Fiona Martin provides a summary of our research

The Moving Media #IAMCR2014 Presentation

The purpose of this presentation was to bring the multiple case studies together that have been conducted under the moniker of Moving Media, specifically to outline the (lack of) policy for mobile broadband, while using three case studies.

In the context of the case studies, we presented one on locative media and how it relates to questionable practices with sensor media, autonomous automobility and the innovation policy moment, and mHealth an the issues surrounding market/policy regulation with the larger industry stakeholders.

The result of our presentation highlights where the project is at: an exploration of hybrid policy frameworks for mobile media.

The running theme across the four presentations within the session all dealt with mobile broadband policy: the case for Japan, USA and India – interesting to note there are similar issues appearing in each location. All in all, the session was useful to explore the complications that other countries are attempting to understand in the mobile broadband space.

The questions for our presentation focussed, not surprisingly, on mobile health. Our discussant Lela was interested in understanding the issues surrounding how the app stores have the power to enable certain apps to develop and how might policy address this.

Damien Spry questioned around children health: how might the federal government promote a healthy lifestyle in the context of anti-marketing campaigns and the ramification of the advertising industry?

Jock Given also raised the issues around consumer protection, user reviews and the problems of illegality of app stores providing misleading information – an issue addressed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Rethinking cars as communication devices, #ANZCA2014

We presented our current thinking at the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA) 2014 conference last week, at Swinburne University Melbourne, Australia.

For this version, we focussed on the mobile media policy gap, i.e. how policy is slow to adapt, is ignorant towards the cultures of use and is slow to adapt, and focussed on the autonomous automobility area. The work was well received with two significant pieces of feedback.

Firstly, Ben Goldsmith pushed our thinking around the privacy concerns of cars that are driven by mobile phones. Beyond the concerns of your data being captured and used in ways not previously thought of, ala FourSquare, what are the consequences of users relying on their mobile phones to arrive at a destination to be ‘hijacked’ and re-routed. A very plausible consideration for manufacturers and policy people to address.

Given the tight time constraints, we only had time for one other comment, provided by Jason Farman asked a great question around the cyclic nature of mobile communication and and cars. Given the past development of cars ‘accommodating’ mobile phones and then becoming an ideal space for mobile communication, are we seeing a similar turn in the current thinking? I.e. mobile phones being incorporated through app development and integration to only advance to the next space of phones driving communication and entertainment in vehicles.

Certainly two great ideas from two amazing scholars that we will incorporate as we move forward with this research.

#ANZCA14 is off to a flying start!

This morning, Gerard Goggin and I were allocated the opening slot of the first parallel session of the 2014 Australian and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA).

We presented some of our recent research on connected cars and provided some insights into the case studies we have been tracking. You can view the slides here.

Some great questions emerged for us to follow up on:

  1. What about privacy issues? If cars are driven by mobile phones, how does privacy of data play out? Is it significant to think about how corporate car manufacturers approach privacy?
  2. Given the development of telephones as communication devices in cars, are we observing a cyclic emergence of communication in cars?

Great questions and looking forward to working this into our work.

The Connected Cars Ecology

The Connected Car Ecology

We are beginning to understand the connected car ecology as a precursor to autonomous automobility. Interestingly, and form discussions with industry experts of late, autonomous automobility isn’t the issue here – driverless cars are here in various incarnations. What many specialists are saying is difficult to imagine at this stage is how cars will communicate with other cars.

A great example is an oil spill on the road. ‘In the future’ cars will identify the oil spill, proceed with caution, alert other cars to avoid the spill or proceed with caution, and alert authorities to come and fix it.

Another interesting area I have been thinking about lately was established with my recent conversation with the Zoox crew. In talking about the transition of the horse and cart technology to the combustible engine technology, low value driving was  re-introduced as a task for the driver . The driver would have taken care of the low level driving, potholes, tree branches, gradients, while the driver would have taken care of the high level driving – location A to location B. Driverless cars once again take the low level thinking out of mobility.

