Vitalities Lab Spring 2021 Newsletter

As lockdown lifts in Sydney, we thought it would be a good time for another newsletter to reflect on the events of the last several months. Since our last newsletter, published in early February 2021, we’ve been busy at the Lab not just with academic work but dealing with kids at home and the work of trying to stay connected with family and friends during this period of isolation.

Throughout the year we’ve continued to reflect on the COVID-19 pandemic on our blog. Marianne wrote about her research examining fitness practices during COVID lockdowns, and Clare wrote about emotion during Sydney’s delta outbreak

The Vitalities Lab published in the Nature Careers Column

The Lab also wrote a number of pieces for media outlets, including a piece for Nature Careers about using creative research methods during the pandemic. Deborah published two articles on The Conversation, one about robots and AI in popular culture and another about social media and long covid. Clare and Marianne wrote another article for The Conversation about the shaming of people who test positive for COVID

With co-author Isabelle Volpe, Clare wrote an article for The Conversation analysing a recent moral panic about drug-related content on TikTok. On a topic that remains important, Deborah published an article for Crikey about Australians’ mental health during lockdown

This year, Vitalities Lab Associated Researcher Megan Rose completed her Asia Studies Fellowship at the National Library of Australia for her project titled “Turning anger into smiles: an exploration of relationship between Kawaii culture and feminist activism”. We can’t wait to hear more about this fascinating project!

Clare, Marianne and Deborah enjoying the lovely Ourimbah Campus of the University of Newcastle (pre-lockdown)

Although it seems impossible to imagine, before Sydney’s July COVID lockdown members of the Vitalities Lab were able to attend an in-person event at the University of Newcastle on 7th June. The event was a methods workshop —  Creative, Digital and Embodied Methods for Social Inquiry — organised by Dr Julia Coffey, and held at the beautiful Ourimbah Campus on the Central Coast. Deborah ran a workshop titled ‘A Speculative Archaeology of Contemporary AI’, encouraging us to engage with a digital device as if they were archaeologists encountering it in the future and imagining what it might have been used for. Marianne ran a hands-on digital photo diary workshop, where we got out into the stunning campus and took photos, and discussed what they elicited. Clare ran a creative writing workshop, where participants had to imagine from the perspectives of an algorithm that was sorting images on a social media platform. We had a great time at the workshop and thoroughly enjoyed all the thought-provoking presentations, as well as taking a chance to explore the bushland environment of the Ourimbah Campus. It was also rare opportunity for the Lab members to meet in person, as during the pandemic we have usually connected over Slack and Skype.

Another significant happening in the last few months was that our book The Face Mask In COVID Times: A Sociomaterial Analysis was published. It hit the shelves in April and we’ve had plenty of opportunities to appreciate the materiality of the face mask since, given we’ve been wearing them constantly in lockdown. We’ve had some great feedback on the book, including Marianne going on ABC Radio Sydney Afternoons with James Valentine to talk about it.

In April Deborah and her co-editor Karen Willis also published their edited book The COVID-19 Crisis: Social Perspectives, which offers a diverse and international collection of analyses of the pandemic. The book includes a chapter that Marianne co-authored with colleagues Holly Thorpe and Julie Brice titled ‘Physical Activity and Bodily Boundaries in Times of Pandemic’.

Deborah has been working as a Commissioner on the The Lancet and Financial Times ‘Governing Health Futures 2030: Growing Up in a Digital World’ Commission for the past two years. She was privileged to work with other Commissioners from around the world, including representatives from the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the OECD, the Wellcome Trust and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. On 25 October this report was published by The Lancet. It is provided free to access for 50 days from this date at this link.

Deborah’s award citation on the DASSH website

In other news, Deborah was awarded the Australasian Council of Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (DASSH) Award for Leadership in Excellence and Innovation (International category), 2021, based on her leadership in initiating and editing the crowd-sourced open access resource ‘Doing Fieldwork in a Pandemic‘. This resource, created in March 2020 when researchers were struggling with continuing their fieldwork in conditions of social upheaval and lockdowns, has gained a lot of attention worldwide and has been shared by many research groups and institutions globally. Deborah’s award citation can be found here.

Congratulations are also in order to Vitalities Lab member Ash Watson, who took up a new role as a postdoc in the ARC Centre for Automated Decision-Making and Society. Though Ash is no longer in the Lab, she hasn’t gone too far. She’s still working with Deborah in the Centre of Excellence and we are fortunate to still have lots of opportunities to collaborate.

We are also delighted to welcome a new PhD student to the Vitalities Lab – Cecily Klim. Cecily has officially started her PhD on a scholarship offered by the ARC Centre of Excellence. She will also be affiliated with and co-supervised by members of the Vitalities Lab, and we are very excited to have her joining us. She will be arriving in Australia soon from the UK and we wish her a safe and smooth international move.

Below we list other publications, presentations and other activity from Vitalities Lab members and associates that have occurred since our last newsletter.

Journal Articles

Book Chapters

  • Lupton, D. and Willis, K. (2021) COVID Society: introduction to the book. In Lupton, D. and Willis, K. (eds), The COVID-19 Crisis: Social Perspectives. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 3-13.
  • Lupton, D. (2021) Contextualising COVID-19. In Lupton, D. and Willis, K. (eds), The COVID-19 Crisis: Social Perspectives. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 14-24.
  • Thorpe, H., Brice, J., & Clark, M. Physical activity and bodily boundaries in times of pandemic. In Lupton, D. and Willis, K. (eds), The COVID-19 Crisis: Social Perspectives. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 39-52.
  • Thorpe, H., Brice, J., & Clark, M.  Towards new materialist sport history. In Phillips, M.G, Booth, D. and Adams, C. (eds), Routledge Handbook of Sport History. London: Routledge.
  • Southerton, C. and Taylor, E. (2021) Dataveillance and the dividuated self: the everyday digital surveillance of young people. In Arigo, B. and B. Sellars (eds), The Pre-Crime Society: Crime, Culture, and Control in the Ultramodern Age. Bristol: Bristol University Press.

