Masterclass: Data & Discrimination with Dr Seeta Peña Gangadharan

Masterclass Data & Discrimination

Date: 9 June 2017
Time: 10:00-13:00
Venue: Ravensteynzaal (kamer 1.06) op Kromme Nieuwegracht 80), Utrecht
Open to: PhD Candidates and RMa Students and interested colleagues
Credits: 1 ECTS
Coordination: Dr Karin van Es (UU) & Dr Koen Leurs (UU)

Dr Seeta Peña Gangadharan will give a master class at Utrecht University on the critical study of data and discrimination.

In this masterclass, participants will explore the challenges and opportunities in studying data-driven discrimination, and question the nature and limits of the critical study of data-driven technologies. The class will begin with a stage-setting conversation led by Dr Gangadharan about the variety of approaches to understanding the discriminatory impact of automated computer systems, including legal, computer scientific, sociological, and STS approaches. Using a set of guided questions, participants will be asked to assess the critical nature of these studies and compare how each conceptualizes power and impotence in or of data-driven systems. In the remaining portion of the master class, participants will work in both small and large groups to assess their own research or research interests on the topic of big data, artificial intelligence, smart technologies, or data-driven systems. The master class will conclude with an overview of the principles and practices of participatory action research that informed the set of questions and activities used in the class. By the end of the class, participants will become comfortable with applying a set of tools and practices that can expand the critical nature of one’s work on data and discrimination.

Participants are welcome to submit a 400-word summary of their work in the area of big data, artificial intelligence, smart technologies, and other data-driven systems, which will be distributed to all participants in the masterclass. Please include a sentence or two as to what the unique contribution of your research is. Send your summary to before 1 June 2017. Summaries will be distributed one week prior to the session. Participants should come having read all summaries and be prepared for a very hands-on and interactive session.

In 2015, Dr Seeta Peña Gangadharan was appointed Assistant Professor at the Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics and Political Science. Her research interests lie at the intersection of communication policy and social justice. Over the past five years, she has developed a body of work focused on issues of privacy, surveillance, data profiling, and historically marginalized communities. Prior to joining the LSE, she served as Senior Research Fellow at New America’s Open Technology Institute, addressing policies and practices related to digital inclusion, privacy, and big data. See:


RMeS Workshop Grant

RMeS introduces an annual Workshop Grant that enables graduated PhDs to organize a workshop around the theme of their dissertation and share their results and expertise with a new generation of young scholars. The Grant is intended to acknowledge original and innovative contributions to the field of media studies and to highlight the work of talented scholars at the beginning of their careers.

The Grant provides a maximum of €1000 to cover costs for organizing the event (e.g., catering, travel and accommodation for any guest speakers), including a personal fee of €250.


  • Candidates are to submit a short workshop proposal, including an estimate of the expected costs. The RMeS Advisory Board, in consultation with the RMeS PhD council, will select a shortlist of candidates, after which the former will pick the grantee.
  • The workshop is intended for PhD Candidates and RMa Students. Attendees must earn 1 EC through attendance and an assignment. This assignment is to be designed and graded by the organizer, supervised by a professor in order to guarantee the quality of the workshop.
  • Recipients must be RMeS-members* who have obtained their PhD no longer than four years ago. (* they must be or have been RMeS PhD candidates)
  • Formal requirements for the workshop and the assignment can be found in the form: Guideline workshop proposal. If you have questions, do not hesitate the RMeS Office: RMeS-fgw[at]
  • Use the form: Guideline workshop proposal, to submit your proposal and send your proposal before 15 June 2017 to RMeS-fgw[at] The workshop will be scheduled for the educational programme 2017-2018, in consultation with RMeS.

PhD Defence: Christian Gosvig Olesen (University of Amsterdam)

When? Wednesday 10 May 2017, 14:00
Where? Agnietenkapel at the University of Amsterdam, Oudezijds Voorburgwal 229-231, Amsterdam.
The doors close at the exact time and latecomers will not be able to enter.

