It is now Friday morning and the I am synthesising the last four days that I have been embedded at the News and Media Research Centre (NMRC), here a the University of Canberra. This is the first of three visits I will make here, and I will be back in July to undertake the next phase of research wonder.

The plan from the outset was to come to NMRC, share my research, mentor some emerging scholars and higher degree researchers and work on potential research connections. I think I did that in probably the best possible way! Also, props here to David Nolan who has been the host with the most – not only was this trip scholarly stimulating, it was also fun.

I gave a two–hour workshop on industry research and mentored a few PhD candidates on Tuesday – you can read about that here.

Wednesday was a chance to meet with one of the Directors at the National Gallery of Australia who looks after the digital media programs. This was a chance to talk through my research, get an overview of where the gallery is heading (particularly around automation and collections) and lay the foundations for future collaboration. Wednesday was also a chance to meet with the Associate Dean of Research and talk through the purpose of the Fellowship. Meeting and greeting was on the agenda over sensational Asian treats.

I also had a great brainstorming session with David Nolan around the potential of research within the Discovery Project space. We talked through evolving media ecosystems and worked through our foundational scholarly position within our research and where the cross over points are. I think we have something that is starting to flourish here.

Thursday was the last chance to make it all come together, which David and I did through more collaborative discussions about research. We really found a stride here and are moving towards a project.

Thursday was also a great chance to sit down with all (well Most) of the scholars of the NMRC. We exchanged our research areas, which is always refreshing to take time out of our everyday and talk about what really interests us as scholars. As expected, the NMRC is a powerhouse of scholars, ‘punching well above their weight’.

NMRC Researchers

Here’s some take aways form that moment:

Professor Kerry McCallum

Associate Professor Mathieu O’Neil

  • Free software and work and new forms of collaborations, volunteer work potential from a survey, Ford and Sloan, Digital Commons Council was established, mapping email addresses in GitHub.
  • w/Rob Acland, Online networks, grant from VW Scheme working on echo chambers and online discourse
  • w/ faculty on media literacy with kids, orient them to Wikipedia as a fact checking source.

Professor Sora Park

Associate Professor David Nolan

D

Senior Research Fellow Kate Holland

Postdoctoral Research Fellow Kieran Mcguinness

  • Postdoc – generalist
  • Split between audience and news consumption, trust misinformation, social media use, attitudes towards news
  • Political comms, policy and politic and discourse analysis, PE focus
  • Client facing in last two years, Judith Neilson Institution, the ACMA, The SBS, partner orgs, specialist skill sets for short term projects
snow light dawn landscape

I have arrived at the University of Canberra to undertake my first of three visits as the Distinguished Faculty of Arts and Design Research Fellow. While Day 1 was a wonderful day of catching with friends and colleagues and eating some great food from around the way, the real work started on Tuesday, Day 2.

My day was split into two key sessions: a workshop in the morning that explored embedded industry research, and the second half of the day which was for HDR mentoring. I’m here to bring my research, meet people and think through potential collaborative research projects with colleagues. I’d like to thank all the wonderful people at the News and Media Research Centre for hosting me over the five days.

Embedded Industry Research

First off, I forgot how much I love travelling and talking with people in a face-to-face mode! I haven’t presented research anywhere in person for about two years, so I was very excited to talk with people in a room that didn’t rhyme with Zoom.

This first session was designed as a two and a half hour workshop for HDRs and beyond to explore the contexts and nuances of embedded research within industry. Drawing on my last ten years of embedded research at various industry partners from around the world, it was refreshing to re-visit how to do this sort of really important work. From how to approach industry with an offer, to co-designing research questions, and then how to integrate the appropriate methods, particularly in a post-lock down world, was refreshing for me.

What was more exciting was the discussion that emerged after the presentation. We had about an even split of colleagues who had done industry research (and this includes Linkage projects, consultancy work, commissioned research, and longer form research), and those that hadn’t. As we broke into smaller groups (not break out rooms), the conversation was focussed on the lived experience of researching with industry partners. It was excellent.

Some of the key topics that emerged included:

  • Often there are different languages and perspectives at play between academics and industry – intermediaries are always useful, to broker between the different stakeholders
  • We (academics) can become annoying? How do we ensure we remain relevant to the project from the industry perspective, too?
  • Often the experience was disappointing – a great word to use here, where some of the finding shave been ignored or not acted upon
  • There can be an anti-intellectual/academic culture – is it common with media organisations/journalists or more broadly than this?
  • Is there something about the authority of academics that might not gel with industry folk?
  • How could we know about their world/environment?
  • What is your character that you take in with you? I’m a journalist. I’m a content creator. ‘Interloper’ was used.
  • Suspicion seems to be the reaction from those being researched – why are they here?
  • ‘It’s all about trust’
  • The complications of trust
  • Pandemic and the loss of hanging out with our industry folk
  • Reflexivity – all data is skewed, “situation of data gathering’

If you are interested, you can access the slides from the day here:

The slides for the Embedded Industry Research workshop

The second half of the day was spent listening to HDRs talk about their projects and trying to guide them where I could. I very much look forward to connecting many of these amazing people with some fo the amazing humans from MECO – there are many cross over points that can be strengthened with a more national network of HDRs.

I

This article first appeared as the Editorial for Volume 13, Issue 4 of Policy & Internet Journal and is co-authored with Milica Stilinovic. I am sharing this pre-print here as a resource for others who may not have access to the copyedited and typeset version.

Abstract

As our societies approach and engage with a number of policy moments, we are presented with opportunities to develop the discourse surrounding a sustained vitality of the worlds in which we live. One way of undertaking this is through extensive consultation with those of whom the discussions impact the most. Often this includes industry and government stakeholders, but more importantly is the process of including the voices of the groups and individuals who will be left to function within and around these policy interventions. This article highlights several moments there has been a successful consultation process within policy and internet arenas, and also highlights some key examples of when user consultation failed or was marginalised, resulting in less than acceptable outcomes. Further to this, policy intervention is a unique opportunity for scholarly research to demonstrate some of its best impact: its inclusion of intensive and often publicly funded research within the societies it examines. The contemporary take on the inclusion of user perspectives and scholarly research provides the backdrop for the seven articles of this issue that in many ways integrate this approach and highlight the importance of all voices within the policy development for the internet and its surrounding technological and cultural spaces.

