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  • Writer's pictureCraig Norris

How Social Media Stories Shape Our Environmental Awareness: A Conversation with Bliss Sandhu

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

Episode 53 - With host Craig Norris, guest Bliss Sandhu.

First Broadcast on Edge Radio, Friday 10 November 2023.



In this episode, I talk to Bliss Sandhu, a PhD candidate and a Technical Officer at The Media School, University of Tasmania, about his fascinating research on ephemeral communication. Ephemeral communication is the use of platforms like Snapchat and Instagram Stories that allow users to share content that disappears after a short time. Bliss explains how this type of communication affects the way people perceive and interact with the environment, based on his preliminary data analysis. He also shares some tips on how to deal with technical glitches in the field, and gives his opinion on the controversial topic of data poisoning of AI art generators. If you enjoyed our previous conversation on Episode 45, you will love this one too! Tune in and learn more about the impact of ephemeral communication on our environmental awareness.

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Bliss Sandhu Profile | University of Tasmania (utas.edu.au)


Artists may “poison” AI models before Copyright Office can issue guidance | Ars Technica


University of Chicago researchers seek to “poison” AI art generators with Nightshade | Ars Technica


Listen live to “Media Mothership” every Friday 4-5pm (Australian Eastern Standard Time) via YouTube, Twitch, and Edge Radio.


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Transcript

This is an AI-generated transcript of the audio and it may contain errors. We may update or correct this transcript in the future. Please contact us if you have any questions about the information in this transcript. The audio is the official record of this episode.


Speaker 1

There is nothing wrong with your radio.

Speaker

Do not attempt to adjust the volume. For the next hour, we will control. All that you hear.

Speaker 1

You are about to experience the knowledge and insights of the media mothership.

CRAIG NORRIS

Got my mics on now alright. Welcome to H Radio 99.3 FM. This is media mothership. I'm doctor Craig Norris and I'm joined today by my special guest, Bliss Sandal. Is that?

BLISS SANDHU

Close it is perfect. You nailed it. Sorry probably.

CRAIG NORRIS

But a bit too loud. Who is a PhD student from the media school? Which we've had, who have had. The pleasure of having on in the. So in a deep dive a little bit. Into his project. As well as some debate discussion around AI and imagery. So all that and more coming up on media mothership as everyone knows Media mothership explores the way media shapes our understanding of the world around us. Hopefully we're streaming as well on YouTube and which I'm never sure.

BLISS SANDHU

Yeah, fingers crossed, you know.

CRAIG NORRIS

I mean, there's. Been one or two hiccups already, but. Yeah, you can find us by searching media mothership. We're also streaming via the old-fashioned FM signal in Hobart and streaming globally via edgeradio.org Dot AU. If you have any questions to ask us while we're on air, you can. Send us a message on the YouTube or Facebook chat. Or SMS on 0488811707. So sit back, enjoy the fantastic discussion coming up. Any second of imagery and.

Speaker 1

Are you defined by the binary oppositions? Ever doubt a life of stable meaning? Want to trace it all? Edge Radio doesn't just offer you media. We offer you media mothership. Media mothership designed to reveal the aporias of today for one hour of difference. What are you waiting for? Hop on the media mothership.

CRAIG NORRIS

Yes, media mothership. It's radio 99.3, FM bliss. It's fantastic to have you on the station.

BLISS SANDHU

It's pleasure to be here. Once again, great.

CRAIG NORRIS

Thank you for being calm.

BLISS SANDHU

It's. That's one thing I've learned through my experience in video production and photography and stuff like that, like. Nothing will go right on the day of production, so just be calm and justice, solve problems and that's what I try to teach my students at the media school.

CRAIG NORRIS

As well because because yes, you're a the one. Of the tech officer.

BLISS SANDHU

Tech officer at the media school and I'm a PhD candidate over there and I'm also a videographer and photographer by profession. So yeah. Like a lot of you know, around the production sets and those sort of things that, yeah, yeah, go on in my life so. Problem solving is the first skill that you have need to have and calm is the only skill you need to have to be a, a videographer or photographer. In my opinion. Just be calm.

CRAIG NORRIS

That's. Ohh yeah. Yeah, yeah. Keep breathing. And while we're on this topic, I do want to set you up with a bit of background, but.

BLISS SANDHU

Yeah, exactly.

CRAIG NORRIS

Now that we've opened up the Pandora's box of things going bad. What do you? Do when things go bad, what are some of the things that have gone bad? I mean or have just like? Not going according to plan. Is there something that that stands out that comes immediately to to mind?

BLISS SANDHU

Ohh not at the top of my head, but every single production set that I've been a part of. Something has gone wrong, so maybe the camera's not working some. Yeah. One thing that comes to mind right now is once I was shooting on a Canon video camera and those are a bit tricky because sometimes if you don't close the. The door behind the memory card slot. It won't record, and that's a very cannon specific problem. And if you're not shooting on Canon quite a bit, you probably wouldn't notice about those things. But yeah, so they have like a tiny glass sliding door at the back of their thing at the back of the camera, which you just have to slide and then it starts recording.

