Our love-hate relationship with Facebook

 David Holmes and Anna Matwijiw

More than 50% of young Australians have seriously considered shutting down their Facebook accounts, even while many of them check the site compulsively through the day.

While Facebook grew exponentially since launching in 2004, especially in its first three years, recent research has found many users fatigued and wanting a break.

And this trend has only been exacerbated by the appearance of articles and blogs including a list of reasons to leave Facebookwhy leaving Facebook improves lifewhy teenagers no longer care for Facebook, and how Facebook makes you feel bad about yourself.

A recent Pew Research survey found that 61% of Facebook users in the US have taken a voluntary break from using the site and 27% plan to spend less time on the site this coming year.

Notably, young adults aged 19 to 29 were the most likely anticipators of decreased engagement, with 38% expecting to spend less time on Facebook this year.

The Pew study did not try to determine how many users actually deactivated accounts as opposed to “taking breaks,” nor did it examine non-American user trends. It is unclear whether the incidence of deactivation is a growing trend in Australia as, up until now, no conclusive research has been conducted on the topic and Facebook refuses to release the data.

But a new study of 19 to 29 year old Facebook users in Australia gives us a much clearer picture of Facebook attachment in Australia. The survey was divided into a student sample and a non-student sample.

Whilst 75.5% of respondents reported checking their Facebook feed over five times per day, indicating a substantial attachment to Facebook, 56.3% reported having seriously considered deactivating their accounts.

And 25.9% had deactivated their account at some point in the last twelve months. Nearly 40% had deactivated their account at least once in the last seven years.


Why deactivate?

Fifteen students were also asked to give longer answers on their views on deactivation.

Of these, 5 had deactivated in the past 12 months, 5 were seriously considering deactivating and 5 had never seriously considered deactivating.

The study showed a consistent trend across all three of these interviewees, that users started off with active status posting but increasingly became silent lurkers. In fact, the usage of facebook actually increased in terms of how often they logged in to the point where many felt it to be an unhealthy addiction. One respondent reported checking their facebook account: “10 x an hour, 18 hours a day, so like 175 – 190 [time a day]”. The more addictive behaviour was attributed to having Facebook as a mobile app, where there was no log in and it enabled continual short bursts of updates all day.

Interviewees also reported the ambient nature of facebook, the sense of always needing to be connected to it on their phone or computer. This constant pressure that users felt from facebook had negative consequences on mood: summed up by one participant who said:

I think interacting with people on a platform like that is so performative that it’s almost like being in one of the worst social situations but constantly being there, like you can’t leave. Like a terrible club where you can’t talk to anyone and they’re all there and they all look fantastic and they’re all really drunk but no-one is really saying anything to one another.

Time-wasting was another source of frustration leading to thoughts of deactivation:

[People deactivate because] it’s actually sucking life out of them, in the sense that they don’t get anything from Facebook. It’s not a social media that enriched your life. You just realise that your reading all this stuff about people who you don’t care about and I think a lot of people, when they realise that they don’t actually care about any of those people and that it’s a waste of their time, then they deactivate.

But while there is pressure to deactivate, there is the validation that some users get out of Facebook, and a high level of FoMo: fear of missing out.

Every time I deactivate there are things I don’t get invited to and people are like, why didn’t you come to that or whatever, which is kinda bad because people are so fully reliant on it.

The study has revealed a paradox in current Facebook use. Although people are checking it more frequently, they are simultaneously becoming more passive in their use. The more passive the use, the more intense are the feelings of isolation, and the more the user will agonise over whether to deactivate.

You can read the analysis piece on this study here.

This article first appeared in The Conversation



Feast at the Melbourne Writers Festival

Monash University’s Dr Tony Moore is helming two major events at the Melbourne Writers Festival in August.

Dr Moore, a lecturer in Communication and Media Studies, is delivering a key note public lecture ‘Death or Liberty’, at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka, Ballarat, at 11am on Saturday, August 23.

 Dr Tony Moore’s 2010 history Death or Liberty: rebels and radicals transported to Australia.
Dr Tony Moore’s 2010 history Death or Liberty: rebels and radicals transported to Australia.

The talk will examine the impact on Australian political culture and the Eureka Stockade rebellion specifically, of political prisoners transported as convicts to Australia in the nineteenth century.

Click here for more information and to book

The talk draws on Death or Liberty, Dr Moore’s 2010 history, that is being adapted as an ABC documentary to broadcast in 2015.
For the third year running Dr Moore leads a walking tour of ‘Bohemian Melbourne’ on 24th, 29th and 30th August.

Together with Monash Adjunct John Arnold, Tony takes MWF patrons in the footsteps of Marcus Clarke to tour the haunts of Melbourne’s bohemian writers, artists and performers, from the Heidelberg painters to the more recent avant-garde and counter-cultures.

To view Dr Moore’s profile, click here

Dancing with Empty Pockets: Australia's Bohemians Since 1860, written by Dr Tony Moore.
Dancing with Empty Pockets: Australia’s Bohemians Since 1860, written by Dr Tony Moore.

The popular walking tour is an output from Tony’s 2012 history of Australian bohemia, Dancing with Empty Pockets, about which he was interviewed for the MWF’s Youtube channel.

Dancing With Empty Pockets: Australia’s Bohemians Since 1860, a who’s who of painters, writers, larrikin journalists, actors, filmmakers, comedians and hackers who have become as famous for their controversial, eccentric lifestyles as for the subversive work they produced.

Dr Moore said the word ‘bohemian’ came from nineteenth-century Europe where it was used to describe the primitive, exotic and mysterious power of gypsies and was soon adopted by renegade writers and artists.

“I’ve always been attracted to free spirits; subversives who buck against conformity and servility and especially champions of the carnivalesque in life, which in Australia is often characterised as larrikinism,” Dr Moore said.

“As an historian I also like to map cultural and political traditions, so we can make sense of what is going on in the present.”


Moore on urban bohemia at Seminar on the City

Dr Tony Moore.
Dr Tony Moore.

Dr Tony Moore, a senior lecturer in Communications and Media Studies at Monash Unviersity, will present the paper Romancing the City – Australian bohemia and the urban to the cross-disciplinary Faculty of Arts  ‘Seminar on the City’ series, Thursday, July 31 at 4pm.

