Digital Society Network Annual Lecture:
Doing digital media research over time and across platforms: Lessons from studies of YouTube, Twitter and games culture
Professor Jean Burgess, Director of the Digital Media Research Centre (DMRC) at Queensland University of Technology, Australia
Thursday 29 September 2016
4.30pm – 5.45pm
Venue: Lecture Theatre 2, The Diamond (see map)
Contemporary digital media and communication scholars use methods that both critically interrogate the digital media technologies or platforms that mediate cultural participation and public communication and are grounded in the digital traces that such activities leave behind. Because of this dual focus on sociotechnical critique and digital methods, the sociocultural aspects and technologies of both media and methods have significantly and productively transformed each other. But there remain significant challenges, not least among which are the difficulties of studying public communication and cultural participation across platforms and the challenges of engaging with the ways that ephemeral and proprietary digital media platforms change over time. In this talk, Professor Jean Burgess discusses these challenges and illustrates them through three recent and ongoing projects.
First, Jean provides a narrative of YouTube's transformation from relatively underdetermined video-sharing service to major, multilevel media platform. In doing so, she reflects on her early empirical study of YouTube's most popular videos and the impossibility of repeating it now. Second, Jean outlines the ‘platform biography’ approach (jointly developed with Nancy Baym) as a way to study platforms as they change over time. In this case Jean tells the story of Twitter’s oldest key features: the @reply, the #hashtag, and the Retweet, showing how they act as mediators between multiple media ideologies, individual human desires, and business logics, as they co-evolve throughout the history of the platform. Third, Jean draws on a recent case study of the controversy around an episode of Law and Order: SVU around violence in videogame culture to demonstrate the necessity and challenges of tracking public controversies across digital media platforms, especially in the context of 'born digital' controversies bound up with the cultural politics of the internet itself.
Her research focuses on the uses, cultures and politics of social and mobile media platforms, as well as new digital methods for studying them. Her co-authored and edited books include YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture (Polity Press, 2009), Studying Mobile Media: Cultural Technologies, Mobile Communication, and the iPhone (Routledge, 2012), A Companion to New Media Dynamics (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), and Twitter and Society (Peter Lang, 2014). Over the past decade she has worked with a government, industry and community-based organisations to address the practical challenges and opportunities posed by digital and social media.
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