Tuesday, 21 December 2010

identity, integrity and educators

As I mentioned in the previous post, a delegate at the CSAA conference, Ruth Walker (Wollongong), asked me to submit some of my work on identity and integrity for a special issue of the International Journal of Educational Integrity dealing with new technologies. The only problem was that it was a tight deadline. Three working days, to be exact. But it only had to be a few thousand words, so I got stuck in. Wrote it on a Wednesday, it was edited on the Thursday and published on the following Tuesday.. I wish all my experiences with journals were like this! My experience with a certain A* ranked journal, on the other hand, has been long and arduous... like, going on two years. But the copy editor is having at it now! Progress.

CSAA 2010

A couple of weeks ago I was in Byron Bay at the Cultural Studies Association of Australasia (CSAA) conference - 'A Scholarly Affair'. It was generally quite an enjoyable experience. The highlight for me was a plenary talk from Dr Katrina Schlunke who did an amazing job. I laughed, I cried. I tried to recall the specifics of her talk over dinner with some colleagues last week, but I failed miserably except to say something along the lines of "well there was this louse metaphor, and an observation that single beds are quite queer... and then she was fighting Engineers!" The resounding take home message was not to forget why we (people in cultural studies) do the things we do, and to go back to those motivations when we feel like giving it up or jumping ship. So, I'll leave it at that, because any further recollection wouldn't do it justice. Hopefully I can track down some reliable record of the talk

(Prof. Raewyn Connell - another wonderful talk)
Some other stand-out conference moments include a paper from Jenny Kennedy (Swinburne) who presented some really interesting and polished thinking, titled: 'Exploring social interactions in networked spaces'. I also enjoyed a paper from Daniel Marshall (Deakin) titled 'Life during wartime: sexuality, recruitment and reality television' where he explored the integration of Australian naval recruitment processes in the 'So You Think You Can Dance' television series. Penny Robinson (Sydney) also had some interesting things to say about how young Australian women engage with contemporary understandings of feminism mediated by popular culture in her paper '"I googled for feminism": creating a postfeminist methodology for cultural research'.

I missed a whole bunch of papers I would've liked to have seen, but you get that with concurrent sessions. It was also great to spend some time with many of my colleagues and friends from Griffith who were able to attend the conference given that it was just down the road.

I presented my paper titled 'Youth, identity and integrity on social network sites' which was a fairly casual kind of presentation where I discussed some of my findings more generally. I focussed on deploying my own data to resist Zuckerberg's singular model of identity and his insistence that privacy is dead. Good discussion, good suggestions. I was also delighted to contribute part of my argument from this paper to a special issue of a journal - the topic for another post!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Drop the "the". Just "Facebook". It's cleaner.

I went and saw the 'The Social Network' (2010) last night. It's a great film with a strong story-line and solid acting. I'm sure most of it is heavily dramatised, but the part I found most interesting was the deeper social and cultural sentiments the story points towards: we're such social creatures, even when we're bad at communicating with people and full of our own insecurities, which is how Zuckerberg is portrayed.

New technologies and new modes of engaging with eachother have always made this human condition seem more complex, from the advent of language (which probably took a bit longer than six years to hit 500 million adopters) through to the internet. Facebook does articulate, formalise and record these social interactions though, which is pretty awkward. We're definitely still getting used to that.

I'd thoroughly recommend seeing it!

Also, this:
K.C.: Seven different people spammed me the same link. 
KC's Friend: What is it? 
K.C.: I don't know, but I'm really hoping it's cats that look like Hitler 'cause I can never get enough of that. 

Thursday, 28 October 2010

don't quote me on that!

Subtitle: Some musings on youth/the interblags/the facebook inspired by a student journalist.

Because my research is on a sexy hot topic, I often get approached by journalists to talk about young people and the internet. More often than not, it's really just about Facebook. I find it incredibly awkward to do this kind of thing, and I'm constantly living in fear of misrepresentation or saying something stupid on the phone or live radio. Maybe I'd be more comfortable if they were asking about the deployment of Goffman's dramaturgical framework to consider identity construction in online social spaces. They never do though! Weird, right?

I guess it's part of the job though, and at least people are actually interested in my research - or the terrain my research finds itself in. Resist the ivory tower and all that stuff. Anyway, I also get approached by lots of student journalists because journalism is taught in the school I work for, so my colleagues love to fwd students to me.

I decided to record some answers to some typical questions I was asked recently, so that a) I can refer future student journalists to this helpful post; b) so I can justify the time-sink; and c) because this particular student journo actually got me thinking about some things I don't usually think about.

