Platform Media: Algorithms, Accountability and Media Design

About the Initiative

Platform Media (such as Facebook, Instagram, Google, Netflix, Amazon, Baidu, and WeChat) are rapidly transforming traditional media, reframing interpersonal mediated communication, and changing the rules of the game for everything from retail to politics, religion to regulation, evaluation to advertising. The aim of this project is to provide joined up research interrogating the urgent social, political and economic issues raised by platform media. These issues have been identified as:

  • the centrality of algorithms and machine learning processes to these platform media;

  • the accountability and regulatory issues platform media give rise to;

  • the infrastructures supporting platform media;

  • and the re-imagining of media and audience-users as platform media change the basis for media industries.

This research initiative aims to meet these challenges by: developing innovative research methods and tools for the critical examination and assessment of algorithms; exploring the accountability of media platforms in a partnership between researchers from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and the TC Beirne School of Law; systematically comparing the ways infrastructures supporting platform media are developing in each of Australia, China and India; and re-imagining media and their audience-users in circumstances where platform media are becoming the dominant media.

Prof Tom O’Regan

Lead Chief Investigator, School of Communication and Arts

Tom O'Regan took up the position of Professor of Media and Cultural Studies in 2004. He has been a key figure in the development of cultural and media studies in Australia and has an international reputation for his screen policy studies related work. In 2002 Tom was elected a Fellow of Australian Academy of the Humanities. He was Associate Dean Research, Faculty of Arts (2010-2011); Head of the School of English, Media Studies and Art History (2005-2008), Director of the Australian Key Centre for Cultural and Media Policy (1999-2002, Griffith University) and the Centre for Research in Culture and Communication (1996-1998, Murdoch University). Tom co-founded the media and cultural studies journal Continuum (1987-1995) and was Australia's UNESCO Professor of Communication from 2001-2003.

 

A/Prof Adrian Mabbott Athique

Lead Chief Investigator, Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities & School of Communication and Arts

Over the past twenty years, A/Prof Adrian Mabbott Athique has been involved in large scale digitisation projects (for the British Standards Institution), User and Usability studies (at the Institute of Educational Technology, Open University) and has taught digital sociology and digital media production throughout his academic career in Australia, UK and New Zealand. Adrian is also an authority on Asian media and has worked extensively on the media in India and Southeast Asia. Since 2013, he has been leading a large international team of 24 researchers on an extensive survey of the Indian Media Industries (funded by the government of New Zealand and the University Grants Commission of India). He is also playing a leading role in the establishment of the Southeast Asian Internet Research Network (since 2015). A/Prof Athique is currently undertaking a study of the Digital India programme, working with colleagues in IIT Bombay, Centre for Internet and Society and the University of Queensland. Since 2010, Adrian has published four monographs, seven book chapters and six journal articles.

 

Dr Dan Angus

Chief Investigator, School of Communication and Arts

Dr Dan Angus is a senior lecturer in computational social science, journalism program coordinator, and leader of the Communication Analytics Lab in the School of Communication and Arts. His research focuses on the development of visualization and analysis methods for communication data, with a specific focus on conversation data. His computational methods have improved our understanding of the nature of communication in medical consultations, conversations in aged care settings, television broadcast, social media, and newspaper reporting. Dr Angus has been involved in computer science research for 15 years and contributes regularly to media and industry on the impact of technology on society. In his role as part of the Platform Media Research Initiative, Dr Angus co-leads the Visual Social Media Project Stream (with Dr Nic Carah), further developing the use of new methods and conceptualizations of visual social media

 

Dr Nic Carah

Chief Investigator, School of Communication and Arts

Dr Nic Carah is a senior lecturer in the School of Communication and Arts. His current research examines the intersection between popular culture, social media and branding. Nic is the author of Pop Brands: Branding Popular Music and Young People (2010), and co-author of Media and Society: Production, Content, and Participation (2015, with Eric Louw), and Brand Machines, Sensory Media and Calculative Culture (2016, with Sven Brodmerkel). As part of the Platform Media Research Initiative, Dr Carah co-leads the Visual Social Media Project Stream (with Dr Dan Angus).

