This post is structured around an informal interview that was conducted on the 16th August 2016 between the researcher, Rose McEwen and Participant A and a probe that was conducted throughout the period between the 16-30th August 2016.
Interviews and probes are a form of primary research, allowing researchers to collect original and unique data, generating new insights. The goal of this research was to allow discussion around refugees and explore some of the reasons behind our societal desensitisation and apathy towards offshore detention centres and the treatment of refugees.
The participant began the conversation by identifying as ‘uneducated’ in refugee issues. They said that they cared but ‘wouldn’t go out of their way to get involved’ and felt as though they needed to be more educated in order to participate in refugee activism or volunteer work.
Upon enquiry into the participants’ views on immigration they said they had concerns about safety and space, although they believed that immigration detention centres and strict policies were not the solution.
‘’I don’t think it [immigration] should be less strict because I’m concerned about people coming into the country and keeping the country safe, but I just feel like there has to be something better than what there is. . . I suppose just knowing who people are when they come into the country. Like where do you put everyone? What if we start letting people in and then everybody will come”
During the interview there was discussion around the context of the refugee discussions, which revealed how exposure and education played a significant role in an individuals engagement in the subject matter.
The participant said that they lived on the northern beaches in a community that wasn’t very multicultural or political.
“I think it’s one of those issues that I’ve stuck my head in the sand about because I don’t feel like I can make an impact. My way of caring about issues is when I socialise with people and when I come into contact with people. I’ve never met a refugee, I’ve never met or seen anyone who has been effected by those issues apart from the news where you become so desensitised.”
When questioned on her lack of motivation to self educate, the participant said that the mainstream media sometimes made her feel indifferent towards refugees as it was talked about so much. Secondary sources confirm that in the last two decades the Australian government has worked to perpetuate the indifference of the public by moving detention centres offshore and away from public eye. We can see this through the enforcement of policies such as temporary protection visas to offshore processing and total media blackouts at the offshore camps.
One of most interesting and important aspects of the interview process was that it helped confirm my belief that the Australian government and media have effectively promoted widespread apathy towards humanitarian crises. This interview process has helped me identify an audience for my design research and enlightened me to some of the causations of societal desensitisation and apathy to tragedy and trauma.
- Government policies for offshore processing and low media coverage of camps perpetuate attitudes of indifference in the Australian public.
- The interview highlighted that a lack of education or knowledge is a barrier for people to connect with the refugee issues and activism. .
- The media and community greatly contributes to an individual’s exposure and education towards an issue. In a sense the context greatly informs content.
- The target audiences for my research and design project are (1) People who are interested but uninvolved in refugee issues and (2) People who don’t care about refugee issues.
Brief: The probe given to the participants was to look through their respective local newspapers (Manly Daily, Inner West Courier, Mosman Daily and St Mary’s Standard) since the beginning of the year and note when articles were written on refugees. They were asked to note the date of the issue and whether the author was writing favourably or against immigration laws and multiculturalism within Australia.
Below is a visualisation of the information that I collected for my probe.
The results of this probe indicate particular and nuanced attitudes held within different geographical areas in Sydney. In the Inner West Courier, there were no negatively geared articles written about refugees and were overall written about more than any of the other areas. The Manly Daily had a mixed bag of articles, seemingly trying to appeal to generally conservative audience. In line with these results, Mosman Daily had almost no coverage of refugee issues. Minor issues occurred within the probe, mainly from resulting from a misunderstanding of an article. The subtlety of language and tone of voice are techniques that continue to shape mainstream narratives of refugees and play a major part in media consumption and public perception. These issues were clarified and adjusted accordingly.
Wallman, S, A Guard’s Tale (2014)