On Wednesday 10 May 2017, Christian Gosvig Olesen will defend his PhD Dissertation Film History in the Making – Film Historiography, Digitised Archives and Digital Research Dispositifs. The research project investigates the implications which digitisation in film archives bears upon film historical research in primarily academic settings. It adresses the need for understanding the consequences of digitisation for film historical methodology to develop a critical framework for evaluating and conceptualising digital archive-based scholarship. From this point of departure, it produces both a historical account of digital scholarship in film historiography and suggestions for further developments of digital research methodology. To this end, it discusses in a historical perspective how the conception of film archives as a source of film history has developed, from the ”first wave” of scientific film archives founded in the 1910s, over filmic appropriation art in the 1970s to scholarly Hyperkino presentations of silent cinema a century later.

The ceremony will open with a general introduction to the research project which will last approximately 10 minutes and is followed by a defence of 45 minutes. After the defence a reception will be held on the floor below the Agnietenkapel where attendees are cordially invited to join the celebration.

You can read more about Christian Gosvig Olesen’s project and the research process on his research blog.

Masterclass and Guest Lecture: The Languages of Comics

Image: Neil Cohn, Visual Language Lab

Image: Neil Cohn, Visual Language Lab

Masterclass & Guest Lecture: The Languages of Comics
With Dr Neil Cohn & Dr Charles Forceville

presented in conjunction with Amsterdam Comics

Date: 2 June 2017
Time: 10:00-15:00
Venue: Unversity Library – Potgieterzaal. Singel 425, Amsterdam
Open to: PhD Candidates and RMa Students
Credits: 1 ECTS
Coordination: Amsterdam Comics, RMES, Dr Erin La Cour and Rik Spanjers MA

“The Languages of Comics” Masterclass & Lectures

Amsterdam Comics is pleased to announce the third installment of the Masterclass and Guest Lecture series with “The Languages of Comics,” led by Dr Charles Forceville and Dr Neil Cohn. The workshop will engage students in the mechanics of visual language theory, and the practice thereof. The program consists of two lectures and a masterclass. The lectures will familiarize participants with the research of Dr Charles Forceville and Dr Neil Cohn. The masterclass will allow students to do some analyses themselves based on material provided by the lecturers.


“Representation and metarepresentation of thoughts, speech, and sensory perception in comics”
Dr Charles Forceville
University of Amsterdam

Comics draw on the visual and the verbal modality, making it a thoroughly multimodal medium. A central strand of comics research is partly or wholly inspired by cognitive linguistics and relevance theory (e.g. Yus 2008, Kukkonen 2013, Cohn 2013, Forceville 2005, 2011, 2013, Forceville and Clark 2014).

As in monomodal written and spoken language, the representation of speech and thoughts in comics is a central issue. There are substantial differences between the following utterances:

  1. Lisa: The apple tree is to the right of the barn.
  2. Lisa: John says the apple tree is to the right of the barn.
  3. Lisa: John thinks the apple tree is to the right of the barn.

Utterances such as (2) and (3) show the speaker’s “’metarepresentational’ ability, i.e. the ability to represent the representations of others” (Clark 2013: 345). Here is another type of metarepresentation:

4.  Lisa: John sees/hears/smells/feels that the apple tree is to the right of the barn.

While the addressee of (1) can be fairly confident that, indeed, the apple tree is to the right of the barn this confidence diminishes in (2) and even further in (3) and (4), as in these utterances the responsibility for stating the correct location of the apple tree increasingly involves Lisa’s interpretation of John’s perspective on its location.

In the medium of comics this issue is further complicated because salient information about “saying/thinking/perceiving that …” can be conveyed verbally, visually, or in a combination of verbal and visual information. At the highest level, the comics reader will of course postulate an agency that is responsible (as “Lisa” is in [1]) for the information conveyed in the two modes – namely that of the creator of the comics, or that agency’s persona – what in classic narratology is called the “implied author.” That is, there is always a “narrating agency” that either ’says’ verbally and visually: “the apple tree is to the right of the barn” in its own voice, or does so by delegating this ‘saying’ to embedded narrators (often characters).

In this paper I will analyse panels from various comics sources to inventory which visual resources play a role in metarepresentations, and the degree to which these depend on interaction with the verbal mode. These resources include “point of view” shots and body postures as well as non-verbal information in characters’ text balloons. The findings will show that, and how, there are multimodal and purely visual equivalents for “thinking/perceiving that …” and even for “saying that …”

The broader interest of the paper is that considering “metarepresentations” in visual and multimodal modes helps expand our understanding of phenomena that have traditionally been seen as belonging exclusively to the domain of the verbal. This will benefit both the theorization of such discourses and help develop these hitherto mainly language-oriented models.


