Projects Menu

Transmedia Literacy

The rise of ethical consumption in Australia: from the margins to the mainstream

The Moral and Cultural Economy of the Mobile Phone in the Pacific Region

The Gender of Money

Digital rhythms: an ethnographic study of digital content in Australia

Can Songs Heal Japan?

Mapping the Social Networks of International Students: Foundations for Improved Communication with International Students

PACMAS Baseline Study

Games of Being Social

Cittaslow: indirect activism, wellbeing and resilience

The role of lifestyle television in transforming culture, citizenship and selfhood

Mobilising Media for Sustainable Outcomes in the Pacific Region

Locating the Mobile

Mobile, Migrants and Money

The Uses of Webcam

Evaluating communication for development: supporting adaptive and accountable development

Work-life ecologies: lifestyle, sustainability, practices

Technologies for supportive communities: creating and evaluating meaningful online and technology-facilitated connections for vulnerable young people

Complex, Clever, Cool: understanding and imagining smart, sustainable, laundry


Slow Cities: urban sustainability in a digital-material world

Sensing, shaping, sharing: measuring and imagining the body in a mediatized world

Indigenous nation building: Theory, practice and its emergence in Australia’s public policy discourse

Design and Social Innovation in Asia-Pacific

Designing future designers: a propositional framework teaching sustainability

Freedom Technologists

Developing Global Collaborations

Thrill the World: Global and Local Performances of Michael Jackson's "Thriller"


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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Thinking Sustainability Postgraduate Research Group

A/Prof Tania Lewis (DERC/M&C), Dr Yolande Strengers (DERC/GUSS) and Dr Cecily Mallers (GUSS)


A collaborative project recently initiated between DERC and the Centre for Urban Research (part of GUSS), this interdisciplinary peer support group meets fortnightly, is funded by SUPP and convened by SUPP Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Andrew Glover. Aside from offering regular peer support-oriented meetings, the group invites speakers to present on topics related to the pragmatics of the HDR process as well as hosting talks on cultural and social approaches to researching sustainability.


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.

See more at:

The rise of ethical consumption in Australia: from the margins to the mainstream

A/Prof. Tania Lewis & A/Prof. Kim Humphery

An Australian Research Council Discovery Project, 2013-2015

This nationwide research project will be the first of its kind to examine the rise and impact of ethical consumption in Australia. It will not only document the growth and increasing popularity of ethical and sustainable forms of consumption over the last few decades, but will explore the social, cultural and political implications of ethical consumption as a philosophy and global movement. Most of all, through engaging with consumers, retailers and producers, the project’s findings will enable the development of policy and industry frameworks aimed at the promotion of more ethical and sustainable ways of consuming.You can find out more at

The Moral and Cultural Economy of the Mobile Phone in the Pacific Region

Heather Horst & Robert Foster

Funded by the Australian Research Council (DP140103773), 2014-2016

Photo Attribution: 'Say hello to your Wantoks', Port Moresby, PNG, August 2012' c. H. Horst

The mobile phone represents one of the first truly global digital technologies (Goggin 2010). Spreading far beyond the industrialized centres of Europe, Asia and North America, almost 5 billion of the world’s 6 billion mobile phone subscriptions are found in the developing world. The rapid uptake of mobile phones in these regions has provided people with greater capacity for interpersonal communication and access to Web-based media platforms as well as new services such as banking and money transfers.

Our project seeks to understand this profound change by foregrounding the role of information and communication technologies in shaping the moral and cultural dimensions of socioeconomic life. We organize the research comparatively through case studies of two countries in the Pacific – Papua New Guinea, where a single service provider (Digicel Group Ltd.) now dominates the market, and Fiji, where the same provider struggles against a larger rival (Vodafone). Building upon the investigators’ extensive experience analysing the social, economic and cultural effects of mass media and new forms of communication in developing countries, the project will investigate how engagements with mobile phones and related digital media generate and regenerate cultural and personal identities; remake social practices including civic participation and economic exchange; and reconfigure relationships among consumers, companies and states. We focus on mobile money in particular as an emergent phenomenon that redefines relations among consumers, companies and states and that facilitates financial and social well-being in the developing world.

