Communication and Media Studies, Cultural Studies, Digital Scholarship, Historical Studies, Life Writing

Life Sentences

08.11.10 | Permalink | Comments Off on Life Sentences

Hung parliaments at the Federal level in Australia are very unusual. The first such political stalemate since 1910 occurred at the onset of World War II. The Federal election of 21 September 1940 was held 70 years prior to the 2010 ballot that ultimately confirmed Julia Gillard as prime minister of a minority Labor government. The Australian Dictionary of Biography tells the story of the 1940 election that led to Robert Menzies being returned as Prime Minister of a minority coalition government—followed by its downfall the next year—through the lives and careers of the key political players. These included Prime Ministers Joseph Lyons, Robert Menzies, Arthur Fadden and John Curtin, along with the two conservative Victorian Independents, Arthur Coles and Alexander Wilson, who held the balance of power in the House of Representatives.

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18th Century, Cultural Studies, Historical Studies, Humanities, Literary Studies, Postcolonial Studies, Travel Writing

Virtual Voyages

25.04.10 | Permalink | Comments Off on Virtual Voyages

Born out of an ancient geographical theory of balance, the term ‘antipodes’ was first used to refer to the vast uncharted underworld of the southern hemisphere from a northern perspective. The principle behind this belief, as described in the Quarterly Review in the nineteenth century, was ‘that all the land, which had till then been discovered in the southern hemisphere, was insufficient to form a counterpoise to the weight of land in the northern half of the globe’. The idea of the antipodes as a counterbalance, though now remembered only as a peculiar, discredited theory, has been surprisingly influential as an imaginative concept. An antipodean expectancy filled minds, maps, novels and utopian plans, laying the foundations for perceptions of Oceania and Australasia that continue to impact on how this part of the world is seen from a distance as well as from within. The region of the antipodes has been occupied by European settlers and their descendants for a relatively short time. And yet, this brief period is set against a backdrop of one of the longest recorded histories of imagining prior to geographical discovery.

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Biography, Communication and Media Studies, Cultural Studies, Humanities, Life Writing, Literary Studies

Digital Biography

25.07.09 | Permalink | Comments Off on Digital Biography

This paper reflects on an emerging field that has no accepted name or boundaries but is described here as “digital biography.” The activities, formats, and genres associated with this field are rarely linked with life writing or traditional biographical studies. Rather, this field is seen as the domain of those concerned with digital privacy, copyright, data preservation, and identity management. Over the past decade or so, critics in various disciplines, mainly legal studies, information management, multimedia design, and IT development, as well as sociology, psychology, and marketing, have focused on the complexity of online identity. Though online identity has become such a significant focus of attention in these disciplines, few who study biography have discussed it. Indeed, as Nigel Hamilton points out, biography itself has had less attention than one might expect for a field that “has enjoyed an extraordinary renaissance in recent years”, a field that, according to Carl Rollyson, is widely recognized as “the dominant non-fiction of our age”.

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Cultural Studies, Historical Studies, Humanities, Life Writing

Trauma Online

25.03.09 | Permalink | Comments Off on Trauma Online

This article considers how traditional physical memorials to war and other catastrophic events differ from online memorials in the Web 2.0 environment and it asks what the benefits and drawbacks of each may be. There has always been an awkward fit between the public statements embodied in monuments to those who died in war and the personal stories told by individuals who returned. This disjuncture serves to demonstrate that the two ways of remembering traumatic events—the collective and the individual—have traditionally been poles apart and often contradictory. Gradually, over the past two decades, with the increasing influence of critical theories that have questioned national and other dominating discourses—and also with growing interest within the field of clinical psychology in what is now labeled post-traumatic stress disorder—there has been an increasing interest in the vast underlayer of personal stories that national narratives have shut out or silenced.

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Communication and Media Studies, Cultural Studies, Humanities, Life Writing

Saving Lives: Digital Biography and Life Writing

25.02.09 | Permalink | Comments Off on Saving Lives: Digital Biography and Life Writing

In this first decade of the twenty-first century we are caught up in the midst of a technological shift of the kind that Walter Benjamin, in his 1936 essay ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’, attributed to the increasing popularity of photography in the early twentieth century. The essence of that change was the unprecedented capacity to create infinitely reproducible multiple copies. For the first time the idea of the primacy of the singular work of art was seriously open to question. ‘The history of every art form,’ writes Benjamin, ‘shows critical epochs in which a certain art form aspires to effects which could be fully obtained only with a changed technical standard, that is to say, a new art form’. Photography initiated a change that Benjamin recognised as being as profound in its impact on people’s lives as the introduction of the printing press.

