Media@Sydney 2021 Schedule




Seminar 1, 2021:

Thursday March 11, 6pm: Mark Deuze, University of Amsterdam

“On the Grand Narrative of Media and Mass Communication Research”

The new edition of Denis McQuail’s (1935-2017) book opens up a debate on integrating, diversifying and globalizing the field of media studies and (mass) communication research. For this 7th edition, Denis McQuail worked with Mark Deuze until his passing on the outline and structure of the book, after which Mark proceeded with carefully editing, updating and extending the text. New to this edition: A focus on reconceptualizing ‘mass’ media and communication and media theory in an age of big data, algorithmic culture, AI, platformization, streaming services, and mass self-communication. Inclusion of a diverse and global range of voices, histories and examples from across the field, fully integrating social scientific and humanities-based perspectives and approaches. More detailed attention to the way media industries work and what it is like to produce media professionally.

Mark Deuze is a Professor at the University of Amsterdam. From 2004 to 2013 he worked at Indiana University’s Department of Telecommunications in Bloomington, United States. Publications of his work include over ninety papers in academic journals and books. Deuze’s work has been translated in Chinese, Czech, German, Portuguese, Greek, and Hungarian. He holds a honorary appointment as a Visiting Professor at the University of Technology Sydney (2019-2023), has received a Donald W. Reynolds Fellowship from the Missouri School of Journalism (2015), a visiting Research Fellowship at the Center for International Communications Research of Leeds University (2007), and a Fulbright Fellowship at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles (2003). Mark is also the bass player Mark is also the bass player and singer of Skinflower (new recordings out in April 2020).


Thursday March 25, 3pm: Niels Wouters, University of Melbourne

“Biometric Mirror – Discussing Ethics in the Public Arena”

Biometric Mirror is an ethically provocative AI-driven installation that offers a glimpse into a future of unregulated automated decision-making. Dubbed a weird mix between phrenology and machine-driven profiling, the project enables the public to participate in the debate about technology ethics, by (1) enabling interaction with a personalized AI, (2) confronting people with potential, real-world consequences of AI, and (3) inviting them to share opinions and concerns. In this talk, I will present the research rationale behind Biometric Mirror and its significance, and illustrate future opportunities for this form of research.

Dr Niels Wouters is Head of Research for Science Gallery Melbourne, and Research Fellow in Human-Computer Interaction at the University of Melbourne. In his role, he promotes collisions between arts and science as a mechanism to expose the breadth of STEM. His own research practice in Human-Computer Interaction critically analyses the democratization of technology in public space and civic life. Niels’ work is regularly featured in national and international media, highlighting the impact of new technology on urban life. Niels acquired a PhD in Architectural Engineering and holds degrees in Architectural Design, Computer Science and Human-Computer Interaction.


Thursday April 15th, 5pm: Benedetta Brevini, University of Sydney

“Is AI good for the planet?”

We often think of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a thing of the immediate future. We are constantly bombarded by slogans of AI coming to change our life, whether we like it or not. We are reassured it will be a better life. A better capitalism. A better environment. From smart devices, to home voice assistants, image recognition and translation, AI is offered as the solution to the greatest challenges of this age. This portrayal of AI as a benevolent deity has a crucial effect: it obfuscates the materiality of the infrastructures and devices that are central to its functioning. In her new book “Is AI good for the planet?” (Polity, 2021) Benedetta Brevini asks us to think about AI in a different, and more material way than most of us have in the past. In all its variety of forms, AI relies on large swathes of land and sea, vast arrays of technology, and greenhouse gas emitting machines and infrastructures that deplete scarce resources in their production, consumption and disposal. AI also relies on data centres that demand excessive amounts of energy, water and finite resources to compute, analyse and categorize. Clearly, there are other important concerns about AI: from moral and ethical appeals for caution concerning use of AI in military operations, to loss of human expertise in safeguarding human rights (public health and the judiciary), from algorithmic racial and gender biases to fears that AI will make human labour redundant. However, Brevini argues, if we lose our environment, we lose our planet. So, we must understand and debate the environmental costs of AI.

