Socially Retarded: Big Business and Online Media

It’s a sad world in the blogosphere! It seems like social media – once the platform for University/office procrastination, then the mechanism for commercial public relations management- has again evolved.

For a small while, corporate Facebook and Twitter pages allowed key stakeholders to communicate their attitudes, beliefs, wants, needs and fears to a company who for the first time seemed to care. They provided a two-way communication model for smart companies to tweak their products and services to match what the people wanted.

However as the juggernaught that is social media has taken off, it seems every company on the market place is attempting to jump on the bandwagon…and falling abysmally short.

Toyota’s “Clever Film Competition” supported by Saatchi & Saatchi saw entrants posting videos in an attempt at starting a viral ad campaign. One video – “Clean Getaways” was laden with sexual innuendo and borderline explicit language and has sparked outrage as featuring undertones of sexism and incest (See full article on Mumbrella). Yet Toyota stands by this ad claiming it is “clever” and” funny”. If Toyota is trying to be edgy and relevant it has completely overshot its mark.

Which brings me to Westpac. The condescending Westpac “banana smoothie” video has been slammed as one of the biggest PR disasters of 2009. The scandal, now known as “bananagate” saw Westpac customers linked to an instructional animation with the opening lines “Once upon a time…”. The video compared interest rates to banana smoothies and was an attempt to justify their interest rate rise nearly double that of the Reserve bank.

Westpac, who it seems were spurred on by the marketing catch cries “viral marketing” and “word of mouth”, decided to run with the ad. They have shown the marketplace a classic example as to why the use of social media for commercial gain rather than as a two-way communication tool can send your company bananas. And Toyota? Lets just say they are going to have to bend over and take what is coming…



An Open Letter to the University of Sydney

18 November 2009

The University of Sydney
City Road
Sydney NSW 2006

RE: Your inability to get your shit together

Dear University,

I am contacting you in reference to the recent years I have spent at this educational institution. I wish to point out a number of areas in which I think you could greatly improve the services you deliver to students who pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of this education, and as such have provided you with a brief outline of particular aspects in need of close attention.

Firstly, your administrative services: or should I say, non-services. I understand that admin functions have largely been outsourced to private firms. The consequences of doing so are only too apparent every single time a student such as myself is shunted from one faculty office to another, due to admin staff’s inability to start work before midday, or simply to even give a fuck. Working in administrative and client services myself for over a year has demonstrated to me the importance of working an eight hour work day and making sure customers feel that they have your full attention. Maybe admin staff at the university need a reminder that working in a university rather than a large corporation should not mean that they are permitted to work a pissy little five-hour workday, nor does it entitle them to carry on pointless conversations with fellow staff while students wait in line to submit or collect assignments. When considering the increasing amount of administrative work that is self-administered by students via the MyUni website, it is surprising that the admin staff feel secure enough about their jobs to continue engaging in such behaviour – perhaps now is the time to consider replacing them with computers altogether?

Another area of concern is the examination facilities and the conduct of exams in general at the university. A case in point is the recent second year personality psychology exam in which students were forced to sit the exam in a bug-infested engineering room. Attendees were informed that it was too late for pest-control to arrive, or for the examination to be moved to another room. I sincerely hope that since exam staff deemed it too ‘inconvenient’ to move to another room, that markers will not have any complaints over marking multiple choice papers in which the answers are unclear due to the insects’ blood spatters all over the page.

One aspect in which the university needs to take a good long look at its level of commitment to students is in the quality of tutorials. Your official website informs me that the standard ratio is one teacher to 16.5 students. I am going to call bullshit on this. I have never once experienced a tutorial that consisted of less than twenty students, many of whom frequently struggled to have a seat or have a say. Perhaps some of the huge amounts of money that the university takes off international students or from room hire could be channelled into hiring more staff, rather than overworking the existing academic staff or squeezing more students into existing classes.

