Culture, Not Costume

The media plays an incredibly important role in society today, making up a lot of what we know and see and influencing our daily lives. This has meant that the media’s increasing influence brings to light various issues. One of the main issues that is constantly being raised and discussed is cultural appropriation.

Cultural appropriation is generally brought to light due to a negative influence in the media, whether it be Katy Perry dressing up as a Geisha for a performance (see previous post for more info), or Kylie Jenner wearing dreadlocks, (Eldridge 2016). This issue of Jenner wearing dreadlocks prompted major backlash from online users as well as actress Amandla Stenberg, who released the video, “Don’t Cash Crop my Cornrows” that went viral after its release, (Eldridge 2016).

Or perhaps cultural appropriation is brought up in the media due to yet another ignorant celebrity dressing up for Halloween. Such as Julianne Hough, who dressed as Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren from Orange is the New Black, (Dionne 2013). If Hough had solely worn the orange jumpsuit as well as the characters iconic Bantu-knotted hair, this would have been fine. However, she topped the costume off with makeup-darkened skin, otherwise known as blackface. Blackface has been used throughout history to not only dehumanize African Americans, but it is also historically linked to the systematic oppression and institutionalized abuse that African Americans went through, (Leiva 2015). Therefore, blackface is racist and anyone wearing it, even if they don’t have bad intentions, should be called out for doing so.

Cultural appropriation is so commonly highlighted during Halloween, that a group of University students in Ohio have created a campaign to put a stop to this, (STARS 2013). The student organization, known as students teaching about racism in society, or STARS, created posters with the aim to “educate and facilitate discussion about racism and to promote racial harmony and to create a safe, non-threatening environment to allow participants to feel comfortable to express their feelings,” (STARS 2013).

 “The “we’re not a costume” campaign may be timed for Halloween, but it’s a reaction to an attitude that’s accepted every day as normal,” (Bui 2011).

These posters, which focus on the racist costumes people wear during Halloween were shared online via Tumblr and went viral shortly after, allowing a conversation and dialogue to start, (Sipin 2011). This campaign highlights how many people in today’s society turn cultures or minorities into caricatures that they can ‘try on’ or ‘dress up as,’ instead of respecting and understanding the history that goes along with the culture or the cultural pieces they are wearing or claiming as their own, (Dionne 2013). Although this campaign emphasizes Halloween as the issue, in reality, cultural appropriation is present everyday; it does not reserve itself to only come out on Halloween. For example, this practice has become so common that Osheaga, a music festival in Montreal has banned First Nation headdresses from being worn, (Marsh 2015). They have done this in an effort to “respect and honour” the First Nations people and to discourage ignorant, racist behaviour (Marsh 2015).

 “It is insulting for members of foreign nations and their descendants to witness their treasured ethnic traditions reduced to cheap and hollow caricatures, all in the name of commercialism,” (Eckhardt 2015).

The “we’re not a costume” campaign makes it glaringly obvious that racism and cultural appropriation are still alive and thriving in society today. With the media playing a critical role in shaping cultural appropriation, as often we see incorrect cultural messages and watch as the offending musician claims innocence, which has the ability to stop dialogue before it even starts, (Dionne 2013). However, we have to be careful that when trying to avoid cultural appropriation that we ensure that cultural isolationism does not occur. This can be avoided by remembering that; “international cultural co-operation must be based on respect for cultural identity, recognition of the dignity and value of all cultures, national independence and sovereignty, and non-intervention,” (UNESCO 2002).

Therefore, we as individuals have the ability to start a dialogue and help put a stop to cultural appropriation by understanding how it translates into our behaviour and is exacerbated by media stereotypes. The first step is to stop buying into these stereotypes and recognize them as such.


Bui, K 2011, Halloween no excuse for racism, ignorance, The Daily Wildcat, viewed 21 August 2016, <;.

Dionne, E 2013, It’s a Happy Halloween For Racists, Mic, weblog post, 30 October, viewed 19 August 2016, <;.