The project has three objectives:

  1. Describe, compare and explain how consumers appropriate mobile platforms and understand the moral dimensions of using these platforms in their everyday lives.
  2. Develop a nuanced historical and ethnographic account of the ways in which companies offering mobile services fashion themselves as moral actors through the cultivation and maintenance of mobile markets;
  3. Compare and analyse how different state actors create mobile markets through policies, regulatory frameworks and other forms of governance.

The project will produce primary historical and ethnographic data on information and communication technologies in two Pacific countries where very little empirical research has been conducted, especially about how primary access to the Internet through mobile phones and platforms affects information use and social networking. Our research findings and analyses will be useful to government agencies and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) for assessing the social impact of information and communication technologies on effective governance (e.g., increased transparency and civic participation) and economic development (e.g., the commercial significance of mobile money and information exchange). In addition, our novel conceptual framework and immersive fieldwork will bring anthropological theory and ethnographic methods to bear on scholarly debates about the cultural consequences of digital media and technology.

The Gender of Money

Heather Horst & Supriya Singh

Funded by the Smart Services CRC, 2013-2014

Over the past five years we have witnessed an explosion of new platforms and mechanisms for circulating money between Australia and the Pacific Islands. As recent work on financial inclusion has highlighted, the new forms of currencies and payments represent fundamental shifts in the ways in which people engage with and access money. Despite the proliferation of financial services, however, we lack an understanding of the range of services available and how they operate alongside banks, payment providers, credit card companies, telecommunications companies and others for providers, intermediaries and consumers (end users). This ethnographic study of money traces the experiences and perspectives of providers, regulators and consumers. Drawing upon interviews and participation in mobile money and financial inclusion events, our research outputs will include periodic blogs that document this fast-changing field, including key policy shifts. It will also include a final report of emerging patterns, with particular attention to the gendered practices and understandings of mobile money.

Research Assistant: Sandra Kailahi


Smart Services CRC:

Digital rhythms: an ethnographic study of digital content in Australia

Jo Tacchi (Chief Investigator), Tania Lewis (Chief Investigator), Heather Horst, Sarah Pink, John Postill, Larissa Hjorth, Tripta Chandola (Post-Doctoral Fellow), Victor Albert (Post-Doctoral Fellow).

Funded by KPMG Australia

Researchers from the Digital Ethnography Research Centre at RMIT University have teamed up with KPMG to conduct a first of its kind study into the way that digital media and technology is transforming the lives of everyday Australians. The project, called Digital Rhythms, will employ ethnographic methods to reveal insights, inaccessible via traditional survey-based approaches, into how digital media and content is used in the home – a key site of digital consumption. Focusing on the in-depth study of a small sample of households, Digital Rhythms will produce rich, nuanced, and socially-embedded portrayals of the role that digital media plays in key domains of everyday life. It will also explore the way 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.

Can Songs Heal Japan?: Building National Identity and Societal Resilience through a Televised Song Contest

Shelley Brunt

Funded by the Japan Foundation's Japanese Studies Fellowship, 2013-

This project examines the role of the televised Red and White Song Contest in Japan in the aftermath of the ‘3/11’ triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis.  Watching the Red and White Song Contest on New Year’s Eve is an opportunity to collectively reflect on the year gone by, to remember Japan’s singers and the messages of their songs. This study aims to test the premise that post-3/11 editions of the Red and White Song Contest build national identity by presenting the nation to itself. It will compare and contrast discourses of the nation, evidenced in production elements such as staging, song selection, lyric content and instrumentation, as well as evocations of the past, reflections on the nation’s history and through cultural nationalism whereby ‘the distinctiveness of the cultural community’ can be seen as ‘the essence of a nation’ and is used to ‘regenerate the national community by creating, preserving or strengthening a people’s cultural identity’ at a time of year when Japan is already self-reflective. Music can be used to convey grief, celebrate survival, and generate financial aid for disaster-affected areas. It can also be used by societies to develop resilience and manage threats and conditions of uncertainty because ‘shared and coordinated action can reduce collective vulnerability’. In the context of post-3/11 Japan, the Red and White Song Contest can be used as a means for a society to accommodate and recover from hazardous conditions, especially during the ‘recover and reconstruction’ phase, by presenting the stories and songs from devastated regions.

