Post 8 — Brainstorming for possibilities

During the last few weeks of research, I have identified attitudes to be a primary actor for change within this issue. I plan to further investigate how these are formed and how they have the potential to sway other attitudes that exist on an intermediary level. I also want to look into how they have the ability prompt change and influence not only public decisions, but political decisions as well.

 

Problem Statement:

Over the last decade, Australia has seen an increasing number of refugees arriving by boat with different ethnic backgrounds. This is the tragic and drastic result of war, persecution and corruption in their home countries. With the numbers of refugees increasing, so do tensions between and amongst different stakeholder groups (such as the Australian public, the government, human rights organisations and refugees). Many people have formed strong attitudes about the issue and refuse to look at information that may present an alternative perspective. These irrational attitudes are dangerous and counterproductive as they have the power to influence the masses and stimulate more conflict, rather than contribute to finding viable solutions.

By clarifying my problem statement, I was able to gather all of my thoughts on the issue into a concise brief that I can address in the Task 3. I brought this problem to the attention of my peers and we began dissecting the details and probing for reasons in which they may influence the formation of other attitudes towards asylum seekers. I really valued the exchange of different perspectives and insights from my peers in this task.

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During the mapping exercise, my group often attributed emotions as a primary factor that influences attitudes. I considered the context of these emotive words and it seemed as though my peers were implying that attitudes against open border policies are driven by negative emotions, such as fear, discrimination and selfishness, where as those in favour are described with positive emotive words such as tolerance, passionate and generosity. This showed similarities with my twitter data scraping findings — where similar attitudes were presented by other young adults and university-educated people.

Not only did I find mapping out my problem to be helpful, but I also gained some perspective about other problems surrounding the asylum seeker issue. We created a map that addressed how refugees experience trauma in detention. We explored traumatic experiences that refugees often endure and how this effects themselves, their family and the community. We also looked at who or what is responsible for inflicting this trauma and how it is/should be handled.

Possibilities

  1. Build long-term relationships between Australian public and refugees.
    Tensions exist between the Australian public and refugees of different ethnicities because of a lack of cultural understanding between both groups. If mutual acceptance and respect was found and maintained, perhaps there would be less conflicting perspectives.
  2. Encourage people with one-sided attitudes to see the issue from another perspective. Many people already have strong views on this topic and often refuse to acknowledge valid information that may compromise their beliefs. However, if people were exposed to a variety of resources and information, perhaps everyday discourse about asylum seekers would be more rational and valid, rather than fueled by emotion or bigotry.
  3. Understand patterns in changing shifts of attitudes towards asylum seekers.
    Monitor and collect data regarding the changing attitudes towards asylum seekers. This may be difficult to visualise numerically or geographically as it is based on qualitative data, rather quantitative. However, this potential avenue of research would assist in understanding the mediators that drive these changes, and how they can be utilised to endorse positive attitudes towards both the Australian public and refugees, rather than encourage tensions.
  4. Focus on how political orientations affect attitudes.
    My results from the data scraping task suggested that people’s attitudes towards social issues are often swayed by their political values and beliefs. This finding was supported when I was able to draw associations between Twitter bio’s that mentioned/implied a political orientation with the tweets that they posted.
  5. Compare lifestyles and situations to evoke a sense of empathy.
    I believe that the most effective way to encourage people to have a well-rounded understanding and attitude towards the issue is by being able to empathise with those that are involved.

Proposal 1.

My proposal responds to the 2nd possibility listed above which aims to encourage people with one-sided attitudes to see the issue from another perspective. The concept is to design a twitterbot that distinguishes the general attitude a person may have (based on language  of their messages and hashtags) and reply with a tweet from someone with an alternative perspective. As many people are blinded by stubborn attitudes, bigotry and emotion, a twitterbot would force people to look at other facts and perspectives, rather than just dig the head in the sand. From my data scraping research, I also found that many people were passively involved in the debate as they merely retweeted other peoples statements, rather than expressing their own thought. A twitterbot would encourage people to conduct their own research in order to respond and make a valid rebuttal.

This concept could result with people either learning new things and becoming more open minded about the issue or end with them hurling abusive tweets at one another in an attempt to triumph in petty twitter debates. Hopefully, if I am tactful in the design of the twitterbot, it would stimulate further research by the general public, rather than provoke those with opposite views. The last thing I want is to encourage more hostility in an already tense and controversial issue.

Proposal 2 (another concept I am considering).

In a democratic society, I believe that the government has a responsibility to represent the majority of opinions expressed by citizens of that nation. From my Twitter data scraping research, this is not the case in Australia as I found that majority of the tweets that responded to asylum seekers presented negative attitudes towards the government’s current policies and handling of the situation. My proposal focuses on the emergent area of information visualisation to depict the landslide number of tweets that are pro asylum seekers, as opposed to those who are anti asylum seekers. This information would be presented as an official Government document that contains a record of every tweet made by an Australian about asylum seekers.
The twitter data would be typeset and tabulated in a sophisticated manner and presented to Government bodies and policy makers. The contrasting sizes of the bound documents act as a tangible and visual representation of public attitudes (from Twitter) and instantly convey that the majority of Twitter users disagree with current refugee policies.

 

 

References:
Latour, B., 2007. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory (Clarendon Lectures in Management Studies). 1st Edition. Oxford University Press.
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