Grants and funding

  • 2021-2023 Medical Research Future Fund – Cardiovascular Health Mission: $549, 000 was awarded for the project ‘Cardiac AI: deep learning to predict and prevent secondary cardiovascular events’. Deborah is sixth chief investigator with Blanca Gallego Luxan, Louisa Jorm, Sze-Yuan Ooi, Jennifer Yu, Nigel Lovell and Juan Quiroz, Centre for Big Data Research in Health and Faculty of Engineering, UNSW Sydney and Prince of Wales Hospital, Sydney)
  • Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications​ Competitive tender: $82, 500 was awarded to conduct a literature review of arts and mental health. Marianne Clark and Clare Southerton are investigators along with our Social Policy Research Centre colleague Ciara Smyth.
  • The Australian Sociological Association (TASA): Marianne and Clare, with Naomi Smith (Federation Uni), secured $1000 funding for a symposium titled A Better Body: Towards a Sociology of Wellness, which will be held in 2022.


  • On 18 February Megan presented a paper titled ‘Pivoting to digital ethnography: how Animal Crossing presented me with “New Horizons” for researching Japanese popular culture’ at the Beyond Japanese Studies: Challenges, Opportunities and COVID-19 symposium in Sydney.
  • On 19 February Clare gave an invited online seminar titled ‘#doctorsofTikTok: what health influencers on TikTok can tell us about health communication in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic’, at the Centre for Education Innovation Action Research (CEIAR), Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.
  • On 3 March Marianne gave an invited presentation for Children & Childhood Seminar Series, Education and Social Research Institute (ESRI), Manchester Metropolitan University: ‘Maternal bodies, baby bodies and the fit motherhood assemblage’.
  • Marianne ran a creative methods workshop/guest lecture for the ‘Decolonising research methods’ course at UNSW on 29 March.
  • On 21 April Marianne gave a presentation for UNSW Centre for Social Research in Health Seminar Series: ‘Movement and meaning during COVID: insights from a digital photo diary study’.
  • Clare gave a seminar titled ‘Health #foryou: healthcare workers on TikTok’, for the Centre for Social Research in Health 2021 Seminar Series on 16 June.
  • Deborah gave a keynote on 24 June for the Health Promotion conference, National University of Ireland, Galway: ‘Everyday experiences of digital health: social dimensions’.
  • On 25 June Marianne gave a presentation for AusSTS Interdisciplinary Workshop: ‘Swimming, sensing and situatedness: moving to make meaning during COVID-19.
  • On 25 June Clare also gave a presentation for AusSTS Interdisciplinary Workshop: ‘Where does a digital ethnography end? Scrolling through TikTok during COVID’.
  • Deborah gave an invited seminar presentation on 6 July for the University of Birmingham: ‘Revisiting risk theory in COVID times’.
  • On 8 July, Deborah gave an invited webinar for UNSW Law School: ‘The Internet of Things in Australia: social impacts and issues’.
  • On 19 July Clare was a moderator for a panel discussion at ‘TikTok Methodologies’ – a TikTok Cultures Research Network event.
  • On 28 July Marianne gave a guest lecture for the ‘Technologies, Culture and Society’ course at UNSW, titled ‘Technology and the body: thinking with the cyborg and beyond’.
  • On 29 July, Deborah gave a keynote for 7th International Conference on Computational Social Science (IC2S2), Zurich: ‘More-than-digital experiences in more-than-human worlds: bringing together creative methods with sociomaterialism theory’.
  • Deborah was a convenor and presenter the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society, Health methods workshops 1 and 2, held on 10 August and 17 August. With Ash Watson, she presented ‘Creative writing prompts and online workshops for eliciting more-than-representational dimensions of people’s digital experiences’.
  • On 12 August Deborah was an invited participant in a panel discussion on ‘Science, Society and the Australian State’, Deakin University.
  • On 2 September Deborah gave a presentation with Ash Watson for the Methods for Researching Automated Futures Symposium, Monash University: ‘Research-creations for speculating about automated futures’.
  • Deborah gave an invited presentation on 9 September for the Living With and Beyond Cancer Research Post-Pandemic – What Have We Learnt? event held by the National Cancer Research Institute, London: ‘Insights from doing fieldwork in a pandemic’.
  • 10 September Deborah gave an invited presentation for the event Devils in the Details: Making Sense of the Science of COVID-19 (Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine). Her talk was titled ‘Facemasks: historical and theoretical perspectives and use during COVID-19’.
  • On 23 September Clare gave an invited seminar ‘OB-GYNs of TikTok: #periodproblems, politics and platform affordances’, for The Australian Sociological Association (TASA)’s webinar series.
  • Megan presented a paper ‘私のカワイイ: Decora girls’ kawaii in the Harajuku context’ at the Japanese Studies Association of Australia Conference 2021 held from 29 September – 1 October, Queensland.
  • On 25 October, Deborah gave a keynote for an international webinar organised by the International Science Council in partnership with the International Sociological Association on ‘Researching and understanding COVID societies: sociology and beyond’.

Media appearances

Other activities and awards


Published by Clare Southerton

​​Dr Clare Southerton is a Lecturer in Digital Technology and Pedagogy in the School of Education at La Trobe University. Her research explores how social media platforms and other digital technologies are used for learning and sharing knowledge.

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