Computing and Information Systems - Research Publications

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    ‘Death by Twitter’: Understanding false death announcements on social media and the performance of platform cultural capital
    Nansen, B ; O'Donnell, D ; Arnold, M ; Kohn, T ; Gibbs, M (University of Illinois Libraries, 2019)
    In this paper, we analyse false death announcements of public figures on social media and public responses to them. The analysis draws from a range of public sources to collect and categorise the volume of false death announcements on Twitter and undertakes a case study analysis of representative examples. We classify false death announcements according to five overarching types: accidental; misreported; misunderstood; hacked; and hoaxed. We identify patterns of user responses, which cycle through the sharing of the news, to personal grief, to a sense of uncertainty or disbelief. But we also identify more critical and cultural responses to such death announcements in relation to misinformation and the quality of digital news, or cultures of hoax and disinformation on social media. Here we see the performance of online identity through a form that we describe, following Bourdieu as ‘platform cultural capital’.
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    Synchronizing multi-perspectival data of children's digital play at home
    Mavoa, J ; Nansen, B ; Carter, M ; Gibbs, M (ROUTLEDGE JOURNALS, TAYLOR & FRANCIS LTD, 2022-06-03)
    Studying digitally mediated play presents challenges in terms of how to view and record both the on-screen action and player’s bodies in physical space. Carrying out this research in a socially and technologically diverse range of family households poses further challenges, common to ethnographic media research in general. In this paper, we describe a method for generating richly detailed views of 6–8 year old children’s digital play with the game Minecraft, on a range of devices and in a range of household configurations. We explain the process undertaken in our own research, highlighting the need for flexibility and a collaborative approach between participants and researchers. We argue that collecting multi-perspectival recordings of digital play provides data that has the potential to greatly aid understanding of digital playworlds.
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    "Adapt or Die": The funeral trade show as a site of institutional anxiety
    Van Ryn, L ; Nansen, B ; Gibbs, M ; Kohn, T ; Gibbs, M ; Nansen, B ; van Ryn, L (Routledge, 2019-06-11)
    Funeral directors shot themselves in the foot over cremation, and cemeteries got splattered with the blood.
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    Media, mortality and necro-technologies: Eulogies for dead media
    Nansen, B ; Gould, H ; Arnold, M ; Gibbs, M (SAGE PUBLICATIONS LTD, 2021-07-09)
    Working at the intersection of death studies and media studies, this article examines what we can learn from the death of media technologies designed for the deceased, what we refer to as necro-technologies. Media deaths illuminate a tension between the promise of persistence and realities of precariousness embodied in all media. This tension is, however, more visibly strained by the mortality of technologies designed to mediate and memorialise the human dead by making explicit the limitations of digital eternity implied by products in the funeral industry. In this article, we historicise and define necro-technologies within broader discussions of media obsolescence and death. Drawing from our funeral industry fieldwork, we then provide four examples of recently deceased necro-technologies that are presented in the form of eulogies. These eulogies offer a stylised but culturally significant format of remembrance to create an historical record of the deceased and their life. These necro-technologies are the funeral attendance robot CARL, the in-coffin sound system CataCombo, the posthumous messaging service DeadSocial and the digital avatar service Virtual Eternity. We consider what is at stake when technologies designed to enliven the human deceased – often in perpetuity – are themselves subject to mortality. We suggest a number of entangled economic, cultural and technical reasons for the failure of necro-technologies within the specific contexts of the death care industry, which may also help to highlight broader forces of mortality affecting all media technologies. These are described as misplaced commercial imaginaries, cultural reticence and material impermanence. In thinking about the deaths of necro-technologies, and their causes, we propose a new form of death, a ‘material death’ that extends beyond biological, social and memorial forms of human death already established to account for the finitude of media materiality and memory.
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    Automating Digital Afterlives
    Fordyce, R ; Nansen, B ; Arnold, M ; Kohn, T ; Gibbs, M ; Jansson, A ; Adams, PC (Oxford University Press, 2021-08-26)
    The question of how the dead “live on” by maintaining a presence and connecting to the living within social networks has garnered the attention of users, entrepreneurs, platforms, and researchers alike. In this chapter we investigate the increasingly ambiguous terrain of posthumous connection and disconnection by focusing on a diverse set of practices implemented by users and offered by commercial services to plan for and manage social media communication, connection, and presence after life. Drawing on theories of self-presentation (Goffman) and technological forms of life (Lash), we argue that moderated and automated performances of posthumous digital presence cannot be understood as a continuation of personal identity or self-presentation. Rather, as forms of mediated human (after)life, posthumous social media presence materializes ambiguities of connection/disconnection and self/identity.
