It is often the case that research about the COVID-19 pandemic is thought of as only relating to certain fields such as medicine and health. However, many may overlook the curious and significant research into current social issues like COVID-19 that occurs in the field of media and culture.
Several academics at UNE have recently contributed to a special issue of the ‘M/C Journal’ which provides a perfect example of just some of the fascinating and significant research occurring within the media and culture field. For those who may not know, M/C Journal is a free online media and culture journal committed to being accessible to a general readership and bringing academic research to everyday readers. What this means is that the journal’s editors take contributed academic research and present it to those outside of a university context.
The most recent M/C Journal issue is themed ‘bubbles’ and was edited by UNE’s Dr Jo Coghlan and Dr Lisa Hackett. The topics in this issue range from the challenges women face working within the Canberra bubble to the nuances of COVID-19 bubbles. The exploration and research being done in this issue of M/C Journal are quite important as many are increasingly relevant in the social, cultural and political landscape of Australia. Co-editor of this issue of M/C Journal, Dr Lisa Hackett, had some interesting points about the significance of the journal and the fantastic research performed by its UNE contributors.
“We conceived the theme of ‘bubbles’ in 2019, months before anyone had even heard of Covid-19 and all the bubbles that came with it,” Dr Hackett said. “The papers broadly covered two sets of bubbles – those that arose out of COVID and those that were already occurring in society.”
Two research articles in the journal explore different aspects of the COVID-19 and demonstrate some of the research that is occurring within the culture and media space around the pandemic.
“Fincina Hopgood and Jodi Brooks’ article examines how the COVID bubble has impacted Australians of advanced age in care homes,” Dr Hackett said about the research. “They find that the COVID pandemic exacerbates the issues that were identified by the royal commission into aged care which remain to be acted upon and serves as a warning as to what can happen if change is not enacted fast enough.”
“Xiang Gao examines the role that pre-existing cultural capital has had on countries being able to implement health policies during the COVID pandemic. By comparing two countries, China and the United States, she is able to demonstrate that cultural capital is an important resource for governments to draw upon when faced with a crisis.”
The issue discusses other ‘bubbles’ found within contemporary culture and further illustrates the kinds of research that the media and culture space can provide to every day readers. For example, Dr Jo Coghlan and Dr Lisa Hackett’s article examines ongoing debates around the representation of history within fictional works. By surveying over 800 readers and writers of historical romance novels, they were able to shine a light on what is considered ‘essential’ to establishing authenticity within the historical bubble, and where poetic license fits into this dynamic.
Another of the research articles takes the ‘bubbles’ theme much more literally; this being the research article by Dr Jenny Wise and Dr Lesley McLean about the use of convict images by Australian bubbly brand ’19 Crimes’.
“The use of convicts was a central policy of colonial settlement in Australia and many Australians are proud of their convict roots,” Dr Hackett says in regards to the research. “Here Dr Wise and Dr McLean interrogate what it means when convicts, some of whom were found guilty of quite serious crimes, are attached to an alcoholic beverage better known for its celebratory role.”
Beyond the important role that culture and media research can play in exploring social and cultural issues, another substantial aspect of this journal is its focus on sharing academic research with the general public. Dr Hackett has some thoughts on this topic and the importance of sharing academia at a broad public level.
“Journals such as M/C Journal play an important role in this communication as their articles are freely available online; beyond that, many people outside academia are genuinely interested in research and can provide valuable feedback that can help shape the direction of future studies.”
If you would like to take a look at the fantastic contributions UNE staff and researchers made to the ‘Bubbles’ M/C Journal issue, you can find it here: https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/index.