Author Archives: Heather Horst

About Heather Horst

Vice Chancellor's Senior Research Fellow in the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia

Best of Material World: Digital Media

Since the Material World Blog began, the digital media landscape changed dramatically. In social media terms, we have moved from Friendster, MySpace and Orkut to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp, with a range of other digital, mobile and social media becoming embedded within many people’s everyday lives around the world. These transformations resulted in an increasing number of posts that explored the changing relationships with digital media and made visible the materiality of the digital worlds. In my review of the best of digital media on Material World Blog, five key themes emerged.

(1) The first theme clusters around questions of place and materiality with the growth in digital media. These include Jean-François Blanchette’s wonderful post analysing bits and the software history  as well as Toby Wilkenson’s examination of the consequences of google earth for our relationship to place in a time of google earth. Graham H. Roberts’ discussion of the transition from alcohol branding on bottles to branding on websites and social media in Russia and Lane DeNicola’s post on online shopping and retail also inspire readers to consider the ways in which the online retail experience may be changing our relationships to objects, including objects of consumption.

(2) Research on relationships form a second wave of blog posts. We see this through Mihrini Sirisena’s discussion of dating and missed calls (ring-cut), Elad Ben Elul’s post examining the creation of photo archives among Ghanaian transnational families (including a follow up post on the design process used to connect transnational families),  Sandra Rubia Silva’s analysis of the relationships people have with their mobile phones and the discussion of these relationships on Orkut and last (but not least), Mirca Madianou and Daniel Miller’s introduction to the concept of polymedia and the relationship between the desire to control the nature or content of communication via different platforms.

(3) We also had a fair number of publications focused upon young people and digital media which collectively worked to complicate a series of assumptions about the relationship between young people and technology. This comes out quite explicitly in Tylor Bickford’s analysis of earbud sharing children using mp3 players, Christo Sims discussion of young people’s media practices and identity work, as well as Matt Voight’s post on the trend towards technology deprivation strategies in US summer camps.

(4) A fourth strand of research emerged around the nature and form of online communities. This includes Patricia Lange’s work on video bloggers relationship to place, Larissa Hjorth’s discussion of social media gamers and online communities based on research in Shanghai (with some fantastic photos to illustrate her post!), and Dan Perkel’s analysis of theft among artists who post their creations on Deviant Art.

(5) The fifth and final strand of research explored protest and digital activism. For example, David Thompson’s post examines the Occupy Rio movement and the relationship between the physical space of protests and the online arenas in which photos and videos were constantly uploaded and discussed, not only from Rio but also from Occupy protests around the world. Finally, Gabriella Coleman’s shared her work on humour and hacking in anonymous and a link to an audio recording of Coleman’s public talk at UCL earlier this year. Finally, Chief Editor Haidy Geismar’s thoughtful posts on Open Access highlighted the ways in which forms of digital activism have also impacted our own scholarship through the rise of alternative models of journals, books and other forms of scholarship.

Media Worlds and the Ethnographic Imagination Workshop

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Media Worlds and the Ethnographic Imagination

A workshop organised by the Goldsmiths Media Ethnography Group and the Department of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths University of London

June 16th 2014, 10:00am – 6pm

LG01 and 314 Stuart Hall Building (formerly New Academic Building)

Goldsmiths, University of London

This one-day event launches the Goldsmiths Media Ethnography Group, an interdisciplinary network of scholars who use ethnography to understand our mediated worlds. The workshop is organised around a series of talks, panels and round-table discussions which will trace the diverse traditions and future trajectories of media ethnography. Apart from showcasing the richness of ethnographic research on media practices, broadly defined, speakers will also address questions of ethnographic practice. The workshop aims to encourage an interdisciplinary dialogue through which we will consider different types of ethnography (including auto-ethnography and digital ethnography) and the challenges and opportunities of conducting ethnographic research in digital environments. Speakers will address questions of ethnographic writing, self-reflexivity and ethics as well as the ways in which ethnography relates to other modes of inquiry, both qualitative and quantitative.

The event will begin with a keynote talk by Professor David Morley entitled ‘Towards an Ethnography of Media Audiences (Part 2)’. The workshop will end with a plenary round-table discussion on the contribution of ethnography for understanding digital practices.