CRAIG NORRIS

Right.

BLISS SANDHU

Otherwise it won't record. And I had to send a message to one of my colleagues. I was like, what is it? Why? Why does it, you know, not record anymore? He was like, are you using camera? I was like, yeah, he was like, just close. The door was cool. Yeah. There you go.

CRAIG NORRIS

This like you this this will this. Will be a problem cause. You're not even recording anything. But you're aware of it at the time, right? There's nothing worse than probably, you know, you're you think you've recorded something and then you look. Back over it.

Speaker

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So.

BLISS SANDHU

Yeah. That's like one of the smaller things that comes up. But then there are bigger issues sometimes like the lighting is not working or the audio is not working at all or something like that happens. And there's a crisis situation. So you need to have a backup of a backup, sort of a the. And yeah, and that's why video production usually gets really, really heavy in terms of equipment and stuff like that because you're packing. Heavy. You want cheap?

CRAIG NORRIS

Placates right, or using backup scraps?

BLISS SANDHU

Yeah, you got backups like backups of cameras back of of audio, of lighting of everything else. Because if you're going on a shoot in a different location then you don't have the luxury of just opening a cabinet and pulling something out that you need or you know replacing something. So you need to have backups of backups and yeah, because it's just one shot.

CRAIG NORRIS

Really good. And yeah, you need to be very creative and. Improvise solutions on the spot.

BLISS SANDHU

Yeah, yeah, exactly. So being calm is really helpful because you also have to realise that you are the tech guy over there when you're producing stuff, but the person you're interviewing or you're working with or the other people, they don't know what's happening. And if you get panicked and then the whole set gets packed up and then yeah, the nervous energy shows up in the content that you're producing as well. So you just need to be calm and not sure that you are actually.

CRAIG NORRIS

Thinking so, have you experienced a ripple of tension starting to emerge in a production where suddenly someone starts getting really tense and it? Just cascades. Yeah, it shows up really.

BLISS SANDHU

Soon on people we are interviewing who don't have media background or something like that because that's probably the first time in front of a camera and they're, you know, bombarded with all the wires that they're wearing and the lighting is on them. So they are centre of the attention already and they're sitting all by themselves on a chair and. They're already tense, and if something else is not working then they feel like they might be the ones who are causing the problem and stuff like that, so it's quite new. It's reassuring that you're fine. This just happens every time and. Yeah, otherwise they start feeling like, oh, they're bringing back like or something. About so yeah. It's like those sort of things happen all the time. So you just have to reassure them that it's. Fine, so this is.

CRAIG NORRIS

Top three tips for reassuring the talent when everything's going wrong. What would you suggest?

BLISS SANDHU

Offer them water. Great. Idea compliment them as much as possible, like you are wearing great fragrance. You look great, you have. You know you've already done so much better than other participants that we've had in the past or something like that like and give genuine compliment as well and very specific to them as well like not just make something. And yeah, just try to engage in small talk of how the weather is outside or how the day has been. So they get in the rhythm of talking to you and establish a bit of comfort and coming there a bit sooner is great as well. So you can set up in front of them. So they're familiar of how the process works and everything else. And yeah, most often than not, you can crack a joke and then. You can move on, but yeah.

CRAIG NORRIS

Just stay calm. Just that that.

BLISS SANDHU

Yeah, yeah.

CRAIG NORRIS

Again, I admire the people that are able to maintain calmness in environments where things are going wrong and I guess. The the the challenge. There, though, is that multitasking, because at the same time you're. Stay, stay calm and getting the talent comfortable. Your mind's going 100 miles an hour trying to think, OK? How how am I going to fix this? How are we? Going to solve this thing that's not working.

BLISS SANDHU

And it's only experience that, you know, calms you down in that situation and you can figure out alternative and stuff like that. But if you're not experienced enough. And you're like, yeah, this is the end of the world. Like how I'm going to record this thing. But if you are experienced enough and you're like, oh, yeah, these issues happen, then I have a backup for this or I can. Do this alternative. Thing. Or we can improvise on the spot. So it's good to start out as an attachment to a professional and gain. That experience.

CRAIG NORRIS

Yes, gosh, yes, if you. Can have as an apprentice if you can work with the. Mr Where you're able to not catastrophize because I guess if it's your first time doing something cause you've placed too high an expectation on yourself, you can just start catastrophizing it as the worst thing in the world. Yeah, and. What's interesting to. Me and and you know, doing this show. Is always fun and training students to then do radio because I always reflect on things going bad right? That that actually when things do go bad in the studio. Do the worst thing that can happen is I just go to the system to play music, right? And yes, it's a shame because you know the guest or the YouTube stream won't work. But you know, it's not as if I've taken the radio station off air, caused a true catastrophe and sometimes.

BLISS SANDHU

Exactly, yeah.

CRAIG NORRIS

Facing something which is. Is at first seemingly catastrophic and realising actually, yeah, I survived and I I've learned from that. I guess it's very important to stay healthy.