See more at and

An interview with Shelley by Colorado Public Radio about the Red and White Song Contest in relation to the Japanese diaspora.

Mapping the Social Networks of International Students: Foundations for Improved Communication with International Students

Marsha Berry

Funded by IDP Australia Ltd, 2014-2015

This project aims to explore how different groups of international students might access information that affects their health and lifestyle in Australia. The project also aims to study the relationship between international students’ self- perceived identity/social roles and social networks, in order to understand the patterns of communication of different groups of students. For example, do students who identify themselves strongly as temporary visitors rely on Australian sources of information or go back to their home country sources, given the ease with which this might be done in the digital age? This project seeks to answer the following questions;

1. What sources of information do international students rely on for everyday living?
2. What patterns might be discerned in the way international students access information?
3. What impacts do social roles/networks have on how/where international students access information?
4. Which social media outlets and online communities do international students interact with?
5. What are ways to achieve more targeted information sharing amongst international students?
6. What practical implications are there for helping international students manage their health and lifestyle?

PACMAS Baseline Study

Jo Tacchi, Heather Horst, Evangelia Papoutsaki, Verena Thomas and Joys Eggins

Funded by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, International Development

This project employs a Communication for Development (C4D) approach to understand the diversity and complexity of media and communication environments. A C4D approach enables development organisations to better design and implement media and communication assistance programs and work towards the goal of lasting and sustainable development. Through a range of qualitative research methods, the project seeks to develop an in-depth understanding of the Pacific media environment, including policy and legislation, capacity building, content and media distribution systems. Through this work we identify key trends, major opportunities and constraints or challenges to a free, well-functioning and independent media sector which can be employed to determine priority areas for media development in the Pacific region.

The research for this project was undertaken between 2012 and 2013 by the Pacific Media and Communication Research Consortium, which is a partnership between Jo Tacchi (RMIT University, Australia); Heather A. Horst (RMIT University, Australia); Evangelia Papoutsaki (UNITEC, New Zealand); Verena Thomas (University of Goroka, Papua New Guinea); and Joys Eggins (University of Goroka, Papua New Guinea). Researchers on the project include Felicity Cull (RMIT University, Australia); Martha Ginau (Australian National University, Australia); Usha Harris (Macquarie University, Australia); Sandra Kailahi (UNITEC, New Zealand); Josephine Mann (University of Goroka, Papua New Guinea); Marion Muliaumaseali’i (UNITEC, New Zealand and RMIT University, Australia); Jessica Noske-Turner (RMIT University, Australia and Queensland University of Technology, Australia); Lawrencia Pipir (University of Goroka, Papua New Guinea); Christine Schmidt (RMIT University, Australia); and Naomi Strickland (UNITEC, New Zealand).

