Digital symposium
Digital symposium
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Rhodes JMS to host the first African Digital Media Research Methods Symposium

Date Released: Tue, 26 March 2019 16:23 +0200

The School of Journalism and Media Studies, Rhodes University is excited to announce the First African Digital Media Research Methods Symposium. Taking  a broad approach to Digital Methods, from more quantitative methods of scraping and visualising social media communication, to immersive ethnographic approaches of studying digital practices in the field, the symposium promises two days of hands-on learning. Our guests will include the Head of the Digital Media Research Methods Centre at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and author of many books on digital and social media, including the recent YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture (2018), Prof Jean Burgess, and the current president of the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR), also from QUT, Prof Axel Bruns, the author of Twitter and Society (2014) and his influential new book “Gatewatching and News Curation Journalism, Social Media, and the Public Sphere”. We will also be hosting leading South African digital researchers Prof Tanya Bosch (UCT) author of “Rethinking media research in Africa”, a recent chapter in the Palgrave Handbook for Media and Communication Research in Africa (Edited by Bruce Mutsvairo) and Indra De Lanerolle, from the Network Society Research Project at Wits, who has headed up several internet research initiatives in South Africa and on the continent.

These and other speakers will be delivering both keynotes talks and hands-on workshops featuring various digital media research methods. South African and African researchers and post-graduate students are invited to share in the discussion and to submit an abstract for either a methodology paper or workshop.


Dates: 5 – 7 June

Venue: The Africa Media Matrix, Rhodes University, Makhanda (Grahamstown)


We are looking for papers that focus on diverse topics relating to digital research methodologies, incuding:

  • adapting digital methods for particular African and South African contexts,
  • ethical dilemmas in terms of using digital methods in South Africa,
  • epistemological concerns such as to what extent digital platforms reflect the South African public sphere,
  • debates on the validity of various methodological approaches  to understanding how digitality links to sociality in the South African and broader African context
  • research stories outlining an experience of a research method and how methods and concepts related to the digital intersect in the act of research

We are looking for workshops that involve participants in a practical manner on the following topics:

  • Hands-on digital workshops showcasing a research method involving digital data,
  • Workshops on methodological dilemmas, involving participants in discussing real-world and hypothetical situations



Submitting an abstract:

Please email your abstract to with METHOD ABSTRACT in the subject line. Deadline for abstracts is 12 April.


Symposium costs and bursaries:

Participants will be responsible for covering their own accommodation and travel costs to Makhanda. A R700 conference fee will be payable to cover catering and sundries for the conference. There will be a limited amount of bursaries available for post-graduate students, which will partially cover travel costs. Please enquire about these as early as possible, by writing to with BURSARY in the subject line.


International Keynote speakers:

Professor Jean Burgess

PhD (Queensland University of Technology), M.Phil (University of Queensland), B. Arts (Hons) (University of Queensland), B. Mus (Hons) (University of Queensland)

Jean Burgess is a Professor of Digital Media and Director of the QUT Digital Media Research Centre (DMRC). Her research focuses on the uses, cultures and politics of digital media technologies and platforms, as well as new and innovative methods for studying them. Her co-authored and edited books include YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture (Polity Press, 2009; 2nd edition 2018), Studying Mobile Media: Cultural Technologies, Mobile Communication, and the iPhone (Routledge, 2012), A Companion to New Media Dynamics (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), Twitter and Society (Peter Lang, 2014), and The SAGE Handbook of Social Media (SAGE, 2017). She has worked successfully with a range of government, industry and not-for-profit organisations to address the practical challenges and opportunities posed by digital and social media; as well as to deploy advanced digital methods to understand and engage with the concerns of their communities.

Professor Axel Bruns

Doctor of Philosophy (University of Queensland)

Dr Axel Bruns is a Professor in the Digital Media Research Centre at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, and was a Chief Investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCi). He is the President of the Association of Internet Researchers. Bruns is the author of Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and Beyond: From Production to Produsage (2008) and Gatewatching: Collaborative Online News Production (2005), and a co-editor of Twitter and Society (2014), A Companion to New Media Dynamics (2012) and Uses of Blogs (2006). Bruns is an expert on the impact of user-led content creation, or produsage, and his current work focusses on the study of user participation in social media spaces such as Twitter, especially in the context of acute events. His research blog is at, and he tweets at @snurb_dot_info. See for more details on his current social media research. Bruns has coined the term produsage to better describe the current paradigm shift towards user-led forms of collaborative content creation which are proving to have an increasing impact on media, economy, law, social practices, and democracy itself. Produsage provides a new approach to conceptualising these phenomena by avoiding the traditional assumptions associated with industrial-age production models. His study of these environments builds on his work in the area of participatory or citizen journalism and blogging. For more information about produsage, see In 1997, Bruns was a co-founder of the premier online academic publisher M/C – Media and Culture, which publishes M/C Journal and M/C Reviews, and he continues to serve as M/C’s General Editor. Bruns has served as an Executive Member in the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) and as a Project Leader in the Smart Services Cooperative Research Centre. He is a member of the editorial boards of Information, Communication & Society, New Media & Society, and Digital Journalism, amongst others. He also publishes a column on social media at The Conversation. Bruns’s main research interests are in social media, ‘big data’ research methods, produsage, citizen journalism, and online communities.