2018 DMRC Summer School

Applications are now open for the 2018 DMRC Summer School

5-9 February 2018, Brisbane, Australia | #dmrcss18

Building on the success of the 2017 DMRC Summer School and the 2015 and 2016 CCI Digital Methods Summer Schools, we are looking forward to welcoming another cohort of participants from all over the world to Brisbane next February. This diverse group of PhD students and early career researchers will come together to share their knowledge and to develop new skills and critical methods for studying for our rapidly changing digital media environments and increasingly datafied societies.

2017 DMRC Summer School participants and facilitators

While some popular platforms, like Twitter, have been extensively studied by social science and humanities researchers and offer established methodologies, emerging digital media phenomena are creating new ethical, methodological, and conceptual challenges – from Instagram’s changing API access to the influence of algorithms, the dynamics of cross-platform cultures and private messaging, the black boxing of platform governance, and the growing prevalence of visual media. The summer school will inspire and challenge participants to seek new approaches to sociocultural research, and to engage critically and creatively with the practices, platforms, technologies and economies of digital media communication.


Digital methods workshops

Below are some of the workshops that will be offered by DMRC members and guest facilitators in 2018:

Advanced Social Media Analytics – Axel Bruns (QUT)
Particularly when working with large social media datasets, quantitative and mixed-methods approaches that draw especially on visual representations of ‘big data’ are now an indispensable part of the the analytics process. This data analytics and visualisation workshop focusses on a number of emerging standard tools and methods for large-scale data analytics, using Twitter data to illustrate these approaches. It introduces participants to the open-source Twitter Capture and Analysis Toolkit (TCAT) as a capable and reliable tool for data gathering from the Twitter API, and to the high-end data analytics software Tableau as a powerful means of processing and visualising large datasets. The skills gained in the workshop are also transferrable to working with other large datasets from social media and other sources.

The App Walkthrough – Jean Burgess (QUT)
Software applications (apps) are the site of significant sociocultural and economic transformations across many domains, from health and relationships to entertainment and finance. As relatively closed systems, apps pose methodological challenges for digital media research. In this session, we will discuss a new approach, the walkthrough method, which combines cultural studies and science and technology studies (STS) as a lens for critical app analysis. Participants will learn how to establish an app’s environment of expected use by assessing its vision, operating model, and modes of governance. They will also gain hands-on experience using the walkthrough technique to systematically step through the stages of registration, everyday use, and discontinuation to identify the app’s embedded cultural meanings and implied ideal users.

Instagrammatics and visual social media – Tim Highfield (QUT)
Visual content is a critical component of everyday social media, on platforms explicitly framed around the visual (Instagram, Snapchat), on those offering a mix of text and images in myriad forms (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr), and in apps and profiles where visual presentation and provision of information are important considerations. Making use of shared elements of social media content, such as hashtags, memes, and formal and informal conventions of communication, the methods used in this workshop position visual social media within the wider social media ecosystem. The workshop provides a hands-on means for approaching visual social media, giving participants the opportunity to interrogate what they might do with such data and what visual media and methods might contribute to research. The workshop will also elicit critical considerations around working with visual data, dynamic data, archival questions (and the challenges of collating such an archive in light of Instagram’s Terms of Use), and ethical issues, including privacy.

Encrypt all the things!!! Digital Privacy and Security for Researchers — Brenda Moon (QUT) and Felix Münch (QUT)
The political upheavals of 2016 support Edward Snowden’s warnings of a turn-key surveillance state. As the aftermath of the military coup in Turkey shows, academics can be amongst the first targets of autocratic governments. Even in supposedly stable democracies, the passing of surveillance laws and indcrease in hacking attacks threatens the security of data and communication. In addition, researchers mostly do not enjoy the protection of information provided to lawyers, medical doctors, and clergy. Recognising these increasing risks, researchers need to become more aware of digital methods to protect their research and sources. In this hands-on workshop, we address threats a researcher should protect against, explain basics of computer security, the encryption of data and communication, and provide recommendations for existing tools.

Multiplatform Issue Mapping and the platform-specificity of controversies – Ariadna Matamoros Fernandez (QUT)
This workshop introduces issue mapping as an advanced method to account for the cultural dynamics of digital media within and across platforms. The first part of this session will contextualize issue mapping within the field of Internet studies and illustrate how the method can be applied to social media analysis. The second part of the session will focus on Facebook as an object of research. We will use the Netvizz tool (Rieder, 2013) to gather data and explore different analytical possibilities (for example, Like networks, Facebook search results, the examination of Facebook reactions over time and the possibility to extract stickers, emoji and other visual materials from comments). The workshop will demonstrate how the use of digital tools in combination with network and qualitative analyses can help illuminate the platform-specificity of social media controversies both from the perspective of users’ practices and of the platforms’ mediation of them. Overall, we will discuss the importance of treating platforms as active actors in the shaping of controversies rather than as transparent sources of behavioural data on social issues.