Read on for vague anecdotal musings and lots of "I reckon!"

Being in the navy was my other career choice. This blends my social realities. (Stock from fawkmee)

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

strange audiences = greater clarity

I've done a few guest lectures in unlikely contexts this year, including in the Griffith Business School and more recently in the Queensland College of Art. The QCA one yesterday was in a web design/web studies course for photography students, so as a sociologist of youth and new media presenting a lecture on 'online identity', I was a bit worried about how I'd pitch the content. I went for the safe, 'keep it general' approach (managed to smuggle my man Goffman in) which seemed to work. It was a relatively small group but some interesting discussions came from it. It's also nice to have to articulate yourself to a new crowd with a different background. It's also nice to be reminded that the research and thinking that I'm doing is transferable and relevant, something you can easily forget when you have your thesis blinkers on.

Actual horse with real blinkers focussed on finishing her PhD (image source, c/o nancymesaaz)
Next random lecture will be at the Institute of Modern Art in November, which will be another audience yet again. Hopefully I'll be able to smuggle Erving in there too.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Creative Communities 2: Day 2 & 3

The final two days of CC2 were as inspiring as the first. Mary Fogarty kicked us off on Wednesday, day 2, with a very accessible and thoughtful keynote on her doctoral research concerned with breaking. Mary brought together much of the thinking from the previous day, suggesting 'extended families' in various youth cultures as useful mechanisms for inclusion and community.

Mary Fogarty, getting down low

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Creative Communities 2: Day 1

This week the Griffith Centre for Cultural Research hosted the second annual Creative Communities conference on the Gold Coast at Crowne Plaza. The theme of the conference this year is 'Culture, Identity & Inclusion'. Here are some thoughts and responses to Day 1 of the conference.

thought bubble: humanities podcast

Let me introduce you to the work of Dr Ann Jones, who puts together a monthly podcast called 'Think Bubble'. Ann asks what is going on in the humanities in Australia, and each month she talks to researchers on her program. You can also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. From issues of language and place through to research on new media, this podcast is a nice little bite-size way to be exposed to some research we might not otherwise hear much about.

I came across the podcast because Ann asked to interview me for the program, which I was more than happy to do. You can find that interview in the current episode. This will conclude the shameless self promotion for this evening. Thank you Ann!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

organising journal articles

Being organised is my main coping mechanism for pretty much anything related to work: labeled folders (physical and digital), class lists, marks spreadsheets, project timelines, budget documents, agendas for meetings, to-do lists, checklists, synchronising all my files across all my computers/laptop/ipad via dropbox, and knowing exactly where every powerpoint/lecture/seminar/conference paper I have ever prepared for is located. Sometimes I wonder whether or not being excessively organised (at work only, I might add) is actually a form of procrastination. Okay, I don't wonder, I know. Let's not speak of this again.

I don't know whether other people are as fussy me, but it works. Just don't mess with my spreadsheets. In this post I will rave on about one of my favourite things to catalogue and organise: journal articles.

Monday, 30 August 2010

happy monday

Even though I spent my last post whining about it, there are some benefits to an 8AM Monday lecture:
  1. At 9AM, I'm finished teaching for the day!!
  2. I've already had a cup of tea and have been awake for a while, so I'm fully operational while everyone else is is still sleeping or complaining about their Mondayitis. 
Victory! My to-do list for today consists of the following: mark third-year research proposals, clear email backlog, prepare teaching materials for Wednesday and finish book review. Given that I have the entire day at fully operational status, I think these things are doable. Either that, or I'll crash at 1PM and spend the afternoon nursing my newly developed Mondayitis. 

The review I'm working on at the moment is for a book called 'The Internet: An introduction to New Media' by Leila Green. I'll post some preliminary thoughts over the next few days!

Travel mug - not entirely sure why it's reciting Darth Vader quotes... #mondaymysterites!

Sunday, 29 August 2010

sudden realisations

At 7PM on a Sunday evening, I'm sitting here at my desk preparing for the 8AM Monday lecture of doom. This semester I ended up lecturing into three courses - two with 8AM starts! - for the first eight weeks of the semester. Fortunately, beloved convenor of these three courses who is currently on research leave has left me with copious notes for at least one course, the 8AM Monday one. So I'm sitting here, studying the slides and going over the readings when it hits me...