 

A/Prof Pradip Thomas

Chief Investigator, School of Communication and Arts

A/Prof Pradip Thomas is an Associate Professor of Communication, Media, and Cultural Studies. He has published extensively on communication and culture in India, including five single-authored monographs, numerous book chapters and journal articles. His most recent book is Interrogating the theory and practice of communication for social change: The basis for renewal (2015, with Elske van de Fliert). Alongside A/Prof Adrian Athique and international collaborators Prof Vibodh Parthasarathi and Sunil Abraham, A/Prof Thomas is organising a program of research in India on Indian media, online media and its infrastructures as part of the Platform Media Research initiative.

 

Dr Alex Bevan

Chief Investigator, School of Communication and Arts

Dr Alex Bevan is a lecturer in the School of Communication and Arts, teaching in digital and multimedia courses that work to emphasize the creative and collaborative process as an avenue to enact social change. Her first book, The Aesthetics of TV Nostalgia (Bloomsbury, 2019) is an industry ethnography of the people working in the art departments of nostalgic US television programs. From her current research below the line labour in creative industries, Alex is developing a focus on coding and its production cultures. As part of the Platform Media Research Initiative, Alex is involved with the Visual Social Media Project, Re-Imagining Media, and Platform Media and its Infrastructures.

 

Dr Nina Li

Chief Investigator, Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities & School of Communication and Arts

Dr Nina Li is a Lecturer in Cultural Studies, researching in Critical and Cultural Studies with the IASH. Her research interests include digital culture, global media and cultural industries, media history and political economy, television studies, and gender and popular media. Currently, she is working on a book manuscript which examines online video as an emerging cultural institution in China and its consequences for cultural politics and global communication. Dr Li is taking a leading role with the China-Australia collaborations being undertaken as part of the Platform Media Research Initiative.

 

Dr Caroline Wilson-Barnao

School of Communication and Arts

Dr Caroline Wilson-Barnao is a public relations lecturer in the School of Communication and Arts. She has many years’ experience in PR and marketing, especially in the cultural and for non-profit sector. Her research explores the effects of media technologies, with particular attention to their impact on the platformising of cultural heritage, the body and its relationship to digital media devices and platforms, and the digitisation of public space in contemporary cities. Dr Wilson-Barnao is studying machine learning and its relationship to cultural datasets as part of the Platform Media Research Initiative.

 

Dr Allison Fish

Chief Investigator, T.C. Beirne School of Law

Dr Allison Fish is an interdisciplinary scholar whose research lies at the intersections of law, socio-cultural anthropology, and science and technology studies. To date, the bulk of her independent research has addressed the application of intellectual property law to the regulation of various domains including; international markets for South Asian classical health systems, the development of digital archives and databases designed to function as defensive publications against future patents, the impact of open access on scholarly communication practices, and licensing and attribution practices in open source software communities. Recently, she has begun to undertake two other research projects that looks at other aspects of the law-and-technology interface. Dr Fish brings to the project a research interest in the management of disputes over intellectual property and the social shaping of legal and regulatory regimes by the intersection of legal forms,technological infrastructures and cultural logics.

 

Dr Andrew Ventimiglia

Chief Investigator, T.C. Beirne School of Law

Dr Ventimiglia joined the TC Beirne School of Law in 2016 as part of a research team working under the leadership of Professor Brad Sherman, ARC Laureate Fellow, on the ARC Laureate project 'Harnessing Intellectual Property to Build Food Security'. His current research focuses on two interrelated subjects: 1) the growth of proprietary data infrastructures and technological innovations that structure the emerging field of precision agriculture; and, 2) the interplay between science, culture, and legal regulatory regimes like trademark and food safety law that collectively determine and define the 'nature' of food. Along with Dr Allison Fish, Dr Ventimiglia brings to the project a research interest in the management of disputes over intellectual property and the social shaping of legal and regulatory regimes by the intersection of legal forms, technological infrastructures and cultural logics.

