PhD Defence: Anouk Mols (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

Everyday experiences of privacy and surveillance: Negotiating appropriate forms of monitoring

8 December 2021 at 13:00
Senaatszaal Erasmus University Rotterdam
Link to livestream:

Supervisors: Susanne Janssen and Jason Pridmore

On an ordinary Wednesday evening, a family is about to have dinner. Meanwhile, the father receives WhatsApp messages from the neighbourhood crime prevention group, the mother checks the student tracking system of the youngest son, and the daughter instructs a smart speaker to play music. In this scenario, personal information of the family members is collected, processed and shared. In other words; they are the subject of surveillance. The smart speaker collects data for commercial purposes, the mother processes information to support her son, the father is connected to a group of neighbours who keep an eye out on the street (and one another). It seems that the family members don’t care about privacy and trade it for safety, control, and convenience. However, the dissertation of Anouk Mols shows that everyday experiences of privacy and surveillance are more complex. The research is based on interviews with a 100 respondents about the use of WhatsApp for security and work communication, smart technologies, and parental control tools. On a daily basis, people negotiate what forms of surveillance they find (in)appropriate and respond accordingly. They are constrained in these negotiations by a lack of transparency about data collection, and limited influence on surveillance practices. This study leads to the conclusion that tangibility is key to increasing awareness of and resilience in privacy and surveillance practices. Making complex surveillance issues and privacy solutions tangible via metaphors, examples, and visible markers, enables people to better identify surveillance practices and to apply privacy-preserving measures.

RMeS Winter School & Graduate Symposium 2021-22

— Image: Brugge 2021 (street art by JAMZ, photo by Niels Niessen)

RMeS Winter School – Grasping the Platform Society

When: 27 & 28 January 2022
Time: TBA
Where: Radboud University Nijmegen
ECTS: 2 (two full days plus preparation 3 days)
Organized by: Dr Niels Niessen, Prof. dr Anneke Smelik, Dr Yosha Wijngaarden and RMeS
Open to: PhD candidates who are a member of RMeS

Registration | Register before December 20, 2021

This year’s RMeS Winter School (27-28 January 2022) will be organised by Radboud University Nijmegen.

We live in a platform society. Yet, media scholars have only started to think through the consequences that all aspects of human life are mediated by digital platform infrastructures owned and controlled by profit-driven tech companies such as Google and Facebook. In recent years, these companies have come under increasing scrutiny, as an awareness has grown among governments, institutions and occasionally the general public about the downsides of the digitization of everything. From filter bubbles to fake news, from privacy scandals to addiction by algorithm, and from the exploitation of workers to the enormous environmental impact of platformization: this reality is clearly not sustainable or socially just. But while the EU, the US and also China each in their own ways seek to harness big tech, peoples’ lives have become entangled with digital platforms to a seeming point of no return. To search is to google, to meet is to zoom, to long is to swipe, to share is to care. And perhaps this is just a start, because as we speak tech moguls are colonizing space while back on earth Facebook is scaling up to the metaverse.

This year’s winter school will address how we as media scholars are able to grasp the platform society. How do we understand and conceptualize the platform society and how do we approach its manifestations as research objects? What kinds of knowledge do long-standing as well as new methods (qualitative, quantitative, or hybrid) yield? What new collaborations are needed, both across disciplines within academia but also between academia and society at large? For example, what could be the role of citizen science? How does the platform society challenge and call for the rethinking of concepts such as individuality, integrity, truth, and privacy? How does the study of the platform society connect to other main debates of our times, in particular the climate crisis and social safety? And on a more practical level: how do we as academics and workers at public institutions negotiate and resist platform capitalism, from the platforms we use to meet online (Zoom, Teams or open-source?) to the places we publish (behind a paywall or open access?).

The program will feature a keynote event (lecture and workshop) with Prof. dr. José van Dijck (Utrecht University) and Geert-Jan Bogaerts (VPRO television and chairman of the Public Spaces-initiative). There will also be a workshop on academic integrity (facilitated by Roel Willems, Radboud University) and a discussion group on privacy (faciliated by the Critical Humanities research group at Radboud University as part of its 2021-2022 “Keywords for the Never-Normal” program).

Participation and abstract submission

Other than this keynote event and these workshops, we will have panel sessions where participants discuss each others’ work. Beforehand you submit your written materials which may take the form of (1) a text of 5,000-6,000 words (for example taken from your dissertation); or (2) your PhD proposal (for those early in their PhDs). In addition, we invite you to add a reflection in which you outline how your research relates to the central theme of the platform society. To those whose research is not at all related to the study of the platform society: you may consider to reflect on how your work is affected by online platforms and digitization. As in: How do the platforms that mediate our (scholarly) lives change our ways of working and thinking? During the Winter School each participant will present their materials for 15 minutes and receive both an oral and written peer-review by another participant (and also give feedback on someone’s else work).

