…and then the world

the 2017 that was


2017… 2017… to be honest, so much has happened in 2018, as I finally put this list together, that 2017 seems a distant memory: I’ve moved to the other side of the world to start a new job, and so much has been going on I barely remember last month let alone last year.

In addition to the publications, which I have already mentioned on here and are listed below (although only one is called ‘Never gonna GIF you up‘), a few major things stand out; first, our ARC Discovery proposal ‘Digital media, location awareness, and the politics of geodata’ was successful and funded for three years (2018-2020, AUD $324,720); the project features as CIs Peta Mitchell and myself from QUT and Larissa Hjorth from RMIT, and as PIs Agnieszka Leszczynski (Auckland) and Paul Dourish (UC-Irvine).

Second, I spent a month in Bremen, Germany, as a visiting research fellow at the ZeMKI, where I got to work on my ‘digital time’ project and participate in the Mediatization of Time conference — and in general just enjoy the research culture of the ZeMKI and being in northern Germany in winter!

Third, I coordinated the 2017 DMRC Summer School, with 37 PhD and early-career researchers coming to Brisbane for digital methods, research training, and plenty more (the 2018 event has already happened, so this feels especially weird to talk about now).

Fourth, I made my Sydney Opera House debut as a panelist at the Antidote Festival (the successor to the Festival of Dangerous Ideas); I was part of the ‘Creating online chaos‘ session with an amazing line-up of Celeste Liddle, Reni Eddo-Lodge, and Van Badham, with Steph Harmon chairing.

(plus, the 2016 article I co-authored with Tama Leaver on Instagrammatics, digital methods, and visual social media won ‘best research article’ at Curtin University’s 2016 Humanities Research Awards).

And finally, I was invited to keynote for the first time, speaking about visual social media for the University of Amsterdam’s Digital Methods Initiative (DMI) Summer School and also running a masterclass and workshops… and, half a year later, I’m back in Amsterdam in my new role as Assistant Professor in New Media at UvA… but that’s another topic…


Published in 2017



Jean Burgess, Peta Mitchell, and Tim Highfield: ‘Automating the digital everyday: an introduction’. Media International Australia (‘Automating the Everyday’ special issue; online first)

Peta Mitchell and Tim Highfield: ‘Mediated geographies of everyday life—navigating the ambient, augmented and algorithmic geographies of geomedia’. Ctrl-Z: New Media Philosophy, 7.

Kate M. Miltner and Tim Highfield: ‘Never gonna GIF you up: Analyzing the cultural significance of the animated GIF’. Social Media + Society, 3(3). doi:10.1177/2056305117725223



Tim Highfield: ‘Histories of blogging’. In G. Goggin & M. McLelland (Eds.), Routledge Companion to Global Internet Histories. Routledge, pp. 331-342.
Tim Highfield: ‘Social TV and depictions of community on social media: Instagram and Eurovision fandom’. In P. Messaris & L. Humphreys (Eds.), Digital Media: Transformations in human communication (second edition). Peter Lang, pp. 156-165.


Other writing

‘Social media and everyday politics, re-examined’ (cross-posted on Medium / Culture Digitally)



Talks + presentations

‘Socially mediated moments and memories: Now, then, and the tangled temporality of digital media’, Mediatization of Time conference, Bremen, Germany, 7-8 December 2017.

‘ICYMI, while you were away: Temporal platformed interventions in the digital everyday’. ZeMKI, University of Bremen, 6 December 2017.

‘ICYMI, while you were away: The digital intimacy of temporal platformed interventions’, Digital Intimacies symposium, Melbourne 13-15 November 2017.

Ariadna Matamoros-Fernández, Felix Münch, and Tim Highfield. ‘More than meets the eye: Understanding networks of images in controversies around racism on social media’. AoIR 2017, Tartu, 18-21 October 2017.

‘#BlackLivesMatter to #dogsatpollingstations (but not #CrookedHillary): Platform privilege and the affective politics of hashflags’, Affective Politics symposium, Turku, Finland, 12-13 October 2017.

Kate M. Miltner and Tim Highfield. ‘Never Gonna GIF You Up: Analyzing the cultural significance of the animated GIF’. Columbia University. 14 September 2017.

‘Visual cultures and politics of social media’, Oxford University: Oxford Internet Institute Summer Doctoral Programme. July 2017.

