A quick Q&A with Dr Margaret Gibson


Senior Lecturer in the School of Humanities at Griffith University, Dr Margaret Gibson discusses her career as well as her latest research on digital objects of the dead.

1. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A lot of my childhood was filled with learning music and putting on plays with my siblings – creative pursuits. I did love old Hollywood movies (my mother’s family was obsessed with vintage Hollywood films) so suspect I had fantasies about being a glamorous actress!

2. Tell us about a previous job (work experience/volunteer work) that you’ve had.
I won a scholarship during the first year of my PhD (in 1992) to study for an academic year at the University of California, Santa Cruz. This was amazing in terms access to world- renowned academics teaching courses I got to do. I learnt a lot of difficult theory! I also got to do some teaching (TA) work in sociology while there.

3. Which 3 apps do you use the most on your mobile device?
Facebook, Snapchat, and ABC radio.

4. Which 5 celebrities would you invite to your ultimate dinner party?
I would probably want a mix of dead and living celebrities – Bette Davies, Nat King Cole, Cate Blanchett, Aaron Pedersen, and Audrey Hepburn.

5. Tell us about your favourite fictional character.
This is tricky…. I really love the Toy Story trilogy and all the characters. These are profound films about transitional objects, childhood, and mortality.

6. What’s the best thing about your current role?
I love doing my research and have always loved writing. I enjoy teaching and seeing students blossom as they start in first-year and go through to 3rd year, Honours and PhD years.

7. Tell us about your current research.
My research has shifted quite considerably into the space of digital objects of the dead and the place of media cultures in capturing and disseminating events in which human death and tragedy is unfolding.

Grief and mourning have sped up in modern media cultures and there are very interesting questions about public mourning and how people insert themselves (or not) into these mobile and other media spaces (e.g. live streaming apps, Facebook memorial pages etc.).

8. What sparked your interest in objects of the dead?
It was really when my father was dying. I started to write a diary because the reality of mortality was palpable. I was also pregnant at the time – so life and death were embodied realities in my world.

It was only then that I truly noticed my father’s things – the objects that made up his life, having a subjectivity and biography. I looked at objects as quasi-subjects that stand in the place those of who die or go missing.

This developed into my first book Objects of the Dead: mourning and memory in everyday life. Sociology has a rich history of thought on mortality and mortality is the fundamental question of human meaning and existence.

9. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Not sure. I like where I am for now!

10. What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
I am proud of my book Objects of the Dead because it has reached so many people. I often hear from academics, postgrads and artists in other parts of the world, and just everyday people who have read it who tell me how valuable it has been to their research, creative work or personal grief experience.

11. What wise advice do you have for new researchers?
Publish early – start publishing at Honours if possible; build and foster your mentoring and research networks early.

12. Can you give us your 3 best research tips?
1. Research in an area you care about because it will produce quality work.
2. Choose an area of research that will sustain your passion in the long term.
3. Develop/foster research collaborations with people in your chosen field.

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