Eckhardt, R 2015, ‘The Fine Line Between Cultural Appropriation and Cultural Diffusion,’ The Huffington Post, 11 April, viewed 8 August 2016, <;.

Eldridge, R. M 2016, ‘Identity Through and Beyond Our Hair: The Complicated Intersections of Self and Culture(s),’ paper presented at the Southeastern Women’s Studies Association (SEWSA) Conference, Winthrop University, 2 April, viewed 20 August 2016, <;.

Leiva, L 2015, Blackface: Simplified For Those Who Still Don’t Get It, Bust, Weblog Post, 10 May, viewed 20 August 2016, <;.

Marsh, C 2015, ‘Osheaga’s headdress ban shows festival’s zero tolerance for cultural appropriation, The Guardian, 18 July, viewed 21 August 2016, <;.

Sipin, M 2011, “We’re a culture, not a costume.” STARS, a student org at Ohio University,’ Msipin, weblog post, 23 October, viewed 21 August 2016, <;.

 STARS 2013, Poster Campaign, Students Teaching About Racism in Society, viewed 20 August 2016, <;.

UNESCO 2002, Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, viewed 21 August 2016, <;.


The Fine Line Between Cultural Appropriation and Cultural Diffusion

When we imagine the variety of cultures that exist around the world, the first things that come to mind are the languages, the food, the costumes and the customs. You watch television shows or movies made from other countries and all of these cultural elements are present. However, what happens when a Western audience for example, pick bits and pieces from other cultures to incorporate into their own? This is known as cultural appropriation, which is defined as “the use of a culture’s symbols, artefacts, customs, rituals, or dress used by members of another culture, often done without regard for the significance of such articles in the original cultures society or origin,” (Rogers 2006).

Western or first world countries are the main perpetrators of cultural appropriation, as many consider some of the elements of third-world nations to be ‘exotic’ or ‘edgy,’ (Eckhardt 2015). This is extremely evident in Western popular culture, go to almost any music festival in a Western country and I can guarantee that someone there will be wearing a Native-American headdress, or a Bindi. It is not only in everyday society that cultural appropriation is evident; the Western media figures such as celebrities are guilty of this. Take Beyonce for example, who is dressed in traditional Indian costume complete with a Sari and Henna in the Coldplay video, ‘Hymn for the Weekend.’ Or Katy Perry dressed in a Geisha-inspired outfit in her American Music Award performance.

So what is the issue with cultural appropriation being prevalent in the media sphere?

Inequality is one of the most obvious issues that arise with appropriating another culture. Inequality is, “the unfair situation in society when some people have more opportunities, money, etc. than other people,” (Cambridge Dictionary 2016). This is evident as it is mainly first-world countries that are guilty of appropriating third-world cultures. This also leads to the issue of power, or ‘post-colonial power,’ (Nicklas & Lindner 2012). Campaigners against cultural appropriation argue that this post-colonial power is evident as the dominant culture is free to adopt the styles of the ‘minority’ or ‘marginalized’ culture, (Malik 2016). By showing cultural appropriation in the media sphere it helps to create and perpetuate stereotypes of what minority cultures are like, which in turn asserts racial power, (Malik 2016).

‘Marginalized groups don’t have the power to decide if they’d prefer to stick with their customs or try on the dominant culture’s traditions just for fun’ (Johnson, 2015).

Maisha Johnson (2015), a contributor at Everyday Feminism, believes that cultural appropriation, “trivialises violent historical oppression, let’s privileged people profit from oppressed people’s labour and perpetuates racist stereotypes.” However, the majority of the time those that engage in cultural appropriation are doing so due to a genuine interest in a particular culture, instead of disrespect for the culture, (Eckhardt 2015).

Although cultural appropriation is a negative issue in society today, it is not to say that customs and rituals of other cultures should not be shared. Cultural diffusion, which is, “the spreading of culture from one civilisation to another,” ( 2016) generally occurs naturally when different cultures interact. Some would even say this sharing of cultures is one of the best aspects of being human as we can experience new perspectives and gain knowledge that can help to enrich our lives.

Therefore, it is up to us as individuals to determine where the line between cultural appropriation and cultural diffusion lies.

