Friday 30 December 2016

Advice for #UCT Media Studies students on sharing draft #research papers online

Written for UCT postgraduate Media Studies students interested in sharing their research projects online.

Three of my 17 postgrad students shared their Mobile Media and Communication projects online. One student had a highly compelling reason not to; her draft paper's topic focused on a rival to her new employer's magazine title! As a result of this low ratio, it seems that several exemplary projects will at best be shared via UCT's intranet for just future FAM5038S students to access. The small ratio of students sharing drafts seems a missed opportunity for them to gain recognition. More importantly postgrad students' projects miss adding to Media Studies literature: several of my year's projects were pathfinders that successfully explored under-examined topics. Such foci also provided interesting insights regarding research participants' unusual Capetonian contexts.

To help those Media Studies students keen to share their final research projects online, but who may be uncertain how, Nicola Pallitt and I recommend four options. For aspiring, emergent researchers, these are ideally considered after creating one's Academia researcher profile:

Creating a research profile on

Postgrads keen to progress to a PhD or working in research should create a UCT profile (ideally using their university work email address). Creating an profile and sharing their draft papers there first, enables one to basically say ‘this is mine’. While some journals won’t publish papers shared elsewhere {including!}, it is also helpful platform to link one's drafts from and join related communities. For example, a selfie researcher can search for the 'selfie' keyword and follow it. Ditto for the keywords, 'open access', 'special issue' – when you join such a network you might also connect with researchers who can advise on upcoming publications.

Joining communities on can also give you insights into who is reading your paper. Plus readers of your article might describe what sparked their interest in it. Just remember to add your email address in your draft paper to ease communication – super-interested readers may want to email you. For background on the benefits and limitations of academics using (with its marginal relationship to open access), read Kristen Bell's reflections at

You should also consider searching for and joining closed Facebook research groups. Their members can be asked for publication advice, such as where to publish. Here, you can easily introduce yourself in a post to the group, share your draft paper and pose your questions.

P.S. There are other sites that you can create a research profile on (such as Google Scholar or ResearchGate), however these are most relevant for academics with a publication history. You should also consider sharing your draft paper via OpenUCT and reading its four-step guide for academics on taking control of their visibility.

Recommended options to submit one's draft paper for publication include:

1. To an Online Community or Conference.

The easiest option is to share one's paper to a community related to its focus (such as 'Identity and media'). The drawback is that such a publication (and many under point 3 below) will be unrecognized for academic publication points, et al (see You can also consider presenting at a local conference. Just be forewarned that you may have difficulty finding one focused on popular postgrad themes, such as 'identity and self presentation' or 'mobile gaming'.

2. To an Open Access Journal.

Use your research keywords to search in and identify the most suitable journal(s). Open Access journals may not be as prestigious as the next two options, but you are more likely to have a positive response from them.

3. To a Special Issue of a Journal.

Student contributions may have a real advantage in Special Issues focusing on emergent media services (such as Snapchat and the 'ephemeral selfie' phenomenon), which few (if any) established academics could be doing research in. You can search for any upcoming special issues calling for contributions (for example, ephemeral selfies would suit special issues covering 'Gender' and 'Self-Presentation').

4. To a Journal.

It is preferable to start off in local publishing before attempting to publish in international journals. Local journals often offer a forum for debate in the field and are an entry point to it. A list of the IBSS (International Bibliography of Social Sciences) accredited local journals is on UCT Library’s website at  An important consideration for journals in choosing to publish your article is whether it contributes to the dialogue taking place between a journal's authors. So, in choosing a journal to submit to, you should look through your references to check those journal(s) you mention the most. Alternately, you need to find several new references in the journal you want to publish in, then include these in your argument. It is also important to consider your purpose for publishing – choosing a journal can be about networking with a particular group of people. It’s like saying ‘I’m with these folks’... or want to be!

Future Media Studies students may benefit form you sharing research online; publishing it moves it from being just a 'textbook exercise' (that "fridge magnet" which only your educator gets to view) towards being a contribution to the Media Studies community. The latter may help ensure that your project is not redone by other students, but they might build on it. For example, by following the future directions for research your paper suggests.

N.B. Consider the RISKS before sharing.