The series is designed to share, stretch and challenge our thinking about cities and urbanization.

Moore.Seminar on the City flyer 31.07.2014 copy


  • Events

    Staff and students of Monash, as well as visiting artists, delight audiences through the Lunchtime…

‘Fringe to Famous’ project presented in China

Dr Tony Moore.
Dr Tony Moore.

Dr Tony Moore, Senior Lecturer in Communications and Media Studies in the School of Media, Film and Journalism, presented a paper at the International Conference of Australian Studies on  July 12 and 13 in China, at Mudanjiang Normal University, in the far north of China.

The conference theme was ‘Creativity and Development’ and brought together leading Chinese Australianists from humanities and social science with Australian scholars spanning history, economics, international relations, politics, media and cultural industries.

A former Director of the National Centre for Australian Studies, Dr Moore helped establish the China-Australian Research Network in 2013, and was invited to speak at the Mudanjiang conference about the ARC Discovery project he leads, ‘Fringe to Famous; contemporary Australian culture as an innovation system’.

Other participants included Professors David Walker, Stephen Garton, Stephanie Fay, David Carter and and Kate Darian-Smith from Australia and Professors Hong Chen, Quinlong Peng, Keli Dao and Feng Han from China.


Communications and Media Studies earn respect

By Barbara Legaspi

An examination of the problems of media reportage in war zones is just one of the projects that earned Monash University’s Communications and Media Studies department Australia’s highest international ranking.

Associate Professor Brett Hutchins.
Associate Professor Brett Hutchins.

The department’s research program earned five stars in the QS World University Rankings last month, earning 19th place overall, three places ahead of Melbourne University.

The department is also conducting research on media audiences, nationalism and multiculturalism in South Korea, popular music and cultural policy, environmental conflict and the media and digital media and sport.

Monash University was also successful in the last round of Australian Research Council (ARC) grants and has been given funding for a number of projects.

A Future Fellowship project is lead by Associate Professor Brett Hutchins on mobile media and sport, a Discovery project granted to Dr Tony Moore and Associate Professor Mark Gibson to examine Australian culture and innovation.

Dr John Tebbutt has bought an ARC discovery project examining Radio National and public broadcasting and Professor Justin O’Connor is examining the success of the Museum of Old and New Art and it’s effect on the Tasmanian economy, under an ARC grant.

Associate Professor and Head of Communications and Media Studies, Shane Homan, said Monash would continue to build on the high standards set by the department.

“I’d like to think it’s a small reward for sustained excellence in research-led teaching of our undergraduate and postgraduate students, and where we are increasingly sharing our expertise with governments, interested communities and key academic groups globally,” Associate Prof Homan said.

“In terms of research, the list of imminent books and current research grants speaks well to our core knowledge and expertise on a whole range of national and global media debates.”

“In terms of teaching, we will continue to build on the excellent links forged by Professor Justin O’Connor with Jiao Tong University, Shanghai which includes a Cultural Economy Summer School and a Masters unit, Shanghai City Lab.”

Monash Univserity’s Masters of Communications and Media is the most popular Master course in the Arts Faculty.

The Master of Culture Economy is “Australia’s most innovative postgraduate program” which combines the areas of culture, economy, government and policy. It is a new course offered in 2014.

In the university rankings, Melbourne University came in at 22, the University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology and the University of Sydney at  26, 27 and 39, respectively.


Is the Afghan war the worst reported conflict?

Monash University’s Associate Professor Kevin Foster has published a new book, Don’t Mention the War: The Australian Defence Force, the Media and the Afghan Conflict.

Associate Professor Foster will discuss his new book at the Matheson’s 50th Anniversary celebrations on May 20 at Clayton campus.

Associate Professor Kevin Foster.
Associate Professor Kevin Foster.

The war in Afghanistan is now the longest and, arguably, worst reported conflict in Australian history.

In Don’t Mention the War, Kevin Foster explores why this is so and considers who engineered and who has benefitted from its impoverished coverage. He examines how and why the ADF restricted the media’s access to and freedom of movement among its troops in Afghanistan and what we can learn about their motives and methods from the more liberal media policies of the Dutch and Canadian militaries.

He analyses how the ADF ensured positive coverage of its endeavours by bringing many aspects of the reporting of the war in-house and why some among the fourth estate were only too happy to hand over responsibility for newsgathering to the military.

The book also investigates how political responses to the conflict, and the discourse that framed them, served to conceal the facts and neuter public debate about the war. After more than a decade of evasion and obstruction, half-truths and hype, Don’t Mention the War reveals how politicians, the military and the media failed the public over the Afghan conflict.

Here is the real story behind the Australian story of the war.

Click here to read an extract of Don’t Mention the War

“It is an important question of our time. Why is this longest war in Afghanistan Australia’s worst reported war? Kevin Foster’s thorough and insightful analysis delivers important answers.”

— Chris Masters

‘Don’t Mention the War sheds a revealing light on how one of our most important institutions resists independent scrutiny and open communication about what it does in the public’s name.’

— Tom Hyland, Inside Story

About Kevin Foster

Kevin Foster was born in Manchester in 1961 and has degrees from the University of Manchester, the University of Saskatchewan and Monash University. He currently teaches Media and Cultural Studies at Monash University. He has written widely on war, cultural history and national identity and his work has appeared in a range of national and international journals. His books include a study of the Falklands Conflict, Fighting Fictions: War, Narrative and National Identity (1999), What are we doing in Afghanistan? The Military and the Media at War (2009) and The Information Battlefield: Representing Australians at War (2011).

Kevin Foster will discuss his book at the Matheson’s 50th Anniversary celebrations on Tuesday, May 20 at 1pm, ground floor, Matheson Library, Clayton Campus.

Kevin Foster: “Our Longest and Worst Reported War”- All welcome.

How is it that the nation’s longest military commitment, in Afghanistan, was far and away its worst reported? Kevin Foster will talk about why, in an effort to answer this question, he came to write his 2013 book, Don’t Mention the War: the Australian Defence Force, the Media and the Afghan Conflict.


Humphries’ pranks of yesteryear

Barry Humphries.
Barry Humphries.
A portrait of a young Barry Humphries.

Monash University’s historian Dr Tony Moore spoke on ABC radio recently, offering insight into Barry Humphries’ recollection of a prank on a Melbourne tram in 1952.