  • Abbott, Michael, and Charles Forceville (2011). “Visual representation of emotion in manga: loss of control is loss of hands in Azumanga Daioh volume 4.” Language and Literature 20(2): 91-112.
  • Clark, Billy (2013). Relevance Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Cohn, Neil (2013). The Visual Language of Comics: Introduction to the Structure and Cognition of Sequential Images. London: Bloomsbury.
  • Forceville, Charles (2005). “Visual representations of the Idealized Cognitive Model of anger in the Asterix album La Zizanie.” Journal of Pragmatics 37(1): 69-88.
  • Forceville, Charles (2011). “Pictorial runes in Tintin and the Picaros.” Journal of Pragmatics 43(3): 875-890.
  • Forceville, Charles (2013). “Creative visual duality in comics balloons.” In: Tony Veale, Kurt Feyaerts, and Charles Forceville (eds), Creativity and the Agile Mind: A Multi-Disciplinary Exploration of a Multi-Faceted Phenomenon (253-273). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Forceville, Charles, and Billy Clark (2014). “Can pictures have explicatures?” Linguagem em (Dis)curso 14(3): 451-472
  • Kukkonen, Karin (2013). Contemporary Comics Storytelling. Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press.
  • Yus, Francisco (2008). Inferring from comics: A multi-stage account. In: Pelegrí Sancho Cremades, Carmen Gregori Signes, and Santiago Renard (eds). El Discurs del Comic (223-249). Valencia: University of Valencia.

The Visual Language of Comics

Dr Neil Cohn
Tilburg University

Drawings and sequential images are an integral part of human expression dating back at least as far as cave paintings, and in contemporary society appear most prominently in comics. Just how is it that our brains understand this deeply rooted expressive system? I will present a provocative theory: that the structure and cognition of drawings and sequential images is similar to language.
Building on contemporary theories from linguistics and cognitive psychology, I will argue that comics are “written in” a visual language of sequential images that combines with text. Like spoken and signed languages, visual narratives use a systematic visual vocabulary, strategies for combining these patterns into meaningful units, and a hierarchic grammar governing coherent sequential images. We will explore how these basic structures work, what cross-cultural research shows us about diverse visual languages of the world, and what the newest neuroscience research reveals about the overlap of how the brain comprehends language, music, and visual narratives. Altogether, this work opens up a new line of research within the linguistic and cognitive sciences, raising intriguing questions about the connections between language and the diversity of humans’ expressive behaviors in the mind and brain.


10.00-10:15 – Registration
10:15-11.15 – Lecture by Dr Charles Forceville
11.15-11.30 – Coffee break
11.30-12.30 – Lecture by Dr Neil Cohn
12.30-13.15 – Lunch
13.15-15.00 – Masterclass: The Language of Comics

Chairs: Dr Erin La Cour & Rik Spanjers MA

Preparation and readings:

  • Forceville, Charles, Elisabeth El Refaie, and Gert Meesters (2014). “Stylistics and comics.” Chapter 30 in: Michael Burke (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Stylistics (485-499). London: Routledge.
  • Cohn, Neil. 2014. Building a better “comic theory”: Shortcomings of theoretical research on comics how to overcome them. Studies in Comics. 5(1), 57-75.
  • Cohn, Neil. 2013. Navigating comics: An empirical and theoretical approach to strategies of reading comic page layouts. Frontiers in Cognitive Science. 4: 1-15
  • Cohn, Neil. 2015. Narrative conjunction’s junction function: The interface of narrative grammar and semantics in sequential images. Journal of Pragmatics. 88:105-132

PhD Defence: Birte Schohaus (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen)

Redacties talkshows vermijden risico’s

Format tv-show bepalend voor keuze politieke gasten

Datum: 14 maart 2017
Promotoren: prof. dr. Marcel Broersma & prof. dr. Huub Wijfjes

Niet de presentator, niet de opvattingen van de redactie maar het ‘format’ bepaalt volkomen welke politici worden uitgenodigd in de zes belangrijkste Nederlandse talkshows. Zij worden, naar gelang de aard van het programma, geselecteerd op politieke relevantie en ‘talkability’. Redacties zijn daarbij huiverig om te experimenteren met onbekende hoofdgasten. Dat blijkt uit onderzoek van Birte Schohaus, die op 14 maart promoveert aan de Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. Ze weerlegt in het onderzoek ook de kritiek dat talkshows de ‘gewone man’ te weinig aan het woord zouden laten.

