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Scholarship details

2023 RTP round - A critical analysis of algorithmic and datafied early childhoods

Status: Open

Applications open: 8/07/2022
Applications close: 18/08/2022

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About this scholarship

Algorithmic systems are an inescapable part of modern life to the extent that they often completely disappear from public view despite influencing more and more of our everyday lives (Willson, 2017). Algorithmic decision-making and datafication – the capturing, storing, analysis and commercialisation of personal data – increasingly are part of early childhood and infancy from the first ultrasound photo onward (Leaver, 2015). While there is an increasing awareness of big platforms such as Google and Facebook using personal data, they are but two examples of literally millions of platforms, systems, tools and apps which are used in making decisions about people’s lives by everyone from corporations to governments.

New technologies can offer new solutions in many realms of early childhood including health, education, welfare and communication often through the creation, tracking and analysis of increasingly largely datasets, but these opportunities must be balanced with a child’s right to privacy both today and into the future (Leaver, 2017). A point of tension in many households can come when the privacy and sharing practices and expectations of parents and children come into conflict, often around the sharing of children’s and family photo online, for example, in what has increasingly been dubbed ‘sharenting’ (Leaver, 2021). However, in the years before children have formed or can easily articulate their own preferences, parents have to make frequent decisions about which types of algorithms can influence children’s lives, including which systems can collect and store personal data about young people. These systems often measure young children against aggregated norms and ideals, without any transparency in how this sort of quantification or prediction can shape the experience and opportunities of a child’s life (Willson, 2018; 2021). More than that, the Terms and Conditions which govern these apps and software systems are often written in such a way that carers rarely have the time or capacity to critically read or even open these Terms before agreeing to then with a single click.

This project will seek to critically map and analyse the ways in which algorithmic systems and datafication are influencing early childhood, with a particular focus on the early years from birth to infancy. This map will including government systems such as centralised medical records, big platforms such as Facebook, and commercial start-ups which track and turn into data everything from infant heartbeats to first words and first steps. Once this mapping is completed, the project aims to find news ways to make the inner workings of algorithms more visible and understandable to those caring for babies and infants in a manner that makes that information accessible and gives carers a stronger sense of agency in deciding how infants are (or are not) tracked, traced and recorded by digital devices, systems and apps. 

This project will be located within the Curtin node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child, working with Professor Tama Leaver, who is a Chief Investigator in the Centre, and Professor Michele Willson, who has written extensively on algorithms and childhood, including co-editing the 2021 collection Young Children's Rights in a Digital World.

Holloway, D., Willson, M., Murcia, K., Archer, C., & Stocco, F. (Eds.). (2021). Young Children’s Rights in a Digital World: Play, Design and Practice (1st ed. 2021 edition). Springer.
Leaver, T. (2015). Born Digital? Presence, Privacy, and Intimate Surveillance. In Hartley, John & W. Qu (Eds.), Re-Orientation: Translingual Transcultural Transmedia. Studies in narrative, language, identity, and knowledge (pp. 149–160). Fudan University Press.
Leaver, T. (2017). Intimate Surveillance: Normalizing Parental Monitoring and Mediation of Infants Online. Social Media + Society, 3(2).
Leaver, T. (2021). Balancing Privacy: Sharenting, Intimate Surveillance and the Right to Be Forgotten. In L. Green, D. Holloway, K. Stevenson, T. Leaver, & L. Haddon (Eds.), The Routledge Companion to Children and Digital Media (pp. 234–244). Routledge.
Willson, M. (2017). Algorithms (and the) everyday. Information, Communication & Society, 20(1), 137–150.
Willson, M. (2018). Raising the ideal child? Algorithms, quantification and prediction. Media, Culture & Society, 0163443718798901.
Willson, M. (2021). Digital Predictions: Children’s Futures, Opportunities and Obstacles. In D. Holloway, M. Willson, K. Murcia, C. Archer, & F. Stocco (Eds.), Young Children’s Rights in a Digital World: Play, Design and Practice (pp. 313–325). Springer International Publishing. 

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

The annual scholarship package (stipend and tuition fees) is approx. $60,000 - $70,000 p.a.


Successful HDR applicants for admission will receive a 100% fee offset for up to 4 years, stipend scholarships, valued at $28,854 p.a. for up to a maximum of 3.5 years, are determined via a competitive selection process. Applicants will be notified of the scholarship outcome in November 2022. 


For detailed information, visit: Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarships | Curtin University, Perth, Australia.

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: Strong interest in and knowledge of social media platforms. 

Application process

If this project excites you, and your research skills and experience are a good fit for this specific project, you should contact the Project Lead (listed below in the enquires section) via the Expression of Interest (EOI) form.

Enrolment Requirements

Eligible to enrol in a Higher Degree by Research Course at Curtin University by March 2023


To enquire about this project opportunity that includes a scholarship application, contact the Project lead, Professor Tama Leaver via the EOI form above.

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