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Popular Culture: is it working for you?


Brigid Veale
22 September 2007
The depiction of industrial relations in the ABC television drama Bastard Boys, the role of satirical cartoons in the WorkChoices debate and images of work in science-fiction movies will all be among the eclectic subjects discussed at a popular culture conference at Southern Cross University next week.

Six Southern Cross University academics will join delegates from around Australia to present 12 research papers at the conference, which is titled Work, Industrial Relations and Popular Culture. It will explore the way that unions, management and policy makers use popular culture and, in turn, how work and industrial relations is portrayed in popular culture.

“Work and workplace issues, including industrial relations, are at the heart of much popular culture,” said conference organiser Keith Townsend, a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow within Queensland University of Technology’s School of Management.

“As academics we routinely use popular culture to teach about work, management and industrial relations issues. The conference gives us the opportunity to question whether popular culture is close to reality or a fantasised, romanticised notion of the real world. This is particularly interesting in the current climate, with recent developments like the introduction of the WorkChoices legislation.”

Topics being covered at the conference include:
• The types of jobs depicted in sci-fi movies and what work opportunities we may have in the future (Kerry Brown);
• Generation Y and their future roles in the tourism and hospitality industry (Grant Cairncross);
• The dramatisation of the 1998 Australian waterfront dispute in Bastard Boys, how it was received by audiences, and the issues it raises for the media representation of unions, disputes and industrial relations (Rebecca Coyle and Lisa Milner);
• How industrial relations is depicted in the television comedy The Simpsons and how this influences our understanding of contemporary workplaces (Johan Edelheim);
• Coffee-shop culture and its role in social and business networking (Robyn Keast);
• How the social hierarchy of the health profession is portrayed in the television hospital drama Grey’s Anatomy ((Robin Price).

The conference will be held at the Tweed Gold Coast campus of Southern Cross University on Monday 24 September.