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Research Supervision

This page lists the HDR projects and theses I have supervised.



SUPERVISION

“Social Movements on TikTok and Short Video Cultures” by Naomi Robinson
Level 2 Supervisor, PhD Thesis, MCASI, Curtin University. March 2022–

[description TBA]

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“TeachTok: Teachers of TikTok, micro-celebrification, and fun learning communities” by Arantxa Vizcaíno Verdú
Supervisor, Visiting PhD Candidate (University of Huelva), MCASI, Curtin University. February–September 2021.

This study explores the teaching subculture on TikTok through a daily walkthrough method, a digital ethnography immersion, and a Critical Discourse Analysis to understand how some teachers participate in the micro-celebrification process to better engage their students in learning. By borrowing from a framework that assesses teachers’ identities on social media, we monitored the TikTok activities and studied the profiles of 12 teachers in relation to their (1) professional ‘responsibilities’, (2) their ‘commitment’ to students, and (3) their ‘authority’ and ‘recognition’ among their teaching-and-learning focused communities. We found that the educational approaches of such non-traditional teachers targeted reflection and fun through TikTok dances, snippets of daily life, and jokes. This community of teachers known as ‘TeachTok’ was found to adopt micro-celebrification practices through empathetic, sympathetic, and storytelling dynamics to encourage followers to enjoy fun learning experiences on TikTok.

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“Music Challenge Memes on TikTok: Understanding In-Group Storytelling Videos” by Arantxa Vizcaíno Verdú
Supervisor, Visiting PhD Candidate (University of Huelva), MCASI, Curtin University. February–September 2021.

Through visual and audio elements in videos no longer than three minutes, TikTok has created new interactive modes to understand music. Amid its growing popularity, this study focuses on posts nestled under the hashtag #MusicChallenge to understand what constitutes a “music challenge” on TikTok, how this trend comprises a mode of storytelling rather than a competition, and what in-group affiliations occur through audio memetic music via image, audio, text, and story strategies. Through a qualitative content analysis via a music storytelling codebook consisting of image, audio, text, storytelling, and in-group affiliation codes, we analyzed 150 posts in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French. This trend revealed a series of immersive-narrative patterns that define the music challenge meme as a phenomenon of transmedia storytelling, self-expression, and connecting people with in-group affiliations related to nostalgia, expertise, friendship, citizenship, and age, among others, mediated by music.

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“Netflix and Fan Voicing on Instagram” by Cass Sligh
Supervisor, Honours Thesis, MCASI, Curtin University. February–December 2021.

To anyone with familiarity of online fan communities, the Instagram accounts for Netflix’s original series may seem eerily familiar. Scrolling through the Netflix-run accounts for popular original series reveals fannish slang, compilations of favorite couples, ship names and fanart, not to mention countless in-jokes and memes. Whilst brands personifying themselves on social media is nothing new, Netflix’s choice to perform a fan persona specifically, raises a question as to their end goal. This thesis examines three different official Netflix-run Instagram accounts for original series to examine the research question; “How and why does Netflix enact a fannish persona on its Original series Instagram accounts?”. By conducting a content analysis on these accounts, three different personas emerge. Firstly, the superfan – this persona communicates in first-person singular, performs thoughts and feelings and enacts fannish practices relating to remixed content, to ultimately validate and encourage certain modes of engagement with the media content. Secondly, the fannish friend, a persona which presents actors and characters as one and the same, and positions the audience to view these mediated personas as friends. Lastly, a persona of an aficionado, which frames the series as not idle entertainment but rather a piece of art, which serves to legitimize the show as one of quality and the audience as intelligent and discerning. On all three accounts the personae serve to generate economically valuable feelings within their audience, building a relationship with them which is ultimately monetarily valuable to Netflix. Instagram has a visual and promotional culture, in its early days advertising went unregulated, and to this day brand accounts are not expected to disclose when they are promoting in the same way that individuals are. In this environment, the existence of the personified brand account raises questions about the future of promotional communication on Instagram. On a platform where people become brands within the affordances of influencer culture, this thesis investigates some of the ways in which selected brand accounts are attempting to become people.

