Data in the City: The Pragmatics of Data-Driven Urbanism

Friday 16th March 2018,
3:00 pm – 4:30 pm
S226 Seminar Room, Department of Media and Communications
John Woolley Building, Level 2 entry off Manning Road

From smart cities to urban innovation labs, the language of digital disruption has been broadly taken up in cities around the world. The practice of smart cities, though, is more complicated, marked by the different if overlapping interests of diverse actors and the political and infrastructural constraints of urban development, amongst other considerations. In recent work we have been looking not just at the lofty rhetoric of digital urbanism but at the practical project of making it work. For around 18 months, we have been working with members of a newly formed organization in the office of the Mayor of Los Angeles who have been charged with responsibility for implementing a number of data-driven initiatives, including projects to unify data infrastructures across city departments, efforts to publish data to make city organizations accountable to citizens, and programs to promote civic participation through digital platforms. In this talk, I will explore some of the themes emerging from this ongoing work, including the struggles to lay claim to authority over “data”, the related organizational and political constraints of doing “data work”, the role of visualization and data displays, and the multiple audiences for datafied urbanism.

Paul Dourish is Chancellor’s Professor of Informatics and Associate Dean for Research in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at UC Irvine, with courtesy appointments in Computer Science and Anthropology. He also holds the position of Honorary Senior Fellow in Computing and Information Systems at the University of Melbourne. His research focuses primarily on understanding information technology as a site of social and cultural production; his work combines topics in human-computer interaction, social informatics, and science and technology studies. He is the author of several books, most recently “The Stuff of Bits: An Essay on the Materialities of Information” (MIT Press, 2017). He is a Fellow of the ACM, a Fellow of the BCS, a member of the SIGCHI Academy, and a recipient of the AMIA Diana Forsythe Award and the CSCW Lasting Impact Award.

The media and democracy in the digital era – is this what we had in mind?

Friday 2 March 2018,
3.00pm-4.30pm
S226 Seminar Room, Department of Media and Communications
John Woolley Building, Level 2 entry off Manning Road

In the mass media era, the role of the media was universally regarded as fundamental to the proper functioning of the democratic state: the media’s capacity to provide information freely to all citizens ensured they had equal access to the democratic process. There were many, though, who registered concern at the top-down, government led, and highly concentrated structures of power embedded here; it was easy to demonstrate how the flow of information could be manipulated and the power of the media abused. Consequently, the arrival of the digital era seemed to radically modify that power relation for the better. The initial enthusiasm, though, has been challenged by what, a decade or two later, we have ended up with: a digital landscape that does indeed offer unprecedented access to information, in ways that have been transformative – but that is also awash with less desirable content: fake news, hate speech, revenge porn, and so on. In this talk I want to discuss some aspects of what we have got from the digital era so far, with a particular focus on the changing relationship between the media and democracy – and within that, the role of news, information and the practice of journalism.

Graeme Turner is Emeritus Professor of Cultural Studies in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Queensland. One of the founding figures for Australian cultural studies, and in the development of the field internationally, he has published 24 books and his work has been translated into 10 languages. His most recent research has examined what he has described as the ‘re-invented media’, and this flows from a series of projects on post-broadcast television, new media, and the production of celebrity. His most recent books include Re-Inventing the Media (2016), Television Histories in Asia (2015) (co-edited with Jinna Tay), the revised edition of Understanding Celebrity (2014) and Locating Television: Zones of Consumption (2013) (co-authored with Anna Cristina Pertierra).

From access to data: Smartphones & digital access in Global South

Friday 17 November
3:00 pm – 4:30 pm
S226 Seminar Room, Department of Media and Communications
John Woolley Building, Level 2 entry off Manning Road
Register here

The adoption of mobile phones in the global south has provided consumers with greater access to interpersonal communication. The shift from basic handsets to smartphones has corresponded with a move to data usage where smartphone users produce, consume and circulate content ranging from images and social media posts to music and videos. Drawing upon recent research in Fiji and Papua New Guinea, this talk examines the consequences of data usage and questions the extent to which smartphones and the demand for data may mitigate some of the meaningful digital, financial and social inclusion that emerged in the access era of mobile telecommunications.

