News and Events

Academic Research, New Media Technologies and the Culture of Control

An interdisciplinary workshop at the University of Wollongong

2 and 3 October 2015 

LHA Research Hub
Building 19, Level 2, Room 2072

Organised by Mark McLelland and Andrew Whelan,
School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts, University of Wollongong 


In the last decade there has been a transformation of media consumption, production, dissemination and networking enabled by expanding access to mobile broadband. One important difference between this new era and prior media transformations is the breakdown between media audiences/consumers and producers/broadcasters. The shift to digital media has led to a massive increase in user-generated content (UGC), and hybrid terms such as ‘produser’ and ‘prosumer’ have been developed to capture the new relationship that media users now have with digital content and technologies.

These rapid changes in contemporary ‘mediascapes’ have led to enhanced regulatory measures with respect to censorship, data storage and management, privacy and intellectual property. Fear and insecurity about the online environment are driving ongoing calls for increased regulation and preventative security, especially in relation to children and to terrorism. Discourses of ‘harm’ and ‘risk’ have led to a demand for a suite of regulations that now capture individuals’ online lives, burdening internet providers and users in ways that multiply this regulatory impact. These discourses and their articulations extend across government legislation and down to policies at local institutional levels: in the home, in workplaces, in schools, and also in universities. Yet within the scholarly community, there has been little interest to date in addressing the consequences for academic research itself, given research is shaped by university protocols (such as IT and acceptable use policies, data retention requirements, mandatory reporting, civility codes and ethics committees).

This workshop brings together researchers from sociology, anthropology, information technology, law, fan studies and media studies to discuss the impact that enhanced regulatory frameworks have had on shaping the kinds of research that can be undertaken and on deterring certain kinds of questions and agendas. Speakers take up ‘the challenge . . . to take a more active role in shaping public policy making that can impact on the conduct of e-research’ (Lyons et al., 2010: 159). We aim to produce a collection of papers that informs academics, online users, university lawyers and ethics committees, legislators and other interested parties about the consequences of recent legislative changes and to support the development of more effective, evidence-based policies regarding research into online spaces and the regulation of such spaces.

Program and Abstracts


  • Kath Albury (Arts and Media, UNSW): Self-Representation = Self-Incrimination: The Risks and Opportunities of Researching Young People’s Digital Cultures
  • Lyria Bennett Moses (Law, UNSW): Defining the Regulatory Space
  • Joseph Brennan (Media & Comms, USyd): Finding the Right Frame: When Fan Works 'Play' beyond the Limits of Classification
  • Catherine Driscoll and Liam Grealy (Cultural Studies, USYd): Media Classification and Mionoritised Adolescence
  • Terry Flew (Media and Communication, QUT): Weber, Foucault and the Governance of Media Content
  • Laura Lowenkron (Anthroplogy, Unicamp): Politics of Fear and Regulation of Desires: The Brazilian Political Crusade against Pedophilia and Child Pornography on the Internet
  • Mark McLelland (Sociology, UOW): Surveilling Fantasy: Thought Policing or Pre-Emptive Action?
  • Katina Michael (Information Sciences, UOW) The ethics of observation: who is watching who?
  • Chris Moore (Media & Communication, UOW): Persona Autosurveillance: Digital Objects, Privacy, Property and Visualising the Presentation of the Public Self
  • Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli (Health and Social Development, Deakin): The ‘C’ Words: Clitorises, Childhood and Challenging Compulsory Heterosexuality in Education
  • Brady Robards (Sociology, UTas): Scrolling Back on Facebook: Qualitative Research into Social Media
  • Brian Simpson (Law, UNE): Legal Narratives of Childhood in the Digital Age: Tensions and Contradictions in the Regulation of the Innocent, Autonomous or Otherwise ‘Wicked Child’
  • Andrew Whelan (Sociology, UOW): What is Obscene Enough? Pretending to Not Know -- Obscenity and Absurdity  

Public Lectures

Porn, Censorship, Classification and Free Speech: Global Paradoxes in the Governance of Media
Presented by Terry Flew, Professor of Media and Communication, Queensland University of Technology Terry Flew

5.30pm, Thursday 1 October 2015
LHA Research Hub, Building 19, Room 2027B

Register online >  

In this presentation, Professor Flew will reflect upon the global landscape surrounding the governance and classification of media content, at a time of rapid change in media platforms and services for content production and distribution, and contested cultural and social norms. He will discuss the tensions and contradictions arising in the relationship between national, regional and global dimensions of media content distribution, as well as the changing relationships between state and non-state actors. These issues will be explored through consideration of issues such as: recent debates over film censorship; the review of the National Classification Scheme conducted by the Australian Law Reform Commission; online controversies such as the future of the Reddit social media site; and videos posted online by the militant group ISIS.

