This program of research is concerned with shifting ideas about public and private spheres, and “intimate publics” in the digital era. As social media increasingly open up intimate lives and everyday social and identity-making practices to public and semi-public gazes, we are in the midst of important cultural contestations over the meaning of intimacy in the digital age, as well as the relationship between intimacies and politics. How intimacy plays out in, and in relation to, the digital has become a prominent concern in scholarship of digital cultures, as well as in broader public debate. Intimacy is generally understood as to do with the ‘personal’ and with ‘closeness’. However, intimacy is also socially and culturally constructed and sanctioned, defined by institutions, laws, and social and cultural norms and practices. This now happens centrally through digital media platforms. Practices of intimacy and sociality via the digital are increasingly seen as vital to economically productive use of social media, especially for cultural intermediaries, influencers, and other internet celebrities. Simultaneously, many forms of intimacy and communication are being encoded, aggregated, analyzed and commercialized, provoking unsettling questions about new forms of surveillance, influence, and control, as well as distinct lack of transparency around new avenues of data collection tracking practices, and forms of governance. This program of research explores a range of digital cultural practices to do with digital intimacies and their contestation, including on topics such intimate and sexual digital media and communication, online harassment and abuse, identity politics, digital communities of care, mental health and wellbeing, digital activism and resistance, digital feminisms, self-presentation and subjectification processes, and related tensions around publicity and privacy, authenticity and commerce, that arise in digital cultures. This program of research is grounded in theories of publics and counter-publics, centrally including the work of Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner. This theory has helped clarify that political resistance and socially transformative practices happen not only in the “public sphere” and in practices explicitly labelled “political”. Rather, local networks, intimate communications and communities, fandom spaces, creative spaces, and other spaces of connection, support, resistance, and politics arise outside of the traditional “public” political sphere. This program of research is interested in tracking such in relation to digital cultures and platforms.
Prof. Katie Ellis, Senior Research Fellow and Director of the Centre for Culture and Technology (CCAT)
A/Prof. Crystal Abidin, Senior Research Fellow, Internet Studies, MCASI
Dr. Sky Croeser, Internet Studies, MCASI
Dr. Eleanor Sandry, Internet Studies, MCASI
Prof. Tama Leaver, Discipline Lead, Internet Studies, MCASI
Dr. Francis Russell, Coordinator, BA Honours Program
Dr. Madison Magladry, Adjunct Postdoctoral Fellow and Sessional Academic