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Patricia has pioneered new kinds of audience research in a career that began with qualitative studies of children and television in 1980. By 1986, she was Head of Research and Development for ABC Television in Australia and had published research monographs, Girls and Television and The Lively Audience (under the name Patricia Palmer).
There are few established career paths for audience researchers, so Patricia has identified or created opportunities within business environments, cultural institutions and through university research and teaching. Her research is characterised by in-depth study of the ways audiences interact with media or other services and use them in everyday life. At the University of Sydney and funded by the Nine Network (1982-1984), she conducted Australia’s first extensive ethnographic study of children’s viewing. 23 children were closely observed in their homes and two further stages of interviews and a sample survey followed. Patricia’s work usually combines research methods to gain multiple perspectives and useful measures, including participants’ own words.
As Research Fellow at RMIT University, Melbourne (1992-1998) Patricia led the group funded by Telstra (Telecommunications Needs Research Group) to study phone uses in a family context, at the time mobiles were first introduced. This was followed by Australia’s first national survey of demand for new telecommunications services, including the Internet.
She established the company User Insite Pty Ltd in 1997 and did Canberra-based projects (1998-2003) for major cultural institutions and Commonwealth Government departments (see the Capability Statement). Working with Courage Partners, Patricia designed and led a performance audit with the Australian National Audit Office, of the ways new government online services were monitored and improved. This was tabled in the Australian Parliament, February 2004.
As a Fulbright Fellow in 2001, Patricia worked in the Web Program of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, Washington DC to conduct formative research using in-depth interviews during the development of the website, www.historywired.si.edu.
Patricia was appointed Professor of eBusiness and then Professor of Communication at the University of Newcastle (2003-2008). She conducted research funded by Optus on the ways people with disabilities used text-based mobile devices. An interest in Communities of Practice pushed the concepts and methods of audience research to reveal how knowledge-sharing takes place in business contexts. On retirement from the university, Patricia worked with colleague Greg Crowther to found Write For Impact, a web-based training program in Business Writing.
Patricia has held directorships and senior policy positions in the fields of media, arts and telecommunications. She was a Public Member of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal’s Children’s Program Committee, Director on the board of Museum Victoria, a board member of Channel 31 in Melbourne and of Gorman House Arts Centre in Canberra. During 1994 and 1995 she was a member of the Broadband Services Expert Group that advised Prime Minister Keating on the future of broadband services in Australia.
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