 

Dr Barbora Jedlickova

T.C. Beirne School of Law

With competition and consumer law and policy so important to the emerging Law of the Platform Barbora Jedlickova brings her expertise on European Union and American Antitrust law to this developing area of law and policy. Dr Jedlickova is particularly interested in how existing longstanding frameworks of competition law and policy are negotiating the challenges Platform Media pose to media and communications regulation and accountability.

 

Cross-Institutional Project Collaborators

Prof Julian Thomas

Director, Technology, Communication and Policy Lab, Digital Ethnography

Research Centre & Director of the Social Change Enabling Capability Platform

RMIT, Melbourne

 

Dr Ramon Lobato

Senior Research Fellow, Communication and Policy Lab, Digital Ethnography

Research Centre

RMIT, Melbourne

 

Prof Mark Andrejevic

Communication and Media Studies

Monash University, Melbourne

 

Prof Vibodh Parthasarathi

Centre for Culture, Media and Governance,

Jamia Islamia University, New Delhi

 

Mr Sunil Abraham

Director

Centre for Internet and Society, Bengaluru

 

Dr Harsh Taneja

Department of Advertising

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

 

Dr Angela Wu 

Department of Media, Culture and Communication

New York University

 

Prof Jean Burgess

Director, Digital Media Research Centre

QUT, Brisbane

 

A/Prof Mark Burdon

Faculty of Law

QUT, Brisbane

The Platform Media Research Initiative incorporates several streams of research, bringing together a number of discrete projects. Collectively, these projects further the Initiative’s goals of critically analysing platform media, its processes of algorithmic selection, its infrastructures, surrounding issues of regulation and accountability, and platform media’s re-imagining of media provenance, operations, character, and spheres of operation.

 


 

Visual Social Media

This research stream utilises cultural-computational and cultural studies approaches to develop innovative research methods and tools for the critical examination and assessment of algorithms. Initially centred on Instagram in 2018, this research methods focus will extend in 2019 to experiments in research method development. Given the intersection between this research and the concerns of the Platform Media Accountability stream, the development of these experiments closely aligns the two projects.

 

Platform Media Accountability: Law, Regulation, Policy, and Accountability

This research stream connects social-legal, legal and science and technology studies approaches to emerging media platforms with longstanding political economy and media policy approaches to the development of media, communication and telecommunications and broadband policy and regulation. This project aims to bring together researchers from the School of Communication and Arts and the T.C. Beirne School of Law to establish a Platform Media Accountability working party to facilitate regular research round-tables, select and coordinate visits by key national and international researchers, and stage workshops on specific themes of common interests between the disciplines, such as Platform Media Law and Privacy Law.

 

Platform Media and its Infrastructures

This stream will interrogate the problems and opportunities created by different national arrangements for broadband infrastructure roll-out, data centres, the interaction of mobile, fixed telephony and cable, competition policy and regulatory frameworks. The research conducted as part of this project will develop an international perspective on common problems and opportunities arising from platform media’s technical, commercial and network infrastructures.

 

Re-imagining Media in a Time of Platforms

This stream uses the connections between Australian and US partners to develop a semester-long Research Seminar Series on this general theme. It utilises a variety of approaches to explore the instabilities generated by platform media over what and when is media, the advent of user metrics and the transformation of audience metrics. It will seek invited contributions from local and international speakers.  Alongside this seminar a semester long RHD and Early Career Researcher initiative on Re-imagining media will be developed to amplify this research initiative.

For inquiries, please contact:

Dr Melanie Piper
Project Coordinator
School of Communication and Arts
m.piper2@uq.edu.au

Prof Tom O’Regan
Lead Chief Investigator
School of Communication and Arts
t.oregan@uq.edu.au
+61 7 336 53327

A/Prof Adrian Athique
Lead Chief Investigator
Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities
a.athique@uq.edu.au
+61 7 3346 7416