The Digital Ethnography Research Centre (DERC) fosters cross-cultural, interdisciplinary and multi-sited research, especially in relation to the Asia-Pacific region. Through research and critical engagement, we collectively seek to push the boundaries and possibilities of ethnographic practice in, through and around digital media. DERC is a research centre in the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University, affiliated with the Design Research Institute. Read more about digital ethnography. Sign up for our mailing list.

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What's On

Public Lecture Miguel Sicart: Play in the Age of Computing Machinery

Date: Thursday 28 April 4:30pm - 5:30pm

Venue: RMIT Design Hub, Building 100, Level 3, Lecture Theatre, Melbourne

Miguel Sicart will present the keynote lecture for the opening of the Design & Play exhibition at Design Hub galleries. Why do we play with computers? What makes computers a favourite material for the creation of playthings? By dissecting the material layers of computers as play engines, I will explore the aesthetics, ethics and politics of playing (with) computers. This talk is an inquiry on the pleasures of submission to digital play, and the joys of resisting the playful, loving embrace of computing machines.

Miguel Sicart’s public lecture and masterclass are part of an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery grant on Games of Being Mobile co-hosted by the Digital Ethnography Research Centre (DERC) and Centre for Games Design Research (CGDR), and School of Media & Communication, RMIT University. The Design & Play exhibition at The Design Hub (29th April - 14 May 2016) which will open directly after the talk finishes.

Miguel Sicart is an Associate Professor at the IT University in Copenhagen. His research on games and playthings combines philosophy with design research. He is the author of The Ethics of Computer Games (The MIT Press, 2009), Beyond Choices: The Design of Ethical Gameplay (The MIT Press, 2013), and Play Matters (The MIT Press, 2014).

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Workshop: Playing Systems- People, Play, and Computers

Date: Friday, 29 April 2016 from 10:30am to 4:30pm

Venue: RMIT Design Hub, Building 100, Level 10, Pavilion 4, Melbourne

The Digital Ethnography Research Centre (DERC) and the Centre for Game Design Research present international guest, Miguel Sicart as part of the Design and Play Exhibition (29 April - 14 May 2016).

Why do we play with computers? Looking at the history of games and toys, we can match the evolution of computer technology with its application in playthings. There is something about computers that makes us want to play with them. In this master class we will inquire on the nature of play and computers, exploring the materiality of machines, the seductions of play, and how theory, design, and culture have been changed by playing systems.

Miguel Sicart is an Associate Professor at the IT University in Copenhagen. His research on games and playthings combines philosophy with design research. He is the author of The Ethics of Computer Games (The MIT Press, 2009), Beyond Choices: The Design of Ethical Gameplay (The MIT Press, 2013), and Play Matters (The MIT Press, 2014).

Please note - places are limited to 12 and are for RMIT HDR students only.

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Masterclass: Seth Giddings - Expanding the Gameworld

Date: Tuesday 10 May 2016 from 1:00 to 7:00pm

Venue: RMIT Emily McPherson Building, Building 13, Level 3, Room 5, Melbourne

Drawing on examples from my recent book Gameworlds: virtual media & children’s everyday play, and from your own experiences and memories of play, this masterclass will address the passage of games into the postdigital media age. We will explore the nature of children’s play today in an environment saturated with digital media devices and networks, and the ways in which long-established games, toys, and play patterns are erased, sustained or transformed by computer-based media. Along the way, we’ll ask questions about the most productive methods and concepts for studying the intimate and intangible experiences of playful technoculture.

Seth Giddings is Associate Professor of Digital Culture and Design at University of Southampton, Winchester School of Art. His research and teaching address the design, testing and everyday use of playful technologies from popular video games and participatory media to experimental mobile games, toys, and robots. His book Gameworlds: virtual media & children’s everyday play is published by Bloomsbury (2014). He is a co-author of New Media: a critical introduction (Routledge 2009) and the editor of a companion volume The New Media & Technocultures Reader (Routledge 2011). Recent projects include researching the development of a robotic gaming platform, digitally augmented playground equipment, and a location-based dance game for smart phones. He is currently developing research on hybrid-reality toys, and distributed imagination and proprioception.

Acknowledgement Seth Giddings visit and masterclass are part of an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery grant, Games of Being Mobile, and co-hosted by the Digital Ethnography Research Centre (DERC) and Centre for Games Design Research (CGDR) in the School of Media & Communication, RMIT University.

