Our Capacities

The Institute prides itself on the calibre of its distinguished scholars in cultural and social research. The transdisciplinary research conducted within the Institute features the following areas of expertise.

Access Case Studies to read about some of our most recent studies that emerged through different forms of research partnerships.

The Institute for Culture and Society has five research programs responding to key challenges facing contemporary culture and society:

Each program engages with dynamic areas of research and policy, including cultural diversity, transnationalism, citizenship and institutions, cultural industries and economies, heritage, city cultures, economic and cultural globalisation, digital transformation, and environmental and urban change. The programs act as a focus for joint research projects, workshops, conferences and public engagement initiatives.

Automated Worlds

No world is fully automated. From the jacquard loom to machine learning, automated technologies have emerged in complex interaction with social domains and physical environments. The Automated Worlds research program advances critical inquiry into the conditions and limits of this enmeshment of the material and the digital. Our research develops empirically informed concepts that explain how automation transforms and responds to economy and society. Focusing on the labour-shifting and decision-making capacities of intelligent technologies, the program probes the entanglement of social institutions and material infrastructures that results from increasing algorithmic governance. The Automated Worlds program also investigates the cultural and geopolitical stakes of automation implied by strategic competition in the development of experimental sites, standards and patents as well as shifting territorial formations. Program researchers collaborate with partners from all sectors, including not for profit organisations, academic institutions and technology companies.

Borders and Diversity

The Borders and Diversity Research Program conducts critical social inquiry on contemporary cultural diversity and the intensifying presence of borders that govern labour, life and movement. Conditions of ‘uneven globalisation’, including the current global pandemic, are radically shifting our capacities to move across various social and political boundaries, as well as our existing practices of diversity and inclusion at local, national and transnational scales. Current major projects include: evaluation of civic engagement of Chinese communities across three Sydney local government areas; barometer surveys of refugee settlement and belonging across NSW; comparative analysis of family approaches to Australian education across ethnic groups; and exploration of the capacity of AI consumer technology for social inclusion at the intersection of disability and cultural diversity.

Cultural Infrastructures

The Cultural Infrastructures Research Program conducts cutting edge, interdisciplinary research into the cultural institutions and practices that shape the expression and experience of everyday lives and cultures, and contribute to the social, cultural, and economic vitality of cities and regions. These are the built and imaginative places for the production and consumption of culture. Mindful of the complexity and unevenness of cultural infrastructure, the program probes its contours at different levels of operation and governance, and in contexts ranging from the local to the global. Key research concerns include: cultural policy; placemaking; urban cultures; cultural work; the creative industries; museums and heritage; material culture; the arts; sport; entertainment; and leisure. Important research currently underway examines options for conserving heritage sites in rapidly developing parts of Asia, including Mongolia and China, transnational approaches to interpreting migrant heritage and a study of heritage making by recent migrants from China and India in Parramatta. Other work probes civic engagement among diverse cultural communities, the planning, provision and uses of urban cultural infrastructure, the complexity of cultural work in Greater Metropolitan Sydney (especially in the West) and a major study of the social and cultural dynamics of cultural taste across contemporary Australia.

Environment and Technology

Environmental crises now permeate and form all aspects of our lives. Researchers and practitioners in this program engage with the cultural, political and technological processes of a planet in rapid and profound transformation. Research spans a range of themes and issues, including a critical engagement with the politics of environmental knowledge and debates concerning the Anthropocene, social-ecological futures and global environmental change. This requires critically engaging with diverse knowledges, including Indigenous peoples’ knowledge and governance that has long understood the interdependence of all living things. Our interdisciplinary research involves collaborations with the natural and technology based sciences, critical biophysical approaches, design, heritage and museum studies and industry experts. We also work with local communities, governments, scientists, Indigenous organisations, cultural institutions, media practitioners and artists. This community and industry engagement shapes the impact and translation of our research and efforts to confront matters of critical ecological and technological concern.

Urban Futures

The Urban Futures Research Program draws on interdisciplinary insights to identify the conditions that make urban areas and regions flourish. In highly urbanised countries like Australia, diverse practices and infrastructures make this possible – from construction to health care and education, housing and everyday practices of living. The Urban Futures Research Program is geared toward the production of hopeful, caring and just futures in response to these challenges. Members of the Urban Futures Research Program are committed to engaged research, working across the profit and not-for-profit, government and non-government, and international governance sectors to bring impactful change to urban areas and regions where we live and work. Key research concerns include: housing affordability and security; climate change adaptation; social, technical and urban governance responses to ongoing public health concerns; planetary health and planning challenges; manufacturing for the 21st century; sustained and innovative responses to waste; food security; the relationship between design, habit and daily life; and public trust in urban settings. Our researchers are also leaders within the Community Economies Institute (CEI), an internationally engaged research community working across more than twenty countries around the world. Program researchers enlist qualitative and quantitative research methods, including surveys and interviews along with collaborative design, innovative participatory practices, ethnographies, storytelling, animation and film.

ICS researchers have a diverse range of skills and expertise, from traditional consultation methods to innovative participatory and co-design processes. Many of our projects are collaborative partnerships, including communities, cities, organisations and different levels of government. The Institute delivers quality research for strategic planning and practical outcomes to help understand and resolve the social and cultural challenges faced by organisations, communities and individuals in a diverse and complex world. The Institute has worked and collaborated around the globe, in particular in Southeast Asia, Latin America, Europe and South Africa. Details of our partners and projects can be found on our website.

Partner with ICS

If you would like to collaborate with us or find out more about what we can offer you, please get in touch with our Senior Business Development Officer - Sally Byrnes - using the details below.

Email: S.Byrnes@westernsydney.edu.au
Phone: +61 421 320 441

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