Keywords

policy; user-centred design; platforms; communication; scholarly research

Introduction

As our world leaders gathered in Glasgow for the United Nations Climate Change, or COP26 as it has been adopted by the world, our attention has been directed toward the impact of humanity on the enduring existence of our planet. We had not been in this moment since the Paris Agreement of 2015, also known as COP21, where all countries agreed to limit global warming well below 2 degrees, with an aim of 1.5 degrees. The goals of the 2021 gathering are four:

  1. Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach
  2. Adapt and protect communities and natural habitats
  3. Mobilise Finance
  4. Work together to deliver the outcomes (ukcop26, 2021)

This list seems a feasible agenda for a gathering of this sort, yet it was not without its own controversies as leaders gathered from most countries to talk through their strategies for the next five years. 

Central to these discussions was the communication of the critical information about climate change. In the lead up to the summit, and in the moment of the Pandemic, we have seen such an increase in misinformation, which has been fuelled too often by disinformation. Entangled in this space are also “propaganda, selective reporting, conspiracy theory, inadvertent misinformation, and deliberate disinformation” (Angus et al. 2021, p. 1), where these scholars argue misinformation is not new in itself but is being amplified by users and algorithmic distribution techniques. It is the information communication input and output moments of COP26 that is crucial for citizens around the world to ensure we are across the current debates, science and outcomes of this critical gathering for climate change.

Yet in all this discussion, there remains one thing that is missing: us. And this is a somewhat common practice at these often-high level policy-generating gatherings between our global leaders, where the focus could be for reasons other than the titles on the banners. Aditya Chakrabortty of the Guardian makes a wonderful argument for just that: it’s a great idea to get everyone wanting the same thing, but in reality it’s just unworkable. The key point to take away from his discussion is that any significant moment, movement or policymaking gesture should always try to make change withpeople and not just for them. While discussions are underway at the global level for environmental decisions that are, and continue to remain, unfolding at time of writing, the user-focus is something that is still relatively un-inclusive and emblematic of our communication and technology policy dialogue.

In our last Editorial for Issue 13, volume 3, we revisited the Mark Deuze concept of living in the media to make sense of some of the contemporary media and technology policymaking moments currently underway (Stilinovic and Hutchinson, 2021). Yet in the three months since its publication, the adaptation of top-down driven regulatory decisions has appeared across several our favourite and everyday platforms – a return to the enduring issues that plague Tumblr. In 2012, Tumblr changed its content publishing policy to remove all blogs that were related to self-harm, attempting to improve the so-called quality of its published content. This was driven internally, and the decision was made in the interest of ‘all’ users. However, as Tiidenberg, Hendry and Abidin (2021) articulate, this was catastrophic for users who found community and belonging on Tumblr when they had been pushed away from other online spaces. The questions then emerge, where do these users go and what happens when they cannot connect with other users? Could the policy of this one social media platform been derived in a better method to not other, alienate or displace digital users? How might we learn from the outcomes of Tumblr and apply those insights to other aspects of our digital communication environments?

The stretch of platform-oriented regulation

The absence of users, particularly in the online environment, is nothing new and we have seen this occur across a number of settings. To briefly return to Tumblr as one of the most fascinating cases studies in recent times, it’s useful to highlight the spectrum of issues at play when activities come under the policy re-shaping spotlight. Seko and Lewis (2016) made a critical observation of Tumblr and the fringe sorts of online communities that gather in that space, highlighting the importance of community-making though online cultural curation. In describing the unique reblogging affordance of the Tumblr platform, they describe how online community has formed, consolidating what boyd and Marwick (2009) argued as avoiding a fear of being stigmatized online. Seko and Lewis argue “that unique affordances of the Tumblr platform shape distinct ways in which SI (self-harm) is told and shared. These affordances also imply the broader sociocultural context drawn by the particular audiences in making sense of the shared story” (2016, p. 182). The important takeaway from these scholars and others working in this space is the variety of users and how they rely on a broad range of sociocultural affordances in their online selves, communities and existence.

            For Tumblr, they were trying to combat the public view that providing a place for those interested in self-harming would encourage the activity to occur. In fact, as the research indicates, this type of content provides a place for users to gather, provide support, share knowledge and feel included. Instagram has shown a consultative approach towards policy design, but also has significant leaps to make that work for its large user base. In 2019, the platform made a move to restrict content that includes dieting, detoxing, losing weight and cosmetic surgery (iweigh, 2020). What was of note here is the consultative approach they used to include the users themselves, body positivity campaigners (see for example Jameela Jamil), alongside academics researching in this space (see for example Dr Ysabel Gerrard), to produce policy that was inclusive and representative.

While this may seem a positive step forward, it also introduces the broad discussion of content moderation and the role it plays within policymaking, especially for areas such as young social media users and their health. Further to this, content moderation demonstrates the role that those who administer or police these sorts of policies play across social media, but also in other spaces of communication and technology. “Emerging policies will be limited if they do not draw on the kind of expansive understanding of content moderation that scholars can provide” (Gillespie et al. 2020, p. 2). These scholars highlight that what is happening on social media platforms, is reflective of what then happens across other digital spaces – it is a call for academics to take an increasingly important role in policymaking. Yet they further argue academic involvement in policymaking discussions “must be grounded in an understanding of moderation as an expansive socio-technical phenomenon, one that functions in many contexts and takes many forms” (p. 3). Beyond the location of content moderation of social media platforms, the point of socio-technical phenomenon is a grounding standard for all policymaking processes. 

The current focus within the communication and media space is very much on the regulation of platforms as a key issue for a variety of governments, it is important to also be considerate of how this discussion extends beyond platforms alone and towards other aspects of policymaking. In this conversation, it is important to highlight the importance of the user voice and perspective when these debates emerge and indeed when the action of policymaking occurs. Further to this, the inclusion of these voices, such as activists, campaigners, interest groups, lobbyists and academics, the holistic understanding of the social and cultural affordances of these spaces are critical – these are the indicators on how good policy should be designed and implemented. This is where much of our policymaking falls short in the contemporary space. While the policymaking is accommodating for certain sectors of the userbase, it is inherently ignorant of others which often causes sever ruptures of the status-quo – this has consistently been the experience in the Australian context.

The most recent case study to demonstrate this exact argument is in the shift to update the advertisement policy at Facebook. On January 19, 2022, Facebook will remove detailed targeting options “that relate to topics people may perceive as sensitive, such as options referencing causes, organizations, or public figures that relate to health, race or ethnicity, political affiliation, religion, or sexual orientation” (Mudd, 2021, n.p.). Facebook sees this as a positive move forward that will protect individuals from content that is not relative to them. They are attempting to balance a policymaking approach that on the one hand is trying a balanced approach:

“we want to better match people’s evolving expectations of how advertisers may reach them on our platform and address feedback from civil rights experts, policymakers and other stakeholders on the importance of preventing advertisers from abusing the targeting options we make available” (Mudd, 2021, n.p.)

