planning that weekend trip, get out and about, as no one ever regrets traveling. You will also meet some amazing people, and see your own country in an incredible new light.

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War Journalism 101: 

Have you ever wondered why wars and terrorism are mentioned so heavily in the nightly news and morning papers? Sometimes I get so tired of seeing such negative headlines, it is really unsettling. There is a reason as to why it is often of negative context and there is a purpose to such reporting. An influencing factor as to why this is the case, can be referred to as the Military Industrial Complex or MIC for short. This blog piece will describe MIC, the relevance of the term today and finally, I will provide five “hot tips” for future journalists as to how they can ensure the longevity of war and terrorist reporting, as ‘correspondence of war news is critical and relied upon’ (Tuosto, 2008). So who exactly benefits from such communications?

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Source: (Terrorism headline, 2015)

Firstly, let me start by saying I don’t blame you if you haven’t heard this term before, as it is a concept that is not addressed in the media as it would be bringing up the functions behind major corporations, politics and the economy moreover. Military Industrial Complex can be defined as the “powerful alliance of the military, government agencies, and corporations involved in the defence industry. Each sector has an interest, either financial or strategic, in expanding the government’s arms budget” (McLean & McMillian, 2009).

MIC is the system that surrounds wars in relation to strategic money being spent on relevant companies. For example the government give the military money, to spend on defence technology, that is purchased off corporations, that people in the government may have part ownership of. It is a cycle of spending that creates a mutual relationship, in which all of the major players including government, corporations and military all benefit. So how do they get away with this without society blinking? One influencing factor is the media. Media keeps society busy through the use of fear.

Moreover, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are just a few of the wars that I can recall from my media consumption over the past 15 years and I am sure this goes for many other Australians or ‘Westerners’. These topics in the media, ramp up societal fears, which then allows for justification and reasoning with governmental purchases and participation in wars and protection against the ‘terrorist’. Furthermore it could be said that through manipulating our sense of fear via the media, players in MIC are getting the results they want from the system.

In continuation, the costs of war project conducted by Brown University updated in 2015, found that ‘the war in Iraq, cost the U.S. government $4.4 trillion dollars’ (Brown, 2015). Most of this money is spent on inventions and military technology, purchased from private companies such as ‘Hewlett Packard and Boeing’ (Lee & Johnson, 2012). In 2015, the Australian Government noted “$31 billion dollars” (McPhedran, 2015) in the Federal Budget for military expenses. How do government’s convince the public that this kind of spending is justifiable? Journalist, Matt Carr discusses “how Military futurists are providing a justification for endless global war against enemies that may never exist. In doing so, they are laying the foundations for a militarised and weaponised future, even as they shape the wars and conflicts of the present” (Carr, 2016). Terrorism is the war of today and provides a very convenient enemy to talk about in the media.

Similarly, stepping away from the major players in MIC, we need to consider our own actions as the consumers of media. I can only speak for myself however it may align to you also. I am subject to only reading about wars as decided by the media. The wars and terror threats I know about are the ones I may become a victim in, even though that chance of that is one in millions. Are the media manipulating our sense of fear, therefore getting results governments and corporations want from the MIC system? It is obvious that the fear effect in journalism works as a simple Google search of trends with terms such as terrorist (blue) and terrorism (red) in English language texts portray a serious spike over recent years.

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Source: (Google Trends, 2016)

There is no denying that war and terrorist attacks are very serious issues, many people die from these horrific events and they need to be taken seriously by governments and military. Major terrorist attacks in the West such as 9/11 in the US, the London bombings, the Madrid train bombings or the Sydney Siege has evoked fear in society. The constant discussions around terrorism and war frighten society.

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Source: (SBS, Sydney Seige Image)

However keep in mind that constant discussion around such events is only benefiting individuals and corporations behind the military industrial complex. Continuation of such reporting will only enable this relationship to blossom. For now MIC is here to stay so to journalists out there, here are five “tips” to ensure you only mention relevant wars to keep the acts of MIC alive and strong.

Tip 1: Elicit fear in your readers. Make sure you do address the following terms in your piece… Terrorist, Muslim, ISIL, threat, danger, bomb, attack and hazard to society.