Finally, the environment of the university is generally a pleasant one, apart from the menacing wildlife that are usually allowed to stalk the grounds with impunity. Recent evidence has shown that ibii birds, in particular, were behind the spread of avian flu, the global financial crisis, 9/11, and the NSW Labor Party. Please see “Ibii implicated in recent disasters.”

When you have fully considered the suggestions I have made here, I am confident that you will work to implement them in due season. In addition, I would appreciate the opportunity to expand on any of this information at an interview. Please feel free to contact me should you wish to discuss these matters further.

Kind Regards,

Nicole Doughty

Students appalled by media’s anti-investigative reporting

Shock. Horror. Outrage. A recent “news” report by the Sydney Morning Herald identified a “pro-rape” Facebook group created by the male students at the University of Sydney College St Paul’s. However when it was later identified that this group was no more than a supporter group to facilitate meetings for a football team, the journalists at the Herald remained steadfast in their criticisms of the elitist, boys’ club culture at St Paul’s. They argued that the creation of a sports team based on the ideals of “raping” the opposition signalled disrespect for victims of rape and downplayed the horrendous nature of the experience. While this seems like a logical conclusion on the surface, I still find myself asking the good people at the Sydney Morning Herald one very important question – do you EVER understand young people?

Here is a very real world example that any young person these days would be well familiar with:

Thursday Midday, somewhere outside Eastern Avenue Auditorium at the University of Sydney
Student: Man how do you think you went in that exam?
Friend: Let’s go see the counsellor; I think that exam just raped me.

Rape has become synonymous with any act of complete and comprehensive destruction or defeat; in fact the second definition on for “rape” is “To utterly defeat another person in any form of competitive activies [sic]”. Rape has adapted beyond its original definition to take on new meaning in a new context – and it is this that people have the most trouble with understanding.

An ACTUAL conversation that a friend of mine had with their classmate regarding a psychology exam was “you know how in Pulp Fiction they get kidnapped and then there is the scene where the gimp is raping the black guy in the ass? Well the exam was the gimp and I was the black guy.”

When the college students at St Paul’s formed a football team named “Define Statutory”, a team that sought to “rape” its opposition, it was not downplaying or devaluing the act of sexual assault, it was simply implementing language and attitudes coherent within the current scope of Generation Y vocabulary.

“OK” you say, “Sure. They were just following the crowd. But isn’t this indicative of a whole culture that devalues the torment of rape?”. Allow me to answer this self-proposed question K-Rudd style, and offer: NO! Youth culture is full of examples where words have been warped beyond comprehension. In more recent times, there has been an adaptation of the word “gay” to mean “unpleasant” or “distasteful”, for example:

‘Boy: Dude the video store didn’t have Superbad so I had to get Titanic.

Friend: GAY!!!!!’

This is a very common idiom which seems endemic to modern society – you truly don’t realise how often people say it until you start to pay attention. In this same vein, “faggot” and “homo” have developed into standardised insults used for everyone, rather than derogatory slurs against the homosexual population. While this is still a touchy issue for some, the fact remains that culture is changing and context IS shifting.

As we look back further we realise that this is not simply a cultural trait of OUR generation. Remember when it was cool to say “cool”? I assure you that the 1950s was not simply another ice age, this word adapted beyond the mundane to take on a whole new aesthetic. What about you Rugrats fans? Does anyone think that “neat” was a desirable characteristic simply because Tommy had OCD?

So what then of rape? Well currently the NSW court system has effectively banned the use of the word “rape”, and all incidences are now referred to a “sexual assault”. I must ask, if the justice system- the very entity that seeks to identify and define rape in all situations does not even use the word, then does “rape” even exist in the context of its original meaning? If the leading authority is removing the word from its vocabulary, then surely the only definition remaining is one of common usage.