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“Spaces of Advocacy and Care: Minority Identities and Digital Allyship within Boy Band Fan Communities” by Janey Susan Umback
Level 2 Supervisor, PhD Thesis, MCASI, Curtin University. February 2021–

This project seeks to understand how members of boy band fan communities take personal and social cues inspired by their favourite performers and use these cues to establish spaces of advocacy and care. Utilising a constructivist grounded theory (Charmaz 2006) approach consisting of semi-structured interviews, observation, and digital ethnography, this project will also question whether the relationships fostered between members of boy band fan communities have the ability to expand beyond the perimeters of fandom and enable real-world change. Within the scope of this project, real-world change will be mapped via fans’ participation in social activism related to LGBTQIA+ rights and the Black Lives Matter movement. Cultural critic Maria Sherman (2020) states that boy bands foster environments of extreme fanaticism and are simultaneously both “critically denigrated and culturally celebrated” (Sherman 2020, p. 10). Additionally, the author notes that the ‘soft’ masculinity conveyed by boy bands operates at the margins of heteronormative society, creating a “fertile ground for investigation” (2020, p. 230). For these reasons, the connections between boy bands and their fan communities become a rich yet under-examined topic worthy of investigation. The following study examines the spaces of boy band fandom, detailing the opportunities of connection afforded to fan members. 

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“Analysing Virtual Influencers: Celebrity, Authenticity & Identity on Social Media” by Rachel Anne Berryman
Level 2 Supervisor, PhD Thesis, MCASI, Curtin University. February 2021–

This project examines the emergent phenomenon of virtual influencers, characters native to social media without a singular referent in the offline world, usually designed to promote brands, products and/or messages, and recognisable for their animated and/or computer-generated appearance. Since the late 2010s, virtual influencers have appeared online with increasing frequency, populating an array of social media platforms, and cultivating increasingly intricate online footprints. The most popular virtual influencers have amassed hundreds of thousands of followers, and secured partnerships with global brands, representing a new iteration of ‘celebrity-commodity’ (Turner et al., 2000) manufactured for, circulated within and consumed on social media. With only a handful of papers published on virtual influencers to date—at odds with the growing attention from fans, brands and investors—this project will contribute to the foundation of knowledge about this emerging cohort of social media entities. Adopting a constructivist grounded theory framework (Charmaz, 2006), the project will employ a combination of qualitative methods, including digital ethnography, video interviews with creators and industry stakeholders, participation at industry events, and web and archival analysis, to map the evolution of the virtual influencer phenomenon and the unseen industrial mechanisms supporting it.

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“Immersive Media in China’s Digital Public Art” by Zhao Xinyang
Level 2 Supervisor, PhD Thesis, MCASI, Curtin University. December 2020–December 2021.

The Chinese government and many cultural practitioners are making an increasing effort to use digital technology to rejuvenate China’s abundant cultural recourses. The innovation of digital technology such as VR, AR and MR supports and facilitates the diffusion of immersive media in creative industries and in the public art field. Immersive media enrich the forms of public art, change the manner of art appreciation, blur the boundaries of public spaces and result in new segments of cultural consumption. As a consequence, a new way of promoting China’s cultural identity and soft power is emerging: this is called immersive media in digital public art. The purpose of this study is to explore the utilization of immersive media in China’s digital public art by investigating the immersive experience among audiences and how relevant institutes and groups collaborate in immersive digital public art projects.

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“Cultures of social justice through disability on TikTok” by Mary-Anne Romano
Co-supervisor, Curtin HDR Internship 2020, Curtin University. November 2020–February 2021 (truncated).

A human rights approach to disability recognises that the enjoyment of human rights does not depend on the absence of disability. Creators and users on TikTok are actively spreading this message via short dance, lip sync, public announcements, and comedy videos. My work with Crystal and Katie seeks to redefine disability by taking a critical, social model, non-medical approach to disability. We seek to draw attention to the way disability is socially created by inflexible attitudes, policies, and procedures. The program is divided in two key areas: Access and Representation. The Access stream aims to leverage the potential of digital technologies to improve access to and engagement with entertainment, education and everyday life, while the Representation stream aims to positively influence social attitudes towards people with disability by both improving and increasing representations in media and popular culture. The proposed project brings these streams together and offers an opportunity to build research capacity, promote collaboration, mentor across academic levels, and foster interdisciplinary research collaborations.

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“Chinese Rural YouTube Influencers: Mapping a Genre” by Chen Guo
Supervisor, Curtin HDR Internship 2020, Curtin University. November 2020–February 2021.

Chinese rural YouTube videos are videos produced by Chinese people and depicting people’s daily activities in Chinese rural villages. This genre of videos generally contains rural village lifestyle and activities, including farming, animal husbandry, cooking, crafting and some daily experiences. In order to create a nostalgic environment for audiences, some YouTubers use traditional decoration in their videos, or use soft instrumental music as background music to emphasise a pastoral feeling. Audiences can see the imagery of the picturesque rural life and hear the local dialect when they watch these videos (Figures 1 & 2). All of these elements portray a romantic and idyllic life of Chinese rural villages. Comments below these videos often contain positive words such as “wonderland”, “adorable”, “passionate”, “fairy”, “happy”, “beautiful”, and so on. With Chinese rural village videos and their followers proliferating exponentially on YouTube, these influencers have been empowered by digital technologies, and have grasped the policy of transformation of digital China (Lin & de Kloet, 2019). Hence, it is important to scope the genre of Chinese rural YouTubers and analyze rural Chinese videos because the genre has aroused cultural, economic, and societal influence.

