In the last 20 years alone, the digital media and information environment has changed dramatically – from the early days of Web 2.0, to a recent past dominated by social media platforms, and our present and rapidly emerging future in which data and AI play a central role. At different points in this history, particular issues have been of public concern (from digitisation, to copyright, to misinformation), and at each point our knowledge systems have adapted and innovated in order to understand and address them. In this talk, I showcase several large collaborative research and infrastructure projects that have enabled Australian researchers, institutions and citizens to work together observe and influence issues such as social media use, the impact of search engines, and the targeting of online ads to consumers, as well as providing a preview of the proposed Australian Internet Observatory. I conclude by making some suggestions as to how public interest researchers and cultural institutions might work together to secure society’s ability to stay in the loop in the context of Generative AI.

Jean Burgess

Jean Burgess

Jean Burgess is Distinguished Professor of Digital Media in the Digital Media Research Centre (DMRC) and School of Communication, Queensland University of Technology (QUT). After serving as the DMRC’s founding Centre Director from 2015-2020, she became Associate Director of the national ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society, as well as Convenor of its QUT node, in August 2020. Her research focuses on the social implications of digital media technologies, platforms, and cultures, as well as new and innovative methods for studying them. She is the author or editor of more than 140 scholarly publications on these topics. Her latest book is Everyday Data Cultures (Polity Press, 2022). She is an elected Fellow of the International Communication Association, the Australian Academy of Humanities, and the Queensland Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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Jean Burgess