The “pranks” episode was aired nationally on popular ABC program, Conversations with Richard Fidler. It is also available online.

Dr Moore, the author of Death or Liberty: rebels and radicals transported to Australia, chats with Fidler about Humphries’ fascinating story, recalled to Terry Lane on radio, and other related artists.

Listen to Dr Moore’s comments on pranks here …


The Mobile Media Sport Moment

The Mobile Media Sport Moment is a new Australian Research Council Future Fellowship project (2014-2017) led by Associate Professor Brett Hutchins in the School of Media, Film & Journalism at Monash University.

Brett Hutchins
Associate Professor Brett Hutchins.

Associate Professor Hutchins’s website contains news about the project’s publications, media commentary, podcasts, and related public and scholarly activities . It is designed to be an evolving resource for those interested in the intersections between mobile, digital and sports media research. It also lists books and articles that critically analyse the markets and industries that place entertainment into the palms of our hands.

What is the Mobile Media Sport Moment Investigating?

The Mobile Media Sport Moment is a major research project that investigates how smartphones, tablet computers and mobile communications are transforming the production and circulation of media content in broadband economies around the globe. Recognising the phenomenal popularity and value of sport as a “premium” form of content, the focus is on how sport affects the structure and operation of mobile media and telecommunications markets.  The aim is to explain how and why sport is embedded in the interaction between markets, industry practices, policy settings, and new consumer devices. Achieving this aim will, in turn, generate new insights into the overall dimensions of mobile media markets and technologies.

What is the Scope of the Project?

The project is international in scope. It involves the collection and analysis of extensive evidence drawn directly from sport, media, news, technology and telecommunications industry decision-makers based in Australia, the UK, US, Europe and Latin America. It also encompasses fieldwork and formal collaborations with project partners in the UK (2015), US (2016), and China (2017). These overseas visits will allow examination of mobile media services and practices over the course of a sports “mega-event”, including the Rugby World Cupthe summer Olympic Games, and the National Games of the People’s Republic of China.

Why Markets, Technologies, Power?

Markets, technologies and power are key themes used to guide the research over a four-year period of investigation, analysis and writing.

Markets. Sport sits at the epicentre of power and value in mobile and digital media markets. Massively popular events and leagues such as the Olympic Games, the English Premier League (EPL) and Australian Football League (AFL) testify to this reality, generating plentiful “premium” content and impressive revenue. Media corporations, digital technology companies, and telecommunications carriers view sports content and services as indispensable strategic assets. Popular sports deliver enduring profits in a media landscape characterised by multiplying media platforms and devices, fragmenting audiences, and commercial volatility.

Technologies. Globally, it is estimated that the number of mobile devices and connections increased to 7 billion in 2013, up from 6.5 billion in 2012. Smartphones accounted for 77 percent of that growth, while the number of mobile-connected tablets also increased to 92 million. The rapid spread of mobile technologies is undercutting the boundaries that have historically separated the media, telecommunications, and information technology sectors. This project is helping to address the assumptions that have solidified around these boundaries, with the growing functionality and capacity of smartphones and tablets affording insight into a “larger, messier media and communication ecology” in an age of mobile media.

Power. Who wins, who loses, and how from the rise of mobile and wireless communications? Sport opens a window onto many of the winners and losers in the digital and mobile media marketplace. It also serves to identify those groups and individuals who are made most visible, as well as those who struggle for visibility and attention. Attuned to the issues of participation and access, this project considers different dimensions of sport and mobile media, including men’s leagues, women’s competitions, major events, fans, apps, online video, social media, journalism, fantasy sports and games, and wearable media.

For more information on Associate Professor Hutchins’s project, click here.


Communications and Media Studies world class

Monash University’s Communications and Media Studies program has been ranked 19th in the QS World University Rankings.

Monash rated five-plus stars based on eight categories, including research, employability, teaching, facilities, internationalization, innovation, specialist and access.

The top-ranked university worldwide for this subject is the University of Wisconsin (Madison), followed by the London School of Economics and Political Science, and the University of California – Berkeley.

 Monash was ranked just behind Ivy League institution, Cornell University (17th) and New York University (18th).

Associate Professor Shane Homan.
Associate Professor Shane Homan.

Monash University’s Head of Communications and Media Studies, Associate Professor Shane Homan, said Monash’s place in the top 20 universities was pleasing. 

“This confirms our commitment to preparing students to actively think about the role of communications and media in contemporary life in a range of critical and practical ways,” Associate Prof Homan said.

 “It’s also a testament to the research impact and global reputation of our staff, who often lead key debates about social, industrial and cultural change related to the media.” 

Associate Professor Mia Lindgren.
Associate Professor Mia Lindgren.

 Monash University’s Head of the School of Media, Film and Journalism, Associate Professor Mia Lindgren, said the world-class ranking was a great achievement for the school.

 “It highlights the quality of the work done by our staff in the new school and it confirms our international reputation.”


Monash’s Communications and Media studies’ team:

 Associate Professor Shane Homan

Dr Dan Black 

Dr Elizabeth Burns Coleman

Associate Professor Kevin Foster 

Associate Professor Mark Gibson

Associate Professor Gil-Soo Han

Dr David Holmes

Associate Professor Brett Hutchins

Dr Tony Moore

Professor Justin O’Connor

Dr Andy Ruddock

Dr Jinna Tay




The rise of footy datatainment

Associate Professor Brett Hutchins.
Associate Professor Brett Hutchins.

By  Associate Professor Brett Hutchins

The AFL season is about to kick off again. Tens of thousands of fans are presently registering for fantasy footy competitions, scoping possible team selections, picking players, and forming leagues with friends and strangers.

Many are downloading the tablet and smartphone apps that deliver breaking team and player news, injury updates, and live fantasy scores. Others are paying for and updating the league and broadcaster apps so they can access live coverage and match highlights, in addition to perusing their club’s latest mobile offering.

Followers are also combing Twitter to ensure they are following the journalists, commentators, and armchair experts able to deliver the latest gossip, rumours, and even the occasional fact.

Enormous value is now attached to the digital media habits, social media accounts, user details and online preferences of football fans. This value is generated not so much by the individual preferences of fans, but what happens when this information and activity is aggregated. It is at this point that the rivers of data begin to flow.

