Lecture: Our Data Bodies with Dr Seeta Peña Gangadharan

organized by Datafied Society & Doing Gender

Date: 9 June 2017
Time: 15.30 – 17.00, followed by drinks
Venue: collegezaal on 3rd floor (public library) Oudegracht 167 , Utrecht. hosted by medialab SETUP
Respondent: Rathenau Institute

From recommendation systems to predictive analytics to risk detection software, automated computer systems increasingly form part of peoples’ everyday life. For historically marginalized communities, the experience of data-driven systems speaks to more than just problems of technology’s “creepiness” or inappropriateness. In this talk, Seeta Peña Gangadharan discusses the consequences of unrelenting data collection and data processing of members of marginalized groups, reflects on the unequal nature of distribution of data-driven harms in society, and explores differences in how affected communities versus policymakers have considered addressing these problems.

There is limited space, so please reserve a seat via https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/talk-our-data-bodies-w-dr-seeta-pena-gangadharan-lse-tickets-34360271497

More info on RMeS Masterclass Data & Discrimination (10.00 – 13.00) http://www.rmes.nl/masterclass-data-discrimination-with-dr-seeta-pena-gangadharan/


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: http://www.lse.ac.uk/media@lse/WhosWho/AcademicStaff/Seeta-Gangadharan.aspx

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 RMeS-fgw@uva.nl 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: http://www.lse.ac.uk/media@lse/WhosWho/AcademicStaff/Seeta-Gangadharan.aspx


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: University 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

RMeS Network Event: How do You…Communicate to a General Public?

How do You…Communicate to a General Public?

A workshop on making your work popular

Date and Time: April 13 from 13:00 to 17:00 at Utrecht University

RMeS is happy to invite you to the 2017 edition of our annual RMA and PhD network event. This year’s event will focus on popular academic writing and presenting Media Studies research to a non-specialist audience.

In line with the previous editions of the RMeS network event — which covered the topic of methodology (2014), the process of (re)writing (2015), and career paths in and beyond media studies (2016) — this year’s program will tackle the topic of popular academic communication. How to tailor your writing and communication to a non-specialist audience? How to write or present in a catchy and attractive way without sacrificing the richness, complexity, and nuance of academic research? What kind of stylistic devices and presentation techniques can help you to communicate your research in a lively and understandable way? How to reach out to a broader audience via non-specialist media and communication channels?

For all RMA students and PhD-candidates eager to master the skill of popular academic writing and communication: this is the event to attend!

The 2017 RMeS network event will have a workshop set-up that consists of two parts:

  1. Dan Hassler-Forest (Media Studies, Utrecht University) will speak about writing and communicating in a popular academic manner, and provide you with many tips and tricks based on personal experience. Dan Hassler-Forest is a media and English literature scholar who publishes on topics ranging from comics and graphic novels to superhero movies, transmedia and media convergence. Dan frequently speaks at public venues, such as the EYE Film Museum, Felix Meritis, Spui25, De Rode Hoed, and ‘de Universiteit van Nederland’. He is also a recurring presence in (popular) news media, giving interviews on films and television culture for television, radio, and the printed press. After Dan’s presentation, there will be a response by Sandra Wagemakers (PhD at Tilburg University) who plans to write a popular academic publication based on her PhD research.
  2. Participants will apply the hands-on approach presented in the first part of the event to their own research and writing. Within a small group of peers, you will brainstorm about the possibilities and pitfalls for communicating your own work to a general public. The groups will then select the research of one of their members as a case study for which they develop a “popular academic writing and communication plan” that advices on which communication channels, stylistic modes, and presentation formats would be suitable for this specific case.

Registration: Please register no later than April 1st

The event will take place at Drift 25, room 3.02 in Utrecht, with drinks & snacks afterwards.

For questions of any kind please contact us by email at phdcouncil.rmes@gmail.com

We are looking forward to meeting you there!