These are some of the threads we are developing in the latest Moving Media discussions. In the meantime, enjoy our latest visualisation of the Connected Car ecology that highlights the organisational, political and commercial actors identified in the discussion to date. More to come…

The Connected Cars Ecology

The Connected Cars Ecology

Taxi apps work – so why does NSW want to regulate them?

By Jonathon Hutchinson, University of Sydney

I don’t know what I did, but I got a message from them saying that I could no longer use Uber to pick up passengers. They reckon I didn’t turn up to a job, but I was just late because I picked up another fair along the way (Sydney Taxi Driver, March 17, 2014).

The way we are catching taxis is changing, and mobile apps such as ingogo, Uber and goCatch are driving the changes. The new taxi apps work to combat the inconsistencies of the taxi industry and bypass the centralised process of booking and paying.

Research in the United States suggests apps make the taxi industry more efficient. But the NSW government announced yesterday that it plans to regulate this “cowboy” industry. Drivers and passengers are shaking their heads, wondering what ridesharing regulation will involve.

Creative economy success stories

The two Australian entrepreneurs who established goCatch, Ned Moorfield and Andrew Campbell, did so when they twigged to problems with centralised booking and payment for cabs. In 2011 they received a A$250,000 innovation grant from the NSW Government for innovative mobile phone projects to help develop goCatch.

They partnered with Microsoft, Nokia, Blackberry, NSW Taxi Drivers Association, PayPal and Google and in October 2012 they launched goCatch. Some 16,000 of Australia’s 70,000 taxi drivers are now signed up to the service, a number that is still increasing.


The application enables passengers to broadcast their request to nearby taxis via their geo-located position. The passenger monitors how many drivers have seen the job. If the request is not accepted because of high demand or location, the passenger can offer the driver a tip as an incentive.

When the job has been accepted, both passenger and driver can see each other’s location on a real-time map, and can directly communicate via their shared phone numbers. The passenger has the option to finalise payment via PayPal, and when the journey is complete, both driver and passenger rate the transaction. goCatch takes a fee to facilitate the service.

Recently, James Packer, SEEK co-founder Paul Bassat, along with members of the Limberman and Kahlbetzer families, invested A$3 million into the goCatch service. This investment not only strengthens goCatch’s market share, it also indicates a market shift.

Users benefit from a self-regulating service that operates across the existing transportation infrastructure. Apps work much more efficiently than the heavily regulated, inefficient centralised offering, that is, calling for a cab.

This, of course, contradicts the role of the existing taxi councils and peak body, which have lobbied to restrict and regulate ridesharing apps.

Introducing goCatch.

The Australian Taxi Industry Association

The taxi industry is a highly centralised sector of the public transport industry. In Australia alone there are 20,658 taxis performing more than 172 million jobs each year, and moving more than 283 million passengers. This adds up to approximately A$3.94 billion revenue.

Of those jobs, Moorfield and Campbell claim that as many as 20,000 transactions are missed by either taxis failing to arrive or passengers disappearing.

In the recent Taxi Industry Inquiry presided over by former ACCC chair Allan Fels, it was revealed that the taxi industry should be concentrating its efforts on improving services for people with disabilities, as well as driver quality, taxi availability, safety, fare structure, booking services, and taxi availability.

The inquiry also concluded that “the existing regulatory regime governing taxis … is overly complex and prescriptive, and imposes unnecessary costs on the industry”.

The Australian Taxi Industry consists of one federal peak body, the Australian Taxi Industry Association (ATIA), with a collection of state members including NSW Taxi Council, Victorian Taxi Association, Taxi Councils of Western Australia, South Australia, and Queensland, Canberra Taxi Industry Association, and The Taxi Council of the Northern Territory. The ATIA describes its agenda in the following terms:

The ATIA will continue to play a leading role in promoting the public benefits delivered by regulated taxi markets. Well regulated taxi markets have been shown by empirical research to consistently outperform their deregulated counterparts on the important metrics of safety, pricing and service. While the threat remains from interests pushing hypothetical merits of open entry markets, the ATIA will strongly pursue its industry advocacy role using facts based lobbying.


