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Academic Research, New Media Technologies and the Culture of Control

An Interdisciplinary Workshop at The University of Wollongong

2 and 3 October 2015 

Organised by Mark McLelland and Andrew Whelan, School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, University of Wollongong 


In the last decade there has been a transformation of media consumption, production, dissemination and networking enabled by expanding access to mobile broadband. One important difference between this new era and prior media transformations is the breakdown between media audiences/consumers and producers/broadcasters. The shift to digital media has led to a massive increase in user-generated content (UGC), and hybrid terms such as ‘produser’ and ‘prosumer’ have been developed to capture the new relationship that media users now have with digital content and technologies.

These rapid changes in contemporary ‘mediascapes’ have led to enhanced regulatory measures with respect to censorship, data storage and management, privacy and intellectual property. Fear and insecurity about the online environment are driving ongoing calls for increased regulation and preventative security, especially in relation to children and to terrorism. Discourses of ‘harm’ and ‘risk’ have led to a demand for a suite of regulations that now capture individuals’ online lives, burdening internet providers and users in ways that multiply this regulatory impact. These discourses and their articulations extend across government legislation and down to policies at local institutional levels: in the home, in workplaces, in schools, and also in universities. Yet within the scholarly community, there has been little interest to date in addressing the consequences for academic research itself, given research is shaped by university protocols (such as IT and acceptable use policies, data retention requirements, mandatory reporting, civility codes and ethics committees).

This workshop brings together researchers from sociology, anthropology, information technology, law, fan studies and media studies to discuss the impact that enhanced regulatory frameworks have had on shaping the kinds of research that can be undertaken and on deterring certain kinds of questions and agendas. Speakers take up ‘the challenge . . . to take a more active role in shaping public policy making that can impact on the conduct of e-research’ (Lyons et al., 2010: 159). We aim to produce a collection of papers that informs academics, online users, university lawyers and ethics committees, legislators and other interested parties about the consequences of recent legislative changes and to support the development of more effective, evidence-based policies regarding research into online spaces and the regulation of such spaces.


  • Kath Albury (Arts and Media, UNSW): Self-Representation = Self-Incrimination: The Risks and Opportunities of Researching Young People’s Digital Cultures
  • Lyria Bennett Moses (Law, UNSW): Defining the Regulatory Space
  • Joseph Brennan (Media & Comms, USyd): Finding the Right Frame: When Fan Works ‘Play’ beyond the Limits of Classification
  • Catherine Driscoll and Liam Grealy (Cultural Studies, USYd): Media Classification and Mionoritised Adolescence
  • Terry Flew (Media and Communication, QUT): Weber, Foucault and the Governance of Media Content
  • Laura Lowenkron (Anthroplogy, Unicamp): Politics of Fear and Regulation of Desires: The Brazilian Political Crusade against Pedophilia and Child Pornography on the Internet
  • Mark McLelland (Sociology, UOW): Surveilling Fantasy: Thought Policing or Pre-Emptive Action?
  • Katina Michael (Information Sciences, UOW) The ethics of observation: who is watching who?
  • Chris Moore (Media & Communication, UOW): Persona Autosurveillance: Digital Objects, Privacy, Property and Visualising the Presentation of the Public Self
  • Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli (Health and Social Development, Deakin): The ‘C’ Words: Clitorises, Childhood and Challenging Compulsory Heterosexuality in Education
  • Brady Robards (Sociology, UTas): Scrolling Back on Facebook: Qualitative Research into Social Media
  • Brian Simpson (Law, UNE): Legal Narratives of Childhood in the Digital Age: Tensions and Contradictions in the Regulation of the Innocent, Autonomous or Otherwise ‘Wicked Child’
  • Andrew Whelan (Sociology, UOW): What is Obscene Enough? Pretending to Not Know — Obscenity and Absurdity

To book a place please email the secretariat at  uow.newmediaethics@gmail.com

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