Project Blog:

Final Report:

Games of Being Social: A study of mobile gaming cultures

Larissa Hjorth and Ingrid Richardson

Funded by the Australian Research Council (DP140104295), 2014-2016

 A Singapore teenage girl waiting for friends in a café, takes a picture with her Samsung Galaxy and uploads to her location-based service (LBS) mobile game, Foursquare, to show her late friends she has arrived. In Tokyo a young male plays Angry Birds on his iPad, intermittently checking emails and following Twitter feeds as he commutes to and from work. In Seoul, a group of friends play World of Warcraft (WoW) in a PC bang (internet room) while surfing on their phones and checking social media. In Melbourne, while waiting in line at the supermarket, a mother distracts her toddler with Playtime, a customised Dora the Explorer game made for the iPhone. Over in Shanghai, a father maintains regular online contact with his university student daughter by playing the social network game Happy Farm on Facebook, along with over 20 million active users across mainland China and Taiwan. This opening vignette paints a picture of how both mobile devices and games have become an integral part of everyday life across the globe. By 2013, Price Waterhouse Coopers estimates that the game industry will grow to $70 billion globally. In 2011, mobile gaming generated $12 billion; today, Zynga’s mobile gaming division alone brings in annual revenues of over $10 billion. In Australia, the relatively rapid uptake of smartphones and mobile gaming (ABS 2011) has impacted across various demographics. With the demise of local key game companies like Blue Tongue, Australia has given way to the rise of small, independent companies specialising in mobile games. Companies such as Robot Circus, Firemonkeys and Tin Man Games are typical of this new type of independent game developer who specialises in the production of mobile games. Given 75% of all mobile phone downloads are games, the mobile gaming industry is predicted to reach $54 billion by 2015. While not every independent company will be like Rovio and make the next Angry Birds (which achieved 1 billion downloads as of mid 2012 and has expanded into toy, movie and merchandise franchises), mobile gaming has provided many designers and programmers—and consequently, players—with more flexibility and innovation around game genres, gameplay, and the aesthetics and affordances of game environments. As the first national study of mobile gaming, Games of Being Social will contextualise the phenomenon of mobile, social and locative gaming within new cultural models of play and the changing games industry; Identify and categorise the range of mobile games and interfaces, both existing and emergent, and their specific effects in terms of player personae and the typical social and environmental scenarios of play; Use mobile gaming as a lens for understanding how play, mobility, embodiment and place are becoming entwined in complex new ways. In order to be the first national study of mobile gaming, this project will deploy a range of innovative ethnographic methods the specific modalities and contexts of mobile game practices.

The role of lifestyle television in transforming culture, citizenship and selfhood: China, Taiwan, Singapore and India

Fran Martin, Tania Lewis and Wanning Sun

Funded by the Australian Research Council (DP1094355), 2010-2013

How can we understand the recent appearance of an Indian version of MasterChef, home renovation shows like 交换空间 (Swap Places) in China, personal makeover shows like Style Doctors in Singapore, and beauty and fashion advice TV like 女人我最大 (Queen) in Taiwan? This research project sees lifestyle advice programming as a barometer of broader cultural changes currently transforming social life in Asia. In such programs, entertainment media addresses itself in a uniquely direct way to the everyday practice of ordinary social life: these programs are etiquette manuals for the 21st century. We are interested in what the rise of such programming can tell us about broader shifts in contemporary Asian societies in relation to identity, culture and citizenship.

What kinds of tele-modernities are being represented and promoted through lifestyle shows across these varied locations? Does the rise of lifestyle advice TV in Asia prove the triumph of global consumerism and westernised taste cultures? Or does it instead indicate highly contested, contingent, and localised reworkings of market-based governance and cultural citizenship? To what extent does lifestyle advice television and culture travel between the various sites in our study as well as between these sites and others in the Asian region? Does the mobility of lifestyle advice media consolidate regionally specific formations of lifestyle culture within capitalist East and South Asia?

This project addresses these complex questions through a large-scale comparative study of lifestyle advice programming in China, India, Taiwan and Singapore. We apply a three-pronged method at each site, focusing on industry, textual and audience analysis. Hundreds of hours of television have been recorded and interviews have been conducted in all four sites with key TV industry professionals (in Delhi, Mumbai, Shanghai, Bengbu, Singapore and Taipei) and with TV audiences (in Mumbai, x, Shanghai, Bengbu, Taipei and Singapore). Based on analysis of this data, this project will produce the first ever large-scale, transnational comparative study of life advice television in Asia as indicative of globally interconnected yet specific formations of media modernity.

