This week, reading about Automediality, I asked myself the question, “Who are we?” It’s a question almost as old as time itself. Einstein first linked time with space in 1915 when he formulated his Theory of General Relativity; defining the two as inextricably linked forever and more correctly termed “spacetime”.

Digital identities or personas have a place in spacetime. It’s not a tangible, touchable place or space, but it’s a legitimate place nonetheless and becoming more so by the day. So how do we get to know a person online?

In games such as Second Life, users choose an avatar to visually represent themselves. The same is true of all social media. The difference between face-to-face and digital personas comes down to image control. We have exclusive rights to our own images, even if someone else wants to post a picture of us, we have the power to approve it or not. It’s a level of curatorship we don’t have over our physical lives. In the physical world, we can’t enter the room for a job interview and then review the footage and go again if we didn’t like the impression we made the first time, adjusting the room to get our good side or rearranging our greeting to sound more pleasant or more intelligent. In the digital world, we can take 400+ selfies and choose the one we like the best. The one which represents the way in which we want to be seen by others. We can then crop it and run filters over it until it represents us. But is it really us? Or is it our digital persona?

Digital personas are just that, personas. They are images, videos, sounds and written reflections of an idea of us. They are ‘other’ and the subject of other, of personas and digital identities links with another subject which I have studied at length over the past few years; fame. Or more specifically, the effect that fame can have on a person’s psyche. Because creating personas we’re actually doing exactly what famous people do and, perhaps surprising to those who seek fame’s sparkling lights, it’s not good for you. So by automediating our lives are we setting ourselves up for failures of the famous kind?

In the study, “Being a Celebrity: A Phenomenology of Fame”, researchers Donna Rockwell and David Giles discovered that “In relation to self, being famous leads to loss of privacy, entitization, demanding expectations, gratification of ego needs, and symbolic immortality.”

Perhaps the question “who are we?” then becomes “who are we online?” And if it’s not possible to ever really know a person face-to-face then how can we ever know a person’s persona? Or is that the entire point?


Giles, David and Rockwell, Donna. “Being a Celebrity: A Phenomenology of Fame” Journal of Phenomenological Psychology. Online. 2009.

General relativity explained in under three minutes. Bromberg, Eric and Oliveres, Jordi, Producers. YouTube. 2015. 

What Exactly is Spacetime? Explained in Ridiculously Simple Words. Science ABC.

YouTube, 4 Oct, 2021.

Art as Propaganda in the Digital Age

After reading Walter Benjamin’s 1935 essay, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction I found myself particularity thinking of the use and evolution of art as propaganda.

In his 1935 essay, Benjamin discusses the relationship between art and Fascism, stating the “logical result of Fascism is the introduction of aesthetics into political life”. He further states “all efforts to render politics aesthetic culminate in one thing: war. This is a chilling statement, remembering that his essay was written in 1935 – four years before the onset of the Second World War. Before Hitler’s propaganda machine went into full swing, but not before Mussolini’s.

Shorthand typist at the centre of Hitler’s propaganda office, Brunhilde Pomsel said in an interview shortly before her death aged 106 “Those people nowadays who say they would have stood up against the Nazis – I believe they are sincere in meaning that, but believe me, most of them wouldn’t have.” After the rise of the Nazi party, “the whole country was as if under a kind of a spell,” she insists.

Hitler’s ally, Mussolini also took full use of images, films and photographs to tell a story. To package and market Italy as the new Roman Empire and Mussolini as the new Caesar. It’s important to point out, though, that the German and Italian regimes weren’t the only ones taking advantages of propaganda, The U.S. and U.K also had successful programs.

Further chilling too, as I continued to read Benjamin’s essay, I was reminded of a story I had heard once about the leader of North Korea’s propaganda machine and the kidnapping of an actress and her director husband from South Korea.

Described as a socialist state and a totalitarian dictatorship, North Korea has been ruled by the Worker’s Party of Korea since 1948. North Korea’s Supreme Leader today is Kim Jong un and the position of Supreme Leader has been hereditary since his Grandfather, Kim Il Sung lead the country out of Japanese occupation in 1945.