Rob and Stephanie Levy

Taxi apps are improving the way passengers source taxis and ensure fares are correct. Most of all, they reassure us that our taxi will arrive on time to connect us with our imminent flight. The overall experience of those who use ridesharing apps to travel in taxis is generally positive. This is the creative economy at its best: the market sorts out the supply and demand to suit the stakeholders.

All this raises the question: why do we need to regulate a system that is working?

The NSW Government was wise to the possibilities of goCatch when it gave the company an innovation grant. It’s a shame it is now moving to inhibit goCatch and other similar taxi apps through regulation.

With both passengers and drivers happy, surely a regulatory light touch, or even deregulation or self-regulation, is a better solution.

The Conversation

Jonathon Hutchinson receives funding from the Australian Research Council to conduct research on a three-year Discovery project, Moving Media: Mobile internet and new policy modes. He is affiliated with the University of Sydney.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.


Recapping on Mobile Health Research – Ethical Feedback

We have recently presented our research at the 2014 Australasian Digital Humanities conference. This was an ideal audience to air our work in front of as they understand both the humanities aspect of the research along with the developing methodological concepts and concerns behind its design. As you might imagine, we were very interested to engage in discussion with this group about the mobile health aspect of our research so far.

The discussion was, as expected, great. The second question picked up on the crumb that we dropped in the conclusion which is, is this research ethical? The premise is just because we can access this information, does that necessarily make it OK? Moreover, individual users may understand that when they post to the Twitter platform, they are doing so publicly. However, they are most likely unaware researchers are mapping their activity and understanding how their participation relates to a broader conversation and network.

The first question from the audience was what was surprising in the research and how has it contributed to the scholarship.

The surprising element of the research has been the clear division between individuals and consumer groups or lobbyists within the conversation. Although they are probably equally distributed, they are also clearly separate from each other within the network. One group of users are genuinely interested in the conversation for what we can hypothesise to be personal interest, while the other group are interested in the policy discussion because of the impact policy has on their business/special interest group – a ‘typical’ policy interest group.

As for the research’s contribution to the scholarship, I thought it was appropriate to pick up on the provocations of the conference, specifically utopian research is necessary to understand what is possible. Yes big data research has been critically examined and many flaws highlighted within its many methodological applications. We even highlighted some of them in the presentation. However, this type of research highlights the new forms of knowledge that are possible within social network analysis. But yes, big data methods do deserve to be critically examined in light of how conclusions have been drawn.

The method has also made us realise how important it is to have ethnographers and computer scientists working on the same problem from the get go. The expertise and languages of each discipline can be vastly different, so they need to be calibrated early on in the project to extract the most important findings.

The second question was, how did we achieve ethics approval for this research? The short answer was we didn’t. When I mentioned this, the room was clearly divided on our approach, and I noticed physical scoffs and eye rolls for our work. Does this make it less important? Are we rogue researchers for conducting this project? It would seem that half of the room thought so.

My response was, we could easily have said on an application form that the information is public, and that’s that. The research is for the most part ethically approved. However, what we are suggesting is that the work does not necessarily fit within this framework – what we are also asking is that more regulation is not the answer.  So what is the delicate balance here?

Indeed one person suggested, in a rather blunt comment, that this is not too dissimilar to marketers close reading the White Page to cold call potential clients. This is true, however I would argue that our rationale is slightly more engaging than economic return. We are conducting this research to better align industry practice with user cultures – a socially constructed approach.

Tim Highfield and Tama Leaver are also interested in this approach and have been conducting similar research on the Instagram platform. They presented research which also asked similar questions and we can draw on some of their conclusions to help answer these ethical questions.

Firstly, the social media contradiction (Leaver and Lloyd, 2014) which distinguishes between a user’s understanding of social interaction on social media platforms, and the provider’s analytical interrogation of the media itself. Social media contradiction then, highlights the problem succinctly to explain the conundrum we face as researchers.

Secondly, researchers need to weigh intentionality of sharing into the equation (Highfield and Leaver, 2014). The argument that just because it’s publicly available does not necessarily mean it’s fair game. A more unique approach to understanding participation is to understand the user’s intention.