See more at

Mobilising Media for Sustainable Outcomes in the Pacific Region

Heather A. Horst, Jo Tacchi & Domenic Friguglietti

Funded by the Australian Research Council (LP120200705), 2013–2016; RPIS Grant, 2012; ABC International, 2012-2015

This project will research Communication for Development (C4D) initiatives in the Pacific region. Partnering with ABC International Development (ABC ID), the study represents a unique opportunity to research and inform the design, implementation and evaluation of development programs with implications for the region and Australian development initiatives globally. Development in the region is a priority for Australia as we provide half of all global Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Pacific island countries, over $1.16 billion in 2011-12, constituting almost 25 per cent of total Australian development assistance.

Photo by ABC International, 2011

The Pacific Media Assistance Scheme (PACMAS) is a regional program run by ABC ID with support from AusAID. It aims to contribute to improved and sustainable development outcomes through strengthening media systems, and increasingly through C4D approaches. ABC ID and AusAID recognise the need to seek localised solutions within a regional approach, a need that this project responds to. ABC ID draw upon the latest thinking in innovative, qualitative approaches to researching and evaluating C4D to add more nuanced understanding to this survey work and capture the important particularities of the region. Bringing together the recent survey research with our approach to C4D and the importance of understanding ‘communicative ecologies’, our partnership will research and inform the PACMAS scheme to facilitate deeper understandings of the region leading to more effective development assistance.

Researchers involved in the project include Jennifer Ananyo, Mark Eby, Sheba Mohammid, Jessica Noske-Turner & Marion Muliaumaseali’i.

Locating the Mobile: Intergenerational Locative Media Practices in Tokyo, Melbourne and Shanghai

Larissa Hjorth, Heather Horst, Sarah Pink, Genevieve Bell, Baohua Zhao and Fumitoshi Kato

Funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant (LP130100848), 2013-2016; Intel, 2013-2016

Mobile devices play an increasingly important role in the economic, cultural and social lives of Australians, as they do the lives of what are now billions of users worldwide. The locative capacities of these devices are now widely exploited in applications (i.e. Facebook Places) that can provide users information about their surrounds and provide others information about where the user is located. These practices have implications for privacy and surveillance across public and private, local and regional contexts. 'Locating the Mobile' provides the first cross-cultural and intergenerational study of this phenomenon in three key sites (Tokyo, Shanghai and Melbourne). This project is a partnership between Larissa Hjorth (RMIT), Heather Horst (RMIT), Sarah Pink (RMIT), Genevieve Bell (Intel), Baohua Zhao (Fudan University) and Fumitoshi Kato (Keio University).


Mobiles, Migrants and Money: A Study of Mobility in Haiti and the Dominican Republic

Heather Horst, Erin Taylor and Espelencia Baptiste

Funded by the Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion, 2010 - 2012

Mobile phones have come to play an increasingly important role in the social and economic activities of the poor throughout the world. The mobile phone's capacity for enabling mobility as well as for storing information, credit and other forms of value provides many poor and low income individuals with the opportunity to create, shape and transform their social and economic mobility and the potential to participate in a broader palette of state, commercial and financial organizations. This project investigates the use of mobile phones and mobile money among some of the world's poorest people living and moving within Haiti and between the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It seeks to understand how mobiles phones shape the experience and capacity for mobility among domestic and cross-border migrants and, more specifically, aims to understand how enhanced access to information and communication may enable workers to maintain and develop social relationships and store economic and symbolic forms of value as they travel across regional and national zones.

Interim Report 2010: Espelencia Baptiste, Heather A. Horst and Erin B. Taylor. Haitian Monetary Ecologies and Repertoires: A Qualitative Snapshot of Money Transfer and Savings. Report for the Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion (IMTFI), December 2010.