Yet, the outcome is less than desirable for a breadth of Facebook stakeholders. Jordan Taylor (2021) wrote on Twitter that this move not be a good thing: “Public health researchers & communicators, local advocacy groups, and Big Pharma likely use this feature to target ads related to HIV treatment and prevention. Removing this targeting may make reaching marginalized communities more difficult for small advertisers”. This is but one area of a policy change that will impact a significant group of stakeholders on the platform. Kath Albury (2021) continued Taylor’s support against this policy change by highlighting the continued difficulties academics and researchers face when trying to interface with social media platforms: “…these kinds of policies make it very hard to do health promotion – or recruit research participants”. In many cases, these moves are as Jean Burgess (2021) noted, going to cause harm if they are not connected to context and theories of power.

            This is an important backdrop for the setting of this issue of Policy & Internet: the importance of users and their social and technological contexts when policymaking consultation emerges and through its implementation. Good policymaking is done with a sincere and thorough understanding of all those who will be effected by changes, and done with a view to increasing the status quo of the environment. It is also important to continually highlight that while this is happening in the media and communication space, particularly in the social media space, it is representative of how policymaking should be undertaken more broadly. It is a continuing discussion between the users (Hoffman, Proferes & Zimmer, 2018), the technologies (Hutchinson, 2021), the socio-cultures (Cabalquinto & Soriano, 2020), the moderators (Gerrard & Thornham, 2020), the researchers (Gillespie et al., 2020) and the policymakers that enable good policy design and implementation.

Issue 13:4 

With an undertow for more scholarly research for and within policymaking as a thematic thread throughout this issue, the first article by Arho Suominen and Arash Hajikhana (2021) systematically explores the implication of big data on the policymaking processes. Through three key indices that have emerged from nine communities engaging in this research – namely the policy cycle, data-base decision-making, and productivity – these authors articulate a research agenda for further studies in public policy through big data. That is, these scholars are grounding the research agenda for policymaking in the context of what it seeks to regulate.

            The second article in this issue turns its attention toward the China context, specifically looking at the role social media has played on the country’s family planning policy. As the media landscape has shifted and changed in the last ten years, so too has the agenda setting mechanisms for policy surrounding public issues, where a strong focus was on the revision of the one-child policy. Deng et al. (2021) have engaged text-mining analysis across a corpora of 74,000 Sina Weibo user comments on The People’s Daily published content to understand how the agenda has shifted. They specifically focus on the interactions between users and state-run news media to reveal how other public issues have emerged as important to the Weibo users during this time and how approaches towards agenda setting have changed over time.

            Daniel Konikoff (2021) explores the space of toxicity and abusive content policy for Twitter in our third article, and argues for how we might reconceptualise policy within this communication space. By implementing a gatekeeper theory approach, and engaging in a discourse analysis, Konikoff presents a compelling argument that the policy and the technological affordances indeed perpetuate the toxicity of hate and vitriol content on the Twitter platform. This article signals how the freedom of speech rhetoric is not a useful mechanism to limit hate speech, which can also be applied to other social media platforms beyond Twitter itself.

            Public policy discussion between the US and the UK come under the comparison lens in our fourth article by Barrett, Dommett and Kreiss (2021). These scholars identify six common ideals across the UK and the US for digital threats to democracy: transparency, accountability, engagement, informed public social solidarity, and freedom of expression. They also argue that policymaking is out of step with current literature by demonstrating how the framing of these democratic ideals often lead to specific sorts of evocative practices and promotion of the ideals themselves. This work is especially important with the growing rise of right-wing politics and other democratic crises.

            Costa e Silva and Lameiras (2021) provide a Portuguese perspective on civil society and internet governance in our fifth article of this issue. By taking a national level perspective, these scholars critically examine the impact of participation on the conditions of civil society by reviewing activism within Portugal, based on the Portuguese and EU policy space. Through the integration of mobilization theory, these scholars identify a lack of horizontal networking because of the lack of civil structural resources such as knowledge and legitimization which is often achieved through international collaboration. Ultimately, they argue, and are in support of, multistakeholderism is a core principle for European civil society, yet the Portuguese case provides unique insights and a space for learning for the broader European context. 

            Lynette H. X. Ng and Araz Taeihagh (2021) turn to a more technology approach in the sixth article of this issue, in How does fake news spread? Understanding pathways of disinformation spread through APIs. As an often-overlooked stakeholder for internet policy, these scholars ask how technology infrastructures are impacting on how disinformation spreads through our networks. Through extensive analysis of how application interface programs (APIs) operate – especially their code repositories on GitHub and the like– across Telegram, Twitter, Facebook and Reddit. Through this analysis, these scholars highlight a four-stage framework that enables disinformation to travel across social media platforms, with a view to providing policy input on how APIs can be better managed. This research provides unique insights on how platform governance can continue to evolve for improved regulation on social media networks.

            The final article in this issue focusses on the scholarship of digital diplomacy while exploring the Twitter use of three countries: Israel, Turkey and Russia. Through a content analysis and topic mapping, these scholars highlight how the countries’ Ministries of Foreign Affairs use Twitter to present an international and somewhat positive face to their audiences. What is of interest here is how these digital diplomacy efforts act differently towards their Ministry’s strategies to promote their foreign policy goals. By highlighting that Twitter is a legitimate platform to implement foreign state policy, and through a sociopragmatic framework, it can be seen that each country is addressing foreign audiences within the international arena.

References

Albury, K. (2021) [@KathAlbnury]. Thread of the day – these kinds of policies make it very hard to do health promotion – or recruit research participants. [Tweet]. (Twitter) https://twitter.com/KathAlbury/status/1458307404076969990

Angus, D., Bruns, A., Hurcombe, E., and Harrington, S. (2021). Fake news’ on Facebook: a large-scale longitudinal study of problematic link-sharing practices from 2016 to 2020. In Selected Papers in Internet Research 2021: Research from the Annual Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers. AoIR – Association of Internet Researchers, United States of America. https://eprints.qut.edu.au/213835/

Barrett, B., Dommett, K., and Kreiss, D. (2021). The capricious relationship between technology and democracy: Analyzing public policy discussions in the UK and US. Policy & Internet. 13(4).

Burgess. J. (2021). [@jeanburgess] Once again for the choir in the back: all platform governance strategies enacted without connection to a. context and b. a theory of power are c. not going to work and d. likely to cause harm. [Tweet] (Twitter). https://twitter.com/jeanburgess/status/1458312489792200706

Cabalquinto, E. C., & Soriano, C. R. R. (2020). ‘Hey, I like ur videos. Super relate!’ Locating sisterhood in a postcolonial intimate public on YouTube. Information Communication & Society, Forthocming, 1–28.

