Language, Culture & Belonging Keynote – Digital Media & Belonging



I’m looking forward to presenting some research at this event. My paper will be titled ‘Digital Media & Belonging’. Here’s the abstract:


Digital Media & Belonging: Collective effervescence through social media platforms

Brady Robards (Monash University)


Digital media have re-shaped many contemporary experiences of belonging and collectivity. From geo-locative dating and hook-up apps becoming a common starting point in modern romance, through to the ‘cultural weaponisation’ of Facebook profiles in election campaigns and news sharing. Social media have become a dominant channel of connection, but also afford disconnection, marginalisation, and the reproduction of inequalities. In this paper I draw on three separate research projects over the past five years to reflect on how different social media platforms afford different experiences of belonging and collectivity. First, the ‘Facebook Timelines’ project (with Lincoln) where we ‘scrolled back’ through social media histories with our participants (n=41) to reflect on how digital traces of life serve as personal archives of memory, and how patterns of social media use change over time. Second, the ‘Scrolling Beyond Binaries’ project (with Churchill, Byron, Vivienne, and Hanckel) where we surveyed (n=1304) and interviewed (n=24) lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and other queer and gender-diverse (LGBTIQ+) young people about their social media use in Australia. Third, the ‘Confessional Data Selfies’ project (with Lyall) where we undertook a content analysis (n=1000) of personal data visualisations shared on the social media site Reddit where people confessed aspects of their lives to strangers, from dating (‘My 500 days on OkCupid’) to health data (‘My health decline and eventual brain surgery’) through to incredibly detailed lifelogging (‘Every Single Hour of My 2017 Recorded’).


Taken together, these three projects reveal complex and uneven experiences of publicness/privateness, intimacy/distance, and belonging/exclusion. By examining these points of contrast in the data from these projects, we can draw attention to the ways in which belonging occurs across digital spaces, but also how platforms structure specific kinds of intimacy, marginalise, and also expose users.