In 1978, Kim Il sung’s son, Kim Jong-il had been so successful as the head of North Korea’s Propaganda and Agitation Department that he had helped his father to achieve almost god-like status. Films, posters and an unprecedented statue building schedule had helped him, but something was missing. An avid cinema fan, by the 1970s he was director of the Motion Picture and Arts division of the PAD and directing films himself, but Kim Jong-il believed he could go further, ingratiate himself into his father’s graces even more. He could continue to build his father’s status by putting North Korean cinema on the map – by abducting South Korea’s most famous and successful film making team. Actress Choi Eun-hee and her director husband Shin Song-ok. So, in 1978, he did just that. Taking the couple from their lives in South Korea – and their children – Kim Jong-il demanded the couple make films in his father’s favour.

From 1978 – 1986 Choi and Shin made 7 films to make Kim Jong-il happy (to make his father proud and to show him he could be a worthy leader upon his death), to make South Korea jealous and to gain international attention. They did just that and while attending a film festival in Vienna, they escaped in 1986.

The North Korean incident occurred in the 1980s, some fifty years after his writing and I wondered what Benjamin would have made of it. What would he have made of the advances in technology? Would he have been surprised or not? Would he have felt more positive about the further modernisation of art and its various applications? Digital photography and the transition of photographs and films from their negative and print forms to digital data which can then be manipulated. Almost any kind of art work can now be produced or reproduced digitally, even an original painting with the right software. Somehow I struggle to think he would. Sadly, as he passed in 1940, we’ll never know, but I think he definitely could have added the North Korean example as an exclamation point to his essay.


Benjamin, W. The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Illuminations. Editor Hannah Arendt. Schocken Books, 1969

Connolly, Kate. Joseph Goebbels’ 105-year-old secretary: ’No one believes me now, but I knew nothing’. The Guardian. 16 August, 2016. Online.

Holt, Nick, Clifton, Dan and Finney, Ben. Inside North Korea’s Dynasty. 2018.

The Genius of Alan Rickman

Today, as a writer, I feel like the victim of an Expelliarmus spell. I’ve been disarmed. My words are gone. The ones that I still possess are jumbled in a fashion which makes sorting them seemingly impossible, but I will do my best. Alan Rickman has died today. A man of flesh and blood, like the rest of us, but a man of immeasurable talent, the likes of which the rest of us can only dream.

Today is the first day I’ve ever shed actual real tears for a famous person’s passing, but it seems my love for this man, who I never met, was real. And so, I find myself wondering – What was it about him that affected me?


Alan Rickman was a genius. His roles were many and varied, from U.S Presidents, to Irish Politicians, French kings and Russian Monks. He was a Shakespearean villain, a German villain, an English folklore villain and a villain, who wasn’t a villain at all. He was a robot, a caterpillar, a painter, a ghost, a hairdresser and he was the voice of God. He was a singing judge, a Colonel, a general, a lieutenant and a lord. He was a painter, but above all, he was an artist, just like me.


I would say he played all those roles, but he didn’t. He WAS all those roles, and many more. He possessed the magic somewhere inside him that allowed him to become those characters, and he had the courage to let it bring them to life.

We were not watching Alan Rickman play a part. We watched the Sherriff of Nottingham fail to defeat Robin Hood.


We saw Marvin, the paranoid android, help Arthur Dent save his planet, the corrupt judge Turpin relentlessly pursuing Sweeney Todd’s love, Joanna. We watched Rasputin’s madness, the gentle colonel Brandon waiting patiently for Marianne to see his love for her, the tired king Louis XIV and the heartbroken wizard, Severus Snape protecting Harry Potter under the guise of enemy.


To witness his brilliance gave me hope. Many of these characters emerged from the pages of fiction like mine and his care and respect for them gave me inspiration. It gave me the knowledge that the characters I create through my fiction can become real too, and that is a gift for which I will be forever grateful.

