…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)

announcing Visual Cultures of Social Media


re-make/re-model (2015 edition)

In 2015, I’ll be starting a brand new research project in my new position as a Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fellow at QUT:

Visual Cultures of Social Media

The new project will bring to the fore some of the supporting strands of my recent research: in particular, ideas around play, humour, parody, and irreverence on social media, which have formed a secondary thematic arc in several papers, will help to direct this research.

I’ll continue researching popular culture and fandom, for instance, but also consider online and platform fandom – that is, the fandom of social media and its practices, the ritualisation of practices, of tropes and gifs, of memes and macros, of selfies and self-awareness and meta-commentary, how visual media and non-textual elements are central to such practices. This will encompass platforms such as Instagram (continuing the work I’ve been doing with Tama Leaver) and Tumblr, as well as the platforms we’ve covered in depth such as Twitter, as part of the digital and social media ecology – and indeed what else may come over the next three years.

This is just the starting point too, for there is obviously so much that needs studying around visual media and cultures online – if you are working in this area, and would like to collaborate – whether it’s through conference panels, research grants and collaborative projects, workshops, symposia, special issues, or chats over coffee – I would love to hear from you! And indeed, if you know someone who is thinking about doing a PhD on related topics, then QUT and Brisbane are wonderful places to do that (that’s the now-finished call for this year, but it’s a start for thinking about next year!)…

I’ll still be heavily involved with the Social Media Research Group (indeed, probably even more involved), and I’m so lucky to get to work with such a wonderful collection of researchers – they and the Creative Industries Faculty at QUT have been very supportive and patient with me during a difficult year, and hopefully with this project I can reward this backing.

A lot of the collaborations and exciting projects I’m currently involved with won’t change, then. However, this new position does highlight a change in my personal research agenda; my upcoming book is synthesising my recent work into politics and social media, especially Twitter, and while I’ll continue to work on political topics – and the Mapping Movements project with Sky Croeser will continue doing important research in this regard – this new project will also be covering very different contexts. I’m really excited to try out a new research direction with the VCRF, and to continue and extend QUT’s innovative work in digital methods and analysis.

There are a few more side-projects I’m looking to unleash in the next few months too; more details on those to follow!

2014, the kind-of-lost year


A year has gone by, somehow, and I completely neglected to update this space with what’s been happening. It’s been an odd twelve months, rather transitional (which is to be expected), sometimes absolutely brilliant, other times not-so-fantastic – there have been some personal issues over the last year, which has made 2014 feel like a not-particularly successful time, but you know what? It’s actually been quite productive, bizarrely, and I’ve really appreciated how amazing my friends and colleagues are, during some tough times of my own creation.

Anyway, since I never actually announced it on here: 2014 started with accepting an offer of a post-doctoral position working with Axel Bruns on his Future Fellowship project around intermedia news flows and social media, and so in April I moved back to Brisbane to work on campus at QUT once more and be more of a part of the Social Media Research Group. I’ve been working on that project and a few others (as noted below) throughout 2014 – but brace yourselves, a twist is coming.

There has also been a lot of travel (I write this from Munich, where Axel and I are participating in the latest round of workshops with our colleagues at LMU), and conferencing (including some truly awesome conferences with wonderful people in Amsterdam and Daegu especially), so even though it feels like I haven’t done much this year (and I’ve presented fewer papers than I might normally) it’s been a very busy time. So, here we go, the collected outputs for 2014 across projects and themes:


Mapping Movements

Mapping Movements has had a quiet year in terms of new case studies, but Sky Croeser and I have been working on writing up and presenting our research so far. Our first article from the project, covering our first case study on Occupy Oakland, came out in March: ‘Occupy Oakland and #oo: Uses of Twitter within the Occupy movement’, published in First Monday.

Meanwhile, our second case study, on the Greek antifascist movement and its activities in March and April 2013 (based on fieldwork by Sky and digital data capture during this period), formed the basis of a presentation by Sky at the Citizen Lab summer school, and a paper Sky presented at the Social Media and Society conference in Toronto in September:


We also have a couple of additional papers currently under review from Mapping Movements, with more updates to follow hopefully! Sky’s book also came out this year, and you should totally check it out!


The Ends of Identity

This year also saw the first outputs from the work Tama Leaver and I have been doing around identity – particularly pre-birth and post-death – on social media, focusing initially on Instagram. We’ve been developing new methods and dealing with methodological and ethical questions with this research, which were the subjects of our first presentations.

In March, we presented our preliminary methodological work at the Digital Humanities Australasia conference in Perth:


Then, in July, Tama presented the conceptual and methodological outline for the project at ANZCA in Melbourne (while I was still en route to the conference, having been delayed by flight problems):


As with Mapping Movements, this project has papers under review and currently being drafted, so there will be more happening in 2015 – especially given what else is coming next year!


Social media and politics

The big news in this aspect of my research has been the book: Social Media and Everyday Politics. This is under contract to Polity, with the manuscript due to the publishers in early 2015. Tying together a lot of my research over the past five years, it’s wrapping up several threads – more details will come in the new year.

Meanwhile, my article on Twitter and Australian politics, focusing on #auspol, #wapol, and the online commentariat, was published in the International Journal of e-governance (6(4), pp. 342-360. doi:10.1504/IJEG.2013.060648). Technically a 2013 publication but it appeared early in 2014, this paper is the final version of my presentation at the Réseau DEL symposium in Paris in June 2013, and forms part of a DEL special issue arising from the symposium. For a bonus feature, this journal and another French-language special issue featuring other papers from the symposium were launched at an event in Paris late in 2014, and which you can view here.

In June, I presented at the Social Media and the Transformation of Public Space conference in Amsterdam; this paper returned to the topic of social media and elections, but rather than just looking at politicians and associated activity, I was more interested for this study in examining how Australians tweet on election day, what practices and patterns are apparent:


Social media and popular culture

From the popular culture side of things, it’s been a quiet year; at ANZCA (when I finally got there) I presented a paper drawing together the various datasets around SBS, Twitter audiences, Eurovision, and the Tour de France:


At the AoIR conference in Daegu, South Korea, in October, Axel Bruns presented work also by Darryl Woodford, Katie Prowd, and myself, examining who is discussing which television shows within the Australian Twittersphere by mapping programme-specific discussions onto the brand new Australian Twittersphere map (you should also be checking out the amazing work Darryl and Katie are doing around new social media metrics, both around television with their telemetrics but also in other contexts, such as their collaboration with Peta Mitchell around the recent G20 in Brisbane):


Big data, social media

The map itself was then unveiled at ECREA in Lisbon in November, in a paper again presented by Axel with contributions from Darryl, Troy Sadkowsky, and myself:


And finally, next month Axel will be presenting a paper by the pair of us at ACSPRI in Sydney on big data and social media:



So, that was 2014; as I said, it’s been a weird, disjointed year, but everything seems to be looking positive and heading in the right direction for 2015. Which is nice…

(actually it’s ridiculously exciting, but that’s for another post – coming soon!)