Digital Sociology at TASA 2015


Found on Tuesday, great presentation by David Mayeda on Indigenous Voices and Transformative Research: “I, Too, Am Auckland” #Itooamauckland (well worth a reprise if you find him during the conference). Overall, the Sociology of Indigenous Issues stream on Tuesday was a serendipitous pearler. #quality

Found on Wednesday (today – still time to be in three places at the same time – oh help me twitter)

In the Social Theory stream (1-3pm) chaired by Craig Browne

Paper 3 Sociology and Digital Methods: Our crisis of analysis by Alphia Possamai-Inesedy & Alan Nixon

In the Migration, Ethnicity and Multiculturalism Stream (also 1-3!) chaired by Christine Halse:

Paper 2: Andrew Bolt as swarm-master: Exploring the logic of building cyber communities of ‘race’ hatred by Mark Bahnisch & Andrew Jakubowicz

And at the same time, 1-3, (!!!!!) there is the digital sociology set in the Cultural sociology stream with back to back awesomeness including moi et al presenting on illicit drugs, social media engagement and the feasibility of using big data analysis to study this.


Keynote Address (9-10am – ouch), ‘Body/Identity/Evidence: Technoscience and the Data Base Society’ Associate Professor Itty Abraham

Youth stream (1-3pm) Digital subjectivities


We started off TASA 2015 with a rousing call to public sociology by Eva Cox during her excellent and provocative keynote. She called for increased political and public engagement by sociologists and a return to the need for a overt engagement with Grand Theory (albeit through an adaptive and mutable approach). What a way to set the tone for the conference.

Happily, the conference program, materials and papers are harnessing digital opportunities, providing us with an online conference program, an app to navigate the content by smartphones and such and QR codes for the tech savvy.  Happy days, finally TASA is mostly paperless and sharable. The hashtag for the conference is #TASA2015 so keep an eye out for nuggets of awesomeness coming out real time there.

I’ve often wondered how the notion of digital sociology engages with Grand Theory and have always enjoyed the poetry of this when someone whips out the theoretical ‘big guns’ in the middle of a discussion of lolcats.  The digital realm has reconfigured and augmented our notions and experiences of trust and exchange.  It has also made mutable and mobile our expressions and verification of identity and reputation and put a new spin on the notion of the stranger or other in the form of a culture of anonymity. Our experiences of intimacy have been made 24/7 through mediated co-presence through forms of phatic communication such as vibrations and pings and extended our emotional vocabulary through emoji and viral memes. We play, we work, we bank, we create and curate, and connect online. For us, this becomes a mishmash of experiences that are embedded in our everyday lives, often as if there was no separation (which there isn’t really).

So with this in mind, I’m excited to see what’s cooking in the sociological cauldron for our imaginings of the digital realm at the conference.  To this end, I’ve nerded out on the conference program and identified the following presentations that speak to this agenda and will no doubt put a new spin and introduce new connections with foundational thinking and theoretical frameworks.  This is how we adapt and make agile sociological thinking in the contemporary context.

There are three sessions that have an overt connection with the digital agenda. On Tuesday, from 3:30 to 5:30pm there will be a Media stream chaired by Ashlin Lee explicitly covering topics related to digital sociology such as:

Paper 1: ‘Liquid love? Social media, sex and the digital transformation of intimacy’ presented by Mitchell Hobbs & Stephen Owen (how could you not rock up to that? – Bit of a Bauman reference there I reckon)

Paper 2: ‘I’ll just text you – Is face to face social contact declining in a mediated world?’  presented by Roger Patulny & Claire Seaman (Bit of a nod to the the old social cohesion and anomie tensions I reckon- thank you Simmel)

Paper 3: Protecting children’s innocence online: competing constructions of childhood in the Australian internet filtering debate presented by Caroline Keen (bit of social surveillance and social control content in that I’d reckon – old school, new topic)

Paper 4 Feminism in the Australian Mediasphere presented by Juliet Watson and Sarah Casey

In simultaneous streams on Tuesday (today) there are also two other talks

In the Ageing Selves – the personal and social stream chaired by Sue Malta and also between 3:30 and 5 there’s also a digisoc paper

Paper 4: ‘Technologies to reduce social isolation and loneliness amongst institutionalized older adults? An action research approach’ by Barbara Barbosa Neves, Ron Baecker, Rebecca Judges & Christian Beermann 

In the cultural sociology stream on “work labour and neoliberalism” chaired by Nick Osbaldiston there’s:

Paper 2: The gendered smart home: outsourcing domestic labour to home automation devices by Yolande Strengers & Larissa Nicholls 

So that’ll do for one arvo I reckon.

On Wednesday we’ve got a thrilling, back-to-back, line up between 1-3pm in the Cultural Sociology Stream specifically covering digital sociology chaired by Brad West:

Paper 1 The selfie and the social transformation of the public-private distinction by Michael Walsh & Stephanie Baker 

Paper 2 Making it ‘Facebook Official’: Reflecting on romantic relationships through sustained Facebook use by Brady Robards & Sian Lincoln 

Paper 3 Informatic Personhood: Defining Everyday Life in the Context of Ubiquitous Data and Interface Technologies  by Ashlin Lee 

Paper 4: Drugs, social media and TrISMA: what can we learn about online drug discussion through big data? Alexia Maddox, Monica Barratt, Matthew Allen & Simon Lenton  (moi et al)

Paper 5: Serious games & GamerGate: The myth of an online egalitarian utopia by Laura McClintock 

So that should be a corker session I reckon.  Will report back on how Grand Theory has threaded through these discussions. Given the line up, it’ll be all substance and no surface.

On thursday (1-3pm) there will be a stream in Sociology of Youth on “Digital Subjectivities” chaired by Steven Threadgold that will also be a substance no surface kind of event.

Paper 1: Laughing through the discomfort: navigating neoliberal feeling rules in a Tumblr attention economy  by Akane Kanai 

Paper 2: After the release: Examining Queer Filmmakers Experiences of Publishing and Sharing YouTube Content in Asia by Benjamin Hanckel 

Paper 3: A political economy of gendered images on neoliberal & algorithmic (social) media by Amy Shields Dobson (love me a bit of algorithm I do)

Paper 4: Morally bad? Rethinking youth and online risk  by Philippa Collin 

I have no doubt that we’ve got more digital awesomeness buried in the conference program, so I’ll add to this list as I find it.  Digital methods, techniques, thinking and concepts are not so visible but may all be there. So stay tuned.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s