Or thereabouts. Until my scholarship expires, that is. [Note: 'Sudden-ness' of sudden realisation is actually overstated in this particular telling of the story.] So here are the options ahead:
  1. Work like crazy to get my thesis done within the three years (cannot believe it has been three years..);
  2. Apply for a scholarship extension, giving me until August 2011;
  3. Get a job at the end of my scholarship and muddle through with a vague 'early 2011' submission.
All of these potential options will depend entirely upon how I'm travelling come January. I'm going to aim for 1, hope for 2 and take 3 if something comes up. How does that sound? Okay good, back to work.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

posgraduate symposim

Following on from the success of our Postgraduate Symposium last year, we're repeating the event this year. Essentially it's a full day, funded event where postgrads can present whatever they're working on in a friendly and open environment. Last year we had a few first-time presenters which was great, and quite a few people used the platform to test out some ideas they were planning on presenting at a bigger conference.

Many thanks to the Griffith Centre for Cultural Research (GGRS) for funding, and to my fellow organising committee members for all their hard work: Anne Ferguson, Raphael Nowak, Shanene Ditton, Adele Pavlidis, Haya Cohen, Christopher Driver, Patrick Mitchell and Dr Sarah Baker (our academic rep.). Hopefully it'll be a great event! While it's only aimed at local (Griffith) postgrads at this stage, if anyone else would like to come along please let me know!

Call for Papers
‘Mediated: Identity, Subjectivity & Creativity’

‘In the case of identity, as in other cases, the catchword of modernity was creationthe catchword of postmodernity is recycling’ 
(Bauman 1996: 18).

The Griffith Centre for Cultural Research (GCCR) is hosting Griffith’s second annual Cultural Research RHD Symposium, organised by postgraduates for postgraduates. The full-day symposium will include multiple themed sessions where students will present papers-in-progress and a keynote presentation from Professor Graeme Turner, a leading figure in the development of cultural and media studies in Australia. Amongst other responsibilities, Graeme Turner is a professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Queensland, Director of the Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies and is the President of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.
There is no cost associated with attending. We are inviting RHD students attached to the GCCR or the School of Humanities, along with invited external participants, to submit abstracts for consideration in the program. The event is also open to interested staff and students. The theme for the symposium will be ‘Mediated: Identity, Subjectivity & Creativity’. We are seeking papers on a wide range of topics from students in various disciplines: from sociologists to creative arts practitioners; from writers to historians. We seek to offer an open and inclusive academic space for emerging scholars to share and develop their work, contributing to a broader discussion on contemporary negotiations with subjectivity, identity and creativity.

Date:                  Thursday, November 4, 2010
Location:           Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus
Cost:                  Nil
Keynote:            Prof. Graeme Turner
Lunch:               Provided
Dinner:              At delegate’s expense

Abstracts are due September 24 and should not exceed 200 words.  Abstracts should be emailed to Brady Robards (b.robards@griffith.edu.au) in a standard .doc or PDF format.  Successful contributors will be notified via return email by October 8.  All staff and students interested in attending the symposium (open to Honours, Masters and PhD students) are invited to register their interest by September 24 with Brady at the above address.


Wednesday, 28 July 2010

YOUTH 2010

Last week I returned from a one month trip to Europe, hence why I haven't written much for a while. Aside from visiting some good friends of mine, the reason for my trip was to attend a youth studies conference, run by the British Sociological Association (BSA) youth studies group. It was a three day conference (July 7 - 9), organised by Paul Hodkinson, Sian Lincoln and Rachel Brooks. It was a truly fantastic conference and I wanted to recount some of the highlights here.

My paper, a trimmed down version of the article I recently had published called 'Randoms in my Bedroom' was quite early on in the conference which is always a bonus. I spoke about how the young people in my study deployed a coherent spectrum of 'Friending' practices in using their preferred social network sites (primarily Facebook with a smattering of MySpace) and how these practices translated to a kind of practical control over their perceived online spaces. The paper seemed to be well received with plenty of questions and people approaching me afterwards. I was also lucky enough to present my paper in the same session as two other youth studies scholars. First was Liam Berriman from Goldsmiths, who presented his research on Habbo Hotel, a virtual environment pitched at teenagers. Liam discussed how the environment is shaped and inhabited by young people through a model of co-constitution that accounts for users, producers and the space itself. The other presenter in my session was Paula Geldens from Swinburne, who discussed her research into 'Generation Y' discourse in Australia. My own work often claims to resist such discourses (including that implied 'digital native' one, and of course discourses that construct online sociality as inherently counterproductive or wasteful) so Paula's research is definitely something I'll be returning to.