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Public Lecture: Danny Miller - Why We Post

Date: Wednesday 11 May 2016 from 4 to 5:30pm

Venue: RMIT Design Hub, Level 3 Lecture Theatre, Melbourne

This talk will provide an overview of an ERC research project on the use and consequences of social media around the world that is resulting in 11 Open Access books as well as a dedicated website and an e-learning course in 8 languages. The project involved nine anthropologists who spent 15 months living in eight countries in communities as varied as an English village, a factory town in China, a community on the Turkish-Syrian border, an IT complex set in villages within south India, a low income settlement in Brazil, as well as sites in Chile, Italy and Trinidad.

The project resulted in an original definition of social media as `scalable sociality’ and a demonstration of how generalisation, analysis and theory can be made compatible with the considerable evidence for cultural differences in the use and consequences of social media across the nine field sites. In particular it will challenge the usual way social media is represented in terms of platforms and their affordances.

Topics addressed will include the way social media changes human communication, the reasons people post memes and selfies. It will explore social media as a place in which we live, and ask why social media may represent the world as more conservative than offline life. It will also briefly address the general impact of social media on areas such as privacy, commerce, education, gender and politics. It concludes by revealing how this comparative global project can be turned into new forms of global education.

Daniel Miller is Professor of Anthropology at University College London, Adjunct Professor in Media and Communication at RMIT University and a Fellow of the British Academy. He has written and edited thirty-seven books. Recent volumes include The Comfort of Things (2008), Stuff (2010), Tales from Facebook (2011) Migration and New Media (with Mirca Madianou 2012) Blue Jeans (with Sophie Woodward 2012) Consumption and its Consequences (2012) Digital Anthropology (Ed. with Heather Horst 2012), Webcam (with Jolynna Sinanan 2014), Social Media in an English Village (2016) and How the World Changed Social Media (with 8 others 2016). He tweets at @DannyAnth.

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Roundtable Discussion:e-Learning and the Anthropology of Social Media

Date: Thursday 12 May 2016 from 3:30 to 5:00pm

Venue: RMIT Design Hub, Level 10, Pavilion 1, Melbourne

This roundtable discussion focuses upon a recent e-Learning initiative emerging out of the Why We Post project led by Professor Daniel Miller. Funded by the European Research Council, Why We Post examined uses of social media across eight countries. Part of the intention of the project was to make research findings easily accessible to a worldwide audience over digital platforms which resulted in developing an e-learning course for FutureLearn, making short films and publishing open access books.

Moderated by John Postill, three members of the Why We Post team - Daniel Miller, Jolynna Sinanan and Sheba Mohammid - will discuss the design and development of the course based on fifteen months of ethnographic research in diverse field sites. Specifically they will reflect upon the production of videos in each field site in collaboration with research participants, stories of individuals and wider discoveries on uses of social media in relation to themes such as education, politics and inequality. Andrea McLagan will compare the Why We Post initiative with ongoing MOOC developments at RMIT and beyond.

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Jack Qiu Seminar: iSlavery & Antislavery: Rethinking Digital Labor & Capitalism

Date: Wednesday 13 April 10:30am -12:30pm

Venue: RMIT Design Hub, Building 100, Level 10, Pavilion 4, Melbourne

This talk is based on Jack Qiu's new book Goodbye iSlave: A Manifesto for Digital Abolition (forthcoming-2016, University of Illinois Press). Digital media have long been thought of as “technologies of freedom”. But the reality cannot be more contradictory if one approaches the same gadgets from where they are made, for example, in the bleak landscape of Chinese factory zones. A comparative exercise – between trans-Atlantic slavery since the 1600s and twenty-first-century iSlavery – is needed to better understand the profound problems of today’s digital industries, in order for us to act upon them.

Exploitation, suppression, alienation, addiction, self-destruction: these features of enslavement have crept into the empire of digital media, along the assembly line and in the data mine. Yet, as always, the expansion of slave systems leads to endeavours of antislavery when the exploited resist the powers that be, when citizens join the struggle to set humanity free. Although digital abolition at its present stage may seem a far cry from ending slavery and the capitalist world system at the very roots of modern enslavement, it is undoubtedly an important first step. Its long-term implication shall not be underestimated because iSlaves have nothing to lose but their chains; they have a world to win.