Interim Report 2011: Erin B. Taylor, Espelencia Baptiste and Heather A. Horst, Mobile Money in Haiti: Potentials and Challenges, Report for the Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion (IMTFI), University of California Irvine, April 2011.

Publications: Baptiste, Espelencia, Heather A. Horst and Erin Taylor. 2011. Lydian Journal May 2011   

Taylor, Erin B. and Heather A. Horst (2013) From Street to Satellite: Mixing Methods To Understand Mobile Money Users. pp. 63-75. Proceedings from the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference, EPIC2013. London 16-18 September, 2013.

Citi Money Gallery Exhibit at the British Museum (Opened June 2012):


The Uses of Webcam

Tania Lewis, Daniel Miller and Jolynna Sinanan. 2011 - 2013

This joint project between the Anthropology department of University College London and the School of Media and Communication at RMIT aimed to provide the first in-depth, systematic research on webcam to understand the extent of its use in transnational and other relationships (parent-child, grandparents-grandchildren, siblings, cousins and extended family, long distance relationships, business and commercial). Jolynna Sinanan carried out ethnographic-based fieldwork in Trinidad under the supervision of Professor Daniel Miller (who has previously written several books on digital media and material culture in Trinidad) and Associate Professor Tania Lewis. The study has since become the basis of the volume Webcam by Daniel Miller and Jolynna Sinanan (2014, Polity).

Evaluating communication for development: supporting adaptive and accountable development

Jo Tacchi

Funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant (LP130100176), 2013 - 2016

Australia spends $5.2bn a year on overseas aid and is increasingly interested in the role of communication in sustainable development.

This project will help to create a more effective means of understanding the impact of communication for development and improving its effectiveness in contributing to sustained, positive development outcomes. This project will help to create an enabling environment which supports a shift towards an emergent, adaptive, evidence-based approach to evaluating communication for development (C4D).

It aims to bridge the divide between results-based and learning-based approaches to development evaluation. This is vital to demonstrate the contributions of C4D and ensure sustainable development and behaviour and social change outcomes.

The project will provide a better understanding of the contributions of C4D in addressing complex, long-term development goals such as reducing gender inequities. Taking a holistic approach, it will build evaluation capacities that are essential to continuously improve development outcomes in the Asia-Pacific region.

Work-life ecologies: lifestyle, sustainability, practices

Tania Lewis, Yolande Strengers and Andrew Glover

A part of the Sustainable Urban Precincts Program (SUPP), RMIT, January 2015 - December 2017

This project aims to understand staff and students' broader lifestyles as part of a work-life ecology, occurring a cross a range of spaces, both physical and virtual. Of particular focus is the relatedness of these practices to the consumption of energy and water resources, and the opportunities for integrating sustainability into these in a holistic way. In this respect, the research recognizes that RMIT is embedded into a range of socio-technical systems that extend beyond it's own 'carbon footprint'. This requires novel and innovative ways of understanding how resource use straddles the boundaries of RMIT as a social institution, digital hub ,and urban space.

The project will identify and describe a range of everyday practices that are amenable to being investigated in this way, and attempt to identify potential avenues for shifting these practices to less resource intensive configurations. Such practices include:

Heating and cooling: the ways in which staff and students achieve comfort within selected buildings.

Eating and drinking: the ways in which staff and students use RMIT buildings to store, prepare and consume food and beverages.

Working/ studying: the ways in which RMIT staff and students use buildings to conduct their day-to-day working activities, such as printing documents, preparing documents, and communicating with staff and students.

Travelling to/ from work: the ways in which RMIT staff and students travel to/ from work and the facilities they draw upon within buildings (e.g. showers, bike storage).

Meetings (on campus): the ways in which staff and students meet on campus, including the locations in which meetings take place (cafes, offices, meeting rooms etc.) and the ways in which these practices are mediated by buildings.

Meetings (off campus): the ways in which staff and students meet with external colleagues and partners, including by phone, plane or other forms of transport.