Sitting at the heart of these developments is the expansion and power of digital sports data and the rise of so-called datatainment. As the current infatuation with Big Data indicates, data comes in many forms. In the case of sport, much of it is directed towards making money in a multi-screen media environment where internet-connected smartphones, tablets, and computers sit alongside television in the engagement of fans and the harvesting of user data.

For instance, fantasy sports are the product of a worldwide market for software packages, data sets and the processing of real-time athlete performance data. According to a major US study, the fantasy sports industry now has ‘participants in the millions’ and delivers ‘a financial impact in the billions’.

Similar types of player data are used in the creation of regularly updated sports video games such as AFL Live for Xbox and PlayStation. This data ensures that the most skilled players on the field are the most sought after by gamers.

There is also a growing smartphone and tablet ‘app economy’ in which leagues, clubs, sponsors and advertisers are playing a notable role. Specialist stats and infographic apps such as Stats Zone (soccer) and #Numbeez (multiple US sports and soccer) are fast becoming a focus of fan attention in the UK, Europe, US and Australia.

These types of mobile apps are delivering mountains of data about users, consumer behaviour and fan preferences. For leagues and clubs, this data underpins new social media strategies designed to capture the eyes of fans, and then their wallets through membership, ticket and merchandise sales.

Sitting beneath the eye-line of many fans is a lucrative market in the supply of athlete performance data to wealthy sports, clubs, broadcasters, and news media outlets. Timing tools and wearable media devices that use GPS technologies, accelerometers, and gyroscopes deliver extensive analytics to coaches and sports scientists. Many observers will recognise the name Champion Data, the company that supplies statistics to top-flight Australian football.

But this provider is only one operator in the global sports data marketplace, which includes the likes of STATSOpta, andCatapult Sports – an Australian-based company that boasts a host of international clients. This is a market that services the likes of Manchester City, the moneyed English Premier League soccer club that reportedly employs 10 full-time data analysts to work with their first team alone.

An expanding array of athlete performance measures and commercial datatainment probably excites fans obsessed by the AFL. It allows the consumption of more media and information about footy than ever before.

The problem with this pattern is the widening gulf it creates between the ‘data-rich’, including all-powerful football codes like the AFL, and the ‘data poor’. The latter include many women’s, semi-professional, and disability sports and competitions that have long struggled to attract significant media attention, sponsorship, and spectators.

The considerable financial, human and technological resources needed to generate and access comprehensive data suggests that this gulf will continue to widen.

Datatainment might be a superficially exciting addition to the sports media landscape. At a more fundamental level, however, it demonstrates that the old inequalities between the sporting ‘haves and have-nots’ are not changing. They are just appearing on new screens.

Associate Professor Brett Hutchins is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow at Monash University and co-author of the book, Sport Beyond Television: The Internet, Digital Media and the Rise of Networked Media Sport.


I am a Girl: lessons from 1970s feminism

 By Andy Ruddock

Dr Andy Ruddock.

On March 5, ABC2 aired I am a Girl. Rebecca Barry’s documentary introduced us to six young women from around the world. They hail from Cambodia, Cameroon, Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea, the USA and Australia.

The doco features girls such as Kimsey, a 14-year-old sex worker who supports her entire family, and Katie, a wealthy, middle-class student getting ready for exams. Their lives may be different but they all share a common dilemma: they live in a world where it’s dangerous to be a girl.

When it comes to girls and media, 2014 looks like a refreshing change from Miley-obsessed 2013.

But funnily enough, I am a Girl helps us understand the hoo-hah over Mouseketeer twerking. How? By reminding audiences of the feminist media scholarship of the 1970s. It was on the money then, and it still is now.

I am a Girl’s premise is that technological and social advances have not produced gender equality. Too many girls are murdered, assaulted and exploited because of their gender. Their resilience and ingenuity simply underlines the need for systematic intervention.

Ironically, it’s the courage and wit of ordinary girls that masks the grinding evil of gender oppression. If you want to think about girls, media and reality, think Malala Yousafzai, not Miley Cyrus.

Barry’s work reflects the influence of British 1970s feminist media research.

Back then, a collective called the Women’s Study Group at Birmingham University argued that any effort to understand the significance of how girls are depicted in the media had to start with an analysis of their social and physical experience. They argued that debates over the liberating or oppressing qualities of onscreen images had to connect with simple political facts: for example, that in the post-war period, social policy wanted women to stay at home and reproduce.

In other words, ideological battles weren’t just being fought on screen: they were being written on women’s bodies.

Are things getting better for girls?

Cultural theorist Angela McRobbie is a key figure here. In recent years, she’s argued that time has only deepened the essential problems with the media. Back in the 70s, media offered girls little to aspire to; they were either invisible, victims or dogsbodies.

Now, things are arguably worse – because they are cosmetically better. Today’s screens are full of girls who can do anything. The real world is full of others who can’t, because they shoulder the burden of economic and social exploitation.

According to McRobbie, thinking about real and media girls means remembering two things.

First, being smart and sassy doesn’t solve anything. Second, because this is true for most girls in most parts of the world, it’s vital to think about how gender inequality is powerful because it acclimatises to different circumstances.

Which is precisely I am a Girl’s point.

There isn’t so much difference between Kimsey, the Cambodian sex worker and Katie, the Australian schoolgirl battling depression against in a world of impossible demands. The documentary doesn’t just open eyes to places that aren’t like the one that viewers live in. It also invites us to consider what these worlds share. Perhaps that is its strongest feature.

The lessons take last year’s controversies about Miley Cyrus in new directions. According to this logic, there’s no contradiction between the arguments that the incident that propelled “twerking” into the Oxford English Dictionary dramatised the inherent sexual exploitation of media industries, versus the counter that it was a feisty piss-take.

The world is full of feisty girls who know what time it is. It’s just that this changes less than we might imagine.

The genius of I am a Girl is that it doesn’t just teach us about a world that we don’t see. It also sheds new light on the media world that we do see.

I am a Girl screens on ABC2 at 8.35pm tonight. Details here.

This story first appeared in The Conversation



Australia’s radical media sphere link

Monash University senior lecturer Dr Tony Moore has presented his historical research from his book, Death or Liberty, at the Monash European and EU Centre’s summer school program.

Dr Moore, who teaches in Communications and Media Studies section, contributed to the summer school’s history and commemoration program, aimed at Australian and New Zealand secondary school teachers.