And it is that common usage which has caused all the problems. The Facebook group “Define Statutory” was not an attack on women, a defence of rapists or an exclusive boys’ club mentality. It was a football team based on an idea supported by pop culture and contemporary common usage of language. The metaphor of raping an opponent has become no more violent or destructive than the idea of “killing” your foes in sport – a common ideal perpetuated by multi-million dollar sports teams all over the world. It is simply that rape is OUR word which makes sense in OUR context. The furore regarding this group was no more than a storm in a tea cup, and if the “investigative” journalists at the Sydney Morning Herald stopped to consider context rather than worrying about poking sensibilities in an attempt to sell more papers, it would have never become the shitstorm that momentarily grabbed the attention of Sydney students, before we rolled our eyes and turned back to Facebook.


5 Reasons Why There Should Be An Ibis Cull At Sydney University

Anyone who goes to the University of Sydney must surely have noticed that there seems to have been an explosion in the ibis population, and in their level of daring, over the last year. Just the other day, one attacked me (okay, it swooped past my head in a threatening manner causing me to scream and look like an idiot). So I’m going to take an unpopular stance here and side with St Paul’s College (gasp) in arguing that there should be an ibis cull at the university, for the following reasons:

1. Ibises (henceforth ibii), have beaks that can only have been intended for one purpose: to KILL
The most immediately obvious feature of an ibis is the disgustingly horrendous long beak that protrudes from its stupid little white bulbous head. Why any bird needs a beak that resembles an unfolded coat-hanger is beyond me, and there is no other bird in the bird world that has a beak this long and thin. Therefore they are unnatural and ibii should not be allowed to exist.

2. Ibii hang around bins – gross!
You only need to walk past that alleyway dumpster in the vicinity of Wesley College (again, gross) to see that ibii have a somewhat unnatural affinity for human refuse. At any given time there are at least 5-6 ibii rummaging inside this steel container of garbage, hunting for god knows what. Other examples include the bins outside Fisher Library. I don’t care if they’re looking for food and they’re hungry, it’s disgusting and it scares me away from using bins.

3. Ibii have no social skills
There is nothing worse than sitting down to eat lunch on the square than the sudden realisation that there is an ibis stalking towards you, intent on preparing its own lunch – YOUR BRAINS. Too many times, I’ve witnessed students innocently trying to enjoy their lunch only to be interrupted by an ibis that has no idea what personal space means. Turning your back on them or yelling at them to fuck off doesn’t work; so in addition to being possibly vicious and definitely unhygienic, they’re pretty damn rude. Also Wikipedia informs me an ibis is the last of all animals to take shelter before a storm hits, and the first to reappear after it’s over, and since storms are pretty much like terrorist attacks to the bird world, ibii must be either completely retarded or totally masochistic. Or both.

4. Ibii smell like death
If you’re going to say death doesn’t smell like anything, then you’ve never sat behind an ibis while it flapped its (pointless) wings. The gust of stale air that gets blown towards you on such an occasion is enough to make you wish you’d never been born. The fact that ibii smell so unbelievably foul, even when compared to other stray animals, leads me to my next point…

5. Ibii are probably from hell
Goats and dogs have been the animals most frequently characterised as being the creatures of hell, but unfairly so. With their evilly glinting black eyes, stale-smelling bodies, dagger-beaks and insatiable need to get up close to people to scare the fuck out of them, clearly ibii are the assistants of satan. If anyone is still in doubt about ibii probably coming from the depths hell, take a look at this ‘scarlet’ (i.e. devil-coloured) ibis typically found in South America:

He probably wants to eat your first born child

He probably wants to eat your first born child

I rest my case.


Welcome to the jungle…

Welcome to the new, exclusive, never-before-seen commentary, insights and opinions from two of the more illuminated, critical and analytical young people this side of 2008 (read: we complain). Let Nicole and Evan take you on a journey through the intricate lives of twenty-nothings in an everything world.

You will laugh, you will cry, you will probably pleasure yourself as we begin an adventure into society, psychology, politics, business and university life in the contemporary age from one of the more misunderstood perspectives in modern times – the young people of this world. Our discussions are far reaching, our conclusions universal and as we delve into a global environment so brimming with hypocrisy, stupidity and hilarity your world will never be the same.

And yes, we do got fun ‘n’ games.

Nicole and Evan