Intervening through Hairdressing

For this assessment, I have chosen a topic that is socially relevant and reflective of what we have learnt during the semester. It is focused on developing a case study for corporate social responsibility and how this can be a powerful tool in combatting a global issue that my audience is likely aware of, but very removed from. In this case, hunger and malnutrition. It is estimated that around 45% of deaths among children under 5 years are linked to under nutrition; this is an issue that continues to be prevalent throughout society (WHO, 2018).

My intention was to create an evocative and memorable piece of content that juxtaposed an issue that is tragic and saddening, with hope and empowerment. Colour with Care is an initiative created in 2017 by La Biosthetique Australia CEO Robert Aubin and Karen Aubin. The initiative advocates for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), to help support the not-for-profit and provide much needed food and aid to over 70 countries.

Due to the nature of the initiative, I chose to make a mini clip, which highlights the cause and effect of the intervention. Colour with Care has used its initiative as a concept global media to intervene for hunger and malnutrition through fundraising, social media and hairdressing. Intervening through hairdressing, I have found is a unique strategy, especially when examining campaigns that are advocating for similar issues. The hairdressing industry is often underestimated; it provides a platform for interventionists to connect with their audience on personal level through beauty and self-worth (Ellery, 2014).

In order to convey that hairdressing not only benefits the client, it extends to an international level, I wanted to showcase the issue and strategy in order to help and donate towards an every-growing matter; I achieved this through a specific selection of footage, titles, effects and music.

“The ability to perceive and understand emotional experiences is critical” (Satpute et al., 2016), in order to effectively convey the tragedy and direness of this issue, I utilised the black and white effect. By doing so, I wanted to remove the audience from their surroundings to take a moment to empathise with an issue we have never lived or have been exposed to during our day-to-day lives. This is further complimented by the soft and sombre backing track, I felt it engages and causes the audience to provoke emotional engagement and contemplate how this issue evolves and can be further dealt with and to understand how the functions of the intervention work.

To further engage and convey how La Biosthetique are intervening through hairdressing, I used colour and coloured subtitles as juxtaposition to relate to the western culture and desire of having your hair done as a beauty necessity and ritual (Ellery, 2014). Coloured subtitles were used to make the facts stand out, and show why Colour with Care is intervening. Furthermore, colour footage towards the end not only showcases a fresh colour for the client, rather it also showcases that as a result of this ‘every day’ activity, it having a broader impact on a global issue. Showing the process of colour allows the audience to recognise the extensive reach on a western audience who not only have the desire to feel good; rather it provokes gratitude and empathy. Through the gradual introduction and inclusion of colour, I intended to unveil how this process provides a resolution.

References:

Advertisements

A Ping-Pong Affair

By understanding the presence and role of sport in different cultures, we learn why nations hold sport close to their hearts and why they are seen as a part of their national identity.

To understand culture, and our own cultural experiences, we often turn to Asia. The Earth’s largest and most populous continent, enriched with diversity and culture. Digital Asia open’s the doors to a variety of concepts, ideas and functions throughout the Asian culture. Research has shown that apart of this culture, sport is influencing factor that not only show cases athletic ability, but also opens the doors to understand diplomacy and history. For this digital artefact, I have chosen to explore China’s reigning sport, Ping-Pong also known as Table Tennis.

giphy.gif

 

Culture throughout the ages has progressed, it is “always evolving, dynamic and hybrid” and “cannot be understood as static, eternally given and essentialist”. In order to understand culture, and we must understand its foundations past and present. Table tennis is apart of Chinese history; we acknowledge its integration into society through communism and its role as national identity. Understanding these components allow us to broaden our intercultural understandings, due to my own cultural background and worldview, my research on Asian sporting culture and more broadly has been very much characterised by new understandings.

By applying autoethnography as a research methodology, we are enabled to have an authentic and unaltered experience. Ellis describes autoethnography as “an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)”. Autoethnography combines the characteristics of autobiography and ethnography, which allows you to selectively write about your past, thoughts and perceived moments that you feel influence your understanding of your area of study.

Through my existing topline understanding of table tennis, I found a likeness to tennis. This is significant as tennis is a sport I grew up playing and was heavily involved in – and this connection allowed me to find a commonality with my research topic. Ellis explains, “[autoethnographers] study a culture’s relational practices, common values and beliefs, and shared experiences.” Self-narrative “can take us to the depths of personal feeling, leading us to be emotionally moved and sympathetically understanding.” Exploring the culture and training of table tennis, I have been able to empathise with the athletes and take an appreciate to the consistency and focus of the game.

The following digital artefact will explore the game of table tennis in China and its cultural value, and how my understanding has been bolstered and impacted by my personal experiences and culture.

Paddle Back in Time

Table tennis made its first impression as a “parlour game” in that it was open to anyone who was able to access a table, paddle and ball. The name “Ping-Pong” was first coined by the English firm J. Jaques and Son at the end of the 1800s, and later trademarked in the US by gaming company the Parker Brothers.

