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Democracy, Politics, and the Popular: A Podium Discussion

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Rooftop Terrace, Brisbane Powerhouse

119 Lamington Street

New Farm

Brisbane, QLD 4005

Australia

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Around the world, politics is experiencing a period of substantial transformation and uncertainty. Leaders ranging from Donald Trump to Rodrigo Duterte are bypassing the mainstream media to take their messages directly to their social media followers - and those messages often break with established conventions and actively reject democratic processes and challenge media scrutiny. Meanwhile, citizens engage in connective action through social media to create a popular discourse that is often equally critical of both established and emerging political forces, and is conducted in part through the everyday circulation of irreverent memes and viral messages. This, too, challenges the democratic consensus: on the one hand, it promotes more direct modes of democratic participation, while on the other, it highlights the potential susceptibility of such processes to disruption from 'fake news' and other propaganda.

How do we make sense of these developments? Do they represent an inexorable slide into a new era of political populism, where facts are drowned out by ideology and 'strong' leaders seek to hollow out democratic checks and balances? Or are today's connected citizens smart enough to see through such bluster, finding new ways to combat misinformation and coordinate protests against leaders who threaten democracy? And most crucially: what role do digital and social media play in all this? What can we learn from current developments in the region and around the world?

Join us for a QUT Digital Media Research Centre podium discussion involving a number of key scholars in the field, followed by drinks and nibbles.

· Aim Sinpeng, Department of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney

Aim’s research interests centre on the relationships between digital media, political participation and political regimes in Southeast Asia. She is particularly interested in the role of social media in shaping state-society relations and inducing political and social change. She is the co-founder of the Sydney Cyber Security Network and a Thailand country coodinator for the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre. Aim has served as the Expert Contributor for Varieties of Democracy and Bartelsmann Transformation Index, which measure degrees and types of democracy, and is currently a Research Associate of the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto. In 2014, she was awarded a Young Southeast Asian Fellow by the prestigious Southeast Asia Research Group in recognition for her promising scholarship on Southeast Asia. She is currently completing a co-authored edited volume on Internet, Politics and Democracy in Southeast Asia. Prior to her academic career she has worked for the World Bank, the Government of Thailand and in investment banking. Aim is also a regular commentator on Southeast Asian politics for the ABC, SBS, CBC, Channel News Asia, Al Jazeera, CNBC and Sky News.

· Ross Tapsell, College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

Ross Tapsell is a lecturer and researcher at the ANU's College of Asia and the Pacific, specialising in the media in Indonesia and Malaysia. He has been a Visiting Fellow at The University of Indonesia (Jakarta), Airlangga University (Surabaya) and Indiana University (Bloomington, US). Ross is currently Director of the ANU Malaysia Institute. He is involved with the ANU Indonesia Project, and the academic news/analysis website New Mandala. He is also on the editorial board of the scholarly journal Asiascape: Digital Asia (Brill). As well as scholarly publications, Ross's articles have appeared in The Canberra Times, The Conversation, Tempo, The Jakarta Post, the Malay Mail and others.

· Johan Lidberg, School of Media, Film, and Journalism, Monash University

Associate Professor Johan Lidberg is deputy head of journalism at Monash University. He has published in the areas of media accountability, journalism and democracy and information access and climate change. His latest co-edited book, 'In the name of security - secrecy, surveillance and journalism', addresses the chilling effect of anti-terror laws and the fear driven global security paradigm has had on public interest journalism and indirectly the health of liberal democracies.

· Tim Highfield, Digital Media Research Centre, Queensland University of Technology

Dr Tim Highfield is Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fellow in the QUT Digital Media Research Centre, where his fellowship project is Visual Cultures of Social Media. He is the author of Social Media and Everyday Politics (Polity, 2016), which brings together his PhD and postdoctoral research into politics, popular culture, digital and social media, play and irreverence, activism, and Eurovision. His research examines how the everyday and the digital, the popular and the political, the silly and the serious are interlinked; his interests include the everyday practices of popular social media, and how formats and styles from animated GIFs to humorous hashtags and joke forms are used to engage with topics ranging from the explicitly political to the mundane and personal.

This is a RSVP only event. Please join us by registering here. For the information on parking and directions, please visit the Brisbane Powerhouse website. For further questions about the event, please contact the Digital Media Research Centre at dmrc@qut.edu.au.


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Location

Rooftop Terrace, Brisbane Powerhouse

119 Lamington Street

New Farm

Brisbane, QLD 4005

Australia

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