BLISS SANDHU

Precisely. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And you can always, in some situations, you can always count on a second shoot or a second, sort of a thing. Like, you can always do with that. Again on another day or something. Other might not be the practical advice in every situation. But in some situations, you can always rely on that sort of thing. Like it's not the end of the world if I don't get this interview today, we can. Yeah, convene. In a week's time and still make it work. And you learn from that experience and. Yeah, mistakes only make you stronger. You.

CRAIG NORRIS

Know. Yeah, as they say, the worst you can do is beat. Yourself up about it. Yeah, with a lot of, yeah. Self interrogation and self doubt. Just not. Not good experience.

BLISS SANDHU

Court by a martial artist and he said defeat is the secret ingredient to success. And I'm like, there you go. That's perfect. So unless and until you're not making mistakes, you're not really learning so.

CRAIG NORRIS

Yeah, yeah, I I remember another one. Yeah, I succeed because. I fail exactly right that that. Failure is the pathway to succeed. Did as this show hopefully will not demonstrate. Of of failing, but yeah, look, it is it is. It is one of these things as a student, right currently doing your PhD where it should be all about developing and testing and pushing yourself in a space where you can make mistakes. To learn from as a PhD student. So then you get recognised with successfully completing it as as a doctorate student.

BLISS SANDHU

Yeah. And I think those are very transferable skills as well because. If things go wrong in your PhD, you still need to remain calm and still show up every day and still right. Like you might have a bad day, but you just can't beat yourself on that and let the whole week be bad and then a whole month be bad and before you know it, six months are lost and you lost on crucial time that you could have actually worked on and created a. A chapter out of something. So yeah, just that perseverance sort of thing, really, I think is a very valuable skill, not just in video production, but also in like other aspects of. Academia and life and in general.

CRAIG NORRIS

Which is why it's so exciting to have you on the show again. Because I know a few months ago we had you in talking about the setup of your project, which was all around nature photography and sampling a a sample set of. Photographers or amateur?

BLISS SANDHU

Ohh, it was just general audience when they are photographing about the environment. So we were looking at how people post about the natural environment on social media stories. The feature that is you know disappears in 24 hours so.

CRAIG NORRIS

That's right. It's just like, Yep.

BLISS SANDHU

Instagram stories and stuff like that. Ephemeral platforms. Yeah. Yeah. So it's been amazing.

CRAIG NORRIS

And you're saying this is specifically platforms where that image disappears after 24 hours. So Snapchat type thing that's in right?

BLISS SANDHU

Yes, Instagram stories and being real and those sort of things. Yeah, it's really interesting because one of the themes that emerged in my interviews was people post. Stories. But then they save it on the highlights and highlights is like a very hybrid sort of system because it stays there on your profile, but it's tucked away in a folder and people make folders based on themes. So if they've been travelling to like Bali and Tasmania and Sydney and those sort of places, they'll make different folders for it or they'll make one based on like. Outdoors, one based on parties, one based on friends and families and stuff like that. It's like a hybrid sort of thing. Like the story disappears, but then you saved it on your highlight like archive did, so it's tucked away in a folder it and people can go and look back on it if they wanted to. Rest that folder and open the file, but it won't show up on your grade, so it's like a hybrid sort of thing like it's a femoral and it's gone, but it's still tucked away and you decided to keep it and the expense were like, very, it's such a nuanced usage and they told me that. They do that for their own personal viewing, so it's like a public gallery, but it's for their own viewing, so they don't use their phone to pull out the photos and all the sort of things because it's just easier to go on social media and find. Which photos they posted and which particular folder? And they don't go back and look at other peoples's highlights. So it's like it's a public thing, but it's like a social media etiquette, that it's a private thing. And yeah, so it's a very hybrid space that's working in a very intriguing way.

CRAIG NORRIS

Right. I mean it's. For me, one of the surprising things about our relationship with photography in particular, which this research is reminding me of, is. You know, pre digital cameras, when you were just using your film stock, your Canon Fuji film thing, that you plug into your DSLR or your little Instamatic camera, you had maybe 48 shots on there, 24 shots, something like that.

BLISS SANDHU

24 and 3624 great 26.

CRAIG NORRIS

And you'd also be factoring in the kind of cost and time of getting it processed at a chemist or something, exactly. So each shot mattered, right? You wanted to get a shot that summed up. The event you were going to or the trip you were making? Yep. Because you only had 24, maybe you only had two rolls of films, maybe 48. And some of those might not work. And if someone blinks, you don't really know about it until later. So in that context, it was really precious to keep. The photo right to do. The photo and to have it. Hopefully a good photo. Whereas the phenomena it seems of the, you know, the the Instagram story or the Snapchat thing. Is at that polar opposite degree, which is all about the superfluousness of of imagery that we've got so much. It's so abundant that the only thing that makes this image interesting is that it's going to disappear. In 24 hours.

BLISS SANDHU

Yeah. No, it's it's amazing. But so I was reading about some scholarship bond stories by. Some great squatters in the mainland and they were talking about how when this feature was introduced and the promise of if immorality meant that people can post silly things and you know bit of content that they don't want everyone to see and stuff like that. But I think that was in the early days when they were still figuring out this new form of communication, because until then, photography meant that once you've clicked a photo, you have it for good, right? Be it on a film negative, be it the developed photo that you have or be it the one that you clicked it digitally and saved on your phone or something like that. Like it's there and you. Have it on, yeah.

