The Australian Sociological Association

TASA 2013 annual conference

Last week, the 2013 TASA conferences organisers Nick Osbaldiston, Catherine Strong and Helen Forbes-Mewett treated Australian sociologists to our annual get-together at Monash University in Melbourne. The special 50-year anniversary of TASA inspired a conference filled with memories, reflections, reunions and new connections. Keynotes by Professor John Holmwood, Professor Celia Lury and Professor Raewyn Connell all in one way or another reflected on the challenges and opportunities of the changing higher education landscape and sociology as a discipline. The stimulating plenaries also took up the conference theme, tackling questions such as the need for interdisciplinarity and the applicability of sociology outside of academia, as well as reflecting on the impressive history of sociology in Australia.

As in past years, the Cultural Sociology stream featured strongly in the TASA conference program. In eleven sessions we tackled theories and methods, the multiplication of modernity, professional subjectivities, state-public relations, memory and Australian identity, contested sexualities, styles, space and place, class and, of course, culture! It was fascinating to see once again the diversity and vibrancy of cultural sociological work in Australia. A particular highlight for us this year was to feature the first ever sessions on Digital Sociology in Australia. The abundance of papers around digital culture prompted us to put on two sessions on the theme and the popularity resonated in the jam-packed rooms.

Deborah Lupton opened the first session with her poignant characterisation of digital sociology. Her presentation was followed by some interesting case studies around Google Glass (Timothy Graham and myself, Theresa Sauter), the Google algorithm (David Collis), and Q&A (Erin Carlisle). In the second session I offered a critical perspective on the label ‘digital sociology’, illustrated with the example of Pinterest as a technique of self. Then, Tristan Kennedy reflected on ethical methodologies in online participant observation, Tim Jordan presented his research on ethical consumption apps (also on behalf of Kim Humphery) and Ashlin Lee theorised convergent mobile technology.

For those interested in the emergence of Digital Sociology as a sub-discipline, Deborah Lupton (deborah.lupton@sydney.edu.au), Alexia Maddox (alexia.maddox@curtin.edu.au) and I (t.sauter@qut.edu.au) are looking to establish an Australian Digital Sociology research network. Please contact any of us if you would like to join!

The Cultural Sociology group is now TASA’s largest thematic group. We are keen to strengthen the community further and to encourage collaborations between our members. A prime example of this was the pre-conference symposium on ‘Cultural Sociology Today’, which we held on Monday November 25, supported by La Trobe University Department of Sociology and Anthropology and the Thesis Eleven Centre. (Please stay tuned for a more detailed blog-post about the day).

We hope those who attended the conference enjoyed the sessions. Many thanks to all speakers for their interesting presentations and to listeners for their collegiate, supportive engagement.

See you all at TASA 2014 in Adelaide and stay tuned for exciting new endeavours by the Cultural Sociology group in the new year!

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