Tag Archives: featured

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.


The Award Winning Dr Timothy Dwyer – Shanghai Surprise!

We are delighted to announce that recently Dr Tim Dwyer was the recipient of the Top Paper Award for the ICA Shanghai Regional Conference, 10 November 2013, for his paper Transferring Digital Media Industry Cultures: Accessing News in Asian Mobile Internets. Congratulations Tim!

Tim’s paper is not only a credit to an outstanding academic career, but also marks a significant contribution to the Media Diversity section of the Moving Media project. He has also set the benchmark for all additional outputs from the research project.

From Dr Dwyer’s paper:

As part of a broader Australian Research Council-funded project into the mobile Internet we assume the enduring importance of media diversity, in particular news diversity, as a policy priority in a convergent media era. The purpose of the news diversity research component of the Moving Media project is to investigate the implications of mobile news content provision, including for the development of media diversity policies. The research examines how news production practices operate in a context of proliferating media devices, escalating social media usage, media convergence and mobility. As people increasingly access news by way of mobile Internet-connected devices, it is suggested that mobile Internet media cannot be based upon naïve assumptions of service or content plurality, despite the expansion of online publishing outlets and delivery systems. Mobile computing and software raise complex industrial and socio-cultural questions regarding access to Smartphone news apps. By investigating the openness (and restrictedness/exclusivity) of mobile Internet platforms/news apps, the research aims to develop our understanding about how these mobile media ecologies are being used by media producers and consumer/citizens. These Asian case studies explore the dynamic relations between old and new media industries including as part of these transformations: the governance/content management of digital news apps and how this relates to other masthead content; their availability and how they’re accessed; the usage patterns of particular news brand apps; and, their affordability together with platform access and handset (cultural) histories, including branded/proprietary content arrangements associated with specific portals and telecommunications networks.


Accepted paper for #aaDH2014!

We’re in! We just received notice that our social network analysis paper exploring the informal policy actors of mHealth across the the Twitter platform has been accepted for the Australasian Association of Digital Humanities (aaDH) conference 2014.

Here’s the abstract we will work from:

Scholarly interest in data privacy and the regulation of mobile Internet has intensified in recent years, particularly following Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations about Prism, the US government’s secret communications surveillance and data mining project. Much analysis has focused on the politics and architectures of data privacy regulation and network access. However the surveillance moment also invites scrutiny of academic data gathering and mining online. In open governance movements such as Occupy there has already been considerable debate about the ethics of big data research, particularly where the aim is to track individuals’ online agency around political processes and policy activism. With that context in mind, this paper examines the methodological implications of conducting large-scale social network analysis using Twitter for mobile Internet policy research.

Mobile internet is emerging at the intersection of broadband internet, mobile telephony, digital television and new media locative and sensing technologies. The policy issues around the development of this complex ecology include debates about spectrum allocation and network development, content production and code generation, and the design and the operation of media and telecommunications technologies. However not all of these discussions occur in formal regulatory settings such as International Telecommunications Union or World information Summit meetings, and not all are between traditional policy actors. Increasingly social media platforms such as Twitter and Linked-in host new networks of expertise, informal multi-actor conversations about the future of mobile Internet that have the potential to influence formal policy processes, as occurred during the January 2012 SOPA/PIPA campaigns in the US.

As part of the three year Australian Research Council Discovery project Moving Media: Mobile internet and new policy modes, this research team is mapping and interpreting the interplay between these diverse policy actors in three areas of accelerating media development: digital news, mobile health and locative media. However research into informal policy networks and processes online presents interesting problems of scale, focus and interpretation, given the increased affordances for citizen participation within the international political arenas of social media.

To better understand who these online stakeholders might be in the mobile health field, and how they operate in relation to the normative policy and regulatory circuits, we have adopted a social network analysis methodology, in order to track Twitter-based social relationships and debates. Using a series of hashtags, including #mhealth, #mobilehealth and #healthapps to track ongoing policy-related exchanges, we have begun to identify who is influential in these spaces, what they are talking about and how their input to debate may impact on mobile internet regulation.

This paper will outline that SNA approach and highlight some of the procedural and ethical concerns surrounding big data collection and analysis, which are consistent across contemporary digital humanities research. These concerns include how we can use big data harvesting and analysis tools to align quantitative with qualitative methods, how we can justify our research claims via these tools and how we might better understand and implement these innovative research methods within the academy. In particular the paper will interrogate the methodological suggestion that qualitative methods lead quantitative research, considering instead whether a more rigorous approach is to invert the quantitative/qualitative relationship.

Ingrid Mason and Luc Small delivering the closing address of THATcamp Sydney 2013

#THATcamp Sydney, October 2013 Review

We recently presented some of our social network analysis research of the informal policy actors within the mobile health regulatory space at the THATcamp Sydney unconference. Unfortunately I missed the first day and Fiona could only attend the first session of that day, but we managed to see a full (half) day on the second.

Amongst other great projects I observed, one that certainly stood out for me was the Australian’s Women’s Register. In conjunction with the University of Melbourne, they are doing some outstanding work on collecting and analysing data about Australian women – highly recommend checking this out.

