Autonomous Driving Futures

Autonomous Driving Futures

Seminar by: Sarah Pink (RMIT University)

When: Fri. 11 May 2018 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm AEST. Lecture will be followed by informal drinks in the John Woolley Building.

Where: MECO Seminar Room S226, John Woolley Building A20, University of Sydney, NSW 2006

Registration Required on Eventbrite:

Abstract: Autonomous Driving (often called self-driving) cars were the most hyped emerging technology in 2015, and Autonomous Driving Vehicles (ADV) featured amongst MIT Technology Review’s Top 10 Emerging Technologies in 2015, 2016 and 2017. They are now reviewed, debated and discussed across multiple policy, industry, technology design and public media narratives daily. In these debates AD futures are frequently visioned as utopian or dystopian and subsequently associated with assumptions about beneficial or apocalyptic individual and societal impacts that AD technologies and services would have on future lives, cities and security. Predicted benefits include energy efficiency, environmental sustainability, and improved quality of life, safety and wellbeing for users. Concerns relate to regulation and power relations embedded in the decision making and ethics of automation and machine intelligence, data and privacy, technology failure, transport system disruption and urban congestion. Yet while these science and technology, business and regulatory narratives frequently predict and describe human futures, there is a dearth of research and little understanding of how diverse human lifestyles, experience, feelings and actions will be implicated in co-constituting these futures. Instead it is often problematically assumed in industry and policy contexts that the benefits promised by AD will be achieved if humans simply trust, accept and adapt to them. Subsequently technology and infrastructure research, testing and preparation by industry, planning and policy stakeholders is focused towards these ends, and is usually undertaken in preparation for AD roll out in the large cities, and highways of the Global North.  Research from the social sciences and humanities suggests otherwise: in this talk I will outline how theoretical and empirical research from this field contests dominant narratives about AD futures, why interventions from the social sciences and humanities are needed, and how this constitutes not simply an urge to create better and more appropriate technology design for people, but rather also suggests the need for a movement from the social sciences and humanities in directing our route towards responsible and ethical technological futures. In doing so I will draw on research developed with teams I collaborate with in Sweden and Brazil.

Bio: Sarah Pink is a Distinguished Professor in the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University. Her research, which is at the intersection between design anthropology, futures and technology, currently focuses on Emerging Technologies and Digital Futures, and Design for Wellbeing, which she works on through a series of academic research council funded projects and academic-industry partnerships in Australia and internationally. Current projects investigate autonomous driving vehicles, self tracking and personal data, safe technologies, and hospital environments and design. Her recent co-authored and co-edited books include Uncertainty and Possibility (2018), Anthropologies and Futures (2017), Making Homes (2017), Refiguring Digital Visual Techniques (2017) and Digital Ethnography (2016).

The future is union: Digital journalists pushback against employment insecurity, Penny O’Donnell

The future is union: Digital journalists pushback against employment insecurity

Seminar by: Penny O’Donnell (University of Sydney)

When: Fri. 27 April 2018 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm AEST (Lecture will be followed by informal drinks in the John Woolley Building)

Where: MECO Seminar Room S226, John Woolley Building A20, University of Sydney, NSW 2006

Registration Required on Eventbrite:

While scholarship on the digital transformation of journalism has increased significantly in recent years, digital journalists’ efforts to unionise for improved working conditions and a voice in the workplace have received scant attention. Yet, with problems of ‘churnalism’ and fake news on the rise, it becomes important to study digital journalists’ pushback against employment insecurity and other threats to journalistic autonomy and editorial standards. This paper draws on three case studies of journalists organising in Australia, Ireland and the United States to examine what digital journalists want from unionisation and what they have achieved so far. It finds decent pay and working conditions are one priority, but so too is strong occupational representation to bal
ance employer prerogative, and guarantee digital journalists get a say in the future of journalism. The paper argues union revitalisation emerges as an important variable in achieving unionised digital workplaces.

Penny O’Donnell is Senior Lecturer in International Media and Journalism at the University of Sydney. Her research interests include work futures in global journalism, comparative media research, and digital transformation of the Australian media landscape. She is a Chief Investigator on the New Beats Project (see, an ARC-funded study of the aftermath of job loss and re-employment in Australian journalism (LP140100341 and DP150102675). Internationalisation of the project now includes Canadian, Indonesian, and Dutch case studies. Recent publications from the project appear in Journalism Studies, Journalism: Theory, Practice and Criticism, Journalism Practice, and Australian Journalism Review. Email:

Fast Data, Slow Bodies: Automation, Humans, Machines

Fast Data, Slow Bodies: Automation, Humans, Machines

Roundtable discussion by: Caroline Bassett (University of Sussex), Helen Thornham (University of Leeds) and Edgar Gómez Cruz (University of New South Wales)

