Social media and employment (2019-2022)
Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Research Award (DECRA)
This project aims to investigate how young people present professional identities on social media when preparing for employment, and how employers use social media in recruitment. This project will provide insights into the positive and negative impacts of young people’s social media use on employability, providing an evidence base and guide for schools and educators to prepare young people for employment. This project will contribute to an understanding of how young people can effectively manage their social media use to enhance their career prospects. This knowledge will be translated into educational materials to inform and guide young people preparing for employment.
A citizen science approach to monitoring unhealthy industry digital marketing to young people (2020-2021)
In partnership with VicHealth
Partners: Assoc Prof Nic Carah, Dr Karla Elliott, Dr Claire Tanner, Assoc Prof Steven Roberts, Dr Amy Dobson, Dr Michael Savic, and Dr Chiara De Lazzari
In this project we will work with young people to examine the promotion of alcohol, junk food, sugary drinks, and gambling through digital platforms and apps. We build on our long-standing partnership with VicHealth to undertake research with young Victorians themselves. We will recruit young citizen scientists to document and analyse with us the advertising they see and engage with online, including algorithmically targeted posts on Facebook, influencer-generated content on Instagram, and sponsored marketing on streaming platforms like Twitch. We will employ research methods involving the collection and co-analysis of these digital media with young people, to interpret with them how unhealthy industry marketing works, and record its effect on perceptions, attitudes, and behaviours. We aim to establish a body of evidence of unhealthy marketing tactics through digital channels to inform the development of monitoring and regulation strategies. The project will also develop young Victorians’ critical literacy about, and engagement with, unhealthy digital marketing.
Young Adults’ Experience with Australian Public Services (2020)
In partnership with the Australian Public Service
Partners: Assoc Prof Steven Roberts, Dr Ben Lyall, Prof Jo Lindsay, Dr Barbara Barbosa Neves, Dr Zareh Ghazarian, Dr Jonathan Smith, Dr Jacqueline Laughland-Booy, and Dr Verity Trott.
This study aims to understand young people’s experiences and perceptions of Australian public services. Australian public services are central to the lives of young Australians: they provide welfare systems, support education and employment, run systems of taxation, and monitor international travel. In order to understand young people’s experiences, we will first explore young people’s transitions towards adulthood through a comprehensive mixed-method study.
Facebook Timelines (2014-2020)
Partners: Dr Sian Lincoln
This project focuses on the sustained use of digital social media, specifically Facebook, exploring changes in disclosure practices over time. Dr Lincoln and I have sought to better understand the role of social media in mediating and archiving ‘growing up’ narratives, where key rites of passage are mediated and recorded by default over time. The digital traces that are generated through the sustained use of sites like Facebook come to serve as longitudinal records of people’s lives, and we are interested in how users – especially young people who have been using digital social media throughout their lives – make sense of these traces. The research method involves in-depth interviews with participants (20-29 years old) and ‘scrolling back’ through their social media histories (5+ years).
We have a range of publications from this project, including our book Growing up on Facebook:
- Robards, B. & Lincoln, S. (2020) Growing up on Facebook, Peter Lang.
- Robards, B., Lincoln, S., Pinkard, B. & Harris, J. (2018) ‘Remembering Through Facebook: Mediated Memory and Intimate Digital Traces’ in A Dobson, B Robards and N Carah (eds) Digital Intimate Publics and Social Media, Palgrave, pp. 75-91.
- Robards, B. & Lincoln, S. (2017) ‘Uncovering longitudinal life narratives: scrolling back on Facebook‘, Qualitative Research, 17(6): 715-730.
- Lincoln, S. & Robards, B. (2017) ‘Editing the project of the self: Sustained Facebook use and growing up online‘, Journal of Youth Studies, 20(4): 518-531.
- Robards, B. & Lincoln, S. (2016) ‘Making it ‘Facebook Official’: Reflecting on romantic relationships through sustained Facebook use‘, Social Media + Society, 2(4), special issue on ‘Making Digital Cultures of Gender and Sexuality with Social Media’, edited by J Burgess, E Cassidy, S Duguay, and B Light.
