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Scholarship details

RTP2021 R2 An Ethnography of Influencers and Social Justice Cultures

Status: Open

Applications open: 15/07/2020
Applications close: 1/09/2020

View printable version [.pdf]

About this scholarship

Social media influencers have had a rich history, developing in various parts of the world across platforms and genres in the last two decades. They are primarily individuals who have gained a significant following on the internet, and use this celebrity to promote products, ideologies, or simply themselves. As experts in holding attention through innovative strategies, Influencers are an increasingly crucial and effective platform for circulating and amplifying information on the internet. Influencers have expanded from being mere commercial enterprises to being performers of public service by reaching wide, diverse, and sometimes marginalized youth audiences with important socio-cultural messages. Influencers have impacted several areas of contemporary society, effecting change in law, economics, culture, and social issues. Influencers are often typified as the epitome of commodified microcelebrities online, given that they literally make a living by monetizing the display of their lifestyles on the internet as a vocation. However, they are much more than that.

Influencers are also critical conduits for amplifying and circulating information to young audiences through internet-native vernacular and narrative formats that are attention-grabbing and intimate. Influencers have been found to cultivate entrepreneurship through alternative routes in the face of educational failure (Abidin & Gwynne 2017), generate conversation and awareness around non-visible health struggles such as anxiety (Bishop 2018), become informal educators of sex and sexuality issues (Abidin 2017d, foster discursive activism among queer youth online (Abidin & Cover 2019, Southerton & Rasmussen 2018), construct community among body image issues and pursuits even among men (Fuller & Jeffery 2016), complicate notions of girlhood and femininity (Hall 2015), highlight the realities of workplace exploitation and aspirational labour (Duffy 2016), construct activism networks during social movements (Tufeci 2013), and serve as one form of cultural intermediaries in the public service media (Hutchinson 2017). In essence, Influencers today serve as critical mediators and nodes for approaching various topics and concerns around social justice and social good opportunities. In order to theorise ways to bring together academic and policy knowledge domains, this PhD project aims to examine cultures of social justice among Influencers in the Asia Pacific region. It is anticipated that findings from the study will inform how young people and stakeholders can improve their communication skills and outreach, and how policy makers can partner with Influencers to amplify information and encourage grassroots activism.

Project proposals are welcome in relation to Influencers and social justice cultures around but not limited to: Content strategizing, Subcultures and group norms, Intimacy and relational labour, Call-out and cancel cultures, Algorithmic cultures, Bots and automation, Platforms and governance.

  • Future Students
  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Higher Degree by Research
  • Australian Citizen
  • Australian Permanent Resident
  • New Zealand Citizen
  • Permanent Humanitarian Visa
  • International Student
  • Merit Based

Total value of the annual scholarships (stipend and fees) is approx. $60,000 - $70,000 p.a.

Curtin PhD Stipends are valued at $28,092 p.a. for up to a maximum of 3.5 years.

Successful applicants will receive a 100% Fee offset.

Scholarship Details


All applicable HDR courses

·         Essential: English language IELTS level of 6.5 and above

·         Essential: Successful completion of an Honours or Masters programme with a research component (or equivalent)

·         Essential: Demonstration of some competence in qualitative and ethnographic research methods/skills

·         Essential: Interest in influencer cultures, social media practices, and social justice issues

·         Preferred but not Essential: Competence in an East Asian language 

Application process

To apply for this project opportunity applicants must submit an email to the contact Project lead listed below. The email must include their current curriculum vitae, a summary of their research skills and experience and the reason they are interested in this specific project.

The Project Lead will select one preferred applicant for this project and complete a Primary reference on their behalf. 

After confirmation from the Project Lead that they will receive a primary reference for this project the applicant must submit an eApplication for admission into the applicable HDR course no later than 1st September 2020.

All applicants must send an external referee template to their chosen external reference. 

All references are confidential and must be submitted by the referee directly to no later than 1st September 2020.

Scholarship applications submitted without a primary reference or a completed application for admission will be considered incomplete.

For further information on the application process or for more RTP2021 Round 2 scholarship project opportunities visit: 

Enrolment Requirements

Eligible to enrol in a Higher Degree by Research Course at Curtin University by March 2021


To apply for this project opportunity email your current curriculum vitae, a summary of their research skills and experience and the reason you are interested in this specific project to:

Name: Dr Crystal Abidin


Contact Number: 08 9266 5822

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