Technologies for supportive communities: creating and evaluating meaningful online and technology-facilitated connections for vulnerable young people

Larissa Hjorth

Funded by the Young and Well CRC, 2013 - 2015

This project seeks to comprehensively understand vulnerable young people’s conceptions of community in order to leverage technology to foster socially inclusive communities. The project will evaluate a range of existing technology-based communities that target vulnerable young people, map the complex relations between online and offline communication, trial and implement innovative applications and pathways of connection that strengthen this relationship, and explore best practices for scaling these communities within and between organisations.
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Complex, Clever, Cool: understanding and imagining smart, sustainable, laundry

Sarah Pink, John Postill and Yolande Strengers

Funded by Unilever Research and Development, 2013 - 2015

This digital, visual and sensory ethnography project was developed as part of a research partnership with Unilever (UK). It builds on Sarah Pink’s extensive research into digital media in everyday life, sustainable consumption, and laundry and domestic technologies carried out over a series of research council and industry partner funded projects since 1999. Complex, Clever and Cool focuses on how laundry and digital media technologies are emerging as part of the everyday lives and future imaginaries of the new Indonesian middle class. It has a focus on sustainable consumption. The project has produced new knowledge about the everyday lives of contemporary Indonesians, how they live with domestic and digital technologies and the implications of this for designing for a sustainable future. The outputs of this project include reports, and a series of forthcoming articles. Sarah Pink has teamed up with filmmaker Nadia Astari, who worked on the project with us to produce a documentary film based on this project. The film will be released late in 2015.


Sarah Pink

Funded by Halmstad University Sweden, 2014 - 2015

This project is carried out through a partnership with Halmstad University in Sweden, where Sarah Pink is Visiting Professor in Applied Cultural Analysis, focuses on uses of body monitoring technologies in everyday life. The project focuses on the use of mobile and locative technologies and apps to measure or monitor physical activity – including walking, running, cycling, sleeping etc. It asks how the use of such technologies enables people to imagine their future bodies and technologies in new ways, in relation to the wider question of where the future is located in the present. This project has been a precursor to the Sensing, shaping, sharing: measuring and imagining the body in a mediatized world project.

Slow Cities: urban sustainability in a digital-material world

Sarah Pink

The Italian-based Slow City movement has grown since 1999 to now cover more than 161 member towns and 25 countries. Professor Sarah Pink has been using visual, sensory and digital ethnography methods to research the development of Slow Cities since 2005, in the UK, in Spain, with Professor Lisa Servon of the New School in New York, and in Australia with Dr Kerstin Seale and Assoc. Professor Tania Lewis at RMIT. The project has been funded by the Nuffield Foundation in the UK, and supported by Loughborough University, UK, the IN3 in Barcelona and RMIT University in Australia. Outputs have focused on the digital materiality of Slow Cities, notion of the sensory city, indirect activism, the transferability of the Slow City framework for urban sustainability, the ways that engagement with the movement create forms of wellbeing and resilience, the work of the movement can inform design practice and the ways in which the movement enables forms of future-making.

Sensing, shaping, sharing: measuring and imagining the body in a mediatized world

Sarah Pink, Vaike Fors, Martin Berg and Tom O'Dell

Funded by the RJ Foundation, Sweden, 2015 - 2018

This project, based at Halmstad University Sweden is developed as part of a collaboration between Sarah Pink (RMIT), Vaike Fors, Martin Berg (Halmstad) and Tom O’Dell (Lund). The objective of this project is to produce new knowledge about how people’sperceptions of the body shift when their bodies and monitoring technologies (ie. technologies that measure and report on everything from how fast you run to devices that measure sleep patterns) become entangled in the practices of everyday life and how ideas of their future life are constituted through this entanglement. The project interrogates the question of how the body has developed as a monitorable object through people’s everyday life leisure activities, and it goes on to examine the role that the digitalization of body monitoring devices has had upon perceptions of the body. To achieve this we focus on three questions: 1) How have historical embodied practices laid the cultural foundations for new body monitoring technologies and practices?; 2) How do the technologies and software involved in body monitoring constitute the experience and imagination of past, present and future bodies and selves?; And 3) How does the embodied experience of body monitoring devices, and the physical environments they are used in, influence how both advanced and novice users know (about) and perceive and imagine their bodies? To investigate these questions in the present we will focus on contemporary body monitoring practices with a specific focus on the roles of both software development and members of the Quantified Self movement in defining how bodies and technologies are experienced and imagined.

