‘Doing Good’: Mapping humanitarian action in Melbourne through social media

Ms Tracy De Cotta1, Mr Peter Kamstra1, Dr Anthony McCosker1, Ms Ebony Gaylor2

1Swinburne Social Innovation Institute, Swinburne University of Technology, Hawthorn, Australia

2Australian Red Cross, Melbourne, Australia


The emergence of mobile technologies and social media platforms now allow us to mediate our everyday experiences to establish new kinds of publicness. For humanitarianism, social media provides powerful opportunities to innovate, drive new forms of humanitarian action, and inspire and enable voluntary services. To harness their potential, we need to better understand what people do with social media and how they contribute to reshaping our values and our actions.

Research agendas in humanitarianism have focused heavily on disaster and crisis response. Little attention has been placed on everyday vernacular forms and contexts of humanitarian action and information exchange within contemporary cultures in the context of peace.

The project applies a novel methodology by drawing on Instagram data to develop a typology of everyday actions, targets and situations where people ‘do good’. Using both content and geographical data embedded in public Instagram posts, we are able to demonstrate and understand relationships between humanitarian activities and spaces and places. This opens new possibilities for critical geographic exploration of contemporary humanitarian action. Based on a project with the Australian Red Cross this research offers insights into how people engage with humanitarian activities and informal volunteering within everyday contexts in Victoria, Australia.


Tracy De Cotta is a researcher at Swinburne University’s Social Innovation Research Institute in Melbourne. The Institute collaborates with partners for intelligent, citizen and consumer-engaged social solutions to complex social problems. With a background in urban planning, research interests focus on how designed, incidental and emergent spaces (both physical and digital) shape our publics and our wellbeing.

Email: tdecotta@swin.edu.au

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