Since presenting my draft proposal and my other ideas last week to both the tutors and my colleagues, it was great to get feedback and be able to be steered into a clearer position for my proposition.
Initially, I had a handful of ideas and not much to go on from there. From speaking to my colleagues and showing them my key points, they preferred the ‘Borders’ idea in testing 18-24 year old’s knowledge of where key locations regarding refugees were. Example questions would include: Please point to where you believe Manus Island is/Nauru/etc., and see how educated our youth are by going past the surface of the issue. I recorded their feedback in dot points:
Further draw on the ‘Border’ idea on what is open, and what is not
Look up the Passport Index for design example where it shows you what countries you can visit and receive a visa, from high to low. Syria, Iran and Afghanistan have the fewest opportunities to travel.
Research on who is permitted through the borders of Australia
Manus Island and Nauru plot example
Point out how little we understand on this topic
See how terminology usage has changed and developed over time. E.g. ‘migrants’, ‘asylum seekers’ and ‘refugees’
Their feedback was great and although I loved their preference to the Borders concept, I felt like it could be pushed further also. I also took the chance to go back and read through all my blog posts, pick out key points and reoccurring themes to reflect on what I gravitated to with the issue of Refugees and Asylum Seekers. This included themes associated with education, children and stereotyping. From there I did another brainstorm, this time keeping the 18-24 audience in mind, to see if I could create anything further along with the ‘Borders’ idea.
I came up with a new concept that I will propose in class this week. It relates quite well with my previous blog posts and draws on my perspectives and passions for this issue. I’ve named it ‘Cut & Paste’ which will look into Service Design Practice, and focus on informing the youth and reminding them to choose their news sources wisely as their education is a choice from the age of 18 – whether or not they decide to enrol in tertiary study. The strong bias held within news media in Australia and social media news sites can seem to steer from the real truth of refugees and Australia. From this project, the ideal outcome would be to highlight how news media sites have control over perceptions of a range of topics – along with refugees. There seems to be some sort of gap between the public’s perception of refugees; with both political parties, and the Australian public, polarising the issue.
Design action would start by surveying the 18-24 audience and asking what their main source of everyday news is, from a range of newspapers to social media sources. From there, I will analyse the most frequently visited websites and analyse their perceptions of refugees from previous articles, as well as pull keywords and recurring themes from the stories to construct a refugee persona.
I’m not too sure if this idea is too complicated as the ‘Borders’ idea sounds a lot more simpler and easier to survey, but I will present both to the class and see what they think. Reflecting from this and my previous posts, it has been really insightful being able to research this topic for a full semester and drawing your own perspectives and interests into this project.
My research has informed a broader understanding of issues related to refugees and asylum seekers.
I’ve explored the complexity of this area through a variety of institutional and individual perspectives, particularly those of the government, media, and the broader community. A large part of my research has involved researching the experiences of detainees through their self-published media, as I believe that it’s these personal connections and relationships which have the ability to shift public consciousness and lead to change.
Problem Statement: Since the early 2000s, the Australian government and the media have politicized refugee and asylum seeker issues. Our government and current legal system have endorsed a societal complacency in relation to these issues, through the introduction of policies like mandatory offshore processing and media blackouts within detention centres. Our media, often referring to and depicting asylum seekers as ‘swarms’ and ‘masses’ have successfully alienated them from Australian society, to the point where the majority of Australians believe that they are unworthy of our protection. If racist attitudes towards those seeking asylum aren’t challenged, these attitudes permeate within our society and will further normalize amongst a larger proportion of the community.
In my project I hope to shift public perceptions and attitudes towards refugees and asylum seekers by focusing on refugees’ subjectivity, recognizing and acknowledging the sense of identity they have had taken from them.
I would like to explore a design solution that brings a sense of tangibility to the experiences of refugees who are too often overlooked and sidelined.