(In my next blog post I will go on to discuss campaigns that aim to eradicate cultural appropriation from the media sphere and society in general).


Cambridge Dictionary 2016, Inequality, Cambridge Dictionary, viewed 7 August 2016, <;. 2016, Cultural Diffusion,, viewed 7 August 2016, <;.

Eckhardt, R 2015, ‘The Fine Line Between Cultural Appropriation and Cultural Diffusion,’ The Huffington Post, 11 April, viewed 8 August 2016, <;.

Malik, K 2016, The Bane of Cultural Appropriation, Al Jazeera, viewed 9 August 2016, <;.

Nicklas, P & Lindner, O 2012, Adaptation and Cultural Appropriation: Literature, Film and the Arts, Spectrum Literaturwissenschaft / spectrum Literature, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin.

Rogers, R. A 2006, ‘From Cultural Exchange to Transulturation: A Review and Reconceptualization of Cultural Appropriation,Communication Theory, vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 474-503, viewed 7 August 2016, <;.

Johnson, M 2015, “What’s wrong with cultural appropriation?” Everyday Feminism, June 14, viewed 6 August 2016, <;.

The Human Kingdom

Animals are evident throughout all of society, whether it be in popular culture, or around us regularly in our everyday lives. However, although animals seem more prevalent today than ever before, in reality, they are disappearing. The animals you can go and look at whenever you want in zoos will soon be gone, they are slowly disappearing from not only our daily lives, but from the world entirely. These once thriving animals are becoming extinct or endangered, raising the question of whether anthropomorphism can make an impact. By portraying animals in a humanising way, the media can bring about change; however, there can also be detrimental effects on species by doing this. Therefore, the media have an incredibly important role in the preservation and conservation of these beloved animals.

Since childhood, we have been brought up on movies such as Disney that involve loveable animals, which we can relate to and sympathise with. The reason we are so captivated by these movies, is because animals are frequently presented as having human qualities, characteristics or abilities, this is known as anthropomorphism. “As pets, as performers, and as literary symbols, animals are forced to perform us- our fantasies and fears, our questions and quarrels, our hopes and horrors,” (Evans 2016). By humanizing the animals in these movies, we give them a human conscience and view of the world, changing the way we understand and relate to them.

Although anthropomorphism allows us to relate more to animals, it also reveals a fundamental message about humans and our egos. Instead of viewing an animals ecosystem, we view an ‘ego-system,’ in which we see species as separate from our own, “…through a self-referential human lense; anthropomorphized, sentimentalized and moralized,” (Leane & Pfennigwerth, 2011). By viewing animals in this way, it is obvious to see the egotistical way humans think and feel. We appear to lack empathy towards a species that is different to our own, unless we can find human characteristics in them. This makes their animal value lie in their ability to mimic humans, emotionally or physically.

“Let’s stop considering animals as just machines with no feelings, no emotion and no potential thinking process,” (Rose 2013).

Finding Nemo and other movies such as over the hedge and Wall-E, demonstrate the ability of anthropomorphism to have a positive affect on its audiences and animals, (Mianecki 2011). Finding Nemo brings issues such as, the destruction of sea life, pollution and even extinction to the audiences’ attention, (Tidwell 2009). Anthropomorphism allows humans to feel empathy and a connection towards animals, through this connection we want to learn more about them and consequently, try to help them, (Moss 2014). Conservation Psychologist, John Fraser, believes that, “Empathy is essential to promoting concern for animals and species, and if projecting our human perceptual world on those beings helps people on that learning path, it’s important,” (Moss 2014).

Anthropomorphism can be extremely positive towards some species, as it can allow for the creation of conservation programs. However, only the animals that are regarded to be “popular” enough, or, “cute” enough have these programs created for them, (Moss 2014). Not only that, but by creating a large amount of popularity for one type of species, detrimental effects can occur. Take the Slow Loris for example, after multiple viral videos depicting the animal being tickled or holding a cocktail umbrella, demand for the Slow Loris as a household pet dramatically increased. This has led to the illegal smuggling of the animal becoming a massive issue, (Moss 2014).

