Groupthink in Australian Universities: A Final Reflection

Completing the BCM212 research project has encouraged me to be a better researcher. I utilised aspects of the lecture content in completing this project. The most significant concept I considered in my research was the idea of being a respectful researcher. Being a respectful researcher involves conducting research “sensitive to individual participants and research contexts” (Tilley 1998). In my research, this applied to the construction and distribution of my online survey. I utilised Harvard University’s ‘Tip Sheet on Question Wording’ to assist me in composing my survey questions and answers and ensuring that it was “respectful”. Harvard’s tip sheet also recommended keeping the survey short. I took this advice on board, keeping my survey to only 8 questions. I composed a mixture of open ended and closed ended questions- 2 open ended questions and 6 closed ended multiple choice questions. This assured that the survey was not time consuming for participants and was consequently more engaging. The 2 open ended questions allowed respondents to provide their own answers and experiences rather than selecting from a list of relevant answers. I closed my survey after 4 weeks. In this time it received 141 responses. Perhaps the length of my survey and open ended questions contributed to its success.

 

In addition to being a respectful researcher, I was required to ensure the integrity of my research. Doing so involved gaining consent from potential respondents to my survey. Duke University’s ‘Guide to Writing Consent Forms and Oral Consent Scripts’ instructs researchers to explain the purpose of their research in their consent forms. I did so in my consent paragraph, stating “the purpose of this survey is to research the emergence of groupthink in Australian universities as part of a research assignment”. I also emphasised the anonymity of the survey to reassure participants that nobody would know the answers they provided if they decided to respond to my survey. Consequently, I could not maintain contact with any participants. When quoting respondents in my report, their answers remained anonymous.

In ensuring the integrity of my research, I also referred to the Lean Research Framework. Lean Research refers to the importance of the human research subject’s experience in research. It seeks to improve the methods of research and the results achieved from qualitative and quantitative research. Hoffecker, Leith and Wilson (2015) present 4 principles of Lean Research: rigor, respect, relevance and right size. I have utilised these principles in my research project to assist me in being an ethical researcher.

 

In reference to rigor, I have ensured that my research process is respectful of participants’ time and the results are usable. A short survey of only 8 questions is quite time-friendly. I have respected my participants by assuring that they provided consent to participate in my research. At the beginning of my survey, I published a paragraph informing potential respondents of the purpose of the survey and how the results would be used. By responding to the survey, they provided their consent. It is also essential that my research and results are relevant: they are of value to stakeholders and are easily accessible (Hoffecker, Leith and Wilson 2015). Finally, my research method was relevant to my objectives. I intended to discover whether groupthink has become prevalent in Australian universities. My survey provided sufficient information to address this topic.

 

All primary research conducted (online survey) was quantitative. I originally planned on conducting both qualitative and quantitative research by orchestrating a focus group and distributing an online survey. However, due to the restricted time frame of this project, I did not have the time to facilitate a focus group. Although I am satisfied with the data I obtained from my online survey, qualitative research would have been more relevant to my chosen topic area. Qualitative research allows topics to be covered in detail and further questions to be asked (Occupy Theory 2014). If I carried out qualitative research, I would understand why respondents selected their answers and be less likely to feel the need to conduct further research.

 

Overall, undertaking this research project has shaped my research skills and ultimately changed the way I research. In all research from now on, I will actively seek to be an ethical researcher by ensuring the integrity of my research and respectful conduct.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Duke University 2017, ‘Guide to Writing Consent Forms and Oral Consent Scripts’, Duke University, available from https://ors.duke.edu/orsmanual/consent-forms-and-scripts.

Harvard University 2007, ‘Tip Sheet on Question Wording’, Harvard University Program on Survey Research, 17th November, viewed 10th April 2017, http://psr.iq.harvard.edu/files/psr/files/PSRQuestionnaireTipSheet_0.pdf?m=1357530492.

Hassan, G 2013, ‘Groupthink principles and fundamentals in organisations’, Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business, vol. 5, no. 8, pp. 225-240, http://journal-archieves36.webs.com/225-240dec.pdf.

Hoffecker Moreno, E, Leith, K & Wilson, K 2015, ‘The Lean Research Framework’, D-Lab, viewed 10th April 2017, https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B36nNXj12OvSMmJhZHRpOHZBMmM/view.

