Digital Media, Collaboration and Knowledge Production in an Epoch of COVID-19

Seminar on Theories, Methods and Practices for HASS Researchers

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DATE: Friday 15 May, 2020



Disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS) have a long and venerable history of inventive thinking to address emergent problems. The planetary contagion of COVID-19 and ensuing challenges have forced researchers across all disciplines to pause and reassess the relation between theory, method and practice. This seminar invites some of WSU’s leading scholars and creative practitioners in HASS to briefly present how they have enlisted digital media technologies in their research and teaching.



Ned Rossiter, Situating Digital Media Research at the Current Conjuncture

Part 1 – HCA Research

Roger Dawkins, Digital Ventriloquism: What we say when we don’t say Anything at All

Navin Doloswala, What does Creative Collaboration look like in Social Isolation?

Rachel Hendery, Archival Research


Part 2 – SoSS Research

Jenna Condie and Garth Lean, Top Five Tips for Digital Researchers from the Social Technologies (SoTech) Team


Part 3 – Y+RRC and ICS

Amanda Third, Remote Control: Distributed Data Gathering in International Projects



Ned Rossiter, Situating Digital Media Research at the Current Conjuncture

What is the relation between technics (technologies, techniques, rules, cognitive processes) and epistemology (how we know the world)? In conditions of extended confinement, researchers in the humanities and social sciences understandably struggle to engage and reproduce one the most privileged methods of knowledge production: the interview. COVID-19 has spawned an excited literature and Zoom circuit for scholars advocating digital platforms as a mode of ‘quarantine’ or ‘remote’ ethnography. Drawing on a series of collective research projects, this talk touches on less sacred technical practices and methods that forge international collaborations and generate knowledge.


Transit Labour: Circuits, Regions, Borders,

Logistical Worlds: Infrastructure, Software, Labour,

Data Farms: Circuits, Labour, Territory,

Ned Rossiter is a media theorist noted for his research on network cultures, the politics of cultural labour, logistical media and data politics. Ned is Professor of Communication in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts and Director of Research at the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University.

Roger Dawkins, Digital Ventriloquism: What we say when we don’t say Anything at All

Our actions online, as we search and click and watch, are signs; they represent us, our values – and of course the algorithms governing the systems we’re using. Marketers have studied engagement metrics for decades. Learning analytics (LA) researchers analyse student interactions with university systems. Scientists, and now journalists, are analysing search engines to predict flu outbreaks and understand national sentiment about hot topics, like COVID-19. For university researchers, what other potentials are possible for analysing these kinds of digital signs? I discuss my own research on engagement with mass email at university to open up discussion about this question.


Roger Dawkins teaches in the area of creative industries and coordinates courses about podcasting, media law and ethics, Big Data, media theory and digital marketing. Roger’s research interests include the impact of technology on communication and learning, semiotics and the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze.

Navin Doloswala, What does Creative Collaboration look like in Social Isolation?

We are witnessing alongside social isolation and social distancing a peak of buying in musical instruments, digital audio workstations, software and tools for creative work. We are also seeing people not necessarily buy new equipment but rather devoting the time that they now have without distraction to exploring technologies that have previously purchased (we have all done it) and have remained on the shelf gathering dust. For university researchers what possibilities for exploring creativity in social isolation exist. I discuss my own research interests and experiments and actions within teaching undergraduate Communications students as a way of exploring the contours of these new affordances and in terms of reducing the fatigue associated with continuous Zoom exposure.


Navin Doloswala is a lecturer and researcher in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts. One of the core elements of his teaching philosophy is in using creative practice as a way of engaging with the theoretical and conceptual terrain of the communications field. Recently he has been experimenting with convolutional neural networks, fire, imagery and film.