Terry Flew is Professor of Media and Communications at the Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia.   He is the author of New Media: An Introduction (Oxford, 2014), Global Creative Industries (Polity, 2013), The Creative Industries, Culture and Policy (Sage, 2012), and co-author of Media Economics (Palgrave, 2015). He is the author of 42 book chapters and 76 refereed journal articles, and is the founding editor of Communication Research and Practice. He is a member of the Australian Research Council (ARC) College of Experts for Humanities and Creative Arts, and in 2011-12 he worked for the Australian Law Reform Commission, chairing a review of the National Classification Scheme. He is an International Communications Association (ICA) Executive Board member, and chairs the Global Communication and Social Change Division. 

Legal Narratives of Childhood in the Digital Age: Tensions and Contradictions in the Regulation of the Innocent, Autonomous or otherwise Wicked Child
Presented by Brian Simpson, Professor of Law, University of New EnglandBrian Simpson

9:45am, Friday 2 October
LHA Research Hub, Building 19, Room 2072
Please RSVP for catering purposes to Professor Mark McLelland -

Digital technology has provided children and young people with the means to interact with their peers and experiment with their identities in ways that have allowed them to arguably re-define what it means to be a child or young person in today’s world. Not surprisingly, this has at the same time created anxiety and panic for many adults concerned with this shift in the nature of childhood.

The law is a far from neutral tool in this process. While the law seems to be concerned with notions of consent, capacity and privacy as they affect children’s engagement with the digital world, it also has a long history of regulating and controlling children and young people. For example, legal narratives of childhood innocence may appear benign but often disguise various forms of social control that remove from children the legal capacity that they claim in the digital world. The result can be a confused, ambiguous and contradictory legal regime that may harm children when apparently seeking to protect them, as well as being one that is more likely to respond to myths and fears about wicked children than any engagement with the actual lives of children and young people.

Brian Simpson is a Professor of Law in the School of Law at University of New England in Armidale, Australia. He has previously held appointments at various Australian universities and at Keele University in the United Kingdom. His principal research interests are in children’s rights, social justice and law, and the law’s regulation of urban problems. His work is interdisciplinary in nature. In the area of children and the law his work seeks to understand how the law, read as a narrative, helps to explain constructions of childhood and family life. Within that context, he is particularly concerned with the manner in which law accepts or rejects the degree to which children are afforded autonomy, and how this connects with different conceptions of childhood.

The affective politics of moral/sex panics: The Brazilian crusade against pedophilia and child pornography on the Internet
Presented by Laura Lowenkron, Anthroplogy, Unicamp, BrazilLaura Lowenkron 

4.30pm, Friday 2 October
LHA Research Hub, Building 19, Room 2072
Please RSVP for catering purposes to Professor Mark McLelland -

On December 2007, the Brazilian Federal Police, in partnership with Interpol, started the so called “Operation Carousel” to combat child pornography on the web. It was the first international operation against “pedophilia” on the Internet, planned and executed under the command of a Brazilian police force. The operation prompted the establishment of a Parliamentary Inquiry Committee on Pedophilia in the Brazilian Senate. Thousands of disquieting images of very young children being sexually abused had been found in the computers seized by the police. However, the so-called “pedophiles” could not be prosecuted because the possession or storage of child pornography was not illegal in Brazil at the time. An evangelical senator, who became the chairman of the Committee, leaded a national moral crusade that mobilized fears and anxieties. The public feelings engendered by the moral panic provided effective moral support for political claims to increase regulation. Based on an ethnographic fieldwork carried out within the Brazilian Senate’s inquiry committee on Pedophilia and in the Brazilian Federal Police Department, the aim of this paper is to discuss the impact of the affective politics of fear connected with sexual panics in the regulation of internet and sexuality. 

Laura Lowenkron is a Brazilian social anthropologist. She has a doctorate in social anthropology from the National Museum of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Brazil. In 2012, she joined the Center for Gender Studies Pagu of the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), with a postdoctoral fellowship from São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP). She is currently researching on sexual violence, pedophilia, and the trafficking of persons, having published widely on these subjects. Her areas of interest are: anthropology of emotions and moralities, ethnography of politics and bureaucracy, gender and sexuality studies. She is author of the book “O monstro contemporâneo: a construção social da pedofilia em múltiplos planos” [The contemporary monster: the social construction of pedophilia in multiple layers] (Eduerj, 2015). 


To book a place at the worksho please email the secretariat at

Last reviewed: 4 September, 2015