RMeS Workshop: Renegade audiences? Understanding and exploring the practices of toxic fans, vigilantes, trolls, and provocateurs

Workshop organized by Dr Simone Driessen (EUR), within the context of the RMeS PhD Workshop Grant

When? 3 June 2020
Where? Erasmus University Rotterdam, Polak 1-20
Time? 11.30 – 17.30
Coordinator? Dr Simone Driessen (EUR)
Open to? PhD’s and research master students, max 20 participants

When the all-female reboot of eighties cult-classic Ghostbusters was released in 2016 the film was met with critique from a small group of dissatisfied fans. What followed were misogynistic comments from these (former?) fans in response to an all-female cast. A small group of trolls harassed one of the involved actresses, Leslie Jones, to such an extent that she decided to close her Twitter-account. Although it is well accepted in today’s world that consumers (audiences) can participate by leaving reviews, comments, critiques or appraisals, not much attention has been paid, in media studies, to feelings of dislike or displeasure and the audiences who are affected by these.

This workshop aims explores what happens if audiences’ affective investments are challenged. If we, in media studies, consider audiences as participatory communities, comparable to micro communities, this allows for a point of departure to discuss the more challenging or ‘anti-fannish’ behaviour of audiences. What if nostalgic feelings for a pop culture text turn sour (e.g. Ghostbusters), or calling out of a particular person has severe consequences like doxing (e.g. GamerGate)? Examining such reactions and practices offers a fundamental framework for understanding polarization in today’s society.

In this interdisciplinary workshop, students are invited to discuss and scrutinize “renegade audiences”. In her introduction, Dr. Simone Driessen (workshop organizer) will explore this concept through the lenses of Fan- and Surveillance Studies. Additionally, “renegade audiences” are further explored with two established scholars in these fields: professor Matt Hills (Fan Studies), and associate professor Daniel Trottier (Surveillance Studies).

In his session, Prof. dr. Matt Hills addresses how changing doxas might play a role in the toxic responses and behavior of fans. He will discuss this idea by looking at cases in various fandoms, where fans have responded defensively in relation to shifts towards inclusivity and diversity in a cultural text. Think about toxic responses to the recent appointment of a female doctor in long-running BBC-series Dr Who, or reactions to the inclusion of a female lead in the Star Wars sequels. This helps to further discuss with participants the notion of “renegade audiences”.

Additionally, Dr. Daniel Trottier invites participants to consider the ethical dimensions of contemporary audience research, including implications for those carrying out research on these practices. In this session, the participants will work on conceptual and societal concerns regarding researching renegade audiences, and how to tackle the practical/ applied issues this brings in terms of data collection and publishing findings.

After the workshop, students who participate for the 1ECTS will apply their knowledge to a particular case. Students get a 1,5h-window to complete a brief investigation on a “renegade audience”, further explicated in a concise group presentation. Doing so, students have a chance to demonstrate their

knowledge of the (preparatory) literature, sessions, and the discussed ethical guidelines.

Preliminary programme of workshop:

11.30 – 12.00 – Welcome & Introduction by Dr. Simone Driessen (organizer)

12.00 – 13.00 – Session 1: Matt Hills (open to ERMeCC researchers)

13.00 – 13.30 – Lunch

13.30 – 14.15 – Session 2: Daniel Trottier

14.15 – 14.30 – Introduction to the Assignment

14.30 – 16.00 – Participating RMeS students (for the 1 ECTS) have this 1,5-hour window to complete the group presentation [see details assignment]

16.00 – 17.00 – Assignment Presentations

17.00 – 17.30 – Closing remarks & discussion

Speaker bios:

Prof. Matt Hills, University of Huddersfield, United Kingdom

In july 2016, professor joined the University of Huddersfield as Professor of Media and Journalism. With Professor Cornel Sandvoss he is co-director of the Centre for Participatory Culture, and supervises a number of PhD students in this area, focusing significantly on media fandom and fan studies. Prior to joining Huddersfield he was Professor of Film and TV Studies at Aberystwyth University. Before that, professor Hills worked for more than a decade at Cardiff University. He has written six sole-authored research monographs, starting with Fan Cultures in 2002 and coming up to date with Doctor Who: The Unfolding Event in 2015, as well as publishing more than a hundred book chapters and journal articles in the areas of media fandom, cult film/TV, and audiences in the digital era.

