Presented by the Social Innovation Research Institute

What are the forms and capacities for collective care in the current digital ecosystem? How is care understood and enacted via automated systems; between social media platforms, apps, and wearable devices; within health service-supported online forums; and across the dark web? This seminar series looks at evidence and answers, as well as research practices and ethics, to understand personal and collective attempts to negotiate, manage, circumvent and otherwise find ways to reinvent cultures of care through digital platforms.

Our May webinar focuses on care, information and postcolonialism in globalised social media contexts.          

Infodemics and Information Overload

Theresa Senft, Macquarie University

Information overload is often described as "a state in which an individual cannot process incoming information and communication" (Beaudoin, 2008 in Saroya 2021). The challenges of information overload can be cognitive (especially decision-making fatigue); emotional (ranging from frustration to anxiety to depression); and behavioural (including information avoidance and denialism.)  Although information often circulates globally (especially online), cognitive and emotional experiences of information often map to geographical location or geopolitical environments. This paper reflects on a recent collaboration with the World Health Organisation, which aimed to introduce global healthcare workers to a range of practical and theoretical approaches grounded in the discipline of media studies, in order to respond to concerns regarding an ‘infodemic’ of COVID-19 misinformation. It suggests potential strategies for understanding and addressing information overload in social media cultures.

Theresa (Terri) Senft is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Media, Creative Arts, Language and Literature at Macquarie University. She has a BA (Hons) in Political Science (SUNY Albany USA 1983) and a PhD in Performance Studies (New York University 2004). Her research centers on the performance of self via digital media, with a focus on the visual display of identity via photo, video, and streaming technologies. Terri began publishing on internet culture in 1997, and is a founding member of the Association of Internet Researchers.

Postcolonial Baiting: Extracting Value Through the Spectacle of Care in a Platform Society

Earvin Charles Cabalquinto, Deakin University

Set against the backdrop of an increasingly precarious society brought upon by often intersecting, multiple and historically entrenched crises, content creators have begun into innovative branding strategies for visibility, engagement, and profit making in highly saturated online environments.  Multiple online platforms have been populated with snappy, playful, informative, and emotionally charged contents that often frame care and support as authentic and potentially within reach. Digital screens turn into an agora of visibilising and witnessing the micro-mobility of individuals, groups and institutions that send aid to struggling individuals or groups. In this provocation, drawing on some insights from my collaborative book project about the brokerage of social transaction on YouTube in the Philippines, I further interrogate the politics of content creation in an attention economy by deploying a critical and postcolonial perspective on how online contents visibilise and capitalise on the spectacle of care, which orchestration tends to appeal to a wider public that navigates everyday precarity due to institutional neglect and shortcomings. Building on the works by Gajjala (2013) and Nakamura (2013), my analysis also on the representations and practices of ‘caring for others’ by postcolonial subjects – as expats settling in neo-colonial Philippines – also problematises how the subaltern or marginalised are mapped out in online and capitalist spaces through a colonial gaze. Importantly, I define care practices as caring for others (Tronto & Fisher, 1990), which I reflect upon as residues in the ruins of neoliberal globalisation, such as the commodification of migrant bodies in a transnational household (Parreñas, 2001) or poor individuals in television shows (Pertierra, 2018). In online spaces, caring for others by those in power appropriate a ‘benevolent strategy’ to incorporate the ‘other’ in digital spaces. Individuals in digital spaces are considered ‘vital infrastructures’ of a platformed society (Tadiar, 2016) that enable the flow of care, through material and immaterial forms. Yet, care provision reinforces the capitalist structures and colonialist gaze, turning digital surplus into data and profit making.  This paradoxical condition is enabled through what I call ‘postcolonial baiting’ or the glossing over of affective contents with colonialist fantasies. Ultimately, this presentation sheds light on the need to take an expansive and critical perspective on investigating content creation especially at a time when the dreamwork of capitalist and colonialist systems has become decentralised, personalised, and repackaged as collective care.  

Dr Earvin Charles Cabalquinto is a Lecturer in Communication at Deakin University. He is also a member of the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation. His research interests included labor migration, transnational communication, mobile intimacy, transnational caregiving, and the politics of digital (im)mobilities. His sole author book, “(Im)mobile Homes: Family life at a distance in the age of mobile media” is forthcoming as part of the Studies in Mobile Communication series of Oxford University Press. His collaborative book, “YouTube and Brokerage of Social Transactions in the Philippines” is under contract with Amsterdam University Press as part of the Asian Visual Cultures series. To know more about his works, visit, or follow him on Twitter: @earvsc. 

Event contact

Professor Kath Albury

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