The Scrolling Beyond Binaries Study (2016-2020)
Partners: Brendan Churchill (Melbourne); Ben Hanckel (King’s College London); Son Vivienne (RMIT); Paul Byron (Swinburne)
This project seeks to better understand the ways in which young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer + people in Australia use social media in their everyday lives. We are interested in social media use for communication, creating new relationships, maintaining existing ones, and seeking out information (on sexual identity, sexual health, local community, and a wider sense of belonging). We are also interested in the forms of digital social media young LGBTIQ+ people are engaging with, and how these engagements may (or may not) help foster a sense of belonging that can mitigate against experiences of homophobia, transphobia, isolation, and exclusion. We undertook a mixed-methods approach beginning with a national survey in 2016 and continuing with semi-structured in-depth interviews conducted via Skype in 2017. More information and updates:
Publications emerging from this project:
- Robards, B., Byron, P., Churchill, B., Hanckel, B. & Vivienne, S. (2020) ‘Tumblr as a Space of Learning, Connecting, and Identity Formation for LGBTIQ+ Young People’ in A McCracken, A Cho, L Stein, and I.N. Hoch (eds), a tumblr book, University of Michigan Press,
- Hanckel, B., Vivienne, S., Byron, P., Robards, B. & Churchill, B. (2019) ‘”That’s not necessarily for them”: LGBTIQ+ young people, social media platform affordances and identity curation’, Media, Culture & Society, online first.
- Byron, P., Robards, B., Hanckel, B., Vivienne, S., & Churchill, B. (2019) ‘“Hey, I’m Having These Experiences”: Tumblr Use and Young People’s Queer (Dis)connections‘, International Journal of Communication, 13, 2239-2259.
- Robards, B., Churchill, B., Vivienne, S., Hanckel, B., & Byron, P. (2018) ‘Twenty years of “cyberqueer”: The enduring significance of the internet for young LGBTIQ+ people’, in P Aggleton, R Cover, D Leahy, D Marshall & M L Rasmussen (eds), Youth, Sexuality and Sexual Citizenship, Routledge, pp. 151-167.
I am privileged to work with a range of postgraduate research students. HDR (Higher Degree Research) Supervision is, I think, one of the most important parts of my job, and certainly one of the most enjoyable. I have supervised, and am open to future supervision, on topics in the sociology of youth and digital media. Below is a list of current projects I supervise, and a list of past projects.
- PhD: Selectively Revealing Myself: an exploration of young LGBTIQ+ jobseekers’ social media engagement
- PhD: Digital Belonging: Polymedia and Adolescent Migrants in Australia
- PhD: Anti-social networks: mapping the coordination, key figures and ideology of Australia’s far-right
- PhD: Emotion, touch and male bonding: An in depth investigation of masculinity and male friendship in Australia
- PhD: Encouraging drivers to stay focused on the road
- PhD: Sexual Risk Behaviours in Australian-Asian/Pacific Islander Men who have Sex with Men
- PhD: Assembling fitspirational bodies: Social media and gender identity work
- PhD, 2020, Dr Ben Lyall: Traces of the self in digital tracking practices
- Honours, 2019: The Advertising of Skin Lightening Products in Malaysia
- Honours, 2018: Pornographic sexual scripts: A comparative analysis of feminist pornography and mainstream pornography
- PhD, 2017, Dr Oskaras Vorobjovas-Pinta: Gay Neo-Tribes: An Exploration of Space and Travel Behaviour
- Honours, 2017: The use of personal narratives of sexual assault within anti-sexual violence campaigns
- Honours, 2017: Let’s Talk About Consensual Non-Monogamy: Exploring Attitudes among Young Adult Australians
- Honours, 2016: The role of digital social media in re-partnering practices for people in their 30s and 40s. An article from this project has now been published in the Journal of Sociology: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1440783320948958
- Honours, 2015: Tool, Toy & Tutor: Understanding Self-Tracking Devices. An article from this project has now been published in the Journal of Sociology: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1440783317722854
- Honours, 2015: Coming out on YouTube: Young same-sex attracted men’s experience of coming out online
Social media and young people’s body image (2019)
Partners: Dr Gemma Sharp, Prof Jayashri Kulkarni, Prof Alan Petersen, Claire Moran
This project examines the role of social media in shaping body image, and seeks to understand social media as a channel for discussing body image. We will focus on platforms including Reddit, Snapchat, and Instagram, and will employ mixed-methods approaches including social media analysis and in-depth interviewing. Ultimately we seek to understand the relationship between social media use and the consideration of cosmetic procedures, and to identify points of intervention for information sharing and education around body image.
Sensing Tourist Travel in Tasmania (2016-2017)
Partners: Dr Anne Hardy, Prof Richard Eccleston, Dr Tommy Wong, Dr Jaganath Aryal, Dr Dugald Tinch, Dr Kate Booth, Ms Sarah Hyslop
This project seeks to track, through GPS devices, the movement of several hundred groups of tourists over a three month period in Tasmania, while also understanding how they use social media during travel. My own role in the project, as the social media researcher on a team of seven investigators (including tourism researchers, economists, geographers, and sociologists), is to study the social media use of these tourists, analysing how they sense, record, and reflect on their own experiences of travel in digital social spaces. We will recruit a smaller sample of the larger cohort to follow on social media and interview by phone, both during their trip and when they return home, to understand how experiences of travel are mediated online (images, geo-location data, text), and shared with a network, then reflected upon in the future.