CRAIG NORRIS

That's right. And there was that dominant discourse of, you know, be careful of getting employment in the future because people will be able to search your history and find images of.

BLISS SANDHU

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

CRAIG NORRIS

You which are bad.

BLISS SANDHU

A digital footprint as well, like, yeah. Exactly. But even if it wasn't shared with anyone else, there was still this idea that you have. It, and I think you can still have the stories because they are archived and you can view them if you want to, but not a lot of people know about that. And but the idea of stories was like, you know, you can post silly things and those sort of things and it doesn't really matter because it's gone. But I think that usage has now. Transformed because people are getting used to that platform and it's getting a very unique sort of usage which is different to regular posts or regular photography and stuff like that. It's very precise behind the moments spontaneous thing like you've been doing to your right now life. Like I can take a photo right now with you and be like or not. With you in particular just of this mic and be like, oh, so places on a radio show right now or he's doing something. Podcasting technical thing.

CRAIG NORRIS

Where eyes. So this sounds more like almost a mindfulness act like it's like. Me, embodied in this moment rather than me, worry me using this feature because I don't want to leave a digital footprint and fingerprint, so I'm using this feature instead. It's a kind of, you know, I'm. I'm I'm in this space. I want to be recognising it. So I do this short thing.

BLISS SANDHU

Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly, yeah.

CRAIG NORRIS

It's kind of it's.

BLISS SANDHU

So beautiful because these scholars that I was talking about, they noted that the people post a lot of selfies and group of friends and stuff like that. But in my research, what I found was like there are no selfies and people say they're. Their presence is implied in the authorship of the image that they've taken the image, so they don't need to prove that they are there and stuff like that. So that's the sort of technical usage of like you know. How the social norms are formed around the technical usage of social media so.

CRAIG NORRIS

It's so interesting point though about your present in the. Image through your authorship. Of it, so they won't appear as in a selfie, you know, set against this great, you know, Cradle Mountain image or something. They haven't done it as a selfie. They've done it just as. Say for instance Cradle Mountain but. You know that's an interesting concept because you know, as time passes doesn't. Just look like every other image of Crater Mountain. It does and.

Speaker

It does.

CRAIG NORRIS

If you're in.

BLISS SANDHU

It does.

CRAIG NORRIS

It it would be.

BLISS SANDHU

Distinctly. And that's the thing. And they will boast those sort of the if they're featuring the photo, they're more likely to post it on their regular post. Than on a story, because story is just perceived as a space, like what you're doing right now, sort of a thing like it's a highlight of the day and then posts are like highlight of your life or your month or six month period or something.

CRAIG NORRIS

I see.

BLISS SANDHU

That, and that's like how now you can see how that usage has totally segregated itself from others forms of photography, because people are getting used to that new form of communication and the new social media ticket is forming around that. And yeah, yeah, it's emerging. Yeah, it's still it's I think.

CRAIG NORRIS

It's kind of an urgent you're saying. Kind of an urgent.

BLISS SANDHU

In its early days and we are still figuring out how this will work in later later down the line and stuff like that, but. People like literally use the word like. I feel cringed if someone posts a selfie on this story and it's something that my mum would do on Facebook or something like that, but if I.

CRAIG NORRIS

Right, yeah. Because they don't get it. They're not doing, they're.

BLISS SANDHU

Did that on my yeah, it's not.

CRAIG NORRIS

Not packing in the rule.

BLISS SANDHU

In friend anymore. And if you put any philtres on your story or something like that's also like sort of frowned upon. And it's also used as a space like it's it has to be posted within 24 hours of your activity. If not right there and.

CRAIG NORRIS

Then right. So if it's sitting on your phone from three days ago and you push it out as a story, it's yeah, it feels like.

Speaker

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

BLISS SANDHU

It's so the time it has to be time essence.

CRAIG NORRIS

Yeah. Which you know again. Like, I don't think it is mindfulness, but it does remind me of some of the discourse around mindfulness that you're you're you're wanting to. A moment where you're recognising the feeling of the wind against you, the feeling of your feet. On the floor, something like that, which is that.

BLISS SANDHU

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And it's really. Really interesting as well. Like the only participant that posted a selfie in my research was. Because they went to do some diving around the East Coast with a couple of other surfers and stuff like that. They had an accident and someone got lost for a few hours, but they found them and everything was fine, but then they just had a mentally, you know, tough time dealing with it. And they went away from the group of friends and they were getting a lot of messages. If you're doing alright and stuff like that. So they just posted a selfie of them sitting on top of a hill or something. Like that and just smiling. And they were like, yes, it wasn't even a selfie. It was like a video. And they just featured in it for like. Half a second and they just showed where. And it was. And they reflected. It was basically to communicate to everyone that they are doing fine and they are in a safe space and everything else. So it's like a mass form of communication as well. But it's very personal as well. Yeah. So if you're friends with them and you've been talking to them, you know what the story means. But to a general audience, like, you know, so yeah.

