PhD Defence: Stephanie de Smale – Utrecht University

Stephanie de Smale | Ludic Memory Networks: Following Translations and Circulations of War Memory in Digital Popular Culture | PhD supervisor(s); Prof. J.F.F. Raessens, Prof. J.T. Jeuring, Prof. J. Demmers

On 27 September Stephanie de Smale defended her PhD thesis Ludic Memory Networks: Following Translations and Circulations of War Memory in Digital Popular Culture in the University Hall.

In a globalized world, popular culture plays an important role in conveying images and stories about war – also known as cultural war memory. Games are one of the most popular contemporary media in which we play with the past. An example is the game This War of Mine (11 bit studios, 2014), a game inspired by the Yugoslav war and the occupation of Sarajevo. The engagement around games with historical references displays this type of memory practice. Yet scientific research into the role of game culture in the management of cultural war memory is marginal.

Cultural war memory

In her dissertation De Smale investigates the role of digital game culture in translating cultural war memories by investigating the culture of This War of Mine. History, iconic images and stories are a source of inspiration for historical war games. These forms of cultural memory are translated into a gaming experience. However, these translations are subject to the actions and intentions of individual players. Moreover, sharing game content is a central part of this digital culture. This raises the question how cultural war memory is translated and distributed. Cultural war memories are spread worldwide, but content and meaning change as a result of their circulation on different digital platforms. De Smale describes how globalized representations in This War of Mine relate to national remembrance cultures about the Yugoslav war. For example, how war memory in game culture plays a role in the image and identification of post-war stakeholders, for whom the past is a controversial topic to this day.


Cultural war memory in popular digital culture is subject to the dynamics of translation and circulation. Game developers and players both shape the historical war games in their own way. The first translation can be seen when cultural war memories are translated into a game environment, where working conditions and personal backgrounds influence the end product. National perspectives on Yugoslav war remembrance are subject to exchange, because the game must be for a global audience. The second translation takes place when players subordinate the historical content of the game to self-presentation and creating entertaining content for the YouTube audience. Although cultural references remain in the content, they are not picked up by the players. A final translation takes place when the game is played by Bosnian youth. Here, post-war youths relate the global historical references in the game and the war experiences of game characters, stripped of explicit national references, to their own background and knowledge of the war.


In addition, the circulation of cultural war memories in game culture is stimulated by the principle of connectedness. This stimulates social interactions between users and creates players who share their gaming experiences on digital media platforms – around these experiences collectives arise that form spontaneous, informal memory groups. A second consequence of the connection between digital media platforms is that the distance between developers and players is reduced. The dynamics of translations and circulation in ludic remembrance networks is what makes the Yugoslav war a shared memory. Digital platforms become informal memory sites. In other words: networks in which we play with the past.

Datafied Society Seminar: Perspectives

Dates: September 30th, October 14th, October 28th, November 11th, November 25th, December 9th,
Time: 14:00 – 17:00
Venue: Utrecht University, Drift 13, room 0.05
Open to: PhD candidates, (R)MA students, RMeS members, NOG members (Maximum participants 12)
Credits: 3,5 ECTS
Organization: Maranke Wieringa, Gerwin van Schie and Tim de Winkel
Registration: Please send an email to to register
Register before: September 23rd

About the course

This reading seminar brings together perspectives on and approaches to research into various practices, systems and structures dealing with data and algorithms. We will bring together perspectives from critical data studies, gender studies,  new materialism and STS in order to think through concepts such as bias, algorithms, data, platforms, knowledge and accountability.

Participants who want to take the course for ECTS, are required to 1) actively participate during the whole course (10%), and 2) write a research proposal (90%). In this research proposal, participants are required to demonstrate how the texts we’ve discussed in the previous weeks could be applied to a research project. The research itself does not have to be executed. Instead, students will produce a proposal, which includes a case, research question(s), and propose an adequate method(ology)/theoretical framework.


