RMeS RMa Course: Fake News, Conspiracy Theories, Disinformation and the Media

When? 30 April, 7, 21, 28 May & 4 June 2021
Where? Utrecht University, TBA
Course coordinator? Prof. dr Frank Kessler, Utrecht University
Guest lectures by? TBA
Organisation? RMeS
For? First and second year RMa students in Media Studies, who are a member of a Dutch Graduate Research School (onderzoekschool). Students who are members of RMeS will have first access. RMeS staff and PhD researchers are welcome to sit in on specific sessions; PhD’s who are interested, can send an e-mail to RMeS if you intend to attend one or more seminar sessions: rmes-fgw@uva.nl.

Registration will open Fall 2020

The current Covid-19 pandemic is yet another case of an event that has provoked the circulation of different types of misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy theories, suspicions and other forms of false, distorted or misleading reports – in short ‘fake news – spread via the entire range of media channels. On the other hand, the label ‘fake news’, has been used by Donald Trump to denounce reports about him and his politics in what he sees as hostile mainstream media. A 2018 handbook for journalists published by UNESCO actually warned against the term ‘fake news’ as “an oxymoron which lends itself to undermining the credibility of information”.

In this course, we will approach this cluster of terms referring to mediatized misleading content from different angles, both historically and conceptually, as a methodological y engage with and maybe a field of practical, activist, political intervention. Each session will be dedicated to one or more aspects of the topic and introduced by scholars working on these issues. Students will be invited to develop a case into a research paper.



30 April 2021

7 May 2021

21 May 2021

28 May 2021

4 June 2021

PhD Defence: Roel Lutkenhaus – Erasmus University Rotterdam

29 October 2020 | Erasmus University Rotterdam
On Thursday 29 October 2020 at 15:30hr, Roel Lutkenhaus will defend his PhD dissertation.


In 1992, a scene from the TV show Medisch Centrum West—a popular Dutch medical drama— sparked conversations in Dutch living rooms about organ donation. On screen, a doctor had just informed a couple about their son, who had been admitted to the ICU after a car accident. The parents are torn between emotions as the doctor brings up the inevitable: “I am sorry. I know you don’t want to hear this, but Bart’s heart could save the life of another child.”

This scene is an example of Entertainment-Education (EE), a communication strategy that uses storytelling in dramatic serials on radio or TV. It shows how likeable characters, relatable settings, and dramatic plot twists can motivate audiences to talk about health or sustainability issues. EE is more than a message: it inspires communities to talk about their roles, priorities, and responsibilities and serves as a path to social and behavioral change.

Most EE interventions rely on radio and/or TV, while audiences have spread across channels since the advent of the Internet and especially young audiences have become difficult to reach. Online, audiences gather around niche interests, including topics such as fitness, cooking, and mindfulness.

While Medisch Centrum West inspired conversations in Dutch living rooms, it is now possible to extend these conversations to the Internet. This dissertation explores how this can be achieved. Uniting the EE strategy with digital approaches, it explores how audiences can be invited to discuss, reinforce, and further diffuse health-related messages through collective online media engagement.


In 1992 zorgde een scène van de Medisch Centrum West – een populaire medische dramaserie – voor een aantal ernstige gesprekken over orgaandonatie in Nederlandse huiskamers. Op TV had een arts een jong echtpaar op de hoogte gebracht van de toestand van hun zoon Bart, die na een auto-ongeval in kritieke toestand was opgenomen in het ziekenhuis: ‘Het spijt me. Ik weet dat jullie dit niet willen horen, maar Barts hart kan het leven van een ander kind redden.’

Deze scene is een voorbeeld van Entertainment-Education (EE), een communicatiestrategie die gebruikmaakt van populaire media op radio en TV.  Het toont hoe verhalen mensen kunnen aanmoedigen om over thema’s als gezondheid of duurzaamheid na te denken en te praten. EE is daarmee méér dan een boodschap: het kan groepen mensen inspireren om over prioriteiten, verantwoordelijkheden en verwachtingspatronen te praten – een belangrijke stap op het pad naar een gezondere, duurzame toekomst.

