Thursday, October 19, 2006

Phd on Holiday

I'm going to Port Douglas tomorrow morning with my girl friend for 10 whole days for a holiday. It's come up so fast I can't believe it. The last few weeks have been incredibly hectic trying to wrap up all my fieldwork before I go. The observation session yesterday went really well and was very enjoyable. In some ways it was the best observation session I'd done and a great way to complete the process. There are so many interesting and rich practices around technology use that have come up in my fieldwork I think the greatest difficulty is going to be filtering it all into a coherent argument. Now I'm struggling with the whole question of whether to bring up some academic books to Port D. or whether to feast purely on fiction for a whole 10 days. Oh it's a hard life :-).

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Working "out of the office"

OK, political rants aside and back to my research. I'm heading down to Darling Harbour in just a moment to conduct my last observation session for my phd research. This will be with one of the staff of the Telco based in Melbourne. The staff member is attending an event in Sydney and I have the opportunity to observe her conducting some work from her hotel suite. This will add to my observations of the Telco staff in their office by giving me some insights into their "out of office" ICT use. I've also covered this quite extensively in the interviews and also in the diaries (which covered both in and out of office use).

Saturday, October 14, 2006

NSW Greens overlook Gays and Lesbians

There's a state election coming up in NSW and I was recently emailed the NSW Greens policy platform. After reading it, I felt really disappointed that there was no mention of the issue of equality for gays and lesbians in NSW. This is an issue that I believe in strongly and have become increasingly active about in the last few years.

My political activism is connected to personal circumstances but is also an outcome of my awareness of the extent of discrimination that still exists against gays and lesbians (and their children) at both a State and Federal level, and my frustration with the lack of progress that has been made in this area in the last decade.

I sent a reply to the Greens and have decided to reproduce the thread in my blog. Maybe I just expect too much but I thought the response to my email reflected a cynical and politically opportunistic position by the Greens. I have removed names and made some slight modifications to protect privacy:-

Hi Greens Officer,

Thank you for sending out the election platform document for the upcoming NSW state election. I was pleased to see such a comprehensive platform with much thought and research that has gone into it. I would like to express my disappointment, though, that I did not see any of the policy areas addressing equal rights for gays and lesbians in NSW. This is not a trifling or secondary issue and certainly one that I expected the Greens to tackle head on. There are many areas of overt discrimination at the State and, of course, the Federal level. The current NSW Labour government has a poor record on addressing entrenched discrimination against gays and lesbians. There have been numerous recommendations made to the current government to reform a raft of laws to bring equality to gay and lesbian citizens in NSW. The current Labour govt has not acted on any of these recommendations, nor made any announcement as to its position or intention for the future.

I am very disappointed that the Greens have not made equal rights for gays and lesbians in NSW a central issue for this election platform.

Ms M


Hi Ms M,

Thanks for your comments. I guess at the end of the day, focusing on key issues impacting on the NSW electorate and engaging new voters is important.

I will pass on your comments to State Election Campaign. There is a Gay and Lesbian Committee/Work Group that meets regularly and feeds into the State Delegates Council, where decisions are made. Perhaps you could take this up
with them too??

All the best and look forward to connecting with you in person.

Greens Officer


Hi Greens Officer,

Thanks for your reply and I'm happy for you to forward my email to the Gay and Lesbian Work Group. I believe that the issue of gay and lesbian equality is a key issue that impacts on the NSW electorate.

This issue is fundamentally an issue about equality for minorities and the even distribution of civil rights in the laws and policies of NSW. It is therefore generalisable as a central tenet of any democracy and one the Greens should explicitly support, particularly in the current political climate where the distribution of rights is increasingly tied to political advantage, the strength of lobby groups and access to financial backing.

Having a platform that claims to support diversity but doesn't address it directly in its policy position is not the way to win new voters or to keep existing supporters, in my view. It will merely alienate potential voters who already feel excluded from existing party platforms. I, for one, feel very unhappy about the absence of this issue in the Greens platform.

I believe there is still time to incorporate a policy position on equality for Gays and Lesbians into the Greens platform for the upcoming NSW election and request that you forward my proposal to those concerned for consideration.

Ms M

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Here's a great piccie of a few AOIRers (including myself) "back to back networking", so to speak, at the recent AOIR 7.0 conference in Brisbane. Piccie taken by Marjorie Kibby from The University of Newcastle. Thanks Marj...

Final observation at the council

Just about to go to conduct my final observation session at the Council. I'm pretty stoked that I've now got through 19 interviews and 14 observation sessions. Tomorrow, I'm flying down to Melbourne to conduct the observation sessions down there.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Slowly getting back into it

I haven't really recapped on my AOIR 7.0 experience. I must admit to having been struck by the same slight feeling of embarrassment that Adam talks about in his blog. The idea that there really are people out there reading my ravings sometimes, and that I don't even need to imagine them, because I met three of them at this conference, is a bit daunting.

The conference was very enjoyable but also a bit mixed. This probably has more to do with the disruptions to my accommodation than to the conference itself. I think there were some great papers and it was a wonderful community of researchers. I did feel that the broadness of the subject area - the "internet" - drew together such disparate approaches and topics that it felt at times that papers associated with panel themes didn't really have explicit meaningful ties. Also, I found myself wanting to have more in-depth, engaged discussions with people's work and ideas but somehow there didn't seem to be a forum for this.