Wie zich op een onderhoudende manier wil laten bijpraten over het nieuws van de dag hoeft niets anders te doen dan een van de vier vrijwel dagelijkse talkshows (De Wereld Draait Door, Jinek, RTL Late Night en Pauw) of de twee zondagse shows Buitenhof en WNL op Zondag te volgen. Die zijn niet alleen voor de kijker belangrijk, ook voor politici zijn deze optredens onmisbaar om hun boodschap te kunnen verkopen. Dat roept de vraag op naar de relatie tussen de talkshows en de politiek. Schohaus onderzocht hoe de verschillende shows hun gasten en onderwerpen selecteren, aan de hand van tientallen interviews met programmamakers, voorlichters en politici, inhoudsanalyse en een etnografische studie op de redacties van Pauw en Jinek. Al die programma’s hebben hun eigen format: het geheel van keuzes met betrekking tot cameravoering, regie, de toon van het gesprek, de sfeer van het programma en de onderwerpskeuzes. Schohaus: ‘Het blijkt dat de samenstelling van deze elementen per format verschilt. Juist deze specifieke combinatie maakt de programma’s uniek. Het is hun succesformule. Programma’s bewaken het daarom ook heel goed om hun doelgroep te blijven bereiken.’


De doelgroep hoeft niet noodzakelijk een miljoenenpubliek te zijn. Buitenhof mikt nadrukkelijk op de hoger opgeleide, DWDD wil een jong publiek en RTL Late Night de consumenten tussen 25 en 45. Toch blijkt dat de meeste programma’s hoge kijkcijfers nastreven. ‘Ze moeten een zo breed mogelijk publiek bereiken. Dat wordt vaak gemeten aan het aantal kijkers, terwijl dat niet hetzelfde is,’ zegt Schohaus. ‘Dat niet alle programma’s dezelfde politieke gasten presenteren ligt eraan dat ze, afhankelijk van het format, een afweging maken tussen een maximale politieke relevantie en de talkability van de gasten. Wat ze zeggen moet nieuwswaardig zijn en ze moeten ook leuk kunnen praten. Voor een programma als Buitenhof is dat eerste belangrijker, voor RTL Late Night het laatste.’


Juist omdat een redactie liever een fractievoorzitter met politiek gewicht aan tafel heeft dan een backbencher met hetzelfde verhaal, zijn bepaalde gasten vaker te zien in talkshows dan andere. Datzelfde geldt ook voor de verschillende soorten experts die vaak in verband met politiek aanschuiven. Onbekende gasten betekenen een risico dat programma’s niet snel willen nemen. Schohaus: ‘De mogelijkheid om inhoudelijke, verrassende en persoonlijke gesprekken te creëren zou meer benut kunnen worden om politiek op een vernieuwende manier te bespreken, maar dan moeten de programma’s wel de ruimte krijgen om daarmee te experimenteren.’

‘Gewone man’

Talkshows krijgen de kritiek dat zij de ‘gewone man’ niet laten horen. Maar daar wil Schohaus niets van weten: ‘Als je de programma’s analyseert dan zie je dat in veel van de uitzendingen ervaringsdeskundigen aan het woord komen die vertolken wat die gewone man meemaakt, bijvoorbeeld in de zorg of het onderwijs.’

Curriculum vitae

Birte Schohaus (Aurich, 1983) studeerde Kunsten, Cultuur & Media en Journalistiek aan de Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. Ze deed haar onderzoek aan het Centre for Media and Journalism Studies van de RUG. Daarnaast werkt ze als freelance journalist voor diverse media (online en print).

Noot voor de pers

Voor meer informatie kunt u contact opnemen met Birte Schohaus: mail[at]