Chakrabortty, A. Muddled, top-down, technocratic: why the green new deal should be scrapped. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/nov/11/green-new-deal-bad-idea-policy-left-joe-biden-john-mcdonnell?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Costa e Silva, E., and Lameiras, M. (2021). What is the role of civil society in Internet governance? Confronting institutional passive perspectives with resource mobilization in Portugal. Policy & Internet. 13(4).

Danziger, R. and Schreiber, M. (2021). Digital Diplomacy: Face management in MFA Twitter accounts. Policy & Internet. 13(4).

Deng, W., Hsu, J H., Löfgren, K., and Cho, W. (2021). Who is Leading the China’s Family Policy Discourse? Policy & Internet. 13(4).

Gerrard, Y., & Thornham, H. (2020). Content moderation: Social media’s sexist assemblages. New Media & Society, 22(7), 1266–1286.

Gillespie, T. & Aufderheide, P. & Carmi, E. & Gerrard, Y. & Gorwa, R. & Matamoros-Fernández, A. & Roberts, S. T. & Sinnreich, A. & Myers West, S. (2020). Expanding the debate about content moderation: scholarly research agendas for the coming policy debates. Internet Policy Review9(4). 

Hoffmann, A. E., Proferes, N., & Zimmer, M. (2018). “Making the World More Open and Connected”: Mark Zuckerberg and the discursive construction of Facebook and its users. New Media & Society, 20(1), 199–218.

Hutchinson, J. (2021). Digital intermediation: Unseen infrastructures for cultural production. New Media & Society. doi:10.1177/14614448211040247

iweigh. (2020) Instagram Bans Weight Loss Content for Under 18-year-olds. https://iweighcommunity.com/instagram-policy-change/

Konikoff, D. (2021). Gatekeepers of Toxicity: Reconceptualizing Twitter’s Abuse and Hate Speech Policies. Policy & Internet. 13(4).

Mudd, G. (2021). Removing Certain Ad Targeting Options and Expanding our Ad Controls. Available at: https://www.facebook.com/business/news/removing-certain-ad-targeting-options-and-expanding-our-ad-controls

Ng, L. H. X., and Taeihagh, A. (2021). How does Fake News Spread? Understanding pathways of disinformation spread through APIs. Policy & Internet. 13(4).

Seko Y, Lewis SP. (2018) The self—harmed, visualized, and reblogged: Remaking of self-injury narratives on Tumblr. New Media & Society. 20(1):180-198. 

Stilinovic, M. and Hutchinson, J. (2021). Living in media and the era of regulation: Policy & Internet during a pandemic. Policy & Internet. 13(3).

Suominen, A. and Hajikhana, A. (2021) Review of Big Data Analytics in Policy-Making: A Research Agenda. Policy & Internet. 13(4). 

Taylor, J. (2021). [@nprandchill] Facebook just announced they are removing ad targeting based on sexual orientation, but that may not be a good thing. [Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/nprandchill/status/1458298483887247361

Tiidenberg, K., Hendry, N. A., & Abidin, C. (2021). Tumblr. New York: Polity Press.

eSafety Commission

Recently, I was hanging out with my kids and we were doing a drawing tutorial on the YouTube channel, Arts for Kids Hub. We were following along learning how to draw a volcano when I was struck by some of the things Rob (the tutor) was saying to his son (the student). Every time his son wouldn’t quite make the straight line, or stay inside the colouring lines, or just go a bit wobbly, Rob would just say ‘that’s OK ’cause we’re learning’.

[Just so you know, we drew some insanely cool volcanos that day.]

Anyway, it struck me that this was a reminder that sometimes getting bogged down in the details stops us from just getting on with the overall project – it really interrupts our flow. Kind of like when you are learning a new song on whatever instrument you play, and you can either focus on each note until it’s perfect, or work you way through the piece and perfect sections as you progress. One way is probably more correct, but the other is more fun and likely more insightful of the ‘other’ things you discover along the way.

I wondered if this approach would (could?) apply to my professional world.

Academia runs on perfection and there’s always pressure on us to do the best work we possibly can. This is not necessarily a bad thing, given the significance of the work that we do and the broader impact it might have. The outcome should be the best it can, while also done as a digestible effort for a wide audience. But if we perfect each increment of every step along the way, I wonder what opportunities we may miss. Would there be new discoveries that we miss by chance, or perhaps through serendipity?

I think this is definitely the case with research grant funding.

I was recently, along with two of my colleagues Dr Justine Humphry and Dr Olga Boichak, awarded a reasonably large research grant (around $250,000) from the eSafety Commission – a tier 2 grant category as we say in the biz. This is genuinely an amazing achievement and we are incredibly happy to be one of the funded projects looking at the emerging safety issues on social media for young audiences. You can read more about the grant and project here, and about the funding scheme and other funded projects here.

This project will take us through until mid 2023, with an official kick off in January next year.

I’m now well within my mid-career researcher (MCR) phase, which means I have progressed from the early career researcher (ECR) era – ECR is often judged as beyond five to seven years after completing one’s phd thesis (I submitted mine in 2013). During this time, you usually receive strong mentorship with senior colleagues for positioning your career, focussing your research and its outputs, teaching (if that’s your stream), and grant writing. I’ve had a reasonably strong track record with grant funding for research both through schemes internally at USyd and externally at the Australian Research Council and others.

The eSafety Commission grants were officially announced yesterday, with much media coverage, to which were part of a well-deserved celebration of our successes. We had web pages launched, media releases, tweets constructed and people sending congratulations and best wishes all day and night. It was lovely.

It did make me pause and think about the development of this research project up until this point. We had two failed attempts at various grants (Facebook and ACCAN) before securing this funding go-ahead. Also there would have been so many other great ideas from other research teams that didn’t make the cut for this funding scheme – I have certainly been in that category several times over. Such much effort and time invested in developing a research project and funding application, only to have it declined.

In academia especially, we always talk about our successes as this is our currency that opens the door for the next opportunity – it is our track record. But we never talk about our failings, and this is where the real learning is located. On this most recent successfully funded project, we learnt the following from our previous failed attempts at funding:

  • Boring things like how to follow procedures to submit through administration systems (which are actually really important);
  • That there are amazing industry partners in this space, and who we now work with like Youth Action NSW and Student Edge;
  • That our project has two prongs: one in digital disengagement, the other in safety for young people online;
  • That we have some amazing emerging scholars around us (looking at you Mahli-Ann);
  • That we have excellent knowledge in our local CALD communities; and
  • There is a huge gap in our knowledge around these important areas.

So yeah, we failed. But then we succeeded spectacularly. So I think that’s OK, we’re learning.

Sydney Protests

I was asked to write an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald last week as a reaction to the anti-lockdown protests in Sydney, which took place the week before.

