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 UCL.
In my current RMIT research I am comparing new forms of digital activism and civic engagement in Indonesia, Spain and other countries. I am particularly interested in what I call the mainstreaming of nerd politics, that is, the complex processes whereby initiatives rooted in internet activism morph into broader societal struggles, as we saw most dramatically in the 2011 global wave of protests. I am also developing new international networks and collaborations around the study of mobile and online media for social 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).
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 always sceptical, therefore, of epochal claims made about the impending social ‘impact’ of any given medium or platform – and of the idea that the human species is heading for digital/cultural homogeneity. That said, I am equally sceptical of media and communication accounts written in the present continuous where things are perpetually chang-ing but never actually change.
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.
Melbourne, 23 April 2013
(Header illustration: Público.es)