Dr. Daniel Trottier, Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Dr. Trottier is an Associate Professor at the Department of Media and Communication of Erasmus University Rotterdam. His current research considers the use of digital media for the purposes of scrutiny, denunciation and shaming. Daniel is the PI of a five-year NWO-funded project on this topic, entitled “Digital Vigilantism: Mapping the terrain and assessing societal impacts”. Prior to joining Erasmus University, Dr. Trottier was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Westminster, Uppsala University Sweden, and the University of Alberta, Canada. He completed a PhD in Sociology at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada. Dr. Trottier has authored several articles in peer-reviewed journals on this and other topics, as well as books like Social Media as Surveillance with Ashgate in 2012, Identity Problems in the Facebook Era with Routledge in 2013, and Social Media, Politics and the State (co-edited with Christian Fuchs) with Routledge in 2014.

Dr. Simone Driessen, Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Dr. Driessen is a lecturer and researcher in the Media and Communication Department of Erasmus University Rotterdam. In 2017, she obtained her PhD, on the affordances of mainstream popular music in the everyday life of ageing audiences, from the Erasmus Research Centre for Media, Communication and Culture (ERMeCC). Her PhD was nominated for the Boekman Foundation Thesis Prize in 2018, and one of her papers won the ‘Top Paper of the Popular Culture Division’ in 2018, at the highly competitive International Communication Association conference. Dr. Driessen (co-)authored several articles which appeared in peer-reviewed journals, a.o. in Popular Music & Society, Participations and Journal of Fandom Studies, and contributed to various edited collections on the topic(s) of popular music and (ageing) fandom, popular culture and vigilant audiences.

Assignment for participants


This assignment helps to better understand the phenomenon of “renegade audiences” and their reactions and practices, by researching a particular controversy such an audience was involved in:

1) First, after reading the preparatory readings for the workshop, we ask you to individually work on a definition of how you understand the concept of “renegade audiences”. Send this in prior to the workshop and bring this definition to the workshop.

2) On the day of the workshop, you’ll work in a group with max. 3 peers on the following:

  1. A) As a group, select an event or happening to which a “renegade audience” responded (from a toxic, vigilant, provoking etc. perspective).
  1. B) Conduct a short investigation to uncover what happened and how the audiences responded. For example, gather about +/- 5-8 (news) articles or +/- 15-20 comments discussing this event/ happening.
  1. C) Discuss your findings of the audiences’ practices with help of the assigned readings in a 5- minute presentation to convey your findings to the group. Each presentation is followed by a few minutes of Q&A that will touch upon your ethical handling of the material.

Your presentations will be evaluated on the following aspects:

1) Your understanding (definition) of renegade audiences (2 points);

2) The incorporation of the assigned readings and workshop content (5 points);

3) The aptness (creativity, originality) of the selected case study (1 point);

4) The coherence of your presentation style (2 points).


  • Driessen, S. (forthcoming). The fandom strikes back: vigilantism in online pop culture fandoms. In D. Trottier (ed), Vigilant Audiences: Justice Seeking through Global Digital Media. Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers.
  • Hills, M. (2018). An extended Foreword: From fan doxa to toxic fan practices? Participations; Journal of audience and reception studies, 15(1), 105-126.
  • Trottier, D. (2017). Digital Vigilantism as Weaponisation of Visibility. Philosophy and Technology, 30(1), 55–72. doi:10.1007/s13347-016-0216-4


  • The definition of what participants consider as “renegade audiences” should be sent in latest 3 days prior to the workshop;
  • The presentations (graded assignment for the 1 ECTS) are held on the day of the workshop.

RMeS RMa Course: Trending Topics – Engaging Objects

When? 14, 21 & 28 February, 6 March 13.00 – 17.00 / presentation day: 20 March 2019 12.00 – 18.00 / deadline paper: Mid April
Where? University of Amsterdam, See below
Coordinator? Dr Maryn Wilkinson (UvA)
Guest lectures by? Bharath Ganesh (RUG / Oxford), Leonie Schmidt (UvA), Alex Gekker (UvA), Rik Smit (RUG), Christian Olesen (UU), Sebastian Scholz (VU), Scott Eldridge II (RUG), Tim Groot Kormelink (VU)
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; please send an e-mail to RMeS if you intend to attend one or more seminar sessions: rmes-fgw@uva.nl.

General description:

Each spring, the Research School for Media Studies offers a Trending Topics course where faculty members from eight participating universities (UvA, UU, VU, EUR, UL, UM, RUG, RUN) present the latest research in their fields of interest through a series of lectures and workshops. The course invites RMA students to participate in an international, cutting edge research environment, while earning credits towards their degree. It presents a unique opportunity to get to know other students and leading academics from all over The Netherlands, in an open setting of engaging and ambitious exchange that would prove particularly fruitful for students who are aspiring to pursue a future career in academic research or teaching. All eight universities accept the credits earned in this module.