Benedetta Brevini is a journalist, media activist and Associate Professor of communication at the University of Sydney. Before joining the academy she worked as journalist in Milan, New York and London for CNBC and RAI. She writes on The Guardian’s Comment is Free and contributes to a number of print and web publications including Index of Censorship, OpenDemocracy and the Conversation. She is the author of Public Service Broadcasting online (2013) and editor of Beyond Wikileaks (2013). Her latest volumes are Carbon Capitalism and Communication: Confronting Climate Crisis (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), Climate Change and the Media (Peter Lang, 2018), and Amazon: Understanding a Global Communication Giant (Routledge, 2020). “Is AI good for the planet” (Polity,2021) is her newest work.


Thursday May 13, Time TBC: Andrea Guzman, Northern Illinois University

“Defining Artificial Intelligence within the Context of Human-Machine Communication”

Artificial intelligence is fast becoming an important subject of study within communication as scholars examine people’s communication with AI technologies and the implications of these interactions. However, artificial intelligence is a polysemous concept: AI’s operational definition in research varies greatly across the fields in which it is a subject of study, and what qualifies as an AI technology has evolved over time. Scholarly and lay conceptualizations of AI also do not always align. The question for communication scholars is “What is artificial intelligence within communication?” This presentation examines this question from the perspective of members of the public, who are increasingly interacting with communicative AI. It focuses on how aspects of human communication with machines become criteria for designating a technology as AI or excluding it from such a designation and discusses the theoretical and methodological implications for AI research within communication.

Andrea L. Guzman is an assistant professor of communication at Northern Illinois University where her research focuses on Human-Machine Communication and people’s perceptions of artificial intelligence, including voice-based assistants and automated news-writing programs. Guzman is the inaugural chair of the Human-Machine Communication Interest Group of the International Communication Association. She is editor of Human-Machine Communication: Rethinking Communication, Technology, and Ourselves and co-editor of The SAGE Handbook of Human-Machine Communication (forthcoming). Guzman’s research has been published in top journals, including New Media & Society, Digital Journalism, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, and Computers in Human Behavior. Her award-winning research also has been presented at leading interdisciplinary and disciplinary conferences.


Thursday May 27, 6pm: Tanya Lokot, Dublin City University

“Beyond the Protest Square: Digital Media and Augmented Dissent”

This new book examines how citizens use digital social media to engage in public discontent and offers a critical examination of the hybrid reality of protest where bodies, spaces and technologies resonate. It argues that the augmented reality of protest goes beyond the bodies, the tents, and the cobblestones in the protest square, incorporating live streams, different time zones, encrypted conversations, and simultaneous translation of protest updates into different languages. Based on more than 60 interviews with protest participants and ethnographic analysis of online content in Ukraine and Russia, it examines how citizens in countries with limited media freedom and corrupt authorities perceive the affordances of digital media for protest and how these enable or limit protest action. The book provides a nuanced contribution to debates about the role of digital media in contentious politics and protest events, both in Eastern Europe and beyond.

Dr Tanya Lokot is Associate Professor in Digital Media & Society in the School of Communications, Dublin City University. She has been researching activism, protest, internet governance, and freedom online for over a decade. Her research has been published in Information, Communication & Society; Digital Journalism; Surveillance & Society; Irish Studies in International Affairs; and Social Media + Society. Tanya’s work has appeared in the edited collections Gender Hate Online and The Routledge Companion to Urban Media and Communication. Her writing has also appeared in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Moscow Times, and RTÉ Brainstorm. She is a board member of the Theorizing the Web Conference and co-founder of the Interdisciplinary Digital Research Group at DCU.


