The DERC research community is well known for pioneering ethnographic methods for critical research around the social implications, development and governance of digital media technologies and automated decision making systems. We take a wide-ranging scope, engaging multiple disciplines, creative and critical approaches, and strong ethics of care. In 2020-2021, we focus on the following four programs, all of which provide robust environments for dynamic collaborations, community engagement, and field-defining outcomes for social good.
Digital Domesticity, Sustainability, and the Everyday
Digital Domesticity, Sustainability, and the Everyday examines the role of everyday life practices and homes as increasingly central hubs of digital engagement and smart infrastructure, and the implications of this for post-human experience and climate change. This research will centre on and in people’s homes, lives and communities, using a range of possible approaches—from digital methods to ethnography and beyond—to foreground the rich and shifting relationships between practices, beliefs, technology and environments. Projects tend to focus on particular domains or interrelations, such as environmental activism online, e-waste and digital sustainability; the politics of smart homes and domestic robotics; the characteristics and complexities of relationships between humans and their digital personal assistants; the place of companion animals and more-than-human relations in everyday life and media cultures; the digitisation of food, and games, YouTube, post-television cultures and streaming services.
Automation and Social Futures
Automation and Social Futures engages with the ethical, political, social, organisational, cultural and governance implications of machine learning, algorithmic decision-making and digital infrastructures. The research will investigate the intersection of technology and the human experience, using methods ranging from data analytics to close level ethnographic approaches. Possible areas of investigation include the complex interrelations between technology design and technologies in use; social media platforms; ethics and future automation of memory and heritage practices; impact of algorithms on identity; deep fakes and disinformation campaigns; autonomous vehicles; smart city infrastructures; blockchain as infrastructure; supply chain systems. This program places strong focus on building better potential futures for our communities by critically examining the politics and ethics behind both norms and governance around automated decision-making systems, especially important in times of continuous and rapid change.
Creativity, Learning, Digital Arts, and Design
Creativity, Learning, Digital Arts, and Design positions research participants as ‘creative agents’ and authors of their own experience. This programme takes the question of research translation as a point of departure and creates experiences, artefacts, resources and texts through which participant’s stories, perspectives, desires and subjectivities are presented in affective and accessible ways. Creativity, Learning, Digital Arts, and Design explores the potential of social practice and co-designed arts across a range of disciplinary spaces. Researchers explore issues relating to visibility, agency, voice, care, educational experience, screen and performance-based methods for progressive and transformational ethnographic research. This program places a strong emphasis on accessibility and social inclusion. Methods employed are designed to be inclusive, relevant in inter-cultural and cross-cultural contexts and ensure to facilitate distributed agency in ways that support and encourage participants. Research is both a vehicle for social change and a means of collaborative knowledge production.
Digital Inclusion, Mobility, and Activism
The research program examines the challenges and potentials of digital participation as this relates to access and inclusion, connectivity, networks and political activism, gig or micro work, and mobility and migration. Possible research methods include analyses of existing data sets, digital ethnography, critical pedagogical experiments, arts-based interventions, and working with communities to understand how digital technologies are mobilised for various political and personal purposes. Research seeks to explain patterns and practices that have built up around digital communities or activist practices, and to explore the outcomes and implications of disconnections and misalignments between technology design, everyday use, policies and norms. Possible areas of investigation include experimenting with groups to adapt or hack common digital tools to preserve cultural memory; building localized rather than universal interpretations of critical data literacy; bringing together policymakers and community members to make so-called smart technology designs more usable and relevant; the politics of tech communities; the outcomes of internet use for different groups; locative technologies and place.