Contact us

The Social Science Research Centre is located in the School of Social and Political Sciences on Level 3, Geography-Psychology building, Room 329.

Social Science Research Centre
University of Canterbury
Private Bag 4800
Christchurch 8140 
New Zealand 
Ph: +64 3 364 2987 Ext.3626

Centre Director

Associate Professor Rosemary Du Plessis

Rosemary has long term interests in gender, family, work and embodiment. She has edited two collections of feminist writing and contributed to a variety of studies relating to women's paid and unpaid work. Between 2003 and 2005 she coordinated Part 1 of the FRST funded Constructive Conversations/ Kōrero Whakaaetanga research programme which focused on social, cultural and ethical issues relating to genetic testing and biobanking. Her involvement in research relating to public participation in debates about new technologies is a component of a long term interest in citizenship, inclusion and the development of public policy. Rosemary was a member of the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO until September 2009 where she worked on issues relating to the ethics of the production and use of knowledge. As a member of Toi te Taiao: the Bioethics Council (2007 – 2009) she chaired the Working Group for Who Gets Born? – a project which explored the cultural, ethical and spiritual aspects of pre-birth testing. She is currently Theme Editor (Special Connections) for Te Ara; The Online Encyclopedia of New Zealand and also teaching and supervising thesis student at the University of Canterbury.

Contact Details

Phone: +64-0-3-364-2878
Internal Phone: 6878
Postal address:
Sociology Programme, School of Social and Political Sciences
University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800 
Christchurch, New Zealand

Summer Studentship Co-ordinator Post-Doctoral Fellow (completed 2009)

Dr Mary Allan

A Postdoctoral Fellow collaborating with Professor David Thorns, in a multi fold project investigating the potential benefits entailed in Access Grid and other video conferencing infrastructures for supporting collaborative e-research. This is a 2.5 year project funded by the BRCSS (Building Research Capabilities in the Social Sciences) and REANZ (Research and Education Advanced Network NZ Ltd), and involves national and international collaborators such as HIT Lab NZ, and the NCeSS (The National Centre for e-Social Science ) UK .

Mary and David have recently presented preliminary findings of the project at the eResearch Australasia 2007 in Brisbane , and are scheduled to present a paper at the E-social Science conference in Ann Arbor US in October 2007

Mary completed her PhD in 2005 at the University of Canterbury NZ . Her thesis investigated internet mediated collaborative learning at tertiary level, and proposed a new methodology for micro and macro investigation of computer mediated collaborative actions. In her thesis Mary developed a new concept for software that will enable visualising interactions in electronic environments and measuring their potential for supporting collaboration. Canterprise, the commercial arm of the university is currently supporting the development and commercialisation of the software.

Mary's research interests are led by her key passion for studying electronically mediated interactions and their potential for supporting collaboration across work, research and study environments. In studying this field, Mary focuses on the socio technical relationships emerging in today's Knowledge Economy. She is especially fascinated by the tensions between individuals and social structures in the context of a society and economy driven by information and the technologies enabling its transfer. Her work builds on areas of research such as Social Networks, and Social Network Analysis (SNA); Relational Sociology, Actor Network Theory (ANT), Human Computer Interactions (HCI); Computer networks; Grid networks; Online work, Online learning, and e-Research; Web 2.0 and the Socio technical networking.

Center Founder

Professor David Thorns

Professor Thorns' research has covered the fields of housing, social policy, social inequality, tourism, research methodology and social and economic transformation. He is a Principal Researcher and member of the Management Group of the Building Research Capability in the Social Sciences project, as well as Principal Researcher on a three year Marsden-funded project “Winners and Losers in the Knowledge Society”. He is a member of the: steering committee of the Asia Pacific Housing Research Network; Social Science Commission of NZ UNESCO; Social Sciences Advisory Committee of the Royal Society NZ; Board of the Centre for Housing Research Aotearoa/New Zealand (CHRANZ); International Social Science Council; Capability Building Fund for the NZ Advanced Network; and the Advisory Committee for the Programme of Social Statistics. He is currently involved in developing a Social Science Network within New Zealand utilising the collaborative capability of advanced computer-mediated storage, exchange and real time social interaction, via Advanced Video Conferencing Technologies.

Post-Doctoral Fellow (completed 2009)

Hazel Ashton

Hazel is a post-doctoral fellow. Her post-doctoral project “New Creative Social Science for chosen Quality Futures” is funded by the Building Research Capability in the Social Sciences network (BRCSS) and supported by the Social Science Research Centre at the University of Canterbury.

The aim of the project is to further develop the methodology for grounded, locally-based civic cosmopolitan projects that was piloted in Hazel’s doctoral thesis. The intention for this post-doctoral project is to move beyond a more purely theoretically-framed description, to explore its practical applications.

The starting point for this project is the fact that we all live somewhere. We also all live in a world that is increasingly interdependent. The basic research question for the project is how locally-constructed agency, based on what we really care about, can be developed within and thence much more effectively beyond localities.

Hazel has long been engaged in researching local development in the context of the wider, interdependent world - development that balances socio-cultural, economic and ecological (“triple-bottom line”) factors. She is particularly interested in exploring the new affordances of screen interfaces (film and Internet) for inclusive, narrative-based local development.

The post doctoral project will also seek to relate social theory to contexts of practical application through transdisciplinary collaborations - within and between localities, academia and policy institutions.

Hazel welcomes views and suggestions as well as more developed contributions to discussion of these issues such as articles or blogs. She has a research website with information about this project, a list of publications and contact details at

Phone: +64 3 364 2987 Ext. 4937

Research Assistant

Hong Wang

Hong is research assistant with the New Zealand Marsden Funded project “Winners and Losers in the Knowledge Society”. This project is examining effects of technological changes and the growth of knowledge on economic activities and social relations in New Zealand’s move towards a knowledge society.

Hong’s current work is related to her recently completed Master’s thesis “The Yellow Dragon, The Black Box and The Golden Coin: New Chinese Immigrants and Their Contributions to New Zealand’s Knowledge Society”.

Her thesis explored whether and how skilled Chinese immigrants can contribute to New Zealand’s knowledge society and economy with their knowledge and skills. The study used multiple research strategies, combining analyses of historical and statistical materials, along with a case study using fourteen interviews conducted with new Chinese immigrants who came from Mainland China after 1990 and are living and working in Christchurch. The thesis explored the relationships between these ‘descendants of the dragon’ and New Zealand’s knowledge society and economy.

The study showed the role of knowledge in the emergence of New Zealand’s knowledge society and economy, the value placed on knowledge and skills in New Zealand immigration policies and the change in the Chinese community with the growing demand for skilled migrants. It argued that tacit knowledge is not separated from but interactive with explicit knowledge through cultural values, social networks and structures, and interpersonal relationships. Therefore, in the process surrounding the entry of new skilled Chinese immigrants into New Zealand society, the knowledge economy is not exclusively economic but socially and culturally conditioned; and the knowledge society is not universal but diversified and interdependent.

Social Science Research Centre: Advisory Board 2009

See all the Associated Staff

for the Social Science Research Centre