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    "What are you Bringing to the Table?": The Something Awful Let's Play Community as a Serious Leisure Subculture
    McKitrick, B ; Rogerson, M ; Gibbs, M ; Nansen, B (SAGE PUBLICATIONS INC, 2022-05-16)
    Within the last decade, Let’s Plays, recordings of gameplay with commentary by the person playing, have grown in popularity and attention. The current research examining Let’s Plays has focused on the contemporary popularity of the phenomenon on YouTube. However, the origins of Let’s Plays as an influential media practice have not been fully investigated. In order to address this gap, we conducted a series of interviews with 34 creators from the Something Awful LP subforum—commonly identified to have originated the media form. Transcripts of these interviews were analyzed using concepts of serious leisure studies and cultural/subcultural capital. As a form of serious leisure culture, the members of the Something Awful LP community displayed motivations related to extrinsic and intrinsic rewards, such as increased sense of self-worth and recognition. The analysis of this Serious leisure culture highlights how this subculture was subsequently adopted by larger YouTube communities.
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    Let's play something awful: a historical analysis of 14 years of threads
    McKitrick, B ; Gibbs, M ; Rogerson, MJ ; Nansen, B ; Pierce, C (TAYLOR & FRANCIS LTD, 2022-05-31)
    The Something Awful Let’s Play subforum is widely acknowledged as the birthplace of the Let’s Play (LP) media phenomenon. LPs typically involve people recording themselves playing games while providing commentary. LPs are an important media form in themselves as well as being an important antecedent to many contemporary and popular media forms such as live streaming, esports and speed-running. An examination of the Something Awful LP subforum can contribute to an understanding of the origins of LPs and the community that created them. In this paper, we report on a study of the Something Awful LP subforum and describe the kinds of engagement the community participates in the top threads, as well as looking to see if there are specific individuals responsible for guiding the subforum overall. We collected data from the thousands of public threads posted in the LP subforum, from its inception in 2007 to the end of 2020. The analysis of these postings presented in this paper draws on previous understandings of the behavioral roles, forms of engagement, and policing of practices that often occur on internet forums as part of the regulation and organization of associated online communities. Our results show that the LP subforum was not dominated by a small minority of users that dictated the community’s LP posting, recording and commentary practices, and that the content of the specific threads was much more important in determining what forms of LPs became popular.
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    Digital housekeepers and domestic expertise in the networked home
    Kennedy, J ; Nansen, B ; Arnold, M ; Wilken, R ; Gibbs, M (Sage Publications, 2015-11-01)
    This article examines the distribution of expertise in the performance of ‘digital housekeeping’ required to maintain a networked home. It considers the labours required to maintain a networked home, the forms of digital expertise that are available and valued in digital housekeeping, and ways in which expertise is gendered in distribution amongst household members. As part of this discussion, we consider how digital housekeeping implicitly situates technology work within the home in the role of the ‘housekeeper’, a term that is complicated by gendered sensitivities. Digital housework, like other forms of domestic labour, contributes to identity and self-worth. The concept of housework also affords visibility of the digital housekeeper’s enrolment in the project of maintaining the household. This article therefore asks, what is at stake in the gendered distribution of digital housekeeping?
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    Death and the Internet: Consumer issues for planning and managing digital legacies (2nd edition)
    Nansen, B ; van der Nagel, E ; Kohn, T ; Arnold, M ; Gibbs, M (Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, 2017-12-01)
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    Methodological and ethical concerns associated with digital ethnography in domestic environments: participation burden and burdensome technologies
    Nansen, B ; Wilken, R ; Kennedy, J ; Arnold, M ; Gibbs, M ; Warr, D ; Waycott, J ; Guillemin, M ; Cox, S (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)
    This chapter reflects on methodological and ethical issues arising in a digital ethnography project conducted in domestic environments. The participatory aims of the methodological approach required participants to produce a series of videos exploring domestic digital environments. The videos were then uploaded using an ethnographic software application. Early in the project it became evident that researchers had limited control over important aspects of the technology, and that the technology itself was having disruptive effects in households. Further, although the study was designed to be engaging and playful for participants, the tasks of producing the videos was perceived by some participants as requiring onerous levels of creativity and digital media literacy. The chapter discusses these methodological and ethical issues, and how they were largely resolved.