One way to convey this would be to compare lives of refugees in detention to those of people in Australia. When I was looking at Twitter accounts of refugees in offshore detention centres, it occurred to me how limited their daily experience is. One way to visualise the lack of activity and stimulation experiences by detainees and asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus might be to look at how people attempt to deal with the boredom and mundanity of detention. This could be explored through posts made by asylum seekers on Twitter, which provide an insight into objects and ideas in their daily routine. These posts highlight how people in indefinite detention struggle to find ways to navigate the sense of limbo that characterises their situation. These insights are rarely communicated in traditional media, thereby, thereby, affirming detainees’ humanity.
Another more tangible option would be a comparison of of physical space and the torment that people go through when they are fleeing persecution, for instance making a model of the size of the boat in the Tampa incident (2001), or the houses which are in Manus and Nauru. This might be visualized through pieces of paper or a physical measurement of the space.
It is our responsibility to engage with these issues as they concern fundamental human rights: to live free from persecution, to self-expression and fulfillment, and to seek asylum when these rights are curtailed.
Summarising what I’ve learnt, not only by doing this blog post but through the entirety of my research (to five simple points):
The extent to which media content is informed by its political context.
The effect the media and government have had on the narratives related to refugee and asylum seeker issues.
A dehumanizing portrayal of refugees can lead to fear and disengagement within the public.
Refugees and asylum seekers in detention have used twitter as a platform to express counter narratives to mainstream media.
Tangible experiences allow audiences to greater relate to an issue and the human experiences behind that issue.
Wallman, S, Unselfconscious Space (2014)
The group session in Week 6 was very helpful in being able to fine tune and further narrow down such a large global issue. Each of us took turns in proposing our draft ideas and we all gave each other feedback and critique, as well as keywords which could possibly break down the topics even further. Our strengths included the abilities in dissecting a global issue and picking out important key issues, as well as since we have been exposed to this topic and avidly researching this semester so far – we are able to deduce the mass amounts of information available and hone in on ones that more suitable and important.
In terms of weaknesses, as the issue of Refugees and Asylum Seekers is of a global scale, it is difficult to cover all points both on a national and international degree as they do contrast and conflict each other at times. Also, during our exercise, there were many keywords and points associated with each proposition. However, these in context appeared very broad (e.g. Human Rights, Corporations, Refugees, etc.), and needed further iterations in order to be able to breakdown the point more specifically. Further weakness’ included difficulty in order to approach the issue in a different perspective as it has such a chronological history and is still being recorded today in our society. Also, we found that as university students at UTS, there was some bias in having more of a left-wing approach due to our exposure and environment.
During our tutorials in Week 6, we worked together as a group to dissect topics of interest within the Refugee & Asylum Seeker issue in order to further narrow down our design response possibilities.
The brainstorm in class was a good start, and it allowed me to dissect this huge global issue that has many facets to consider. My five findings, which are possibilities to further explore in Task 3, include the following:
The overburdening effect of Refugees and Asylum Seekers on developing countries. This particular topic resonated with me as Australia’s push towards countries such as Papua New Guinea, Cambodia and Indonesia ignores the more ethical decision, which is to allow them to assimilate into countries such as New Zealand, where the country itself has adequate grounds and means for refugees to rebuild their lives with a positive outcome. Due to previous and current examples of Australia’s treatment of Refugees and Asylum Seekers on Nauru, Manus Island and Papua New Guinea, it is clear that their current actions aren’t humane, as various media sources have revealed the mistreatment and abuse given to the refugees.
Borders. This was a further iteration from dissecting the first point which focuses on the borders between citizens and asylum seekers. Asking where they are, what does the borders look like, how these fences create a divide both physically and emotionally. Gemma helped me pull this keyword and highlight the potential of this word, as well as ‘gap’.
Refugee and Asylum Seeker Terminology. Since this issue has been covered highly in the media and been a topic of interest recently – it would be really insightful to see how terminology regarding refugees and asylum seekers have changed in regards to frequency of use, negative or positive stigma and how the media utilises keywords to project their opinions to it’s readers.
Perception of ‘Us versus Them’. From my research so far in this subject, there has been a prominent reoccurrence with divided teams on the subject. Refugees versus Citizens, Media versus Residents, Politics versus Refugees. There is a possibility to create a probe and ask the audience what their perceptions and views are on Refugees and Asylum Seekers in contrast to what the media has dictated so far.
