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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Indigenous digital creativity and storytelling

Date: Tuesday 6 May

Time: 10:30am - 12pm

Venue: Pavilion 1, Level 10, Design Hub, Building 100, RMIT City Campus


This symposium will look at two case studies of how digital technology acts as a medium for indigenous creativity and connection.

Miyarrka Media curator and co-founder, Jennifer Deger, will talk about the challenges and possibilities of the Gapuwiyak Calling exhibition, which was presented by a new media collective based in the community of Gapuwiyak in northern Australia. Inspired by the ways that mobile phones have generated a new era of indigenous media and art practice, this exhibition aimed to do more than simply collect and display Yolngu phone-made material as cultural artefacts: the aim was to activate the performative aesthetics and poetics of Yolngu phone media in a museum setting.

Fran Edmonds’ paper will discuss a recent pilot digital storytelling project conducted with a group of Aboriginal young people in Melbourne’s inner north. The project included young people working with older Aboriginal community members, with an Aboriginal artist and with a filmmaker, to create their own stories using a range of digital technology and multimedia. The project enabled Aboriginal youth to reveal their expertise in manipulating and controlling digital media, including mobile devices, for their own purposes. However, while these young people, like youth generally, displayed high levels of digital literacy, this project demonstrated that ‘not all media ecologies are equal’.

Jennifer Deger is an anthropologist, filmmaker and curator.  Currently an ARC Future Fellow and Tropical Leader at the Cairns Institute, James Cook University, Deger has worked with Yolngu in Australia’s northeast Arnhem Land on collaborative video and art projects for almost twenty years.  She is the author of Shimmering Screens: Making Media in an Aboriginal Community (University of Minnesota Press, 2006).

Dr Fran Edmonds is an ethnographer, with an interest in the history and anthropology of Australian Aboriginal culture. Fran is a member of the Research Unit in Public Cultures, and is currently the research fellow on the Australian Research Council Linkage Project, Aboriginal young people in Victoria and Digital Storytelling, which is partnering with Australian Centre for the Moving Image, VicHealth and Sista Girl Productions.

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The Prosaic Image: Cultural Patterns in Ubiquitous Media Use

Date: Thursday 17 April

Time: 3:30pm

Venue: RMIT Swanston Academic Building, Level 3, Room 10, 427 – 433 Swanston Street


This paper will outline the research approach to a recently completed project on ubiquitous media use in Hong Kong, focusing especially on camera phone images, describing an approach that draws upon ethnographic method, visual analysis and pattern recognition in order to identify significant transformations in vernacular image uses and content in ubiquitous devices.

The presentation will suggest the significance of these changes as an instance of a specific everyday creativity (a 'general aesthesia') that transcends the designed uses of devices, pinpointing what Mark Weiser referred to as the overlooked ‘non-technical part of what ubiquitous computing is all about’. This, as Weiser saw it, has profound implications for the design of technology. The research argues that ubiquitous media and user-created content establish a new perception of the world that can be called ‘particulate vision’, involving a different relation to reality that better represents the atomization of contemporary experience especially apparent in social media.

Helen Grace is an artist who has been active in cinema, photography, cultural studies and education in Australia and Asia for 30 years and is widely published. After many years teaching at the University of Western Sydney and UTS, she moved to Hong Kong in 2006 where she established the successful MA Programme in Visual Culture Studies at Chinese University of Hong Kong – the first programme of its kind in Hong Kong.

For the last two years she has been a Visiting Professor at National Central University in Taiwan and has just returned to Australia. Her work is in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Art Gallery of South Australia and the Art Gallery of Western Australia as well as private collections. She authored the CD-ROM, Before Utopia: A Non-Official Prehistory of the Present (2000) andco-authored Home/World: Space, Community and Marginality in Sydney’s West (Pluto Press, 1997). She edited the collection Aesthesia and the Economy of the Senses (UWS, 1996), and co-edited Planet Diana: Cultural Studies & Global Mourning (1997). Her new book, Culture, Aesthetics and Affect in Ubiquitous Media: The Prosaic Image (Routledge, 2014) has just been published.

Please join us after the presentation for light refreshments

How we do ethnography: digital worlds

Date: Tuesday 29 April

Time: 10:30am - 12pm

Venue: Honours’ Lab Space, Room 6,Level 2, Building 9, RMIT City Campus


This symposium will look at two case studies of ethnographic research concerning the production and consumption of digital technologies.

Jo Tacchi will speak about the Digital Rhythms project, and how an ethnographic approach is being applied in a study into the way that digital media and technology is transforming the lives of everyday Australians. Conducted by researchers from DERC in collaboration with KPMG, the project is revealing the kind of insights that are not possible through more common market research approaches such as surveys. Jo will discuss some of these insights into the ways in which digital media and content is used across diverse households. The research explores some of the ways that people of different ages and backgrounds think and feel about how digital media is changing the way that they live and their relationships with others.

Debora Lanzeni will discuss her research for the Smart City project which examines the various labs that are producing new technologies such as Internet of Things, Sensors and 3D printing both in companies and makerspaces in Barcelona. Situated at the intersection of design, anthropology and innovation (Suchman 2012), this project will explore how ethnographic research can elucidate the ideas various social actors have about what they do/make, definitions of innovation and visions about the future.

Jo Tacchi is a Professor in the School of Media and Communication, and Director of Research in the College of Design and Social Context. She is an expert in media anthropology and communication for development and has developed innovative uses of ethnography for applied research, including ethnographic action research ( Tacchi’s early media ethnography of radio and domestic soundscapes remains one of a few fully-fledged ethnographic accounts of media audiences. Her recent publications include Evaluating Communication for Development: A Framework for Social Change (Oxford: Routledge, 2013).

Debora Lanzeni is a PhD candidate and junior researcher at IN3 (Internet Interdisciplinary Institute) Program of Knowledge and Information Society. An anthropologist by training, Debora’s research focuses upon understanding how digital technology and its processes of creation, imagination and production are being made from an ethnographic perspective. She is interested in material culture and moral order. She is also a trained filmmaker, and works with visual and digital anthropology.

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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.