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“Influencers, Visual social media, and Gen Z” by Mathilde Hogsnes
Co-supervisor, PhD Thesis, Mobile Technology Lab, Kristiania University College. August 2020–

[description TBA]

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“Micro-celebrities, self-branding and presentation strategies online and offline” by Lisabeth Matyash
Dissertation committee, PhD Thesis, Department of Communication, University of Illinois at Chicago. February 2020–

[description TBA]

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“Playing YouTube: Analysis of Toys and Apps that Groom Children to be YouTubers in Spain” by Alexandra Ruiz-Gomez
Co-supervisor, Visiting PhD Candidate (from Universidad Complutense of Madrid), CCAT, Curtin University. October–December 2019.

This study analyzes Nancy YouTuber, a popular doll and companion app that is part of a growing trend of children’s toys modeled on YouTube influencers. Nancy YouTuber’s app is one of the first to provide a fictitious YouTube channel, introducing children to YouTube’s affordances. We investigate how the doll and app socialize YouTuber practices, and to what extent the combination of both deepens the commodification of childhood. We use the walkthrough method to analyze the app, and a semiotic approach to study the doll, its accessories and surrounding materials to map the manufacturer’s intended use through these discourses. Our research uncovers how children are encouraged to recreate product reviews and internalize commercial digital identity performances. We use Spain, where the doll originates, to contextualize these findings. The article considers how influencer-aspirant toys position children as promotional intermediaries and normalize children’s YouTuber aspirations.

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“Authenticity in the YouTube Beauty Community” by Renee M. Powers
Dissertation committee, PhD Thesis, Department of Communication, University of Illinois at Chicago. October 2017–March 2018.

Kathleen has a YouTube channel where she reviews and demonstrates various cosmetic products. Over 2 million people around the world subscribe to her YouTube channel to watch her test a new long-wearing foundation, provide a tutorial on a popular eyeshadow palette, or chat about her current hair care routine. Her audience is devoted to her. She regularly collaborates with cosmetic brands to curate collections of her favorite products, and those collections sell out quickly. She recently launched her own nail polish company called KL Polish–the “KL” stands for KathleenLights, the name of her YouTube channel, not her legal name. Gossip forums rarely speak ill of Kathleen. She’s one of the rare YouTube personalities that seem to be universally well-liked. Her audience regularly commends her in the comments section of her videos for her authenticity, her honest reviews, her vulnerability in discussion her struggles with anxiety, her disclosure of sponsored content, and her general positive personality. But what does it mean to be authentic in a space where one can control nearly every facet of oneself? And, more specifically, how is authenticity (co)constructed between subjects and audiences in the YouTube beauty community?

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“Female characterization in cinematic media” by Diana Sherwood
Supervisor & Field Expert, Quest Program, Singapore American School. November 2016–May 2017.

Female characters are often portrayed as stereotypical and one-dimensional. As the media has a powerful influence on its audience, negative portrayals of female characters can bring negative effects to women. Portrayals such as objectification and hyper-sexualization have been examined before, yet the investigation of the portrayal of personality in female characters has not been investigated as much. This includes the relationship female characters have with their female audience. The purpose of this study is to investigate the personality of Rey, a female character from the movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and its impact on a female audience’s perception of her character. Through surveys and an interview conducted with twelve female participants, the researcher gathered quantitative and qualitative data. To find if there was a relationship between their perception of personality in women and men, with how they perceived personality in Rey, the data was analyzed via Pearson Correlation. The results showed that there is not enough evidence to prove these relationships, but certain factors such as sharing or liking certain personality traits could have affected the participants perception of Rey. However, in general they did not perceive Rey’s personality as one that is just of a stereotypical female character or a male character, but of a character whose gender did not influence how her personality was created. In addition, the results from the interviews depict the participants generally feeling positive towards Rey based on their perception of her personality.

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“Digital camera advertisements in Singapore, 1994-2006” by Joey Sim Yin En
Co-supervisor, Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP), Tembusu College, National University of Singapore. August–September 2015.

[creative writing submission comprising ‘fictional narrative’ of the life course of the digital camera in Singapore, 1994-2006, and a scholarly exposition]



EXAMINATIONS

I have assessed theses and dissertations at PhD, MA, and Hons levels in the disciplines of Anthropology, Sociology, Media Studies, and Internet Studies. For information on the full list and examination inquiries, please email me.


This page is under construction. – This page was last updated on 15 March 2022.