Occupy Theory 2014, ‘Advantages and Disadvantages of Qualitative Research’, OccupyTheory, 21st April, viewed 23rd May 2017, available from https://occupytheory.org/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-qualitative-research/.

Susan A Tilley, ‘Conducting Respectful Research: a Critique of Practice’, Canadian Journal of Education, 1998

Ready, set, research!

For my research project, I have decided to investigate the following question:

 

Has groupthink become prevalent in Australian universities?

 

Groupthink refers to the idea that maintaining harmony within the group is more important than rationally considering the facts and ideas being discussed. Groups affected by groupthink are more likely to undertake ludicrous actions and patronize other groups (Hassan 2013). There is no room for debate or critical discussion in the group. Consequently, everyone appears to possess the same beliefs because people fear being different from the group.

 

To answer my question, I originally intended to conduct a focus group to observe whether groupthink occurred. I thought (and still think) a focus group is the most effective way to research the concept of groupthink. However, realistically due to time restrictions I have realised I will not have the time to do so. Between work, university and my personal life, it is unlikely I will have the time to recruit participants and conduct a focus group. As the participants would be fellow university students, they are also likely to be very time poor. It is a big ask to sacrifice their time to participate in a research project.

 

Instead, I have composed an online survey. I will distribute the survey to my peers in BCM212 via Twitter and my Facebook friends who attend university, not just UOW. It is important to gain insight from university students across different faculties at various universities as it is very possible that groupthink may only occur at certain universities or be more prominent in particular faculties. The survey features questions regarding the concept of groupthink and the participants’ observations and experiences. In order to gain more information, some questions have boxes for students to type their own response to the question. If I gain valuable insights from my initial survey that are worth investigating further, I will compose and release a second survey.

 

Below is the link to my survey, if you can spare a few minutes please check it out!

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSf52Y-DwX2KZeH2QMm1w7l59E1roskPk7QoeWcMDHPVAf7D_A/viewform?usp=sf_link

Compare The Pair: Blackfish vs Madagascar on Animals in Captivity

In last week’s tutorial, we watched the notorious film Blackfish. When I found out we were watching it, I sort of dreaded it because I had seen half of the film before and found it too depressing. Blackfish is the story of Tilikum, a whale captured from the wild and forced to live his life in aquatic parks such as Sea World. The film investigates the death of Dawn Brancheau, a Sea World trainer who had been working with Tilikum for years. After her death, Tilikum was isolated from trainers and served as a sperm bank for breeding. He later died in 2016.

 

Blackfish really had me torn: I pitied the trainers who were so dedicated to their job and had such close relationships with the orcas they trained, despite their dangerous nature. On the other hand, I understood why the orcas acted out- captivity drove them crazy. Such erratic behaviour exhibited by animals in captivity was given a name by Bill Travers in 1992: zoochosis. Symptoms of zoochosis include pacing and circling, tongue playing and bar biting, neck twisting, head bobbing, weaving and swaying, rocking, overgrooming and self mutilation (Ramos 2014). Imagine being torn from your family and home in the wild and placed in a small enclosure for the purpose of entertainment. Of course you’re going to react! The film made a valid point: there are no recorded cases of orcas in the wild attacking human beings. The film did a great job of showcasing the impact of captivity on wild animals and generated discussion about the issue.

 

I was thinking of other films I have seen or heard of featuring animals in captivity and Madagascar came to mind. Why? Madagascar sends a message to children that animals enjoy being trapped in a zoo. The animals in the film are “living the life” at Central Park Zoo- being waited upon, groomed and showing off to receive that giant applause from the audience. One night, Alex the lion decides to escape from the zoo for a night out. His friends Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe and Gloria the Hippo follow but they end up on board a ship to Madagascar. They are in the wild…and want to go back home to Central Park Zoo. This insinuates that animals prefer living in captivity to the wild: a wrong idea to present to children. Organisations such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) have made a child-friendly site to educate children about the effects of captivity on animals, teach them about animals and encourage them to pledge to never visit zoos.

madagascar.jpg

 

Another interesting aspect of Madagascar is the way in which the animals are presented. Robert Ebert (2005) suggests that cartoons have created a divide between animals who are animals and animals who are human. The characters in Madagascar think of themselves as human like. They are all anthropomorphic: cartoon animals are given human attributes (bipedal walking, speech, sense of humour etc) (Beardsworth & Bryan 2002, p.86). They can walk, talk, make jokes, catch trains and roam the city streets. Some can even read, like Phil the monkey. At one point earlier in the film, the gang were surrounded by cops and are confused as to what is going on. They did not realise that humans perceive them as being dangerous when they are not trapped in an enclosure.

