Emerging Methods for Digital Media Research: An Introduction

I’m very pleased to be able to announce that the methods-focused special issue of the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media (JOBEM) edited with my CCI colleagues Axel Bruns and Larissa Hjorth is out now.

When the original Call for Papers went out we had an extraordinary response, and it was genuinely difficult to sort through so many great abstracts to get to a balanced set of papers, but I am totally happy with the results – this is a special issue that I think really is more than the sum of its parts, making a statement about the state of the art and the forward agenda for questions of methodology in our field. And I know that for sure I’ll be using these papers in my own work in the immediate future.

Thanks to the efforts of the journal’s general editor Zizi Papacharissi the full issue will be made open access later in 2013, but for now it’s behind a paywall. So with permission I’m reproducing the editors’ introduction here.

Bear in mind also that many of the authors work at universities with institutional repositories – it may be possible to access pre-print versions of the articles.

Emerging Methods for Digital Media Research?: An Introduction

Jean Burgess, Axel Bruns and Larissa Hjorth

Now as in earlier periods of acute change in the media environment, new disciplinary articulations are producing new methods for media and communication research. At the same time, established media and communication studies methods are being recombined, reconfigured and remediated alongside their objects of study. This special issue of JOBEM seeks to explore the conceptual, political and practical aspects of emerging methods for digital media research. It does so at the conjuncture of a number of important contemporary trends: the rise of a ‘third wave’ of the Digital Humanities and the ‘computational turn’ (Berry 2011), associated with natively digital objects as well as the methods for studying them; the apparently ubiquitous Big Data paradigm, with its various manifestations across academia, business and government, bringing with it a rapidly increasing interest in social media communication and online ‘behavior’ from the ‘hard’ sciences; along with the multisited, embodied and emplaced nature of everyday digital media practice.

The issue contains seven articles that advocate for, reflect upon or critique current methodological trends in digital media research. It ranges from a discussion of the emergence of a new wave of Digital Humanities (Neils Bruegger and Niels Ole Finneman), the potential for digital media research of emerging approaches like Media Archaeology (Frederick Lesage), the role of language in research (Randy Kluver, Heidi Campbell and Stephen Balfour), to the ways Big Data is impacting upon content analysis (Seth C. Lewis, Rodrigo Zamith, and Alfred Hermida), digital media methods (Merja Mahrt and Michael Scharkow) and the large-scale policy research potential of community media archives (Nicole Matthews and Naomi Sunderland).

The special issue begins with Randy Kluver, Heidi Campbell and Stephen Balfour’s ‘Language and the Boundaries of Research’ which argues that ‘data-driven research’ has failed to engage with its increasingly internationalized context, especially in terms of its Anglophonic or Western-centric focus. As Kluver et al. rightly identify, the field remains focused upon Western media as a placeholder for ‘global media’. Here we are reminded of the importance of understanding Digital Media in context. While Big Data can often abstract the cultural, social and linguistic nuances of digital media practice, there is a growing pool of researchers exploring interdisciplinary methods such as ‘ethno-mining’ that use ethnography to critique Big Data (Anderson et al. 2009) and situate digital media as part of the complex dynamics of everyday life (Coleman 2010). In their review article ‘The Value of Big Data in Digital Media Research’, Merja Mahrt and Michael Scharkow provide a critical survey of methodological approaches to media communication and how the field is being reconfigured in an age of Big Data. In particular, Mahrt and Scharkow focus upon the consequences of using Big Data at different stages of research process, in dialogue with the traditions underpinning manual quantitative and qualitative approaches. For Seth C. Lewis, Rodrigo Zamith, and Alfred Hermida in ‘Content Analysis in an Era of Big Data: A Hybrid Approach to Computational and Manual Methods’, by blending computational and manual methods one can gain insight into content. Drawing on a case study of Twitter, Lewis et al. argue that a hybrid method of computational and manual techniques can provide both systematic rigor and contextual sensitivity.

This is followed by Anne Galloway’s ‘Emergent Media Technologies, Speculation, Expectation and Human/nonhuman Relations’ in which Galloway draws on her background as one of the earliest researchers to study ubiquitous computing to discuss the role of sociology in situating emergent media technologies as part of a cultural process involving a range of human and nonhuman actors. Here Galloway focuses upon the often-overlooked aspect of anticipation and expectation in the process of media practice and the production of imaginaries for and of the future. Drawing on the work of Bruno Latour, Galloway concludes with some thought-provoking questions for relationships between Digital Media methods and design.

