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.

The Digital Ethnography Research Centre (DERC) is a part of RMIT.

Blog Index
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51 Paintings

Digital rhythms: an ethnographic study of digital content in Australia

Can Songs Heal Japan?

Twitter Poetry Performance

Poetry Maps

Digital natives project

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


51 Paintings

Shaun Wilson

This project is comprised of 5 feature length experimental art films which manifest the notion of 'remixed' memory through place-based cinema. Each film presents a series of characters reconfigured from German medieval paintings located at the 1000 year old St Michael's church in Schwabisch Hall in Southern Germany, which are then placed into other filmed locations throughout England, Germany and Australia to forge an imprint or 'memory' of the original source painting. By doing so, the processes employed are not unlike Manovich's claim of 'digital remixing' whereby two separate subjects form a 'memory' of its former by the amalgamation of a third impression. This 'other' opens up a wider issue in context to the historisation of memory and the ways in which we understand, and from this, come to terms memory - not as an internal cognitive process but rather, as an exterior placed-based phenomenon. Shaun Wilson is currently filming the third of these films in Australia, India and Norway.

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).

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

Dr Shelley Brunt has been awarded a prestigious Japanese Studies fellowship from the Japan Foundation. This internationally competitive grant will enable Shelley to undertake research in Tokyo during December 2013 and January 2014, with benefits including airfare and stipend. Her project is a focused study of the long-running annual New Year’s Eve program ‘The Red and White Song Contest’. As a core member of the Digital Ethnography Research Centre, Shelley is interested in the role that television plays in the aftermath of Japan’s earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis. She will examine how this song contest contributes to the process of building national identity and strengthening social cohesion during an unprecedented time of social and cultural change in Japan.

Twitter Poetry Performance for Mediated City Flagship Exhibition

Marsha Berry

Twitter has become an integral part of Marsha Berry's creative practice as an artist and poet. The forms are constrained by the limitations of 140 characters; however, this limitation is the midwife to innovative uses of language as well as to the resurgence of old forms like haiku. Twitter offers creative writers ways of participating and collaborating in global online poetry communities where writing takes on a performance as well as a social dimension. In this project, Berry brings together poets to perform poetry with Twitter in an exhibition space. The audience will be able to hear the poems as well as see a live feed of these poems mingling with poetry from around the globe in a stream of tweets. If they wish, they may take up the invitation to participate. I propose that artists, writers and poets embrace Twitter an= social media as new mediums ready to be appropriated and colonised for poetic performances with both words and visual images.

If you are interested in being part of a one of these live Twitter performance poetry events at an exhibition in early May - probably Thursday 2nd May at 8pm contact This performance is an invitation to poesis; to play with words, to improvise with others and to connect poetic objects together. You will be credited in the program - the performance will be at the opening of the Convergence exhibition in the Design Hub so it will be live in a physical space with an audience as well as a global happening through Twitter. #haiku #poetry #performance For more about Mediated City see

Poetry Maps

Marsha Berry

This project explores how a new generation of smartphones, social software, GPS and other location-based technologies offer the ability to create new cultural spaces and publication models. These technologies allow us to digitally superimpose information on the physical world, which, in turn, allows for the re-imagining of places and even identity. This is an ongoing locative and social media art project that engages with Melbourne’s status as the second UNESCO City of Literature as well as the with the Pilbara and the Geelong waterfront. The project brings poetry into streets and landscapes while, at the same time, occupying the floating worlds of social media. By pinning community-generated poetry to site-specific spaces on Google Maps, a layer of narrative can be added to the readers’ perceptions of their immediate surroundings when viewing the site-specific poems through their mobile phones. The project may be viewed at

Digital natives project

Paul Teusner

In this project, Teusner will seek a context for exploring posthumanism in the culture of digital natives, exploring how they retrieve/store/process information, make social relations, and participate as local and global citizens, through the integration of technology into their everyday lives, bodies and self-perceptions. Teusner is keen to explore the Cyborg both as fiction and as a lived reality in people’s construction of identities with respect to gender, family and culture (including sub-culture, national identity and notions of tribe).

Digital storytelling, and narrative analysis, are the key activities of this research. A sample of young people, aged 16-30, will be invited to form a network of people who use their devices to create and share stories about their lives, their attitudes toward their devices, how their lives have changed since acquiring them (and how people see them differently) and how relationships are formed and maintained through communication on their devices. Teusner is keen to find young people who live in regional or rural areas, have migrated to the country in recent (i.e. less than five) years, identify as being Indigenous background, or identify as same-sex attracted or sex & gender diverse (SSASGD). 

If you would like to participate in this study please email Paul Teusner

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

 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.

Cittaslow: indirect activism, wellbeing and resilience

Sarah Pink and Tania Lewis

The Italian-based Cittaslow (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 and digital ethnography methods to research the development of Cittaslow since 2005, in the UK and in 2011 in Spain, with Professor Lisa Servon of the New School in New York. Now, with Assoc. Professor Tania Lewis at RMIT joining the project we are expanding it to explore how Cittaslow’s Australian network is evolving. We are particularly interested in how Cittaslow’s flexible framework for urban sustainability is transferable across different national and cultural contexts, how the Cittaslow framework becomes part of the ways people imagine their towns, how it informs initiatives in the towns, the sensory, embodied and unspoken ways that Cittaslow initiatives are created and experienced and in the capacity of the movement, its member towns and leaders to create forms of wellbeing and resilience. In Australia we are using a range of research methods as appropriate to follow this process, including participating on-line with Cittaslow leaders, and using digital video and photography.

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 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, Jessica Noske-Turner

Funded by the Australian Research Council 2013 – 2016 LP120200705 and an RPIS Grant, RMIT University

This project will research Communication for Development (C4D) initiatives in three regions in the Pacific: Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. 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 have conducted background survey work across fourteen countries in the Pacific region over the past year and now recognise the need to 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 and 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

Intel and RMIT University

Funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant, LP130100848

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   

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

The Uses of Webcam

Tania Lewis, Daniel Miller and Jolynna Sinanan.

The Uses of Webcam is a joint project between the Anthropology department of University College London and the School of Media and Communication at RMIT. Ethnographic-based fieldwork is currently being carried out in Trinidad by Jolynna Sinanan, 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 aim of the study is to provide the first in-depth, systematic research on webcam to understand the extent of its use in transnational and other relationships. We are investigating the varying experiences of using webcam, advantages and disadvantages of webcam for its users, the different kinds of relationships where webcam is used (parent-child, grandparents-grandchildren, siblings, cousins and extended family, long distance relationships, business and commercial) and the likely consequences for transnational and other relationships in the future.