 Dr Tony Moore’s 2010 history Death or Liberty: rebels and radicals transported to Australia.
Dr Tony Moore’s 2010 history Death or Liberty: rebels and radicals transported to Australia.

The summer school program showcased the work of Victorian academics in the following themes: Crisis and Concilliation in Contemporary Europe, History and Commemoration, and Religion and Identity in Europe and Australia.

The  ABC recently commissioned a television documentary adaptation of Dr Tony Moore’s 2010 history Death or Liberty: rebels and radicals transported to Australia.

The documentary is produced by innovative Tasmanian-based Roar Films, in association with leading Irish production house Tile Films. 

Producer Stephen Thomas say: “Based on Tony Moore’s book, Death or Liberty will be a dynamic telling of history melding drama, music and song, landscape and voice.

“Spoken word testimony is sourced from original letters, poems, documents, newspapers, memoirs, trial transcripts and orders of the governors and Crown”.  

Death or Liberty Powerpoint presentation


Abstract: ‘Death or Liberty’: Transnationality and the Transported Political Rebels to Australia 1788-1868

 Drawing on my book Death or Liberty: rebels and radicals transported to Australia 1788-1868 (2010) this paper engages with the connection of the Australian colonies to an emerging transnational and Euro-centred public sphere in the late eighteenth century and nineteenth century via political radicals transported as convicts.

The paper touches on the experiences of the ‘Scottish Martyrs’, the United Irishmen, Luddites, Swing Rioters, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, Chartists, Canadian rebels, Young Ireland movement, the Fenians, and other radicals transported for sedition, treason, rebellion and protest in the nineteenth century to demonstrate how teachers can engage students about the mobility of people, ideas and politics within and beyond the British empire.

The political prisoners transported to Australia move outside one nation to traverse the globe, contributing to the different places in which they live, and even making a virtue of their status as citizens of the world.

A particular problem for a country with colonial origins is that many of the people who made a difference in Australia’s past were mobile within a global empire as governors, soldiers, sailors, immigrants, explorers, scientists, missionaries, travellers and of course convicts.

Happily, the study of Australia’s past at universities has benefited from a turn towards a new critical imperial history that reframes and refreshes colonial Australia as part of a global empire shaped by people on the move, demands for popular participation and a new media age.

Building on the work of George Rude, Nigel Leask and Seán McConeville as well as theoretical insights of Habermas and media studies scholar John Hartley, I pay particular attention to the contribution of these exiles as new media activists producing pamphlets, books, journalism, songs, poetry, cartoons and symbols that had an impact within the empire and beyond, akin to present-day innovations such as Wikileaks.

The Empire’s exiled rebels should be understood not just for their role in the movements they left behind, but for the places and people they touched during their often involuntary journeys, revealing Australian colonies vitally connected to the ‘republic of letters’.



Young celebs & LGBT rights: what would Hall say?

By Andy Ruddock

andy2Any lingering doubts about the political power of popular culture have surely been dispelled in the last couple of weeks.

When actor Ellen Page courageously fought tears to come out before a global audience, she became the latest in a string of young celebrities who have chosen to embody the struggle for LGBT rights.

Australian snowboarder Belle Brockhoff arrived at the Winter Olympics in Sochi determined to take a stand against state-sanctioned homophobia. Brockhoff, who is gay, has been subjected to social media abuse because of this.

American NFL prospect Michael Sam announced recently that he, too, is gay. With the NFL draft fast approaching, Sam has knowingly jeopardised his professional future.

The draft – a highly anticipated and cherished media event in its own right – transforms college athletes into multi-millionaire superstars overnight.

Sports Illustrated reported that Sam’s disclosure reduces the chances of this happening to him. This prompted an apoplectic commentary piece from US sports presenter Dale Hansen, comparing Sam to baseball and civil rights hero Jackie Robinson

 Each young star has found their simple ambition – to shred, play ball and act – caught in a gossamer, created by global media’s voracious appetite for dramatised politics.

They’ve also taught the world why we should all care about LGBT rights. 

While you’ve heard of Brockhoff, Sam and Page, you probably haven’t heard of sociologist Stuart Hall.

Brockhoff, Sam and Page have used their celebrity status to make the world a better place. But it’s Hall, who died last week, who clarifies why their actions matter.

As young celebrities adeptly exploit the political potential of global media, their actions underline the significance of Hall’s insights.

Hall was one smart cookie. Obituaries hailed him as “the godfather of multiculturalism” and the creator of the term “Thatcherism”.

Arriving at Oxford from Jamaica in the 1950s, Hall lived on the frontline of changing post-war British cultural politics, and then told everyone what these changes meant.

Among his many intellectual achievements, Hall translated the complex theoretical work of Italian marxist Antonio Gramsciinto a sophisticated tool for explaining the connections between entertainment, popular common sense and political leadership.

This feat continues to inform public political thought.

Yet Hall’s fearsome intellectual skill came wrapped in a polite disdain for academia. He didn’t see much point in scholarship that didn’t speak to a non-academic audience.

Hall’s reasons were deeply personal. As a young man, he had witnessed his sister’s decline into devastating mental illness, brought on by a failed love affair.

A simple relationship with a young doctor was torn apart because it crossed barriers of race and class in colonial Jamaica.

For Hall, his sister’s fate tragically embodied a savage truth: that there is no personal life, and we are all children of political histories that can ruin us. But, crucially, knowing this is first step to salvation.

Hall thought that the road to happiness, for ordinary people, lies in being able to decipher how personal experience reflects broader political realities.

As his work progressed, so it centred more and more on popular culture and political consciousness.

In the 1980s, the man who had made his name making sense of impenetrable Marxist theory lauded Live Aid, Bob Geldof and Bruce Springsteen for breathing life into apparently moribund ideas.

British Labour struggled to convince voters that class still mattered and unfettered free markets were socially corrosive. “The Boss” and Geldof used entertainment to get audiences singing along to the same ideas.

This dramatised key themes in Hall’s work: that global entertainment shows us where we are in the world, how we got here, and can create compelling images of where we should go.

Despite its sophistication and fascinating history, there’s a distinct Australian simplicity to Hall’s main conviction. It’s just about giving people a fair go.

