The Centre for Critical Studies was incorporated in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities in August 2015.

The information in this website is therefore out of date but retained for archival and staff purposes.

Below is an archive of CCCS Public Lectures delivered in 2003, along with their original abstracts. For further information on any of these lectures, please contact CCCS Admin.

 

Professor Geert Lovink: 'After the Fall of Dot.Com.Mania', 20 March 2003

The party is over, in the post-dotcom recession era. Ignoring the techno-libertarian culture of blame, which accuses both the government and 'the market' for the tech wreck, this lecture sets out on a critical examination of actual Internet culture. After a good laugh about the absurd dotgone business plans it is better to prepare for tough battles to come. One of the ways of 'overcoming' the present would be to analyse the recent past. In a time when media are developed 'at the speed of light' it could be useful to look back at the dotcom model and re-assess what sustainable Internet models could look like.

Yet, there is little time for enlightened post-bubble cynicism. Internet wars are on the rise. Fuelled by a series of viruses the general tension on the Net has grown drastically. Open Internet communities are vulnerable and in need of constant care in order to survive. The 'online Other' is no longer met with hospitality. The general climate is one of paranoia, conspiracy and distrust. Every downloaded email or piece of software could turn out to be a fatal Trojan horse.

 

Associate Professor Frances Bonner: 'Make-overs: Contemporary Television's Surprise Hit', 1 May 2003

While television programmes, like other media, have long presented before-and-after pictures and segments to demonstrate the effects of various kinds of transformations - like those of the body through dieting, cars through customising or gardens through preparing new beds - the proliferation of lifestyle programmes specifically designed to focus on teams of television professionals transforming the interiors or gardens of ordinary people's houses is a recent phenomenon. It is part of the wider growth of light, entertaining non-fiction shows which incorporate ordinary people, are often based on successful overseas formats and most importantly are cheaper to produce than expensive drama programmes at a time when the expansion of channels is reducing network profitability.

This lecture draws on material from Ordinary Television, the just published study of this kind of non-fiction programming in Australia and the UK. Dr Bonner extends the published argument to include recent variations like Your Life on the Lawn, (the Australian version of the British Life Laundry) asks what we are to make of such programmes' combinations of televisual largesse, design advice and child-like delight in surprise. It also considers the way in which the programmes demonstrate a particularly successful instance of media convergence where television, magazine and related website all develop aspects of the individual make-overs aimed to involve viewers, browsers and readers further in the projects of transformation.

 

Professor Nanette Gottlieb: 'Hate Speech on the Internet in Japan: The Burakumin Experience', 5 June 2003

Despite often being presented as a homogenous society, Japan is, in fact, home to numerous minorities, the largest of which is the Burakumin - a hereditary sub-caste whose ancestors' associations with work considered 'defiling' led to their social ostracism and oppression. The Burakumin community has long experienced attacks of hate speech and negative stereotyping. In the second half of the twentieth century, references to Burakumin in mainstream public media became the target of concerted activism by Burakumin groups, so that today the media is its own best watchdog in avoiding the use of terms and descriptions considered offensive.

The Internet, however, has provided a fertile new ground for anti-Burakumin abuse, in particular on the unmoderated Channel Two website. Members of the Burakumin community, at pains to construct an online presence which aims to educate those interested both within Japan and overseas about the discrimination they continue to face, have not been slow to respond to online attacks. This talk examines the characteristics of anti-Burakumin hate speech on the Channel Two website and others and discusses Burakumin countermeasures.

In this Burakumin case study, the Internet functions not only as an extended arena of attack unconstrained by physical location but also as a site for effective and determined resistance by those whose social identities such attacks seek to undermine or demean. This talk draws on background material from the just published Japanese Cybercultures but includes further material from a new project on hate speech on the Internet in Japan.

 

Professor Joanne Tompkins: 'Theatres Online: Using Virtual Reality in Theatre Studies Research', 14 August 2003

This paper demonstrates Theatres Online, a software program developed to facilitate the exploration of theatre space from both practical and theoretical perspectives. Using virtual reality technology, it demonstrates how 'virtual' theatre can make the operation and production of theatre in the 'real' world easier and more cost effective. The theatres that are currently available as 3D interactive models are the Brisbane Powerhouse and La Boite Theatre. By the end of this year, the new La Boite Theatre, Cairns Civic Theatre, and two of the four venues of the Sleeman Centre will also be modelled. The project provides completely accurate scale renderings of the theatres: these models enable the exploration of issues of spatiality in theatre in both theoretical and practical contexts. The use of Virtual Reality Modelling Language (VRML) to generate these sites is not particularly innovative these days, but the additional facility to place props and sets within the recognisable location of La Boite or the Powerhouse Theatre makes this software unique in theatre studies and in computer modelling work. The opportunity to import objects onto a stage and then manipulate and save the resulting design has already proven invaluable for the staff at La Boite Theatre: this paper details how the program has helped in the production of Daniel Keene's Half and Half, and the revival of David Williamson's The Removalists.


Professor Iain McCalman: 'From Reality TV to the Airport Bookshop: The Pleasures and Perils of Popularising Scholarship', 18 September 2003

As President of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, Professor Iain McCalman has been in the forefront of analysing, defending and espousing the work of the humanities in Australia. He has been particularly troubled by the omission or marginalisation of humanities disciplines from many of the government's schemes to stimulate research innovation and commercialisation. Equally worrying has been the decline in opportunities for young humanities scholars to air their work through the long-accepted means of writing scholarly books. Since traditional scholarly presses are for the most part no longer subsidized by Universities, they must survive on market sales alone, making them extremely reluctant to gamble on the unproven work of young scholars or early-career researchers.

Presented with these sorts of humanities complaints, governments, businesses, publishers and scientific colleagues often respond with accusations that we are still too unworldly and nostalgic about the traditional importance of our fields of study. In the twenty-first century, they contend, we must be prepared to get down and dirty, to take the hard steps necessary to adapt our research to the world of the modern commercial market. Taking them at their word, Iain McCalman has in recent times worked as a consultant and commentator on several BBC television programs, including The Ship, and has just published his most recent historical study with HarperCollins and Random House as a trade book designed to sell to a general public. He reflects on the challenges, compromises, drawbacks and benefits of attempting to make this plunge into the popular.

 

Professor Peter Cryle: 'What is the Point of a History of Sexuality?', 27 October 2003

The modern world continues to be dominated by the notion that sexuality lies at the heart of human behaviour. Psychoanalytical talk, especially in its everyday forms, tends to present sexual desire as an inescapable truth. Sexology, for its part, defines a whole range of things as problems or pathologies requiring intervention. If one accepts the soundness of these assumptions, a history of sexuality has curiosity value, but no critical point. It can only be a study of the different expressions human sexuality may have found in earlier times: just a set of variations on the same old theme. But there is another way to look at history, and that will be the one adopted in this lecture. In keeping with a whole new sub-discipline of the humanities, the lecture will attempt to show that "sexuality" is a relatively recent notion. It is only since about 1890 that it has been taken as a universal key to understanding. Historical analysis can show it to be no more than a widespread cultural habit producing a dubious set of effects.