About

The Research Unit in Public Cultures (RUPC) focuses on transformations in public culture produced by new intersections of knowledge, media, space and mobility, within Australia and internationally.

The RUPC recognises that in contemporary society, public culture is no longer formed by values and practices that arise from and remain bound to a homogenous group, but has multiple origins, addresses diverse communities and flows across territorial boundaries.

We are a platform for strategic research projects and tactical interventions in public life. We examine public culture from artistic expressions generated by individuals to collective formation of principles and beliefs that shape the institutions of everyday life. We develop projects that address four fundamental questions:

  • How is cultural knowledge shaped by local and global forces?
  • How have developments in technology altered public cultures?
  • How does the mobility impact on public cultures?
  • How is public space created, managed and accessed, specifically within digitised, urban environments?

We excel in innovative interdisciplinary academic scholarship and engaged research collaborations with creative industries, government agencies, cultural institutions and communities.

  • Overview: Making Cultures Public

    The Research Unit in Public Cultures (RUPC) focuses on transformations in public culture produced by new intersections of knowledge, media, space and mobility, within Australia and internationally. In contemporary society public culture is dynamic and shaped by multiple forms of media, people from diverse backgrounds, and numerous global networks.

    Working with key cultural agents, stakeholders in public institutions and leading commercial partners, our researchers are investigating the issues that are transforming public culture. By developing an integrated approach between theory and practice, researchers in the RUPC seek to identify new trends in the social uses of public spaces and frame the horizons of public expectations.

  • Public culture definition

    Public culture is traditionally linked to the formation of civil society. It encompasses processes that range from the individual expression of viewpoints, the formation of collective value systems, the shifts in everyday life, to the consolidation of social practices into public institutions. It is seen as the collective expression of ideas and their realization into public institutions through the multiple channels of political participation. In contemporary society, these voices and emergent structures are formed through a complex interplay of media, cultural perspectives and social practices. Hence, public culture is no longer formed by values and practices that arise from and remain bound to a homogenous group. It has multiple origins, addresses diverse communities and flows across territorial boundaries. It is a dynamic process rather than a fixed entity. Hence we prefer the term public cultures. In this plural form it also provides a conceptual framework that can integrate the knowledge generated by different academic disciplines and cultural practices. It acknowledges that in contemporary society public culture is pluralistic and volatile. Multiple forms of media, diverse modes of local agency and fluid exchanges across numerous global networks are now shaping public culture.

  • RUPC approach

    The RUPC plays a key role in facilitating scholarship, enhancing research opportunities and enabling collaborations between creative industries, government agencies, cultural institutions and peak bodies, academic research centres and diverse communities. A distinctive feature of the RUPC is that the researchers are not only working on the issues that are transforming public culture, but that they are also working with key cultural agents, public stakeholders and civic leaders. This interaction, or what is known as "epistemic partnership" is framed by a system of ongoing feedback. As a consequence, the understanding of public culture is constantly being cross-hatched by critical dialogue between the researchers and the partners.

  • RUPC environment

    The Research Unit brings together scholars from across four faculties at the University and a wide range of industry partners. Our examination of public culture ranges from artistic expressions generated by individuals to collective formation of principles and beliefs that shape the institutions of everyday life. The various projects that are developed within the Research Unit are linked by thematic engagement with mobility and the influence of communicative technologies in the formation of new publics. Collectively they seek to develop projects that address four fundamental questions:

    • How is cultural knowledge shaped by local and global forces?
    • How have developments in technology altered public cultures?
    • How does the mobility impact on public cultures?
    • How is public space created, managed and accessed, specifically within digitised, urban environments?

    These questions are addressed across a wide-ranging program of events:

    1. Regular research seminars
    2. Research training for doctoral candidates and early career researchers
    3. Master-classes for a select cohort of doctoral students with links to the cultural sector
    4. Research fellowships to support post-doctoral students
    5. Collaborative projects with industry partners in the cultural sector
    6. Public lectures, symposia and conferences
    7. Commissioned public art projects
    8. Series of publications; pamphlets, working papers and monographs

    The broader aim of the RUPC is to serve as a platform for strategic research projects and tactical interventions in public life. It will support research projects with a wide remit and also encourage engagement with specific issues. Hence, it will operate through both a structured research agenda and a flexible modality that is responsive to emergent opportunities in public life.

  • Sponsorship

    The Research Unit in Public Cultures (RUPC) was established in 2012 and is housed in the School of Culture and Communication at The University of Melbourne. It receives support through the Faculty of Arts and the Melbourne Research Office.