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Merilyn Childs

Associate Professor of Digital Futures, Australian Digital Futures Institute, University of Southern Queensland, Australia, PhD.

Much of my working life is devoted to creativity in digital spaces, particularly in the field of learning and teaching in Higher Education. When I find time to play I use visual studies methodology to explore the distances between textual and visual representations. I also maintain a digital archive of the visual history of women and firefighting www.womeninfirefighting.blogspot.com.au 

Over time, I've pursued interests in digital participation, digital humanities, open learning and recognition practices, qualitative research, and creativity in digital spaces. As an adult educator I've worked in surprising and unexpected spaces, including for ten years as the academic advisor to the NSW Fire Brigades. I've done the usual nine yards of an academic doing funded research, directorships, supervisions, publications.

But... I think visually and once spent time being a street performer and visual poet (before "installations" took hold).  I have played on the margins of visual sociology when I could. For example, I've used visual studies methodology to explore representations of women effected by the Boxing Day Tsunami (2005) in order to challenge the "way of seeing" gender and disasters. I've also used digital images, found online, as a basis for questioning institutional blindness to "learning spaces" designed by citizens outside Higher Education (2012).

I am passionate about the ongoing work I have completed concerning the visual history of early female firefighters in Australia (and related countries). More an amateur her-story sleuth than a visual sociologist, I have worked on issues associated with women and firefighting in Australia since 2005. This has included sharing the til-now unknown history of female firefighters from 1901-1903 and WWII. The following image is an example (but see my Blog for more) which shows the The Amazons Second Ladies Fire Brigade in operational uniform with branch and hose c1903, Armidale Australia 

Copyright. HRCP1594  Womens Fire Brigade 8

My abiding interests lie in the demystification of institutional privilege and exclusionary practices. I am life member of the Australasian Women in Fire Fighting Incorporated and recipient of the Edna Ryna Workforce Award (2005) for improving conditions for women workers.

I earn my keep at the Australian Digital Futures Institute at the University of Southern Queensland. (Prior to 2013 I spent the past five years as Acting Director of the Flexible Learning Institute at Charles Sturt University, NSW Australia). 

I recently started reading about Writing History in the Digital Age and in it encountered a wonderful cross over between my interests in open access, user-generated content (apologies for the copyright image above), born-digital collaboration, and digital history. If you throw in visual sociology, then I'm in conceptual nirvana. 

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  • Country: Australia

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