Skip to content

John Postill

Short biographical note

John Postill is Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow at RMIT University, Melbourne (2013-2016), and Digital Anthropology Fellow at University College London (UCL). His publications include Localizing the Internet (2011), Media and Nation Building (2006) and the co-edited volume Theorising Media and Practice (2010, with Birgit Bräuchler). Currently he is conducting anthropological research on new forms of digital activism and civic engagement in Indonesia, Spain and globally. He is also writing a book on the new protest movements and the co-edited volume Theorising Media and Change (with Elisenda Ardèvol and Sirpa Tenhunen) [Last updated 12 August 2014].

Long biographical note

I am an anthropologist (PhD, UCL) specialising in the study of media. I live in Melbourne (Australia) where I am a Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow (2013-2016) at the School of Media and Communication, RMIT University. I am also a Fellow of the Digital Anthropology Programme at University College London (UCL). Currently I am conducting fieldwork into social activism and digital media in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

I am particularly interested in what I call the mainstreaming of nerd politics, that is, the complex processes whereby initiatives rooted in internet activism become entangled with broader societal struggles, as we saw most dramatically in the 2011 global wave of protests, or more recently in the Turkish protests of 2013. I am also developing new international networks and collaborations around the study of mobile/digital media and sociocultural change.

Over the years I have worked in various fields (including academia, journalism, teaching and translating) and lived in Spain, Britain, Indonesia, Japan, Germany, Malaysia, Romania, and now Australia. Previously I held research fellowships at Cambridge University, Bremen University and the Academy of Art and Design in Karlsruhe and taught at Sheffield Hallam University, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, Staffordshire University and the National School of Political Science and Administration (SNSPA) in Bucharest.

In 2010-2011 I spent a year as a Senior Fellow at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3), Open University of Catalonia in Barcelona where I investigated the uses of social media for activism and protest with Sarah Pink, especially in connection with the indignados (#15M) and Occupy movements.

My first book, Media and Nation Building, was published by Berghahn in 2006. This study explains how the Iban, an indigenous people of Borneo, have been an integral part of Malaysia’s nation-building project since independence in 1963. My second book, Localizing the Internet, based on fieldwork among Internet activists in Peninsular Malaysia, was published in 2011 (see review). I have also edited a volume with Birgit Bräuchler entitled Theorising Media and Practice (2010) and am currently writing a book on the new protest movements and the co-edited volume Theorising Media and Change (with Elisenda Ardèvol and Sirpa Tenhunen).

Running through these different research projects is a keen interest in how we may theorise the relationship between media and sociocultural change from both an ethnographic and a historical perspective. Throughout my career I have studied media not in isolation, but as complex and shifting configurations of people, technologies, practices and actions that can only be understood in their specific historical and cultural contexts. I am sceptical, therefore, of accounts written in the present continuous where things are perpetually chang-ing but never actually change.

I am the editor, with Mark A. Peterson, of  Berghahn’s Anthropology of Media Series, the convenor of the EASA Media Anthropology Network and a member of the editorial board of Anthropology Today.

The aim of this blog is to put out in the public domain materials that I am already working with as part of my research activity under the broad theme of media anthropology. The idea is to keep colleagues, students and others informed of my work as well as to keep an online notebook for my own personal use, e.g. as an easy way of tracking down materials that may otherwise have remained hidden in my personal records. See also my curated Digital Protest, Spain Today, Indonesiana and Mobile media bookmarks at Scoop.it

I can be reached at jrpostill [atr] gmail [dort] com.

John Postill
Yogyakarta, 23 June 2014

(Header illustration: Público.es)

26 Comments leave one →
  1. June 26, 2008 1:41 pm

    hi john. read yoyr post in AIR list. i am indonesian. was working with indonesian ngo and social movement, did phd on internet and civil society in indonesia and now wondering around in manchester … maybe one day we can meet and talk? best, y.

  2. July 20, 2008 11:23 pm

    Congratulations on the work of disseminating achieved on this site.

  3. July 21, 2008 9:32 am

    Thanks Christian, that’s very encouraging feedback. I’m hoping to give the blog a more public edge over time, e.g. by engaging from an anthropological perspective with some of the media-related issues discussed on the scientific salon Edge.org. I’m a great fan of Edge.org but it does have a conspicuously low proportion of anthropologists as contributors.

