Dead Poets Society meets Team Australia under captain Abbott

Australia’s prime minister Tony Abbott is uncommonly fond of sport metaphors, not least when addressing the domestic terror threat. His latest championing of “Team Australia” in trying to sell his government’s proposed national security reforms symbolically turns Australia into a giant dressing room and stadium.

Presiding over the nation as team captain, Abbott assumes the mantle of unassailable Bradmanesque hero rather than a Shakespearean “scurvy politician”.

Abbott recently told the South Australian Liberal Party’s annual general meeting about a Muslim community leader who:

… said to me on Tuesday in Melbourne, in a booming voice full of exuberance, he said: ‘You know we are all part of team Australia’ – and he looked at me and smiled – ‘and you are our captain.’ I have never been more proud and I have never been more exhilarated than to hear that statement.

Captured smilingly receiving applause in the television lights, Abbott resembles nobody more than (the recently deceased) Robin Williams playing school teacher John Keating in the famous “O Captain! My Captain!” scene from the 1989 film Dead Poets Society.

Beloved by Abbott’s ideological fellow traveller Alan Jones – a former teacher and sports coach and now prominent radio broadcaster – Dead Poets Society’s stirring tale of a maverick teacher in an elite private all-male school chimes well both with their biographies and mutual idealisation of the beloved “captain”.

It is a view of the world shared by another prominent conservative, former prime minister John Howard, who once ruefully observed to another right-wing radio man, the late Stan Zemanek, that the most important job in the country was really that of Australian men’s cricket captain.

Not all teams are of a sporting nature. But there is little doubt that Abbott the pugilist, rugby player and ironman has sport in mind when he describes Australia as a team.


World Cup: round ball, square eyes and hungering to excess

 By David Rowe

Reblogged from The Conversation


Television audiences may be fragmenting, but sport happens in the moment and demands instant – and lucrative – congregation. EPA/Fernando Bizerra Jr


Just before a critical World Cup game against Spain in Rio de Janeiro, scores of ticketless Chile fans broke into the expensively rebuilt Maracana Stadium at its least secure point – the media centre.

Surprised sports journalists got a close-up view of the frustrated invaders crashing through the glass doors and flimsy walls of their workspace, but quickly generated pictures and stories of this literally “breaking news” to the outside world.

This incident dramatically contrasts the scarce opportunity of attending the World Cup with the virtual impossibility of avoiding it via the media. About 75,000 people can fit into the Maracana, but FIFA, association football’s world governing authority, estimates that the 2014 World Cup will exceed the 3.2 billion audience reach of the preceding 2010 tournament in South Africa.

In other words, most of us who like football are symbolically compelled to be big-match gatecrashers through the media centre.

The media dominate mega sport events because of the obvious mismatch between stadium access and interest in what happens there. Scale and popularity make them prime-time news in their own right, much to the chagrin of those who couldn’t tell Lionel Messi from a boutique label of Argentinean malbec.

Sport permeates and sustains all media, but it was television that brought it vibrantly live into the lounge room and ensured massive – if incidental – attention to advertising and branding. For this reason, television corporations have been prepared to invest huge sums to secure broadcast rights – US$1.7 billionfor Brazil 2014 alone.

Broadcast television is under obvious threat from new media technologies, and it is live sport that has helped keep it alive. Television audiences may be fragmenting, but sport happens in the moment and so demands instant – and lucrative – congregation.

However, singular dependency on a “box in the corner” is long past. Brazil 2014, like the London 2012 Olympics before it, is a multi-screen experience enabled by the transition from analogue to digital media. This has been described as “the first truly digital World Cup” (by app performance company AppDynamics), but it is more convincingly the latest advance in networked media sport, which here draws football, fans, communication and commerce into an ever-more-intimate embrace.