Stephen Harrington, Axel Bruns, and Tim Highfield. ‘#infotainment and the impact of “connective action”: The case of #milkeddry’. ANZCA 2017, Sydney, July 2017.

‘Instagrammatics, visual social media, and digital methods’, keynote for University of Amsterdam Digital Methods Initiative Summer School. 26 June 2017.

‘Social media and everyday politics, re-examined: The impact of fake news, the alt-right, and the clickbait president’. ICA ‘Populism, Post-Truth Politics and Participatory Culture’ pre-conference, San Diego, 25-26 May 2017.

Tim Highfield and Peta Mitchell. ‘Algorithmic Surveillance and Urban Ambient Geodata’. AAG, Boston, 5-9 April 2017.

‘The GIF and News Coverage: Remediated, Remixed, and Reimagined’. SCMS, Chicago, 22-26 March 2017.



Media and public events

Panelist, ‘Creating online chaos’. Antidote Festival, Sydney Opera House, 3 September 2017.

Panelist, ‘Democracy, politics, and the popular’. Brisbane Powerhouse, 31 August 2017.

April 2017: Wired, ‘Don’t Look Now, But Extremists’ Meme Armies Are Turning Into Militias’ by Emma Grey Ellis (interview)

Chair, ‘Digital Media Unplugged: Have social media ruined everything?’ Brisbane Powerhouse, February 2017.




Digital Methods (University of Melbourne, February 2017)
Instagrammatics (developed with Tama Leaver) (University of Amsterdam DMI Summer School, June 2017)
‘Instagrammatics and beyond’ masterclass (University of Amsterdam DMI Summer School, June 2017).
Digital Methods pre-conference (with Axel Bruns, Stefanie Duguay, Ariadna Matamoros-Fernández, Brenda Moon, and Felix Münch) (AoIR2017, Tartu, October 2017).
Digital Methods (University of Bremen, December 2017)


Coordinator, DMRC Summer School 2017 (QUT, February 2017).



around the world

38 flights (195072 km, or, ~4.87x around the world; 10 days 21:07 flight time) + long-distance trains
eight countries (Australia, USA, Netherlands, UK, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Germany)

the 2016 that was


2016 was a weird old year, to put it mildly – and that’s without considering Brexit, Trump, the ongoing rise of extremism, unrest and turmoil and crises, political inactivity on major issues, and all the celebrity deaths (not just Bowie)… Personally, 2016 didn’t feel like the most productive year, and there was a lot going on behind the scenes that contributed to that — but, looking at the round-up for the year, it doesn’t seem that bad overall. Obviously the book finally coming out was a major achievement for 2016, but there was also a lot of progress with the visual social media research I’ve been doing, especially on GIFs:


Published in 2016



Social Media and Everyday Politics



Tim Highfield and Axel Bruns: ‘Compulsory Voting, Encouraged Tweeting? Australian Elections and Social Media’; Axel Bruns and Tim Highfield: ‘Is Habermas on Twitter? Social Media and the Public Sphere’ – both in The Routledge Companion to Social Media and Politics

Axel Bruns and Tim Highfield: ‘May the best Tweeter win: The Twitter strategies of key campaign accounts in the 2012 US election’ – in Die US-Präsidentschaftswahl 2012: Analysen der Politik- und Kommunikationswissenschaft



Tim Highfield and Tama Leaver: Instagrammatics and digital methods: studying visual social media, from selfies and GIFs to memes and emoji (Communication Research and Practice)

Tama Leaver and Tim Highfield: Visualising the ends of identity: pre-birth and post-death on Instagram (Information, Communication & Society)

+ 2015 publication as online-first but now out with 2016 page numbers: ‘News via Voldemort: Parody accounts in topical discussions on Twitter’ (New Media & Society)


Other writing

‘Covering the election beyond our memes: what role for visual politics and social media?’ (The Conversation)

‘Waiving (hash)flags: Some thoughts on Twitter hashtag emoji’ (Medium)