The concept of anthropomorphism can be positive if used and implemented in the right way. The media plays a crucial role in getting humans to understand, as well as to try and help these animals through the use of anthropomorphism. Although this concept does allow for humans to relate to animals better, it does not necessarily mean that we understand all there is to know about them and their behaviours and emotions. Therefore, “It is categorically wrong to say that animals don’t have thoughts and emotions, just like it’s wrong to say they are completely the same as us,” (Safina, 2015). Anthropomorphism is a powerful concept that can bring negative issues to the audiences’ attention, as well as encourage change and create empathy towards animals.


Evans, N. 2016, ‘Looking at Animals’, Lecture Week 4, BCM310: Emerging Issues in Media and Communication, UOW, 23/03/16

Leane, E & Pfennigwerth, S 2013, Marching on Thin Ice: The Politics of Penguin Films, Considering Animals, Ashgate, Surrey, England, pp.29-40

Mianecki, J. 2011, ‘Top Ten Kids Movies with a Green Theme’, Smithsonian Magazine, June 24, blog post, viewed March 27 2016, <;.

Moss, L. 2014, ‘Can humanising animals help us save them?’ Mother Nature Network, July 16, blog post, viewed March 27 2016, <;.

Rose, S 2013, ‘Are animals in Hollywood films too human?,’ The Guardia, 26 April, viewed 29 March 2016, <;.

Safina, C. (2015). Beyond Words. 2nd ed. New York City: Henry Holt and Co.

Tidwell, C 2009, ‘Environmental practice and theory in Finding Nemo,’ The Journal of American Popular Culture, vol. 8, no. 1, viewed 28 Mach 2016, <;

How one image changed the views of thousands

Images that are captured in a moment of pain and suffering are quite confronting and upsetting for those who view them. Take the image of Aylan Kurdi for example. The name alone makes many of us stop and reflect. We think about that poor boy who was just trying to find a safe place to call home. We think about the people that didn’t want us to see this picture, as it would bring to light what the mainstream media and politicians have been ignoring for so long. They didn’t want this image of Aylan Kurdi to truly reflect what refugees are, which is people, humans, the same as you and I.

Three year old, Aylan Kurdis’ lifeless, tiny body was discovered on a beach in Turkey during September in 2015, (Postles 2015). Aylan and his family had got on a boat to try and escape the Syrian Civil War. They were trying to find a better life, a secure life, one without constant worry and fear. Unfortunately, Aylan never got to experience this life, as he tragically drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. This image immediately provokes an emotional response from the viewer. It brings to light one of the biggest issues that we are currently facing today. So why is there so much debate surrounding it? There are a few questions that have to be addressed in order to answer this.

Why is this image so important in the first place?

This image brought to light an issue that many around the world have been turning a blind eye to for years. This image of Aylan Kurdi put a face to the Syrian refugee crisis, these people could no longer be viewed as faceless or nameless, they could no longer be ignored. Dr Farida Vis, the director of the Visual social media lab stated that, “Somehow this image of this child made the refugee crisis really visible…”(Postles 2015). Aylan Kurdi’s death changed the way millions of people around the world view refugees. Over 20 million people viewed this image within 12 hours and on social media, the language was changed from ‘migrant’ to ‘refugee’ within a matter of hours, (Hawes 2015). This image made it obvious that Australia’s policy of ‘ stopping the boats’ was inhumane and part of the problem.

Should this image have been published?

This question brings up another issue, is it ethical to publish these images that focus on the struggle these people are going through? I think images like this one of Aylan Kurdi are incredibly important. Not only to bring these issues to light, but also by bringing these images to the publics attention, there is the unprecedented potential to bring about change. Change is the one thing that can save these innocent people from a life that any one of us could have had if we were born in a different country.