Confirmed participants include: Julie Archambault (Oxford); Veronica Barassi (Media, Goldsmiths); Somnath Batabyal (SOAS); Marianne Franklin (Media, Goldsmiths); Richard MacDonald (Media, Goldsmiths); Miranda McLachlan (Media, Goldsmiths); Mirca Madianou (Media, Goldsmiths); Isaac Marrero-Guillamón (Anthropology, Goldsmiths); Evelyn Ruppert (Sociology, Goldsmiths); Anamik Saha (Media, Goldsmiths); Gareth Stanton (Media, Goldsmiths); Olivia Swift (Anthropology, Goldsmiths)

Registration is free but please RSVP here: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/media-worlds-and-the-ethnographic-imagination-tickets-11597547577

You can find more information about the group here: www.gold.ac.uk/media-communications/research/goldsmiths-media-ethnography-group/

Programme

10:00 – 10:15 Registration

10:15 Welcome and Introduction

10:30 – 11:30 Opening Keynote David Morley (Media & Communications, Goldsmiths): Towards an Ethnography of Media Audiences (Part 2)

11:30 – 11:45 Coffee Break

12:45-13:15 Panel I

Chair: Olivia Swift (Anthropology, Goldsmiths)

Julie Archambault (University of Oxford): Mediated intimacy, ethnography and the search for authenticity in Mozambique.

Richard MacDonald (Media & Communications, Goldsmiths): Projecting films for the spirits: researching the use of media apparatus in ritual practice

Isaac Marrero-Guillamón (Anthropology, Goldsmiths) Ethnography beyond representation: media artefacts and the politics of invention

13:15 -14:15 Lunch break

14:15-15:15 Panel II

Chair: Miranda McLachlan (Media & Communications, Goldsmiths)

Gareth Stanton (Media & Communications, Goldsmiths): Movies, Melodramas and Murderers: the Journey of Media Anthropology

Somnath Batabyal (SOAS) Minding the Gap: practitioners as ethnographers

15:15- 15:30 Coffee break

15:30 – 17:00 Plenary Round Table Discussion: Ethnography for understanding digital practices

Chair: Anamik Saha (Goldsmiths)

Speakers: Veronica Barassi (Media and Communications, Goldsmiths); Marianne Franklin (Media and Communications, Goldsmiths); Evelyn Ruppert (Sociology, Goldsmiths); Mirca Madianou (Media and Communications, Goldsmiths).

17:00 Reception

 

PhD Scholarship: The Moral and Cultural Economy of Mobile Phones in the Pacific

EOI closing date: 30 March 2014

This three-year scholarship is for a PhD candidate who will conduct ethnographic field research for a study of the moral and cultural economy of the mobile phone in Fiji. S/he will spend at least 12 months over the three years of candidature in Fiji documenting and analysing the relationships between consumers, companies, and state agents that take shape around mobile phones, digital media and infrastructures. The candidate will carry out research based on his or her specific expertise and research interests while also contributing a key component to a broader comparative study with Papua New Guinea funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Grant The Moral and Cultural Economy of the Mobile Phone in the Pacific. The candidate will also become a Postgraduate Member of the Digital Ethnography Research Centre.

Eligible candidates will have a BA with Honours or MA/MsC (Research) in Anthropology, Sociology, Media, Communication, Science and Technology Studies, Informatics/Information or other related discipline. Candidates must be willing to undertake ethnographic fieldwork in Fiji and be willing to learn the language of their fieldwork site. Pending final approval, the Scholarship will include a tax-free stipend of $24,653 per year for three years (July 2014 to June 2016) and project-related research expenses. Please note that all applicants will need to apply for and be accepted to the PhD program in Media and Communication at RMIT University to be eligible for the scholarship. Application details, including details and deadlines for RTS placement for Australian and New Zealand citizens and possible tuition fees for International candidates, can be found here.

Initial expressions of interest, including a CV and 500-word initial project proposal should be sent before 30 March 2014 to Dr. Heather Horst with the subject line PHD Scholarship EOI

Unpacking the Cars and Sheds with Genevieve Bell

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Intel’s resident cultural anthropologist, Dr. Genevieve Bell, was recently featured in an article, “Intel’s Sharp-Eyed Social Scientist” in the New York Times. The article traces some of the findings and insights from Bell’s 16 years at Intel, including a study of how people use technology in their car which will be of interest to material culture studies and STS scholars. Her video interview with Sydney Morning Herald, A Moment with Genevieve Bell, also features some of her recent work in Australia on people’s everyday relationships with sheds.

Configuring Light: Staging the Social Project

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By Dr. Don Slater (Sociology, London School of Economics and Political Science) Dr. Joanne Entwistle (CMCI, King’s College London) Mona Sloane (Sociology, London School of Economics and Political Science)

 

Project Website: www.configuringlight.org/#

Light has been largely invisible in social sciences. Although there are established research agendas on vision and visual culture, light itself – as material culture, as infrastructure, as a physical feature of social landscapes – has virtually no literature. Conversely, the largely technical literatures on light in architecture, design and energy studies make sociological assumptions that do not connect to the social science approaches that could help make sense of light as lived practices and understandings (eg, material culture studies, science and technology studies, consumption studies). Configuring Light/Staging the Social aims to forge an integral dialogue between social sciences, design, architecture and urban planning focused on one of the most fundamental features of social life. As the programme title indicates, we are concerned with light as a material thing which is shaped or configured into specific social forms, and which enters into the ways in which social life and interaction is staged and enacted in specific social worlds.