June, Date TBC, Time TBC: Bo Ruberg, University of California Irvine

“Gender and Sexuality in Video Game Live Streaming”

Live streaming has become a vital area of contemporary video games and life online, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Gender and sexuality are central to video game live streaming, shaping who streams, has streaming is performing, and the histories that lead up to present-day streaming practices. For example, women streamers regularly face harassment on platforms like Twitch, where the toxic masculinity of reactionary gamer cultures continues to dominate. Meanwhile, much of Twitch’s attitude toward sexuality on the platform can be understood as an attempt to disavow obvious connections between video game live streaming and webcam modeling, a form of online sex work. This talk maps out some of the many interplays between video game live streaming, gender, and sexuality, arguing that streaming should be understood as an erotic, intimate, and highly gendered form of video game play and self-presentation online.

Bo Ruberg, Ph.D. is an assistant professor in the Department of Film and Media Studies and an affiliate faculty member in the Department of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine. Their research explores gender and sexuality in digital media and digital cultures. They are the author of The Queer Games Avant-Garde: How LGBTQ Game Makers Are Reimagining the Medium of Video Games (2020, Duke University Press) and Video Games Have Always Been Queer (2019, New York University Press) and the co-editor of Queer Game Studies (2017, University of Minnesota Press), as well as a new collection in-progress titled Live Streaming Culture.

Semester 2 2020 Roundup


Stay tuned for up our upcoming program for Semester 1, 2021.

Seminars from Semester 2, 2020, are now available to view online:

Bunty Avieson: The Bhutan-Wiki Project: Global knowledge and minority languages

Wikipedia offers a bulwark for cultural resilience by oral cultures and this project investigates the experiences of the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan.

Mark Johnson: The Lives and Careers of Professional Live Streamers

Drawing on five years of ethnographic research, this seminar focuses on the pasts, presents and (predicted or considered) futures of live streamers.

Justine Humphry, Chris Chesher, and Sophia Maalsen: Smart Publics – Imaginaries and discoveries of smart street furniture

This talk will present research findings from the Smart Publics project focusing on smart city user imaginaries and public encounters with media hybridised forms of smart street furniture.

Alana Mann: Food in a Changing Climate

This new book analyses land and labour relationships in the global food system and considers whose knowledge counts in science communication on health and climate issues.

Olga Boichak: Mapping the National Web: Spaces and cultures of diasporic mobilisation in the digital age

This seminar explores hyperlinking behaviours among Ukrainian Canadians to map geographic, linguistic, and political boundaries of the Ukrainian national web.

Jolynna Sinanan, Larissa Hjorth, Sarah Pink and Heather Horst: Digital Media Practices in Households

This new book explores practices through locative media, self-tracking and quantified self apps in households in Tokyo, Shanghai and Melbourne.

Wayne Hawkins: Please Hold: Australia’s Communication Policy Response to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

This presentation evaluates current communication policies in Australia from a critical disability theory (CDT) framework and identifies the quality of those policies as they speak to people with disability.


Please Hold: Australia’s Communication Policy Response to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Thursday December 10, 3pm-4.30pm, Online via Zoom

This presentation evaluates current communication policies in Australia from a critical disability theory (CDT) framework and identifies the quality of those policies as they speak to people with disability. The research analyses three communications policy case studies to evaluate how Australia’s adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has improved disability access and inclusion. The case studies are: (1) access to the National Relay Service; (2) access to appropriate telecommunications equipment; and (3) access to online audio-visual media.

The study reveals that for many Australians with disability, there has been little in the way of increased access to digital communications since Australia’s 2008 adoption of the CRPD. The research finds that, despite an increasingly affirmative disability public discourse, along with a disability-inclusive political rhetoric, the adoption of the CRPD has done little to change the dominant ableism entrenched in Australia’s neoliberal communication policy framework.

Wayne Hawkins is Director of Inclusion with the Australian Communications Consumer Action network (ACCAN). Wayne has led ACCAN’s work on telecommunications access for consumers with disability, telecommunications affordability and emergency services. Prior to joining ACCAN Wayne was National Policy officer with Blind Citizens Australia. Wayne is a doctoral candidate at Sydney University researching Australian telecommunications and disability policies. Wayne has a Master of Public Policy from Sydney University and a Bachelor of Business Administration from the City University of New York.