  4. July 30, 2009 3:04 pm

    Hi John!
    What a wonderful site you do!
    Im doing doctor degree at PUC-Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Im very surprise to research youth literacies in the internet. The resources you put here will help me a lot!

    Congratulations!

  5. July 30, 2009 3:49 pm

    Many thanks for the compliment, Iliana. I’m glad you find the site of use. What exactly are your researching?

  6. July 30, 2009 4:02 pm

    Oi, John!
    I wrote you an email explaining a little bit more about my research.
    My study describes practices and representations of reading and writing of digital natives. I visited 6 teenagers in their homes one time a week for 2 months, looking things they like to do on pc and asking them about the digital reading and writing meanings.
    I will buy your book now!

  7. July 30, 2009 6:55 pm

    Thanks for this and for the more detailed email, it sounds terrific. Did you find a lot of diversity among all six teenagers (including digital skills), i.e. highly idiosyncratic sets of individual practices? And what were the commonalities?

  8. July 30, 2009 9:08 pm

    PS I’m very interested in the *rewards* of media practice (see Warde 2005, this blog). What do your young people ‘get out of’ their digital media practices? What makes them sustain some digital practices but not others (spending time and money on them)?

  9. July 30, 2009 10:41 pm

    Dear John!

    I just finished to do the interviews, in the sense I trascribed all meetings, video recordered, and I save their print screens and digital and press favourite stories. I will use the software Nudist to analyse the empyrical material. I ll have my qualify 2 on november and then I will have more details to share with u. Its interestint to know how important the computer is for all of them, and how paper receive a special meaning to express feelings. They love the possibility to create fake profiles because in this way they can express themselves with freedom, includding topics about sex.

  10. Hend permalink
    September 5, 2012 11:18 am

    Alsalam Alyekum, Mr. Postill

    I am an Egyptian researcher who is very interested about your blog as well as EASA Media Anthropology Network. I need to know more about how to join this network and attend the offline meetings, or contribute to any future research projects. Thank you very much in advance. Best regards.

  11. Hend permalink
    September 6, 2012 6:36 pm

    Thanks for your reply. The link does not open. I will try again. Regarding the research, my last paper was my MA thesis discussing social networks in Egypt. I am still at the beginning of this career, and hope to do more researches and attend many conferences in the coming years.

  12. January 21, 2013 5:31 pm

    Hi John, I’ve read your work through the edited work by Zawawi Ibrahim and found the chapter you wrote very interesting! I’m guessing it was from your book Media and Nation building? As there isn’t a lot written on the Iban it has influenced a chunk of one of my own chapters!
    Currently researching Iban women performing arts – (post-colonial feminism & performing arts) – the migration of the practise and the women performing (which includes identity, space, home/belonging, tourism, nation building, etc)
    Anna

  13. January 21, 2013 11:30 pm

    Hi Anna. I’m glad to hear you found the chapter interesting. Yes, it was from my book Media and Nation Building. Your work on Iban identity and performance sounds great. Is this part of a PhD or postdoc?

    • January 23, 2013 11:48 am

      Hi John, It is part of my PhD (which hopefully be finished very shortly!). As an Iban, based in London, it has felt more like visiting home than research, which is lovely.
      I hadn’t realised that chapter was part of a book – which seems foolish of me, as I had thought I had been thorough with my investigation into Iban research! I will have to get your book.
      Anna

Trackbacks

  1. What is media anthropology? (1) « media/anthropology
  2. Commenting on Maximilian C. Forte’s Comment « Sara’s Anthropology Blog
  3. RAY › USJ 8 Balai Polis
  4. RAY › The Crimewatcher
  5. ciberespaço e etnografia « Netnografando
  6. PhD course: Media Ethnography: Theory and Practice — Ørecomm
  7. Welcome to Media and Social Change « Media and Social Change
  8. anthropologyworks » British museum event: media and nation building
  9. Facebook visto por un antropólogo | Social Media
  10. EXTRA: A Great Blog Post on LA, Taliban, Bangalore | International Communication – Asia: The Course

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 464 other followers

%d bloggers like this: