Hello from my first week at the Digital Ethnography Research Centre (DERC) at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), where I’ll be a Visiting Researcher for a month hosted by the very mentoring and absolutely genius Heather Horst.
I just spent the last week traveling through four cities in three timezones to get here, and am all kinds of jetlagged.
On my first day, I landed at around 0600hrs and headed to my apartment far far awayyy thinking I could squeeze in a short nap before heading to campus to meet Joshua Nettheim, DERC fairy. I mapped out commuter routes by train and set three consecutive wakey alarms on my phone. I did wake up at 0830hrs as intended, although very unfortunately 0830hrs in Perth time (GMT+8) as opposed to Melbourne time (GMT+10)… sorry Josh. Pro-tip: Always switch the timezone on your phone the moment you arrive in a new city. And so, I was running late on my first day at my dream institute. Because adult. And mostly because math. I cannot math.
I also got up the next day with a fever and a massive flu and am now secretly dying inside while typing on a swanky Mac desktop in an office where I’m probably infecting everybody… okay I’m heading back after this. At least I can still hear through one ear and breathe through one nostril. Very classy.
I’ll be giving some talks around various research centres here in RMIT and will post details on those soon. Apart from meeting (in 3D IRL!) with some of my academic goddesses and awesomesauce scholars I know through the books I have accumulated and websites I’ve stalked, I also foresee much serial Melbourne coffee-ing with old friends (it’s only day three and I’ve already been to Pearson & Murphy’s thrice… why do all the academics go there? Need context and socialization, please). Arrested development nugget: I will always order a hot chocolate because I don’t understand coffee. Coffee tastes weird. Hot chocolate tastes like happiness.
In all seriousness, I am going to spending my time here producing the second (and hopefully third) full drafts of my thesis. Only 72 days to go. #thesiscrysis (also, not cool when random tweeples hijack my hashtag, cry).
Updates from my Internet universes: While you’re checking out the DERC, also check out the newly minted Digital Media Research Centre (DMRC) at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) headed by Internet goddess Jean Burgess. By their powers combined, I think the DERC x DMRC will take over Australia. We also need a DxRC in Western Australia very very soon (pretty please?)
In other news, a whole lot of us at the University of Western Australia (UWA) have been pretty riled up of late. Will write about this properly soon, but in the mean time, please checkout #uwacutshurt and #stoplomborg for a glimpse of the systemic secrecy x dubious academic integrity x decline in quality research x institutional mess some of us have been trying to speak out against.
Also, this campus is very disorienting. This morning I Google Mapped myself from Building 9 to Building 100 because geography. I also cannot geography.
[Note: Extremely wordy and somewhat convoluted personal map to follow. More for my personal catharsis and memory. Not very useful information in life. Updated on 29Nov14 to include more recently discovered ties. Link heavy; good luck! If you’re lazy, the tl;dr is right at the bottom of the post.]
I spent this evening’s procrastination hour sending out another batch of postcards, knick knacks, and other quirky things to the next bunch of loved ones on my list. It is my third favourite hobby after music-making and wordsmith-ing. All this correspondence got me nostalgic for team CCIWS13 and I intended to affectdump my wistful hyper-sentimentality here to get it out of my system.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized how I owe a significant portion of my academic development, personal networks, and affectual ties to that weeklong experience back in June 2013. My OCDish tendencies led me to some rough sketching that ended up in an epic 11-column mindmap of how my academic life has progressed since then. I thought my CCIWS13 cohort was basically a circulatory system with a life of its own, breathing knowledge and people into us postgrad organisms. But then I made all the links with the internetacad (I totally coined this, right?) army that is OIISDP, which I’m now convinced is the academic version of the X-Mansion (does that make Vicki Nash Professor Xavier? I mean, the lady can recite OIISDP alumnus and their corresponding cohorts and research projects by heart. Maybe she is an X-woman.) The result of this interbreeding? Whoa.
Going to attempt some memorydumping to make sense of the magic of CCIWS13 before I return to thesis writing, because want to submit, because want to graduate, because job, because want to do other kickass things in life soon. Here goes a literal trace of my recent networks and the opportunities that have come my way, thanks to the most generous of academics in my life.