I found it incredibly interesting how those who attended the event left a trail of ‘evidence’ across social media, and who that would be the first place that police agencies, who are incredibly angry, would go for that evidence. There self-posted celebrations would be their downfall ultimately.

What is more interesting is that this is an event which is master-minded by a far-right group in Germany, who has brought quite disparate groups together to march on the status quo. They, who are at an arm’s length, will not be touched by any form of Sydney based policing.

Below is a version of the final article which appears here in the SMH.

Hiding in plain sight: Facebook a ‘honeypot’ for police to monitor protests


Calls for tighter regulation on Facebook are the standard reaction to the spread of disinformation across the social media giant, but considering the recent anti-lockdown protests, perhaps the platform should do nothing.

Activist groups are calling on Facebook to tighten measures on misinformation, claiming “disinfo kills”. Killer disinformation was potentially manifest in the anti-lockdown protests in Sydney last weekend, where the social media platform was likely used to promote and organise. The protest organisers are again encouraging their networks to take to the streets on Saturday to call for change against mandatory vaccinations and lockdowns. These protests have prompted renewed pressure to monitor Facebook’s capacity to attract problematic groups.

However, digital traces of the anti-lockdown protesters on Facebook serve as aides to law enforcement agencies who seek to identify and prosecute hundreds of individuals since the chaos erupted in Sydney. The platform also provides insights for planned activities of these same groups.

The amplification of social media messaging left a trail of videos, images, chats and discussion among thousands of individuals who opposed the current public health orders to stay at home, wear a mask when in public and get vaccinated against COVID-19; a veritable honeypot of data for use by law enforcement agencies seeking to identify and prosecute those who flout public health orders.

So Facebook needs to weigh the potential for the disinformation it hosts to be destructive with the intel it can gather on groups who spread it. And the intel can be vast. We now know that a combination of activity on Instagram, Telegram and Facebook, supported by a German-based group, Freie Bürger Kassel (or the Free Citizens of Kassel), was able to mobilise thousands of individuals in a number of cities around the globe. The Worldwide Rally for Freedom, of which the Sydney protest formed a part, saw a collection of somewhat aligned cohorts of anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists, lockdown-opposers, health and wellness groups and far-right extremists come together to protest for their freedom.

This prompts the question: What will Facebook do to prevent these sorts of ill-intent events from occurring in the future? The answer is likely to be nothing. This is the approach that remains consistent with Facebook’s right to freedom of speech position, which enables a wide variety of opinion and conversation to continue. Given the array of horrific moments that have been broadcast live, organised and discussed by its users, one might ask why there isn’t more done to protect the safety of others on Facebook. But perhaps the best thing Facebook could do after the recent Worldwide Rally for Freedom is nothing.

While this approach may be counter to a growing public opinion of Facebook’s responsibility for safe and civil societies, the platform finds itself in a unique position that sees it collecting and profiling the personal data of those who seek to “remain free”. Inherently, through its crowd gathering and mobilisation applications – for example, Facebook Events – the platform is able to collect, sort, organise and archive the personal and network data of those who participated in the rally and documented their efforts on Facebook.

By not de-platforming, silencing or delisting the public event, has Facebook provided law enforcement the breadcrumb trail and the evidence it needs to identify those at the heart of the protest and to prosecute accordingly? This unique and insightful database may indeed be the last chance that police and law enforcement agencies have before these sorts of organisations disappear to the dark web. From there, it becomes increasingly difficult for the law to find and follow leaders of such groups.

The regulatory pressure of this moment places Facebook again in the challenging position to decide on how, in a post-Christchurch massacre world, to manage free speech against the negative and ill-conceived events that are harmful to our societies. But as we saw in the fallout of the ANOM app that brought down more than 200 members of Australia’s underworld, digital databases remain unfriendly to activities that contrast with lawful directives. In that sense, it is the users themselves who are undertaking the detective work.

Ironically, those who wish to be “free” are further incriminating themselves through their public digital traces left on social media platforms. NSW Police have used these traces to administer hundreds of fines to the anti-lockdown protesters.

Public media and automation

I’m super happy to announce a book chapter, co-authored with my colleague Jannick Sørensen, in The Values of Public Service Media in the Internet Society. Our chapter is titled Can Automated Strategies Work for PSM in a Network Society? Engaging Digital Intermediation for Informed Citizenry.

2020 was a tough year for everyone, all round. It was also tough in the research output space as reviews slowed, research focus was redirected, conferences stopped, and the overall productivity of our research space grinded to a turtle pace – at times driven by an increased demand on our skills in the teaching space.

What I think we will see is a slowing of research output in the next few years as we all took a hit in research access, fieldwork and overall ability to keep researching during 2020. But it is nice to see colleagues still publishing for the moment and getting back on track in 2021.

One of those outputs for 2021 is our co-authored chapter that explores the role automation plays in public service media. To approach this we have used the lens of digital intermediation to understand how user visibility plays into the overall strategies of increasing uses of automation within public service media.

As always, please get in touch if you have issues with access to the book chapter.

**This article first appeared in The Conversation, May 28 2020**

The constraints of coronavirus isolation have closed down most recreational activities, but some creative industries are responding in innovative ways.

I have been researching “digital first personalities” – content producers who build massive (or highly engaged) audiences online first and then often make the jump to traditional media.

Online spaces and social media platforms including Twitch, Patreon, Streamlabs, OnlyFans, and SubStack are becoming more familiar to consumers. This new frontier of the creative industries has writers, comedians, gamers, musicians and even porn producers adopting new ways to make a buck online that could prove viable beyond lockdown.

Plamping the DJ

Zoom and TikTok have emerged as the go-to social platforms during isolation. Families share meals together online, colleagues enjoy drinks remotely after work, families perform micro-dance challenges together, and trivia has found a new audience.

DJs and their record labels) are providing an innovative model and keeping the good-time vibes rolling during isolation.

The recent phenomenon of “plamping” (a portmanteau of plant and lamp to describe the DJ’s classic background mise en scène) has emerged as a meme. When people are “plamped” they are ready to socially engage with others by tuning in to a live DJ set on Twitch TV and interacting with others in a “hosted” Zoom room.

This is the online equivalent of paying your entry fee to the club and hanging out with your mates. Once there, DJs and their labels encourage participants to donate to support the creators.

As users engage with each other via the chat functionality on the Twitch channel’s stream, they build relationships. Twitch has its own communication style – from platform-specific emojis to catch-cries. As the party kicks into gear, someone will likely ask: “Still plamped?”

New York club Nowadays is hosting virtual DJ sets and asking for financial contributions via Patreon. The highest level of support includes entry to a post-pandemic party.