The field of media studies today is decreasingly tied to specific media types (film, television, or digital media) or practices (e.g. journalism), and instead often turns towards the areas of interaction between them, and their shared concepts and ideas. Larger trends such as globalisation, digitisation and convergence have prompted researchers to study the complex interrelation of technological changes and media content, as well as the new relations between users and producers, while different modes of media consumption have brought about new areas for aesthetics and politics that continue to require intense critical enquiry. These crossovers are both theoretically and methodologically challenging. Moreover, it requires us to rethink our engagement with specific media objects, and our critical analysis skills. Close reading remains incredibly important, but it can no longer stay isolated. In order to improve and enrich our understanding of the media objects we engage in our research, it is important to understand where different perspectives add to, overlap, or digress from one another.

In the ‘Trending Topics – Engaging Objects’ course, the lecture sessions will each take a specific media objects as a primary case study (from the field of film, television, digital media, and journalism studies), and bring two guest lecturers and their respective areas of expertise into dialogue about their objects. Each afternoon will be dedicated to the analysis, research and discussion of specific media objects. A fifth session revolves around student presentations in preparation of their final written assignment. All sessions, assignments, readings and preparatory work will be supervised and marked by dr. Maryn Wilkinson (UvA), the coordinator of the course. The grading will be based on both the presentation (30%) and the final written assignment (70%).



13.00-17.00 on Friday, February 14th, 2020: 

– Bharath Ganesh (RUG / Oxford)
– Leonie Schmidt (UvA)

13.00-17.00 on Friday, February 21st, 2020: 

– Alex Gekker (UvA)
– Rik Smit (RUG)

13.00-17.00 on Friday, February 28th, 2020: 

– Christian Olesen (UU)
– Sebastian Scholz (VU)

13.00-17.00 on Friday, March 6th, 2020: 

– Scott Eldridge II (RUG)
– Tim Groot Kormelink (VU)

Recipients of the RMeS PhD Workshop Grant: Dr Leonieke Bolderman and Simone Driessen

Recipients of the RMeS PhD Workshop Grant: Dr Leonieke Bolderman and Simone Driessen

PhD Defence: Tim Groot Kormelink – Capturing and making sense of everyday news use

Date: Tuesday November 12th, 13:45, in the Aula of the VU
Title: “Capturing and making sense of everyday news use”
Supervisor: prof. dr. Irene Costera Meijer. Co-supervisor: prof. dr. Marcel Broersma
Committee: prof. dr. Katja Kwastek, prof. dr. José van Dijck, prof. dr. Wiebke Loosen, prof. dr. Mark Deuze, prof. dr. Hallvard Moe

On the face of it, both journalism and Journalism Studies have witnessed a shift toward the users of news. However, while news users have taken center stage in discussions about journalism, they are still more often spoken about rather than spoken with. As a result, we have comparatively little understanding of news use from an emic perspective (Pike, 1967): how news users make sense of their own news use. My dissertation therefore seeks to understand news users explicitly in and on their own terms. Specifically, it takes their experience as point of departure, and explores the theoretical, methodological and epistemological implications involved. Its central question is deceptively simple: How can people’s experiences of news use be captured, and how can these experiences help us to make sense of everyday news use? Rather than aiming to arrive at a unified audience theory, the dissertation seeks to do justice to the messiness and contradictions of everyday news use in all its complexity.

Link to PhD-thesis: https://research.vu.nl/en/publications/capturing-and-making-sense-of-everyday-news-use


RMeS Winter School | RMa Day

When? 30 January 2020
Time? TBA
Where? Utrecht University
Organized by? Professor Frank Kessler (UU) and RMeS
Open to? 2nd-year RMA students who are a member of RMeS

This year we will organise a special RMa Day on the second day of our RMeS Winter School & Graduate Symposium. This will include the following programme components: 1) parallel sessions to present work to peers, 2) lectures by RMeS staff members, and 3) a workshop on Research Valorisation and Fundraising Schemes.

The parallel 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. The RMa students that wish to take part will have to contribute the following:

  1. A brief thesis proposal (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.

Keynote speakers

  • TBA

Sign up for the Winter School

If you are interested in participating and earning credit (1 EC) please

  • Register for the Winter School before December 16, 2019 via our website. You will receive a confirmation email from the RMeS office.
  • Please submit a brief thesis proposal (1-2 A4) for individual presentations before January 14, 2020. This proposal should include a short introduction to the subject matter, method/approach, expected outcomes, and the significance of the research for the field into this proposal (which you will expand on in the presentation). On the basis of your submissions, we assign reviewers and organize responses. We will distribute the proposals to all participants and assign the tasks of writing a response, including a set of questions (1-2 pages long). Each of you will have to write one peer review.
  • Presentations: During the Winter School, each participant will give a presentation about their thesis proposal of 8-10 minutes. The peer assigned to be respondent will then provide a prepared peer review (as an oral summary during the session, and then in writing on the same day). All session members engage in general discussion and feedback.