3,5 ECTS (of 28 hours each), equates to 98 hours of study load. The study load is distributed as follows:

  • 6 seminars of 3 hours each = 18 hour;
  • Preparation of seminars 5 x 12 hours (thoroughly reading the texts and formulating questions) = 60 hours;
  • Writing a 2500 word research proposal = 20 hours.
About Datafied Society

The Datafied Society research platform addresses societal challenges emerging from novel data practices in public governance and management, (public) media and public space and seizes opportunities for using data practices to foster citizenship, civic participation and creative production. For the coming years, our focus areas are: Government and governmentalities, Social justice and public values, and tool criticism. As part of these focus areas, the Datafied Society will regularly offer rMA students, PhD candidates and other RMeS members a themed course in we will engage in a close-reading and discussion of selected texts.


Meeting 1: The Politics of “Bias”
Date: 30 September, 2019

Session Leader: Gerwin van Schie

  • Dave, Kinjal. 2019. “Systemic Algorithmic Harms.” Medium. May 31, 2019.
  • Friedman, Batya, and Helen Nissenbaum. 1996. “Bias in Computer Systems.” ACM Transaction on Information Systems 14 (3): 330–47.
  • Harding, Sandra. 1991. Whose Science? Whose Knowledge? Thinking from Women’s Lives. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. (Chapter 5. What is Feminist Epistemology? p. 105-137)
  • D’Ignazio, Catherine, and Lauren Klein. 2019. Data Feminism. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press Open. Chapter 1 (

Meeting 2: Diffraction and Irreducibility
Date: 14 October, 2019
Session Leader: Iris van der Tuin

  • Barad, K. (2003). “Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 28(3): 801-31
  • Miyazaki, S. (2018). ALGORHYTHMICS: A Diffractive Approach for Understanding Computation. The Routledge Companion to Media Studies and Digital Humanities, edited by Jentery Sayers, 243-249. London and New York: Routledge.
  • Van der Tuin, I. 2019. “Deleuze and Diffraction.” In Posthuman Ecologies: Complexity and Process after Deleuze, edited by Rosi Braidotti and Simone Bignall. London: Rowman and Littlefield International. P. 17–39
  • Verhoeff, N. and I. Van der Tuin. forthcoming. “Irreducibility.” Critical Concepts for the Creative Humanities

Meeting 3: Radical Technologies, Counter Publics, Fringe Platforms
Date: 28 October, 2019
Session Leader: Tim de Winkel

  • Kampourakis, Ioannis. 2016. “Nancy Fraser: Subaltern Counterpublics.” Critical Legal Thinking (blog). November 6, 2016.
  • Lima, L., J. C. S. Reis, P. Melo, F. Murai, L. Araujo, P. Vikatos, and F. Benevenuto. 2018. “Inside the Right-Leaning Echo Chambers: Characterizing Gab, an Unmoderated Social System.” In 2018 IEEE/ACM International Conference on Advances in Social Networks Analysis and Mining (ASONAM), 515–22.
  • de Winkel, Tim. forthcoming. “Fringe Platforms”. chapter 1 of unpublished manuscript.

Meeting 4: Constructing Gender and Race in Biometric-Based Algorithm
Date: 11 November, 2019
Session Leader: Christine Quinan

  • Buolamwini, Joy and Gebru, Timnit. 2018. ‘Gender Shades: Intersectional Accuracy Disparities in Commercial Gender Classification.’ Proceedings of Machine Learning Research 81: 1-15.
  • Pugliese, Joseph. 2005. ‘In Silico Race and the Heteronomy of Biometric Proxies: Biometrics in the Context of Civilian Life, Border Security and Counter-Terrorism Laws.’ Australian Feminist Law Journal 23: 1-32.
  • Keyes, OS. 2018. ‘The Misgendering Machines: Trans/HCI Implications of Automatic Gender Recognition.’ Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction 2, No. CSCW, Article 88.