Talks + presentations

‘On (the) loop: The animated GIF and cultural logics of repetition’ (Theorizing the Web, New York City, April 2016) [view this talk on YouTube]
‘Social Media and Everyday Politics’ (Oxford Internet Institute Summer Doctoral Programme, Oxford, July 2016)
Tim Highfield and Kate M. Miltner, ‘Interrogating the reaction GIF: Making meaning by repurposing repetition’ (Social Media and Society, London, July 2016)
‘The politics of info-GIF-ics: Animated maps and graphs on everyday social media’ (Culture and Politics of Data Visualisation, Sheffield, October 2016)
Tim Highfield and Peta Mitchell, ‘Ambient geodata and algorithmic surveillance’ (Automating the Everyday symposium, Brisbane, December 2016)
Tim Highfield and Kate M. Miltner, ‘The Trumping of the political GIF: Visual social media for political commentary in the 2016 US election’ (Crossroads, Sydney, December 2016)
‘Smashed mouths: Internet cultures and the embrace and subversion of nostalgia’ (Crossroads, Sydney, December 2016)


The conceptual challenges of perpetual motion: Challenges of studying looping visual social media‘ – poster presentation (ICA Visual Communication pre-conference, Fukuoka, June 2016)


Tim Highfield, Kate M. Miltner, Amy Johnson, and R. Stuart Geiger, ‘Playing with the rules’ fishbowl (AoIR2016, Berlin, October 2016)




July 2016: ABC Radio National – Drive with Patricia Karvelas, ‘Social Campaign: poll selfies, Greens on Grindr and Twitter investigates Kelly O’Dwyer’ (live interview)
June 2016: Washington Post, ‘The mesmerizing lost art of the 10-hour YouTube loop, 2011’s weirdest video trend’ by Abby Ohlheiser (interview)
May 2016: ABC Gold Coast – Breakfast, ‘How do political memes affect the polls?’ (live interview)




Tim Highfield and Tama Leaver: Instagrammatics for 2016 CCI Digital Methods Summer School
Bots for QUT DMRC workshop series



1 prize-winning GIF


Get elected!
‘Don’t get mad, get elected’ for GIF IT UP! 2016



around the world

37 flights (213298 km, or, >5x around the world; 11 days 19:13 flight time) + long-distance trains
six countries (Australia, USA, Germany, UK, France, Japan)

presentation: Oh! You Pretty GIFs (Melbourne, July 2015)


In mid-July, in my final stop in the mid-year conference tour, I had the honour of presenting at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in Melbourne at a symposium marking the opening of the David Bowie is exhibition in Australia at the same venue. Needless to say, it was an amazing experience, and huge thanks go to the organizers for their hard work in putting this together; I fell sick after the first day, unfortunately, and missed out on a whole bunch of fascinating work if the first day was anything to go by! Plus it’s not many conferences where the day starts with musical performances (including a ukulele trio dubbed the ‘Thin White Ukes’), features keynotes from a scholar living as Bowie, the David Bowie is V&A curator, and one of Australia’s pre-eminent musicians and music writers, *and* offers workshops and such that include make-up and photoshoots:


I presented a paper about David Bowie GIFs, fandom, and related themes; unlike many of my previous presentations, my slides were mostly images, projected onto a ridiculously huge cinema screen – so putting up the slides without comment seems a little confusing; however, also unusually, I wrote out a script for my presentation so that I had something to work from without the slides to give written prompts. So, if you are interested, you can find the full selection of GIFs and accompanying ‘script’ (which I talked around and occasionally went on short tangents from, but as a guide to what I was probably planning to say) after the cut:




collected slides: ICA and ANZCA 2015


A quick round-up of the slides for my various presentations from May and July at ICA in Puerto Rico and ANZCA in New Zealand: if you wanted to know what was on the slides (no audio) for presentations about, variously, birth and death as depicted on Instagram, Eurovision, Democracy Sausage, the Australian spatial imaginary and social media, visual social media and methodological challenges, and news and Twitter, then read on! These papers were variously prepared with Tama Leaver, Axel Bruns, Peta Mitchell, and Elizabeth Ellison.


ICA Mobile Preconference (San Juan, Puerto Rico: May 2015)

Tama Leaver and Tim Highfield: ‘Instagramming the ends of identity’

(ed: obviously, with 15 minutes to present not all 45 slides were talked about in the presentation itself!)