Andy's keynote

There was one other session I attended that had clear intersections with new media/internet-studies, which I chaired, featuring the work of Melissa Avdeeff (Edinburgh) and Helen Davies. Melissa's work actually has some continuities with my own work. While her paper did focus on music and issues of taste, she also considered how social network sites operate as 'invisible' (natural, everyday) technologies of transmission: 'for these youths, the technology is invisible; they must negotiate relationships with each other, through the filter of technology'. Melissa also had some interesting observations on eclecticism, an area of her research I'm particularly keen to read more about in the future.

Although slightly off-track from my own research, there were some other really great papers from the conference. I won't recount them all here in any depth, but for my own memory: I really liked Mark McCormack's (Bath) paper on 'the erosion of homophobia and the softening of masculinity among the boys of an English sixth form' and Michael Whelan's paper on violence amongst young men in London. There was also a great panel of familiar faces titled 'when youth culture meets middle-age', including the work of our own Jodie Taylor on queer culture, the entertaining Mary Fogarty on b-boys/b-girls and the very inspiring work of Paul Hodkinson on ageing goth subcultures.

Left to right: Erik, Melissa, me, Jodie and Mary
Some other highlights included four really great plenary/keynote sessions from Rob MacDonald, our own Andy Bennett, Christine Griffin and finally Les Back. Very motivating stuff. All the 'socialising', networking, learning and preparing took it out of me I must say, but I did manage to sneak in a couple of weeks worth of extra-curricular activities in London and Paris before returning to Australia for classes this week. It's not everyday your University sends you to Europe!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

book reviews

I discovered that a couple of the book reviews I wrote a while ago were published recently. They were good books, too. It was a pleasure to review them.

'Young People, ICTs and Democracy' (2010) Tobias Olsson & Peter Dahlgren (eds)

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

the facebook effect, David Kirkpatrick

I had heard some references being made recently (on the blogs of Michael Zimmer and danah boyd, especially) about David Kirkpatrick's new book, 'The Facebook Effect'. Specifically, some of the statements made by Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook founder and CEO) along the lines of 'you have one identity' were somewhat alarming, especially for those of us working in the terrain of identity studies, interested in how users of social network sites are performing a sense of self online. I'm currently revisiting how Goffman's dramaturgical framework might be (re)applied to identity performance on social network sites (building, perhaps on this wonderful essay by Trevor Pinch), so an insight into Zuckerberg's philosophy on identity was pretty interesting. Thus, I rushed (read: clicked) to fishpond.com.au to order my copy of the book yesterday, and it arrived today. I've spent large chunks of the day enthralled. The history of the site is one thing, but the insights into the people that built it are another. Very interesting stuff.

Here is the paragraph Zimmer and boyd were referring to, and the section which (for my current piece of writing) is the most resonant:
"You have one identity," [Zuckerberg] says emphatically three times in a single minute during a 2009 interview. He recalls that in Facebook's early days, some argued the service ought to offer adult users both a work profile and a "fun social profile". Zuckerberg was always opposed to that. "The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly," he says.
He makes several arguments. "Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity," Zuckerberg says moralistically. But he also makes a case he sees as pragmatic - that "the level of transparency the world has now won't support having two identities for a person." In other words, even if you want to segregate your personal from your professional information you won't be able to, as information about you proliferates on the Internet and elsewhere. He would say the same about any images one individual seeks to project - for example, a teenager who acts docile at home but is a drug-using reprobate with his friends. (Kirkpatrick 2010: 198)
IMHO, there are lots of problems with this line of thinking. This philosophy resists a whole movement in identity theory (and postmodernism) that frames identity as dynamic, fluid and multi-faceted. Identity cannot truly be successfully pinned down, even though we're always trying to do just that. Goffman explains that we perform different versions of self depending on the context we find ourselves in and the audience we find ourselves performing to. Granted, online social spaces problematise these dimensions of context and audience, but you only need to be confronted a Friend request from parents or co-workers or clients or students on Facebook to know that audience, context and (yes) multiplicity in identities is still such an important consideration.

Stay tuned for more. No time for fun speech bubbles today. I'm in srs bsns mode.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

scams and spams: they're coming through the portals!

I realise I'm coming pretty late to this meme-party, but I just saw this cute little 'hacker retrospective lol' on news.com.au and I couldn't resist. Adieu!

"Where can I plug my modem in?!" The Net (1995)


I'm working on a piece of writing at the moment that is straying into some territory that I dealt with in my honours dissertation, what seems like an age ago (2007). So, I decided to pull the old beast out and see if any of it might translate over. And then I calmly put it back into the filing cabinet drawer and locked it away, hopefully never to be seen or heard from again.