The RMeS PhD Council (Simone Driessen, Sjors Martens, Tim Groot Kormelink, Sofie Willemsen, Rik Spanjers, Lianne Toussaint, Sanne Rotmeijer)

RMeS RMa Tutorials 2016-17: University of Amsterdam

Dates: see below
Venue: University of Amsterdam
Open to: First and second year research master students in Media Studies and related fields, registered with RMeS
Offered by: the Research School for Media Studies (RMeS), as part of the RMa curriculum
Credits: 6 ECTS
Registration: register before 1 February, 2017. Amount of participants is limited.
Register here
When registering for a tutorial, please fill in at remarks which tutorial. Note: you can only attend ONE tutorial.


Non-theatrical Film

Dr Eef Masson (e.l.masson@uva.nl) | 6 or 12 EC | University of Amsterdam

Historical film audiences, much like contemporary ones, were exposed to a range of materials – not just the fiction features they could watch in entertainment theatres, and that classical film history and theory have tended to focus on. Film spectatorship also took shape in homes, classrooms, museums or town halls, where family films, educational films and information or propaganda films were shown to a variety of publics. While such films have been used as sources by scholars in other fields for quite a while – for instance, in social history – profound interest among media historians is relatively recent. Moreover, information on the purposes which these films served, the circumstances in which they were presented or the practices they were part of is often hard to come by. In spite of this, practitioners agree that such data are crucial to their interpretation, especially from a retrospective point of view.

The tutorial will offer students the opportunity to research a historical corpus of non- theatricals of their own choosing. Projects can take different shapes, but will require in any case a combination of archival research (film viewing; locating and interpreting primary sources) and methodological reflection (how to best make sense of these films retrospectively?). More hands-on projects (e.g. those involving the identification or presentation of a particular corpus, likely part of a 12 EC module) will always also have an academic component (report or research paper). Decisions on reading materials will be made early on, but will depend on the participating students’ choice of corpus.


The University as Media Assemblage

Dr Markus Stauff (m.stauff@uva.nl) | 6 or 12 EC | University of Amsterdam

Our daily lives at the university are shaped by a complex set of media: In different situation an each specific interplay between presentation software (e.g. powerpoint), digital learning environments (e.g. blackboard), library databases, university architecture with access codes, public relation media, and many more media technologies shapes the access to knowledge, the social organization and the power relations. The university, thus, can be taken as a key example for the ubiquity and heterogeneity of media, which all receive their function from the complex assemblage of technologies and practices, human and non-human actors, materiality and form.

We will start by mapping the media that have become entangled in university practices, tracking the stories and the implicit or explicit rationales of their implementation. This allows us to discuss basic methodological questions: Which insights do we gain from analyzing the interfaces or the political economy of tools? When is it relevant to talk to people who develop, adapt or apply a specific tool? In this process, we will use the example of the university to discuss key concerns of contemporary media studies. The theoretical references will surely include actor-network theory, assemblage theory, didactics, sociology of organizations, or workplace studies; yet, the selection of concepts will also depend on the questions provoked by the case studies we will focus on.


Watching it Play (Out)

Alex Gekker (A.Gekker@uva.nl) | 6 EC | University of Amsterdam

People, in particularly younger people, increasingly watch others play video-games online. This phenomenon is part of the appearance of new persona-driven video-blogging (vlogging) entertainment provided by various ‘YouTubers’. Often young and relate-able, they manifest a novel kind of para-textual relationships with their audiences. Moreover, these types of content are becoming begrudgingly accepted by more traditional media forms, exemplified by guest appearances of YouTube star PewDiePie on various television shows (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4fxG17hk8Q, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pM21uQR6G_Q, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_cO-k2DAFw) or the recent opening of a Dutch YouTubers -theme exhibition at the Netherlands Sound and Vision Institure (http://nos.nl/op3/artikel/2136378-eerste-youtube-tentoonstelling-ter-wereld-geopend-in-beeld-en-geluid.html).

Yet despite the popularity of such topics like lifestyle, humour and make-up tutorial videos, games-related content consistently remains at the forefront of this emerging genre. This type of content now constitutes the most viewed and most profitable video material on YouTube and other platforms. Yet, game-play videos are somewhat paradoxical as they incorporate a passive consumption of interactive media. In this tutorial we will examine various ways to understand the game-watching phenomenon, meet game-makers and game-streamers as well as attempt to create and record our own Let’s Play series.