I am a Postdoctoral Fellow at UNSW Sydney with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society. I am also a member of the UNSW AI Institute. In my research I use creative qualitative methods to explore how people live with technology, including in contexts of health and crisis. Some of my recent projects focus on healthtech startups, personal data privacy, and ecologies of health information. I am also really interested in DIY practices that span the digital-material continuum such as zine circulation and community archives. My methods often combine ethnographic interviews and workshops with creative writing, mapping, object elicitation and digital platform exploration. I am a passionate advocate for sociological fiction and see good storytelling as an essential part of research and public sociology.
Lupton D, Southerton C, Clark M and Watson A (2021) The Face Mask in COVID Times: A sociomaterial analysis. De Gruyter. On the first months of the pandemic and how face masks were rolled out (and resisted) across the world.
Watson A (forthcoming) The Familiar Strange of Sociological Fiction. The Sociological Review. Part of a special issue/monograph on new ways of writing about the social world, this article reflects on the unsettling character of sociological stories and what we can learn about storytelling from Gabriel García Márquez.
Lupton D and Watson A (2022) Research-Creations for Speculating about Digitised Automation: Bringing Creative Writing Prompts and Vital Materialism into the Sociology of Futures. Qualitative Inquiry. OnlineFirst May 23. This article discusses participants’ speculative imaginaries about the futures of personal data generating devices.
Watson A and Lupton D (2022) What Happens Next? Using the Story Completion Method to Surface the Affects and Materialities of Digital Privacy Dilemmas. Sociological Research Online. OnlineFirst 14 May. This article considers what participants’ short fiction reveals about digital privacy problems in everyday life.
Watson A (2022) Writing sociological fiction. Qualitative Research 22(3): 337-352. This methodological article outlines how sociological imagination may be crafted in/with fiction.
Watson A and Lupton D (2022) Remote Fieldwork in Homes During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Video-Call Ethnography and Map Drawing Methods. International Journal of Qualitative Methods 21: 1-12. This open access article reflects on the challenges and opportunities of transitioning an in-person ethnographic project online during the pandemic using creative qualitative and visual methods.
Watson A, Lupton D and Michael M (2022) The Presence and Perceptibility of Personal Digital Data: Findings from a Participant Map Drawing Method. Visual Studies. OnlineFirst. This article shares findings from an analysis of participants’ hand-drawn maps of their homes, focusing on what is visible and perceptible about their digital technologies and personal data.
Watson A, Lupton D and Michael M (2021) The COVID digital home assemblage: Transforming the home into a work space during the crisis. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 27(5): 1207-1221. Part of a special issue on smart homes, this article analyses how people reconfigured their home environments during lockdown.
Watson A and Bennett A (2021) The felt value of reading zines. American Journal of Cultural Sociology 9(2): 115-149. Part of a special issue on the cultural sociology of reading, this article draws on a collection of zines and interviews with Australian readers to make sense of the medium’s iconicity and contemporary salience.
Watson A, Lupton D and 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 178(1): 136-150. This article shares findings from a video ethnography project and identifies how digital technologies supported and enhanced intimacy and social connection throughout the first months of the pandemic.
Kirby E, Watson A, Churchill B, Robards B and LaRochelle L (2021) Queering the map: stories of love, loss and (be)longing within a digital cartographic archive. Media, Culture and Society 43(6): 1043-1060. This article explores stories posted to queeringthemap.com that, rather than being for a general audience, seem to have someone specific in mind — like notes left in a special book in the library, in the hope that someone will find it because they were thinking about you too.
Watson A and Lupton D (2021) Tactics, affects and agencies in digital privacy narratives: a story completion study. Online Information Review 45(1): 138-156. This article explores how Australians feel about digital privacy, using a novel creative method where participants completed short fictional stories about different privacy scenarios.
Lupton D and Watson A (2021) Towards more-than-human digital data studies: Developing research-creation methods. Qualitative Research 21(4): 463-480. This article offers a theoretical framework and a set of creative approaches for exploring the sociomaterial and affective dimensions of personal digital data.
Watson A and Smartt-Gullion J (2021) Editorial: Fiction as Research – Writing Beyond the Boundary Lines. Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal 6(1): i-vi. This editorial article opens an invited special issue on fiction as a social research method.
Byron P, McKee A, Watson A, Litsou K and Ingham R (2021) Reading for realness: porn literacies, digital media and young people. Sexuality & Culture 25(3): 786-805. This article considers the limitations of dominant approaches to researching young people’s uses of porn.
Baker S, Buttigieg B, Cantillon Z, Pavlidis A, Rodriguez Castro L and Watson A (2021) Getting students to ‘do’ introductory sociology: Analysis of a blended and flipped interactive workshop. Journal of Sociology 57(3): 612-630. Authorship order is alphabetical. This article reflects on the implementation of a blended and flipped classroom for a first-year sociology unit.
Watson A (2020) Methods braiding: A technique for arts-based and mixed-methods research. Sociological Research Online 25(1): 66-83. This article introduces an innovative mixed methods technique that brings together insights from/for qualitative and arts-based research.
Watson A (2016) Directions for public sociology: Novel writing as a creative approach. Cultural Sociology 10(4): 431-447. This article argues that novel writing presents sociologists with a process and medium through which they can expand their work for a more public, engaging, affective, and panoramic sociology.
Watson A and Bennett A (forthcoming 2022) Why do people read zines? Meaning, materiality and cultures of reading. In: A Thumala Olave (Ed) The Cultural Sociology of Reading. Palgrave Macmillan.
Southerton C, Clark M, Watson A and Lupton D (forthcoming August 2022) The futures of qualitative research in the COVID-19 era: Experimenting with creative and digital methods. In: S Matthewman (Ed) A Research Agenda for COVID-19 and Society. Edward Elgar Publishing.
Watson A (forthcoming December 2022) Zines and music scenes. In: A Bennett (Ed) The Bloomsbury Handbook of Popular Music and Youth Culture. Bloomsbury.
Byron P, McKee A, Watson A, Litsou K and Ingham R (2022) Pornography and porn literacy. In: McKee A, Litsou K, Byron P and Ingham R (Eds) What Do We Know About the Effects of Pornography After 50 Years of Academic Research? Routledge.
Riffs: Experimental writing on popular music, an invited Special Issue on fiction. Published August 2021.
Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal, an invited Special Issue on fiction as research. Published April 2021.
Watson A, Clark M, Southerton C and Lupton D (2021) Fieldwork at your fingertips: creative methods for social research under lockdown. Nature, career column. March 3.
Lupton D, Watson A, Southerton C and Clark M (2020) From scary pumpkins to bridal bling, how masks are becoming a normal part of our lives in Australia. The Conversation. October 30.
Watson A (2019) Possessed by a Sense of the Trap. Overland. November 21.
Refereed conference papers
2020. Ash Watson, Brady Robards, Emma Kirby, Brendan Churchill and Lucas LaRochelle. Queering the Map: Physical Traces and Digital Places of Queer Lives. Association of Internet Researchers Annual Conference. Online. October 26.
2020. Ash Watson on using Zoom to conduct home visits. Unlocking Lockdown: Doing Fieldwork in a Pandemic. Culture, Politics and Global Justice, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge.
2020. Book Launch – Into the Sea. The Australian Sociological Association annual conference.
2020. Social Science Fiction. Social Sciences Week Australia. Supported by The Sociological Review and Vitalities Lab, UNSW.
2020. Zine Making as a Method. Breaking Methods Webinar Series, Vitalities Lab UNSW Sydney.
2020. Methods Braiding. Breaking Methods Webinar Series, Vitalities Lab UNSW Sydney.