A Scottish spectacle of sport and politics: the view from Australia

 By David Rowe

Reblogged from The Conversation
The 2014 Commonwealth Games celebrates the old British Empire, yet the host country is considering independence. Gareth Fuller/PA Wire/Press Association Images


Sport mega events such as the Commonwealth Games are routinely described as global spectacles, but they always focus intensively on one part of the globe for a short period.

For the hosts, this is the essence of their appeal and justification for all the expense, trouble and risk: the “whole world is watching”, the value of the publicity is priceless, and it is hoped that all that media interest can be translated into long-term tourism profile and return on investment.

Scotland is the latest country to take the mega event bait – in this case snagging a big sports party out of the remnants of an Empire that somehow reinvented itself as a Family.

Sport has played no small role in the symbolic survival of a time when red blotched much of the world map, overshadowing even Hollywood as a cultural force spreading out from the West.


Kitsch and Kylie – but one surprise at the Glasgow closing ceremony

By David Rowe

An Aussie handover wouldn’t be complete without ‘our Kylie’. Martin Rickett/PA Wire

I hope you didn’t sleep through or otherwise avoid the closing ceremony of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, especially its Gold Coast 2018 handover component.

If so, you surely missed a production marking “a pivotal time in the psyche of the people of Australia”, according to Nigel Chamier, chairman of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation (GOLDOC).

But as the Gold Coast grabbed its moment in Glasgow’s Hampden Park Stadium floodlights – and Australian steeplechaser Genevieve LaCaze pulled off a cheeky stage bomb – Scotland had one final shot at representing itself to the world.

The opening ceremony had offered a large diet of potted Scotlandia, including a giant kilt, the Loch Ness Monster, Rod Stewart, tea cakes, shipbuilding, bagpipes, Susan Boyle, acres of tartan, a hyper-inflated haggis and Scottie dogs. It also embraced UNICEF and same-sex relationships.

How, then, to follow a show that had received reviews ranging from “a hideous embarrassment” to “a spectacular success” in rival Scottish newspapers?


Public Lecture July 21st at University of Queensland

In a large metropolis, what is governed? by Professor Patrick Le Galès, Science Po

Monday, 21 July, 2014, 3pm – 5pm


Large cities are well known for being complex; too large, with too many actors and with too much informality. The planning literature, critical urban studies and anthropologists emphasise the ungovernability of major large cities as well as the role of social movements and insurgency. Despite these difficulties, it remains that projects are developed, utility networks built, new neighbourhoods established, and policies (including social, transport and education) implemented that have great impact for populations. The paper argues that the governance of large cities is not linear, is discontinuous and does not explain their whole development. The rise of governance capacities and the developments of policies are having influence from Mexico to Delhi, from London to Sao Paolo or Istanbul.

Patrick Le Galès, CNRS Director of Research at Sciences Po’s Centre d’Etudes Européennes and professor at Sciences Po has been elected a Corresponding Fellow of the Political Science section of the British Academy. His comparative research centres mainly on questions of governance, public action, the restructuration of the state, and the detransformation of cities. His key publications include European cities, social conflict and governance, and Gouverner par les instruments., co-authored with Pierre Lascoumes



Monday 21 July 2014 3pm – 5pm


Room 116
Sir Llew Edwards Building (14) The University of Queensland St Lucia campus

Afternoon tea will be provided


Wednesday 16 July

limited places

Chapter Abstracts for Deb Lupton’s Digital Sociology book

Re-blogged from Deborah’s Lupton’s blog This Sociological Life:

I am pleased to announce that my latest book, Digital Sociology, has now gone into production with Routledge, and is due for publication around October this year. Here are the chapter abstracts to give some idea of the book’s contents.

1 Introduction: life is digital
In this introductory chapter I make an argument for why digital sociology is important and why sociology needs to make the study of digital technologies central to its very remit. It is argued that ubiquitous and mobile digital media have changed the ways in which social life is represented, conducted, monitored, managed and analysed. Digital technologies affect social relationships, concepts of identity and embodiment, the monitoring and organisation of people’s movements in space and the creation of and access to information and knowledge. I provide an overview of how digital sociology has developed and outline its four main aspects: professional digital use, analyses of digital technology use, digital data analysis, and critical digital sociology.