CRAIG NORRIS

Context specific. I mean it's. Yes, it's kind of the exception that proves the rule of not having selfies because that selfie. Is in a particular context where.

BLISS SANDHU

Exactly. So it's sort of a mass personal communication thing, I guess personal, but it's mass.

CRAIG NORRIS

Well, look, it's so exciting. I mean, it's always an exciting moment in, in, in sociological, anthropological, or or or or media studies research where you come across a phenomena where you reflect on how the engineers of this. The software engineers, the hardware engineer. Would have mapped out a particular use and purpose of this function as you were talking about. You know, it seems to have a good selling points around the discourse of not leaving a fingerprint for employment concerns. But then when you start unpacking after a number of years or months, actually how people use it, sometimes you unearth these emergent.

BLISS SANDHU

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

CRAIG NORRIS

Experiences which are showing how users themselves. Creating something unexpected out of this, exactly setting up unexpected rules and guidelines.

BLISS SANDHU

And these trends, I think they just form locally as well like what I'm doing in Tasmania right now and I'm looking at how people post about the environment and outdoors and those sort of things. It might be totally different in say Colombia or some other country. Or some other sort of thing like. And people from mainland who are in Tasmania and I have been my participants as well. So we're like our friends back home. Just post about parties or, you know, going for dinners and lunches and stuff like that. So it's a very local thing as well. So it's reflecting your cultural sort of norms and ideologies and those sort of things.

CRAIG NORRIS

Totally. Yeah. And what's interesting there is moments where you can tease out underpinning ideological structures of that society. Like it's interesting that someone was pointing out how, you know, the technology which enables surveillance cameras to be able to, you know, break apart. Ohh, it's this person now coming through the airport gate or something.

Speaker

It was only.

CRAIG NORRIS

Highlights the fact that this technology could be used for various purposes, but a technology that's hyper fixated on surveillance and security will use that for this purpose. Like is it interested me that that the idea of the computer actually preceded its invention somewhere like the Babbage, the Babbage computer? From like the. Late 1800s had the principles of a computer device baked into it way back then in the 1800s, but was never followed up on. Yeah, because the social, cultural interests weren't aligned to using that as a. Tool to do anything with, yeah. And it wasn't until you know the the warp here World War Two period that this idea of using computational technologies resurfaced and then, you know, spawn computers.

BLISS SANDHU

Yeah, exactly. And I think that kind of speaks to how primitive technologies are coming back to life as well, like the vinyl vinyl records or CDs or. Film cameras and those sort of things like there's companies who were talking about bringing new film cameras to the market so that the prices of film stock and film cameras come. Down a bit because.

CRAIG NORRIS

Yeah. And and.

BLISS SANDHU

There's a demand for that, yeah.

CRAIG NORRIS

And then the question is yes, what's going on there when on the surface? Hey, we've got this better technology, digital, perfect. You know portable MP3 plays and so forth, streaming everything on demand. Why are vinyl records selling strongly? And so for yeah, and.

BLISS SANDHU

And I think it is just nostalgia at this point and there's, like, dumb phones now in comparison to smartphones, which is like just an older version of.

Speaker

Hard transition.

BLISS SANDHU

The phone that we used to have back in like early 2. Thousands, so it can just. It has buttons and you can't really access social media on it, but you can access your emails and you can send SMS's and take calls and stuff like that.

CRAIG NORRIS

Has buttons. Within that surface level explanation, there might be a more troubling undercurrent of it's also reflecting a society that's becoming more concerned about personal security or sort of like like the the the amount of information on the smartphone, the amount of of unobservable data gathering and harvesting. On a smartphone.

BLISS SANDHU

Yeah, precisely. Yeah, that might be one of the issues, or it might be just one of the coping mechanisms of them trying to limit their. Usage, I don't know.

CRAIG NORRIS

Which is why this research. Is happening. I have to. Figure out these questions so. Here we are now at your project. You've what stage are you at? You. You've. You've been that day.

BLISS SANDHU

Going so I'm almost at the end of my second. Year I've collected all. Data I've analysed it pretty much all of.

CRAIG NORRIS

It any preliminary trends beginning to show? Up. Yeah, so.

BLISS SANDHU

I categorised the participants responses in like 14 different teams of behaviours and teams.

CRAIG NORRIS

Like happy, sad laugh.

BLISS SANDHU

So I based it on. They use it. So how they use the space stories of the space, the spontaneity and ephemerality of it, the role that they play, engagement with nature and photography. So how much photography is part of their engagement with the nature? And content that they post usually, and motivations and interpretations and political initiations and those sort of things.

CRAIG NORRIS

Will there often be texts linked to the image?