Jack Linchuan Qiu is professor at the School of Journalism and Communication, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he serves as deputy director of the C-Centre (Centre for Chinese Media and Comparative Communication Research). His publications include World’s Factory in the Information Era 信息时代的世界工厂 (Guangxi Normal University Press, 2013), Working-Class Network Society (MIT Press, 2009), Mobile Communication and Society(co-authored, MIT Press, 2006), some of which have been translated into German, French, Spanish, Portugese, and Korean. He is on the editorial boards of 10 international academic journals, including six indexed in the SSCI, and is Associate Editor for Journal of Communication. He also works with grassroots NGOs and provides consultancy services for international organizations. .

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Technology and Sustainability in Everyday Life: film screening and discussion

Date: Wednesday 23 March 2:00-3:30pm

Venue: RMIT Design Hub, Building 100, Level 10, Pavilion 4, Melbourne

In this seminar Sarah Pink will show the film Laundry Lives with view to generating a discussion around the question of designing for environmental sustainability, and the role that video ethnography can play in such processes.

About Laundry Lives Everyday Life and Environmental Sustainability in Indonesia (40 mins) Laundry Lives takes us into the usually invisible everyday worlds of five middle class Indonesians - Lia, Dyna, Ning, Adi and Nur. As Indonesia's economy and market grows there are hidden implications for the domestic lives of the country’s rapidly expanding professional middle classes, and for environmental sustainability. Laundry Lives captures this moment of change, showing the shifting gender relations, new technologies and environmental concerns that need to be accounted for in the design of sustainable futures.

Directors: Sarah Pink is Professor of Design and Media Ethnography, and Director of the Digital Ethnography Research Centre at RMIT University, Australia. Nadia Astari is a freelance documentary filmmaker based in Australia and Indonesia. Her films have won awards in Melbourne's Indonesian Film Festival and 15/15 Film Festival. .

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Digital documentary, Interaction and Storytelling: A dialogue on recent documentary practices

Date: Thursday 17 March 2:00-4pm

Venue: RMIT Design Hub, Building 100, Level 10, Pavilion 4, Melbourne

With rapid advancements in the affordances of media technology, new forms of documentary practice are emerging. The question at hand is, how can we utilise these to engage with the real? This conversation between two women scholars working in the field spans quite different approaches and findings. Citt Williams, a professional practitioner, explores how technology currently enables us to tell stories of environmental complexity, whilst through an ethnographic lense, Franziska Weidle develops meta-perspectives on documentary filmmakers using digital technology.

Franziska Weidle is a research fellow at the German Research Foundation’s Training Group “Literature and Dissemination of Literature in the Digital Age” and a PhD candidate in Cultural and Visual Anthropology at the University of Göttingen. She works as an assistant of the Göttingen International Ethnographic Film Festival as well as a contributing editor for and

Citt Williams is a passionate and proactive filmmaker and environmental scientist. Previously based at the United Nations University Media Studio in Tokyo, she is now embarking on her doctorate work with Professor Sarah Pink at RMIT’s Digital Ethnography Research Centre. She holds a MA in documentary (AFTRS), MSc in Climate Change (University of East Anglia) and MSc in Social Science of the Internet (University of Oxford). @cittw .

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Speculative Ethnographic Documentary: A screening of Nightfall on Gaia

Date: Thursday 3 March 2:00-4pm

Venue: RMIT Swanston Academic Building, Building 80, Level 3, Room 1, Melbourne

In April 2043, Dr. Xue Noon finds herself stranded in the GAiA International Antarctic Station. As the polar night closes in she connects herself to the Ai-system to scavenge digital memories and archives. Nightfall on Gaia is a speculative ethnographic film that depicts the lives and visions of human communities living in the Antarctic Peninsula. Grounded in ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Antarctica, the film is an experimental meditation on the future of the Antarctic as a new extreme frontier for human inhabitation, the complexities of a fragile planet at the verge of ecological collapse, and the vicissitudes of an uncertain geopolitical future for the region.

Juan Francisco Salazar is an anthropologist and media practitioner. He is an Associate Professor in communication and media studies at Western Sydney University where he is also fellow of the Institute for Culture and Society. His film Nightfall on Gaia (2015) is his second feature length documentary and has been exhibited at international festivals in Bristol, Denver, Toronto, Copenhagen, Bogotá, Santiago and Sydney.