DJ Khaled and Katy Perry are among high profile artists who will perform live concerts via BeApp, though the platform (sponsored by Coca Cola) will raise funds for International Red Cross.

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Plamping hard at Virtual Neon Oasis Fest! ??The full set is up on SoundCloud now – check it out! http://Bit.ly/2TxpqHZ  #plamp

Front Runner Platforms

Twitch has exploded as the go-to streaming platform during coronavirus times. Italy’s Twitch gaming traffic alone increased by 70%. There are now 5 million monthly streamers on site, up almost 40% on last year.

What is new, however, is the evolution of Twitch (owned by Amazon) for other entertainment areas, including fundraising, house parties, and of course, plamping. It is estimated Twitch’s turnover was approximately US$1.54 billion in 2019 (A$2.32 billion), with creator revenue around US$600 million (A$900 million) per year.

Beyond Twitch, there are a number of other monetised streaming apps and platforms, established to enable creators to earn money while they “perform” their craft.

Patreon, Streamlabs, OnlyFans, and SubStack all have business models in place that enable creators to choose a plan and partner with the streaming app.

Started in 2013, Patreon now claims to be home to over 150,000 creators supported by more than 4 million patrons. A Patreon creator will select either a 5, 8, or 12% membership plan, with each level offering increased member benefits. As the artist earns more money, so does the streaming app.

OnlyFans – where users sell nude pics and videos – has reportedly been booming since lockdown, with a 75% increase in monthly sign-ups and gaining 150,000 new users every 24 hours.

Lee Reynolds digitally busking during his DJ set. Twitch TV

Can you make a living?

It is estimated Patreon paid its members approximately US$1 billion (A$1.5 billion) up to and including 2019. And with the isolation period in the first three months of 2020, Streamlabs says its active user base has increased by over 30%.

Online gamer Ninja earned US$17 million (A$25 million) in 2019 alone according to Forbes. Social media influencer Caroline Calloway (famous for securing book deals and then not delivering on them) has bragged about a projected US$223,800 (A$337,000) salary from OnlyFans pics, while porn creator Monica Hudt claims she earned over $100,000 on OnlyFans in 2019.

But are these figures representative of online streamers more broadly?

As with all start-up platforms, there are varying degrees of success with typically only a few rising as top earners above the majority of creators. Most streaming creators generally offer branded merchandise alongside their stream to support their income. In the plamping space, DJs are digitally busking by asking punters to leave tips or contribute to their rent.

OnlyFans has been criticised for recent changes to referral bonuses that will cut into earnings.

After lockdown

Some believe creative industries and major events will change forever after COVID-19. If that’s the case, new economic models are required for those who work in this space.

Digital first personalities who integrate streaming apps are leading the way, but it remains to be seen whether they can sustain themselves this way. As with all disruptive technologies, they explode when they emerge, then settle in the larger media framework.

Still with the increased exposure to live streaming during COVID-19, it is likely we will see more integration of online activity even when live events return. And that is a space where more attention is required to ensure those who work in the industry are supported.

plamping

Social media preferences are shifting during COVID-19 restrictions. While many of us have been house bound during the recent COVID-19 isolation period, many social media users have been finding innovative ways to socialise online, akin to how we would in non-restrictive times. But how are social media logics playing out during this time?

New forms of connecting during COVID-19

There is no doubt, Zoom, TikTok and others have taken over as the go-to social platforms during these times. Families are sharing meals together via video conferencing, colleagues enjoy drinks after work on Friday evening, families are doing micro-dance challenges together, we’re notified when our friends fire up their ‘Houseparty’ app, and trivia games have found a new niche interest.

The recent phenomenon of ‘plamping’, however, has emerged as the one fringe-styled socialisation technique that is rapidly evolving to the mainstream. When one is ‘plamped’ they are ready to socially engage with others usually through a combination of social media platforms, focussed around live DJ sets – usually the combination of Twitch and Zoom.

The fast-tracking of reliance on these few platforms has resulted in a digital intermediation issue: who owns the ‘plamping’ platforms, and are users able to socialise while multi-platforming? [Side note dear reader, you must read the work of Kristian Møller and how chemsex is changing during isolation].

How does ‘Plamping’ work?

Plamp is a portmanteau of the words ‘plant’ and ‘lamp’ which first appeared on the Twitch Live streaming platform on the first weekend of quarantine 2020 to describe the live DJ set of Dark Deep and Dangerous. He had a plant and a lamp in his frame, which is now replicated as a typical ‘prop’ within the scene.

The term also refers to the act of tuning in to a live DJ set on Twitch TV and interacting with other participants in a hosted Zoom room – the preferred platform combination for many users.

As users engage with each other via the commenting and liking functionality on the Twitch channel’s stream, users begin to build relationships with each other. Twitch has its own style of communication, for example through the use of platform specific emojis such as WutFace, HotPokket and a host of unlockable channel specific communications. As the party starts to kick into gear, someone is likely to ask: ‘still plamped? [insert Zoom Meeting ID] [Insert Zoom Meeting Password].

Following that link can take one to all sorts of places.

A screenshot of a cell phone

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Screencap of a random Twitch chat to demonstrate the variety of emoji and language norms

The Twitch/Zoom combo has become a standard for many users wanting to enjoy their Friday and Saturday nights at home, with many users setting up their houses to mimic ‘the club’ with appropriate lighting and props.

But why are users flocking to this combo of platforms over, say YouTube or the Houseparty app?

Amazon dominating the live-stream market

There is no doubt that Twitch has exploded as the go-to platform during Coronavirus times. This has been expected in the gaming industry. Italy’s Twitch traffic alone has increased by 70% in gaming traffic alone.

A close up of a map

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Source: TwitchTracker

What is emerging is the adaptation of this gaming network for other entertainment areas, including fund raising, house parties, and of course, plamping.

And Jeff Bazos is rubbing his hands together.

Twitch is owned by Twitch Interactive, a subsidiary of Amazon. Initially propped up by venture capital of around US$15 million, it was acquired in 2014 by Amazon for US$970 million. Recently, Twitch has introduced Amazon Prime, further monetizing the platform for creators who can now offer in-stream links for events underway.

It is estimated Twitch’s turnover is approximately US$1.54 billion, with creator revenue around US$600 million per year. It is estimated that Ninja, the top Twitch streamer, earns around US$500,000 million per month. 

A close up of a map

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Source: NewZoo

Zoom, however, is owned by Zoom Video Communications, who’s founder, creator and CEO has earned nearly, Eric Yuan, US$4 billion dollars as a direct result of the Coronavirus pandemic. The platform’s usage statistics have gone from ~10million daily meeting participants in December 2019, to 300 million+ in April 2020 (Iqbal, 2020).