When: Fri. 20 April 2018 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm AEST (Discussion will be followed by informal drinks in the John Woolley Building)

Where: MECO Seminar Room S226, John Woolley Building A20, University of Sydney, NSW 2006

Registration Required on Eventbrite

This roundtable with Caroline Bassett (University of Sussex), Helen Thornham (University of Leeds) and Edgar Gómez Cruz (University of New South Wales) stems from the provocation that automation as an (almost) ontological condition is shaping our ability to intervene in, or ask questions about the (digital) world. Automation is understood through a number of related and trans-disciplinary approaches to the ‘post-digital’ (Cramer); big data (Gitelman, boyd and Crawford), digital ethnography and anthropology (Horst & Miller, Pink et. al., Hine), critical computational studies (Sterne, Clough), science and technology studies (van House, Suchman). It is engaged with the critical and methodological, material and computational issues that emerge from the lived condition of ‘being digital’ particularly in relation to how automation (as forms of expertise and data; as configured systems, infrastructures and interfaces; as disciplined and material bodies) is positioning us in particular ways, and configuring a particular kind of world. More specifically, the discussants are concerned with the methodological and theoretical implications of this conditioning: in what this means for our ability to ask critical questions ofautomation; in what this means for the broader narrative of digital culture and the methods we utilise for interrogating it in the future. Drawing on expertise from digital media ethnographies (Gómez Cruz), critical software studies (Bassett) and feminist digital ethnography (Thornham), the authors draw on case studies in response to UK government initiatives around the digital economy. These preliminary ideas form the base of a book to be published, with the same title, in 2019 (Palgrave).

Caroline Bassett is Professor of Digital Media at the University of Sussex and Director of the Sussex Humanities Lab. Her research explores digital technology and cultural transformation. She is currently completing work on anti-computing, defined as a popular and critical response to automation, and is collaborating on a project exploring feminist technophile politics. She has published extensively on gender and technology, critical theories of the technological, on automation and expertise, and on science fiction and technological imaginaries.

Helen Thornham is an Associate Professor of Digital Cultures at the University of Leeds, UK. Her research focuses on gender and technological mediations, data and digital inequalities. Herforthcoming book, Gender and Digital Culture: Irreconcilabilities and the Datalogical (2018) explores issues of maternal and female subjectivity through datalogical systems.

Edgar Gómez Cruz is a Senior Lecturer in Media (Digital Cultures) at the UNSW in Sydney. His research covers a wide range of topics related to Digital practices using ethnographic and visual methods. Currently he is carrying out an ethnographic fieldwork with street photographers, focusing on visual interfaces, the right to the city and urban interactions.

Approaches to data justice: Examining datafication from the perspective of social justice


Tuesday 10 April 2018
4:00 pm – 5:30 pm AEST

S226 Seminar Room
Department of Media and Communications, University of Sydney
John Woolley Building (A20) level 2, entry off Manning Road


As more and more social activity and human behaviour is being turned into data points that can be tracked, collected and analysed, we are seeing the advancement of new forms of decision-making and governance. This speaks to a significant transformation in how our society is organized and the ways in which we are able to participate in it. Whilst much debate on this datafication of society has focused on the need for efficient and supposedly more objective responses to social problems on the one hand and a concern with individual privacy and the protection of personal data on the other, it is becoming increasingly clear that we need a broader framework for understanding these developments. This is one that can account for the disparities in how different people might be implicated and that recognizes that the shift to data-driven economies is not merely technical. In this presentation I will advance a research framework for studying datafication that is rooted in a broader concern for social justice. Such a framework, referred to here as ‘data justice’, pays particular attention to the ways in which data processes are uneven, can and do discriminate, create new social stratifications of ‘have’ and ‘have nots’, and advance a particular politics based on a logic of prediction and preemption that caters to certain interests over others. I outline a number of different ways in which such a framework can be operationalized, looking across questions of political theory, policy interventions, civil society activity, and developments in design and infrastructure. In doing so, I will advance an alternative approach to understanding and examining the societal implications of datafication than what has been the dominant approach so far.

Lina Dencik is Senior Lecturer at Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Culture (JOMEC). Her research concerns the interplay between media developments and social and political change, with a particular focus on resistance and globalisation. Recently, she has moved into the areas of digital surveillance and the politics of data and she is Co-Founder of the Data Justice Lab. Recent publications include Worker Resistance and Media (2015) and Critical Perspectives on Social Media and Protest (2015) and her forthcoming book Digital Citizenship in a Datafied Society (with Arne Hintz and Karin Wahl-Jorgensen) is published by Polity Press. Lina is Principal Investigator on the project ‘Data justice: understanding datafication in relation to social justice’ funded by a Starting Grant from the European Research Council

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,
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.