Welcome to AoIR 2019

Learn more about two emerging digital media researchers, who are taking part in the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) 2019 Conference hosted at QUT.

Welcome to the first in a series of articles featuring activity from AoIR 2019!  All the content is produced by a team of QUT journalism students and we hope you enjoy reading, watching and listening to our work over the course of the conference.

In our first article, we feature two emerging researchers, Taylor Hardwick, a PhD candidate from Swinburne University of Technology (Australia) and Kelly Lewis, a PhD candidate from QUT’s Digital Media Research Centre (Australia).

By Annie Peng, Alice Feng, Ruby Kwok, Rachel Bollerman and Nicole Keramos.

Researcher Profile: Taylor Hardwick (Swinburne University of Technology) & Kelly Lewis (QUT)

Taylor Hardwick

Q: What is you research about? 

Taylor Hardwick: “My research is about video games and fan studies. I’m particularly interested in the experiences of people who play video games and how they interact in physical spaces like conventions and festivals and also how they interact with each other in online forums and Twitter.”

Kelly Lewis: “My research is essentially looking at complex activist cultures and popular social justice movements; however, more specifically looking at the role of digitally mediated images and how they help mobilise people into action and create political discourse among activist communities and the general population as well.”

…  I think it’s a really important part to understand not only how we use the internet but also how the internet shapes and impacts our social, cultural and political minds — Kelly Lewis

Q: What kind of expectations do you have for your research, and for the conference as well?  

Taylor Hardwick: “I’ve just started my PhD and so I’m really interested in meeting new people, particularly established scholars in my field; but also the broader field in media communications and internet studies specifically. They all kind of blend together. I was told this morning that game studies was actually the origin point for AoIR. I don’t know if that’s true but it’s really exciting to be surrounded by people who are in the thick of it.” 

Kelly Lewis: “I’m really interested in and have actually started to look at how platform politics is enacted as well, and how that impacts on activist communities. Looking at how that not only shapes the way we see protests, events and shapes the way activist cultures work.  How the removal of content or the modification of it actually constructs how we perceive it, how we experience it now and for future generations. Looking at what happens when algorithms actually influence the way we see the world.”

Kelly Lewis (Photo: T.J. Thomson)

Q: Can you share an interesting story about the Internet or how your internet use informs your research?

Taylor Hardwick:“Oh goodness gracious me! My particular interest in getting the study started was because of the online movement called ‘Gamergate’, which was essentially a targeted hate campaign. And my particular interest in game studies started when I was in my undergraduate degree. I play video games and it is an unsafe space often for women, particularly online. There was a movement called Gamergate that was about gaming ethics but it really became a targeted hate campaign. It was mobilized through the Internet through forums like 4chan, Reddit and that kind of space.  It is still continuing despite a huge moral panic about how online forums are being used to further hate campaigns against women and minorities. So that’s not a fun story but I think it’s a really important story. For me, it explains why I do what I do.”

Kelly Lewis: “Well I can’t actually remember the first time I used the Internet I have to be honest. But I guess in terms of how I use it for my research, I’m specifically looking at images within complex activist cultures. I am looking at instances of people who die as a result of police brutality or situations of political injustice when death becomes appropriated as a face or a marker of a movement. And what I’m interested in is how those images are deployed within activism, what do they actually do, how do they mobilise us and for what purposes are those images used? So I think there are a lot of ethical concerns and reflections when we are looking at that nature of content as well. So I think for the researcher it’s a constant kind of engagement with what that group says”.