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ACAT Seminar Series

Seminar 13

The cultural turn of internet media companies and its precarity: The case of Tencent by Henry Li

Despite their huge success, internet media companies remain vulnerable in the capricious and murky regulatory environment in China and have carefully treaded the line of political soundness. Tencent, as the world’s largest game company and owner of China most popular social media platforms (WeChat and QQ), has been dogged by the stigma of catering to the vulgar and popular, thus keen to gain cultural and political legitimacy with the state. Its latest move towards this direction is to rebrand its successful “Pan Entertainment” strategy as one of “New Culture and Creativity” against the setting of China’s bid to develop a dynamic creative economy and move up to be a global cultural power. However, the precarity remains: what cultures Tencent need to represent to be both financial viable and politically correct?  In this talk I use Tencent as a case to analyse the complicated relationship between capital and the state in China’s context and its implications for creative economy there.

Associate Professor Henry Li is Dean of International for China at Curtin University. His research focuses on self-representation and user-productivity among young people in Chinese social media networks.

Henry ACAT

Seminar 12

Digital Intimate Publics and Social Media: public lives on private platforms by Amy Dobson

Public debate about social media frequently air concerns about ‘over-sharing’ — that is sharing about aspects of everyday life deemed excessively intimate, pedestrian, mundane, or crass. The theoretical frame of ‘intimate publics’ (Berlant, 2008) helps us think about how contestations over power play out in the generative, liminal space where the public and private intermingle. Berlant and Warner (1998) advocate for a publicisation of the intimate that speaks against privatisation, in the sense of both space and property, with an understanding of the intimate connection between the prioritisation of private property rights and ‘private’ (heteronormative) spaces and relations. More public, mobile, and unpredictable forms of attachment can and do form on social media platforms. But crucially, we must hold on to the double sense of ‘public’ as referring to both space and property ownership. In this paper I outline conceptualisations of digital intimacy as social capital and digital intimacy as labour, and highlight the need to hold these together in analyses of digital culture. I suggest that noticing forms of connection and attachment that ‘don’t fit’, and shifts in the ‘regime of attention’ (Hjorth & Lasen, 2017) on social media has become extra-significant to aesthetic and political processes because of the importance of human attention to algorithmic machine-learning.

Dr Amy Dobson is a Lecturer in Internet Studies at Curtin University. Her work focuses on youth, gender politics, social media, and feminine subjectivities.  She is the author of Postfeminist Digital Cultures (2015), published by Palgrave.  Her recent projects include research into cyber-safety and sexting education, female genital cosmetic surgery, and girls’ and young women’s social media cultures.



Seminar 11

Bates in the 21st century by Nick Thieberger

The Daisy Bates papers are a rich source of information about many different Aboriginal people and languages from the early 1900s. Bates was a controversial figure whose legacy is difficult to navigate, taking up 10.47 metres (55 boxes) in the National Library.

In 1904, Bates prepared a questionnaire with around 2,000 prompt words and sentences to be filled in with local Aboriginal people in their language. The present ‘Daisy Bates Online’ project has digitised, typed and put this material online. Representing 21,000 pages, this process has finally made it possible to search the collection and to present the text and images of the typescript and handwritten questionnaires together online. Each of the 150 typescripts has been geocoded so prompt words can be presented on a map.

The technologies used in preparing this data are the Text Encoding Initiative’s (TEI) XML schema, RDF, SPARQL, XSLT, Xproc, with json and javascript for presentation.

In this talk I suggest that this is a model that can be extended to a larger set of primary manuscript records of Australian languages. The work provides primary sources together with an annotation, allowing users to judge for themselves how accurate the transcription is. At a time when increasing numbers of languages are being relearned from early sources it is important to prepare those sources for access and use.

Nick Thieberger is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow at the University of Melbourne, Australia.

Seminar 10

Metadata’s Adventures in Culture and Technology: The work of cultural modelling and its effects on reuses of audiovisual heritage by Indrek Ibrus and Maarja Ojamaa

The focus of our presentation is metadata. More specifically, we will concentrate on metadata’s modelling influence on the content of digital cultural archives and on the cultural realities that the content mediates. Proceeding from a general overview of the nature, kinds and functions of metadata, the presentation will tackle the phenomenon from different theoretical perspectives, some of which have rarely been seen in dialogue before. These include Foucault’s groundbreaking revelations on the discursivity of the archive, Derrida’s psychoanalytic take, the media archaeological propositions of Wolfgang Ernst, and the cultural semiotic perspective of metadata as metalanguage. In addition to the theoretical part, we present some empirical findings from two Estonian digital databases, where  different approaches to metadata have concurrently led to significant differences between the verbal past and the audiovisual past. In conclusion, we seek to explicate the implications of our interdisciplinary approach for understanding the relationship between digital networked archives and broader heritage-based innovation in culture.

Indrek Ibrus is a professor of media innovation at the Baltic Film, Media, Arts, and Communication School (BFM) at Tallinn University. He is also the head of Tallinn University Centre of Excellence in Media Innovation and Digital Culture. He has authored several publications on media innovation and evolution, media standardisation, mobile media, cross- and transmedia and data management. He advises on a regular basis the Estonian government, EU Commission and the Council of Europe on media and cultural policymaking. He holds a PhD from London School of Economics and a MPhil from the University of Oslo.

Maarja Ojamaa is a researcher at the Baltic Film, Media, Arts, and Communication School (BFM) at Tallinn University. She is also affiliated with the Department of Semiotics at the University of Tartu, where she defended her PhD thesis on the transmedial aspect of cultural autocommunication. Maarja’s primary research interests lie in the transmedial mechanisms of cultural memory and in ways of diversifying the reusage of cultural heritage. In addition to her research work, she has been teaching semiotics-related courses at all stages of the Estonian higher education system as well as in high schools.