For Neils Bruegger and Niels Ole Finneman in ‘The Web and Digital Humanities: Theoretical and Methodological Concerns’ there is a need for the Digital Humanities to understand the complex social, temporal and spatial dimensions of the web. Using the case study of the real-time and archived web (as a dynamic depiction, not simply a copy of what was once online) to illustrate their point, Bruegger and Finneman argue that currently the Digital Humanities is limited in its ability to capture the moving architecture of digital media. Complimenting this discussion by picking up on some aspects of the related field of software studies as well as cultural analytics and media archaeology, in ‘Cultural Biographies and Excavations of Media: Context and Process’, Frederick Lesage argues for a ‘cultural biography’ approach to the study of software as media objects – as ‘things’.

Nicole Matthews & Naomi Sunderland’s ‘Digital Life Story Narratives as Data for Policy Makers and Practitioners: Thinking Through Methodologies for Large-scale Multimedia Qualitative Datasets’ explores the role of community-based digital media narratives (e.g. via digital storytelling projects) in ‘amplifying marginalized voices in the public domain’. It is clear from Matthews and Sunderland’s piece that despite the large numbers of these projects and hence the depth of research potential in the stories they have produced, the effective deployment of this potential in social policy remains a missed articulation with political, ethical and methodological dimensions.

Anderson, K., Rafus, D., Rattenbury, T., and R. Aipperspach (2009). ‘Numbers Have Qualities Too: Experiences with Ethno-Mining’, http://www2.berkeley.intel-research.net/~tlratten/public_usage_data/anderson_EPIC_2009.pdf
Berry, D. (2011). The Computational Turn: Thinking About the Digital Humanities. Culture Machine, 12. Retrieved from http://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/article/view/440/470
Coleman, G. (2010). Ethnographic Approaches to Digital Media. Annual Review of Anthropology, 39: 487–505.


1. Randy Kluver, Heidi Campbell and Stephen Balfour, Language and the Boundaries of Research: Media Monitoring Technologies in International Media Research

2. Merja Mahrt and Michael Scharkow, The Value of Big Data in Digital Media Research

3. Seth C. Lewis, Rodrigo Zamith, and Alfred Hermida, Content Analysis in an Era of Big Data: A Hybrid Approach to Computational and Manual Methods

4. Anne Galloway, Emergent Media Technologies, Speculation, Expectation and Human/Nonhuman Relations

5. Neils Bruegger and Niels Ole Finneman, The Web and Digital Humanities: Theoretical and Methodological Concerns

6. Frederick Lesage, Cultural Biographies and Excavations of Media: Context and Process

7. Nicole Matthews and Naomi Sunderland, Digital Life Story Narratives as Data for Policy Makers and Practitioners: Thinking Through Methodologies for Large-scale Multimedia Qualitative Datasets

Transforming Audiences Keynote

[crossposted at the Mapping Online Publics blog.]

On the 1st and 2nd of September I was in London at the third Transforming Audiences conference, hosted by CAMRI at the University of Westminster. I was one of four keynote presenters – alongside Nancy Baym, Patricia Lange, and Adriana de Souza e Silva. I had a great time, and I’m very grateful to David Gauntlett and the other conference organisers for inviting me. The keynotes were all video-recorded, and I’ll post the video of mine here once it becomes available. In the meantime, here are my abstract and a copy of the slides (mostly pictures, as is my practice when giving these kinds of talks).

From ‘Broadcast Yourself’ to ‘Follow Your Interests’: Social media five years on

When YouTube started to become popular in 2006, it had little functionality beyond the uploading and sharing of videos, and the invocation to ‘broadcast yourself’. Around the same time, Twitter first invited users to share everyday updates with friends and colleagues in response to the simple question ‘What are you doing?’. In 2011, YouTube is a central player in the contemporary media ecology, extending well beyond amateur videosharing; and Twitter plays an increasingly central role in the origination and dissemination of real-time news, largely as a result of social, cultural and technological innovations originally introduced by the user community. At the same time, the ongoing commercial evolution of these and other ‘social media’ platforms has gradually repositioned us – as ‘users’ – in new ways. In this presentation I trace some common trajectories across several social media platforms, and discuss their consequences for the future of participatory culture.

Wealth of Networks Wiki

This Wiki is an invitation to collaborate on building a learning and research environment based on Yochai Benkler’s book, The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, available under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial Sharealike license.

