Research

My Research Interests:

  • thinkersocial media
  • digital death
  • online identities
  • digital media
  • media distribution
  • blogs
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • social and casual gaming
  • copyright (in particular the Creative Commons and other alternative copyright arrangements)
  • cultural studies
  • embodiment
  • film studies
  • science fiction
  • flexible delivery
  • open educational resources (OERs)
  • teaching & learning in higher education.

The current state of my research projects:-

[1] The Ends of Online Identity

The amount of information we share online has had a considerable impact on the way our identities are articulated. While there has been a substantial range of projects and approaches aimed at understanding identity online, the vast majority have focused on active identity, or those moments where someone is actively controlling, or seeking to control, who they are and how they are presented, represented or performed online. However, the Ends of Online Identity project seeks to look at the areas where our control, or agency, is less evident (if at all). At one end, this means examining how parents and others set the initial parameters for someone’s identity online. Consider, for example, how parents share everything from ultrasounds pictures to the hundreds of baby photos on social networks like Facebook. This, in effect, initialises the online identity for someone, and the longevity of these traces will have a significant impact for many young people in years to come.

At the other end, when someone dies, often there is now a vast array of online information left behind, held in email accounts, social networks or sharing services like Flickr (for photographs) or YouTube (for videos). What happens to this information? How do processes like memorialisation or mourning operate online? Can digital assets be passed on? What roles and responsibilities should social networking services take regarding deceased account holders (and what’s currently going on)?

This project began in earnest in 2012 and will be the main focus on my work in 2013. The first attempt to articulate the Ends of Online Identity was at the conference Internet Research 12, in Seattle. The presentation slides, complete with an audio recording, are available online. I was interviewed about digital death for a feature article in the Sydney Morning Herald which does a good job of highlighting some of the important issues.

[2] Social, mobile and casual gaming

Social gaming (games played via social networks) and casual games (games usually played on mobile devices, such as the iPhone) are a significantly different form of gaming from more recognisable videogames, such as MMORPGs, first-person shooters and so on. My contribution to a broader team exploring this area of gaming is focused on Zynga’s Farmville and Rovio’s Angry Birds as significant exemplars of social and casual gaming respectively. This work is very much in progress.

This project is funded and framed by the the following grant: Prof Mark Balnaves, Mr Jonathan N Noal, Prof Gary G Madden, A/Prof Philip J Moore, Dr Michele A Willson, Dr Tama B Leaver. (Curtin University) ARC Linkage Grant LP110200026. Online Money and Fantasy Games an applied ethnographic study into the new entrepreneurial communities and their underlying designs. $69,000 (2011-2013).

[3] The Tyranny of Digital Distance

Networked digital culture is built on the premise of near-instantaneous global information exchange, and in this context, for digital media (which are, essentially, information) distance should be meaningless. However, this project concerns itself with the notion of ‘distance’, playing on Geoffrey Blainey’s notion of the ‘tyranny of distance’ (in which he argued that the physical distance of Australia from the heart of the English Empire played a fundamental role in shaping Australian culture), now asking what distance means when information and communication can be transmitted at the speed of light.

The first article to appear from this project, entitled “Watching Battlestar Galactica in Australia and the Tyranny of Digital Distance” was published in the journal Media International Australia, in a themed edition on ‘Beyond Broadcasting: TV for the Twenty-first Century’. A second paper “Joss Whedon, Dr Horrible and the Future of Web Media?” has been accepted to appear in a future edition of Popular Communication. In October 2012 I will be presenting a third paper, ‘Global Media Distribution and the Tyranny of Digital Distance’, at Internet Research 13 in Salford, UK. This paper attempts to summarise and more broadly conceptualise the way digital distance has been, in essence, created by residual policies and entrenched resistance to change in much of the Creative Industries.

[4] Networked Learning

As a teacher on Internet Communications I have a clear interest in the way that digital communication tools can, and could, be used to facilitate learning and education in different ways. I am convinced that social networks and communication tools can be a vital part of both formal and informal learning, but these uses often have to be very carefully framed and guided to be fruitful.

Recently I have been interested especially in informal educational uses of social networks. The first paper, “Twittering Informal Learning and Student Engagement in First-Year Units” is a chapter in Anthony Herrington, Judy Schrape, & Kuki Singh (eds.) Engaging Students with Learning Technologies (2012). My second paper ‘Student Engagement, and the ‘Uni Coffee Shop’ Group’ will be presented as part of the a panel on Educating (with) Facebook at Internet Research 13, in Salford, UK during October 2012. This paper will most likely be published in an edited collection on Facebook and Higher Education, currently in the planning stages, that I am co-editing with my colleagues Mike Kent and Clare Lloyd.

From my earlier work using blogs and podcasting in education in the mid-2000s, you can find the slides and audio from my presentations  ‘iTeach, iLearn: Student Podcasting’ (2005) and ‘iPodium: Student Podcasting and Participatory Pedagogies‘ (2006). Also available is a video of my invited presentation ‘Building Open Education Resources From the Bottom Up: How Student-Created Open Educational Resources Can Challenge Institutional Indifference‘, presented at the ‘What is “Open Education” and what does it mean for the future of learning? What role can Australia play?’, QUT, Brisbane, 23 September 2008.

[5] Artificial Culture

My interest in ‘the artificial’ began as my doctoral project; in my PhD dissertation I examined how artificiality was enacted and deployed in speculative texts – ranging from novels to popular films to virtual body datasets. I argued that while the artificial might be thought to show the boundaries of what it means to be human, rather, under sustained scrutiny, mapping the artificial highlights the fuzzy and increasingly blurred line between people and technology, a dissolution in which, nevertheless, embodiment remains centrally important. My dissertation, entitled  ‘Artificialities: From Artificial Intelligence to Artificial Culture – Subjectivity, Embodiment and Technology in Contemporary Speculative Texts’ was passed in 2006. Over the next five years I tinkered with the ideas and examples, and Routledge published the final version as the 2012 monograph Artificial Culture: Identity, Technology and Bodies.

Other elements of my research artificial culture and the blurred line between subjectivity, technology and culture include a chapter in Cylons in America: Critical Studies of Battlestar Galactica (Continuum, 2008) entitled “Battlestar Galactica & ‘Humanity’s Children’: Constructing and Confronting the Cylons” and the chapter "Artificial Mourning: The Spider-Man Trilogy and September 11th" in Web-Spinning Heroics: Critical Essays on the History and Meaning of Spider-Man (McFarland, 2012).

[Image courtesy of lumaxart; CC BY SA]

Print Friendly