Infectious Ideas: Memes and Metaphors

Posted Tuesday March 30, 2010 by John Gunders in |

Given my interests in memetics (more soon) I’m really looking forward to this, and not just because Peta is a friend. If you’re in Brisbane, check it out.

Dr Peta Mitchell
Tuesday 13th April 2010, 2.00pm-3.30pm
Social Sciences and Humanities Library Conference Room
Level 1 Duhig Building (Bldg 2)
The University of Queensland
St Lucia Campus

In his 1976 work, The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins proposes, seemingly almost as an afterthought, a second kind of “selfish” replicator. Theories of biological evolution can look to the gene as the base unit of replication and reproduction, but what, Dawkins asks us, about cultural evolution? How are ideas reproduced and why do some ideas find traction while others do not? The neologism Dawkins coins for his proposed cultural replicator is the “meme,” and he cites as examples cultural artefacts such as “tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches.”

In this paper, Dr Mitchell will examine the status of the meme as metaphor, and particularly the ways in which the meme increasingly began to be figured in terms of contagion—as thought contagion—rather than in terms of evolutionary biology. This, she will argue, places the meme within a long tradition of troping human thought as a kind of virus or a form of contagion, and I will consider the meme as developing out of the 17th and 18th century concept of the “contagion of example.” Finally, she wishes to suggest that, despite Stephen Jay Gould’s denigration of the meme as a “meaningless metaphor,” the meme’s reflexive potential means that it may offer itself as a singularly useful tool for considering the very workings of metaphor.

About the Presenter
Peta Mitchell is a lecturer in the School of English, Media Studies, and Art History at the University of Queensland. Her research broadly focuses on cultural geography, spatial theory, metaphor, contemporary literature, and new media technologies. She is author of Cartographic Strategies of Postmodernity (Routledge 2008), and her current book project, Contagious Metaphor (contracted by Continuum), examines cross-disciplinary uses of the metaphor of contagion. In 2009, she took up research fellowships at UQ’s Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies and at the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities.

This seminar is to be chaired by Associate Professor Anita Harris.

For more details, contact Rebecca Ralph, Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies. Phone (07) 3346 7407, or email

MACS - March 2010

Posted Wednesday March 3, 2010 by John Gunders in |

If you are in Brisbane, feel free to come along

Writing and Getting Involved in ARC Grants

Special Guests include Distinguished Professor Stuart Cunningham

Friday, 12 March 2010
3:00pm – 4:30pm
Room Z6, 208
Creative Industries Precinct,
Queensland University of Technology
Musk Avenue, Kelvin Grove

We invite post-graduate students, ECR’s or anyone else interested to attend the first MACS meeting for 2010 at the Creative Industries Precinct, Queensland University of Technology on Friday 12 March between 3 – 4.30pm. The theme is “Writing and Getting Involved in ARC Grants” and will include a talk by special guest Distinguished Professor Stuart Cunningham.

MACS provides a regular platform for discussing issues relating to these roles as well as an opportunity to contribute to wider debates taking place in the field. MACS is currently active at the University of Queensland and the Queensland University of Technology, and meetings are hosted alternatively across these two institutions.

The idea for the MACS network arose from a sense that PhD students and junior staff are often at a distance from existing forms of collaboration between researchers in different universities within the one city. While much emphasis is placed on the end product of research, and there are plenty of avenues for presenting and publishing our work, the early stages of an academic career involve particular anxieties that can be ameliorated with the support of a community of peers. The MACS group is an attempt to create a space for discussing everything to do with our work aside from the end product, to share accumulated knowledge and resources to gain insight into the options available within our field of research.

The State of the Industry

Posted Tuesday October 20, 2009 by John Gunders in |

The State of the Industry: the future for cultural research in the university

Thursday-Friday, 26th and 27th November 2009
The University of New South Wales, Kensington

The State of the Industry is a two day conference that will discuss the future for cultural research in the university, while marking the conclusion of a highly successful period of Australian Research Council funding for the Cultural Research Network.

The event will showcase a range of innovative research collaborations and projects that the Cultural Research Network has generated, linking different disciplines, institutions and community groups working in the area of culture over the past 5 years. It will also discuss a number of issues fundamental to the practice of research.

The conference will have free registration and is open to all members of the public and the university community.

Details here.

M/C Reviews Needs You!

Posted Wednesday August 5, 2009 by John Gunders in |

Apparently this situation is getting chronic. If anyone can help, Axel would love to hear from you…

A number of M/C Reviews section editors will be leaving us soon to pursue new opportunities – so, we’re now calling for expressions of interest across all M/C Reviews sections (events, screens, sounds, style, and words). If you’re interested in becoming an M/C Reviews section editor, please contact Axel Bruns at editor (at)

Section editors manage the day-to-day flow of reviews; they liaise with events coordinators and publishers, and work with M/C Reviews‘ large group of reviewers. As section editor, you have a unique opportunity to network in the media and cultural industries, and to facilitate the continued work of M/C Reviews, one of Australia’s longest-lived online reviews publications. All M/C Reviews section editors and reviewers are volunteers.

We look forward to working with you!

Cultural Studies: Past, Present and Future

Posted Tuesday July 28, 2009 by John Gunders in |

If you’re in Brisbane, this one looks like it will be a cracker!

A Symposium on the State of Cultural Studies

presented by the Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies
Thursday 3rd September 2009
2.00pm – 5.30pm
Social Sciences and Humanities Library Conference Room
University of Queensland, St Lucia Campus


Graeme Turner – (University of Queensland): Introduction: ‘What’s Become of Cultural Studies?’

