Dr Ash Watson
Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr Ash Watson

Bachelor of Communication (Hons 1), Griffith University
Graduate Certificate in Higher Education, Griffith University
Doctor of Philosophy, Griffith University

Arts,Design & Architecture
Centre for Social Research in Health

Dr Ash Watson is a sociologist of technology and fiction. She works for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society at UNSW Sydney, in Centre's Health focus area and People program. She is also a member of the UNSW.ai institute. Her research draws on arts-based and qualitative methods to explore the socio-cultural impacts of emerging technologies and identify the kinds of futures that are opened or closed off by current trends. She is particularly interested in the visions and organisational principles of 'DIY' collectives, including startups and community archives.

Ash’s debut novel Into the Sea (2020), published in Brill's award-winning Social Fictions Series, is ‘an experiment in sociological imagination.’ Drawing on ethnographic research, the story follows a group of young adults through a year of the mundane and extraordinary to consider what it means to live 'the Australian way of life'. Her creative writing is published in various national literary magazines including Overland, SCUM mag, and Baby Teeth Journal, and she makes zines at Frances St Press.

In 2017, Ash launched the creative public sociology project So Fi Zine, an open-access publication for sociological fiction, poetry and visual art. The zine has published the work of hundreds of international authors, reached over 13,000 readers, and included guest editorials by field-leading scholars including Howard Becker, Ruha Benjamin, Raewyn Connell, Michael Burawoy, Les Back and more.

Since 2018, Ash has served as the invited inaugural Fiction Editor of The Sociological Review, heading the journal's short story series. She is also an Editorial Board member of the academic journal Qualitative Research and the literary journal Authora Australis

Prior to her current position she was an ARC-funded Postdoctoral Fellow on the Discovery Project "Living with Personal Data", working with Prof Deborah Lupton and Prof Mike Michael, based at the UNSW Vitalities Lab. During her doctoral studies she was awarded an Endeavour Research Fellowship which she undertook at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her PhD in Sociology was awarded by Griffith University in 2018.