What constitutes one to become an activist? This last topic is a little vague, but could be a survey on analysing what it takes for people to stand up and push for their views. I could analyse what people are passionate about, what they hate, don’t care for or just are amicable with. This could further understand why people select issues and support them in comparison to others – no matter what the issue is and it’s urgency.
My draft proposal would be to analyse 18-24 year olds in Sydney and test their knowledge on locating where the refugee borders are on a map, including Australia’s policy as well as that of Europe and the rest of the world. It could be really interesting to be able to see how educated we as first world citizens are, as well as draw attention to the global crisis and display the significant gap between refugees in need of help versus people who are comfortable in their lifestyle.
I found this task of collaborative issue mapping exercise very clear and informative. Being able to discuss and brainstorm elements such as stakeholders, polemics and emotions led me to able to breakdown the overwhelming list of factors that affect the global issue of Refugee and Asylum Seekers since it has become such a heavy issue in today’s society.
This exercise informed my approach to issues regarding to Refugees and Asylum seekers by being able to map out a range of perspectives and also understand the emotive aspect behind their judgements. It also allowed us to explore the extremes of each argument and further analyse this in the polemic exercise and see how one would view, react to, and approach the emerging issue.
In regards to possible actions designed to create change nationally, I personally think that there should be some sort of exposure to a range of perspectives within mainstream media. I believe we should be able to inform the Australian public, using facts and opinions from both sides and allowing them to decide, in contrast to the major bias apparent in media sources, politics and education. Education has become a key recurring factor in regards the public forming opinions in regards to refugees. Another possible action would be to break down borders in all terminologies, both physical and mental, as this has had such an obvious effect on the refugee crisis – spanning from emotional distress at the detention camps to political outrage on debate shows such as ABC’s Q&A. In order to be able to resolve this ever growing issue, we the people, need to be able to stay informed, challenge the dominant ideas and provide support to those in need.
Scraping the web for data allows one to gain an insight into what a broad, but generalised swathe of what the online community thinks. This was particularly relevant in my interest with Refugee and Asylum Seeker issues as I find the differing perspectives and opinions very insightful.
With the Advanced Search on Twitter, I started quite broadly. I used simple hashtags and key terms such as ‘refugee’, ‘asylum’ and ‘migrant’ to try and gauge the general, majority opinion that Twitter users were broadcasting, both in Australia and overseas. Along with this, by doing the Twitter scrape via Google documents, I was able to further filter these keywords and build upon my initial findings.
The majority of tweets which were picked up revolved around Australia’s treatment of refugees since the issue of detention centres and border control systems are so highly criticised in recent times, as well as these issues being prominent in the media. In addition to this, Australia was contrasted with other countries in regard to discussing how these countries approach the issue of refugees, with users highlighting the differences in policy between these nations.
The five key points that I took from this exercise were:
Most tweets from within Australia seemed quite left-wing and supportive of refuges, with more popular tweets being created by the news media and NGO’s such as the Refugee Council of Australia and the ABC. There was a lot of critique about the mistreatment of asylum seekers and support in closing down the detention centres.
Children have become the unofficial face of the issues. Tweets which linked to articles about specific events, rather than general trends, usually contained imagery of children. These tweets linked the effect the current treatment of refugees and asylum seekers to the innocence of youth.
No single hashtag was predominant. In my previous research so far, the only major hashtag that could be relevant to refugees would be the negative #stoptheboats or also general tweets in regards to #humanrights, #manus and #nauru, as well as #qanda which continuously resurfaces the debate with refugees consistently.
There was much more news media coverage as compared to individual tweets, though this is most likely a result of the algorithm favouring tweets which received a high number of likes or retweets, both of which a media page is more likely to receive.
The social media source that I’ve chosen to explore in this web scraper is twitter. As I’m sure you will now know, Twitter is a platform that enables the user to read and post 140-character messages, photos and videos. In this format, Twitter amplifies the nature of 24/7 media. The reactionary nature of social media serves to speed up the cycle of reporting and opinions. Hash tags and trending subjects both reflect traditional media and generate organic content.