ICA (San Juan, Puerto Rico: May 2015)

Tim Highfield: ‘Depicting social television on Instagram’


Axel Bruns and Tim Highfield: ‘Social media news audiences and the quantified journalist’


ANZCA (Queenstown, New Zealand: July 2015)

Tim Highfield: ‘Bangers and mash-ups’


Peta Mitchell, Tim Highfield, and Elizabeth Ellison: ‘Mapping the Australian spatial imaginary via social media’


Tim Highfield and Tama Leaver: ‘Visual social media and digital methods’ (an updated version of the paper presented at ‘Digging the Data’ in Sydney in April 2015).


presentation schedule 2015 [#mmdiwts tour]


My conference schedule for the year is starting to come together, and over the next six months I’ll be involved in presentations on different sides of the planet, covering a pretty interesting range of topics with some brilliant collaborators – from Bowie to birth, #democracysausage to death, GIFs and loops to Eurovision and elections, and a generous dash of methods. This year’s tour (for no reason given the moniker the ‘Make Me Dance, I Want To Surrender‘ World Tour 2015) has several legs, and more dates may follow – especially in September and October. Check the upcoming page for the latest details!


Part one: April – May 2015

First up, at the end of this week I’m presenting at ‘Digging the Data’, an ANZCA pre-conference at the University of Sydney, on ‘Visual social media: Instagrammatics and beyond’ (17 April 2015). This is an updated version of both the Instagrammatics Tama Leaver and I have been working on, and some preliminary work for my VCRF project.

Then, at the start of May, in Brisbane (for once!), I’m the support act for Lee Humphreys at that month’s Digital Media seminar series at QUT – the topic for my talk is still TBA, but will probably be around ‘Visual Cultures of Social Media’ (8 May 2015).

A few weeks later, I’m off to Puerto Rico for the International Communication Association (ICA) conference in San Juan:

– at the ICA Mobile Preconference, Tama and I have a paper on ‘Instagramming the ends of identity‘, an overview of the Instagram elements we’ve been working on for Tama’s Ends of Identity project. (20 May 2015).

– in the full conference, Axel Bruns and I have a paper on ‘Social media news audiences and the quantified journalist’ as part of a panel on  ‘the audience turn in journalism (studies)’. (22 May 2015).

– and also at the full conference, I’m presenting on ‘Depicting social television on Instagram: Visual social media, participation, and audience experiences of #sbseurovision’ – my paper about Australian Eurovision fandom on Instagram, to be presented a matter of hours before Australia competes at Eurovision for the very first time. (23 May 2015).


Part two: July 2015

In July, I’m off to New Zealand (for the first time!) to present at the Australia New Zealand Communication Association conference in Queenstown:

– first, I’m finally getting #democracysausage out of my system (8-10 July 2015)

Peta Mitchell, Elizabeth Ellison, and I have a paper on ‘Social media and the Australian spatial imaginary‘, bringing together Peta’s work on cultural geography and social media mapping, Liz’s research into representations of place, and my digital media research, especially Instagram (8-10 July 2015).

– and Tama and I have the expanded version of  ‘Visual social media: Instagrammatics and beyond’ as part of a Digital Methods panel (8-10 July 2015).

The following week, I’m off to Melbourne to give a talk at a symposium attached to the David Bowie Is… exhibition which is finally coming to Australia. My presentation is about fandom and visual culture on social media: it’s ‘Oh! You Pretty GIFs: Visualising David Bowie fandom on Tumblr’, to be given at The Stardom and Celebrity of David Bowie symposium, (17-18 July 2015).


Part three: September – October 2015

The early parts of this leg are still to be determined, but the tour will end up in Phoenix, Arizona, for the Association of Internet Researchers annual conference (IR16), where the following will happen:

Stefanie Duguay and I will present on looping visual media, focusing on GIFs and Vines, in ‘“Like a monkey with a miniature cymbal”: Cultural practices of repetition in visual social media’ (21-24 October 2015).

– Tama and I will delve deeper into the visual representations of birth and death on Instagram in ‘Imagining the ends of identity: Birth and death on Instagram’ (21-24 October 2015)

– and Axel and I sum up six years of research into social media and Australian politics as part of a panel on elections in ‘Social Media in Selected Australian Federal and State Election Campaigns, 2010-15‘ (21-24 October 2015)

There is more to be announced, too – including more methods workshops, so keep an eye out for that! So, a pretty quiet year planned…