Twitch and Zoom combined have skewed the social media space away from the usual suspects (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube) for highly engaged social media users.

Is this the end of YouTube?

It is difficult to see the sunset for YouTube (if ever), but the platform has certainly taken a significant hit as these two new platforms become the go to for users during the COVID-19 moment. YouTube are increasingly working on their ‘Live’ offering but are not having that much of an impact on Twitch as the Western streaming giant in this space.

Skype (Microsoft) must be scratching its head, wondering what happened (although Microsoft has proven its resilience time and time again).

This moment does bring into question, how much market share is there for multiple platforms? And indeed, as big tech companies are in the mergers and acquisition game to prevent market competitors, can social media users navigate (engage) more than a handful of platforms (beyond Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.)? Or is this a typical media technology media that sees other technologies shift and change to accommodate new innovative practices?

So next weekend when Friday night hits and DJs start entertaining their audiences around the world, will people be plamping on YouTube and Skype? Probably not. But will they integrate their old favourites in new ways? That remains to be seen. In any case, I have found an amazing new field to explore an emerging area for social media logics.

Nats What I Reckon

For many of us who have been impacted by the stay-at-home isolation conditions during this global pandemic, we have turned to new forms of social media entertainment for comfort.

However, for prime-time celebrities who rely heavily on their production teams to create world-class media experiences, the transition has not been so seamless. Instead, what we have seen is the rise of those online content producers who are native to social media platforms amass new audiences of interest.

I have been researching digital first personalities around the globe to understand how single person media productions have become the go-to media source for many individuals, especially in times of isolation.

Celebrities as YouTubers? ‘That’s Chat’

On 30 March 2020, YouTubers Colin and Samir published a video ‘Is this the end of Late Night?’. On the surface this video seemed to make light of the careers of late-night hosts such as Seth Meyers, Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert. In reality, these LA based YouTube creators provide a stunning commentary on the vast difference of skill and expertise levels between native YouTubers and traditional prime time celebrities.

This difference becomes bleedingly obvious when a number of these traditional celebrities were forced to take their productions out of their ‘bright-light’ studios in New York and Los Angeles, and retreat to their private family homes.

While the hosts incorporated the inadequacies of their production design into their nightly comedy routine, for example Seth Meyers making jokes about his attic door which has become something of a regular ‘guest’, the deficiencies in production qualities began to show. Some channels went into hiatus for several days at time, interviews were plagued by poor quality internet connections, lighting was experimental and the technical issues often became obvious for the audiences of these loved programs.

This is not the case for YouTubers who continue to produce high-quality content.

Colin and Samir observe that YouTubers are equipped to not only create entertaining content, but also have the technical skills to write, shoot, edit, publish and distribute at a level far beyond our well-known traditional media celebrities.

‘Good Onya Champ’ – The rise of digital first personalities

I have written about this phenomenon as digital first personalities. Digital first personalities are individuals who produce digital content for maximum visibility by engaging social influencer publication strategies that appease platform algorithms. In other words, they are experts in ensuring their content is seen by large audiences across social media platforms by utilising their entertaining and technical production skills.

Nat’s What I Reckon is one example of online content producers that are rising in popularity on social media, based on their past abilities of interacting with their audiences. As a YouTuber and Instagrammer based in Sydney, he has recently amassed a large audience through his welcomed, no-frills isolation cooking segments. Nat has been posting videos on YouTube for several years, examining the Summer Nationals in Canberra, why cruise ships ‘are weird’, chilli eating competitions, and aliens in Roswell, USA. These videos had a steady audience of just under 10,000 views on average, but as the media hungry, COVID-19 isolated audience grew, Nat’s What I Reckon channel has grown into an almost overnight success story.

As a digital first personality, Nat has spent years not only developing his unique entertaining style, but has also sharpened his interview technique, camera skills, and audio production. Additionally, this digital first personality has honed his public relations skills by strengthening his audience across Instagram and distributing his work across several other social media platforms.

I also wanted to make special mention of Laura Clery, who even makes me laugh as I write her name here – a strong example of a digital first personality, although she does some fame from her previous YouTube life.

The End of the Late Show?

Probably not. But what we are witnessing here is a shift of audience attention away from the large-scale traditional media formats and a continued growth across social media platforms as isolated audiences change their viewing habits indefinitely.

This is a unique moment for online content producers who demonstrate key digital first personality skills. Using TikTok, the demand for content is much higher than what is produced, making this a space ideal for emerging digital first personalities to build their audiences and move from influencers towards native online content celebrities.

Original Image by Newcastle Live!

Hong_Kong_2019

We performed our academic FIFO (Fly In Fly Out – thanks for the insights here Jolynna) duties recently at the first University of Sydney and Hong Kong University symposium, expertly crafted by Professor Heather Horst and Dr Tom McDonald.

During the one day symposium, all researchers were asked to respond to the somewhat broad theme around the concepts of cross border media flows and social imaginaries – in thinking through these two areas, it is a lovely way to bring sociology and media studies (communication if you will) together:

Media of various forms, and the infrastructures and communities that are associated with them, have often been strongly determined by national boundaries. This is particularly the case in different countries dispersed across the Asia-Pacific region, where media organisations are often owned by government entities and/or large companies. Such media organisations also frequently have political or commercial roles that, arguably, make them less susceptible to the kinds of disruption that have been witnessed by their European and American counterparts in recent years. At the same time, the movement of people, goods, capital, information and ideas are undergoing shifts and intensifications, owing to broader geopolitical changes, state-led infrastructure projects and the aspirations of individuals and communities shaped by such regional transformations.
 
Against this context, media flows are being created, worked and reworked, facilitated by new infrastructures, imaginaries and understandings. These flows frequently cross, circumvent or come up against borders, both domestic and international. For instance, countries such as China and the US increasingly compete to export infrastructures across the region through the promotion of platforms, technologies and services. Online shopping, logistics, blockchain and fin-tech are fostering new cross-border flows of goods and money. Media content is increasingly consumed internationally, posing new opportunities and challenges for media companies, regulators and governments. Users and consumers of the media are also witnessing the reworking of their media environments because of these changes, and are adopting inventive responses to and adaptations of the media in return.
 
This symposium, and the planned journal special issue that will result from it, explores these changing circuits of media in the Asia Pacific region. We ask contributors to consider: How are media flows redefining understandings of borders? What kinds of novel communities are being created by cross-border media flows? What forms of social imaginaries accompany the emergence of new infrastructures from “outside”? How are boundaries and borders being made, unmade or remade within and across the Asia-Pacific region?