This more than points to the process of ethnography as the logical next method to shore up our claims that have been highlighted through big data social network analysis. Ethnography will highlight not only intentionality, but also the difference between why the user participates and how we read that participation as researchers.


Digital Humanities Australasia Summary – #dha2014

I have just returned from a very successful conference in Perth, the Digital Humanities Australasia, 2014. As with many conferences one comes away with a bunch of new information and contacts. Below is a quick recap on some of those significant highlights I gleaned from the past week.

Day One, Keynote One

Neil Freistat, University of Maryland “The Promise(s) of Digital Humanities”

A very welcomed provocation from Professor Freistat for the field of digital humanities, particularly as it begins to define itself from humanities studies. As I listened to Neil talk, the one thought that kept appearing was ‘definition is by way of exclusion’, in that something becomes by stating what it is not. In the past, a strong argument for digital humanities has been made as a field that utilises digital tools to assist in the study of humanities. However this has recently been criticised as being too simplistic to describe DH, with a flurry of definitions and rationales emerging (particularly as DH begins to attract research funding and appoint HDRs, ECRs, etc).

Nonetheless, debate has ensued around what DH actually is with much discussion placed on its lack of strategic vision. Freistat located his discussion in a utopianistic frame that provides futorities or promising notes, while also showing utopia’s inherent undoing in its makeup. He argued that without utopian vision there is no innovative thinking which does not lead to any turn in the field, which he notes has much momentum in the TransformDH Movement. When the utopian vision is then critiqued, a operationalised version of digital humanities is possible.

My new mantra: Less yack, more hack!

This set the tone well for the next few days, which also raised many questions around ontologies/topologies, archives/collections big/deep data, and although no one actually noticed it, the need for translation roles between different forms of expertise and knowledge.

Day Three, Keynote Three

Dr Anthony F. Beavers – “Why Computational Philosophy Belongs in the Digital Humanities”

Another interesting presentation by Anthony Beavers asked why philosophy as not been included in the digital humanities, since after all, philosophy had been using computational methods since Aristotle. By highlighting that philosophy is either  empiricist – observational, (Aristotle, Occam, Locke, Hume) or rationalist – mathematical (Plato, Descartes, Leibniz), Beaver focussed on the rationalist philosopher. His examples included truth tables from circa 1850, through to more recent methods of computational philosophy and agent based modelling. It appears maths mixed with philosophy can reveal knowledge previously not known, as demonstrated by modelling the case of the class clown – computational philosophy says one class clown is entertaining and stimulates the environment whereas two is distracting and non-productive.

Given this provocation, Beaver argued that philosophy is at home in the digital humanities. He also noted it is the DHists that are rejecting the philosophers, but rather the philosophers that are ignoring DH.

Session papers

I’ll quickly highlight a few standout papers I managed to catch:

Terea Swirski – “Young Peoples Safety and We’ll Being in Digital Culture: Affordances and Infrastructures”

  • Objects and technology and how this is changing our knowledge and understanding,
  • Bricollage as how we assemble our memories and understanding from our prior readings – intertextuality
  • Participatory design – how did it inform the methodology explicitly?
  • ‘Keep It Tame’ – young and well campaign

Sydney Shep, Esta Chiang, Maximilon Baddeley, Sara Bryan and Flora Feltham - “Visualising Correspondence Networks: William Colenso and the Victorian Republic of Letters”

  • Amazingly similar to our study although on a smaller scale
  • Highlights the importance of deep data rather than big data
  • Provided some additional tools for SNA and data collection

Toby Burrows, Deb Verhoeven - “Deploying Ontologies in the Humanities and Creative Arts”

  • HuNI is an aggregate that subverts the problems of ontology
  • Users create records via links to other data and other relationships I.e. Vernacular linking
  • Vernacular linking is the key to understanding how data connects to data beyond ontologies and folksonomies

David Carlin – “A ‘Living Archive’ for Circus Oz: investigating digital techniques to deploy cultural memory”

  • Great take on the concept of a ‘living’ archive
  • Fantastic use of video in an accessible archive
  • lovely design work from the RMIT crew

Michael Kerr Gisick – “‘The First YouTube War’: The U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as case studies in digital history”

  • Probably the best paper at the conference
  • Explores YouTube through the lens of the Afghan war soldiers
  • A very new slant on what I would call creative vernacular

Tama Leaver and Tim Highfield – “A Methodology for Mapping Instagram Hashtags.”