And then, there’s that voice. I once heard him describe it in an interview as “an accident of  nature and the architecture of his mouth,” but an accident of nature would have been to bestow it on a person who would have no use for it. It was his, and his it will always be.

Thank you, Alan Rickman. May you rest in Peace.

Cup Conundrum

Well, it’s the end of another iconic Melbourne Cup day. The stilettos have been broken in, the champagne has been popped and the dresses can’t be returned. That’s it. Until next year…

But the sad reality is that it’s also the end for some of the horses. Although there were no actual deaths on cup day this year, there will be horses that ran in races today who will never see a race track again. Some of them will go on to become parents. Some will make teenage girls eternally happy at Pony Club, some may even become Olympic Dressage or Showjumping champions, but for most, the sad reality is when owners and trainers are no longer turning a profit from a racehorse he, or she, will end up at the slaughterhouse. A noisy trip to the abattoir, followed by hours standing in a concrete pen will end with a bolt to head for animals that were just doing what they were trained to do.

For me, it’s a conundrum. I was born with horses galloping through my veins. I was a competitive Eventing rider until my twenties. There’s an affinity, an understanding, a never-ending wonder at the beauty of a horse that lifts my heart from the ordinary to the wondrous. And it doesn’t matter what it is they are doing, I will be glued to it. It’s the same with Horse Racing, and on Cup day each year, I get caught up in the beauty of the horses and the excitement of the story. I was so happy with today’s Melbourne Cup result for Michelle Payne, for Stevie Payne and for the trainer, Darren Weir. Theirs is a story that everyone can relate to, and the media can have a field day with. I admit, I teared up with emotion for them all. But then came the news that five-time Melbourne Cup runner, Red Cadeaux was injured. A tent was set up just past the finish post on the track to shield the public from his inevitable destruction.

Red Cadeaux

Happily, Red Cadeaux was saved and his injury is now listed as “Non-life-threatening,” but it seems he’s the exception that 127 other Racehorses this year in Australia didn’t get to be. One of which I had the unhappy fortune to witness first hand at Mooney Valley. The speed at which they rolled out a van for a horse in the home straight, who had very obviously broken a leg, astounded me. The tarp screen fashioned on wheels for events like this and the SUV with a purpose-built box trailer attached. No windows. When the back of the trailer was opened it revealed a ramp with a winch for removing the bodies of euthanized horses. All of these things were on the track in under a minute. A well-oiled, well-practised machine that induced death, cleaned up the evidence and left within five minutes so that the next race would not be delayed. I suspect this machine also serves the purpose of minimizing distress for punters. Although, not for their benefit, but for the benefit of the sport. So that we can all go on living in denial, pretending that these animals don’t matter. That they don’t have feelings. But they do.

What disturbed me even more than all of this was two men watching this all unfold next to me. Both craning their necks to get the best view they could of the unfolding tragedy. One of them shouldered the other when the vet emerged from the screen, retrieved a bag and then re-entered the screen. “Here we go. Here we go.” He said with excitement. “He’s gonna get the green dream. He’s gonna get the green dream now.” His mate, smiling too, still stretching his neck to get a better view. For those that don’t know, the Green Dream is Lethabarb, a liquid anaesthetic that’s used to euthanize animals, and so named for its bright green colour.

I admit. I did address these men with a string of words more suited to the farm on which I grew up than the polite society encountered at the races, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget the excitement with which he said it, and I will never, ever, understand it. I sincerely hope that the deaths that occur in the sport haven’t become part of its attraction for some, or the human race really has failed.

I can’t help but love horses. I can’t explain it. I just love them. I do have a problem with the racing industry, but I don’t do anything about it. The difference for me is that when I competed, my horse and I were a team, a partnership, and for some this may be hard to understand, but we were friends, and the money flowed from my pocket, not into it, and therein lies the problem. Horse Racing is a huge revenue stream, for the state, for the country and for the thousands of breeders, jockeys, owners and trainers, and as such, we will never be able to eradicate it.

So for me, the conundrum is best explained as much more bitter than sweet.

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