Indigenous nation building: Theory, practice and its emergence in Australia’s public policy discourse

Yoko Akama

Funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage (LP140100376), 2013 - 2016

Based on evidence that effective governance is a necessary precursor to Indigenous communities’ economic, social and cultural outcomes, this project aims to strengthen Australian Indigenous communities by learning and sharing lessons about sustainable and effective Indigenous governance. In collaboration with three Aboriginal communities in Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales that are differentially engaged in Indigenous governance processes, the project aims to identify innovation in community governance, test the usefulness of Australian governance assessment tools, and foster an Indigenous Australian and global network to share successful strategies. In doing so, the project contributes to an emerging theory of Indigenous nation building.

Design and Social Innovation in Asia-Pacific

Yoko Akama

Funded by RMIT University and Northumbria University, 2013 - 2015

Design and Social Innovation in Asia-Pacific (DESIAP) is a platform, network and a community of practice for various practitioners, communities and professionals working in the Social Innovation space in in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific region who are shaping the landscape in service design and social innovation for positive impact. This is an emerging and growing area; with many examples of diverse, vibrant and amazing initiatives aimed at tackling complex issues. The aim is to share inspiration, knowledge and learnings through the practical examples, stories and voices represented in the website.
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Designing future designers: a propositional framework teaching sustainability

Yoko Akama

Funded by a Learning and Teaching for Sustainability Award, 2013 - 2014

This Learning and Teaching for Sustainability Fellowship aimed to evaluate and design a propositional framework for teaching sustainability in design curriculum, firstly by evaluating a pilot WIL course, ‘Design for Social Change’ that ran in 2014 in partnership with Oxfam Australia and DESIS-Lab Melbourne, and secondly to co-create a framework for teaching from input by various design educators in Melbourne.

Freedom Technologists

John Postill

Funded by RMIT University, 2013 - 2016

In recent years, scholars across the social sciences have begun to theorise the rise of internet activism through studies of the free software movement, the information freedom movement or transnational networks such as Global Voices, Anonymous and WikiLeaks. However, we still know little about the part played by internet activists and other tech-savvy political actors in new social movements in the wake of the Arab Spring, indignados and Occupy movements, and with what consequences (if any) for real political change. Existing accounts of the new protest movements have focused on the digital technologies rather than on the technologists themselves. In this anthropological research project I explore the contribution of ‘freedom technologists’ (Postill 2014) – geeks, hackers, online journalists, digital rights lawyers and other actors who combine technological skills with political acumen – to ongoing processes of political change. One key working assumption that I am currently testing through fieldwork in Indonesia and Spain, is that far from being the deluded ‘techno-utopians’ of a certain strand of internet scholarship and punditry, most freedom technologists are in fact techno-pragmatists. That is, they take a very practical view of the limits and possibilities of new technologies for political change. Another key hypothesis is that freedom technologists who are not only internet- but also media-savvy are in a stronger position to make a lasting impact, as we have seen in the abrupt rise of Spain’s Podemos party, based partly on a strong TV strategy. Finally, I expect to find that freedom technologists are leading the rapid growth around the world of ‘monitory democracy’ (Keane 2009) initiatives in which citizens take up active roles as political watchdogs by means of new digital tools. Apt examples of this global trend include Indonesia’s Kawal Pemilu (Election Guardians) initiative and Spain’s