 

In a sense, developing anthropomorphic characters assists in developing a connection between the viewer and the animal. The viewer (in the case of Madagascar, most likely a child) will be more likely to empathise with the animal if they can understand them. This was also apparent in Blackfish. The film revealed that orcas are emotional creatures, and viewers witnessed this when a baby orca was separated from its mother at Sea World. Viewers could empathise with the orca’s feeling of despair. We as viewers will always feel some sort of connection to animals and will continue to both enjoy and scrutinise their representation in the media.

 

REFERENCES

 

Beardsworth, A & Bryman A 2001, ‘The wild animal in late modernity: The case of the Disneyization of Zoos’, Tourist Studies, vol. 1, pp. 83-104.

 

Ebert, R 2005, ‘Madagascar Movie Review and Film Summary’, RogerEbert.com, 26th May, viewed 29th March 2017, available from http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/madagascar-2005.

 

PETA, ‘5 Secrets Zoos Don’t Want You To Know’, PETA Kids, viewed 29th March 2017, available from http://www.petakids.com/save-animals/zoos/.

 

Ramos, J 2014, ‘Zoochosis: The Disturbing Thing That Happens To Animals In Captivity’, Care2 Causes, 22nd May, viewed 29th March 2017, available from http://www.care2.com/causes/zoochosis-the-disturbing-thing-that-happens-to-animals-in-captivity.html

Who else is suffering? Representation of suffering in film media

Today, our Facebook feeds are filled with images of war torn countries and injured children; cries for help in a time of war. We switch on the news at night and hear about the latest ISIS attack or bombing in Syria. Due to the emergence of social media as a source of news, whether we like it or not we are exposed to images of the suffering of those in war torn countries. There is no longer a distinct battle front and home front; they are one in the same. However, war movies, a different type of media tend to focus on the battle front rather than the home front. They usually focus on the hardships endured by soldiers rather then the impact of war on the soldiers’ families, civilians and the home front. The idea of war and suffering has been romanticized in some films and television mini-series. Let’s have a look at some examples.

 

 

Birdsong (2012)

Birdsong follows the story of a British soldier fighting on the battlefront in France during World War I (WWI). During his time in France, he falls in love and has an affair with a beautiful French woman. The film depicts graphic details of the battlefront, trench warfare and life in the trenches on the Western Front. While doing so, the series also romanticizes suffering with the help of lighting, music and camera angles. For example, the light in this screencap makes Redmayne seem almost majestic on a battlefield full of deceased soldiers.

Screen Shot 2017-03-25 at 10.49.24 PM.png

Even this close-up has something beautiful about it.

Screen Shot 2017-03-25 at 10.48.50 PM.png

 

The intertwining of love and war further enhances the romanticism of suffering in Birdsong. Stephen is torn between forbidden love and war; each causing him emotional and physical pain. He wishes to be with his love but must defend his country in war.

 

Like most war movies, Birdsong only depicts one side of the story: in this case, British experience on the Western Front. It only conveys the suffering endured by a small percentage of those involved in WWI: soldiers on the Western Front. Although primary sources reveal the incredibly harsh conditions endured by soldiers on the Western Front in WWI, the media fails to show the impact of war on the home fronts: food shortages, imposition of new laws, broken families etc. Despite various primary sources disclosing details of life on various home fronts during WWI, film media fails to depict this. Suffering on the home fronts cannot be dismissed.

 

Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Hacksaw Ridge is based on the true story of Desmond Doss- a conscientious objector who volunteered to serve in the US army but refused to carry weapons. Despite not carrying any weapons, he saved the lives of many soldiers at Hacksaw Ridge. Like Birdsong, Hacksaw Ridge appears to focus more on the suffering endured by soldiers on the battle front than civilians on the home front. However the battle scenes are much more graphic and violent. Technology is constantly evolving and provides producers and directors with more creative freedom. Consequently, the battle scenes in Hacksaw Ridge are “brutal, unwatchably violent” (Bradshaw 2017). Bradshaw compares the film to a second world war horror film and believes that the excessive violence is there to make up for Doss’ lack of violence (2017).

