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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Spatial Dialogues

Date: July 18 - August 14

Venue: Project Space, RMIT


Spatial Dialogues is a project that seeks to draw attention to the rising global tensions over water by extending our sense of urban space to include the regional and global ecologies upon which cities are dependent. The artists and cultural theorists on this team see water not only as a significant, contestable resource, but also as an element essential to all life and, as such, replete with deep cultural values frequently overlooked in the expedience of everyday urban life. The three key cities in the project occupy quite different environmental contexts and arise from diverse historical legacies. Yet these three portal cities also have things in common, and the Melbourne team aims to connect with artists in Shanghai and Tokyo to explore how water prevails as something crucial to us all. In these ways the team seeks common ground through social network systems for a dialogue on global environmental questions and the adaptation to climate change. The project is based at RMIT University in Melbourne, and has received substantial support from two major Australian companies: Grocon, Australia’s leading privately owned development and construction group, and Fairfax Media– one of Australia’s largest diversified media companies. These companies have joined with the RMIT team as part of their aim to actively engage the public in civic dialogue on contemporary environmental questions that affect us all. The Spatial Dialogues project was awarded a category one research grant by the Australian Research Council.


Myths of the Near Future: Social Experiences Mediated by Phone

Date: Wednesday 11 June, 3-5pm

Venue: Design Hub, Building 100, RMIT City Campus, room TBA


More than ever, people live through and are mediated by mobile phones. Via collective storying, an ethnographic method in design, this workshop will open the phone as a mediated collective zone where participants share stories about changing social interactions and how mobile phones are implicated in these changes. A pre-workshop activity involves shadowing a friend using their mobile phone. In the workshop, we’ll discuss what we saw in the shadowing experience and describe our own phone usage over the previous week. These activities will inform some collective storying about phones. The second half of the workshop offers the opportunity to develop visual narratives with found photos and/or collaboratively create photos of mediated moments with the phone. By interacting with and composing found materials the photos can make legible selected mobile interactions, and the fleeting emotions they invoke. In other words, the workshop collects and produces narratives about mobile phones and images the emotional landscapes they trigger. It will explore how the phone is the prompt and the subject/evidence of our social activity/mediated communication, and maybe even our sole design instrument.

This workshop will be led by Katherine Moline, College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales. Katherine’s research on experimental practices in art and design is published in journals such as Studies in Material Thinking and Craft and Design Enquiry, and can be found in exhibitions she has curated, including ‘Connections: Experimental Design’ and the forthcoming ‘Feral Experimental’ at Galleries UNSW.

Lynn Schofield Clark on Radio National

Lynn Schofield Clark, our Visiting Fellow to DERC, appeared on Radio National's Life Matters program on Thursday 6 March, talking new media and families. Listen to the audio on demand.

PhD Scholarship available

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


Website for ethical consumption project launched

The website for the ARC Discovery Project ‘The rise of ethical consumption in Australia: from the margins to the mainstream’, which is led by DERC's own Tania Lewis along with Kim Humphery, is now live at This project will be the first of its kind to examine the rise and impact of ethical consumption in Australia.

Most excellent ARC Discovery Grant outcomes!

The two directors of DERC have both been awarded ARC Discovery Grants for two separate innovative and exciting research projects. Along with Professor Robert Foster, Heather is undertaking research that will historically and ethnographically document the broad social consequences of new digital technologies in the Pacific region. You can find out more about this project here. Along with Associate Professor Ingrid Richardson, Larissa is studying how mobile game consumption is reflecting, and being shaped by, complex social and technological practices integral to contemporary life. You can find out more about this project here.

That's DOCTOR Patrick Kelly to you

DERC is very pleased to announce that we have perhaps our first DERC PhD. Patrick Kelly's practice-led project "Detour Off the Superhighway" explored media, aura and filmic practice, and saw him giving up media and communication technology in stages over 80 days.

DERC at EPIC2013

The Digital Ethnography Research Centre had a strong presence at EPIC2013, the leading conference for ethnographic praxis in industry (see, which was held in London 16-18 September. DERC Research Fellow Erin Taylor presented her paper with DERC Director Heather Horst entitled "From Street to Satellite: Mixing Methods To Understand Mobile Money Users" during the opening conference panel. Adjunct Professor and DERC member Daniel Miller gave a keynote entitled "Attaining Humanity" and DERC member Jo Tacchi represented the centre during a workshop entitled "Skills and relationships: defining the training of future practitioners" with participants from Microsoft, Swisscom and Canonical.

Geelab interview with Tom Boellstorff

ARC Linkage Grant success!

We are very pleased to announce that members of the Digital Ethnography Research Centre were the recipients of two Australian Research Council Linkage Grants.

The first project, 'Evaluating communication for development: supporting adaptive and accountable development', is led by DERC Member Prof. Jo Tacchi and is a partnership with United Nations Children’s Fund and Eidos Institute Ltd. (CIs/PIs: Tacchi, Prof Jo A; Rogers, Prof Patricia J; Obregon Galvez, A/Prof Rafael A; Pavarala, Prof Vinod; Muirhead, Prof Bruce D. $606,462.00)

The second funded project, 'Locating the mobile: intergenerational locative media practices in Tokyo, Melbourne and Shanghai', is led by DERC Co-Director A/Prof. Larissa Hjorth and is a partnership with Keio University, Tokyo, Fudan University and Intel Australia Pty Ltd. DERC Co-Director Dr. Heather Horst and DERC member Prof. Sarah Pink are also CIs on the project. (CIs/PIs: Hjorth, A/Prof Larissa; Horst, Dr Heather A; Pink, Prof Sarah; Bell, Dr Genevieve; Zhou, A/Prof Baohua; Kato, Dr Fumitoshi, $232,160.00)

We look forward to supporting DERC applications in future rounds!

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Research centre to push digital boundaries.