I know lots of people have this experience with old writing (or any kind of work, perhaps..) especially as students or people still learning their craft. I had a similar kind of experience when I discovered some old first-year essays while helping my parents to move a few months ago, but that was slightly different. That was more nostalgic. My run-in with the honours dissertation could be more aptly described as horrific. It read like I was a Neanderthal belting around in a dark cave looking for a light switch. The continuity between paragraphs was atrocious, my expression was 'experimental' at best and the literature I was engaging with looks like it was just whatever was laying around at the time.

I think partly I have improved slightly, but it's also partly about the way my style has developed I suppose. As in, I'm getting close to actually working out what my style of writing and my approach to research might be. And that stuff in the honours dissertation is not it! I wonder if I'll look back on my PhD thesis in five or ten years time and be similarly horrified? The scary part is that as I send stuff out into the inter-nether, I won't be able to just lock it away in the filing cabinet if (read: when) I turn around and don't like it anymore. Also, how long does the 'Oh I was young and foolish!' thing work for?

[Actual depiction of honours dissertation- stock from mjranum]

Thursday, 3 June 2010

randoms in my bedroom

My first for-reals publication in a for-reals academic journal. Many thanks to the wonderful editor of this special issue, Erika Pearson!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

post-marking euphoria

Ahh, the sweet, sweet feeling you get when you reach the bottom of a particularly dastardly pile of marking. This pile consisted of 80 first-year pieces that were between 1500 and 3500 words long, and I'm thoroughly chuffed to see the last of them. There were some great ones, and some.. didn't exactly meet the criteria. However, I'm not going to rant about punctuation or line-spacing or how to spell my name. Instead, I will bask in this post-marking euphoria, quietly forgetting that the next two piles already await me. For now though, I live on to assess another day, and my faithful red pen (who I have named The Avenger) can have a short rest.

(This isn't actually The Avenger, but it's an approximation.. Stock from Glenn)

Thursday, 13 May 2010

diaspora: leave fb day

Amidst growing concerns over privacy on Facebook (does that sound like the intro to a news story or what?!) people all over the shop are heading for the hills! (See what I did there: switched it up with ridiculous expressions, keeping it real, taking it to the next level..) So, leave Facebook day is May 21. Read more about it on Tama Leaver's blog, which is, incidentally, pretty much a one-stop-shop for new media news for me lately. If you haven't already, I'd suggest subscribing. Essentially, this is about awareness raising. Remember when petrol prices sky-rocketed a few years back (they had to upgrade the signs to support surpassing the $1 point) and there was that 'nobody buy petrol on this one particular day' initiative? I think it was meant to scare the oil companies, but I'm pretty sure it didn't work. Fuel was $1.33 on my way to work this morning. Similarly, I don't think leave Facebook day will cause Facebook to collapse or for Mark Zuckerberg to denounce his privacy is dead rhetoric, but this initiative is about discourse building. It's about letting people know that the way we think about privacy is changing right now, and our actions (or complacency) will shape privacy policies of tomorrow. Of course this is part of a much larger shift in privacy concerns, but that's for another discussion.

So: May 21. Will you be leaving Facebook in a privacy-fueled rage? Or will you quietly deactivate your account for a day, and then race back to it at midnight to see if you've missed anything? I'm going to play the social scientist card and observe with pen and pad, although I do enjoy flirting with the 'deactivate my account' button. If you haven't already, you should click it and find out who Facebook thinks will miss you the most, complete with a cute picture of you and said Friend!

This might be a long-term alternative: diaspora. User-controlled, open-source, privacy-aware, node-centric alternative to Facebook. Ready for exodus? Maybe not yet. It's a new project, with some great potential. It's certainly something I'll be following over the next six months or so!

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

digital narratives

My first-years finished their first major piece of assessment this week. The task was to create a 'digital narrative' in groups that tells the story of transition to University. This is the third year I've taught this course, so I've seen quite a few of these now, but I still think it's a great assignment that the students seem to engage with. It gets them to think critically about why they're at Uni, but it also gives them a platform to contribute. Here are a couple of really creative ones that take pretty novel approaches. If you want to see more, just type 'Youth & Society Digital Narrative' into YouTube. 

And yes, lots of technical errors/timing issues in this one, but it's still neat! (Inner nerd bias?!)

raunchy teachers: friendship vs. journalism

This is great. Jonathan Holmes from Media Watch takes some sloppy/unethical journalism to task. Essentially, some teachers copped some flak for posting 'risqué' photos of themselves on Facebook and their 'friends/Friends' who happened to be journos saw them and ran a story on them. The teachers took the standard measures to ensure their privacy, but there's no accounting for Friends, eh?