  • Books | 2021
    Lupton D; Southerton C; Clark M; Watson A, 2021, The Face Mask in COVID Times: A Sociomaterial Analysis, De Gruyter, http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/9783110723717
  • Journal articles | 2022
    Lupton D; Watson A, 2022, 'Research-Creations for Speculating About Digitized Automation: Bringing Creative Writing Prompts and Vital Materialism into the Sociology of Futures', QUALITATIVE INQUIRY, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/10778004221097049
    Journal articles | 2022
    Watson A; Lupton D, 2022, 'Remote Fieldwork in Homes During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Video-Call Ethnography and Map Drawing Methods', International Journal of Qualitative Methods, vol. 21, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/16094069221078376
    Journal articles | 2022
    Watson A; Lupton D, 2022, 'What Happens Next? Using the Story Completion Method to Surface the Affects and Materialities of Digital Privacy Dilemmas', Sociological Research Online, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/13607804221084343
    Journal articles | 2022
    Watson A; Lupton D; Michael M, 2022, 'The presence and perceptibility of personal digital data: findings from a participant map drawing method', Visual Studies, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1472586X.2022.2043774
    Journal articles | 2021
    Byron P; McKee A; Watson A; Litsou K; Ingham R, 2021, 'Reading for Realness: Porn Literacies, Digital Media, and Young People', Sexuality and Culture, vol. 25, pp. 786 - 805, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12119-020-09794-6
    Journal articles | 2021
    Kirby E; Watson A; Churchill B; Robards B; LaRochelle L, 2021, 'Queering the Map: Stories of love, loss and (be)longing within a digital cartographic archive', Media, Culture & Society, vol. 43, pp. 1043 - 1060, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0163443720986005
    Journal articles | 2021
    Watson A, 2021, 'Writing sociological fiction', Qualitative Research, pp. 146879412098567 - 146879412098567, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1468794120985677
    Journal articles | 2021
    Watson A; Bennett A, 2021, 'The felt value of reading zines', American Journal of Cultural Sociology, vol. 9, pp. 115 - 149, http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/s41290-020-00108-9
    Journal articles | 2021
    Watson A; Lupton D, 2021, 'Tactics, affects and agencies in digital privacy narratives: a story completion study', Online Information Review, vol. 45, pp. 138 - 156, http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/oir-05-2020-0174
    Journal articles | 2021
    Watson A; Lupton D; Michael M, 2021, 'Enacting intimacy and sociality at a distance in the COVID-19 crisis: the sociomaterialities of home-based communication technologies', Media International Australia, vol. 178, pp. 136 - 150, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1329878x20961568
    Journal articles | 2021
    Watson A; Lupton D; Michael M, 2021, 'The COVID digital home assemblage: Transforming the home into a work space during the crisis', Convergence, vol. 27, pp. 1207 - 1221, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/13548565211030848
    Journal articles | 2021
    Watson A; Smartt Gullion J, 2021, 'Editorial: Fiction as Research – Writing Beyond the Boundary Lines', Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal, https://journals.library.ualberta.ca/ari/index.php/ari/issue/view/1947
    Journal articles | 2020
    Baker S; Buttigieg B; Cantillon Z; Pavlidis A; Rodriguez Castro L; Watson A, 2020, 'Getting students to ‘do’ introductory sociology: Analysis of a blended and flipped interactive workshop model', Journal of Sociology, pp. 144078332093418 - 144078332093418, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1440783320934180
    Journal articles | 2020
    Lupton D; Watson A, 2020, 'Towards more-than-human digital data studies: developing research-creation methods', Qualitative Research, pp. 146879412093923 - 146879412093923, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1468794120939235
    Journal articles | 2020
    Watson A, 2020, 'Methods Braiding: A Technique for Arts-Based and Mixed-Methods Research', Sociological Research Online, vol. 25, pp. 66 - 83, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1360780419849437
    Journal articles | 2016
    Watson A, 2016, 'Directions for Public Sociology: Novel Writing as a Creative Approach', Cultural Sociology, vol. 10, pp. 431 - 447, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1749975516639081
  • Creative Written Works | 2021
    Watson A, 2021, So Fi Zine #9, Watson A, (ed.), Frances St Press, https://sofizine.com/latest-edition/edition-9/
    Conference Papers | 2020
    Robards B; Watson A; Kirby E; Churchill B; LaRochelle L, 2020, 'Queering the Map: Physical traces and digital places of queer lives', Dublin/Online, presented at Association of Internet Researchers Annual Conference "Life", Dublin/Online, 26 October 2020 - 31 October 2020, http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/spir.v2020i0.11319
    Creative Written Works | 2020
    Watson A, 2020, Into the Sea, Brill, https://brill.com/view/title/57983
    Creative Written Works | 2020
    Watson A, 2020, So Fi Zine #7, Watson A, (ed.), Frances St Press, http://sofizine.com/
    Creative Written Works | 2020
    Watson A, 2020, So Fi Zine #8, Watson A, (ed.), Frances St Press, https://sofizine.com/latest-edition/edition-8/
    Creative Written Works | 2019
    Watson A, 2019, So Fi Zine #5, Watson A, (ed.), Frances St Press, http://www.sofizine.com/
    Creative Written Works | 2019
    Watson A, 2019, So Fi Zine #6, Watson A, (ed.), Frances St Press, http://www.sofizine.com/
    Creative Written Works | 2018
    Watson A, 2018, So Fi Zine #3, Watson A, (ed.), Frances St Press, http://www.sofizine.com/
    Creative Written Works | 2018
    Watson A, 2018, So Fi Zine #4, Watson A, (ed.), Frances St Press, http://www.sofizine.com/
    Creative Written Works | 2017
    Watson A, 2017, So Fi Zine #1, Watson A, (ed.), Frances St Press, http://www.sofizine.com/
    Creative Written Works | 2017
    Watson A, 2017, So Fi Zine #2, Watson A, (ed.), Frances St Press, http://www.sofizine.com/

Endeavour Research Fellowship, Australian Government Department of Education and Training, 2017
Australian Postgraduate Award, 2014-2018

Current projects with ADM+S include:

  • Mapping actual use cases of automated decision-making and artificial intelligence in Australian health contexts, through a content and thematic analysis of public sites, research, policy and news. 
  • Investigating how Australian 'healthtech' startups imagine and address issues of trust and explainability, through ethnographic and creative workshop and cultural probe methods.
  • Exploring how people understand and feel about personal data generating devices, including within the context of COVID-19, through ethnographic and creative workshop methods.

Other projects include:

  • A sociological study of Queering the Map (queeringthemap.com), a digital community-based archive where users anonymously pin their memories to Google Maps-style platform, through qualitative interviews and thematic analysis of site posts.
  • Exploring the rise and diversity of zine cultures in Australia within the context of digital platforms, through artefact elicitation interviews.