BLISS SANDHU

So what they do is some of them do post some text, but so there are like 2 sorts of stories, right? One is the. Posting what they're doing at the moment, which is like, you know, going out in the wilderness and on a hike or, you know, finding those secluded spots like the Treasure hunt movement or living their best has a life and those sort of things. And then the other part is where they are resh. Bring a persistent post or regular post from an organisation like A Bob Brown Foundation on this story for an environmental cause. And because I let the participants decide what they feel, an environmental story is. So they posted those sort of things as well, and they shared it with me. And they posted the beautiful landscapes as well. So they post a bit of text on the political stuff that they reshare from other organisations and post a bit of personal commentary on there sometimes. To give a more context and personalise the issue and get their friends to engage.

Speaker

With it.

BLISS SANDHU

And on the landscape stories, they are not as likely to post any texts so that it doesn't distract from the image, yes, but they might just tag their friend so that they can also reshare it on their stories later. Otherwise you can't reshare it if you're not tired.

CRAIG NORRIS

And has most of the state you've looked at. Falling into your expectations. Of what you thought you'd find or.

Speaker

I think.

BLISS SANDHU

Yeah, it's a. Bit still a bit too fast now I think. Yeah, like I can see how for so I have mapped out how the communication happens on a subtle and passive level. So how stories are interpreted and stuff like that. So one of the examples that I can give you right now is. People who identify as greens. But they don't want to be perceived as grains, and the reason is. Because they push. A lot of environmental landscape and them hiking and stuff like that, and they don't want the connotations to be attached to the environment, so it they don't want it to be seen as like only. Greenies can enjoy the environment and post about it and stuff like that, so they don't want that political connotations attached to their stories and everything else, and they want to remain separate. And then on the other end of the spectrum, you have activists who are putting out those really vocal posts on, you know, logging industry in Tasmania. Sustainable timber and those sort of things. So it's really interesting like they're. Actively constructing their identity, either avoiding sharing certain content or by sharing certain content.

CRAIG NORRIS

So you have one community, it sounds, who are weaponizing this space? Yeah, politically and assertively. And they're they're going in with an image deliberately crafting. Or choosing it so that it will be weaponized for a a. A pro environment.

BLISS SANDHU

So they they can share that idea. But the interesting thing is even they try to balance out because they know that their audience is kind of turned away because now we come to the interpretation of it. So the political stories are not because the people who agree with them, they don't really care about it because they are already on the same page. And they've read about it. So they skip past it. And the neutral people. Just annoyed by it because they feel like social media is the personal space and you bring those strong opinions on it and you ruin their day so they just get past it. So it's not really helping anyone. So they themselves noted that and. Said that, the post more landscapes to balance that out so that people are not just turned away from them and don't just don't follow them. So it's like a really interesting dynamic horror stories I interpreted.

CRAIG NORRIS

It isn't. Yeah. OK. It is fundamental to the act of communication, isn't? I mean, way back in the day, we had. Ohh, he's the theorist, the the dominant. Negotiated. Yeah, sure. Those theories of swimming objects.

BLISS SANDHU

Stuart Hall. Dominant negotiations and oppositional.

CRAIG NORRIS

Yeah. So aspects of that of course are here, but. I imagine you're you're. Or further elaborating from.

BLISS SANDHU

Yeah, I think it's a bit hard for me to talk right now because it's still, I'm still writing my chapter at the. Moment so. Yeah, but it's those sort of things like, you know, so when people see a person posting their story, they associate their presence in the place and stuff like that. But it's also starting conversations in real life. So when they see them. Next, and they're like, oh, I saw your. At Lake Saint Clair or something like that, how was the weather? How was that? And they find more meaningful stuff to talk about, more common stuff to talk about. And it's an ice pick. Another thing that's that's a pretty good example of how passively they've communicated before. And then they just use it as a reference for when they meet next in person or something like that and. Yeah, I think that sort of communication I can, I can see the trends, how that sort of communication takes place and connects people and.

CRAIG NORRIS

Yeah, it's such an interesting project because I think it is coming along at such a perfect time. To talk about how images are not neutral right, any image is going to have either consciously or subconsciously a purpose to it. A you know like as you're mapping up.

BLISS SANDHU

I I think before you go any further I'll just mention the small things. So one of the things with the stories people submitted to me was. Their perspective on the environment and how they perceive environment, so some of them didn't have any humans in their photos. And when I talked to them about it and they were like, oh, because humans ruined the photo and stuff like that. And it's the view so that. Indicates a very utopian environmental view that, without humans and stuff like that and the other people were like, we added our friends because environment is with us and it's as much as a social thing as anything else. And this feel that humans are pretty much a part of the environment and not excluded from the environment. So it's a very concentric sort of approach.

CRAIG NORRIS

You know, an entrance.

BLISS SANDHU

And ecocentrism that has emerged in that sort of ideology.

CRAIG NORRIS

And it can be exciting participating in research like this, where some participants might become for the first time aware of an ideology they have, or an opinion they have they thought wasn't there.

BLISS SANDHU

I think that's why Photovoice is such a crucial tool, because this subconscious mind comes into play of what they're photographing and I didn't ask them to photograph anything like, even if they didn't submit anything, they could still participate in the story. And yeah, so it's really interesting how their worldview has been reflected through that imagery. Like, is the environment only beautiful landscapes? They're also plastic bottles and an ocean, sort of a. Thing, so yeah, I.

