Researcher biography

Associate Professor Nicholas Carah’s research explores the effects of media on the human experience, through the relationship between the algorithmic, promotional, and participatory cultures of digital media platforms.

Researching the algorithmic and participatory advertising model of digital media platforms, Carah considers through his research how brands use rapidly advancing technologies that use ‘machine vision’ systems to classify objects in an image, including faces and logos, and target content without the knowledge of the users. 

“The humanities of the future will push us beyond procedural questions, to questions about how media can and cannot operate on human experience and feeling, and what enduring role media will play in the possibility of a shared culture”. 
UQ’s Humanities of the Future Symposium 2019 

Carah at the 2019 Humanities of the Future symposium.
In 2020, Carah began work with Associate Professor Daniel Angus (QUT) and Professor Jean Burgess (QUT) on the Australian Research Council Discovery Project ‘Using machine vision to explore Instagram’s everyday promotional cultures’. Using a variety of computational and cultural research methods, the project examines the functionality and public perceptions of machine vision on platforms such as Instagram, its role in everyday life, and the broader effects of the increasing reliance on automation. Carah is also an Associate Investigator in the Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society, which strives to create knowledge and strategies for better automated decision-making technology.

At the 2020 International Communication Association Conference, Carah and Angus spoke on some of the early experiments their ‘Using machine vision to explore Instagram’s everyday promotional cultures’ project is doing. 

This project develops computational tools for collecting and analysing posts from Instagram. The first of these tools is Instamancer, a publicly available Instagram scraper that collects posts and their metadata an Instaexplorer a data visualisation tool

Instamancer was first presented in late 2019, as part of the School of Communication and Arts’ Platform Media strategic research initiative. This research is exploring how machine vision systems ‘make sense’ of the images we post to Instagram

Carah’s work takes a particular focus on digital alcohol marketing, through projects on the role of digital media in changing drinking culture, and a director of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education. 

In March 2020, Carah spoke at the Global Alcohol Policy Conference in Dublin (Ireland) about the shifts in alcohol marketing on social media, as technologies develop and change. 

From 2021, Carah will also be working with Daniel Angus, Amy Dobson, Brady Robards, and the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education on the ARC Linkage project ‘Examining alcohol and nightlife marketing on digital media platforms’. Additionally, in 2021 Carah is working with Brady Robards and a Monash University team (Steve Roberts, Michael Savic, Karla Elliott, Claire Tanner), as well as Amy Dobson at Curtin University, and VicHealth to examine the marketing of unhealthy commodities on digital media platforms. 

He is the author of Brand Machines, Sensory Media and Calculative Culture (2016), Media and Society: production, content and participation (2015), Pop Brands: branding, popular music and young people (2010), and Digital Intimate Publics and Social Media (2018).