Heather Horst is Professor in the Department of Media in Communications at the University of Sydney, Australia and an Adjunct Professor at the Digital Ethnography Research Centre at RMIT University, Australia. A sociocultural anthropologist by training, her research explores transformations in the telecommunications industry, emergent mobile media practices and the use of digital media for learning across the Pacific, Caribbean and Australia. Her recent publications examining these themes include Digital Anthropology (2012), Digital Ethnography: Principles and Practices (2016), Locating the Mobile (Forthcoming) and The Moral Economy of Mobile Phones in the Pacific (Forthcoming).

Moral decline of the British press

Friday 13 October
4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
S226 Seminar Room, Department of Media and Communications
John Woolley Building, Level 2 entry off Manning Road

Register here

Centre for Media History’s 10th Anniversary Seminar
in association with Media@Sydney

The phone hacking scandal that engulfed the British press was the culmination of a moral decline that began in the 1980s. This was manifested in the rise of fake news, phony medical scare stories, migrant fables, and irresponsible reporting that wrecked the lives of innocent people. By 2015, trust in the press in Britain was lower than in any other European country.

This moral collapse had multiple causes: pressures exerted by new proprietors, the bullying of journalists to get results, an industrial culture of impunity, a weak countervailing professional identity, and increasing staff insecurity. Above all, it was a response to the press’s deepening economic crisis, caused by collapsing sales and haemorrhaging advertising.

James Curran is Professor of Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London. His work focuses on media history and journalism studies. He is the author or editor of over 20 books including Power Without Responsibility (with Jean Seaton, 8th edition due March 2018), Media and Power, Media and Democracy, Culture Wars and Misunderstanding the Internet (with Natalie Fenton and Des Freedman, 2nd edition published 2016). His books have been translated into multiple languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Greek, Hungarian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish.

Children’s rights in the digital age

Thursday 7 September
4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

PC-01.7.39 (LS), Level 7, Room 39 Learning Studio, Western Sydney, Macquarie St, Parramatta

Co-hosted by the Institute for Culture and Society Seminar Series

Children constitute an estimated one-third of the world’s population, and, significantly, one-third of the world’s internet users. As society increasingly embeds digital networks and services into its fundamental infrastructure, the rights of both users and non-users in a digital age matter. To understand how children’s rights in particular are being reconfigured in and through digital networks and services, this presentation identifies a series of problems and paradoxes faced by the theory and research on the one hand, and by policy and practice on the other. I shall then suggest some constructive directions, drawing on my recently edited special issue of New Media & Society Opens in a new window, and advice given to the Council of Europe and the Children’s Commissioner for England. These initiatives were conducted jointly with Amanda Third, who will respond to my remarks.

This seminar will be chaired by Professor Gerard Goggin (University of Sydney) with Associate Professor Amanda Third (Institute for Culture and Society) as discussant.

Sonia Livingstone is a professor inthe Department of Media and Communications at London School of Economics. Taking a comparative, critical and contextualised approach, Sonia’s research asks why and how the changing conditions of mediation are reshaping everyday practices and possibilities for action, identity and communication rights. She has published twenty books on media audiences, particularly examining the opportunities and risks for children and young people afforded by digital and online technologies, and with a focus on media literacy, social mediations, and children’s rights in the digital age. Her most recent books include The class: living and learning in the digital age Opens in a new window(2016, NYUP) and Digital technologies in the lives of young people (edited, 2014, Routledge), Meanings of Audiences (edited, 2013, Routledge) and Media regulation: governance and the interests of citizens and consumers (2012, Sage). She is a fellow of the British Psychological Society, Royal Society for the Arts, and is fellow and past President of the International Communication Association. She was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2014. She leads the projects Global Kids Online Opens in a new windowand Preparing for a Digital Future Opens in a new windowand she directed the 33-country network, EU Kids Online Opens in a new window.

