Growing Up Online:

Digital social media like Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr are not only sites of interaction and identity-work, but they also come to serve as archives of ‘growing up’ experiences for young people. After a decade of Facebook, as social media moves from being ‘new media’ into everyday practice, this project seeks to account for how longitudinal life traces mediated online are re-visited (or not) by young users. More broadly, we seek to explore the role of digital social media in the lives of young people in Australia.

Investigator: Dr Brady Robards (University of Tasmania) with Dr Sian Lincoln (Liverpool John Moores University)

Hipsters and Bogans: Youth, Class and Culture: 

Using ‘figurative methods’ and interviews, this project looks at terms like ‘hipster’ and ‘bogan’ analysing the ways these terms are operationalised towards young people in media and popular culture. These figuress enable distinction to be performed while eschewing the very notion of class. Both terms are mostly used as a pejorative towards various youth taste cultures. The hipster is a global figure used in many English speaking countries. It tends to equate with middle class endeavours and is at least allowed a reflexive irony that sees the term used in a quite playful way. On the other hand, the bogan is a specifically Australian term but has relations in other countries that denote a similar class position such as ‘chav’, ‘white trash’, ‘red neck’ etc. Through processes of symbolic violence, the ‘bogan’ has rapidly become a prominent cultural folk devil in Australia. For Skeggs, ‘Some people can use the classifications and characteristics of race, class or femininity as a resource [hipsters] whilst others cannot because they are positioned as them [bogans]’ (my additions). These figures are indicative of the ways class is made and of the ways the boundaries between them, both local and global, are fuzzy sites of cultural conflict. As precariousness becomes normalised for even the well-educated middle classes, these figures also serve to highlight processes of global social change as they illustrate new forms of class based anxieties. The ‘bogan’ and terms like it tap into middle class insecurities producing forms of ‘downward envy’ (Everingham) and ‘disgusted subject’ (Lawler). The ‘hipster’ plays a dual role: it represents a kind of clown that allows the middle class to both ‘reflexively’ laugh at itself alongside an ‘ambivalent’ and somewhat sheepish recognition of the ‘cruel optimism’ (Berlant) of consumer culture. analysing the ways these terms are operationalised towards young people in media and popular culture can enliven global comparative youth sociology.

Investigator: Dr Steven Threadgold (University of Newcastle)

Sexting, gender, and youth in Australia: understanding youth digital sexual cultures and responses to them: 

Young people increasingly use sexually explicit content in their online and mobile interactions (sexting). This project aims to better understand the gendered and sexual dimensions of digital youth cultures, and how youth sexting incidents are handled in Australian communities. The project will use digital ethnography in two school communities. It will also gather the accounts of school staff, youth, and families directly involved in sexting incidents involving legal minors in order to provide nuanced perspectives on the impacts and effectiveness of current community responses. The research will provide recommendations on how harm can be reduced for Australian youth interacting with mobile and social media.

Investigator: Dr Amy Dobson (University of Queensland)

Youth, mobile technologies and gender politics: young people’s beliefs about gender and ethical use of communication technologies: 

This project examined young people’s framing of gender roles in relation to cybersafety education films. The project analyses the nature of sexual politics in high school communities in relation to young people’s engagement with social network sites and mobile communication devices, in the social context of an alleged broad ‘sexualisation of culture’.

Investigators: Dr Amy Dobson; Assoc Prof Mary Lou Rasmussen, Dr Danielle Tyson

Dank Distinction and Homologies of Snark

This project investigates aspects of young people’s digital practices, spaces and cultures and new terrains of sociality by analysing examples of online taste communities. Since the lines between so-called high and popular culture have blurred, and much social interaction is online and ironic, this project develops the concept of ‘distinction’ by incorporating aspects of affect, irony and new theories about social media and ecologies of attention. What do individuals get out of participation in collective online expressions of taste, especially when they are based upon an imaginary other? The spaces analysed here have formed around humorous forms of denigration. Satirical fictional characters, memes and polemics create taste hierarchies. These blogs and posts are then shared and commented upon, where dispositions and the temporality of being ‘in on the joke’ delineates an array of reactions from laughter, snark, disgust, indifference to offence. Class aspects are often blurred and complex, that is, it is more than straightforward downward symbolic violence, but they usually work to reinscribe normative middle-class tastes, morals and values. These taste communities work as affective economies, where taste homologies and forms of immaterial labour help formulate value extraction for platform capitalism.

Investigator: Dr Steven Threadgold (University of Newcastle)