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Communication and Media Studies, Digital Scholarship, e-Research, Humanities

Virtual Strangers: e-Research and the Humanities

25.01.09 | Permalink | Comments Off on Virtual Strangers: e-Research and the Humanities

The Arts and Humanities have traditionally been worlds apart from Science and Technology in their ways of pursuing and generating knowledge and understanding. So much so that the famous term, ‘The Two Cultures’, coined in the mid twentieth century by C. P. Snow to describe the vast gap between these discipline areas, is still current and relevant.[i] It continues to dominate the organisation of disciplines in universities and drive the distribution of most national research funding. However, quite suddenly, at the end of the twentieth century, the digital environment began to trigger major changes in the knowledge economy, with the result that the humanities were thrown unexpectedly and involuntarily into a close relationship with technology. As one might expect in any forced marriage, it was not a case of love at first sight. In fact, the humanities have exhibited the full range of reactions—from totally ignoring the other, through unashamedly raiding their wealth, to wholeheartedly embracing the exciting future they seem to offer. Whatever the reaction, it is clear that the humanities are now inescapably entangled with technology, for better or worse, and the two cultures are connecting more than ever before, notably in the new research activities and spaces signalled by the term ‘e-research’.

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Communication and Media Studies, Cultural Studies, Literary Studies

Digital Fabric, Narrative Threads

25.10.08 | Permalink | Comments Off on Digital Fabric, Narrative Threads

The traditional crafts of quilting, embroidering and weaving may appear to be a world away from the high tech fields of computer networking, digital interface design, and database development. However, the old and new are increasingly being linked through metaphors that reveal a great deal about changing attitudes to digital technologies as they become more established and widely accessible […] Today’s communication networks are structured around “patchwork” designs, software glitches are fixed with “patches,” computer processors are being described as “multi-threaded,” and over the past decade other “material metaphors” have been embraced as a means of conceptualising and giving form to our new world of amorphous digital texts. In particular, the quilt motif has been used in a variety of ways, including as a means of visualising interaction and information flows and as a template for digital interface design.

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18th Century, Cultural Studies, Historical Studies, Humanities, Literary Studies, Postcolonial Studies

Fictions of Encounter

25.09.08 | Permalink | Comments Off on Fictions of Encounter

The “imaginary voyage” was an early form of the modern realist novel popular in Britain and France from the seventeenth to the early nineteenth centuries, set predominantly in the region of Australasia and the Pacific. As a branch of travel literature, it was linked intimately to the expansion of empire. Through repeated stories of successful colonizing schemes and heroic accounts of cross-cultural encounters between European travelers and the people of the antipodes, these texts allowed European readers to enjoy farfetched fantasies of colonization well before, and during, the period of actual colonial expansion. As in the case of the many better-known examples of literary fiction produced in the later period of European imperial dominance, imaginary voyage fiction helped embed social acceptance of colonial expansion by modeling cultural domination as natural, beneficial, and welcome.

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18th Century, Cultural Studies, Historical Studies, Postcolonial Studies

Teaching and Learning Guide: Antipodean Myths Transformed

08.08.08 | Permalink | Comments Off on Teaching and Learning Guide: Antipodean Myths Transformed

Sample Syllabus:

Week 1: Introduction and OverviewExploration and Colonisation of the Great South Land

  • – The myth of the antipodes—the allure of the great south land
  • – Gaps in maps—spaces for the imagination

Weeks 2–4: Fantasies of the Antipodes

  • – The role of imaginary voyage texts—blending reality with fantasy, pre-programming colonisation
  • – Myths of extreme difference
  • – Myths of Indigenous populations’ welcoming attitude to colonial intrusion
  • – Theories of otherness

Weeks 3–5: Entering the Antipodes

  • – Early explorers’ contradictory responses to Terra Australis Incognita
  • – Utopias and dystopias
  • – First contact with Indigenous people—the concept of ‘terra nullius’ framed by myths

Weeks 6–8: Images of Contemporary Australia: Enduring Myths

  • – The myth of terra nullius and the impact on Indigenous Australia
  • – The ‘dead heart’ of Australia as the last unfathomed antipodean space


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Communication and Media Studies, Cultural Studies, e-Research, Life Writing

Pixelated Memory

25.05.08 | Permalink | Comments Off on Pixelated Memory

War memorials are the most familiar and visible means of acknowledging and respecting the trauma of large scale, violent conflict. In practically every town in Australia, however small, monuments to war are found. These are haunting, poignant reminders of the brutality of war and the fragility of life. And yet, their reassuring solidity and prominence shields us from the reality of lost lives and suffering by casting war in terms of abstract and stylised notions of heroism, loyalty, sacrifice and glory. While it is usual for the names of the dead to be listed on these monuments, their individual suffering is blended, ritualised and distanced in a symbolic and generalised tribute. It is not surprising then that there has always been an awkward fit between the public statements made by these monuments and the personal stories told by individuals who returned.

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Paul Arthur is Vice-Chancellor’s Professorial Research Fellow and Chair in Digital Humanities and Social Sciences, at Edith Cowan University, Western Australia. He speaks and publishes widely on major challenges and changes facing 21st-century society, from the global impacts of technology on communication, culture and identity