A touching, funny story emerged about Hall last week. At a dinner in the later years of his life, so the story goes, Hall was asked what he wanted.

The question was about his political aspirations. So was his answer: “a power shower”.

The answer was a characteristically polite and humorous rebuke. Effective politics starts with the ordinary hopes of ordinary people.

And that’s where the scholar meets the stars. Brockhoff just wants to shred, Page just wants to act, Sam just wants to play ball. But they all know that their simple ambitions are affected by how the global sport/entertainment/media complex processes their sexuality.

And right now, things don’t look too good for Sam, while Brockhoff has been subjected to vile abuse. Hall would have said that we need to listen to these young people very carefully. We should hear that.

This story first appeared in The Conversation



The great global warming subsidy

By David Holmes

Dr David Holmes.
Dr David Holmes.

The demise of manufacturing in this country has captured the news headlines for weeks now.

It is about jobs, about sentimentality toward companies that have long been part of Australian life, and about the future of Australian productivity.

Caterpillar, SPC Ardmona, Electrolux, the car manufacturers: each have seen the withdrawal or denial of subsidies that has gone directly to job losses.

The Abbott government has supposedly declared an end to corporate welfare, consistent with a neoliberal, even Darwinian, outlook that companies and individuals must solely bear responsibility for their decisions, circumstances and activities.

But is this really true? Has such welfare ended? We have been told that the taxpayer cannot afford these subsidies to companies that are not profitable, in some cases suggesting that they should change their industrial relations agreements to turn around such profitability.

But as the headlines become captivated by these stories that understandably look at the tangible threat to real jobs, with narratives about communities and individuals who can be interviewed, we are not getting to the cruel irony at the heart of their suffering.

The government is involved in gargantuan subsidies to the mining and pastoral sectors and these subsidies are about to get a whole lot bigger.

These are subsidies that are getting no scrutiny at all in these headlines.

The largest of these subsidies that has been operating since the Howard years – and continued during Labor’s two terms – is the fuel tax credit scheme to the mining industry. In 2011, for example, the mining industry accounted for A$2 billion of the $5.2 billion total claimed from this scheme.

An analysis by Environment Victoria suggests that in 2012-16, the claims will average approximately $2.3 billion per year. In short, the mining industry receives and takes advantage of a huge discount on its fuel use which has encouraged it to become a highly intensive liquid fuel user.

Ever wondered why mining companies consider ‘fly-in-fly-out’ labour sourcing such an affordable option? Taxpayers are paying for this practice and big mining is happy to take the money. Mining is a carbon-intensive industry in the production process, even where it is not drilling or digging up fossil fuels – in which case its footprint is pretty much peaked to the max.

So, why does mining get such preferential treatment, hidden in plain sight, and left alone by the mainstream media?

One way to understand this is to explain the historical alliance that the major parties in Australia have had with the different business sectors. Here, it is worth focusing on mining, pastoral and manufacturing capital.

Very few analyses are conducted on this neglected minority in Australian political life – the capitalist class – but mining and pastoral capital have long been aligned more closely with the Liberal-National Party, and the Labor Party aligned with manufacturing capital. Political party donations from the mining sector for 2011-12 show that the LNP is a spectacular beneficiary. The ALP received only 3% of the donations handed out from mining companies during this time, with the Queensland LNP and the then-federal opposition Liberal and National parties receiving 97%.

However, it is not as easily divided as that. As manufacturing in Australia steadily declined from the 1990s onwards, Labor began to support mining capital by default to pick up the shortfalls in productivity.

But the Labor power base is with the manufacturing sector where Australian unions have their most influence, and where ‘looking after workers’ conforms to a more traditional industrial relations framework, based on workforces that aren’t transient like jet-about miners are.

Where there is a clear line of division between the parties is that while Labor will always try and support manufacturing capital, the LNP has had an uneasy relationship with that sector and is more prepared to see a company fail unless it is based in a marginal seat (for example) or is related to basic infrastructure.

Then there is the behaviour of mining capital itself. As far back as 1967 when mining capital first became centrally represented by the formation of the Australian Mining Industry Council, the mining lobby has attacked industrial capital.

In those days, mining was led by Hugh Morgan and Ray Evans at Western Mining and Charles Copeman of Consolidated GoldFields.

The mining lobby is very powerful today. Treasury minutes reveal meetings have been held with the Association of Mining and Explorations Companies over the importance of retaining the fuel tax credit scheme.

It is a bit rich for the government to say it cannot afford $25 million for SPC Ardmona when it is committed to handing over $2.3 billion to mining companies that goes to their direct bottom line and the personal wealth of some of the richest people in Australia.

Corporate welfare indeed.

The Abbott government is no friend of manufacturing capital.

And in a political climate where a return to a ballot-toxic Workchoices path to controlling such capital and its unions is looking unlikely, it seems that Abbott has decided that it’s easier just to turn its back on the sector altogether.

The twist of the knife here is that having suffered the carpet of subsidy protection being pulled from underneath, these manufacturing workers – if they ever find another job – will be paying subsidies to the mining sector.

This is a sector that is also going to add to the potential suffering of future generations.


This story first appeared on The Conversation


Inspiring donors through social media

Karen Sutherland
Karen Sutherland

Monash University communications expert Karen Sutherland has been providing advice on how charities can use social media to inspire donors.

Ms Sutherland has co-facilitated workshop, called the Future of Fundraising, for not-for-profit organisations.

She has worked with Head of Digital for Charity: Water, Paull Young, and Director of ntegrity, Richenda Vermeulen, to conduct the workshops in Sydney and Melbourne.

“My sections of the workshop provided advice on how charities can use social media to inspire donors and the do’s and don’ts of social media from a donor’s perspective,” Ms Sutherland.

“The advice I provided was based on the findings from my PhD research, exploring how charities can use social media to build, maintain and support relationships with donors, supporters and volunteers.

“I am receiving an APA scholarship to support this research.”

Ms Sutherland said her advice and findings were very well received by the organisations present, which might lead to further opportunities.


Are politics fair game at the Olympics?

By Dr Andy Ruddock

Dr Andy Ruddock.
Dr Andy Ruddock.

This week, the largest, coolest and most promising Australian Winter Olympics team to ever leave these shores landed in Sochi.

But there’s more than gold on their minds – they want their presence to mean something.