Digital Media Practices in Households: Kinship Through Data


Thursday November 26, 3pm-4.30pm, Online via Zoom

New book by Larissa, Hjorth, Kana Ohashi, Jolynna Sinanan, Heather Horst, Sarah Pink, Fumitoshi Kato, Baohua Zhou

Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork in Tokyo, Shanghai and Melbourne, this book provides the first comparative study of digital practices within intergenerational families. The volume explores how households are being understood, articulated and defined by practices through locative media, self-tracking and quantified self apps and their implications for maintaining care at a distance.

Jolynna Sinanan is a Research Fellow in Digital Media and Ethnography at in the School of Media and Communication at University of Sydney, Australia.

Larissa Hjorth is a digital ethnographer, artist, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Design & Creative Practice Platform at RMIT University, Australia. She is a Visiting Professor at the Center for Co-Design at Osaka University, Japan.

Heather Horst is Professor and Director of the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University, Australia.

Sarah Pink is Professor and Director of the emerging technologies lab at Monash University, Australia. She is Visiting Professor at Halmstad University, Sweden and Loughborough University, UK, and Guest Professor at Free University, Berlin, Germany.

Free download from Amsterdam University Press

Mapping the National Web: Spaces and cultures of diasporic mobilisation in the digital age


Thursday November 19, 3pm – 4.30, Online via Zoom

National web is the idea that our online experience remains profoundly shaped by geographical, cultural, and political borders: online spaces emerge as series of country-, language-, and community-specific spheres, organized and structured by search engines, platforms, and devices used to access them. Just like diasporic collectives mobilise among those living outside their country of origin, national web is also an entity that emerges and exists in flux, through the production and circulation of culturally significant content and genres. This similarity between both entities – diasporas and national webs – make their relationship a novel object of empirical inquiry. A wealth of textual and visual data, produced in the process of mediated communication among diasporic actors, turn social media into a point of entry for studying national webs. In this talk, I explore hyperlinking behaviours among Ukrainian Canadians to map geographic, linguistic, and political boundaries of the Ukrainian national web. Shedding light on the spaces and cultures of diasporic mobilisation in the digital age, I identify distinct web spheres that mediate the Ukrainian Canadians’ relationship to their country of origin.

Olga Boichak is a sociologist of digital media and a Lecturer in Digital Cultures at the University of Sydney. Her primary interest lies in networks, discourses, and cultures of activism in the digital age; she fuses ethnographic and computational methods to study activist collectives in the deeply mediatized contexts of war, arts, and religion. Olga holds a doctorate in social science from Syracuse University (U.S.) and has published on digitally mediated identity building, diasporic activism, state legitimacy, and algorithmic surveillance. She is currently working on a book project that explores the role of digital cultures in decolonial geopolitics in contemporary Ukraine.


Food in a Changing Climate

Thursday November 5, 3pm – 4.30pm, Online via Zoom

Today’s responsible, ethical eater is bombarded with multiple framings of healthier bodies, food justice, animal welfare, and climate-stable futures. Many of these focus on plant-based diets. Strong counter-narratives have emerged from the livestock sector across mainstream media, blogs, social media, and public campaigns, leading The Observer to declare diet as the “latest front in the culture wars” (Anthony, 2019).

These contestations came to a head in 2019 with the publication of the report Food in the Anthropocene: EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy and sustainable food systems (Willet et al., 2019). The “digital backlash” against this report includes a popular counter-movement promoting #yes2meat. The Lancet claims this “new skeptical online community” is responsible for “intentional dissemination of misleading content” and disinformation. It argues for proactive avoidance of “manipulation and misinformation about issues of fundamental importance for human health and the planet” (Garcia, 2019).

Most pertinent to this debate is whose knowledge counts in science communication on health and climate issues? This question is central to Alana Mann’s analysis of a global food system embedded in racialized land and labour relationships in her forthcoming book, Food in a Changing Climate.

Alana Mann is Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Media and Communications, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), University of Sydney, Australia, and a key researcher in the University’s Sydney Environment Institute. Her research focuses on the communicative dimensions of citizen engagement, participation, and collective action in food systems planning and governance.