My current research projects (June 2016)

I am working on a number of different projects at the moment. Here’s a list.

Digitised Pregnancy and Parenting This project involves several different elements, including a survey completed by 410 women around Australia and focus groups with women in Sydney who at the time of the survey/focus groups were either pregnant or had given birth in the past three years. It also involves a critical analysis of pregnancy and reproduction apps and other digital devices for monitoring menstruation, fertility and pregnancy. Collaborators: Sarah Pedersen, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, and Gareth Thomas, Cardiff University. Articles published so far from this project can be found herehere, here (OA), here, here, here (OA) and here (OA). Blog posts about it are here and here.

Public Understandings of Big Data A study using cultural probes in focus groups held in Sydney to explore what people understand about how their personal data are collected and used. Collaborator: Mike Michael, University of Sydney. Articles published so far from this project can be found here (OA) and here and a blog post here.

Small Technology, Big Data and the Business of Young People’s Health This is an Australian Research Council Discovery Project involving interviews with and observations of teachers in Australian schools about how they use digital technologies in school health and physical education as well as a critical analysis of these technologies. Collaborators: Michael Gard, University of Queensland, Deana Leahy, Monash University, Melbourne and Carolyn Pluim, Northern Illinois University, USA. I have published an article and blog post related to this project.

Fabricated Food: Consumer Responses to 3D Printed Food This study used an online focus group discussion format to invite Australians to tell use what they thought about food fabricated from 3D printing technologies. Collaborator: Bethaney Turner, University of Canberra. A chapter from this project can be found here (OA).

Fitness Activity Analytics This project involves interviews with people in Canberra who are self-tracking their fitness activities. Collaborator: Glen Fuller, University of Canberra.

Cycling Commuting Self-Tracking Another project on self-tracking, this time involving people in Canberra and Melbourne who monitor their cycling commutes. This project used digital ethnography methods. The participants were interviewed about their practices and we also videoed them show us how they prepared for a ride and completed a ride. The participants used a Go Pro mini camera mounted on their helmets to video one of their cycling commutes as well. Collaborators: Sarah Pink and Shanti Sumartojo, RMIT University, Melbourne and Christine Heyes Labond, University of Canberra.

Why Do People Self-Track? A third study on self-tracking practices. This one takes a broader view, using the method of semi-structured telephone interviews to talk to Australians who self-track about why and how they do so. Collaborator: Gavin Smith, Australian National University.

Self-Tracking and Automatised Bodies Again focusing on self-tracking, this project involves the formation of an international research network, involving regular workshops and developing collaborative research. It is funded by the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences. Collaborators: Martin Berg, Professor Vaike Fors and Christopher Martin, Halmstead University, Sweden, Tom O’Dell, Lund University, Sweden, Sarah Pink, RMIT University and Minna Ruckenstein and Mika Pantzar, University of Helsinki, Finland.

Australians’ Use of Apps A survey of how Australians use apps: what types of apps they use, what devices they upload them to and how they use the apps. Collaborators: Scott Rickard and Sam Hinton, University of Canberra.

Digital Media, Food and Body Weight I am editing a special issue on digital media and body weight for the Fat Studies journal and working on a chapter about datafied bodies, food and digital technologies for a handbook on food and popular culture.

Digital Health: Critical Perspectives A sole-authored monograph to be published by Routledge, using sociocultural theory to cast a critical eye on a range of contemporary digital health technologies. Due for publication in 2017.

The Digital Academic An edited book, also for Routledge, bringing together contributors examining the implications of digital technologies for academic work and identities. Due for publication in 2017. Other editors: Inger Mewburn, Australian National University and Pat Thomson, Nottingham University, UK.





Digital risk society

An excerpt from a chapter I wrote for The Routledge Handbook of Risk Studies (2016). This is the introduction to the chapter. The pre-print of the full chapter is available open access here.

As social life and social institutions have become experienced and managed via novel forms of digital technologies, and as both public and personal spaces as well as human bodies have become increasingly monitored by digital surveillance devices and sensors, a new field of risk inquiry has opened up in response to what might be termed ‘digital risk society’.  The intersections between risk and digital technologies operate in several ways. First, the phenomena and individuals that are identified as ‘risks’ or ‘risky’ are increasingly configured and reproduced via digital media, devices and software. These technologies act not only as mediators of risk but frequently are new sources of risk themselves. Second, various uses of digital technologies are often presented as posing risks to users. In a third major dimension, members of some social groups are positioned in the literature on the ‘digital divide’ as at particular risk of disadvantage in relation to communication, education, information or better employment opportunities because they lack access to or interest or skills in using online technologies.

These three dimensions of digital risk society require new sources of theorising risk that are able to understand and elucidate the ways in which digitisation and risk intersect to create risk representations, mentalities and practices. This chapter addresses each one of these major dimensions in turn. Before doing so, however, it is important to introduce some of the perspectives that may be productively employed to theorise digital risk society. This involves moving away from approaches that traditionally have dominated risk sociology and embracing the ideas of writers in such fields as digital sociology, internet studies, new media and communication and surveillance studies.