  • Actually this was the best paper of the conference
  • Very similar to our work except on the Instagram platform
  • We spoke about collaborating in some sense on future work

Some useful links and projects:

Original image by Dean Terry

Improving the Social Network Analysis Methodology

We have been collecting data for just shy of a year now and have been developing the Twitter social network analysis methodology for a little longer than that. As you might recall, we have been following the Mobile Health conversation via the #mHealth conversation and have finalised the collection of those data. The processing is almost finished and we can now progress to the next stage of ethnography to further understand what we have collected.

We have been improving the methodology as we go and the last time we received some assistance was to write some code for the Gephi program. Recently, we have been talking with colleagues from the University of Wollongong’s SMART Infrastructure faculty, who have been developing the collection process of Twitter data. Their project is related to flooding information in Indonesia (CogniCity), however Tom Holderness has been kind enough to share his work on GitHub.

When we install this JavaScript, which uses NodeJS, we will have an automated version of the manual process we have been struggling with for the past year. Further, the code is customisable so the researcher can  query the Twitter Stream API for the specific data they require. You can read more about the CogniCity NodeJS application on GitHub.

If we can improve the processing speed further, we will have a research prototype that can be shared with other researchers who are interested in Twitter social network analysis – hopefully a post soonish will reveal this!

Original image by Scott Beale

Internet Histories and Futures

Yesterday, I attended a symposium which was primarily concerned with highlighting the history of the internet as a means of understanding the future of the internet. Internet Histories/Internet Futures was held at the University of Sydney, and included presentations from Gerard Goggin, Tom Boellstorff, Jean Burgess, Mark McLelland and Tama Leaver.

As you might expect, a forum such as this had a strong focus on policy and regulation, or how not to stop the internet. I couldn’t help but think as I listened to each speaker talk that there is a canyon between cultures of uses and internet regulation (if it even exists in some of these spaces/ideas). As policy develops, it is probably about two or three years behind cultural adoption, and cultures of uses on the internet move at such a rapid pace (and are often buried very deep) that internet regulation would merely complicate things further because of the disjuncture of semantic understanding. That is, policy and legal frameworks do not process the indexical cultural meaning to provide a suitable enough understanding of the ecosystem.

Mark McLelland highlighted this beautifully through the subcultural  fandom activities such as Mpreg (male pregnancy) and Yaoi (Reappropriation of boys in love) as slash fiction. In both cases, they have fairly extreme user-created content that if read incorrectly will miss the close representation of gender politics by Japanese women. A undoubtedly complex undertaking to correctly regulate this cultural use (if regulation is at all needed?).  How would regulation approach this hot potato:

So the five areas that were represented yesterday (disability, universal accessibility, platform politics, gender subcultures, birth and death online) all require highly particular approaches for regulation. The problem, is how to translate the cultural languages into the policy arena. A take away point for me that I am sure we will work into our future work, particularly around increased citizenry through mobile internet cultural practices.

Some rough notes from each presenter:

Gerard Goggin

  • A cue from internet freedom, political history of languages etc
  • The way we imagine the history of the internet is culturally based and not well understood
  • New understanding of disability and internet future – based on characteristics
  • The technological development of interfaces for impaired promotes cultural and communication innovations – visual communications for the deaf (e.g. Skype)
  • A disconnect between media histories more broadly, could the internet histories connect the collection of media and comms?
  • Cultural disability is played out through language – there is no word for disability in aboriginal
  • A dissatisfaction with the current policy frameworks is present within academia – disability is a clear