 

In 2017, the nature of warfare has changed. There is no longer a distinct “battle front” and “home front”; war can be fought anywhere at any time by anyone. People choose their sides, gather their weapons and fight. Innocent civilians are either injured, killed or displaced. We see images of this regularly on social media. Social media enables us to witness the suffering endured by innocent civilians, many of whom are forced to flee their homes and find safety. Despite this, many films created in the 2010’s that are centered around war tend to focus on action and violence. However, due to the sophistication of technology and access to primary sources via social media, I believe that war movies will no longer focus solely on the hardships faced by soldiers. It is likely that they will begin to depict both sides or draw more attention to the challenging circumstances faced by civilians: the injured children and devastated towns that we see on social media everyday.

 

 

REFERENCES

Wollaston, S 2012, ‘TV Review: Birdsong; Earthflight’, The Guardian, 30th January, accessed 25th April, available from

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2012/jan/29/birdsong-earthflight-tv-review

 

Bradshaw, P 2017, ‘Hacksaw Ridge Review- Mel Gibson’s war drama piles on the gore’, The Guardian, accessed 25th April, available from

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/jan/26/hacksaw-ridge-review-mel-gibson-andrew-garfield-second-world-war

The Branded Self[ies]

We live in a world where everyone takes selfies. I take selfies, my mum takes selfies (featuring my sister and I and terribly fun Snapchat filters) and you most likely take selfies. What exactly is a “selfie”? A selfie is a photograph that one has taken of themselves, often to be uploaded and shared on social media sites. The term was first coined in 2002 by a drunk Aussie who took a photo of his busted lip, captioning the picture “sorry about the focus, it was a selfie”. Just to be clear, a selfie is not a photo of one person that has been taken by another. Here is a selfie you can’t have missed- Ellen DeGeneres and all her celeb pals!

degeneres-oscars-selfie-sealfie-twitter1.jpg

 

Anyone can take a selfie. You don’t have to be a celebrity or professional photographer- most people who take selfies are amateurs. In fact, 92% of Facebook users upload selfies. The increasing popularity of social media has resulted in the emergence of a generation obsessed with taking selfies. Spending you day off at the beach? Take a selfie. Sick of doing uni work? Take a selfie. Are you a fan of your makeup today? Take a selfie. But why are we so obsessed with taking selfies?

 

According to Senf and Baym, selfies have 2 functions: they are an everyday practice and are also an object of “politicising discourses about how people ought to represent, document and share their behaviours” (p.1589). The way in which people choose to represent and share their behaviours online often leads to the creation of an online persona: a branded self.

 

The rise of selfie culture and prevalence of social media has resulted in the emergence of the branded self. Anyone can create a sense of themselves as a brand. But how? Simple. Select a few characteristics to present and craft your social media pages to reflect these characteristics. This is how many people who have created a branded self have become “micro-celebrities”. These people have carefully crafted online personas to attract attention and gain followers. For example, Kurt Coleman’s flamboyant personality, narcissism, spray tan and disregard for any “haters” has earned him over 162,000 Instagram followers. There is no shortage of selfies on his Instagram page! He has crafted a persona centered around his narcissism and consequently has become a micro-celebrity- he has actually been recognised on the street. Australian health and lifestyle blogger and model Steph Smith is another well known micro-celebrity. Although her Instagram page is not full of selfies, many of her posts feature tags of relevant brands e.g. Aussie Farmers Direct, Adidas and Tribute Boxing. Her branded self includes fitness and fashion.

 

Due to their large follower count and reach, micro-celebrities are often targeted by companies to promote their products. For example, many celebrities and micro-celebrities are currently promoting Sugar Bear Hair Vitamins. They are utilised as influencers to encourage people to try certain products. From a marketing perspective, this is an extremely effective strategy. As micro-celebrities are not Hollywood celebrities, they are automatically perceived as being more relatable. When we as an audience feel we can relate to someone, it is easier to trust them. If a micro-celebrity with damaged hair takes Sugar Bear Vitamins and says they notice a difference, their audience would be more likely to try the product. It is also cheaper for the company to use micro-celebrities as in most cases, companies send micro-celebs their product in exchange for a social media post or feature rather than a sum of money.

 

Will micro-celebrity status eventually overtake celebrity status? Will the number and power of micro-celebrities continue to increase? Will the selfie remain a trend? We’ll find out someday!

