Jun 03 2024

International Conference: Digital Transactions in Asia V

Reflections by Taylor Robinson

In February 2024, I was honoured to attend the International Conference Digital Transactions in Asia V (DTA V), where I presented my ongoing PhD research, Digital Security for Women in Pattaya, Thailand.

This was a uniquely exciting time to present my research at a conference because it occurred about halfway through my PhD fieldwork, conducted January–March 2024 in Pattaya, Thailand. During planning for my fieldwork, my supervisors and I discussed the potential relevance of the conference, given my research area and the opportunity to get a broader understanding of the digital opportunities and challenges across Southeast Asia and initial feedback on my research. My research, based in the Information Security Department, focuses on the lived security experiences of women from Pattaya, incorporating ontological, societal, and digital security. My conference presentation discussed findings from literature and my initial scoping trip (conducted in May–June 2023). It also incorporated initial findings from my official fieldwork, including data from observant practice, interviews, and focus groups with women in Pattaya and other relevant stakeholders.

The University of Queensland, Australia and the International Centre for Interdisciplinary Science Education (ICISE) organised the conference in the city of Quy Nhon (Central Vietnam). The conference’s goal was to ‘develop Science and Education by fostering exchanges between Asia-Pacific scientists and colleagues from other parts of the world’. The conference included discussions on various topics, including FinTech, cross-border financial infrastructures, gendered digital issues, and cryptocurrency debates. Those who participated in the conference were not only engaged in information exchange with other academics but were also part of the broader management and development of electronic transactions in major and emerging Asian economies.

Personally, I found several talks particularly pertinent to my own research, including presentations on gender and digital labour, women-led household businesses, and digital sex work. With several of these researchers, I initiated conversations around their findings and better contextualised my research in ways I had not previously considered.

Those who have conducted fieldwork understand that literature only gives us limited insight into the communities we are researching. Being ‘in the field’ expands our understanding of academic debates, cultural norms, and (in my case) lived security experiences, ultimately allowing us to find unique topics to study. However, the conference added an additional layer to this process. Attending a conference specific to the geographical region I am researching helped further contextualise what is happening beyond what I have reviewed in the literature or encountered in the field. This process permitted further academic inquiry beyond what was already completed and planned. Thus, although the discussions I had at the conference did not change my fieldwork approach, they did expand my background knowledge of digital usage and behaviours in various parts of Asia.

Further, while conducting fieldwork, you must continuously reflect on your experiences in the field alongside your findings thus far. Although I had done this regularly during my fieldwork, challenging myself to formally reflect on my preliminary findings and present them at the conference encouraged deep reflective thinking on my fieldwork thus far, helping me recognise emerging themes and trends within my data. Ultimately, this process has helped me situate my data within the field and academic discourses.

Overall, this experience was a unique and exciting time to present my findings and share my research process with other professionals from across the globe. Further, for researchers conducting fieldwork in a foreign location, I would encourage them to attend a conference while collecting data, as it opens doors to new knowledge, international collaborations, cultural insights, and reflective thinking for their research, making it a valuable investment in their academic journey.