While there can be personal benefits to sharing your research online; such as recognition, receiving constructive feedback and protecting your authorial rights, be prepared for negative outcomes, too. In particular, you must be sure that the privacy of your research participants remains protected, especially for controversial projects (such as Tindr and sexual relationships). You may receive negative feedback, experience rejection of your submission or have it plagiarized. Worse, you may be trolled by undesirable audiences, such as chauvinists and/or racist trolls! If such risks deeply concern you, rather pursue an offline approach, asking your lecturer or supervisor for guidance.

Share and comment

Nicci and I hope that the benefits described above will outweigh any such risks and that reading our post has given you a sound appreciation for the 'how and why' to share draft papers online. Add a comment below to let us know if you have any questions, concerns or suggestions that could improve this post, ta.

Thursday 15 December 2016

Pilot research projects and draft papers by #UCT #CFMS Mobile Media and Communication students in 2016

Written for Media Studies researchers interested in postgrad media students' pilot research projects and draft papers.

I supervised 2016's Mobile Media and Communication postgrad students in doing a short research project and writing up their articles. Students that did not object to their work being listed are indexed below, under their respective research grouping:

Identity and self-presentation via mobile media >

2. 'Exploring the performance of professional identity online' by Garrett Farmer-Brent.
3. 'Swipe right for friends: The adoption of Tinder by South African university students to form friendships in an online space' by Aisha Karim.
4.  'The Representation of Self across Social Media- a study into how two students' social media profiles reflect how they represent themselves' by Grace Thomson.
5.  'Aesthetic visual prosumers construct aesthetic niches: the use of Instagram to design emergent, aesthetic selves' by Tayla-Paige von Sittert.
6.  'Will you be my Tinderella? How the mobile dating app, Tinder, has turned traditional dating on its head for South African university students' by Lauren Voster.

< Broadcast media, marketing and communications meet social networks >

7. 'Zimbos on WhatsApp: perceptions of WhatsApp use among Zimbabwean women living in Cape Town' by Shuvai Finos.
8. 'Understanding a Black, South African hashtag community and its memes: The example of Sunday Twitter and Our Perfect Wedding' by Vuyisile Kubeka.
9. 'The never-ending (un)strategy: Social media related public relations crises in the South African entertainment industry' by Jessica Latham.

< Journalism and politics meet social media >

10. 'The construction of digital publics in Twitter replies: a study of Eusebius McKaiser’s tweets' by Bronwynne Jooste.
11. 'Like or share that news: Facebook users' interaction with South African news organisations' Facebook posts' by Mariska Morris.
12. '#Asinavalo: The Role of a Twitter hashtag during the election and beyond' by Mmatseleng Mphanya.

< User experiences with free internet and gaming >

12. 'Towards an understanding what is ‘free’ about Free Basics: Assessing the quality and technical aspects of the HIV360 website' by Tasneem Amra.
13. 'Ingress means access: using the game Ingress to explore the correlation between access to high-end mobile gaming and spaces of play' by Kyle de Villiers.
14. 'Pokémon Go: illegal user appropriations of Location Based Augmented Reality Gaming' by Mishka Loofer.

As their supervisor, I helped students identify potential contributions related to their interests that might help close research gaps in Media Studies. I encouraged each student to share their pilot study online and have offered select students support in submitting theirs to research communities, conferences or journals. For example, I advised students to look at SACOMM 2017 as a potential opportunity. Six students' projects readily related to speakers on its 2016 program (as shown in my scribbled links in Figures 1 and 2). Such projects concerned Twitter and politics; social media and PR; online content linked to HIV and AIDS; female beauty; migration and... the My Perfect Wedding television show!

Figure 1. SACOMM 2016 program page 1 - links to FAM5038S draft paper authors

Figure 2. SACOMM 2016 program page 2 - links to FAM5038S draft papers' authors (or X for none)

By contrast, there seemed to be limited scope to address the issues of 'identity and self presentation' and 'mobile gaming' at this pre-eminent, South African conference. So, eleven students would need to explore other local opportunities.

If you are interested in any of these papers, please use the link provided. Alternatively, add a comment below, listing the paper you are interested in. I will then ask its author to contact you.

Tuesday 13 December 2016

Multimodal education for inequality: exploring privilege in visual arts students’ e-portfolio personas #8ICOM

Written for researchers interested in how technological and material inequalities become evidenced in young people's digital personas.