The doctoral colloquium was fascinating and I really enjoyed meeting other doctoral students from around the world. I did, however, feel a bit out of place. I don't know, perhaps this is related to my subject area or my expectations. I didn't come across any one else at the conference doing related research on information technologies at work, and few from a cultural studies discipline. Being exposed to some of the social network approaches to "virtual communities" on the internet, particularly those of the U.S. students, was a real eye-opener but it's not an area or approach I have any expertise in. Overall, I found the conference immensely valuable and I hope I can go to future AOIR conferences. I commend the organisers for locating it in Australia this year as this made it possible for myself and others in this region to attend (although I recognise the location may have meant that some researchers from the northern hemisphere couldn't come this time).

Friday, October 06, 2006

A timely pellet

An addendum to yesterday's rant...It's hardly surprising that days after Howdy's speech at the anniversary dinner of Quadrant magazine, where he reiterated the Right's role as a "counterforce to the black armband view of Australian history”, the Federal government has taken another swipe at the education system. The Minister of Education, Science and Training, Julie Bishop, is today delivering a speech to history teachers in Western Australia, arguing for a national take over of the education curriculum to institute a "commonsense curriculum".

As I discussed in my recent post, the current Federal government is compelled to construct an ideological struggle by accusing other people of acting ideologically. Bishop's accusations are an unconvincing attempt at trying to create an "enemy" to justify an ideologically motivated takeover of the education curriculum. To do this she draws on metaphors of war and references to the fight against communism, such as, "teachers are teaching themes which come "straight from Chairman Mao"", "ideologues have hijacked school curriculum."

It's our own special brand of McCarthyism. Must be a shortage of stories on terrorism at the moment...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Quadrant: desperate for an enemy

I don't know a lot about the magazine Quadrant. I'd heard of it and recently I discovered an edition lying around at a family member's house. Besides this, I've had little exposure to it. When I came across the magazine recently, I read an article by Paddie McGuiness, the current editor and was shocked at the tone of anger, resentment and hatred of the Humanities in Australian Universities and the way that the Australian Research Grant Scheme is set up to, in his opinion, favour the Humanities. I flicked through the rest of the magazine and the views it reflected were much the same. I threw it aside, looking for something more interesting to read. It was only after hearing a moving interview on Radio National yesterday with previous Quadrant editor Robert Manne commenting on Prime Minister John Howard's speech at Quadrant's 50th anniversary dinner, and then doing a search on the Internet, that I found out a bit about the magazine's history, and the role it has played in the so called "Cultural Wars" in Australia. For those familiar with its history, this is probably rather dull but I was fascinated to find out how the magazine was set up in Australia in the 1950's as part of a defensive against the spread of communism in the West, and the powerful Australian figures that have been associated with the magazine over the years.

When I imagine the group of extraordinarily wealthy and powerful Australians that attended the anniversary of Quadrant on Tuesday night, all rubbing shoulders and basking in their own glory, at least a dozen little jigsaw pieces fell into place for me in terms of understanding what has happened and is continuting to happen in Australia's political and cultural landscape. As Robert Manne so eloquently pointed out, this group has been working hard and largely successfully at defining Australia in terms of an ideological struggle. But what I realized is that this idealogical struggle was to a large extent articulated long before Howard was elected around a decade ago. It dates back to the onset of the cold war in the 1950's. Writing on the history of the magazine, Cassandra Plybus notes that, "Quadrant was the brainchild of Richard Krygier, the founding secretary of the Australian branch of the Congress for Cultural Freedom which was established by the CIA in 1950 as a key element in their strategy to combat Soviet propaganda."

What is so notable to me about Howard's regime is this absolute committment to constructing an idea as well as the lived reality of Australia's nationhood in terms of a fight against an enemy, and how this stance has been fuelled. For years, the "enemy" was conceived as the Intellectual Left in Australia and in particular, any individual or group who articulated a critical view of the entrenched narratives that had become historical orthodoxy in Australia, particularly narratives of Australia's discovery, exploration and contact with Indigenous Australians. The construction of the Left as being the "enemy" of Liberals in Australia and by implication the "enemy" of liberal democratic thinking is maintained and reinforced today through a stream of finger-pointing rhetoric, cleverly "dropped" to the media, and immediately gobbled up, like so many chocolate-covered poison pellets. Howard's numerous interferences this year into Australia's education curriculum and his assertions of the curriculum being "hijacked" by political correctness and post-modern thinking is a case in point. But as Manne so succinctly summed up - ideological struggles can only maintain their momentum by convincing others of the ascendancy of an enemy. If the so called enemy is in decline, then what's the point?

I wonder if it is not too far fetched to suggest that the "discovery" of the new enemy of terrorism is a necessary move that has come about with the marginalisation of the Left in Australia and the increasing difficulting in convincing any "ordinary Australian" of its threat. The fear of terrorism fuels an entirely new (old) ideological struggle, and is the new object for Howard and his Quadrant fellows to continue to define Australia in terms of its enemies.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Back from Brizzie

I'm back from my six days in Brisbane, four at the AOIR conference and two I spent with my Dad over the weekend. I had a fantastic time despite the unpleasant motel incident on my second night and met lots of great people. I arrived home last night and headed out to the Penrith campus of UWS early this morning to work so haven't had a chance to recap on my experiences. Tomorrow I plan to get my paper in a form to email to a couple of people who indicated an interest in reading it more closely. I enjoyed giving the paper but I wish I had the courage to get up and have a conversation with the audience rather than present the written paper. Perhaps this comes more easily when you're really familiar with the material. I know that at least half of it is just setting the paper aside and letting go of the safety net of words written on the page. It's a bit like singing in accapella. At some point, you just have to put the music aside and perform without it but it's a frightening moment.