Order of events for my sanity:
Jun13: Centre for Creative Industries Winter School (CCIWS13), QUT
Nov13: Consumption, Lifestyles, and Asian Modernities (CLAM13) symposium, RMIT
Nov13: Australian Anthropological Society (AAS) Conference, ANU
Dec14: Identity Research Network (IRN14), Swinburne
Jan15: MMTC, JIBS
Jun15: Digital Ethnography Research Center (DERC), RMIT
Beyond Jul15: Tembusu College, Mobile Life Centre (MLC), University of Bern (UB), Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
CCIWS13 — DI — CSAA I had the privilege of attending the Centre for Creative Industries Winter School at QUT in June 2013 (CCIWS13). There, I met several postgrads and mentors whom I’m still grateful for today. Let’s start with Paul Byron (UNSW) whom I’ve grown to love and deeply appreciate for his company, kindness, wit, and our shared deadpan sense of humour (ily, Paul. My chocolate fast is fast failing btw). Paul invited me to the ECU leg of Digital Interventions (DI) in December 2013, where his supervisor Kath Albury (UNSW) was giving a paper. I also met my current supervisor, Rob Cover (UWA) for the first time at DI (Hi Rob!). Fiona Andreallo (UTS), who presented in the same panel as Kath and I, would later join TSRN as well. I enjoyed Kath’s work on young people’s sexual literacies and shared some of my research on sexbaiting on commercial social media with her. She later invited me to participate in the Cultural Studies Association of Australasia Intermezzo (CSAA) at UNSW in April 2014, where I secretly coveted her red Melissa shoes (okay, not so secret anymore).
CCIWS13 — JIBS/TSRN Sara Ekberg (JIBS, QUT) is another precious friend from CCIWS13. We kept in touch post-CCIWS13, and I spent a week with her in Sweden in July 2014 when I was en route to Oxford for the Oxford Internet Institute Summer Doctoral Programme (OIISDP14). In my time there, Sara invited me to give a talk at her institution, the Media Management and Transformation Center (MMTC) in Jonkoping International Business School (JIBS) where I got to know Mart Ots (JIBS). I loved the collegiality of the department and am grateful to be returning to the MMTC at JIBS in January 2015 for a three-month visiting doctoral fellowship under Mart. Sara’s supervisor, Patrik Wikstrom‘s (JIBS, QUT) also served as one of our mentors at CCIWS13, which coincided with his outposting from JIBS to QUT. I had the honour of meeting with Patrik again when I attended his student Anette Johansson‘s (JIBS) dissertation defense and graduation party as Sara’s guest in July 2014. I had a short weekend in Stockholm, where I spent a day with Mathilde Aarvold Bakke(UniOslo), whom I contacted from TSRN list. Mathilde completed her Honours on selfie culture and is now pursuing an MA at the University of Oslo. We are also working on a series of blogposts on commercial blogging in Scandinavia at the moment.
CCIWS13 — CLAM13 — Tembusu/AAS13 — beyond
Two CCIWS13, mentors Ramon Labato (QUT) and Heather Horst (RMIT), introduced me to John Postill‘s (RMIT) work on media anthropology. Months later, Ramon also introduced me to the Consumption, Lifestyle, and Asian Modernities symposium (CLAM13) spearheaded by Tania Lewis(RMIT) and Fran Martin (UniMelb) at RMIT. I met John there in November 2013 when he and I were assigned to be co-discussants of a paper. At CLAM13, I also met Jolynna Sinanan (UCL, UniMelb) and found out that she and Connor Graham (Tembusu, ARI) were conducting research in my fieldsite. It was the first time I had known of any other scholar working on commercial blogging in Singapore. All the magical things were happening! I was introduced to Connor when I gave a talk to undergraduates at Tembusu college in October 2014. It was there that I also met John van Wyhe (Tembusu, DBS) and Gregory Clancey (Tembusu). Connor and I are planning a visit to Tembusu post-submission. In Singapore, I also met up with Shobha Vadrevu (NUS, NIE) again. We first got to know each other online on TSRN. The week after CLAM13, Jolynna and I were off to the Australian Anthropological Society (AAS) conference in Canberra where she introduced me to Alexia Maddox(Deakin). I spent a night dissecting some PhD woes with these two wonderfully patient agony aunts, whose advice later shaped some major decisions I had to make.