“Perhaps the only people with the right to look at images of suffering are those who could do something to alleviate it.” (Sontag, 2003, pp. 37)

Some people believe that this picture is too offensive to share online or put in newspapers, however it is the hard-hitting nature of the image that will cause people to take notice. Why shouldn’t we look at what is occurring in our world? Why shouldn’t we be subjected to seeing the harsh reality that is the migrant crisis? The independent and many other mainstream newspapers published images of Aylan on their front pages; ‘this is an image people have to see. This is an image that can galvanize attention around a crisis that has been ignored for too long,”(Laurent 2015). These newspapers chose not to ignore what was going on, but to bring it to the forefront of the publics attention. By doing so, they brought the issue to the attention of those that have the ability to create change.

Although the mainstream newspapers did publish this image, there is a bigger problem with the media in our society today. This problem is that when something horrific occurs they are constantly talking about it, but a few hours later they have moved onto the next big story, the next horrific event. This brings up the question of whether publishing this image will actually make a difference? Will it be like the iconic image of the Vietnamese girl running for her life from a napalm explosion in 1972, which changed the world’s opinion about the war? Or will this image of Aylan Kurdi be just another Cecil the lion, or Kony, simply an Internet phenomenon for a few months until the next big story comes along? This image did in fact have an impact on policy, with the UK agreeing to take thousands more refugees (Laurent 2015). This image has provoked action, however, it still needs to be talked about and seen, it can’t get lost amongst the endless other stories that the media airs.

This image needed to be seen, it reveals the true nature of the ‘refugee crisis’ and the vulnerability and danger that comes along with people trying to flee their war torn countries. This image needed to be seen, Aylans death shouldn’t be kept quiet, it should be acknowledged and we have the ability to do something about it.

This is Aylan Kurdi, he was only three years old when humanity let him down.


Hawes E, 2015, ‘A rapid research response to the death of Aylan Kurdi’: How the social media study spread, Pulsar, viewed 18 March 2015, <;.

Knott, M 2015, ‘Drowned Syrian Toddler: Tony Abbott says ‘tragic’ picture a reminder of need to stop boats,’ The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 September, viewed 19 March 2016, <;.

Laurent, O 2015, ‘What the image of Aylan Kurdi says about the power of photography’, Time, 4 September, viewed 19 March 2016, <;.

Postles, H 2015, Aylan Kurdi: How a single image transformed the debate on immigration, The University of Sheffield, viewed 20 March 2016, <;.

Sontag, S 2003, Regarding the Pain of Others, Chapter 3, Hamish Hamilton, London, England, pp. 36-52

Let’s Reflect

“…Reflecting on work enhances its meaning. Reflecting on experiences encourages insight and complex learning,” (Costa & Kallick 2008).

Reflecting on past experiences can be beneficial in many different ways. For example, reflecting can assist in gaining insight into one’s own shortcomings in order to find areas that need improvement, finding your strengths and lastly, applying what you have learned from different experiences to benefit you in other situations. Through reflecting on my blogging over this past semester, I hope to improve my writing as well as learn more about the blogging process as a whole.

The first aspect of blogging that is highly important is that one must remember that the Internet is available to billions of people. Once the ‘publish’ button has been clicked, your views and opinions are out there for anyone with Internet access to see and read, (Couts 2011). Although we have the cyber-libertarianism belief that we all have free speech when it comes to the Internet, it is still vital to be respectful and careful about what you post online so that no one gets offended or insulted, (Thierer 2009).

The second aspect of blogging that is important is, to develop a writing style that reflects your personality and you in general. By having a unique writing style you will be able to engage with your audience. Janine Warner (2015) has some helpful hints for developing your writing style, firstly, “try to write the way you speak.” Personally, I found this quite difficult, as I wasn’t quite sure how to reflect my personality in my own writing. Over the course of my University degree, I believe my writing style has slowly started to take shape, changing from being quite formal in the beginning, to being more informal and relaxed now. Another helpful tip from Warner (2015) is to “consider your audience.” My main audience is BCM240 students; therefore, knowing that my audience are mainly young students, I have tried to keep my writing style quite informal. Knowing that I, myself would prefer to read something that engages me and isn’t too formal, I have tried to captivate and relate to my audience through an informal style. Warner (2015) also believes a blog post should be more like “a conversation,” which relates more to an informal style of writing.

