Making social media in public housing activism: Methodological and ethical considerations

Dr Jenna Condie1, Ms Astrid  Zuman1

1Western Sydney University, Penrith, Australia


Social media activism is so much more than a Facebook Page, a Twitter feed, or an Instagram hashtag. Yet social media research methods often start and end at this ‘surface level’ where researchers extract digital data generated by activist groups and networks for scholarly purposes. In practice, bringing social media content into being, and maintaining online activist spaces is time consuming, emotionally intense, socially relational and affected by existing societal power structures. This paper outlines a methodological and ethical framework for embracing the ‘necessary complexity’ (Probyn, 2016) of making social media in the contexts of public housing activism.

The research draws from the lead author’s scholar-activist work (2016 -) with three resident action groups/projects, established in response to a public housing estate redevelopment in Waterloo, Sydney. The methodological approach is digitally ethnographic in assembling memories, digital data, and accounts from others involved, to tell stories about social media activism that matter. An ‘ethics of care’ is practised through ongoing reflexive engagements with the implications of ‘being there’ and influencing what becomes in social media and beyond. When inside the action, the challenges of making social media are more knowable, as are the possibilities of social media for realising housing justice.


Jenna Condie is a Lecturer in Digital Research and Online Social Analysis at Western Sydney University. With psychology as a base, she researches cyber-urban living and what people and places are becoming with new technologies. At Western, Jenna co-leads Travel in the Digital Age (TinDA), an interdisciplinary group of researchers focused on travel, transport, technology, mobile lives and equitable mobilities. In 2018, Jenna co-edited ‘Doing Research In and On the Digital: Research Methods Across Fields of Inquiry’ (Routledge) and has published on new materialist and scholar-activist approaches to researching with responsibility.

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