CCIWS13 — MINA13 — IR15/IRN14 — beyond
I met with Heather again when I was back in Melbourne to present at the Mobile Innovation Network Aotearoa (MINA13) organized by Marsha Berry (RMIT) and Max Schleser (MU) in December 2013 (you guys, I am having MINA14 envy right now). Our conversations and my very embarrassing fangirling over RMIT’s Digital Ethnography Research Centre (DERC) eventually resulted in arrangements for my short stint there planned for June 2015. I also bumped into Jessica Noske-Turner(RMIT, QUT), fellow CCIWS13 alumnus, who was working on a project with Heather at that time. At MINA13, I got to know fellow presenter, Dean Keep (Swinburne), who later invited me to submit to the Identity Research Network symposium (IRN14) he is co-organizing in December 2014. Coincidentally enough, the IRN14 is currently being coordinated by Helen Berents (QUT, UQ) who is the partner of CCIWS13 alumnus Brendan Keogh (RMIT) (sneaky clickbaiters!). A bunch of us got to spend time with Helen at CCIWS13 when she came down to Brisbane to collect her graduation transcripts! There was much envious eyeballing of her official papers and things. Another person I got to know at MINA13 was Emma Witkowski (RMIT, ITUC) who was an audience member at our symposium. We later met again at the Association of Internet Researchers Conference (IR15) in October 2014, where we shared very spontaneous, exciting, and (unmentionable) memorable days and nights with Kristine Ask (NTNU) and Jill Walker Rettberg (UBern). Kristine, Jill, and I are planning to work out a visit in Norway some day post-submission. Emma and I plan to catch up in Melbourne when I visit, and hope to exercise restraint around karaoke bars.
CCIWS13 — IR15/Digcult14 — beyond Ben Light (QUT) was another incoming faculty mentor at CCIWS13. His presentation on the folklore surrounding a prominent town character (Ben, was it a juggler? a clown? help me, I forget!) was secretly my favourite at that time, but alas my memory is failing me and I am reluctant to plough through my conference notebook right now. There was a mini CCIWS13 reunion when the IR15 was attended by mentors Ben, CCI mothership (and possibly the Magneto to Vicki but sans bad X-men blood)Jean Burgess (QUT), Tama Leaver (Curtin), Axel Bruns (QUT), and Darryl Woodford(QUT), and mentees Paul, Emily van der Nagel (Swinburne), Sandra Hanchard (Swinburne), and myself in October 2014 (hey team #CCIWS13, just how exactly did we pass up on a reunion photograph?). I got to meet Florence Chee (LUC) to chat about racial hegemony in academia; we earlier corresponded online via introductions by Kelly Bergstrom (YorkU) from my OIISDP14 days. At the IR15 Doctoral Colloquium which Emily also attended, I was mentored by Sharif Mowlabocus (Sussex), Airi Lampinen (MLC), Nancy Baym (MSR), and Jean. Airi and I are planning a visit to the Mobile Life Centre where she is currently based at, when I embark on my MMTC stint. (Sharif is secretly gifted with humourous talents that sometimes I just can’t even.) Ben, Jean, Paul, Emily, Sharif, and I moved our bodies from Daegu to Brisbane the following week to attend the Making Digital Cultures of Gender and Sexuality (Digcult14) organized by Ben. Sharif, Susanna Paasonen (UTurku), and Kath served as mentors at the session (promise I’m not stalking you, Kath). At Digcult14, CCIWS13 alumnus, Avijit Paul(QUT), kindly arranged for me to put up with Meg Zeng (QUT, OII), a PhD candidate at QUT who earlier completed her MA at OII. Like Meg, Digcult14 presenter, Stefanie Duguay (QUT, OII) similarly moved to QUT after her MA at OII. At Digcult14, Paul introduced me to Frances Shaw (UniSyd), whom I caught up with later in November 2014 when I was in Sydney for the Disorder symposium. I even got to have a mini playdate with her adorable bub, Holly <3 <3 <3 There, I took the opportunity to introduce Paul and Frances to Audrey Koh (UniSyd, NUS). Audrey and I pursued our undergraduate degree in Sociology at the National University of Singapore (hi bb). She is now pursuing an MA at UniSyd. I also introduced Audrey to fellow Disorder symposium presenter Siobhan Irving (Macquarie). I knew Siobhan during my undergraduate days through her partner, Gabriele Marranci(Macquarie, NUS), who taught me and was one of my closest mentors in NUS. Digcult14 fruitfully saw catchups with more amazing people, including Matilda Tudor (Sodertorn Uni) whom I will see again in Sweden next year (over sobering Anna Ternheim wine nights), and Tim Highfield (QUT, UWA) whom I got to know the week before at IR15. (PS: Tim just clinched a postdoc at QUT! Send him your congratulations!) Over drinks, I introduced the whole crew to Sander Schwartz (ITUC) from OIISDP14 who was completing a visiting doctoral position at QUT during Digcult14. A month later, Sander caught up with Sara who was beginning the QUT leg of her PhD (all your BNE pictures are making me jelly stahp). Sander has promised me a “royal Danish treatment” when I eventually make my way to Scandinavia (public evidence now, no backing out). My CCIWS13 and OIISDP14 worlds were colliding and brewing much happiness inside. I also managed to catch CCIWS13 mentor Michael Keane in between Digcult14 shenanigans to get some advice on a budding project on Fei Cheng Wu Rao (If You Are The One), a mainland Chinese reality TV dating programme with a cult following in Australia. Michael runs the Asian Creative Transformations research node and has strong expertise in Chinese media culture.