Building an audience is a vital aspect of blogging, as you can read other peoples blogs as well as get feedback on your own posts. The BCM240 hashtag has been a crucial tool for me, as I have been able to read other peoples blogs and gain an insight into their thoughts on certain topics. Not only that, but it has allowed others to firstly, find my blog as well as read it and give me feedback on my writing and views. Marieke van de Rakt (2014) believes reading is essential to developing your writing style and learning how to blog effectively. By reading other BCM240 student blogs, I was able to see other people’s perspectives and understanding of the content as well as experience each individuals writing style.

Twitter is another important aspect of blogging, as it can help to expand your audience and promote your blog in a diverse public forum. John Paul Aguiar (2008) believes that, “Twitter is one of the best social sites for driving immediate traffic to your blog.” I utilized my twitter account each time I wrote a new blog post, so that my followers on Twitter were able to find my blog post on WordPress. My tweets were always accompanied by the BCM240 hashtag, which allowed my fellow students to find me on Twitter. Each week I would look through this hashtag on WordPress as well as Twitter and do a form of research by reading through blog posts about the topic for the week. I found a few of the topics hard to start writing about and by using the hashtag I was able to get an idea of what to write about from other people’s posts. In terms of other forms of research, this was one of my downfalls, as I relied on the lecture material or my own knowledge, instead of going the extra mile and finding other information. If I had done more thorough research I believe my blog posts would have been more accurate and of a higher quality.

One of the most enjoyable parts of my blogging experience was experimenting with the format and appearance of my blog. One of the most important aspects of your blogs appearance is the ability to read it. Sue Anne Dunlevie (2015) argues that, “blog writers need to format their blog posts so they’re easy to read.” If your blog is too hard to read or navigate then you will lose your audience’s interest and attention. Throughout my blogging experience I have changed my layout multiple times, aiming to make my blog easy to navigate, read and be aesthetically pleasing. My blog layout at the moment is my favourite so far, as it is simple and looks quite neat and polished. Over time I have also discovered how important a good navigation menu is, so that my viewers are able to navigate between my hashtags and posts easily.

Over the past 2 years my blogging style has significantly changed and improved. My writing style has developed to reflect more of my personality and I try to be as interesting and engaging to my audience as I can. Through reflecting on my blogging experience, I have been able to gain an insight into not only my strengths, but also my weaknesses and areas that need improvement. Through this reflection and self-evaluation I have learnt more about myself not only as a blogger, but also a student. Hopefully my writing and blogging will keep growing and developing the more I blog and reflect.


Costa, A . & Kallick, B. 2008, Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, USA.

Couts, A 2011, What happens on the Internet stays on the Internet, Digital Trends, viewed 1 October 2015, <>.

Dunlevie, S A 2015, 16 Rules of Blog Writing and Layout. Which Ones Are You Breaking? Successful Blogging, viewed 2 October 2015, <;.

Thierer, A 2009, Cyber-Libertarianism: The Case for Real Internet Freedom, The Technology Liberation Front, viewed 1 October 2015, <;.

Van de Rakt, M 2014, Writing A Blog: Obtaining An Attractive Writing Style, Yoast, viewed 2 October 2015, <>

Warner, J 2015, ‘Writing A Good Blog’, Dummies, viewed 2 October 2015, <>

Can I have your attention please?

Have you ever really thought about how much you pay attention to things? Take a TV show or movie for example. How often do you think you’re watching and paying attention only to realise that you’ve been zoned out for the past few minutes? Or think about lectures, how often do you watch the whole lecture without looking at your phone, playing a game or doing something non-related on your laptop? Not often? Me either.

Attention span “is the amount of concentrated time on a task without becoming distracted,” (Statistic Brain Research Institute 2015). According to a report released by Microsoft (2015), our attention spans in 2000 were 12 seconds, however, today they are only 8 seconds. This study reveals that humans now have a smaller attention span than goldfish, just concentrate on that for a second.

Goldfish can hold attention for longer than humans.