Two morals for the price of one story: 1) what happens at band camp and then gets posted on Facebook does not stay at band camp; and 2) be careful who you Friend! They'll trawl your profile and send your party pics into the newspaper.

we're living in the good old days

This article, '5 reasons the internet could die at any moment' got me thinking. The research I'm doing now is so anchored to a particular context and a particular period of time in 'internet history' (the social network site boom) that I often feel like I've got the blinkers on. I'm sure this is symptomatic of PhD projects in general, of course - the whole thing is often about narrowing down and maintaining a focus. Despite all this, one of the things I get asked about most often is 'where to next' for social network sites and the internet in general. It's such a good question (once you get beyond the crystal ball jokes) and my answers are always so vague!

I think it's important not to get too bogged down in the pessimism. Yes, Facebook is surely trawling our data for little (read: vast sets of) gems to sell to marketing agencies, and sure, concerns over privacy are going to continue to be central in our discussions of these spaces. At the same time though, let's not lose sight of the great potential we're in the process of realising here: our ability to (re)connect, to share, to laugh at each other and to make our weird, fascinating little lives quite visible. This has always been the gift of the internet, but only in the last five years or so have so many people had the access. While discourses about an obligation to remain connected and always online will certainly persist, my hope is that with time people will be able to fine-tune their management of social media. I have a friend at the moment, for instance, that is on a 'media diet'. This entails only checking Facebook once a week, and trying to limit checking her email to twice a day - at 9AM and 4PM. I think strategies like this are neat, but I'm also conscious of the fact that for some its an unrealistic exercise. I for one lack that kind of discipline. There's a more organic and gradual alternative, I think, that most people I speak to seem to be finding. I'm also optimistic that new forms of online sociality will continue to appear and disappear, and make a come-back and then be shut down.. and then made into a movie. Remember MySpace? Ah, those were the days. Some of my recent interviewees are still on MySpace, by the way! It's very hip with the younger kids: 15 and 16 year-olds, especially. I'm writing a paper about this at the moment, actually: something along the lines of 'MySpace is for kids and Facebook is for adults: rites of passage in digital participation'. Tentative title!

Anyway, I was talking about this stuff with my first-years last week and I thought it was great when someone said something along the lines of 'I remember the days when I used to get texts from people, now I have to use Facebook! What ever happened to the old days of texting?!' Ah, those were the days. I can't wait to get to the point where we look back on Facebook as that tranquil, golden period in our lives where the pace was slower and the world seemed like a less threatening place.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010


via woodlandcreature:
Remember when Facebook was called Thefacebook and looked like this? I can’t believe I’ve been on it for almost six years, since summer 2004.

(via mknell : arig)
So there you go. When people call it 'the facebook', they're not being out-of-touch and ridiculous, they're just being retro.

call for papers: continuum

Conventionally speaking, the study of youth cultures and their associated practices has been focused around the notion of the youth cultural group as a locally situated, physical entity. In recent years, however, research has pointed to the impact of digital media technologies on young people, their cultural practices and forms of interaction. In particular, it has been noted how more recently introduced communication technologies, notably the internet and the mobile phone, have opened up new, often ‘virtual’ spheres of interaction between young people. This in turn begs new questions about the nature of youth culture in the early 21st century. This special edition of Continuum will consider the impact of new communication technologies on youth culture and the way the latter have altered and enhanced the forms of interaction underpinning youth cultural practice.

Papers are being sought in the following areas:

  • Mediated youth identities
  • Engagement with online social spaces (social network(ing) sites, online games and other virtual environments)
  • Youth engagement with peer-to-peer file sharing
  • ‘Trans-local’ youth cultural formations 
  • Access to sport and extreme sport (Roller Derby, breakdancing, martial-arts, etc.)
  • Risk-taking behaviour (chemical cultures, piracy, etc.)

Abstracts of approximately 300 words should be submitted to b.robards at griffith.edu.au no later than 14th May 2010. Authors are invited to contact Andy Bennett (a.bennett at griffith.edu.au) to discuss their approach in advance of submitting abstracts. Successful authors will be asked to submit a full paper, which will be subject to a blind refereeing process.

Please feel free to distribute widely! A PDF version of this CFP can be found here.