Personally, it was a unique opportunity to apply my recent thinking around digital intermediation to the concept of social imaginaries to understand how geopolitical borders are constructed, de-constructed and enforced and reimagined – there is no better place in the world than Hong Kong to get that sort of thinking on.

If you are interested in the research I have started in this space, you can access my presentation here:

But enough about me, the better work was all around! Here are some notes and reflections from the research presented:

Sylvia Martin – Imagin(eer)ing peace: Simulations and the state

  • Holograms and military uses of them
  • USC and Shoah Foundation
  • Hologram shown in front of young students and they ask him questions
  • Filmed in a multi-camera environment
  • Statistical classifier to find the best answer to the questions
  • The Girl and the Picture
  • IBM Watson to do the classifier for the woman filmed in The Girl in the Picture
  • What enables the production of survivors who have crossed the borders?
  • There is a close connection between the state and industry – building larger goals into the process
  • There are a number of agencies involved in this process
  • Leads to the ‘Imagineering’ of content – this is the link to the hologram
  • The industry in Hollywood has shifted to military content –
  • The emergence of the Silicon Beach – the increase of tech etc in Venice Beach
  • Institute of Creative Technology (ICT) – military, academia and entertainment

Joyce Nip – Friends and foes: China’s connections and disconnections in the Twitter sphere

  • While much of the social media is blocked, “foreign hostile networks taking over the regions”
  • @XHNews – one of these ‘blocked’ Chinese Twitter accounts
  • CGTN, SCMP, Xianhwa News
  • Looking at #SouthChinaSea
  • Interestingly @XHNews have set the frames around “Aircraft Carrier”
  • There may be not artificial warfare, but other computational forces at work
  • Hub account – I think this means the sorts of large betweenness centrality
  • @9DashLine and @AsiaMTI758 are the most retweeted accounts
  • What is the correlation to the US based news services then picking up the ‘new’ framing of the events?
  • Hub accounts are super important
  • So are Russians more interested in global news than other countries?

 Heather Horst – From Kai Viti to Kai Chica: Debating Chinese influence in Fiji

  • Chinese aid has been welcomed in Fiji, in anticipation of APEC 2018
  • Cable net offer from Oz around the islands, to ward off Chinese influence
  • Strong connection with the last coups between China and Fiji
  • Fiji states it is a relationship, not influence
  • The 28 WG Friendship Plaza building has difficult Chinese/Fiji relations
  • First instance of fake news in Fiji – China will take the island of Kadavu to recover the $500m debt
  • Fiji has an informal censorship process in its media system
  • The Wikipedia page has been adjusted to say a ‘Province of China’ but was changed back ‘quickly’
  • Oz support is participatory government (aid cultures), Chinese has been infrastructure support
  • Often
  • A common thread between all papers of influence through infrastructures and countries?
  • What is the broader impact of social media on the Chinese influence?

Discussion

‘Great Power Rivalry’ – some nation states are more important than others. This promotes the idea of what are we missing? What if you don’t have a ‘state’ formed around you? Jewish context and the Chinese massacres contexts. Non-state actors (not ISIS, but the anarchist forms).

China is not one – There are a number of Chinese (Mainland, New Territories, Hong Kong)

 Bunty Avieson – Minority language Wikipedias for cultural resilience

  • Privilege has moved online, through connected communication
  • Cognitive justice – beyond tolerance is something that we need
  • Localised knowledge practices contribute to cultural production – this is a form of resilience
  • Pharmacon – a cure and a killer
  • Wikipedia paints one aspect of the unity of users, knowledge,
  • Wikipedia is drawing information from Wikipedia
  • Anyone can edit is a myth – Wikipedians are white global north, Christian, under 30, technical competent
  • Oral cultures – only 7% have been written down
  • Positional superiority (Said), long tail of colonialism

Tom McDonald – One Country, two payment systems: Cross-border digital money transactions between Hong Kong and Mainland China

  • WeChat Advertising campaign that rolled out across Hong Kong during the time of protest
  • Immigration has increased significantly during this period
  • One country/two systems – the border remains constant
  • There is a focus to engage communication technologies to secure the future
  • 2016 the Money Authority gave the right to five operators to launch digital wallets (Alipay, WeChat, Octopus, OlePay, TapnGo)
  • Users are using WeChat and/or Alipay to transfer funds and then purchase things for cheaper (better rates) in Hong Kong
  • WeChat groups are emerging for money transfer

Discussion

  • Culture is always changing, cultural dynamism is a better term
  • More explanation of microplatformization, and digital intermediation
  • Can oral Wikipedia help solve the Bhutan problem?

Jolynna Sinanan – Mobile media and mobile livelihoods in Queensland’s coal mining industry

  • What access do miners have when away from home?
  • Three areas of contestation: they are not allowed to have mobiles while working, They are often in remote areas with low coverage, connection to home is no one’s responsibility
  • mobilities and families – digital media characterized by mobilities
  • Literature says: Digital media is how families do everything together, this is how users make sense of each other and their context while they are apart from each other
  • Social transformations are under-developed
  • Jhow mobilities make sense. through ‘work’ and ‘home’
  • Drops ‘cashed-up bogan’ as a term to describe the impact of the stress on the workers
  • FIFO Life as a producer of memes
  • How is this different to pilots? They fly in and out, have similar digital media tools, but are vastly different in how they react with their family?

Tian Xiaoli – No escape: WeChat and reinforcing power hierarchy in Chinese workplaces

  • WeChat users often think about superiority online – who is senior? Who is younger? This is reflective of offline lives
  • Hierarchy and behaviour studies as a background for the workplace

Jack Linchuan Qiu (Chung Minglun & Pun Ngai) – The effects of digital media upon labor knowledge and attitudes: A study of Chinese vocational-school students

  • School students from poorer backgrounds – being trained for vocational jobs (blue collar)
  • Effects study on the rights
  • The border between social classes
  • A study on human capital (Becker, 1964) – the internet economy, the knowledge economy,
  • How is the schooling process outdating, or distracting, or are they adding to the education process?
  • Passive use of internet versus active use (net potato (Kaye, 1998))
  • A process that leads to individualistic usage (Ito), hyper-individualistic
  •  Village well (Arora, 2019)
  • Increased consumerist activity does not necessarily relate to decreased labour subjectivity
  • Media literacy encourages reflective thinking
  • Is consumerist worry an elitist position?
  • What is the labour subjectivity if the user is Reflective/individualistic? for example

Tommy Tse – Dream, dream, dream: The interwoven national, orgnaisational, and individual goals of workers in China’s technology sector

  • Sociology pays more attention to the practice beyond the theoretical
  • Cultural practices and how they play out in labour practices
  • Chinese dream versus Alibaba Dream versus individual dream