With phones, laptops, tablets etc., technology is now a constant in our lives, leading to an instantaneous lifestyle. We always have technology on us, leading to us constantly being online and allowing us to get information with the touch of a button. This is resulting in our attention spans deteriorating.

When watching a movie with friends I thought it would be interesting to see how often all of us looked at our phones. It was interesting to conclude that every few minutes at least one of us would pick up our phones, whether it be to reply to a message or just look through social media. Our attention never stayed solely focused on the movie for more than a few minutes and by the end we were paying more attention to9 our phones than the movie.

The Microsoft (2015) report states that, the “brain has the miraculous capability to change itself over time. It is able to rewire and form new capabilities throughout the course of one’s life. This ability allows humans to adapt both to new, or changing situations in their environment.” With so many things competing for out attention, it is no wonder that we as an audience are more easily distracted nowadays and our attention span is deteriorating.

So, although we are more social than ever before, our attention spans are shorter than ever before. With technology constantly advancing and becoming faster and faster, will our attention spans keep deteriorating or will we find a way to extend them?


Microsoft 2015, ‘Attention Span Research Report’, Microsoft Canada, Spring,

Statistic Brain Research Institute 2015, Attention Span Statistics, viewed 18th September 2015, <>.

The fine line between acceptable and unethical

We have all been guilty of taking a photo of someone in public when we think they’re doing something funny. We send it to our friends or upload it to our group messages without a second thought. What we don’t stop to think about is whether on not it’s legal or even ethical. Should we really be taking photos of people without their consent and putting it up for others to see? Well, it turns out that it is actually legal to take photos of anyone you want. In Australia, there are no publicity or personality rights, and there is no right to privacy that protects a person’s image, (Arts Law Centre of Australia 2015).

In regards to street photography, Colberg (2013) argues that although taking photos of people in public spaces without their permission or consent is legal, there are still ethical issues involved. Colberg (2013) believes that “something being legal doesn’t mean it’s ethical as well.” Street photographers need to become aware of the ethics involved with this practice and if people are uncomfortable with their photos being posted, they don’t get put online. However, it may be impractical to always ask a person’s consent, for example, if the photograph contains a lot of people, asking everyone for consent is unrealistic. Nevertheless, we should still respect people’s privacy and be willing to delete pictures if they ask.

An interesting example of street photography, or in this case street video is a viral video that has been trending after being shared on YouTube. This video is of an elderly man waiting for his wife in an airport, he is holding a bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates, (full video here). This video was taken by a member of the general public and put up on the Internet for everyone to see without the older couples knowledge or consent. Although this video is romantic and may make people believe in love again, it was something that was once private between two people but no longer is.

So my question is, was it ethical?

Many users on Reddit believe the video is creepy and disturbing, one user said, “Do the people recording even know this dude? Why are they recording this?” (Christian 2015). Another user stated, “Absolutely agree, it’s weird and disrespectful to do that. I would be pissed if someone did that to me, even though it happened in a public place I would not like if someone recorded it and posted it online for everyone to see,” (Christian 2015). Personally, I don’t believe this video is ethical, this moment was between two people who have no knowledge of being videoed and aren’t aware that thousands of people have seen it. The person who uploaded it should have asked the couples consent before posting it online for people around the world to see.

So, in regards to public space ethnography and photography, there is a fine line between what is acceptable to take pictures or videos of, and what comes across as creepy or invading someone’s privacy. With technology everywhere nowadays it’s almost expected that pictures and videos will be taken of us without our consent. Whether it be via Snapchat or CCTV, however, it is still important that people respect each other’s privacy and before putting anything online ask yourself if you were doing what you are photographing or videoing, would you mind if it was put online for others to see?


Arts Law Centre of Australia, 2015, Street photographer’s rights, viewed September 12 2015, <;.

Colberg, J 2013, ‘The Ethics of Street Photography’, Conscientious Extended, blog post, April 3, viewed September 13 2015, <;.

Christian, N 2015, Elderly couple makes us believe in love again but was it creepy to film them?, Seven News, viewed September 13 2015, <;.