Tip 2: Only mention wars from the Middle East.

Tip 3: Convey the danger present to the western society if the militaries were not present to support and protect them.

Tip 4: Highlight ones own country, and the military power they have. Discuss new technology, new machinery or state of the art purchases to re-assure your readers.

Tip 5: If all else fails, throw the word ISIL or ISIS in to the piece to ramp up the fear factor.

If you would like to know any more about the Military- Industrial complex, I have created a YouTube video, which further details this theory.

Furthermore the film “Why We Fight” is an excellent documentary I found out about through peers Emma and Ashleigh, which is an excellent resource outlining the nature of MIC, particularly in the US.

 

So, now that you know a little background to MIC, how it happens and why, what do you think? Please feel free to comment below if you have any thoughts around the Military-Industrial complex.

Honour statement:
Thanks to Jonathan, Jenny and my peers from BCM390 for helping me edit this blog. I found a documentary resource via peers Emma Jackson and Ashleigh Mills during their weekly presentation on MIC. Thank you to the BCM390 class and Brian for constant encouragement throughout the semester.

References:
Carr, Matt. “Slouching Towards Dystopia: The New Military Futurism”. sage 41.3 (2016): 13-32. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.<http://rac.sagepub.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/content/51/3/13.full.pdf+html>

“Costs Of War”. Watson.brown.edu. N.p., 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.

Eloise Lee, Robert Johnson, 2012. “The 25 Biggest Defence Companies In America”. Business Insider Australia. N.p., 2012. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.

Eugene Jarecki, 2005, ‘Why We Fight’, documentary film, BBC Storyville. < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-X-PEjZhus>

Google trends. ‘Terrorist & Terrorism compare search terms’, Viewed May 19, 2016. <https://www.google.com.au/trends/explore#q=terroist%2C%20terroism&cmpt=q&tz=Etc%2FGMT-10>

Image, 2015, ‘terrorism headline’, <https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/sl/oystercatcher/files/2015/11/newspaper-with-terrorism-headline.jpg&gt;

McLean I & McMillian A 2009. ‘Oxford concise dictionary of Politics, 3rd edition’, Oxford University Press, New York.

Mcphedran, I, 2015. ‘Fedral Budget 2015: Defence spending hits $31.8 billion’, News.com. Viewed, May 16, 2016 < http://www.news.com.au/finance/economy/federal-budget/federal-budget-2015-defence-spending-hits-318-billion/news-story/54b29589ffa3f53debc299e5cd696698>

Murphy, K, 2011. ‘Is Homeland Security spending paying off?’. LA Times, 28 August 2011. Viewed May 18, 2016 < http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-911-homeland-money-20110828-story.html>

PGPF.ORG, 2016 “U.S. Defense Spending Compared To Other Countries”. Pgpf.org. N.p., 2016. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.

SBS, 2014.’Sydney Seige’, Image. <http://www.sbs.com.au/news/sites/sbs.com.au.news/files/20141215001076415632-original.jpg&gt;

Shariatmadari, D, 2015, ‘Is it time to stop using the word ‘terrorist’?’, The Guardian, January 28, 2015, viewed 18 May, 2016. < http://www.theguardian.com/global/commentisfree/2015/jan/27/is-it-time-to-stop-using-the-word-terrorist>

Tuosto, K. 2008. The “Grunt Truth” of embedded journalism: the new media/military relationship. Stanford Journal of International Relations. America. pp. 3-14.< https://web.stanford.edu/group/sjir/pdf/journalism_real_final_v2.pdf>

 

Can society help those who are suffering through sharing an image?

 

**This blog piece contains distressing images of human suffering**

Take a moment to think about the last image you have seen in the media that was of a human suffering. They may have been struggling in hard labour, famine, war, or violence. How did this make you feel? Is it important that we have the right to see images and video of such suffering? Is it ethical that we see these images? My current University class – Issues in Media and Communication – brought into focus these exact questions. How ethical is it for everyday society to see such horrific images from human history in the media?