Sunday, 28 March 2010


“One of the things our grandchildren will find quaintest about us is that we distinguish the digital from the real.” -- William Gibson in Jefferson Hack, via wearethedigitalkids, via something changed.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

chatroulette: show me your books

ChatRoulette was launched at the end of 2009 (Nov.) and has in a few short months emerged into mainstream discourse. The idea is simple and certainly not new, but it's one that had kind of fallen out of fashion over the last few years: chatting with strangers! The site pairs random individuals from all over the shop and lets them peer into each-other's lives through the webcam window. With the proliferation of social network sites, we've observed a pretty strong tendency emerge whereby people are spending most of their social time online with people they already know -- not strangers. So if ChatRoulette continues to grow, this will mark a nice little shift back to (semi)anonymous chatting with strangers. Although, having said that, the kind of 'chatting' that actually goes on here is debatable. There's no way to pre-select who you'll end up with (it's a gamble, hence the name) so you might end up with some guy rubbing his pants or a bird in a cage or a kid dressed as a stormtrooper or a drunk Polish girl or a whole swathe of regular, inquisitive people. There are lots of funny examples that have been screen-captured (see chatroulettetrolling.com, for instance -- NSFW).

Anyway, a few weeks ago the local newspaper called me up to interview me about this new interwebz phenomenon, and I sheepishly admitted to never having used it. The interview continued for half an hour or so (slow news week, I guess?) and we'll find out soon what the results are. The reason I didn't abandon the interview from the get go was because I think it's important for public discourse to start off on the right foot here. This site is going to attract a whole lot of really negative media attention very quickly, so before the moral panic takes hold completely I thought I'd have a crack at constructing this site in context. So, in the name of research, myself and an esteemed colleague of mine went about exploring this strange and wonderful world we live in armed only with cheap beer, rum and poor lighting.

Our findings? Yes, there are creeps and weirdos out there, but you'll encounter them wherever you go. Unlike IRL, ChatRoulette allows you to 'Next' people (spin the wheel again and get a new partner) quite frequently. In fact, most of the encounters we had lasted only a few seconds. We waved, they waved, we got nexted. Are we not pretty enough for your interwebz?! Here's a nice little doco that sums things up pretty neatly. No no, it's not personal. After a while we got used to nexting people pretty regularly too. We discovered quite a few creeps, but also had some really great discussions with people from all over the place. We taught this Chinese guy some tricks and he told us a bit about where he lives, what he's studying (Fine Art) and we talked about the differences between our lives. It was kind of cool!

There are quite a few other instances of people doing interesting and funny stuff with the site, such as the piano guy. I'm sure we'll see these proliferate. Hopefully the site won't get commercial or change too much for a while. I'm looking forward to seeing whether or not it continues to build.

I'm really enjoying danah boyd's comments about the site (see a full copy of her SXSW keynote here). I know I'm a big boyd fanboy, but she makes too much sense! This site might be just a fad, but it reminds us about the fantastic potential of the internet to make visible the great and quirky and diverse and sometimes-cringe-worthy, sometimes-laugh-worthy world we live in. Lame? Maybe. I'll enjoy my optimistic youth for a little longer yet if that's ok.

To return to the title of this post, here is a link she shared on twitter recently: show us your books! Love it. Adieu!

Friday, 19 March 2010

fb bigger than google in U.S. this week

Egads! I hadn't really thought about this possibility before, but Facebook pipped Google at the post this week in the States. Things can only go downhill from here, right?

Wednesday, 3 March 2010


A week without Google. How would you fare? This class was given what seems to be a fairly straight-forward and easy task. Don't use Google or any of its products (Gmail, Google Maps, Blogger, YouTube..) for a week. Just one week. See the comments on the linked page to see what happened!

This is a great example of how a corporate infrastructure can become embedded in our lives to the point of reflex. This isn't just 'oh I feel hungry and can't be bothered cooking, let's go to McDonalds..' this is 'Google is actually replacing my brain'. I'm strangely not that terrified by the prospect, although that in itself terrifies me. Weird, right? Anyway, I'm going to a masterclass with Geert Lovink for the next two days, so I'll record some reflections on the discussions that emerge out of that here. I'm just reading his article 'The society of the query and the Googlization of our lives', so I'm sure the above experiment might have some resonance there.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

structures of participation in digital culture

I've just finished my book review of this charming little volume of essays. It's from 2007, edited by Joe Karaganis. One chapter is written by a favourite scholar of mine, danah boyd. I've also found a few new favourite scholars inside! Stand-outs include T.L. Taylor on player participation in game culture, Mizuko Ito on the rise of Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card culture in Japan and Ravi Sundaram on the culture of the copy and piracy in India. You can download it for free if you're interested.