2 Theorising digital society
Chapter 2 provides a foundation for the ensuing chapters by reviewing the major theoretical perspectives that are developed in the book. The literature reviewed in the chapter is mainly drawn from sociology but also includes contributions from scholars in media and cultural studies, science and technology studies, surveillance studies, software studies and cultural geography. The perspectives that are discussed include analyses of the global information and new forms of power, the sociomaterial perspective on the relationship between humans and digital technologies, prosumption, neoliberalism and the sharing subject, the importance of the archive, theories of veillance (watching) that are relevant to digital society and theories concerning digitised embodiment.

3 Reconceptualising research in the digital era
Chapter 3 focuses on sociological and other social research in the digital era. The aim of the discussion is not to outline how to do digital research in detail. Rather I present an overview not only of some of the approaches that are available and their possibilities and limitations, but also of the more theoretical and critical stances that sociologists are taking to digital social research. I also devote attention to innovative ways of performing digital social research that are part of attempts to invigorate sociological research practice as a way of demonstrating the new and exciting directions in which sociology can extend in response to digital society.

4 The digitised academic
The higher education workplace has become increasingly digitised, with many teaching and learning resources and academic publications moving online and the performance of academics and universities monitored and measured using digital technologies. Some sociologists and other academics are also beginning to use social media as part of their academic work. In this chapter I examine the benefits and possibilities offered by digital technologies but also identify the limitations, drawbacks and risks that may be associated with becoming a digitised academic and the politics of digital public engagement.

5 A critical sociology of big data
Chapter 5 takes a critical sociological perspective on the big data phenomenon. The discussion emphasises that big data sets are systems of knowledge that are implicated in power relations. Big data are both the product of social and cultural processes and themselves act to configure elements of society and culture. They have their own politics, vitality and social life. Following an overview of the ways in which big data discourses and practices have achieved dominance in many social spheres, I discuss how digital data assemblages and algorithms possess power and authority, the metaphors used to describe big data and what these reveal about our anxieties and concerns about this phenomenon, big data hubris and rotten data and the ethical issues related to big data.

6 The diversity of digital technology use
Chapter 6 reviews research that has studied the use of digital technologies in different areas of the globe and how socioeconomic, cultural and political factors shape, promote or delimit the use of these technologies. I move from a discussion of the findings of large-scale surveys involving large numbers of respondents from specific countries or cross-nationally to in-depth qualitative investigations that are able to provide the detailed context for differences in internet use. The chapter shows that digital social inequalities are expressed and reproduced in a range of ways, including cultures of use as well as lack of access. Social inequalities and marginalisation may also be perpetuated and exacerbated online.

7 Digital politics and citizen digital public engagement
In Chapter 7 I examine the politics of digital veillance, activism, privacy debates, calls for openness of digital data and citizen digital public engagement. It is argued that while digital activism and moves to render digital data more open to citizens can be successful to some extent in achieving their aims, claims that they engender a major new form of political resistance or challenge to institutionalised power are inflated. Indeed digital technologies can provide a means by which activists can come under surveillance and be discredited by governments. Other negative aspects of citizen digital public engagement are outlined, including the ways in which the internet can incite discrimination and vigilantism and promote the dissemination of false information.

8 The digitised body/self
Chapter 8 addresses the ways in which digital software and hardware are becoming part of our identities as they store more data about our experiences, our social relationships and encounters and our bodily functioning. Digital sociologists and other digital media researchers have recognised the ways in which human embodiment and concepts of selfhood are represented and configured via digital technologies, digital data and digital social networks. It is not only the data or images produced via digital technologies that are important to research and theorise, but also how the objects themselves are used in practice. This chapter examines the incorporation of digital technologies into everyday lives across a range of contexts.