It’s is a platform that enables the user to read and post 140-character messages, photos and videos. Since its inception in 2006, Twitter has evolved into a platform that fosters political engagement and discussion from a grassroots level, giving a voice to ordinary people and breaking down traditional barriers of entry to publication and media. The accessibility of Twitter is also what makes this platform a valuable resource for marginalised groups of people to push policies and engage in politics in ways that they were unable to do prior.
Finding Humanity in Data
With this unique feature in mind I aimed to explore how refugees on Manus Island and Nauru were using the platform to express their views, interests and emotions.
I began doing this by using a Google chrome add-on that archives the history of a particular hash tags –Twitter Archive. I looked up the hash tags #bringthemhere and #letthemstay, the current trending hash tags in Australia used for refugee issues.
In the initial stages of this scrape I looked at how much the content of tweets were shaped by their context, by looking for hash tag patterns in geographic location. However, as this progressed I realised that I was shifting the focus onto the Australian population and away from the refugees. To accompany for this, I realised that maybe I was scraping for the wrong type of data and I needed to focus on a more abstract type of data to render the type of results I wanted.
Whilst my search for relevant data in this focus area was fruitless, I found an account which was repeatedly showing up with and IP address from Papua New Guinea. When I clicked on the hyperlink it took me to the page of a 25 year old Iraqi refugee.
When I visited the page, I was invited to follow other refugees who were on twitter and talking about their time and experiences in offshore immigration detention centres.
I documented a selection of posts on each profile which were the most popular via retweet or favoriting. The results of these indicate that twitter users were more responsive to tweets that was organic and original in content and / or personal opinion and/ or personalised through use of emoticons. It was these results that prompted my interest in the use of language and expression as a form of data.
Of these profiles I ran an analytics program through to see which words were most common on each of the profiles, what were the most used hashtags, and what time of day they were each posting at.
The results are indicative of the humanity of people in detention; each user has an individual mode of self-expression. This subjectivity of refugees is often erased in the media, which tends to depersonalise refugees and thereby strip them of their identity. Looking at the analytics of these results provide insight to the similarities and differences between the accounts and highlighted the individuality of each refugee as it would for an ordinary person.
As the nature of my research has been predominantly towards representation of refugees in the media vs the media generated by refugees it would be interesting to explore avenues in which I could emphasise the humanity and ordinariness of refugees.
A manner in which I think this could be most effective is by considering the opposite spectrums of similar situations, comparing the spaces of Australian suburbia with Nauru and Manus. In a brainstorm of ways I could do this is looking at physical items like objects, people, space, and abstract items like dreams, ideas, language and feelings.
Image: Wallman, S. A Guard’s Story, 2014
The next step was to look into emergent practices and find a design response to an issue related to homelessness. There are many types of emergent practices, and the following project is an example of design actvitism, or social design.
In order to better understand the complexity of the refugee and asylum seeker issue, our class groups spent some time mapping the participants and actors involved. Further to this, I individually spent time collecting an archive of ten visual sources related to the issue. Annotating these images, I was able to compare and contrast the meaning expressed with the perspectives and opinions voiced in the text sources I collected in earlier weeks.
Part 1: Mapping the participants
For our first mapping attempt, we brainstormed the most influential human and non-human stakeholders. We then used rapid mind mapping to further break down each of these clusters into several smaller actors which exert influence of the issue.
Reflecting upon this initial map, it became clear that many clusters were interconnected and certainly not mutually exclusive, revealing other major stakeholders that were not previously noted.
Building upon this initial attempt, I later developed a new collection of major stakeholders, and spent some time attempting to arrange these in hierarchical order. Starting with those actors which I perceived to be the most influential, I worked my way from top to bottom, re-arranging the post-it notes multiple times until I settled on a set of hierarchical layers.
The difficulty of this process further reinforced the complexity of the issue, with a definite hierarchy being nearly impossible to deduce due to the inextricable links between many participants. For example, asylum seekers and refugees themselves have fairly low influence or control over the outcome of their settlement, however without them, the issue would cease to exist in the first place. Thus, they could be thought of as either sitting at the top or bottom of the hierarchy.