Online movements in Africa: Emerging trends & challenges in digital activism

Friday 6 October
3:00 pm – 4:30 pm
S226 Seminar Room, Department of Media and Communications
John Woolley Building, Level 2 entry off Manning Road

Register here

Mobile communication is increasingly playing a leading role in the coordination and mobilization of social and political protests around the world. Smartphones are changing the way political protests and movements are organized as geographical boundaries continue to diminish as citizens and activists unite in adopting digital tools provided by social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to invigorate protest communication. In this regard, like everywhere else, social media is helping spread ideas and information exponentially from one user to another among Africans. Information that previously was inaccessible to citizens as a result historically of a tough media regime, is now readily available online. The availability of online movements provides a firsthand opportunity to critically examine current digital engagements among citizens and activists seeking political reform in several African countries. This paper is a case study analysis of the trends, opportunities and challenges facing the online activism movements in Africa, where in spite of widespread poverty, access to technology is growing fast.

Bruce Mutsvairo is an Associate Professor in Journalism at University of Technology Sydney. He previously taught journalism and media at Northumbria University Newcastle, Amsterdam University College and Leiden University, where he earned his PhD in 2013. His research explores the role of technology particularly social media in galvanising political and social changes across Africa. Bruce is a former correspondent for the Associated Press in Amsterdam.

 

The continuing fascination with Erving Goffman: Presentation and face in online interaction

Friday 8 September
3:00 pm – 4:30 pm
S226 Seminar Room, Department of Media and Communications
John Woolley Building, Level 2 entry off Manning Road

Register here

Erving Goffman’s work has always been influential in media and communication and is experiencing something of a revival in studies of self-presentation and face in social media. Intriguingly, key concepts from Goffman’s analysis of social life as drama, ritual and game developed to understand social interactions often between strangers in the cities and suburbs of mid twentieth century US are providing rich resources for the analysis of contemporary digitally mediated social interaction. Face, impression management, front and backstage, communication frameworks, frames, footing and self-presentation appear as relevant as they ever were, providing a nuanced account of the forms, contexts, ethics and realized identities of social interaction.

The deployment of Goffman’s ideas goes beyond their undoubted value as sensitising concepts to reflect his broader theoretical interests and concerns, which are illustrated through two examples of the appropriation of Goffman’s work. The first examines the shift in the study of social media from the emphasis on control of self-presentation to the analysis of facework online. The second responds to Hogan’s critique of Goffman’s self-presentation in relation to Facebook, which is contrasted to the idea of the curation of the self. An alternative, based on Goffman’s Gender Advertisements distinguishes the genre conventions of portraiture and pictures and suggests an analysis of posts as depictions of mis-en-scene rather than portraits of self-presentation.

From these considerations, I suggest that the continuing relevance of Goffman’s work is not reducible to his having coined some evocative concepts but reflects the contemporary resonance of his (implicit) social theory. His roots in Simmel, pragmatic principles from James and Mead, a reading of Durkheim’s sociology of law that links ritual to human rights, his view of the social self and account of the rationalizing social tendencies of cultural forms make his work relevant to contemporary media life.

Peter Lunt is a professor of Media and Communication at the University of Leicester, UK. His research interests include audience research, media regulation, social theory and the media and consumption research. He has written a number of books including Talk on Television and Media Regulation (both with Sonia Livingstone) and is currently working on a book for Polity Press: Goffman and the Media.

Beyond participation? The media and political autonomy

Wednesday 6 September
4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
John Woolley Common Room N480
Department of Media and Communications
John Woolley Building, Level 2 entry off Manning Road

Register here

The possibility of political participation needs to be secured within a legal framework that protects and nurtures the enactment of the principle of autonomy. The principle of autonomy must have priority over any objective of creating unlimited or uncircumscribed participation. (Held, Models of Democracy, 2006: 274)

David Held, towards the end of his book Models of Democracytantalizingly offers the idea of political autonomy as having the potential to overcome acknowledged problems in participatory and deliberative theories of democracy. Recent empirical studies echo Held’s arguments and illustrate how difficult it is to link participation in media to participation in politics. Held’sassociation with Reflexive Modernity in sociology informed his account of autonomy suggesting that individuals and institutions might develop as complementary reflexive forms that enable autonomy and give it a central role in social systems including politics. In parallel, the idea of political autonomy has been taken up in political theory associated with the revival of republican ideals and the politics of recognition.