De meeste EE interventies maken gebruik van radio en/of TV, terwijl het publiek zich de afgelopen jaren gedeeltelijk naar het internet heeft verplaatst. Daar organiseren zij zich rond hun hobby’s en interesses, zoals als fitness, koken en mindfulness. Dit biedt een kans voor de EE-strategie: waar Medisch Centrum West voor gesprekken in huiskamers zorgde, is het tegenwoorden mogelijk om online gesprekken te stimuleren – met interactieve mediaformats of in samenwerking met social influencers bijvoorbeeld. Dit proefschrift verbindt vier decennia EE-onderzoek met een raamwerk aan digitale benaderingen die gezondheidsorganisaties kunnen helpen dit te bereiken.

Shut Up & Write that PhD!

When? Every Tuesday morning from 9-12
Where? Zoom
For? PhD Candidates
Registration? If you’re interested in joining us, please send an email to rmes-fgw@uva.nl and we will share the zoom link with you.

Esther Hammelburg and Aris Emmanouloudis started weekly Shut Up & Write sessions, and invite other PhD candidates to join. Every Tuesday morning from 9-12 we shut up and write together in a (UvA-secured) Zoom session. This means 3 hours of putting away all distractions and focusing on PhD work. We do advice to take small breaks in between – you could use a pomodoro timer – but stay away from distractions such as news websites, email and social media during the allotted time. It truly helps focus and progress. The sessions also provide a chance for meeting other PhD candidates in RMeS, especially now we are working from home.

What a session looks like:
9 am camera and mic on for check-in: share what you are working on and goals
Write! Mic muted, camera on/off following own preference
12 pm camera and mic on for catch up: share about writing experience and review goals


RMeS Network Event: Re-Imagining Your Research

Re-Imagining Your Research:
Embracing the Future and Regaining Creativity

When? Friday 25 September 10.00-12.00
Where? via Zoom
Registration? via website
Please register no later than Wednesday 23 September. When registering for this event, please let us know if there is anything in particular that you would like to talk about so that we can add your points to the agenda.


Next to (self-)discipline, doing research requires creativity and imagination. In times of COVID-19, where researchers are bound to their own laptop, books, and headsets, creativity does not seem to be sparked easily in an environment that does not seem to change much. Although a lot of ideas can come from our own coffee mugs, one might miss the imagination that was sparked by taking walks over the campus, meeting and talking to colleagues in front of a (cheap) coffee machine, and the many strolls that you took to the library. Starting or finishing research seems to have become harder as new creative insights do not seem to come easily, but deadlines for conference papers, PhD chapters and complete dissertations remain. Can we still get enough creative insights when our futures in academia seem quite monotone and tiresome for the next couple of months?

In this network event, we invite PhDs and RMas to re-imagine finding creativity in the process of doing their research. In this session called “Re-Imagining Your Research,” guest speakers dr. Etienne Augé (principal lecturer at Erasmus University Rotterdam) and prof. dr. Susan Schreibman (professor of Digital Arts and Culture at Maastricht University) will help us see and act upon the opportunities the current situation brings for our research. As put by dr. Augé: “Any crisis can also be seen as an opportunity. With major changes happening worldwide, it is also time for academia to think about the future, and not just focus solely on past and present. It’s time to embrace the future and prepare for it. Ready?”

This network event will consist of two types of activities.

  1. Both guest speakers will speak about the challenges and opportunities for doing research in times of crises. Dr. Etienne Augé will talk about how future studies can help scholars to prepare better futures for them, but also for societies. Prof. dr. Susan Schreibman will address how experimental research online nowadays could give a more practical approach to digital humanities.
  2. Participants will meet and exchange ideas with other PhDs and RMas, and jointly reflect on the current and future possibilities of doing research in times of COVID-19.

Besides the two activities, the PhD council would also like to know if there are any topics that you are curious about, or other things that you would like to address during the network event. When registering for this event, please let us know if there is anything in particular that you would like to talk about so that we can add your points to the agenda.

The event will take place on Friday 25 September 10.00-12.00 via Zoom. You will receive a link to the Zoom call in due time after registering for this event. Please register no later than Wednesday 23 September.

For any question of any kind, please contact us via RMeS-fgw@uva.nl

We are looking forward to meeting you!

The RMeS PhD Council (Rashid, Constanza, Bjorn, Dulce, Jeroen, Welmoed, Zexu)

Call for Proposals: RMeS 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 rmes-fgw@uva.nl. 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 October 15, 2020. The Workshop will be scheduled for the educational programme 2020-2021, in consultation with RMeS.

Former recipients of the RMeS PhD Workshop Grant: