Associate Professor Melanie Swalwell

Associate Professor

College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

place Social Sciences North (313)
GPO Box 2100, Adelaide 5001, South Australia

Melanie is a scholar of digital media arts, cultures, and histories. She has authored chapters and articles in both traditional and interactive formats, curated exhibitions and datasets, collected popular memories, and organised the preservation of digital artefacts. Melanie's projects include:

  • "Archiving Australian Media Arts: Towards a method and national collection", ARC Linkage, 2019-21.
  • "Play It Again: Preserving Australian videogame history of the 1990s", ARC Linkage, 2019-21.
  • "Creative Micro-computing in Australia, 1976-1992", ARC Future Fellowship 2014-18. Watch the film here.
  • Australasian Digital Heritage, which gathers together several local digital heritage research projects. Follow us on Facebook & Twitter @ourdigiheritage
  • "Play It Again: Creating a Playable History of Australasian Digital Games, for Industry, Community and Research Purposes", ARC Linkage, 2012-14. Follow us on Facebook & Twitter @AgainPlay, and visit the Popular Memory Archive

N.B.: Melanie is on long service leave, and will not be returning to Flinders. In late March 2019, she will begin as Professor of Digital Media Heritage at Swinburne University.

BA (Hons), Mq; PhD, UTS.
Honours, awards and grants

Between 2014-18, Melanie was an ARC Future Fellow. Between 2011-15, she was Project Leader and Chief Investigator on the ARC Linkage Project "Play It Again". In 2009, Melanie was the Nancy Keesing Fellow (State Library of New South Wales).

Melanie has presented her research at many conferences nationally and internationally. Recent invited addresses and keynotes include: the Central and Eastern European Game Studies conference (CEEGS, Trnava, Slovak Republic, 2017); the Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA) (Melbourne 2017); the New Media Histories conference (Lodz, 2014); the First International Histories of Games conference (Montreal, 2013); the Australasian Interactive Entertainment Conference (Melbourne, 2013); and the inaugural Digital Nationz Expo (Auckland, 2013).

Research interests

Melanie's research centres on digital media with particular attention to media arts and digital games, as well as the intersections of these. She is concerned with questions of participation, user making, aesthetic and affective experience and the implications of these for theories of audience reception and engagement. Much of her research attends to experimental media uses, and the issues that are raised by the creations of media artists, modders, and independent game developers. She also undertakes research with different communities of practice (lanners, collectors, home coders).

Melanie maintains dual interests in digital media histories and the present. She has been an innovator in both method and historiography in game history -- work that she is now extending in the “Creative Micro-computing in Australia, 1976-1992” project -- and is also one of the few to have researched the introduction of digital games and the early micro- era from a contemporary Media Studies perspective. She is interested in deploying knowledge from the early computing period to deepen understanding, and ask critical questions, of the current moment. In a number of publications, she has critiqued the ahistorical hyping of the present -- often based on historical amnesia or selective nostalgia for the past -- and urged the placing of contemporary developments in digital media into historical context.

At present, Melanie is completing a monograph, Homebrew Gaming and the Beginnings of Vernacular Digitality (MIT Press), & several editing projects. See a CFP for a special issue of the open access journal Arts.

She is collaborating with postdoctoral fellows, Maria Garda and David Murphy (the CFP for our co-edited anthology is here).

With Denise de Vries (Computer Science), Melanie convenes the Digital Heritage research group.

Many full text papers are available from

Teaching interests

Melanie is currently principal supervisor to 1 Research Higher Degree student: Marcus Schmerl (MA).

RHD completions:

Helen Stuckey (PhD): "Remembering Australian Videogames of the 1980s: What museums can learn from retro-gamer communities about the curation of game history"

Katharine Neil (PhD): "Game Design Tools: Can they improve game design practice?"

Amin Ansari (PhD): "Greens’ Art: Art and digital media in the Iranian Green Movement (2009-2011)"

James O'Connor (MA): “‘The Character Feels That Way, Not Me’: Player driven narrative experiences in Grand Theft Auto IV”

Topic coordinator
SCME2100 Media Policy
SCME8013 Media Audiences
SCME2005 Media Audiences
SCME3006 From Virtual Reality to Web 2.0
Topic lecturer
SCME1002 Convergence Cultures
SCME1001 Media and Society
Supervisory interests
Aesthetics, politics, philosophy of technology
Digital cultural heritage
Digital game history
Digital media histories
History of educational software
Microcomputer history
Software history
Higher degree by research supervision
Principal supervisor: History of Educational Software; Microcomputer History; Software History; Digital Game History (1)
Higher degree by research student achievements
Amin Ansari

2015 University of Sydney Gavin Mooney Memorial Essay competition - DEC 2015

Expert for media contact
Digital cultures
Digital games
Digital histories
Digital media arts
Digital preservation
Available for contact via
Or contact the media team
+61 8 82012092
0427 398 713
  • Digital cultures
  • Digital games
  • Digital histories
  • Digital media arts
  • Digital preservation
Further information

2018 presentations & meetings:

"Collecting the Now" Symposium, 7-8 March, NGV, Melbourne.

Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference, 14-18 March, Toronto.

TechNetSA meeting, 6 July, Adelaide.

"Preserving the Near Future" symposium, 28 July, ACMI, Melbourne.

"Beyond playable games" workshop (remote presentation), Foundations of Digital Games, 7-10 August, Malmo.

Journalism, Media and Surveillance conference, 6-8 September, Auckland.

Art Association of Australia and New Zealand, 5-8 December, Melbourne.

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