Ping-Pong has long been a revered game in China, and at the beginning of its emergence it was one of the only sports nationwide. Today, China sits at the top of the leaderboard across nearly every table tennis category and since the sport was introduced into the Summer Games in 1988, Chinese players have won 28 out of the 32 gold medals. It is estimated that China’s win percentage is 57.7 of the players, and of this they have managed to achieve 87.5% of gold medals.

 

But why is China so good at the game?

 

Table tennis took China by storm in 1949, when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was in power. At the time, officials felt the sport was able to connect the People’s Republic to the rest of the world. CCP’s leaders such as Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai were playing the sport and, as a result, it quickly became the national sport of the country.

 

In 1959, the country made its first major breakthrough in the sport; Rong Gutuan won the men’s singles title in the World Table Tennis Championships in Germany. Gutuan’s win saw national pride skyrocket, and propaganda took the victory to another level as it occurred during the 10thanniversary of the People’s Republic founding.

Since then, table tennis has always been China’s most prominent sport. It not only was used as a political tool, it also suited the Chinese lifestyle, an easily stored and does not take up a large amount of room. Today speaking to the younger society, it seems that the sport itself is not as popular as it once was. This is as a result of the gradual western influence that has slowly crept up on the culture of sport and has directed its attention to many more sport.

The Experience.

While some may consider table tennis a “lesser sport”, it is not for the faint-hearted. It is a sport of focus, skill, endurance and consistency.

On September 1st2018, the world saw another year of the Asian Games but in particular the Men’s Table Tennis Finals. Perfect timing for this digital artefact, right? The final’s was a showcase of China’s best male table tennis talent, Fan Zhendong vs. Jeoung Youngsik.

While the match is commentated in an Asian language, the athleticism on display transcends this barrier:

My initial attitude approaching this viewing was anti-climatic to say the least. Having spoken to friends who have watched and played table tennis their reactions were repetitive “it’s a fun game to play, but its like watching tennis… lengthy and boring until the end”.

Prior to watching I wanted to understand the skill behind the table tennis player, and I was able to narrow down the four core professional skills:

Understanding only some of the skill this sport requires, I still struggled to understand how it is set apart from other sports in the world. My readings prompted me to reflect on my past experiences training and playing tennis. Reaction, spin, speed, surface and self-management are also at the core of tennis as a whole.

Understanding the skill of the sport was an epiphany in my understanding of the game, and in turn leads me to develop my appreciation for Ping-Pong.

Here are the highlights of the final match:

My newfound understanding of the game’s skill, rules and regulations enhanced by viewing of this match and the game more broadly.

giphy.gifIt was interesting to recognise the similarities between table tennis and tennis. As a former tennis player, I was able to reflect on the likeness of training patterns across both sports – and this further allowed me to understand and appreciate the technicality of table tennis through my own experience. It extends past western perceptions of Ping-Pong as a game of leisure, and associations with Australian drinking culture and the game of ‘beer-pong’.

This triggered yet another epiphany – much of western sport (particularly in Australia) is deeply entwined with our drinking culture. Most recently, with the end of the NRL season, many teams have been called out for their excessive drinking behaviours. To draw a comparative analysis, I researched instances where Chinese table tennis athletes have been a part of alcohol-related events – and I was unable to find any article that explicitly recounts an occasion. This is interesting to note, as I found it reflective and aligned with Asian culture.

China is known to be a heavily governed and reserved society, where discipline and order are key values. The history of table tennis reflects this as it was introduced during China’s peak of Communism, with the governance of Mao during the People’s Republic of China. Since then, the sport has continued to be apart of the countries identity.

I have found it incredibly interesting to analyse how politics has influenced and the shaped the sport. Not only has table tennis been used as a diplomacy tool, it is a sport that is reflective of a disciplined society. I found that watching the table tennis players’ strokes during a rally, you can clearly see how carefully selected and executed each shot is. The ball is on return within five seconds of the ball contacting their opponent’s paddle.

I have a strong understanding of the endurance and stamina it takes to hold a rally on a tennis court and the continuous back and forth these athletes engage in despite the limited boundaries of the table has left me in awe. I have never understood the accuracy table tennis possesses but it is very stark through the Asia Games men’s finals, where we see the Ping-Pong ball brushing the very edge of the table. However, with applied spin and strength of the opponent, this allows them to contact the ball at a certain height in order to keep the ball in play.

This clip is just one of the many examples I found when researching Ping-Pong training methods. It is so interesting to see how disciplined training rituals are, commonly completed in large groups with a mentor and trainer consistently calling out shadow drills.

I took a minute to reflect and try to imagine the intensity of these training sessions. Could I have done this when I was playing tennis? Yes and no, I think for many Australian sports and in particular tennis, we don’t only focus on the common strokes, rather we take an all round focus on fitness and diet. Much of my training was broken into days, some days on court, some day’s footwork training and others general fitness. By doing this I was able to train majority of my body and it gave me an element of diversity and ‘fun’.

As an observer of table tennis training, I feel as if I would particularly struggle when consistently training one type of stroke and also being indoors. However, this comes with the type of sport. It’s interesting to notice how training methods dramatically shift when it comes to sport, and what type of physical endurance and focus that they require.

