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ACMI PILOT STUDY (PHASE 1 REPORT): Social Media, Digital Wayfaring and the Future of Museum Audiences

May 2019

Jacina Leong, Indigo Holcombe-James, Adelina Onicas and Larissa Hjorth


This ethnographic research design was driven by consultation with members of the ACMI team. Through audience conversations, we developed a series of broad themes that guided our work:

  1. Feelings: how ACMI audiences felt about the digital and non-digital spaces; 
  2. Behaviours: how ACMI audiences engaged with both digital and non-digital spaces; 
  3. Co-present sociality: how, or whether, ACMI audiences enacted sociality in both digital and non-digital contexts; 
  4. Places & wayfaring: how digital and non-digital spaces were represented and influenced engagement; 
  5. Programming: how ACMI programming influenced digital and non-digital spaces. 

The ethnographic research revealed complex relationalities between the places, wayfaring, co-presence (physical and/​or digital proximity), and digital sociality that ACMI itself enacted, and that in turn was enacted by ACMI’s audiences. Through combining close analysis of the enacted digital participation by both parties with rich ethnographic data, we demonstrate an opportunity for alignment between institutional and audience-led digital practices. 

Based on this insight, we provide recommendations to calibrate differences between perceived and lived participation, through integrating institutional and informal digital practices.


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Larissa Hjorth
Distinguished Professor and Director, Design and Creative Practice
School: Enabling Capability Platforms

RMIT staff profile

Larissa Hjorth is a digital ethnographer, artist, Distinguished Professor and director of the Design & Creative Practice ECP platform at RMIT University. With Professor Heather Horst, she co-founded the Digital Ethnography Research Centre (DERC). Previously, Hjorth was Deputy Dean, Research & Innovation, in the School of Media & Communication (2013−2016). Hjorth served on the inaugural Australian Research Council (ARC) Engagement & Impact Pilot study assessment panel for humanities and creative practice.

Hjorth studies the socio-cultural dimensions of mobile media and play practices in the Asia-Pacific region with an emphasis on interdisciplinary, collaborative and cross-cultural approaches. She has published a dozen co-authored books, edited over a dozen Handbooks/​Companions and has over 40 journal articles. 

More recently, Hjorth’s work has become concerned with how we can bring creative, social and design solutions to the growing ageing populations and, in turn, how we might consider scenarios of what it means to die well. She is also studying how our more-than-human” companions can teach us about new media in everyday life. Hjorth’s last book, Haunting Hands (Oxford Uni Press) looked at how mobile media is being deployed in situations of grief and trauma, her previous book explored how art practice can teach us new acumen into the climate change debate.

Hjorth’s books include Haunting Hands (with Cumiskey 2017), Screen Ecologies (with Pink, Sharp & Williams 2016), Digital Ethnography (Pink et al. 2016) Mobile Media in the Asia-Pacific (2009), Games & Gaming (2010), Online@AsiaPacific (with Arnold 2013), Understanding Social Media (with Hinton 2013), and Gaming in Locative, Social and Mobile Media (with Richardson 2014).

Jacina Leong
PhD candidate
School: Media and Communication

Personal website

Jacina Leong is an artist-curator and PhD candidate in the School of Media and Communications, RMIT. Her research explores critical-creative and careful curatorial approaches to social innovation practices by museums and galleries.

Over the past decade, she has worked in hybrid new media spaces, universities, national and international festivals, regional museums and galleries, libraries and schools — to vision and deliver a diverse range of trans-disciplinary engagement programs, via highly collaborative, experimental and site-responsive processes. Most recently, Jacina was curator for Robotronica, project lead and founding member of the Guerrilla Knowledge Unit, guest facilitator of the Future Innovators Summit (Ars Electronica Tokyo Initiative), and co-curator of the provocation, Curating In The Age of Automation (RMIT & Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto).

From 2012 to 2017, Jacina worked at The Cube (QUT), establishing the inaugural STEAM engagement program for school and university students, educators and pre-service teachers. This program involved key collaborations with local, national and international organisations including Ars Electronica, LEGO Education, and Brisbane City Council. She has also worked in public program development at the Ipswich Art Gallery, collaborative learning strategy in universities, gallery management at Jan Murphy Gallery, and was advisor to the inaugural Make Nice at VIVID Festival.