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 cultural sociologist and Postdoctoral Fellow with the UNSW Sydney node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society. Her research uses creative qualitative methods to explore how people live with technologies, and to identify the kinds of futures that are opened or closed off by current socio-technical trends. She is particularly interested in the visions and organisational principles of 'DIY' collectives, including startups and community archives.

Her 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 14,000 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 invited 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, under the supervision of Prof Les Back. Her PhD in Sociology was supervised by Prof Andy Bennett and Prof Sarah Baker, and awarded by Griffith University in 2018.

Endeavour Research Fellowship, awarded by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training for methodological development in creative and qualitative sociological approaches, undertaken at Goldsmiths, University of London, 2017

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.