Participation in the broadband society:
emerging modes of digital storytelling, interactivity and being online

Cultural Technologies Node

Co-ordinator: Larissa Hjorth

RMIT University, Melbourne (Australia)
11th December 2008

What does it mean to speak of ‘participation in the broadband society’? What parallels and divergences can be drawn between broadband issues in Australia and those of the Asia-Pacific and Europe? How can Australian researchers learn from the European models? In turn, how do the unique challenges faced by Australia’s participation in the broadband society – within the context of the Asia-Pacific region – provide insight for European researchers?

Web 2.0 – and its attendant dispersed forms of digital storytelling, user created content and social practices – has heralded development of divergent models for participation, democracy and agency. These particular forms of empowerment and exploitation are informed by both the local and regional, and much can be learnt from comparisons between regional and global trends. For example, how are forms of social, creative and affective labour involving Web 2.0 and Social Networking Systems (SNS) demonstrating emerging forms of intimacy, co-presence and what it means to be online? What theoretical and conceptual frameworks aid understanding of these practices? What methodologies are appropriate for researching them?

This one-day workshop will address theories and methodologies for conceptualising ‘participation’ in the far-from-even global phenomenon of the broadband society, as well as fostering international relationships and synergies between the Australian research community and the EU-sponsored COST 298. COST 298 brings together Europe’s leading ICT and Internet experts to explore the challenges and possibilities of ‘participation in the broadband society’. In particular, this workshop provides an international platform for Australia’s significant cohort of new media and cultural studies experts to create and develop international collaborations around the notion of engaging in the broadband society.

This workshop is organised by Bartolomeo Sapio (COST 298) and Larissa Hjorth (RMIT University) and is part of the ARC Cultural Research Network (CRN) Cultural Technologies Node. For further details, please email Larissa Hjorth.

Report

These two one-day workshops aimed to stimulate discussion, debate and research into the burgeoning area of online communities and new forms of digital storytelling in an age of Web 2.0 technocultures. The first workshop focused upon Australia as part of the Asia-Pacific region. The second day reframed Australia and the region in the context of international concerns as outlined by the EU funded organisation, COST 298. Various outcomes were reached including a document for COST 298 members (to be disseminated at the annual COST 298 conference in May), a special issue of Communication, Politics & Culture (formerly Southern Review), a CRN panel for Inter-Asian Cultural Typhoon conference (organised by Melissa Gregg) and a CRN lobby letter about the state of broadband in Australia (drafted by Stephanie Donald).

The workshops provided a space for experts from a variety of related areas — media, new media, communication and Internet studies along with specialists in the region (Australian and the Asia-Pacific) — to discuss issues pertaining to conceptualising the “online” (communities & networks) in the region and internationally. These workshops aimed to provide a space for Australian (and, on the second day, international) researchers — both established and emerging, CRN and non — to connect and debate matters around burgeoning technocultures, media literacy, new forms of expression and community in an informal environment. It was a wonderful opportunity to bring together such a great group of diverse experts to talk about this phenomenon.