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Social Sciences Week: Researcher Profile - Dr Julia Coffey

Social Sciences Week: Researcher Profile - Dr Julia Coffey

Dr Julia Coffey is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Deputy Director of the Newcastle Youth Studies Centre, University of Newcastle. Her research focuses on youth, gender, and embodiment and wellbeing, with a particular focus on digital practices.

Dr Coffey said that her passion for social science stems from her strength in analysis and love for qualitative research and using this to connect with people’s stories.

“Understanding and hearing people speak about their lives in their own words really feels like a privilege,” Dr Coffey said.

“Being able to see how everyone must work within the social and cultural conditions that they’re born into is an important task for us as social scientists. Understanding more about how social contexts are shaping all our lives should give us a better sense of where we might want to go as a society.”

Dr Coffey is Chief Investigator of 2022 ARC Discovery Project Understanding selfie-editing apps in youth visual digital cultures which aims to investigate how young people navigate the demands of contemporary digital culture and body image concerns online through new editing tools provided by selfie-editing apps.

“Me and my team are trying to understand how the capacity to change the self so dramatically is understood by young people, and we’re particularly looking at how it’s most fraught for more marginalised people,” Dr Coffey said.

 “We’re really taking a youth-centred approach where we are interested in listening to how young people experience using these tools, and how they see themselves. It’s interesting hearing them have conversations with each other and how they are disrupting some of the gendered or racialised norms that these tools and editing features have built into them.”

It is expected that research outcomes, including a new evidence base and youth-centred conceptual framework, will provide significant benefits in helping young people better navigate body image and wellbeing in the online environment.

Dr Coffey is working with Dr Akane Kanai from Monash University, Dr Amy Dobson from Curtin University, and Dr Ross Gill from City University London and said that the funding received under the ARC Discovery Project scheme has provided the opportunity to conduct a large-scale innovative project that could not be achieved individually.

“Not only is the time longer than would ever be possible through a university funded project, but also being able to have those partnerships with people I’ve not been on a grant with before. The project needed the team, and it needed the time,” Dr Coffey said.

During this year’s Social Sciences Week, Dr Coffey will be speaking alongside Associate Professor Steven Threadgold, Director of the Research Centre for Newcastle Youth Studies, and Dr Julia Cook, Founding Member of the Research Centre for Newcastle Youth Studies, at the Fintech Futures Public Lecture on 5 September to discuss the research she is currently undertaking in the areas of finance and digital technology.

“We’re looking at the broader significance of financialisaton, which is around the necessity of financial products including gambling apps. We’re trying to understand how the ubiquity of these products in the digital setting intersects with the difficult economic context young people are having to navigate,” Dr Coffey said.

“It’s going to be a really exciting and rich range of events that will be threaded together through those key themes of financialisaton, tech and wealth inequality.”

For more information about the event, visit the Social Sciences Week website.

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