Melina Mallos works at the University of Melbourne as a lecturer in visual art education. Previously, she created educational initiatives for educators, families, and schools in Australian museums, including the Museum of Chinese Australian History in Melbourne, and the Queensland Art Gallery or Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) in Brisbane. Melina holds a Master of Education (Research) and a Bachelor of Education in Early Childhood Education. In 2009, she was granted a Queensland-Smithsonian Fellowship to investigate object-based learning throughout the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Melina has also authored a bilingual picture book, Catch that Cat! in Greek and English. Melina’s dissertation study explored how Greek migrant youths in Melbourne construct their identities and sense of belonging through their use of new media. Consequently, she applies the understandings gained to lead arts-based workshops exploring identity and belonging with Greek migrants worldwide. You can connect with Melina via LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/melinamallos or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Melina’s doctoral dissertation, entitled, Communicating Identities in Digital Spaces: Greek Migrant Youth and New Media will be examined in 2024. Her most recent publication is, “An A/r/tographic Exploration of Greek Migrant Youth Identities: New Media and Cultural Sustainability.” Visions of Sustainability for Arts Education: Value, Challenge and Potential, 115–24 (2021).
Research Keywords: Greek migrant youth; New media: Identity; Digital spaces; A/r/tography.
Communicating Identities in Digital Spaces: Greek Migrant Youth and New Media
My personal experiences as a migrant, specifically, how I navigate language, culture and identities, served as the inspiration for my doctoral research project. In 2012, I had noticed the influx of Greek migrants to Australia; a consequence of the “brain drain” phenomenon due to the Greek financial crisis. I was intrigued by an adolescent female and her vigilant use of Facebook to maintain contact with her former classmates in Athens. This adolescent’s virtual interactions, however, were preventing her from establishing friendships in Australia, and this felt unsettling to me. I was prompted to revisit my own migration journey. When my family moved to Brisbane from Athens in 1984, new media did not exist. I’ve often wondered if having access to new media would have made me feel closer to Greece, or if it would have brought up more issues about who I was becoming, and where I fit in.
I designed a participatory arts-based research inquiry whereby I collaborated with eight Greek migrant youths living in Melbourne, aged 18 – 24 years. The data collection was undertaken in May 2020, during the global COVID-19 lockdown period. Together, the participants and I met in Zoom to discuss, create, and reflect upon the ways we communicate our identities through new media. We collectively defined new media:
New media relies on the internet to connect people based on preference,
purpose and mood. It encompasses digital devices such as mobile phones,
tablets and laptops, and consists of social media platforms, apps and
New media is used for a range of purposes including fun, collaboration, communication, social networking, education and work.
The research question, was formulated through a participatory narrative inquiry approach (Kurtz, 2014) with my fellow participants: What role does the use of new media have in the formation of Greek immigrant youth's identities and feeling of belonging?
In this study, I differentiated myself by adopting the role of a/r/tographer. According to Springgay et al. (2005), the acronym “a/r/t” refers to the artist-researcher-teacher and how these positions are combined in personal and professional life. As the a/r/tographer in charge of this project.
As new media is a communication tool reflective of the current times, we created Instagram portraits (see Figure 1). Costas, aged 19 years, described: “New media does not have much of an impact on who I am as a person but more so it allows me to express myself through a different perspective; it makes me feel like I have multiple ways of expressing myself.”
Costas also shared reflections about his last photo taken in Greece and shared via social media.
Στην πρώτη φωτογραφία είμαι στην Ελλάδα και πιο συγκεκριμένα στην Χαλκίδα η οποία είναι μια παραθαλάσσια περιοχή με υπέροχο κλίμα κάθε καλοκαίρι. Αυτή την φωτογραφία την ανέβασα στο Facebook και δείχνω τον εαυτό μου να περπατάει. Το περπάτημα μου συμβολίζει την αποχώρηση μου από την Ελλάδα προς μια καινούργια περιπέτεια, καθώς η φωτογραφία είναι μια εβδομάδα πριν φύγω για Αυστραλία. Δεν ξέρω πως ακριβώς θα περιέγραφα τον εαυτό μου αλλά θα έλεγα ενδιαφερόμενος για μια καινούργια αρχή.
[English translation: “In this photograph I am In Greece, specifically, Halkida, which is a coastal area with fantastic weather every summer. I uploaded this photograph to Facebook and show myself walking. My walk is symbolic of a farewell from Greece toward new adventures as well as it being one week before I was to leave for Australia. I don’t know exactly how I’d describe myself, but I’d say, interested in a new beginning.”]
As the a/r/tographer, I patched together participant voices, photographs, and speech shared into storyboards to represent the aspects of their identities (see Figure 2 and supporting quote). One way to characterise my a/r/tographic-rendered storyboards is as heteroglossic (Bakhtin, 1981)––the storyboards expressed the relevant perspectives of the participants in an integrated, collective reading. See Figure 3.
My research is of academic significance because it was the first of its kind to investigate how Greek migrant youths who have been living in Melbourne since 2010 have formed identities and feelings of belonging through their new media usage.
In terms of public significance, the new knowledge generated from this research can be used by Greek community leaders in diasporas across the globe to welcome incoming migrants, and create new program initiatives and resources that serve their interests and needs. Important results of this research included mediating the use of new media for “survival” in a new country and highlighting the importance of digital diasporas in fostering communities of belonging.
The major challenge I face as an early career scholar is to have a/r/tographic research taken seriously. A/r/tographers create artefacts to understand their data and bring meaning to the surface through the act of creation. This creative approach is not always understood by academic institutions, as it challenges traditional research approaches. Considering the digital world we live in, using new media to highlight, understand and create meaning is of utmost importance, particularly when educating and engaging with young people.
January 16, 2024
Bakhtin, M. M. (2010). The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. University of Texas Press.
Kurtz, C. (2014). Working with Stories in your Community or Organization: Participatory Narrative Inquiry. Kurtz-Fernhout Publishing.
Springgay, S., Irwin, R., & Kind, S. W. (2005). “A/r/tography as Living Inquiry.” Qualitative Inquiry,11 (6): 897–912. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800405280696