Digital Cultures program merges with Media and Communications

23 October 2012

The Digital Cultures program will merge with the Department of Media and Communications in a timely response to the unprecedented rate of change in the media industries.

Researchers from the cutting-edge program will join forces with colleagues under the Department of Media and Communications (MeCo) in an attempt to better comprehend and contextualise the media's rapid proliferation into digital realms.

One of the key changes resulting from the merger, which comes into effect in January 2013, will be the integration of Digital Cultures and Media and Communications Honours students into a single group. Postgraduate research students will also benefit from exposure to a broader intellectual cohort as they work within the expanded Media and Communications Department.

Senior Lecturer in Digital Cultures, Dr Chris Chesher, believes the impetus driving the forthcoming union has been building for nearly a decade, with ongoing media convergence online prompting closer interrelations between the two programs.

"The merger between Digital Cultures and Media and Communications will make the close relationship between our discipline areas more visible to students, peers and industry," he says.

"Bringing in Digital Cultures diversifies the strengths of Media and Communications. This merger will bring exciting synergies in teaching and research, as well as more efficient coordination and administration."

Chair of the Department of Media and Communications, Professor Gerard Goggin, agrees the amalgamation of the Digital Cultures program within the Department of Media and Communications "makes a lot of sense."

"I think it's a terrific opportunity for students, staff, the broader industries and people interested in Digital Cultures," he says. "It really brings together a very dynamic program that takes seriously the role of digital technologies in everyday life and the workplace."

Goggin points to the complementary subject areas within both programs as a positive indication of the fruitful research and teaching partnerships the merger will foster into the future. He also expects the merger to streamline research initiatives among researchers working in highly compatible fields.

"We have staff working on convergent media policy, or working on digital and online journalism, so it's a natural fit," Goggin says. "Increasingly the digital is such an integral part of what we do. That's the reality now of the business models of the industry."

Digital Cultures is a unique and interdisciplinary area of study bridging the humanities and information technologies. With core units examining the cultural dimensions of digital technologies, students can elect to study a wide range of innovative units including computer games and simulation, technocultures, web transformations, digital arts, and cyberworlds.

PhD Candidate and Teaching Fellow in the Digital Cultures program, Cesar Albarran, says the "very timely amalgamation" will help students gain a more comprehensive awareness of the digital aspects of today's media.

"The boundaries between the media in general and uniquely digital media are increasingly blurry," he says. "MeCo will be complemented by the addition of scholars that specialise in concepts and issues brought about by digital media, such as authorship, anonymity, participatory cultures, digital reproduction and interaction; issues that Digital Cultures has dealt with for years, with academic rigour."

Albarran, whose PhD investigates online casinos and gambling, welcomes the merger as a way to highlight the significant challenge Digital Cultures pose to analogue and legacy media.

"In my own research on online gambling I have identified important issues in how gamblers and casinos relate to each other through social media platforms, on how gamblers consume situations of risk through mobile devices or how money changes its meaning by being represented on digital interfaces," he explains.

"These issues bring about many ethical and even philosophical questions, and the Digital Cultures Program is the ideal place to explore these."

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