Our aim is to produce both knowledges and methodologies for better researching the ways in which light is configured and the roles it plays in structuring social life. In pursuing this aim, our perspective is ethnographically comprehensive: we want to map all the significant forms of knowledge, practice and governance and all the actors (consumers, designers, planners) that enter into the processes of configuring light and staging social life. We anticipate that the practical and user significance of this research programme could be both large and – at the outset – unpredictable.

Our own expectations are twofold: • Light consumption has a greater impact on energy use than any other single social practice; changes in light use stemming from new knowledges and methodologies can make a huge environmental and economic contribution. • Light, as a fundamental feature of social life and of design, provides grounds for deeper methodological integration between social sciences and design disciplines, with possibilities of dramatic changes of practice on both sides of this divide.

Configuring Light/Staging the Social is a research agenda rather than a single research project. The aim is to develop, over the course of the next year, a limited number of pilot projects into a coherent programme. We have identified four focuses for research development:

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CFP: Music Flows, IASPM-US Annual Conference

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March 13-16, 2014 

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Submission Deadline: Friday, 15 November, 2013

Music flows. Evocative metaphorically while directing our attention to the global circulation of songs, the theme for the 2014 IASPM-US Annual Conference takes its inspiration from the UNC campus-wide Water initiative. Water in its many forms is a ubiquitous subject of pop songs. Whether as metaphor or literal reference, water imagery as a theme in popular music has been used to celebrate identity, express emotions, address environmental issues, convey pleasure, pay homage to spiritual beings, and shape communities of resistance. Here we take up notions of fluidity and flow to address not only what many deem our most important natural resource, but to consider the ways in which water’s qualities may yield productive insights into the present and future of popular music.

Fluidity suggests smoothness and flow, as well as uncertainty, indefiniteness, and mutability. This tension is felt across global capital, ecology, and the business of music, as money, energy, and sounds flow around the world, their movement unevenly enabled and restricted by a range of economic, political, and cultural forces. From the licit or illicit circulation of songs to the melting of glaciers, popular music – and the world in which it exists – faces a future in which the status quo is quite literally in flux. With seemingly solid foundations melting away, we face a moment of productive instability, in which new potentialities emerge even as life as we know it may be dramatically transformed.

The 2014 IASPM-US Annual Conference will take place from March 13-16, 2014 at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The Center for the Study of the American South (CSAS) will be our host on campus, in collaboration with the Department of Music and the Southern Folklife Collection. Papers related to popular music and southern culture are especially welcome. Look for a featured panel on southern music and enjoy a lively reception hosted by the Center.

Papers may focus on one of the following aspects of the theme, on other aspects of the conference theme, or – as always – any other issue in the study of popular music.

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APERTURE Asia Pacific International Ethnographic Documentary Festival

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The first APERTURE Festival will be held in Melbourne, 21-23 November 2013. APERTURE Asia Pacific International Ethnographic Documentary Festival aims to promote and support ethnographic documentary film about the Asia Pacific region and film directed or produced by filmmakers originating from this region.

Ethnographic film festivals are almost not existing in this region, with the exception of two events in Taiwan and Vietnam. Ethnographic film festivals elsewhere in the world, along with similar events attached to anthropology conferences, present mainly films made by European and American filmmakers, and most of their work does not focus on the Asia Pacific cultures and societies. Filmmakers originating from the Asia Pacific region are grossly underrepresented, also because the cost of travel and other accessibility issues.

APERTURE aims to provide an accessible event within the region, for the region’s local filmmakers as well as for all filmmakers worldwide whose work is about the Asia Pacific region. The festival will also welcome proposals from local filmmakers in this region who have made ethnographic films about cultures and society located in other parts of the world (not the Asia Pacific) providing their work features an Asian Pacific ethnographic perspective. APERTURE thus will offer a platform that promotes documentaries on Asia Pacific cultures and society, and provide emerging filmmakers from this region the opportunity to be screened internationally and network with other filmmakers and potential producers and distributors.

The first APERTURE Festival will be held in Melbourne, 21-23 November 2013. While this first edition will invite submission for ethnographic film-documentaries, the aim is to open the following editions also to photo-documentary projects to be displayed during the film festival. As one of the key aims of the project is to educate about and promote the culture of the Asia Pacific region, attendance to the festival will be free and open to the public.

Future festivals could be held in major cities in the Asia Pacific region by rotation or continue in Melbourne, depending on sponsorships and partnerships. If you are interested to host a travelling APERTURE event or future editions, please get in touch with us!

The focus on Asia Pacific cultures and filmmakers makes this an innovative and unique festival that has not been previously offered in any other country in the region.

Festival Director
Dr. Erminia Colucci
Centre for International Mental Health
School of Population and Global Health
The University of Melbourne
Phone: +61 03 90353082
Email: ecolucci@unimelb.edu.au