COVIDSAFE Perceptions and Practices

In 2020 Dr Hugh Davies, Prof Larissa Hjorth, Prof Ingrid Richardson (all from RMIT), Prof Mark Andrejevic (Monash University) and I began researching practices and perceptions of COVID-19. Our areas of inquiry included: How do Australians respond to their information and locations being monitored and recorded? How have people adjusted to differing understandings of civic responsibility toward public health? How are axes of difference informing responses to public health messaging? To what extent do individuals perceive the COVID-19 crisis as bringing about community solidarity? Or, alternately, bringing to the fore existing inequalities? In 2021 we commenced a new study interviewing participants from across Australia and New Zealand about their views with regard to the infrastructural changes and biometrics ushered by COVID-19, specifically, masks and other PPE use, contact tracing via apps, QR codes, pen and paper, COVID testing and temperature monitoring and vaccinations. More details available here. We produced a journal article on Situating “careful surveillance” published in the International Journal of Cultural Studies:

Abstract: In this article we explore preliminary findings from the study COVIDSafe and Beyond: Perceptions and Practices conducted in Australia in 2020. The study involved a survey followed by interviews, and aimed to capture the dynamic ways in which members of the Australian public perceive the impact of Covid practices – especially public health measures like the introduction of physical and social distancing, compulsory mask wearing, and contact tracing. In the rescripting of public space, different notions of formal and informal surveillance, along with different textures of mediated and social care, appeared. In this article, we explore perceptions around divergent forms of surveillance across social, technological, governmental modes, and the relationship of surveillance to care in our media and cultural practices. What does it mean to care for self and others during a pandemic? How does care get enacted in, and through, media interfaces and public interaction?

You can access the summary report COVID-19 Practices and Perceptions in Australia (2020−2021) which includes findings from an online survey. In April 2023 we published QR codes during the pandemic: Seamful quotidian placemaking in Convergence.

Abstract: During the COVID-19 pandemic, one technology for contact tracing has come to dominate – QR codes. As a technology pioneered in Japan two decades ago and mainstreamed in China, QR codes have quickly become part of quotidian placemaking. While locations such as China have fully incorporated QR code technology into everyday contexts including public transport and mobile wallet applications, QR codes in the West were relatively overlooked. That was, until the pandemic. In this article, we examine some of the ways QR codes are being imagined and reimagined as part of public placemaking practices. In order to do so, we begin with a short history of QR codes – emerging in Japan, becoming mainstream in China and their consequent uptake globally. We then discuss the methods of our Australian study conducted during the pandemic and the seamful/seamless findings from our study.

This work has also been presented at a Virtual 71st Annual ICA Conference: Engaging the Essential Work of Care: Communication, Connectedness, and Social Justice, in a panel discussion: Hjorth, L. Richardson, I., De Souza, R., Davies, H. May 2021. Being mobile in place: Reconsidering differential mobilities, surveillance, and public life.