CRAIG NORRIS

Mean it's such an exciting project. I know part of the question I'm going to ask is outside the current realm of your project, but we have about 5-10 minutes left so I couldn't. Let you go without talking about AI and images, and in particular I want to talk about it in the context of this fascinating article that's been posted up in. Ars Technica, Ars Technica from the University of Chicago, where researchers have found a way to poison AI art generators with this software they're calling night shade. So to explain how it works. Basically, Nightshade was, it seems to be. I don't know the the tech behind it, but it seems to be this bit of software tool which researchers have. Placed within images of like a dragon, there's examples here in the article Dragon House where there are, as you say, here, it's a poison pill tool which alters images in ways that are invisible to the human eye, but they will corrupt an AI models training process. So that as the AI is being trained on it, it will no longer be able to do the dragon. It will instead do meaningless images and so forth. And again, it's all about. Artists feeling as if they haven't got control of their work at the moment because of the type of stories we're hearing of the training practises of AI. Engines where they've just. Harvested from, you know, photo galleries.

BLISS SANDHU

Yeah, yeah, yeah. What are your thoughts?

CRAIG NORRIS

Oh, look, sorry big.

BLISS SANDHU

Photographer I'm not really a big fan of. Yeah, because it's similar to my research, like people are just figuring out how to use stories as a separate thing and itself and a separate form of communication for a very niche sort of usage. And those sort of things. And I think at the moment, AI is just trying to replicate photography or replace photography and those sort of things. And I don't think it's. It's really the best use of. The tool and I don't think it's art.

CRAIG NORRIS

If people are using it as a shortcut to, yeah.

BLISS SANDHU

And I don't think. If they're just. Using it to you know, generate the same portraits that you can shoot with an actual camera and lighting setup and all those sort of things, then it's not really the. Best use of the tool is it? Yeah. So I think it is still in its infancy and. Years down the lane, we might get to see a very nation specified usage for a shirt, and there might be a more art element to it, but at the moment it doesn't really have that thought process of why you're creating that art. What's it's saying and those sort of things like, it's just like, oh, I put a few prompts in it and this is what it generated. And this is what it reflects and I don't think artificial intelligence is, you know, even that subjective objective anymore. I think it's very subjective of how it's programmed.

CRAIG NORRIS

And I guess. As evidence of this, we are seeing a lot of use of AI for stunts where a world photography prize or art. Eyes will be. There'll be a gotcha moment where the artist reveals. Hey, surprise. This was an AI piece of work. You've awarded the top prize for suckers and it's a very stunt based, right? Yeah. As you're saying, it's it's not actually furthering your feeling of what AI potentially is. It's just replicating an existing.

BLISS SANDHU

OK. Existing trend and there's no like. So art, I think it's not just related to the art piece itself, it's also the thought process, the conceptualization, the message that is trying to communicate and the emotions that is trying to communicate and all those sort of things. And I think that background work that the fine artists do, like the fine art people do. That's not there in AI anymore.

Speaker

Oh, there was.

CRAIG NORRIS

Go for it, attorney. You reminding me there was a great story that Nick Cave, the the musician Nick Cave being sent a by one of his fans, sent him a song in the style of Nick Cave. That he got. To create it sent in it big cave. Say, hey, look what I got. To make you a song by you in style and Nick Cave just said look. You know, this is just horrible. It's, you know, no, no. AI goes through suffering in the way human goes through suffering and and because of that, these words are meaningless.

BLISS SANDHU

And it's just recycling the stuff that is already out there, like it's not creating anything new, like it's not creative if you think of it. Because it's just sampling from a pool of stuff that has already been done by other photographers or other creatives and stuff like that, and tries to mimic that yes, and reproduces that. So all these visualisations that we are seeing right now from AI. Most of that artwork has been done, be it in fantasy, be it in, you know, photographic reproduction or something like that. So it's not creating anything new of its own, and even if it's generating pictures of people who don't actually exist, it's generating in a style that is inspired by photography and painting the lighting techniques, the compositions and the depth of fields. And all the sort of things. It's very primitive in terms of, you know, the stuff that is already out there from the existing knowledge that we have. So I can't really say it's art because art is creative by.

CRAIG NORRIS

So I mean, yes, that's right. Look, it does it's it's a tangent again, but it does remind me of people are saying that it this is what is it the difference between artificial intelligence and that self aware artificial intelligence at the moment this type of artificial intelligence is is directed by human. It will be a more substantially when we get AI itself thinking for itself. You know that that kind of self aware moment singularity, I guess that. Will be possible.

BLISS SANDHU

That reminds me. Of the iRobot and all those other movies, and I'm not a big fan of that sort of thing, I don't think it should have that autonomy, but yeah.

CRAIG NORRIS

It it it? So do you use AI in? Your own work. In any way.

BLISS SANDHU

Yes and no. So I don't actively use it, but I've got this programme called Grammarly and so it basically used to be just correcting your sentences and stuff like that. If you missed a comma or you know, there's a better word for one of the words that you used a better synonym, but now it has also incorporated.

