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I use transdisciplinary approaches to study the social and ethical implications of emerging technologies. Some topics I have explored include blockchain, gene editing, smart drugs, digital disruption, digital literacy, the future of work, lean start-ups, design thinking, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), media entrepreneurship, media intrapreneurship, cyberhate, digilantism, nudge, value-sensitive design, non-legislative interventions for technology-related offences, and the future of gender (especially in relation to the medicalisation of trans* folk by the medical-industrial complex).
I'm also working on a side project about what "family" looks like when biology, marriage, sexual intimacy, gender, and law, fall away as the organising principles. (In short, I'm fascinated by relationships that don't have names. For instance, there is no name in the English dictionary for my former partner's relationship with the mother of the father of my daughter, which hardly seems fair given how well they get on at barbecues and festive season gatherings.)
My principle research collaborator is Nicole A Vincent - aka Dr Colekat. She works in the Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation at the University of Technology, Sydney. Right now, we are working on a blockchain project, a transgender project, a cognitive enhancement project, a "found" family project, and a project about how lean startup methodologies could help "bake-in" ethics and values at the design phase of technological innovation. During meal times, my daughter often asks us to please shut up about all of these things.
Transdisciplinarity and "best-fit" interdisciplinarity
As a former journalist, my research naturally draws on an eclectic range of sources, lenses, and methods to explain and potentially help solve or - even just understand - emerging problems and phenomena. This “best-fit” approach is in contrast to the knowledge silos so common in academia, and is the reason my scholarship has always been so thoroughly transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary in nature. I employ theoretical lenses and methodologies from philosophy, feminist and gender theory, cultural and media studies, sociology, literary theory, legal studies, social psychology, anthropology, religious studies, art history, *regular* history, jurisprudence, neuroscience, neurobiology, cognitive science, computer science, that article about that thing everyone keeps sharing on Facebook, and whatever else is required to #getthejobdone - including using my own eyeballs.
I thrive doing applied research. That is, research that addresses real-world problems, or reveals real problems in a world where others notice none. Engaging in blue sky research with an eye to the future possibilities of real-world applications is one kind of Nirvana for me. (Quite frankly, though, I find the whole applied vs "pure" research dichotomy unhelpful, unrepresentative, and utterly perplexing.)
Related to all this is my passion for translating complex scholarly work into language and issues that actual humans can understand and relate to.
I have an anaphylactic-strength allergy to jargon, as well as kiwi fruit.
Partnerships with industry, government and NGOs
In uni-speak it's called "forging strategic collaborations" and it's an enterprise some academics regard as distasteful. They think it waters-down the "real", pure research – which, apparently, has no real-world relevance – and as involving a dangerous and intellectually stifling focus on utility knowledge rather than knowledge-for-the-sake-of-knowledge knowledge. I don't take sides in this debate simply because I find these sorts of binary framings monumentally unhelpful. Your mileage may differ, but, for me, getting out of the building/ivory tower and talking to people in industry, government, NGOs – and more generally, to other members of the human race – is best-practice for those of us interested in the sort of "best-fit" inter- and transdisciplinarity and applied research phenomena, problems, and approaches I mentioned above.
By my reckoning, the world – particularly, the digital media world – is changing way too quickly and much too radically for most orthodox scholarly processes to keep up. (I know I am not the only academic who has waited years – as in literally *years* – to receive peer review comments on submissions for journals and edited collections.) Just as the lean startup method requires innovators to constantly test what happens when they introduce their big ideas to real, live "stakeholders", I think more academics should get up from their sad chairs and go for a stroll through the rich and interestingly textured world that they so often overlook. (Julian Kirchherr makes a similar point in relation to PhDs.)
Mixing it up with real, live humans on various metaphorical and literal coal fronts is not just super helpful for writing linkage project grant applications, and designing and teaching work-integrated learning and industry subjects. It may also be our best if not only hope of keeping up, and keeping our research relevant, in an era of extreme uncertainty.