Here's the 19 minute 8ICOM conference talk that accompanied my Multimodal education for inequality presentation. This talk aimed to be a concise overview of my PhD research and its contribution:

"My research serves as a cautionary tale concerning the inequalities evidenced in visual arts students’ curation of digital personas. By contrast to often celebratory accounts of teaching contemporary digital media literacies, I describe how the technological and material inequalities between students at a government and an independent school became mirrored in digital portfolios.

My thesis’ research contributions are as an Action Research project that enabled the recording and analysis of students' differing negotiations of arts studio personas for up to three years. It included students from very different social backgrounds with contrasting access to media ecologies for digital curation. I explore how young people’s e-portfolio styles mirror inequalities in their digital curations and connections to varied affinity spaces. I also highlight other challenges youths faced in articulating interest via e-portfolios. For example, remediating “unofficial” cultural repertoires, such as fashion and Manga.

In South Africa, just doing ICT, visual arts or visual design subjects is a rare privilege. The Department of Education’s technical report on the National Senior Certificate reveals that a low percentage of students do subjects likely to support access to study options in visually creative industries. In 2012, Equal Education reported that Cape Town’s schools offering art or design until grade 12 (Matric) are predominately those serving the middle- and upper-classes. Anecdotal experience suggests that very few students have curricular opportunities to experiment with online content creation. A narrow subject focus tends to exclude inter-disciplinary productions, such as visual arts students using ICT technologies to curate their productions. Such rigid silos ignore the importance of hybridity in domains such as contemporary art or graphic design. My action research project makes a small contribution to building bridges between silos.

I helped teachers develop syllabi that appropriated online portfolios for e-portfolio curation. Online portfolios emerged in 2003 and visual creatives increasingly use such services to reach web audiences. Digital portfolios are used for varied forms of capital exchange: For example, securing academic and vocational trajectories. Some portfolios also support commercial transactions, such as auctions or art catalogues. Portfolio portals provide a resource to develop extensive knowledge about the numerous domains in visual culture. Visual creatives can also develop in-depth knowledge by learning from others in digital affinity groups. For emergent creatives, experimenting with portfolios can help with developing intent around who they want to be.

My action research project aimed to enfranchise students with fair opportunities for formally experimenting with online content creation. I helped two educators appropriate Carbonmade for their students to produce e-portfolios. E-portfolios were taught conservatively as an aid to prepare for matric exhibitions. A Bourdieusian field analysis reveals why: it was easy to source the well-resourced sites supporting digital media prosumption. By contrast, e-portfolio curricula had to dovetail with the DOE’s visual arts syllabus requirements. It was a process to gain approval from the DOE, WCED and to secure buy-in from educators.

Youth were taught and assessed on their self-presentation as visual arts students (or "disciplined" identities) and in organizing curricular showcases. Students' Carbonmade entries were used by the service’s database in creating four types of page: A 'homepage', ‘artwork project folder’ pages, an ‘about’ page and ‘search page’ results.

Carbonmade’s use was part of a broader digital curation process, which Potter defines as new media literacy involving intertextual meanings and strategies for different audiences. E-portfolio curricula saw students practice the steps A. to C. of collation, production and sharing in their digital curations. Twenty nine students curated e-portfolio; seventeen pupils came from an elite, all-boys, independent school’s Class of 2012. They were taught e-portfolios from grades 10 to 12. Twelve volunteers came from a less well-resourced, mixed sex, government school, where ICT broadband failure delayed the bulk of my lessons to grade 11 in 2014.

The independent school’s speedy adoption mirrored its material and technological advantages versus the government school. van Dijk identifies five different types of inequality and their properties shaping digital media’s usage. My research focuses on the material and technological aspects:

Technology wise, the independent school had a one-laptop-per-learner-policy and conspicuous consumption of electronics was evident. Varied societies, workshops and extra-mural leisure activities received the independent school’s support. By contrast, the media infrastructure available to government school learners in its Khanya computer lab were old. As an Arts and Culture Focus school it offered some co-curricular activities, but most students needed to leave early for safe public transport.

