digital stereotypes

Minority stereotypes in digital culture | University of Western Australia | 4-5 December 2017

Stereotypes have been—and continue to be—the most common and recognised form of visual representation of minorities (especially Indigenous, gender and sexually-diverse persons, and ethnic/migrant minorities) in film, television, advertising and online media. Stereotypes are a common ‘byte’ of visual communication that link a visual representation of an identity group with a set of—usually narrow and non-representative—attributes, behaviours, tastes and expectations into an easily-recognisable package. Although stereotypes develop and change over time, their restrictive identity information remain in circulation and are very difficult to get rid of; indeed, critiquing them often puts them into further circulation.

Vulnerability and Wellbeing: Minorities in general are particularly vulnerable to stereotyping which can impact by affecting the ability of members of minority groups to participate as genuine, complex and diverse subjects in social, labour, community, neighbourhood of family relations; they create pressures on younger persons to conform to narrow stereotypes in order to participate as coherent subjects, adding stresses that have negative physiological and mental health consequences; and they reduce the capabilities of minority groups to seek positive inclusion and full acceptance. Stereotypes can also be a weapon of harassment and cyberbullying and are often deployed as an impediment to progressive political change. Indeed, the contemporary inequitable distribution of vulnerability rests significantly on the continued circulation and believability of minority visual stereotypes.

Digital stereotypes today: Although since the 1990s digital, online, networked and mobile media has often been celebrated as a site of potential diversity in representation, much online activity arguably reproduces and re-circulates stereotypes. Search engines depend on algorithms which, in the case of minorities, can produce stereotyped commonality rather than diversity of image; Public relations and marketing rely on easily-recognisable images, often pulled from stock image databases using searchable tags which link an identity with a ‘visual expectation’; Minority media and health communication rely on recognisability, which can sometimes be stereotypical rather than outreaching; Self-representation such as in social networking can sometimes also encourage the reliance on visual stereotypes to communicate quickly, rather than the slower activity of demonstrating complexity and diversity.

Symposium December 2017 – The Digital Stereotypes Collaboration team invite proposals for presentations which address any aspect of Minorities, Media and Stereotypes. We are particularly interested in interdisciplinary postgraduate and early-career research where questions around stereotypes, visual or digital images might intersect with that work in productive ways. Some intersections might include:

  • Gender- and sexually-diverse representations, lgbtiq+ communities
  • Indigenous persons and communities
  • Migrants, temporary migrants, international students, refugees and asylum seekers
  • Political, social, health and educational implications of stereotypes
  • Digital practices, media practitioners
  • Any other areas that are of some relevant to stereotypes, visual images, vulnerabilities.

Media practitioners, service providers, public relations professionals, digital media experts and community advocates are very welcome to participate.

About the symposium

  • Will be held on the University of Western Australia campus, 4-5 December.
  • For those attending TASA in Perth, the symposium is held the week following the TASA conference.
  • Lunch will be provided at no cost on both days.
  • Selected papers may be invited for publication in an anthology or special issue.

How to submit a proposal
Please send a 150-300 word abstract plus a short 20-50 word bio to the Digital Stereotypes Collaboration team at by Friday 3 November. (Rob or Kirsty will respond by Friday 10 November).