It's great when you read something (or a collection of somethings in this case) that give shape and articulation to an idea you've been jabbing at subconsciously for a while, but never found a way to express properly. The true value of digital culture and (for my work) the internet is not just that we can chat with strangers on the other side of the planet or that we can do our banking from a phone while standing next to the ATM at the pub or even that we can share our lives with family and friends that we'd otherwise have contact with only rarely. The true value here, it seems, is that digital culture makes our world visible, accessible and open to participation. /end rant. (I'll link my review when/if the journal I sent it to publishes it).

episode IV, a new hope: attack of the first-years

Semester 1, 2010 commences tomorrow! I'm looking forward to getting back into a classroom and out from behind the desk, although I'll likely be longing for quiet corridors and the abundance of parking spaces again by week 3.

About two months ago I promised myself I'd get a few things done before school starts back including a book review, a journal article and two conference abstracts. I'm pretty much done with that to-do list, so go me!

P.S. My caption-picture for this post was going to be Yoda in a class with the baby Jedi's, but I couldn't go past this guy who looks like he's about to hurl the textbook at whoever is in the first row of his class. This is the kind of passion we should all aim for! Maybe I should start wearing a tie to class?

Monday, 22 February 2010

ages of social network site users

Here's an interesting report on the average ages of users on social network sites. It basically confirms what I already suspected: the average age of MySpace users (31.8) is younger than the average age of Facebook users (38.4), although the divide isn't terribly enormous. What this kind of data doesn't indicate, however, is why there is a gap. This report also fails to indicate whether it's data is based solely on self-reported age. How many people used to (or still do) list their age as 99 on MySpace.. or 69, anyone? That's probably going to skew the findings considerably. I'll assume that the report is based on that data and proceed with a grain of sand.

My own findings are beginning to indicate that young people are engaging more with MySpace because it allows for a greater sense of symbolic control and experimentation with design, images, colours, embedded elements and so on. Young MySpace users often describe Facebook as 'sterile', whereas Facebook users (who are often ex-MySpace users) describe MySpace as 'juvenile'. I think there's an important tension here that deserves further attention. If younger people, who are, presumably, still developing a sense of self, gravitate towards the creative potential of MySpace, perhaps it's operating here on some level as a reflexively expressive space to experiment with or 'sandbox' different self-narratives. More meditation required. Perhaps Sherry Turkle can be revisited.

apt excursion

While I was digging around in the archives at the State Library, Chris and I popped into the GoMA to check out the APT. It was amazing! Selected favourites below.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

two thirds

I just realised that today marks two years since I started my PhD. This means that the minimum submission date for my thesis is one year from today... and the maximum submission date without an extension is in 2012! But that's not terribly motivational, so we'll keep aiming for next year.

the future of internet studies

It took a few weeks to dawn on me after reading it the first time (thank you Mr. Muir), but this really resonates with me:
If there is one reason things "digital" might release humanism from its turtlenecked hairshirt, it is precisely because computing has revealed a world full of things: hairdressers, recipes, pornographers, typefaces, Bible studies, scandals, magnetic disks, rugby players, dereferenced pointers, cardboard void fill, pro-lifers, snowstorms. The digital world is replete. It resists any efforts to be colonized by the post-colonialists. We cannot escape it by holing up in Berkeley waiting for the taurus of time to roll around to 1968. It will find us and it will videotape our kittens.
It's not "the digital" that marks the future of the humanities, it's what things digital point to: a great outdoors. A real world. A world of humans, things, and ideas. A world of the commonplace. A world that prepares jello salads. A world that litigates, that chews gum, that mixes cement. A world that rusts, that photosynthesizes, that ebbs. The philosophy of tomorrow should not be digital democracy but a democracy of objects.
I think the author, Assoc. Prof. Ian Bogost is absolutely right. And I'm excited by the prospects.

archival research

Yesterday I went to the State Library to do some research for a supervisor of mine. It involved archival digging with the micro-film machine. This was one of the first gems I found. It was from a newspaper from 1888 called Southern Queensland Bulletin:

I managed to find a few references to the research topic I was employed to investigate, although compared to the way research is conducted now with computers (and the advent of instant 'searchability') this kind of research initially seemed so tedious. After a few hours of sifting, though, I came to realise the vast potential of this kind of research for uncovering such a broad array of data. It reminded me of why my research is qualitative. In sitting down and 'chatting' about something, or sifting through years of really old papers, you can discover things that a direct question (or a Likert scale) or a google search string won't. And those little bits you discover at the periphery might be crucial. 

I was also reminded that the social ills that seem to plague us according to popular discourse (well, my mother watches A Current Affair and Today Tonight, so...) have, in fact, been plaguing us for quite some time. The form of these ills (and I'd dispute whether they are actually ills at all, in fact) have certainly changed, and the mediums by which they're transmitted are certainly recent inventions, but they're still the same in many ways.