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Eszter Hargittai Seminar: The Online Participation Divide

Date: Wednesday 24 February 3:30-5pm

Venue: RMIT Council Chamber, Building 1, Level 1, Bowen Street, Melbourne

While digital media have certainly lowered the barriers to sharing one's perspectives and creative content with others, research on online engagement has found considerable differences by user background. The first part of the talk will discuss differentiated rates of online participation including photo and video sharing, writing reviews, and editing Wikipedia. Findings suggest that gender, socioeconomic status and Internet skills are all related to who shares content online. Drawing on some of the challenges of existing work in this domain, the second part of the talk will discuss the various dimensions of online participation that are worth keeping in mind when studying such activities.

Eszter Hargittai (PhD Sociology, Princeton University) is Delaney Family Professor in the Communication Studies Department at Northwestern University where she heads the Web Use Project. Starting in Fall 2016, she will hold the Chair in Media Use at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. Her research looks at how people may benefit from their digital media uses with a particular focus on how differences in people's Web-use skills influence what they do online. Her work has received awards from several professional associations including the International Communication Association's Outstanding Young Scholar Award. She has published over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles and 19 book chapters. She is co-editor, with Christian Sandvig of Digital Research Confidential recently out with MIT Press. She has given invited talks in 21 US states and 15 countries on four continents. She tweets @eszter.

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Paul Dourish Seminar: The Cultural Narratives of Design Practice

Date: Monday 8 February 3:30-5pm

Venue: RMIT School of Business, Building 80, Level 6, Room 9, Swanston Street, Melbourne

Design is widely touted not just as a source of product innovation but of civic engagement. From Richard Florida’s writings on the creative class to President Obama’s National Day of Civic Hacking, we are surrounded by stories that entwine design thinking and design practice with broader political projects. In this talk, I want to examine current topics in design, and especially the emergence of the DIY/maker movement, in terms of their connection to broader narratives of civic participation, commercial innovation, and political resistance. I will draw in particular on ongoing studies of hackerspaces and maker practices in multiple sites around the world but particularly in China

Paul Dourish is a Professor of Informatics in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at UC Irvine, with courtesy appointments in Computer Science and Anthropology, and co-directs the Intel Science and Technology Center for Social Computing. His research focuses primarily on understanding information technology as a site of social and cultural production; his work combines topics in human-computer interaction, ubiquitous computing, and science and technology studies. He is the author of two books: Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction (MIT Press, 2001) and, with Genevieve Bell, Divining a Digital Future: Mess and Mythology in Ubiquitous Computing (MIT Press, 2011). He holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from University College, London, and a B.Sc. (Hons) in Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science from the University of Edinburgh.


Angie Hart Seminar: Resilience Based Approaches Supporting Young People and Families

Date: January 28th, 2:00 -3:30pm

Venue: Pavilion 1, Level 10, Building 100 Design Hub

Presenting visiting guest speaker Angie Hart, Professor of Child, Family and Community Health at the University of Brighton and co-founder of BoingBoing, a not-for-profit developing resilience amongst disadvantaged young people in the UK. Angie will give a talk about how visual arts-based approaches have formed a crucial part of the work BoingBoing have been doing. This session will offer an overview of this work and demonstrate some of the training tools, books, films and exhibitions that young people and adults have designed and developed together as part of the Research Council funded Imagine Project. Following the seminar there will be a panel discussion and audience Q & A session.

Angie Hart is Professor of Child, Family and Community Health at the University of Brighton. Together with students, practitioners and community members, Angie has published widely on resilience based approaches to supporting children and families in schools and beyond, and her work is funded through many sources including research councils and local authorities. She co-founded Boingboing, a not for profit organisation which supports resilience based practice ( Her resilience research profile is underpinned by professional and personal experience – Angie is a Child and Adolescent Mental Health practitioner and the adoptive parent of three young people with complex needs.







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David Romero Martin Seminar: The Role of the Body as Interface for Experience. Contributions from Art and the Agoraphobic Paradigm