Similarly, the media, public opinion, votes and government policy are all continuously influencing each other in a highly complex and non-linear manner, making it impossible to define which of these is more significant than the other.
Lastly, I then translated this hierarchical attempt to a new map, in which not only the major stakeholders, but also the smaller actors were included. Once again, this made clear the highly complex nature of the issue, as more chain relationships, overlaps and links became evident.
None of these maps can be considered to be exhaustive, evidenced by the appearance of more and more participants with each successive attempt. However, they are still an extremely valuable tool, providing me with the ability to gain an initial grasp of the scope of the issue and the many actors which influence upon it.
Part 2: Image Archive
Next, I sourced ten images related to asylum seekers and refugees, in order to analyse the dialogue sustained by each, and compare these to the opinions expressed in text sources featured in earlier posts.
Source 1. Close Nauru
In light of the recent leakage of reports from within Nauru, public outrage surrounding the mistreatment and abuse of offshore detainees has increased in volume. Echoing the statements of Keeya-Lee Ayre and Malcolm P. Fyfe in my previous blog post, this image represents public demand for the government to cease offshore detention and close facilities.
The contrast between the sky-writing and the coat of arms atop of the building symbolises the growing contrast between the publicly held opinion and government policy, as an increasing number of Australians express dissatisfaction at the treatment of refuges and asylum seekers.
Source 2. LeakedNauru Report
Recently leaked from Nauru, this source includes a teacher’s first-hand description of the distress and discouragement experienced by their detainee students. Echoing a number of text sources on the negative effects of Temporary Protection Visas on refugee mental health, the teacher highlights the TPV’s lack of guarantee as the cause of the emotional stress experienced by the children.
Source 3. Detained children
Taken by an adult asylum seeker, this image further highlights the negative experiences of children in detention. Using short statements to communicate their frustration, desperate pleas such as ‘take us from the hell’ and ‘we are humans just like others’ once again echo the statements of Ayre and Fyfe surrounding the injustice of detention, and the moral responsibility of the Australian government to treat these asylum seekers in a more humane manner.
Source 4. Deportation protest
Taken outside the High Court in Canberra in February of this year, this image depicts a group of protestors from the #LetThemStay movement: an action committee determined to stop the deportation of refugees (especially children) to offshore detention centres in Manus Island and Nauru.
Once again representing public animosity towards government policy allowing the detainment of children, the image highlights the disparity between the altruism of pro-refugee community groups and the harsh border protection policies of the federal government.
Source 5. Detained child
In this image, an asylum seeker uses symbols of love and peace to disassociate himself from extremist terrorist groups such as ISIS. The idea represented in the image contrasts significantly with the sentiments expressed by public figures such as Pauline Hanson and Sonia Kruger, who have been recognised in television interviews as associating terrorism with Islam, and calling for an end to Muslim immigration for this very reason.
Representing the idea that terrorism has no religion, the image rebuts these sentiments and symbolises the plea for acceptance, safety and protection made by many peace-loving asylum seekers and refugees.
Source 6. Omran Daqneesh
This image depicts a young boy in an ambulance, waiting for treatment after being rescued from his recently bombed home in Aleppo, Northern Syria. The extreme shock and trauma of the event is clearly illustrated by the boy’s bloodied face, frightened facial expression and frozen posture as he waits for assistance.
From the text sources I have collected, it seems that the Australian media generally gives more focus to the problem of trying to resettle asylum seekers, rather than to the actual root of the displacement: the conflict in Syria. In contrast, this image serves as a reminder of the real danger being faced by those who are caught in this conflict, thus justifying the desperation of those seeking asylum.
Source 7. Cartoon
Satirising the Australian government’s offshore processing policy, this cartoon uses wordplay to represent the widespread public ignorance of the deplorable practices of detention. Out of sight alludes to the lack of accountability perpetuated by the physical distance of the camps from the Australian mainland, whilst out of their minds alludes to the detrimental effect of detention on the mental health of those within.
Resonating with the text sources I have already collected, this image represents a growing public objection to secretive and immoral government policies regarding the offshore detention of refugees.