Chris Rojek (Brunel University West London): ‘Stuart Hall and the Birmingham School’

Frances Bonner (University of Queensland): ‘These are a few of my favourite things’

John Hartley (Queensland University of Technology): ‘From cultural studies to cultural science’

Discussant: Melissa Gregg (The University of Sydney)

Details here.

MACS - June 2009

Posted Wednesday June 10, 2009 by John Gunders in |

Research Assistants: The Pain and the Pleasure

Friday, 12 June 2009
3:00pm – 4:30pm
Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies, Seminar Room
Level 4 Forgan Smith Tower,
The University of Queensland

All welcome

Most research higher degree students will at some point in their candidature work as a research assistant. Often this is a good career move as it provides training, work experience, and often an insight into a project or field apart from their own thesis. But let’s face it, we usually do it for the money.

In this session we want to talk about RAs from both perspectives: if you’re an RA, what are the obligations, the unspoken rules, the traps to avoid; if you are a researcher trying to employ an RA, what are, well, the obligations, the unspoken rules, and the traps to avoid? We will have a couple of speakers (to be confirmed) who will address these questions, and also talk about the employment aspects of the role.

But mainly we want to hear about your experiences: those horror stories about the senior professor who screwed you over and took all the credit (pseudonyms are recommended); the academic who asked for a list of references and ended up giving you a co-authorship on the paper; the assistant who took all the money the project had and never completed the work.

But while a whinge-fest can be cathartic, we’d rather this was a productive session, providing advice and guidance to RHD students and ECRs who might be new to this process. Hopefully, some of the mis-conceptions can be dispelled on both sides of the arrangement, leading to a better experience for both employer and employed.

Wanted: Australia’s missing newspapers

Posted Wednesday June 3, 2009 by John Gunders in |

If there’s a stack of old newspapers gathering dust under the bed or out in the shed, Australian libraries want to know about it. The search is on for these valuable pieces of our social history, as part of the Australian Newspaper Plan, a nation-wide initiative of state and territory libraries designed to find, collect and preserve access to historic newspapers.

Some of Australia’s most wanted newspapers include:

  • Cairns Advocate (1897-1882);
  • Croydon Miner (1887-1888)
  • Mundic Miner and Etheridge Gazette (1889-1917);
  • Pilbarra Goldfields News (1901);
  • Renmark Pioneer (1893-1895).

Once the wanted newspapers have been tracked down, they will be saved to ensure their preservation for future generations. Access will be available through the libraries. For a full list of the wanted newspapers, go to

─Judith Dahl Taylor
Communications and Marketing Manager
National Library of Australia

MACS - May 2009

Posted Tuesday May 5, 2009 by John Gunders in |

For those of you in Brisbane (or on Facebook):

Reports on recent conferences—by those who were there!

Friday, 8 May 2009
3:00pm – 4:30pm
Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies, Seminar Room
Level 4 Forgan Smith Tower,
The University of Queensland

As is traditional for the first MACS of the year, we will hear about some people’s experiences at a variety of conferences in recent months. The discussion, as always, will continue at the UQ Club after 4:30pm. All welcome, spread the word!

Tentative Programme:

Ian Rogers, IASPM conference, Brisbane, November 2008
Kitty van Vuuren, CSAA Annual conference, Kalgoorlie, December 2008
Peta Mitchell, Association of American Geographers Annual Conference, Las Vegas, March 2009


Brisbane Seminar: Visceral Literacy

Posted Sunday April 5, 2009 by John Gunders in |

Visceral Literacy: The Turn to Body Language in a Reflexively Savvy Era, Dr Mark Andrejevic

Tuesday 7th April 2009
Social Sciences and Humanities Library Conference Room
Level 1 Duhig Building (Bldg 2)

Abstract: This presentation explores the role played by body language in recent popular culture and news analysis as a means of highlighting the potentially deceptive character of speech and promising to bypass it altogether. It situates the promise of visceral literacy—the alleged ability to read inner emotions and dispositions—within emerging surveillance regimes and the landscapes of risk they chart. At the same time, it describes portrayals of body language analysis as characteristic of an emerging genre of “securitainment” that instructs viewers in monitoring techniques as it entertains and informs them.

More information here.

Ideas Festival: Office for Women Panel Discussion

Posted Monday March 23, 2009 by John Gunders in |

For our Brisbane readers…

The Office for Women proudly presents ‘Beyond size 0 – is anything real?’

We invite you to attend an insightful and thought-provoking panel discussion hosted by the Office for Women as part of the Ideas Festival.

With new technologies, will real women’s bodies be necessary for the future of fashion? And if not, what impacts will this have on fashion, the media industry and women’s health and body image in the future?”

Join us as four expert panellists present their perspectives on the media’s impact on women’s body image and its implications for the future. Panellists include: writer, director and producer Phoebe Hart, Dr Angela Dwyer of Queensland University of Technology, Phillippa Diedrichs of the University of Queensland, and Tracy Whitelaw of MyCyberTwin.

Meshel Laurie, co-host of Brisbane’s Nova 106.9, will MC the session.

Be part of the Ideas Festival and see expert panellists examine the question ‘Beyond size 0 – is anything real?’

Event details:
Saturday, 28 March 2009
6 pm – 7 pm
State Library of Queensland, Auditorium 2
South Bank Cultural Centre,

Free admission
For further information visit the Office for Women’s Ideas Festival web page.