Jenna Condie and Garth Lean, Top Five Tips for Digital Researchers from the Social

Technologies (SoTech) Team 
Since 2015, the Social Technologies Team (previously known as TinDA – Travel in the Digital Age) has been researching all things digital, social, and mobile. During this time, around 30 researchers – staff, postgraduate researchers, undergraduate students and external partners – have worked together within an emerging training framework that sees teaching, learning and research as inseparable. We have examined a range of phenomena, including: digital geographies of fear; women’s safety in a location-aware society; mobile ICTs for public transport safety; the effectiveness of domestic violence apps; the design of travel and mobility apps (including for people with disabilities); the geographies of social enterprise technology start-ups; and gendered, classed and racialised dating app experiences. In our research, we are working toward more just technologies and data practices, and are committed to doing digital research with an ethics of care and responsibility. 

For this talk, we have asked our team to provide their advice for researchers engaging with digital technologies and collated it into a list of the top five tips things digital researchers should know when entering the ‘digital field’. From ethical considerations to methodological innovations, emergent e-safety practices and reworked relations, we discuss the endless possibilities of social research in an increasingly digital world.


Technology Safety Website (WESNET),

Domestic violence apps,

New Horizons Parallel Parks (VR travel experiences for people with disabilities),

Jenna Condie is a Senior Lecturer in Digital Research and Online Social Analysis in the Social of Social Sciences, a School-based Research Fellow with the Young and Resilient Strategic Research Initiative and a Curriculum Champion with the 21C Curriculum Project at Western Sydney University. Her interdisciplinary research traverses critical psychology, geography, and technology studies. Jenna’s research is concerned with what people and places are becoming with digital technologies. Current projects focus on women’s safety, digital geographies of fear, and equitable mobilities. Since joining Western, Jenna has been working across Schools to produce new curricula that enables students to work at the intersections of technology and society.

Garth Lean is a Senior Lecturer in Tourism and Heritage Studies, and Academic Group Leader (Heritage and Tourism), in the School of Social Sciences at Western Sydney University. He researches travel, tourism and new technologies, and is the co-lead of the Social Technologies (SoTech) Team, an interdisciplinary group of researchers working at the intersections of mobile lives and technology. Garth’s current research interests include: travel, tourism and digital technology (including VR, AR, smartphones, location tracking); tourist/traveller experiences and personal transformation; digital research (including creative and innovative methodologies); equitable mobilities in urban and regional places; Asian and Chinese tourists/travellers/migrants; and, sexual racism and gendered encounters on location-aware social apps.

Rachel Hendery, Archival Research

In this short presentation I will give a brief overview of working with archival materials, which can sometimes substitute for or at least complement face-to-face research. While my own focus is on linguistic materials, there are generalisations that can be made for other kinds of archival research as well. I will briefly touch on locating and accessing archival materials, some examples of different kinds of analysis that can be done with them, ethical considerations, and where to find online communities of practice to connect with.


Rachel Hendery is an Associate Professor of Digital Humanities at Western Sydney University. She is a linguist who works on language contact and change, particularly in the Pacific, and how new digital tools and techniques allow us to research these in new ways. Rachel’s research interests span historical linguistics, contact linguistics, typology, or in digital humanities areas, especially relating to mapping, simulation, language, virtual reality and data visualisation.

Amanda Third, Remote Control: Distributed Data Gathering in International Projects

Given constraints on face-to-face interaction in real time, the current pandemic is said to challenge the viability of conventional humanities and social sciences data gathering methods (e.g. the interview). Drawing on a series of pre-COVID-19 research projects conducted with young people and other stakeholders across international boundaries since 2014, this presentation will discuss how the RErights team in the Young and Resilient Research Centre has mobilised creative and participatory research methods, delivered by trained project partners, in a process of distributed data gathering and co-analysis in settings where researchers working face-to-face with participants is an impossibility. While this method has its own challenges – not least of which is the need to rethink the role of the researcher/expert – I will argue that, done well, this method can generate robust qualitative data, build research capacity in partner organisations, facilitate peer-to-peer learning, and channel data into policy and practice efforts.

Amanda Third is Co-Director of the Young and Resilient Research Centre in the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University. Her research focuses on young people’s technology practices, with a particular emphasis on diversity and children’s rights.