Researching digital personal assistants and AI in the home – Melissa Gregg, Intel Corporation
As more devices are added to the domestic environment, the always watching, always listening capabilities of integrated software and hardware solutions resonate with existing critical issues surrounding the home (e.g. privacy, gender and labour) but demand new methods from researchers. Today, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google Home all extend the history of delegation and logistical operations in the home, even while this space remains our most intimate environment. This workshop will share two methodological approaches to study these trends: a historical framing for today’s experiences of household engineering, and an overview of the gender and cultural studies methods that are critically informing Melissa’s work as research lead for Intel’s Smart Home Group. Participants will act on this knowledge by working together to propose research projects focused on smart home / assistance technologies. The workshop will conclude with a discussion of the appropriate methods and approaches for industry-engaged research in this space.

Towards Feminist Digital Media Research Methods — Alison Harvey (University of Leicester) and Bridget Conor (Kings College London)
Digital and data-driven research methods in media and communication have reignited old debates about positionality and positivism as well as objectivity, subjectivity, and situated reflexivity. In this workshop, we will discuss these questions in light of participants’ research projects and interests, and explore the relationship between big and small data, ethical obligations and an ethics of care, and the politics of (in)visibility in contemporary digital media research. Through this conversation we aim to illuminate existing best practices in our collective work and to collaboratively develop recommendations for more ethical, caring, and critical ways of engaging in digital media research.

Information Visualisation for Text-based Social Data  – Dan Angus (University of Queensland)
Visualisations are helping reveal previously hidden patterns and trends in social datasets; the availability of powerful software packages which can produce easily customized visualisations has helped proliferate their use across the social sciences. Visualisations are being used to help analyse and communicate findings of thematic change and prominence in various social forums and platforms, to analyse news discourse at national scale, and to visualise single conversations to discover patterns of conceptual exchange between interlocutors. While there is much to be gained from the continued development and use of social science visualisation, there is also room for caution, to ensure that visualisations meet the expectations of researchers and their audience and that best practice is followed in their design and application. The workshop is intended to provide a forum for the discussion of current and emerging visualisation methods, practice and theory specifically in the analysis of textual social data. Examples and training in the use of software for creating such visualisations will be offered in this workshop. Participants will be encouraged to bring their own data, but datasets will also be provided for worked examples.

Other activities

In addition to the week-long program of hands-on digital methods workshops, participants will be able to get feedback and mentoring on their own projects, to work on new collaborations, and to engage with industry, government and community stakeholders.

As the program and schedule develop, updates will be provided both on this page and via email to accepted participants. You might also want to follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates.


The 2018 DMRC Summer School will be held in Brisbane, Australia, at Queensland University of Technology’s Creative Industries Precinct, part of the Kelvin Grove campus. The Creative Industries Precinct is a comfortable walk from the city centre.

Brisbane is the state capital of Queensland, on the Pacific coast of Australia. Queensland is home to the world-famous Great Barrier Reef, the beaches of the Sunshine and Gold Coasts either side of Brisbane, and the rainforests and coastal adventures of far-north Queensland. February is summer in Australia, and if you’re based the northern hemisphere, we strongly recommend you shake off winter by coming to visit us for the summer school and staying to experience all the region has to offer.

Fees and accommodation

The fee for the week-long program is $750 (Australian dollars). The fee covers daytime catering and social events.

All participants will be responsible for arranging and paying for their own travel and accommodation, as well as for arranging visas if required.  There is a range of affordable accommodation options, both on and close to the Kelvin Grove campus, which is a short drive or comfortable walk from the city centre. Specific information on accommodation options will be provided to successful applicants later in the process.

How to apply

Applications are now open to currently enrolled PhD candidates and recent PhD graduates (no more than 3 years out from PhD). To apply, simply complete the Google form by 30 September 2017. If you are unable to access the Google form, please contact us at dmrc@qut.edu.au and we will help you to provide the information in a different way.

Key dates

  • Applications open: 22 August 2017
  • Applications close: 30 September 2017
  • Applicants notified: 6 October 2017
  • Registration and payments due: 31 November
  • Summer School: 5-9 February 2018


Please contact us at dmrc@qut.edu.au if you have any questions about the Summer School.