With the endearing nonchalance so typical of the extreme sports star, snowboarder Belle Brockhoff told reporters that she’d considered whether or not to address the issue of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights during the games and concluded that, “screw it”, she would.

Her stand isn’t surprising; she stated this intention back in December, and her Twitter account carries a “No to H8” logo.

Belle’s got some powerful friends. Today, Google celebrates the opening of the games with a rainbow flag logo and a reminder of the Olympic Charter:

Before a ski boot is buckled, it’s clear that Sochi will be a media event that will not let Russia disguise its disdain for LGBT rights.

The idea of the Olympics as a political spectacle that gives individual athletes the power to make a difference to global human rights is hardly novel.

But what is new is the people who produce the Olympics as a media event are accepting and embracing this as part of the drama that audiences need and want.

It’s written in the history books

The 2012 London Olympics kicked off with politics, and everyone loved it.

 Danny Boyle’s dizzying blend of the industrial revolution, James Bond, the Arctic Monkeys and a tribute to National Health Service was dismissed as “multicultural crap” by Tory MP Aidan Burley.

London mayor Boris Johnson was far more welcoming, lauding Boyle for saying something meaningful, in an entertaining way.

If anyone knows that politics can be entertaining, and that being entertaining is a great way to make a political point, it’s surely the Mayor of London.

Google’s decision to label Sochi as a human rights affair brands the Olympics as a politicised media occasion, above and beyond anything else – whatever the IOC might think.

This isn’t surprising, given the company’s recent history. Back in 2012, when UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon wanted to show his desire to connect with young people from around the world on human rights issues, he chose Google+ Hangout to do it.

Social media seemed the natural heir to article 19 of the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

So, if Brockhoff demonstrates her solidarity with the Russian LGBT community, she won’t suffer Peter Norman’s fate. Everyone’s stopped pretending that politics isn’t part of the show.

On the other hand, it’s worth asking how the stage has been set, such that the snowboarder’s undoubted mettle is likely to become a historical fact?

It’s also a fact that Google has played an active part in integrating young, grass roots activists with powerful political and media interests.

Company executive Jared Cohen co-founded Movements.org, an organisation where Google have joined with Facebook, MTV, Pepsi and CBS news – among others – to help young activists use social media to battle oppression, wherever they may be.

The organisation emerged from the Alliance of Youth Movements; a collective characterised by critics as an agent of US soft power; that is, Google’s interest in human rights has been criticised as less disinterested than it might appear.

And, of course, the Olympic Games is a commercial media event that can only communicate the messages that sponsors will pay for. In London, the world saw how business concernscompromised Twitter’s commitment to freedom of speech.

Let’s celebrate Belle Brockhoff, without reservation.

But let’s also think about the global media conditions that give her a voice. Because ultimately, they decide what we hear.

This story first appeared on The Conversation


Hutchins appointed an ARC Future Fellow

Brett Hutchins
Associate Professor Brett Hutchins.

In 2014, Associate Professor Brett Hutchins will be an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow based in the new School of Media, Film and Journalism.

He will be completing a four-year international research program titled, The Mobile Media Moment: Investigating the Pivotal Role of Sport in Mobile Media Content, Markets and Technologies.

Description of the project:

Smartphones and tablet computers are transforming the production and circulation of media content in broadband economies around the globe.

Recognising the phenomenal popularity and value of sport as a “premium” form of content, this research program addresses the question of how sport affects the structure and operation of mobile media and telecommunications markets in Australia, China, the UK, and US.

This project is significant because it offers pioneering and internationally focussed research that will explain how and why sport is embedded in the complex interaction between markets, industry practices, policy settings, and new consumer technologies in an age of mobile media.


Mobile smartphones and tablets computers are transforming media markets, industry practices, policy  settings, and the delivery of content to users in Australia and internationally.

This research program investigates a premium form of mobile content – sport – to understand and explain its key role in this transformative “mobile media moment”.


Media experts lead ‘The Conversation’

Monash University media experts Dr David Holmes and Dr Andy Ruddock are leading the commentary on news website, The Conversation.

Dr David Holmes.
Dr David Holmes.

The prolific writers are among the top 10 Monash authors who are generating strong readership on the  research-focused news site.

Dr Holmes is leading the group, amassing almost 170,000 readers for 40 articles. He has attracted more than 2,500 comments.  

Dr Holmes writes on issues related to climate change, which has become increasingly controversial since the election of the Abbott Government. 

His recent article, titled War on the environment a distraction from climate change policy, generated more than 90 comments.

Dr Ruddock, who writes about media users and the politics of popular culture, has attracted more than 110,000 readers for his 29 articles on The Conversation.

Dr Andy Ruddock.
Dr Andy Ruddock.

Dr Ruddock addresses a wide range of media topics, including media violence, political celebrity, reality television, youth, media sport and binge drinking.

Dr Ruddock’s most recent article, Are politics fair game at the Olympics? Google thinks so, touches on the athletes’ powerful forum at the Winter Olympics.

Monash University lecturers have been active in generating The Conversation articles and the readership continues to climb.

Students also have the opportunity to pitch ideas to The Conversation.


Monash top authors, The Conversation

Monash top authors, The Conversation.



‘Fringe to Famous’ project introduced in journal

Popular artist Nick Cave.
Popular artist Nick Cave.

Dr Tony Moore and Associate Professor Mark Gibson, from Monash’s Communications and Media Studies program, have published a refereed article to introduce their ARC project, Fringe to Famous: Contemporary Australian Culture as an Innovation System.

The article, “Fringe to Famous: bohemians, entrepreneurs, audiences and the enabling state”, was published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Arts and Cultural Management in December.

Dr Moore said it was based on a paper given at an August sympoisum The Cultural Policy Moment, auspiced  by Deakin.

To view the refereed paper, click here.

The ARC project team includes Dr Moore and Associate Professor Gibson, and Dr Chris McAuliffe from The University of Melbourne.

A Mambo graphic design.
A Mambo graphic design.

The project examines the crossover between ‘alternative’ and ‘mainstream’ cultural production in Australia, identifying ways in which a hybridisation between the avant garde and the popular promotes the development of cultural industries.

It will conduct a detailed study of five cases: comedy (Working Dog and the Chaser), music (Mental as Anything, Paul Kelly and Nick Cave), visual arts/graphic design (Mambo Graphics), short film (Tropfest) and games development (Freeplay).