A good idea, and one that tests and amplifies the basic propositions of Benkler’s arguments. But I hope the space will also be used to generate a sustained critical dialogue around the issues raised in the book, as well as to “build a learning and research environment” based on it…

On the plan for ‘growing’ the Wiki

The basic idea is to make this Wiki a place for at least five things:

  1. Collaborate on writing a summary of the ideas and claims of the book (see Table of Contents)
  2. Collaborate on writing commentaries and elaborating and refining the presentation
  3. Provide an easy platform through which to access underlying research materials:
    *those used in the book’s notes
    *and resources that are useful for further research, refinement, and updating
  4. Describe, link to, and analyze examples of the phenomena the book describes
    *The purpose is not to “make the case” for the book or find “gotcha” counter examples. What we are trying to do is provide a real research tool, annotated bibliography, and platform for collaborative learning. Examples and counter-examples should be selected and described with that purpose in mind.
  5. Demonstrate and discover what is valuable in a learning platform
    *Through separate pages devoted to ideas and experiments of what can be done with an online book to make it a learning platform, we hope to expand the range of uses to which this Wiki can be available.
    *Through creative, systematic and interactive uses of this wiki, we hope to enhance our individual and collective skills & experience in a wiki world

There is a link from the wiki to the Crooked Timber seminar on the book, which was an early site of critical dialogue, including responses from Benkler to the contributions of participants.

CFP: M/C Journal – ‘mobile’

M/C Journal
Call for Papers: ‘mobile’
Edited by Larissa Hjorth & Olivia Khoo

Convergence has become part of burgeoning mobile media. The mobile phone
has come of age. As an integral component of visual media cultures, camera
phone practices are arguably both extending and creating emerging ways of
seeing and representing. In media footage of late, camera phones have been
heralded as providing everyday users with the possibility of self-
expression and voice in the once unidirectional model of mass media. In
addition, the “exchange” and gift-giving economy underpinning mobile phone
practices (Taylor and Harper 2003) is further enunciated by the camera
phone’s ability to “share” moments between intimates (and strangers)
through various contextual frameworks and archives from MMS, blogs, virtual
community sites to actual face-to-face digital storytelling.

This is particularly the case in the Asia-Pacific region, where mobile
practices in locations such as Tokyo and Seoul have brought about new forms
of media use; for example, mobile phones are increasing being deployed to
connect to, among other things, Web 2.0’s burgeoning landscape of social
software. In much of the rhetoric of current media criticism, users are
being interpellated as prosumers (producers plus consumers), but what is
the reality behind this so-called agency? Do users really feel empowered by
the structures of immediacy connected to user-generated content (UGC)? Are
they ‘liberated’ by the multi-media functions of the mobile phone or is the
increasing convergence of mobile media causing more complications than

This issue of M/C Journal seeks papers exploring the role of convergent
mobile technologies in the Asia-Pacific region. The issue aims to explore
the socio-cultural particularities of various adaptations of mobile media,
from case studies on mobile communication in the Asia Pacific, to cross-
cultural analyses of the transborder flows of mobile media production,
representation and consumption. Topics may include:

– Convergent mobile technologies
– The use of mobile technologies in the construction, regulation and upkeep
of social software and virtual communities
– Pervasive mobile gaming
– Mobile communication case studies in the region
– The role of co-presence and maintenance of intimacy and community through
mobile communication
– The “future” of mobile media
– Creativity and mobile media; the aesthetics of mobile media
– Critiques of prosumer rhetoric in mass media
– Emerging forms of techno-nationalism and governmental policies around
‘mobility’ and digital convergent cultures
– The changing role of temporality and spatiality in contemporary case
studies of mobile telephony

Submit your essays of 3000 words in length to the editors at

Article deadline: 17 January 2007
Issue release date: 14 March 2007

PS, yes I am still alive, but as my supervisor says, I am ‘great with thesis’ so no time for whimsical blog entries just now. Expect a Big Announcement in the next few weeks.

Cultural Studies’ Affective Voices: Out Now!

My friend and colleague Melissa Gregg’s book Cultural Studies’ Affective Voices is out now. Having already read it, I can tell you it’s a seriously significant contribution to cultural studies scholarship, and it’s got a beautiful cover to boot.


In a series of encounters with key figures in the field of cultural studies, this book draws attention to the significance of voice and address in enacting a political project from within ‘the Academy’. Combining a focus on theories of ‘affect’ lately dominant in the Humanities with a history of cultural studies as a discipline, Melissa Gregg highlights the diverse modes of performance that accompany and assist scholarly practice. Writing from the perspective of a new generation of cultural studies practitioners, she provides a missing link between the field’s earliest political concerns with those of the present. Throughout, the ongoing importance of engaged, public Intellectualism is emphasized.

Get your order in!

uses of blogs hits the stands

Uses of Blogs, an anthology of scholarly essays (include one by me on higher ed classroom blogging) edited by Axel Bruns and Joanne Jacobs, is now officially available.


Uses of blogsAs the first edited collection of scholarly articles on blogging by experts and practitioners in a wide range of fields, Uses of Blogs offers a broad spectrum of perspectives on current and emerging uses of blogs. While blogging is rapidly developing into a mainstream activity for Internet users, the actual application of blogs in specific contexts has so far been under-explored. Because there are a variety of styles of blogging – from de facto news sites to marketing blogs, blogs as learning tools, writers’ drafting blogs, corporate dark blogs and fictional blogs, to name a few – it can be difficult to imagine how blogs might be used in particular environments. This book demonstrates the take-up of blogs and blogging for a number uses in industrial and social contexts.

