I am undertaking my PhD research at the Centre for Urban Research at RMIT University as part of the ARC Linkage project Representing Multicultural Australia in National and State Libraries. My candidature was confirmed in December 2020 and am undertaking fieldwork throughout 2021. Below is a working abstract for my thesis.

Assembling the Web of Australia’s past: online technologies, national heritage, and the shaping of the contemporary cultural record


For much of their history, Australia’s public collecting institutions have collected, preserved, and arranged objects to evoke a collective culture, memory, and identity at national, state, and regional levels. Yet, over the past three decades, online technologies have greatly altered our relationship with information, affecting its scale, materiality, and accessibility. Tasked with maintaining the published documentary record of Australia and its states, national and state libraries have responded to this changing information environment by selecting, preserving, and making accessible versions of online content. At the same time, these institutions continue to advance epistemic claims regarding the character of national, state, and regional heritage and culture.

The opening of this problem space—between the local and the global, and between analogue and digital heritage—has led me to consider, ‘how are online technologies disrupting or sustaining cultural imaginaries of Australia’s national and state documentary heritage?’.

To answer this question, this research explores the ongoing production and maintenance of two archives of online content; the Australian Web Archive, led by the National Library of Australia (NLA), and the State Library of New South Wales’ (SLNSW) Social Media Archive. Building a theoretical approach from science and technology studies (STS), I conceptualise web archives as a socio-technical ‘assemblage’; a heterogeneous arrangement of people, machines, and texts that are brought together in such a way as to mobilise specific cultural imaginaries. In two concentrated periods of fieldwork at the NLA and SLNSW, I will use participant observation, interviews, and documentary analysis to specify this assemblage, by attending to the social relations of librarians, archivists, and technologists, and their connections to both material and digital objects and physical sites. Building on perspectives from the STS and archival studies literature, my approach interrogates the ways in which technology and archives become entwined through social practices to establish an emerging cultural memory. In doing so, this research makes an original theoretical and empirical contribution to the study of web archives, national and state libraries, and the impacts of globalisation on understandings of Australia’s documentary heritage.
I CONDUCT MY RESEARCH ON THE UNCEDED LAND OF THE BOON WURRUNG AND WURUNDJERI PEOPLE OF THE EASTERN KULIN NATION. I PAY MY RESPECTS TO THEIR ELDERS PAST AND PRESENT. PAY THE RENT.