Above are the three images in particular that we discussed in the class and afterwards we had to consciously decide as to the ethics of photographing and publishing such suffering. The Syrian refugee crisis, the Sudanese famine, and the Vietnam War are all very identifiable from these photos. Was it important that these images were shared with society? Joe O’Brien from ABC News, explains how “sometimes with wars and humanitarian disasters there’s an incident or image which comes to symbolise the tragedy of it all” (O’Brien J, 2015). By viewing these images we become aware of the true disasters some humans are encountering around the world. However is simply being aware enough?

It is rare that we physically act on what we see; we simply get a feeling, potentially share on social media and move on with our lives. If this is the case, is it still important to have the right to see images and video of such suffering? Will such viewing actually be helping anyone at the other end of the crisis? Arthur and Joan Kleinman, medical anthropologists from Harvard, describe such viewing as “infotainment” due to the fact that these ‘images of victims are being commercialised’ (Kleinman, A & Kleinman J, 1996). There are a lot of ethics that need to be considered by the journalists, publishers and editors when publicising photographs or videos of human suffering. However what if we never saw it?

I wrote a blog piece last year, which aligned to this very issue of what is ethical to share and see. It pertained to the Syrian Refugee crisis in relation to the above photograph of Aylan Kurdi, the dead Syrian refugee on the Beach in Turkey. I was discussing social censorship and how we, as avid users of social media, need decide what is ok and not ok to share. United voices on social media can create some of the biggest activist campaigns, even encouraging governments to action aid faster or in a larger quantity than usual.

After the image of Aylan’s body was shared across the globe on front pages of newspapers, news broadcasts and social media, governments in and outside of the EU and no choice but to act. The boy “died September 2, 2015” (Withnall, A, 2015). The Australian Government on September 9, 2015 ‘announced that it would make an extra 12,000 humanitarian places available in response to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. These places are in addition to an existing humanitarian program intake of 13,750’ (Australian Government, 2016). In just over a week, the Australian Government almost doubled the humanitarian intake of refugees. Whilst this decision may have already been in place, it is difficult not to correlate the image to this announcement. The conflict is now ‘entering the sixth year’ (Beck, J, 2015). It is very hard to ignore the fact that Aylan’s image, was not in some way influential in fueling the discussion and the quick response government decisions around the world.

My opinion is that it is important that the everyday citizen sees these images, as it is clear that united voices can impact changes. Whilst most of us may not be able to do anything about it, governments may listen to virality in the media. The image of Aylan Kurdi’s body is an example of this in action. Obviously there is limitations to this opinion, as images shared constantly, may desensitise society to such suffering. Overall however, these images deserve to be shared freely to show the intense tragedy to the rest of society, otherwise society is sheltered from such suffering. An image is powerful and if shared with compassion and respect will not be in vain.

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Sources:
Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection, 2016. “Australia’s response to the Syrian and Iraqi humanitarian crisis’. Retrieved from < https://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Refu/response-syrian-humanitarian-crisis>

Beck, J 2015. “Syria After Four Years: timeline of a conflict”, March 16, 2015. Viewed March 18, 2016. Retrieved from < https://news.vice.com/article/syria-after-four-years-timeline-of-a-conflict>

Kleinman, Arthur, and Joan Kleinman. 1996. “The Appeal of Experience; the Dismay of Images: Cultural Appropriations of Suffering in Our Times”. Daedalus 125 (1). The MIT Press: 1–23. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20027351

O’Brian, J, 2015. “The power of an image”, September 3, 2015, viewed March 19, 2016. Retrieved from < http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s4312433.htm>

Withnall, A 2015. “Aylan Kurdi’s story: How a small Syrian child came to be washed up on a beach in Turkey”, September 3, 2015. Viewed March 18, 2016. Retrieved from < http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/aylan-kurdi-s-story-how-a-small-syrian-child-came-to-be-washed-up-on-a-beach-in-turkey-10484588.html>

Photos:
<https://iconicphotos.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/kevin-carter-vulture.jpg><http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/150408172201-08-cnnphotos-vietnam-anniversary-restricted-super-169.jpg>
<http://static.independent.co.uk/s3fs-public/styles/story_medium/public/thumbnails/image/2015/09/02/13/syrian-migrant-boy-turkey.jpg>