CRAIG NORRIS

Ah yeah.

BLISS SANDHU

That auto generative sort of emails or, you know, make tone different and make it more make it sound more persuasive, make it sound more friendly, make it sound more official on those sort of things. Yes. And I've not. I've I've. Used that as a. Trial to see what it does not as an effective tool of communicating or doing my work because I. Think I have ethical complications in that because I'm very anti AI in that sense, so I probably wouldn't use it for my workflow in any way shape or form. But it's kind of sad to see how.

CRAIG NORRIS

Good it is. Oh, look, it. Yeah, look. And it is it. Reminds me of. The debate centred around disruptive technology in history. I'm not saying that that I also, I also share your concerns around what could be flippantly called the dumbing down, yeah, because it always reminds me it was that Aristotle or Socrates who was ballooning the invention of fighting similarly in terms of saying, you know. It comes at the cost of an oral culture, right? Right. And for, I think it was Socrates, right? So Socrates, born in an oral culture pre writing and and then Plato writing up how this I might be completely misremembering it, but the. The idea being that. The writing form you know is incredibly useful and incredibly helpful. It externalises information you don't need to hold it all in your head, but as you become more and more used to writing, you don't use your brain as an oral culture does anymore of you know, and you. Hear these people. Who have these ways of remembering things in their mind without writing them? Down. But we have to make an effort to learn that mode now because we're a writing culture. Writing has, for better or worse, and many people take better. I mean, it revolutionised and democratised Christianity, for instance, with the printing press and blah blah. Blah, but yeah, look, it's similarly it. Came at a cost, right? It wasn't necessarily a. Technologically determinist, level up for everyone. It it, it meant certain benefits of an oral culture lost.

BLISS SANDHU

True that. Yeah, that's absolutely. Right. But The thing is like with writing and with oral and stuff like that, like you still have some agency. Of what you. Read what you write and stuff like that with.

CRAIG NORRIS

True. Yeah. These were human to human disruptive moments. Yes. This is human to non human possible disrupts. Yeah.

BLISS SANDHU

Yes. So the agency is shifting like humans don't have the agency anymore of, you know, if the AI starts doing things automatically. And as its own agency and stuff like that. Then we do is it?

CRAIG NORRIS

You finding many students are writing dystopic science fiction.

BLISS SANDHU

Actually, that might be a very good thing to observe next year, because the current cohort wasn't really that because that Jupiter, I think came midway this year and people were already halfway through their projects. So nobody really wanted to change anything. But I think they were a couple of pitches. Made about like someone falls in love with a ChatGPT, run account or something like that. Like a social media account run by ChatGPT or something and then they just fall in love with that character and. Then they find out that it's actually not a real person, so I think it's a very similar form of storytelling that has happened in science fiction about robots and AI before, like humans falling in love with artificial intelligence. I think it was. What was the film her.

CRAIG NORRIS

Or she her she.

BLISS SANDHU

No, it was another one of Ex Machina, I think. Yeah, yeah, that one, I think is it's a very similar sort of thing that our students are recycling at the moment, but.

CRAIG NORRIS

Ah yes, sex machinery as well, yes.

BLISS SANDHU

Yeah, I think it's just a very interesting space.

CRAIG NORRIS

And with that kind of dramatic pause, I'm so looking forward to having you on again in the future. So your project has a year or so left, right, with extensions, it could be two.

Speaker

OK.

CRAIG NORRIS

Hopefully sounds like it's.

BLISS SANDHU

Gonna get right. Hopefully by this time next year, we will.

Speaker

OK.

BLISS SANDHU

Be pretty close to submission. It'll be wonderful.

CRAIG NORRIS

To have you on again, see you.

BLISS SANDHU

My pleasure. I would love to help you. I'd love. To be here again, thank you.

CRAIG NORRIS

This is it. Where can people reach out to you, blessed, if they're really? Interested in this project? Is there a way they can reach? Out or contact yours.

BLISS SANDHU

That's a very. Good question. Uh, so my official email ID is place.sandhu.snhu@utah.edu dot AU, so I think the email will be the official way to reach out if. You want to, yeah.

CRAIG NORRIS

So people can and that's it. You test so people can always search the University of Tasmania website.

BLISS SANDHU

Uh, yeah, if you just search my name on.

CRAIG NORRIS

OK, the media school.

BLISS SANDHU

Google the Utah's Discovery page will come up and you can click on my profile and get my contact. Information from there as well.

CRAIG NORRIS

Excellent. And we'll put some contact details on the show notes for this episode. Thank you. Again, please. Perfect. Thank you so much.

BLISS SANDHU

For your pleasure. Ohh good one.

CRAIG NORRIS

Yeah, and keep listening. No. OK, pop next. But after that, we'll be Adrian. And you can't sit down if you've enjoyed the show, please subscribe and leave a review on the YouTube page or Facebook page. If you've got any questions, please post them up on Facebook or Discord or Instagram or Tick Tock. I'm over all of them. This and keep listening to the radio coming up. Next is is not. K pop it will be. The fight back time by slot face and the boys.


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