Fiona and I then conducted our session which we took as an opportunity to talk about our work so far and use expertise in the room to interrogate and develop our methodology. It was an amazing experience and you can hear the audio from our talks here.

Some of the points that emerged from the discussion include:

  • Who are the official organisations that are interacting in these conversations?
  • There is existing research to suggest that participation is driving policy
  • Debra Lupton at the University of Sydney to explore data and politics
  • Nick  Thurburger University of Melbourne, experience and developing methodology in converting Excel sheets to data clean http://languages-linguistics.unimelb.edu.au/thieberger/
  • Thresholds of data – what to use, who are they, where are they, rural voices etc – we need to think about our own thresholds which shape the data analysis
  • Demographic profiling in the process – this is critical to understand the ‘why’ of the interactions between the actors
  • Content coding around the data collection, who do we want to hear from?
  • Jake Wallace Charles Stuart university, experience in political party process
  • Policy analysis portal – I am thinking we need to develop a tool similar to this to embed in our site – that is users can bring their data to it and run their own analysis
  • Positive and negative sentiment in tweets – UWS are working in this space
  • Government institutions are legally required to collect social media conversations – interesting!
  • Internal organisational cultural behaviours influencing what is said  and what is not said via freedom of information act
  • If so, could we access Yammer data?
  • Digital engagement as opposed to social media
  • Atlas of living Australia dashboard.ala.org.au - great site to play around with in representing data
  • Internet archive to send or harvest bit.ly links – credibility of user data in government policy
  • Suirveillance in terms of peaks of use, who is using soc med and when
  • Gnip.co twitter api – this is the ‘fat tube’ of Twitter data and Fiona is working on a collaborative approach with UTS
  • Steve Cassidy at Uni of Macquarie – workflow people http://web.science.mq.edu.au/~cassidy/

And if that’s not enough, the wonderful Yvonne Perkins kept a Google doc of the session which can be viewed online.

Great session and i think it is a fantastic primer for our paper which we will present at the aaDH (Australasian Association of the Digital Humanities) conference in 2014 – thanks for the input THATcamp!


Improved Gephi processing through Java RAM allocation – downloadable

Recently, our social network analysis methodology hit a snag as the computer I am using started to crash when attempting to process our larger data sets. The data sets are not extremely large at this stage (approx 8MB Excel sheets with about 80 000 lines of text), but nonetheless too big for my MacBook Pro to handle. Just to remind you, we are using Gephi as our analytics software (open source)

I started looking into virtual servers where Amazon EC2 Virtual Servers are the benchmark in this domain. They seem to be located in Northern America, i.e. San Francisco, and I have been advised the geographical location of Amazon is good when scraping data from technology companies like Twitter and Facebook, who also host their data in a similar geographical area. However, Amazon does appear to be a little too expensive for the research budget – although very tempting to wind some servers up to collect and process our data quickly.

The second option was to lean on the national super computer infrastructure for Australian researchers, NeCTAR. I established two medium virtual servers (2 vCPU, 8GB RAM, 60GB local VM disk), installed a Ubuntu operating system, but had difficulty in talking with the system (happy to take input from anyone here).

Then, we had a meeting with Information and Communication Technology (ICT) people at the University of Sydney who have been very helpful in their approach. We have been liaising with Justin Chang who provided us with an improved version of Gephi that essentially enables us to use more RAM on my local machine to process the data sets. Justin provided me with a disk image that I installed, tested and was able to get moving with the analysis again.

I asked if I could share the Gephi with our readers, to which he agreed – and provided a step by step on how he created an improved RAM allocated version of Gephi:

- Download the ‘Gephi’ .dmg frill from: https://gephi.org/users/download/

- Open the .dmg file

- Copy the Gephi.app file to a folder on your desktop

- Ctrl + Click the Gephi.app file and click Show Package Contents

- Navigate Contents  > Resources > Gephi > etc and open the gephi.conf file in a text editor

- Change the maximum Java RAM allocation:


default_options=”–branding gephi -J-Xms64m -J-Xmx512m -J-Xverify:none -J-Dsun.java2d.noddraw=true -J-Dsun.awt.noerasebackground=true -J-Dnetbeans.indexing.noFileRefresh=true -J-Dplugin.manager.check.interval=EVERY_DAY”


default_options=”–branding gephi -J-Xms1024m -J-Xmx2048m -J-Xverify:none -J-Dsun.java2d.noddraw=true -J-Dsun.awt.noerasebackground=true -J-Dnetbeans.indexing.noFileRefresh=true -J-Dplugin.manager.check.interval=EVERY_DAY”

This enables Gephi to utilise up to 2GB RAM when processing data, you can allocate any amount of RAM here (as long as it is less than your systems RAM resources)

- save the file

- run the application ‘Disc Utility’

- from within Disc Utility click file > new > Disk Image from Folder and select the folder that you created on the desktop and then click Image.

You can download the DMG with the two versions of Gephi (1GB and 2GB).