We invite your abstracts (250-300 words) on your current research (project) and reflections related to the theme outlined above. Presenters are encouraged to include a brief reflection on method in their papers. What are the scholarly traditions your work situates itself in? What is novel about your approach?


  • Register for the Winter School and submit your abstract by December 20 at the latest. You will receive a confirmation email.
  • Full papers (or proposals for those early in their PhDs) are due by January 18. Before submitting, please read through the theme outline and instructions above.



PhD Defence: Esther Hammelburg (Hogeschool van Amsterdam)

Being There Live: How Liveness is Realized Through Media Use at Contemporary Cultural Events

3 December 2021 | 11:00 hrs
University of Amsterdam – Aula

Supervisors: Thomas Poell, José van Dijck, and Jeroen de Kloet
Please register:

Liveness is a key concern in media studies, yet has been mostly theorized as a phenomenon related to broadcasting and is understudied for the Internet and social media. This study is an appeal for preserving liveness as a concept that continuously evolves as new media technologies emerge. In addition, it argues for and contributes empirical work to media scholarship on liveness. Through extensive fieldwork on the ground and online at three annual Dutch cultural events – Oerol Festival 2017, 3FM Serious Request 2017, and Pride Amsterdam 2018 – using ethnographic, digital and visual methods, it examined actual situated live instances and the media practices of people experiencing them. The matter of live media practices at cultural events is topical against the background of processes of mediatization and festivalization in the 2010s, and the intersection of these processes as the  COVID-19 crisis boosts mediated communication and restricts physical gathering.

This thesis challenges media theory’s conceptualization of liveness as mediated presence to an unfolding reality that exists in and of itself. It asserts that this is not only an outdated understanding, but one that impedes comprehending what “truly being there live” means. Empirical observations and analysis reveal the constructive role live media practices play in realizing live instances. Live instances, this study suggests, are realized when event joiners align their physical event environment and the various mediated contexts in which they are continuously involved as users of smartphones, social media, TV, and direct messaging apps. It is through their live media practices that they constitute their sense of “being there live” as “being now here together,” in relation to distant times, places, and others. By investigating how live instances are situated in both physical and mediated contexts, this study contributes to and shows valuable directions for future academic research. It also offers tools that can be used for innovating the design of future media and cultural events.


Call for proposals: RMeS PhD Workshop Grant

RMeS PhD Workshop Grant

The RMeS PhD Grant enables advanced PhD-candidates or recently graduated PhDs to organize a workshop around their own research and share their expertise with a new generation of scholars. The workshop is to center on the theme of the recipient’s dissertation or their current research project. 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. Applicants are encouraged to invite leading scholars in their field as guest speakers.


  • Candidates are to submit a short workshop proposal (including an estimate of the expected costs) to 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, and supervised by a professor in order to guarantee the quality of the workshop. Formal requirements for the workshop and the assignment will be sent upon request.
  • Recipients must be RMeS-members* who are in the final stages of their PhD-project or have obtained their PhD no longer than four years ago. (* they must be or have been RMeS PhD-candidates)
  • Send your proposal before December 15, 2021 (extended deadline). The Workshop will be scheduled for the educational programme 2021-2022, in consultation with RMeS.

Former recipients of the RMeS PhD Workshop Grant:


RMeS Winter School | RMa Day

When: 28 January 2022
Time: TBA
Where: Radboud University Nijmegen
Organized by: Dr Niels Niessen, Prof. dr Anneke Smelik, Dr Yosha Wijngaarden and RMeS
Open to: 2nd-year RMA students who are a member of RMeS
Registration | Register before December 20, 2021

This year we will organise a special RMa Day during our RMeS Winter School & Graduate Symposium.

The sessions during the RMA Day of the RMeS Winter School will be primarily intended for 2nd-year RMA students, so that they can present their thesis proposals and receive constructive feedback from peers. It’s also possible to present another research topic you’re currently working on. The RMa students that wish to take part will have to contribute the following:

  1. A brief thesis proposal or abstract of your research topic (1-2 A4) that will be collected prior to the event and circulated among fellow RMa Students and Winter School teachers.
  2. An 8-10-minute presentation on the day itself, which should include an introduction to the subject matter, the method/approach, expected outcomes, and the significance of the research for the field.
  3. A written response to a peer (participants will serve as respondents to each other’s presentations), of 3-5-minutes, that presents questions, notes, and constructive feedback.

The overall exercise is intended to provide RMa students with the opportunity to present work and respond to an Q&A like they would in a symposium or conference, and also to receive feedback on their research proposals.

The program will feature a keynote event (lecture and workshop) with Prof. dr. José van Dijck (Utrecht University) and Geert-Jan Bogaerts (VPRO television and chairman of the Public Spaces-initiative).