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Critical Conversations Research Lab

The Critical Conversations Research Lab investigates the way issues of social and political concern emerge through media and digital networks to enable public participation and influence political agendas. The CCL studies our hybrid media system in the context of political and social environments at the local, national and global levels.

We conduct qualitative and mixed-methods research into citizen engagement, inclusion and exclusion, the networks and trajectories of causes and controversies, and their influence on political systems and media institutions. Our research promotes and encourages informed public debate on the role and performance of news and media in contemporary society.


Dr Mathieu O'Neil - Research Lab Leader
Building 9, Level C, Room 8a

Current projects

Amplifying Indigenous news: A digital intervention (ARC Linkage grant)

Breaking Silences: Media and the Child Abuse Royal Commission (ARC Discovery grant)

Mapping the co-production of digital infrastructure by peer projects and firms (Ford Foundation grant)



'Do we need Peer Production Studies?' - presented by Associate Professor Mathieu O'Neil
Slides for seminar can be found here
Audio for the seminar can be found here
Abstract: In the 1990s, free and open source software (FOSS) licenses such as the General Public Licence or ‘copyleft’ were perceived to be aggressively opposed to intellectual property. This led many commentators to define FOSS, as well as other examples of what legal scholar Yochai Benkler called ‘commons-based peer production’ (such as Wikipedia) as anti-capitalist. From the mid-2000s, business literature and practice embraced the idea of a ‘collaborative’ capitalism that depends on communication as the crucial source of wealth, as well as on communication media that enable ‘everybody’ to contribute to wealth creation. Today the sharing of knowledge, ‘co-creation’, and crowdsourced ‘hacks’ and ‘mods’ are at the centre of this ‘open’ capitalism. In 2018 Microsoft joined the Open Innovation Network, a ‘defensive patent pool and community of patent non-aggression’ aiming to protect Linux; Google adopted Debian as its internal operating system (in preference to Ubuntu); Microsoft bought GitHub; IBM acquired Red Hat. Outside the IT industry, Open Source Program Offices (OSPOs) are being created in end-user firms such as Sony, and Ikea’s new DIY site is called The elements for a field of Peer Production Studies exist – a history and a culture, founders and entrepreneurs, a few journals and research centre. But if the main question raised by this production of commons by and for peers is the relationship to the market economy, might it be more appropriate to invoke a field of Co-optation Studies? The autonomous production of common goods is all at once an ethos (authority of the better argument, sharing resources), an evolutionary practice (digital commons, self-regulated housing, reinvention in the bazaars of the Global South), and a self-constituting politics (participation, re-localisation). Peer Production Studies would need to describe these multiple formations, where possible put them into practice, and be attentive to the dynamics of recuperation which traverse them.