Diplomacy

Sport and politics often collide, and leaders have increased their efforts to harness the role of sport in furthering their national interests. But sporting competitions have been taking place between nation states in conflict for millennia.”

Commonly throughout history we have seen sport used as a diplomatic tool to bring countries together. Probably the most prolific example of this is the Olympic Games, where a ‘truce’ was put into play to ensure that all participants, spectators and officials were able to travel and participate safely. Over the years, we have seen sports diplomacy win in many cases, but also lose.

After researching the history of table tennis, it was interesting to find that this particular sport was used in the means of diplomacy between two countries, China and the United States of America.

The clip below provides a brief overview.

 

Another clip for further information!

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/magazine-25836922/how-ping-pong-diplomacy-brought-nixon-to-china

China felt that by opening and inviting the US, they would break the hostility between neighbours and initiate a possible shift in alliances.

Nixon, the real winner “will be the friendship between the people of the United States and the people of the People’s Republic of China”. 

Since then, we can see that there has been a regular US presidential trip to China. It is interesting to evaluate, how Sports and in particular table tennis has the ability to unite and create a common ground for unfamiliar and at times feuding countries.

Game Over.

Ping-Pong has reached far beyond my expectations.

tenor.gif

It is a sport characterised by Asian culture, and is a reflection of a disciplined society. While now in the 21stcentury it may no longer stand as China’s leading sport, it is still one that is deeply linked to its history.

After my viewing of the 2018 Asia Games Men’s finals, I believe that my eyes have truly been opened when understanding this sport. Table tennis is far more than receiving and hitting the ball back to your opponent. Table tennis requires a consistent focus, discipline and technique in order to achieve your victory outcome. It has further led me to reflect that Table Tennis as a whole is a strong reflection of the Chinese culture. Understanding its first integrations into the society, and its political influence has allowed me to understand the social value of the sport.

Through the method of autoethnography, and supported data collection I have been able to understand the Chinese value of table tennis. Through my own experiences as a former athlete, and general understanding of society and sport I believe this has allowed me to appreciate and broaden my own inter-cultural understanding.

Uncovering China’s agenda for Ping-Pong

Table Tennis is not for the faint-hearted, it is a sport of endurance, stamina and utter focus.

Sports presents itself in all forms and sizes, as an individual of the Western World I was not always aware of the extent of ping-pong. In Australia, I associate ping-pong with the legendary game of Beer Pong and a casual muck around with friends. In China, Table Tennis is the countries biggest sport. China is ranked number 1 in the world and holds the three top seats in the Men’s and Women’s leagues. Of China’s population, it is estimated that there are around 10 million citizens who regularly play the game. During the 2008 Bejing Olympic Games, a solid 300 million people of China tuned in to watch the mega show-down between China’s Table Tennis athletes Ma Lin vs. Wang Hao.

Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno). As part of autoethnography, researchers are challenged to participate in their own self-evaluation, this stems from the concept of epiphanies. Epiphanies are remembered moments percieved to have significantly impacted the trajectory of a person’s life. Epiphanies require a level of self-awareness, they reveal the ways and ‘whys’ a person reacts to particular circumstances or situations.

My first step of investigation for my digital artifact was to sit down and watch a clip of the best rallies in table tennis history. My mind was blown by the skill and endurance these athletes have. My next aim was to sit and attempt to watch a full game to get the feel. My past is grounded in tennis, as a former Australian athlete I thought to myself, it really is in essence tennis but on a way smaller level. So I sat down and had a go, after 30 minutes past it was safe to say I was bored. Some people say its because Youtube provided me with an old and ordinary game, but I also think it’s because I had no clue what was going on…..

I researched the rules and training behind the sport and spread my wings to watch a variety of different games at various levels and tutorials. What I found interesting was that undoubtedly each tournament was filled with spectators; views on YouTube videos were consistently more than 400,000+. Interestingly an epiphany popped into my mind, “what makes sport so culturally valuable in society?” “Why do certain countries choose to invest in particular sports?” To narrow down my scope, I researched the history behind the emergence of table tennis in China, why it is a cultural value and to further my own understanding of the game in order to try and value it the same as the Chinese people do.

To validate my epiphanies against Ellis theory of autoethnography – Ethnography is, the study of a culture’s relational practices, common values and beliefs and shared experiences for the purpose of helping insiders and outsiders better understand culture.

As previously stated in my other blog post, China was first introduced to Table Tennis by its former leader Mao Zedong. The sport swiftly became a cultural value of the country, the sport was ‘bizarrely‘ popular amongst the Communist Party of China’s military force during the 1930s. Not long after do we see China using Ping-Pong as a source of diplomacy, this is through the games introduction to the Olympic Games and also communication with other countries.

I found that a brief look into the its history in China and the values that extend past the social norm of sport generate yet another element for my digital artefact. In order to fulfil the criteria of autoethnography, my aim will be to reveal the history of ping-pong in China and explore its globalisation and diplomacy. It will not only allow me to understand the value the country holds for the sport, but also allow me to uncover the hidden agenda government’s hold for sport.