This paper reflects on the potential of the idea of autonomy for understanding the relation between media and democracy. The political philosophy literature on autonomy is probed for assumptions about individuals against a background of relational accounts of the self. This analysis is complemented by an examination of recent attempts by European Public Service Broadcasters to develop innovative forms of public engagement in and through media as potential examples of mediated political autonomy. Similarly, recent political TV programming where the public contest with politicians as part of the recent UK Brexit referendum are also considered as a clash between the performance of power and citizenship. The paper ends with reflections on the implications for accounts of political subjectivity and the relation between media in democracy.

Peter Lunt is a professor of Media and Communication at the University of Leicester, UK. His research interests include audience research, media regulation, social theory and the media and consumption research. He has written a number of books including Talk on Television and Media Regulation (both with Sonia Livingstone) and is currently working on a book for Polity Press: Goffman and the Media.

Negotiating public value and commercial sustainability: Broadcasting and the arts

Friday 25 August
3:00 pm – 4:30 pm
S226 Seminar Room, Department of Media and Communications
John Woolley Building, Level 2 entry off Manning Road

Register here

This presentation will examine the negotiation of public value and commercial sustainability by key decision-makers within UK broadcasting. It analyses the relationship between broadcasters and the arts, a genre that has been a feature of schedules since the earliest days of television, and is often associated with cultural democratization and the construction of taste and visual literacy.

Using interviews with senior executives at the BBC, Channel 4 and Sky Arts, this paper will consider how this constituency is responding strategically to multi-platform developments and how leveraging partnerships with certain cultural institutions is now a vital strategic manoeuver both for commercial and public service broadcasters. Findings suggest that changes in the provision of arts television in the UK highlight wider commercial, cultural, and technological forces that have impacted the sustainability of genres traditionally associated with public value, and that many are at risk of disappearing from our screens.

The presentation will conclude by reflecting on research fieldwork conducted in Australia over the preceding weeks in this area in order to develop a comparative framework of the systems in which arts content is commissioned, produced and transmitted.

Caitriona Noonan is a lecturer and researcher at the School of Journalism, Media and Culture (JOMEC), Cardiff University, UK. Her research interests are on television labour, public service broadcasting and cultural production. She has published in journals such as the Journal of Popular Television, International Journal of Cultural Policy, Media History and the European Journal of Cultural Studies. She is currently preparing a monograph on the BBC and its relationship to arts programming.

 

Fact factories: the travel of facts in the digital age

Friday 11 August
3:00 pm – 4:30 pm
S226 Seminar Room, Department of Media and Communications
John Woolley Building, Level 2 entry off Manning Road

Register here

Why do some facts about the world become well known and ubiquitous, whereas others are relegated to the status of opinion, or become so mired in controversy that they cannot survive the onslaught that they receive from those opposed to them? Why do bad facts travel far and wide, while good ones are stopped short in their tracks? Who has the greatest power over our factual information when facts are born digital?

At the heart of changes to the environment in which facts must travel today is the increasing ubiquity of software code and its role in the mediation of everyday life. Facts are not knowledge. Knowledge needs to take material form in order for it to be distributed and to have influence beyond its origins.

This talk charts the travel of facts across the infrastructure of the Internet, introducing new vocabularies and grammars for the production and appraisal of factual information. Focusing on the travel of facts about the 2011 Egyptian Revolution in the days before Hosni Mubarak resigned as President, it highlights how a new grammar constituted by the interaction between software code, social norms, policies and laws within Wikipedia has created the terrain for facts as they travel through the Internet. The result of a radical decrease in trust accorded to traditional institutions and a turn towards trust in individuals telling what appears to be unmediated truths online – we are witnessing a significant change in how we evaluate authoritative statements about the world.

Heather Ford is a University Academic Fellow in Digital Methods based at the University of Leeds School of Media and Communication. Before moving to academia, she worked for a number of non-profit technology organisations including the Association for Progressive Communications, Creative Commons, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, iCommons, Privacy International and Ushahidi as an activist, research and project manager.