Tom Boellstorff

  • Universal accessibility includes access for X from the get go – universal theory builds on disability theory – not the ramp at the back of the building but incorporated in the intial design
  • Not the deficit but the potential of the set technologies for affordances
  • Similitude and difference, time and space, futurity are three concepts and three historical moments this work is based on
  • Tech can shrink space but not time, it will never be the same time in two different places
  • The collapse of online/offline dichotomies is sloppy, and maybe digital means more
  • Let’s explore the negative
  • The gaps between the digits, the 1 and 0s are never .5 – they’re always separate
  • Indexical is context based, it links something to something (semantics)
  • First Monday paper on big data
  • Do we need ethnography anymore with big data research? The link to historicity of internet studies
  • The ‘unbearable slowness’ of ethnography
  • Q: Digital divide increasing, what about the impact of location on access – rural urban for example, or connected devices?
  • A: How users modify things on platforms is the fascinating area to look at – second life and the different experience between the mobile access and the laptop client shapes how people function

Jean Burgess

  • Toaster procession – our fascination with devices OF the internet
  • The culture of the internet and the rise of hegemonic terms of the internet
  • The narratives of inclosure and the rise of proprietary systems to close the internet, the lock down of copyright etc
  • Platforms also become significant  in this space
  • See ‘The culture of connectivity’ – van Dijck
  • What are the stuff of platforms?
  • The cultures of use of platforms?
  • What is twitterish about twitter?
  • Social media histories – interface designs, the landing page etc can tell us a lot about the internal discussions towards development
  • How the design shifts is representative of the internal discussions politics etc

Mark McLelland

  • The anxiety of the uses of the internet, porn on the internet and children
  • Concepts are thrust upon us by media i.e. Rudd and the Hensen children moment
  • The concept of ‘child’ has a huge impact on society, particularly around the age of consent
  • Mpreg as a femantasy scene
  • Yaoi/BL genre hetalia
  • Theses scenes are looking at the role reversal of the empowerment of women through directed sexual narrative
  • Young people are taking control of their own sexuality through the grey area of legislation surrounding child pornography online -
  • The law isn’t very good at semiotics, the meaning loses it’s context
  • Interpretation of the legal system is significant within these practices -it seems to me there should be a body that integrates between communities of interests and legal representatives and regulatory frameworks
  • There is clearly a language barrier between the cultural practice and the legal system – is this a call for intermediation?

Tama Leaver

  • Agency of the young and old online
  • Facebook now has terms for the death of a user – the account will be closed down
  • Who owns the material? Rights revert to Facebook
  • On Google you becom inactive
  • This is an example of algorithm versus real world measures
  • Perpetu manages your online estate in the event if your death
  • These are really complex when the family discussion is put on the table
  • Many of the actions contradict the official policies of the platforms
  • It’s not really a thing in the start up culture to think about the end of the platform
  • Content Export options are good
  • Should the regulation extend beyond the individual or the contents contribution to humanities history?
Original image by jurveston available here.

Ford Applink Hackathon – Melbourne 2013

Late last year, I attended the Ford Applink Hackathon in Melbourne to gain a broader understanding of how the design and development of on board operating systems is impacting on the Australian car manufacturing industry. It was also a chance to see upfront how theses systems work and to chat with some of the individuals responsible for the ‘cool’ apps and interfaces that are emerging in current model cars.

The concept of a hackathon is to get a whole lot of developers together in one location, provide a selection of tasty treats, energy drinks, and access to the backdoor (usually an API or SDK) of a particular database. In this instance, developers were invited to extened the possibilities of the Applink operating system, which is set to roll-out in many new models in the coming year.

Ford is hoping that Applink will become the standard operating system across all automobiles in the near future – great for developers who will only have to learn one system and build tools for the one platform. However, one ‘ring to rule them all’ might, as you would expect, provide political and economical challenges for participating car manufacturers.

There was a broad array of ideas submitted over the 24 hours of hacking, but the winning entry came from the MYOB team who are looking at integrating their product with the locative possibilities of the Applink system.

Thanks must also go to the Ford team particularly Martin Gunsberg for all of his help over the two days. Also thanks to Two Ton Max for hosting this event.

Below is a video grab of the event and some insight into how the Applink system works. More importantly, the video highlights where our research can contribute in the grey areas of legislation surrounding communication within automobiles.

Moving Media is a comprehensive study of mobile Internet, how the infrastructures are evolving, how people use these convergent technologies, and how traditional and new modes of media policy respond.