 

 

REFERENCES

Baym, N & Senft, T 2015, ‘What Does The Selfie Say? Investigating A Global Phenomenon’, International Journal of Communication, vol. 9, pp. 1588 – 1606.

 

Branson, J 2015, ‘Why is this person famous? Kurt Coleman and social media fame’, Sneaky Magazine, viewed 21st March 2017, http://www.sneakymag.com/life/person-famous-kurt-coleman-social-media-fame/.

 

Sutter, B 2016, ‘What You Need To Know About Marketing With Influencers’, Forbes, 8th April, viewed 21st March 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/briansutter/2016/04/08/what-you-need-to-know-about-marketing-with-influencers/#498dabcd167b.

I propose…

During my 3 years of university, I have noticed the emergence of groupthink. The term was coined by Irving Janis in 1972 and refers to the idea that maintaining harmony within the group is more important than rationally considering the facts and ideas being discussed. Groups affected by groupthink are more likely to undertake ludicrous actions and patronise other groups (Hassan 2013). There is no room for debate or critical discussion.

 

I rarely share similar views as others at university. As an 18 year old fresh out of high school, I expected university to be a place where I would meet like-minded people; a place where people can openly express their opinions and that they would be respected. Yes I am now very aware of how naïve I was! I have noticed now that if you do not share the popular view, you are judged and lectured about how you should change your stance. I have experienced this before and it is not a good feeling. I don’t feel like I can express my opinion in a classroom or on the internet without being hounded; I feel like I have no freedom to speak my mind.

 

I want to know why universities have become this way. Why can’t people who don’t share the popular view voice their opinion without being hounded? Are people blindly agreeing with the group just to be liked?

 

I will investigate by answering the following question:

 

Has groupthink become prevalent in Australian universities?

 

To answer my question, I will undertake a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods. First, I will compose and distribute multiple surveys to my peers in BCM212 and my Facebook friends who attend university (not just at UOW). These surveys will feature questions about the concept of groupthink and the participants’ observations and experiences. The notion of groupthink may best be tested by putting together a focus group. The group must consist of individuals of various personalities, backgrounds and different views on certain topics. I will select participants based on their opposing views and interview them prior to convening the focus group. I will determine whether groupthink is evident by observing whether their views change during discussion.

 

In researching this topic, I will inform all participants in surveys and focus group that the purpose of my research is for a university research project on the topic of groupthink. I must ensure that everyone feels comfortable expressing their opinions and will not publish any information without their consent.

 

REFERENCES

Hassan, G 2013, ‘Groupthink principles and fundamentals in organisations’, Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business, vol. 5, no. 8, pp. 225-240, available from http://journal-archieves36.webs.com/225-240dec.pdf.

Paging Doctor Google

Hey there, it’s been a while! I haven’t blogged since 2015! How time flies.

 

This week I’ve been gifted the task of telling you a personal story about a time I was curious about something. What does it mean to be curious? It means watching a TV show and wondering what will happen next. It can be as simple as finding out what tomorrow’s weather will be like. Curiousity involves keeping our minds active and searching for the answers to questions life throws at us.

 

Life continues to throw me the same question: doctor, what’s wrong with me? When I’m curious about something, I ask my trusty friend Google. Google never lets me down (he’s actually helping me write this blog post!). I find myself consulting Google the most when I’m sick or have some sort of physical ailment. Google, how do I unblock my sinuses? Google, why does my shoulder click when I rotate it? Google, what causes gluteus minimus pain? Dr Google gives me all the answers: inhalation, loose joints and overuse. Thanks to Google, I can tell you exactly how viruses are spread (no, it is not just someone coughing around you), what medicines to take for certain ailments, symptoms of certain illnesses and what medicines interact with each other. Hypochondria at its finest!

 

In a way, my curiosity in regards to illnesses/physical ailments has actually had a positive impact on my life. I don’t need to worry when I feel like I’m getting sick as I know what to do, I can tell my friends what to take if they’ve got an upset stomach and most importantly I know how to avoid catching and spreading colds and flus! Yes it is slightly embarrassing to admit how much of a hypochondriac I am, but researching these things keeps my mind active. There are still so many things I am yet to learn. Who needs a medicine degree when there’s Google!

 

REFERENCES:

Latumahina, D, ‘4 Reasons Why Curiosity Is Important and How To Develop It’, LifeHack, viewed 3rd March 2017.