Source 8. Inclusive billboard
In the form of a peaceful campaign, members of Gosford Anglican Church vocalise their support of the Australian Muslim community. Despite the mutual exclusivity of the Christian and Islamic faiths, this religious group practices a loving and non-discriminatory approach to their fellow community members, standing for the inclusion and respectful treatment of all peoples regardless of race or religion.
The sentiments represented in this image contrast with the sentiments of Pauline Hanson noted in previously collected text sources regarding the dangerous links between Halal certification, the Islamic faith and extremist terrorism.
Source 9. Detained men
Emotionally arresting, this image represents the reality of what life is like for those detained in offshore processing camps. The men pressed up against the fence communicate a confronting and immediate picture of the sense of entrapment experienced by those who are imprisoned.
Lacking freedom and subsequently also lacking hope, the slumped shoulders and crossed arms of the detainees highlight their demoralized and depressed state, with the high angle shot reinforcing their helplessness. The piercing gaze of the man staring upward hints at the desperation experienced by these refugees, brought on by the deplorable conditions in which they are forced live indefinitely.
Image 10. Child’s drawing
Similar to the previous image, this drawing presents a confronting insight into the realities of offshore detention, and the damaging effects of such on the mental health of children. Drawn by a child asylum seeker in Nauru, the image powerfully contrasts the freedom and happiness of an Australian citizen with the claustrophobic entrapment and sadness of a refugee.
Placing the two side by side, the child has reduced the physical distance between the Australian mainland and the offshore camps, bringing the deplorable conditions to the attention of the Australian public. Drawn from the child’s own experiences and emotions, the picture profoundly echoes the sentiments of text sources I collected, which insist upon the inhumane and mentally detrimental nature of children’s detainment.
In order to deepen my understanding of the issue of refugees and asylum seekers, I identified two scholarly sources to add to my archive of research. Analysing these two pieces allowed me to reach past the often surface level opinions presented in popular media and gain insight into the more substantial and factual perspectives of peer-reviewed authors.
Source 1. Europe, don’t copy Australia Keeya-Lee Ayre for the Forced Migration Review
Source 2. Letter to the Prime Minister Father Malcolm P. Fyfe for Compass
For my scholarly research, I decided to focus on discussion surrounding Australia’s current Asylum Seekers’ Policy, particularly from those who have chosen to position themselves as activists for its reform. Keeya-Lee Ayre, a writer, researcher and Masters student of Applied Anthropology and Participatory Development, highlights the pitfalls of Australia’s current policy of turning away asylum seekers in her piece titled Europe, don’t copy Australia.
Affiliated with the Australian National University, Keeya writes for the Forced Migration Review, bringing with her a background in international development, humanitarianism, multimedia journalism and social enterprise.
Writing regularly about issues of social impact, Ayre uses this piece to question the morality of Australian anti asylum-seeker rhetoric, by dismantling the politically constructed distinction between good and bad refugees that lies behind the current policy of turning back the boats. Highlighting this as a contravention of international law, she deplores the government’s evil portrayal of those seeking protection, and demands that the human rights of these individuals be respected.
Father Malcolm P. Fyfe’s Letter to the Prime Minister echoes a number of Ayre’s sentiments. The Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese Darwin, Fyfe is not a regular contributor to any journals, nor has he written substantially about refugee issues before.
He does, however, write from his own first-hand encounters and conversations with detainees, as a ministering Priest. Furthering Ayre’s questioning of the government’s portrayal of asylum seekers, Fyfe expresses his frustration regarding the demonisation and inhumane treatment of ‘our fellow human beings’ (Fyfe 2016).
Requesting the closure of offshore detention centres, the Vicar General’s point of view is one that is becoming increasingly common among the public. I agree with both Ayre and Fyfe in their appeals for the government’s recognition of Australia’s moral and international obligations as a signatory of the Refugee Convention.
I was ten when I stopped believing in magic. It was the day that Tim told me the hard truth about Santa behind the demountables after recess. Everything seemed utterly underwhelming after that. A tree was a tree, a chair was a chair…