The results from my sites are not comparable due to these large differences, as well as the shorter e-portfolio syllabus at the government school. There were also important differences in students’ vocational interests, with the government school volunteers being more motivated to pursue visual creative studies. Working in a creative industry seemed a prized social trajectory to them. By contrast, many independent school students perceived such choices to be low in prestige, versus say, finance or medicine.

After four years of fieldwork I amassed a lot of data and my analysis followed Potter’s (2015) example. He researched digital curation through a combination of Social Semiotics and Cultural Theory. Given the potentially strong role of ICT infrastructure and capital resources on youth’s curation, I added insights from Digital Materialism (especially Infrastructure studies) and also Social Interactionism. I also adopted Sen’s (1992) inequality approach.

I did a multimodal content analysis on the representational and communicational choices of all students. I then wrote 12 case studies, covering student’s diverse circumstances and e-portfolio styles. The content analysis revealed particular patterns in the disciplinary, extra mural visual creative and other personas at each site. For example in self-presentation, no government school students wrote self-descriptions over 10 sentences long or used formal genres. Similarly, informal mobile genres were used for self-representation in their images. Here, youth tended to differentiate themselves through the “unofficial” visual culture personas they shared.

Notable patterns at the independent school included the impact of strong assessment on students’ presentation of their disciplined identities, which predominately featured formal styles. Most students added lifestyle personas to differentiate themselves. Several drew on differentiated practices in tourism, watersports and music for subject matter.

Students’ contrasting e-portfolio styles marked their unequal access to ICT infrastructures. The content analysis showed that youth did not have equal opportunities, but the formal and extra-mural advantages of the better-off were amplified at both schools. For example, students from homes supporting “free” internet access created better organized and more extensive showcases than under-, or non-, connected classmates. Young people’s disciplinary and “unofficial” e-portfolio personas evidenced privilege. Youth’s online access for developing academic cultural capital online could be likened to museum visits. As can be seen across all these digital curation practices, limited internet access seriously hampers one’s opportunities to engage with exhibits or in developing one’s own.

This points to the importance of each young person’s digital hexis in developing e-portfolio styles. Young people with a history of access and use of ICT were advantaged in having foundational digital literacies for e-portfolio curation. By contrast, those inexperienced with scanners, desktop computers, internet browser use and local area networks, had to play ‘catch up’ in class.

To situate how material and technological inequalities become evidenced in e-portfolio curation, my research links young people’s habituses to their affinity spaces. Each individual's habitus comprises different habituses. My research focuses on four; the secondary school habitus, a primary home habitus, a vocational habitus and the mediated preferences in the digital information habitus. The secondary habitus links directly to the legitimated affinity spaces supported in classroom arts studio practices. Other affinity spaces tend to relate to “unofficial” personas.

Here follows case studies for five enthusiastic students, who differed in terms of the material and technological resources available in their habituses and affinity spaces:

A White, independent school student, George went beyond want his educator expected by using a fine arts gallery metaphor while closely reproducing the disciplinary identity. His benchmark example evidenced a fandom for fine art, which was unusual amongst his peers. George was privileged to attend both international and local galleries, and also pursued this fandom in online affinity spaces. Keen to do Medicine, George’s assessment strategy foregrounded his observational drawer and painter personas to achieve the best possible grades from his markers. Although he published extra-mural photography and designs to Instagram, Deviantart and shared them via social networks, George’s assessment strategy avoided mentioning such “unofficial” accounts in his e-portfolio.

Nathan, was a Black, government school student. Despite also being a fan of art, Nathan could not do visual art or e-portfolio production outside class. His digital information habitus was heavily constrained and this was mirrored in an e-portfolio curation of four images and a brief self-description. Privacy concerns also shaped his concise profile and decision not to add a self-image. Unusual in expressing dissatisfaction with his e-portfolio at the curriculum’s end, Nathan did ‘not really’ believe his e-portfolio might support his vocational objectives in design.

Masibulele also attended the government school. His case highlights some assimilatory challenges that Black students might face in producing visual arts e-portfolios: a first-language isiXhosa speaker, Masibulele chose to use English instead for an international audience. He did not share traditional mixed-media productions as he perceived that these productions were not what was expected in arts class. For the same reason, he also did not initially share his fashion labels’ creations. Despite his educator’s inclusive approach, exclusion of traditional and fashion repertoires shows how students might conceal cultural capital from home. This suggests strategies of assimilation in respect of the predominately taught Western fine arts canon and observational drawing and painting studio practices. His case also highlights how particular types of visual culture (surface, media and genre) embody social distinction, albeit moderated within “multi-cultural” repertoires.