Date: November 18th, 1:30pm -3:00pm

Venue: Room 12, Level 3, Building 13

The body can be considered as a complex interface that mediates the experience between the subject and the world. It constitutes a trans-disciplinary challenge, posed by the very nature of bodily-mediated experience. The role of the body is particularly felt by agoraphobic people, as agoraphobia problematizes the nature of the bodily experience between the subject and the world, with threatening sensations of the body as dissolving into the environment, which challenges its boundaries and sense of unity. This talk is based around themain research question: which is the role of the body as a mediator-interface between the subject and the world? The hypothesis is that by analyzing the queries and challenges from the point of view of agoraphobia new light is brought to the role of the body in the relationship between subject, world and perception. Art, in connection with other fields, can be a method to externalize this perspective and share the experience of the world by agoraphobic subjects, and to offer this explorations to the transdisciplinary debate about the body. In this sense, it can be useful to any field in which the body is crucial such as neurology, psychiatry, anthropology, design, technology, geography and philosophy, among others. Based on the case study of agoraphobia as open to different queries, this talk has 3 objectives: (1) to deepen the role of the body in the mediation subject world; and (2) to review subjective art experiences that mirror, access and provoke shifts in bodily perceptions and body schema that can open new horizons to perceive, grasp and understand the experience between subject and world (3) offer an analysis of the particularities of the role of body in this mediation of experience. This analysis of different applied methods and means that have been developed to access, grasp and share these experiences in art, especially in recent trandisciplinary practices, can show the potential of the case of agoraphobia as a paradigm for further research..







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Featured Project: Transmedia Literacy: Exploiting transmedia skills and informal learning strategies to improve formal education

CI: Professor Carlos A Scholari, RMIT: A/Prof. Heather Horst & Professor Sarah Pink

Horizon 2020 – Research and Innovation actions, 2015-2017

The aim of the Transmedia Literacy project is to understand how young boys and girls are learning skills outside the school. The construction of those cultural competencies and social skills will be at the centre of the research. Once the informal learning strategies and practices applied by young people outside the formal institutions are identified, the team will ‘translate’ them into a series of activities and proposals to be implemented inside school settings. The Transmedia Literacy Project will also produce a Teacher’s Kit that will be designed to facilitate the integration of transliteracies in the classroom.

In short, the Transmedia Literacy project will:

  • Contribute to a better understanding of how teens are consuming, producing, sharing, creating and learning in digital environments
  • Create a map of transmedia skills and informal learning strategies used by young boys and girls that identify how these may correspond with the formal education system.
  • Go beyond the identification of skills/strategies and propose a Teacher’s Kit that any teacher could download, adapt and apply in the classroom.
  • Conduct research and develop these toolkits in 9 countries across three continents.
  • Integrate an international and interdisciplinary team of researchers.

The Transmedia Literacy project involves an interdisciplinary group of 25 researchers with sound experience in fields such as: media literacy, transmedia storytelling, user-generated content and participatory culture, traditional and virtual ethnography, and pedagogy and innovation in education. The research will focus on specific skills (i.e. transmedia content production and sharing, problem solving in videogames, etc.) in 9 countries across three continents (Australia, Colombia, Finland, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom, and Uruguay).

The research will focus on teens (12-18 years old), an age characterized by a short but intensive use of media and digital technologies. Most of the teenagers who will participate in the study have been using digital technologies for a few years, and see new media as part of their ‘natural environment’. Many teens would be considered advanced users. The aim of this study is to map transmedia practices and informal learning strategies teens use through an ethnographic approach which integrates survey responses, interviews, focus groups, and participant observation.

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Featured Publication: The Routledge Companion to Mobile Media

Edited by Gerard Goggin and Larissa Hjorth

The last decade has witnessed the rise of the cell phone from a mode of communication to an indispensable multimedia device, and this phenomenon has led to the burgeoning of mobile communication studies in media, cultural studies, and communication departments across the academy.

The Routledge Companion to Mobile Media seeks to be the definitive publication for scholars and students interested in comprehending all the various aspects of mobile media. This collection, which gathers together original articles by a global roster of contributors from a variety of disciplines, sets out to contextualize the increasingly convergent areas surrounding social, geosocial, and mobile media discourses.

Features include:

  • comprehensive and interdisciplinary models and approaches for analyzing mobile media;
  • wide-ranging case studies that draw from this truly global field, including China, Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America, as well as Europe, the UK, and the US;
  • a consideration of mobile media as part of broader media ecologies and histories;
  • chapters setting out the economic and policy underpinnings of mobile media;
  • explorations of the artistic and creative dimensions of mobile media;
  • studies of emerging issues such as ecological sustainability;
  • up-to-date overviews on social and locative media by pioneers in the field.

Drawn from a range of theoretical, artistic, and cultural approaches, The Routledge Companion to Mobile Media will serve as a crucial reference text to inform and orient those interested in this quickly expanding and far-reaching field.



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