War on environment impacts on policy

By David Holmes

David Holmes
Dr David Holmes.

After almost six months in office, it seems that the Abbott government’s reputation for action on climate change and the environment in general is in tatters.

Overseas, condemnation has been directed at a government now labelled as the ‘most hostile to its nation’s environment in history’.

And that assessment is made with scant attention to what the Coalition government is doing on climate change, where it has pulled out all the stops to bring climate change policy to heel before the interests of big coal and big mining.

On the environment, the Abbott government has departed from the Howard years of striking a balance with conservation values and listening to the concerns constituents have for the environment.

Balancing economic growth with sustainability had been at the forefront of legislative and regulatory protection, including the Howard government’s Environment Protection and Bio-diversity Conservation Act (1999).

But the scrapping of the Environment Defenders Office (EDO) is symbolic of the distinctive shift we are seeing with this government.

The EDO has played a crucial role in providing free legal advice to communities that wish to question and challenge decisions, such as coal seam gas drilling or dredging of the Great Barrier Reef.

But in the context of a government that is driven to extract‘every molecule’ of gas and every last seam of coal from the driest country on earth, it has deemed that opposition to mining is not to be tolerated.

The really bad news for climate change mitigation policy is that the Abbott government’s open season on the environment will distract Australian’s from climate policy settings, which is the one area to which all environmental issues will one day be subordinated.

It is not to say that ‘environmental politics’ as we have known it in the past, which is focused on protecting or ‘saving’ particular sites, be it the Franklin, Jabiluka or the Leard State Forest, are unimportant, it is that such politics is about to be dwarfed by something far less tangible, but unimaginably more powerful.

The Abbott government has not only withdrawn the respect that was accorded to the environmental public sphere by previous Labor and LNP governments, it has also ramped up the assault on climate change mitigation to a level that could only be described as pure and total war.

Sure, the Howard government refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, but concession to public opinion with initiatives like the Renewable Energy Target were important.

By contrast, this government appears to be on a pre-meditated crusade to dismantle every policy and initiative that is remotely related to addressing climate change.

Australia is the only nation currently demolishing a working carbon price, which has, in its very short life so far, already mitigated 40 megatonnes of C02.

The administrative and advisory infrastructure put in place to tackle climate change has been all but eradicated. To rehearse the measures:

  • Abolishing the Climate Commission

  • Axing of COAG’s Environment Ministers Forum after 41 years.

  • Scrapping the Biodiversity Fund, Clean Energy Finance Corporation and Environmental Defenders Offices

  • Foreshadowing the abolition of the climate change Authority in July

  • Cutting funding to the: Caring for our Country Program, Low Carbon Communities Program, and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

Perhaps the decision invoking the most contempt relates to the Clean Energy Fund. Originally, the Abbott government had claimed that abolishing Clean Energy Finance Corporation will cost the budget A$439 million.

However, it now transpires that investing in renewable energies is highly profitable, and the taxpayer is actually going to gain $760 million instead.

The contradictions here don’t stand up to even rudimentary analysis. On the one hand the Abbott government dogmatically claims that these cuts are economically driven, but this is patently false when it comes to the CEFC.

But perhaps the worst recent decision is the mischievous way the Galilee Basin Coal mining and Abbot Point dredging decisions were made.

With Abbot Point, a dose of the finest ‘greenwash’ environmental values are being administered by the Department of the Environment to justify dredging a reef of three million cubic metres of mostly clay particles that that take so long to sink to the sea floor as to be certain to drift over protected zones of the Great Barrier Reef.

It remains to be seen whether the ‘most stringent’ protections will be at all effective given that the first environmental study on Abbot Point emphatically recommended that the dredging spoil be moved onto land.

But the window-dressing of the dredging issue, as serious as it is , pales compared to the amount of coal (3.5 billion tonnes) that is to be exported through Abbot Point from Clive Palmer’s ‘China First’ mine in the Galilee Basin.

That such a huge venture could be approved (as it was under the cover of the dying down of the news cycle five days before Christmas last year) is utter madness.

The approval of this mine is the single most devastating anti-mitigation decision that this government has so far taken on climate change.

The embedded emissions in the 3.5 billion tonnes of China First are equivalent to the total emissions that Australia will produce between now and 2020.

It makes the idea that the government’s “direct action” plan is supposed to reduce Australia’s emissions to 5% below 2000 levels by 2020 (which itself if looking like an interstellar long shot) into a cynical joke.

Of course, it is not just simply the jewel in an over-driven ideological campaign to enrage the climate crisis lobby.

Rather, it is politically driven by the pragmatics of what is in store for Australia should the government have the expected Senate majority come July 1.

At that point, Abbott will be sure to call in the debt that Palmer owes him over the Galilee Basin, and a flood of legislation is likely to be introduced to annihilate every last bollard of climate change mitigation infrastructure and policy.

So narrowly driven is this government that believes climate change to be a socialist plot dressed up as environmentalism.

And this is 2014. Even Margaret Thatcher, who in the late 1980s expressed similar sentiments toward environmental social movements, was rolling out policies to tackle climate change.

Thatcher was, after all, trained as a scientist and her ultra-conservative government nevertheless did listen to scientists.

Thatcher was committed to protecting her constituents from the coming crisis. But not Abbott.

The radical conservatism of the Coalition seems to be drawn from the same platform as the Institute for Public Affairs (IPA), which has entreated Abbott to ‘Be Like Gough’.

In a document posted on its website, the IPA declares open season on just about every publicly interested authority and organisation in Australia for which climate change ranks at the very top.

Of 75 recommendations, climate change figures in four of the first six. These include:

  1. Repeal the carbon tax, and don’t replace it.

  2. Abolish the Department of Climate Change

  3. Abolish the Clean Energy Fund

  4. Repeal the renewable energy target

With recent talk that Abbott is about to appoint IPA ‘anti-renewable zealot’ Alan Moran to a new independent panel to review the Renewable Energy Target, it looks likely that all four of these recommendations will be ticked off nicely.

Nowhere on the planet is there a region that is going to feel the effects of climate change on its population than Australia, with heat-stressed soils, heatwaves, firestorms, flooding and cyclones.

And yet, we have a government doing its level best to maximise measures that will only exacerbate global warming.