Melissa’s case illustrates the influence of global youth culture and gendered strategies on self-naming practices. She used a well-resourced home environment to explore “unofficial” Japanese Manga, Anime and calligraphy practices. The influence of Japanese pop-culture was also evident in the pseudonymous identity choices she made. Such privacy choices reflected shared concerns with her female classmates about unwanted audiences and the dangers of cyber-bullying and sexual harassment. Her well-developed digital hexis had a downside; while she did use a pseudonymous identity, her contact email address featured her full name. Melissa linked to a separate deviantArt profile to share Gothic and other interests with potential to be misinterpreted by a religiously conservative audience.

Kyle’s case highlight the ease of extra-mural interests dovetailing with dominant cultural capital being remediated into e-portfolios. A White, independent school student, Kyle shared exclusively resourced sports and photographic productions that dovetailed with his school's institutional cultural capital. Kyle could easily access professional photographic and videographic equipment and focused on ‘point-of-view’ work in extra-mural productions from grade 11. He took travel photography and combined his enjoyment of wave-boarding with technicity to shoot and edit professional-looking videos. YouTube was used to research video techniques, such as achieving the right frame rates to show a giant wave break. Kyle also used Flicker to research productions by photographers with similar lenses and cameras to him.Kyle linked to his Flicker and Vimeo accounts from his e-portfolio. After matric, Kyle became the most successful prosumer amongst his peers with over 30,000 followers of his Instagram account and high quality prints of his work are available to buy via While Kyle and Melissa’s examples show what is possible for young people as prosumers, it also suggests the reproduction of advantage via high volumes of capital needed to develop a prosumer identities as a semi-professional photographer or aspirant animation producer.

I had hoped that my action research would support new literacies and equality. By contrast, it seemed to contribute to the reproduction of symbolic advantage: Under-resourced students did not create disciplinary showcases and faced challenges in adding cultural repertoires. Well-resourced students created showcases, adding distinctive prosumer identities, while negotiating their disciplinary personas with more exclusive ones. While e-portfolio production is still being taught at the private school, it’s NOT for government school students. That is a pity; both Masibulele and Melissa used their e-portfolios to successfully apply for tertiary studies - Masibulele did surface design and Melissa Fine Art. Despite her passion for animation, Melissa went on to study Fine Art, evidencing the importance of educational investment in dominant high culture. Similarly, Masibulele's parents would like him to transfer to studying architecture.

Both Melissa and Masibulele are fortunate relative to their government school peers in being able to progress into tertiary habituses rather than being unemployed. Ironically, despite facing the least challenges in e-portfolio curation, Kyle and George went on to study outside visually creative industries: George entered medicine and Kyle business science.

My content analysis and case studies suggest the importance of material and technological resourcing in young visual artists’ e-portfolio curations. In particular, resource-intensive communications may not accurately reflect young peoples’ intensions and abilities: inequalities in some teenagers’ digital information habituses meant that under-resourced sign-makers could not fully express their curricular interests. In addition to missing social information, inexperience with software also led to mis-identifiers misrepresenting what youths wanted to express.

As a pathfinder project, mine has opened up much to explore:
> How can the middle-class underpinnings of the initial pedagogy be adjusted to better accommodate all students?
> How do online portfolio styles change as youth become professionals or hobbyists?
> My research took place in relatively well-resourced English secondary schools, but what about other languages and resourcing?
> Digital portfolios increasingly serve to access tertiary education, but how are they assessed?
To close with a speculative proposition; Bourdieu foregrounded disinterested aesthetic dispositions as a key marker of Distinction in 1979.  As prosumers increasingly make both their tastes and work digitally visible, are we not witnessing an emergent form of social distinction, a ‘Distinction 2.0’? Perhaps researching individuals’ distinctive curations of digital personas can provide as interesting insights into Postmodern societies, as understanding French people’s contrasting aesthetic dispositions once did in the Modern!

If you have any suggestions or concerns, please comment below, ta.

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