The nation's top digital media experts have launched a new research centre to help Australians understand how digital technologies are affecting our democracy, our everyday lives and our local creative industries.
QUT's Digital Media Research Centre (DMRC) is the first in the world to focus specifically on the societal challenges of digital media from a multi-disciplinary perspective that includes journalism, media and communication, law, business and education researchers.
"Smartphones, social media, streaming content - digital media is changing not just the way we consume information and entertainment, but also how we connect with people across our society, from politicians and celebrities to potential life partners," said DMRC Director Associate Professor Jean Burgess, from QUT's Creative Industries Faculty.
"The centre is focusing in part on finding creative ways to address the social anxieties connected to our rapidly-changing digital media environment - for example, how should social media platforms, governments and users themselves be dealing with harassment and bullying?"
"We're already documenting some interesting trends in self-regulating behaviours among online social media communities - like people working together to actively quash rumours and incorrect information circulating during natural disasters, and users of mobile dating apps 'calling out' bad online behaviour, often in quite humorous and creative ways."
The centre's research programs fall under four themes, each addressing a major area of our society, culture and economy:
•Journalism, public communication and democracy
•Economies, policies and regulation
•Technologies and practices in everyday life
Professor Burgess said the DMRC builds on the research achievements and innovative methodologies of QUT's ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI) and Social Media Research Group (SMRG).
The CCI was instrumental in adapting Creative Commons for Australia's legal framework, and in documenting the value of workers and innovation in Australia's creative economy.
The SMRG developed sophisticated new methods of 'big data' social media analysis and was the first to map the Australian Twittersphere.
"QUT is a world leader not only in researching how digital media platforms are used in everyday life, but also in using the 'big social data' they produce to better understand patterns of change in our culture and society," said Professor Burgess.
"The DMRC's social media team, led by ARC Future Fellow Professor Axel Bruns, is leading the development of TrISMA, a national-scale infrastructure project to track public social media activities across Australia - a world first.
"It's now developing the first 'firehose' for social media data collection across Australia, a system that will provide real-time feeds of social media conversations happening on major platforms - including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook - around the country and on any topic."
Professor Bruns said such large-scale social media analytics would be able to document the role that social media now play in the national public debate.
"We already know that Australians are very active social media users - but what are the themes and topics that drive them, and to what extent can social media set the public agenda?," he said.
"Our work is able to show how information travels between social and mainstream media, and how interest publics gather and act."
Distinguished Professor Stuart Cunningham leads a DMRC team investigating innovations in the digital creative economy, and its regulatory, educational and policy environments.
The Fulbright Senior Scholar is currently in the US, mapping the scale of the challenges facing long-established studios, broadcasters and power structures in the US entertainment industry in this age of internet television where some convergence and amateur YouTube content creators have already amassed far bigger audiences than many professional filmmakers or broadcasters have.
"While trailing the explosion of online video in the US, the Australian online production scene is just beginning to make enough of a splash - and money - to attract the attention of policy makers and agencies," said Professor Cunningham.
"Meanwhile, local custodians of the established industry are looking to draw a line in the sand about downloading infringements just when streaming services such as Netflix, Stan and Presto are expanding into Australia. Watch this space indeed."
The DMRC is also collaborating with researchers from world-leading organisations such as Microsoft Research Social Media Collective, University of Oxford, University of Amsterdam and University of California Santa Barbara.
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Kate Haggman, QUT Media, 07 3138 0358, email@example.com
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Professor Jean Burgess leads QUT's Digital Media Research Centre.
Creative Industries Faculty
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