Go on, you know you want one!

CSAA Abstract

Following the more timely examples of the two Mels (here is one, and here is the other) I (somewhat belatedly) have just submitted an abstract for this year’s CSAA conference, which will be held in sunny Canberra. I had the idea months ago but couldn’t wrangle it into a pithy enough form until now, plus it had to be something I could plug in or pull directly out of my thesis, otherwise it would just be irresponsible given that I am supposed to be submitting not too long after the conference, which is in early December. Also, it’s reassuring to see that my suckiness at making up titles is still alive and well.

Snapshots in the City: The Flickr meetup as a site of cultural citizenship
Contemporary digital culture is increasingly characterised by the convergence of social networks, online communities, and public platforms for ‘user-generated’ content. One of the effects of this convergence is the remediation as public culture of everyday social practices of material and symbolic ‘vernacular creativity’. The photosharing network Flickr is a prominent manifestation of this trend – it represents an ‘architecture of participation’ within which thousands of users explore photographic practice at the same time as they negotiate and participate in the social networks in which their creative content circulates. Some members of the network also participate in local ‘meetups’ – offline photographic excursions and opportunities for socialising.

The most active participation in Flickr, then, is a convergence of ‘offline’ everyday life in a particular local context with ‘online’ participation in digital culture. This form of participation has transformative effects on both photography as creative practice and vernacular creativity as a means of cultural participation.

In this paper, I draw on a detailed discussion of the Brisbane Flickr Meetup group to explore the ways in which such participation can and does take the form of what, translating Habermas into the language of the cultural public sphere, we might term ‘episodic publics’ – the ephemeral and everyday spaces where cultural citizenship is practised.


Some colleagues of mine have just started a new interdisciplinary email discussion list that should be of interest to anyone working on cities/urban spaces:

multipliCity — Conversations on cities

Multiplicity is an online discussion forum for all matters urban. As paradigmatic of the modern and postmodern experience, the city remains defiantly at the epicentre of a conflated, de-centred multitude of discourses and disciplines.

The aim of multiplicity is to generate discussion and foster ideas that can illuminate theoretical and creative approaches to the city.

Multiplicity, as its title suggests, celebrates the diversity and eclecticism that are irrevocably associated with actual cities as well as city discourses. A broad range of informed discussion topics, conversations and perspectives are sought.

Please join us!

monthly MACS tomorrow

Speaking of collaboration:

Monthly MACS is a cross-institutional network of early career researchers, postgraduate students, postdocs, RAs and sessional staff working in Media and Cultural Studies across Brisbane. We meet regularly during semester to discuss issues which relate to these roles, debate wider trends in the field and have a few drinks afterwards. You can read more about past MACS events here: http://cccs.uq.edu.au/index.html?page=22640&pid=21774

The next MACS meet will be held tomorrow, Friday May 5 in the seminar room of the Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies, UQ.

Professor Stuart Cunningham (QUT) and Professor Graeme Turner (UQ) will lead a discussion on “collaboration” – how to do it, who to do it with, and why.

Collaborating with peers, colleagues and mentors can be a great way to establish a research profile at the beginning of your career as well as sharing expertise, resources and labour. At a time when the pressure to publish is real, and imaginative cross-disciplinary and cross-institutional links are encouraged, what skills are needed and what challenges are worth knowing about in the process of carrying out joint research? Experienced researchers in media and cultural studies will discuss these issues and we invite other academics, postdocs, postgrads and sessional staff to come along to share tips from their own past, current and future adventures in collaboration.

When: 2.00- 3.45pm, Friday 5th May
Where: CCCS Seminar Room, Level 4, Forgan Smith Tower, St Lucia Campus, University of Queensland, followed by drinks at the UQ staff club.

unAustralia (Call for Papers)

unAustralia: Cultural Studies Association of Australasia Annual Conference, Canberra, 6-8 December, 2006.

If things are ‘un-Australian’ it must be because they come from UNAUSTRALIA.
Where is it?
Who lives there?
How does it come to be?
What is its past and what is its future?
While raising some very local questions of critique and desire, the theme is open to international perspectives and interpretations.
Do other places have their own unplaces? What goes on there?

The conference will feature both refereed and non-refereed papers, and a curated exhibition of creative visual works. The University of Canberra invites abstracts of up to 150 words for 20 minute papers. We welcome panel submissions, and we also welcome abstracts from scholars whose work who would not normally be considered within the ambit of Cultural Studies.

Closing date for submissions: 30th June, 2006