CCIWS13 — TSRN — IR15
At CCIWS13, my main mentor, Tama, introduced me to Theresa Senft‘s (NYU) work on Camgirls. I followed on this research trajectory and discovered Alice Marwick‘s (Fordham, NYU) work on microcelebrity. This was one of the *ding ding ding* moments of my PhD life, where I started to learn to tame my over-ambitious-potentially-seven-dissertations-long research project (thanks, Tama!). Towards the end of 2013, Heather kindly introduced me to Theresa’s upcoming project on global girl culture, Hey Girl!, that I eagerly put my hand up for (Terri, when?!?!). In mid 2014, Tama introduced Emily and I to Theresa’s Selfies Research Network (TSRN) Facebook group. I had the opportunity to co-write our very first selfies pedagogy syllabus, and got to work with Theresa, Alice, Jill, and Kath personally for the first time. Our seven-person transnational Skype calls were equal parts fascinating (the blending of all our accents, waiting for audio cues to take turns to speak, etc) and amusing (0100hrs and 0300hrs Skype sessions because Australia). When the TSRN team finally took to our preconference workshop at IR15, I had the privilege of finally meeting with the team IRL, including Gaby David(EHESS), Fatima Aziz (EHESS), and Katrin Tiidenberg (Tallinn U) (apparently many selfies sticks were bought and experimented with in the name of science).
Many of the academics mentioned above, and several others who similarly experienced overlapping lifeworlds have passed through the OIISDP. I only found this out an hour ago while Googling our web presence to hyperlink our names in this post. I guess this list might reveal our ages but hey, if Professor X Patrick Stewart never ages then I’m guessing we academic X-men have some stake in that gene pool. And things. OIISDP Class of
2004: Jean Burgess (CCIWS13, IR15, Digcult14)
2008: Alice Marwick (IR15, TSRN)
2009: Tim Highfield (IR15), Julian Hopkins (Monash, IR15)
2011: Frances Shaw (Digcult14), Sonja Vivienne (UQ, QUT, IR15, Digcult14)
2012: Lisa Newon (UCLA, CCIWS13), Sandra Hanchard (CCIWS13, IR15), Darryl (CCIWS13, IR15)
2013: Kim Osman(QUT, CCIWS13)
2014: Sander Schwartz (QUT, ITUC), Stacy Blasiola(UIC, CCIWS13, IR15 sort of!), Wilfred Wang (QUT, CLAM13)
The more important things
Networks and mappings and outcomes aside, I have to admit that my biggest takeaway from CCIWS13 to date is still the friendships (hey, cliché but still true!) we have miraculously forged over a week of intense brainfood, suspicious pubfoods, and alcoholic pseudofoods. And we’ve lasted pretty solidly for 18 months and counting. With some of you post-CCIWS13, I have slept on your couches, eaten food off your plate, finished your drinks, traded international postcards, survived shopping sprees, played cupid, and negotiated awkward academic contexts. The insomniac in me secretly likes that a few of us are scattered across the globe, because your awkwardly timed Snapchats of utterly senseless things, or texts with pictures of your obese cats poised next to giant mutant vegetables (*CANADA*) are sometimes the highlight of my struggling nights (I am a nocturnal writer!). Sure, some of these relations are vaguely thin solidarities sustained by rampant and frivolous Twitter chats, Instagram posts, and Facebook comments. But I’ve also shared in some of your joy, tears, and angst through PhD battles, relationship woes, and other tricky things in life. Insert melodramatic OIISDP14 recap here. I want to grow old with you; please want to grow old with me.
All this is just to say, I am really missing CCIWS13 a little bit more than usual tonight and would do it all over again. Lucky for you, the Summer School edition of CCI Digital Methods is happening in Melbourne in February (CCIDMS14). The 2015 edition of the OII Summer Doctoral Programme (OIISDP15) is also happening in Oxford in July. This blogpost is totes #notsponsored. I would sign up again but I highly doubt the mothership/Professor X will let me in because of reasons, PLUS I have a thesis to complete because want to submit, because want to graduate, because job, because want to do other kickass things in life soon.
Tl;dr? In the academic world of internet research, everyone knows everyone IRL! That, or my social world is shrinking rapidly but I’m super cool with it because all of you are lovely people with good life advice. Also, I have a pretty awesome memory for the frivolous things in life, no?