Meeting 5: Algorithms and Art
Date: 25 November, 2019
Session Leader: Rosa Wevers

  • Blas, Z., & Gaboury, J. (2016). Biometrics and Opacity: A Conversation. Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies, 31(2 92), 155–165.
  • Liljefors, M., & Lee-Morrison, L. (2015). Mapped Bodies : Notes on the Use of Biometrics in Geopolitical Contexts. In A. M. and F. Tylstrup (Ed.), Socioaesthetics: Ambience – Imaginary (pp. 53–72). Leiden, Boston: Koninklijke Brill NV.
  • Magnet, S. A. (2011). ‘Representing Biometrics’. In When Biometrics Fail. Gender, Race, and the Technology of Identity. Durham, London: Duke University Press.

To watch: Zach Blas, Facial Weaponization Suite.

Meeting 6: Algorithmic Accountability
Date: 9 December, 2019
Session Leader: Maranke Wieringa

Preparation and readings:

Literature will be accessible online or will otherwise be made available to students prior to the start of the course.

Credits & certificate

Certificates of participation and credits are available upon request after the event. Event coordinators will decide whether the participant has fulfilled all requirements for the ECTS. Please direct your request to and include the postal address you want the certificate send to. Note: the certificate itself is not valid as ECTS, you  need to validate it yourself at your local Graduate School.


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 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 14, 2019. The Workshop will be scheduled for the educational programme 2019-2020, in consultation with RMeS.

RMeS Winter School & Graduate Symposium 2019-20

When? 29 & 30 January 2020
Time? TBA
Where? Utrecht University
ECTS? 2 (two full days plus preparation 3 days)
Organized by? Professor Frank Kessler (UU) and RMeS
Open to? PhD candidates who are a member of RMeS
Fee (non-members): € 150

This Winter School will feature different types of sessions: 1) parallel sessions for presenting your work to peers 2) lectures by RMeS staff members and 3) a workshop on Research Valorisation and Fundraising Schemes.

  1. PhD’s are kindly asked to submit an abstract of their paper presentation. This may regard a chapter of your dissertation, a draft for an article, or a write-up of research results, which you would like to discuss with your peers. We will group your abstracts into panels, selecting panels on the basis of your theme/subject, approach and your level of advancement in the PhD track. If you want to be in a session with one or two of your peers (people whose judgment you value, or people you haven’t worked with yet) please feel free to indicate this on your abstract. We will then try to organize panels on the basis of your proposals. You will be assigned to peer-review one paper and to chair or respond to one paper in another session. A month before the Winter School starts, you will be asked to send in your full chapter or article, which will be peer-reviewed and responded to during the Winter School.
  2. Lectures: TBA
  3. Finally, this Winter School & Graduate Seminar will also offer a workshop on Research Valorisation and Fundraising Schemes.

Keynote speakers

  • TBA

Sign up for Winter School

If you are interested in participating and earning credit (both in EC and social credit from your peers), please

  • Register for the Winter School before December 16, 2019 via our website. You will receive a confirmation email from our RMeS office.
  • Please submit abstracts for individual presentations before January 8, 2020. Abstracts for individual presentations are max 300 words, including a clear research question or thesis statement. Please indicate on your abstract whether you would like to be in a panel with specified other participants and/or whom you consider a suitable reviewer for your paper (although we cannot promise that all your wishes will come true…).
  • You can opt for two formats in terms of paper submission:
  1. Those of you who are in the very early stages of your PhD, may also consider to hand in your PhD proposal, which will then be commented upon by your peers. (recommended to PhDs who have just started)
  2. Most PhD candidates will opt to hand in a chapter/article format: a full paper of approx. 5,000 – 6,000 words.
  • Full papers of (or one of the above formats) are due by January 14, 2020. On the basis of your submissions, we will group the panels, assign reviewers and organize responses. We will distribute the papers to all panel-members and assign the tasks of writing a full peer review (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 of 5-10 minutes. Each presentation will receive a prepared peer review (in writing, handed in the same day, and a short oral summary of the review). Another panel member will be assigned as discussant/respondent. All session members engage in discussion and feedback.

RMeS RMa Course: Contemporary approaches to digital cultures: platforms, politics, performances and people

When? 3 April, 17 April, 24 April, 1 May and 8 May. 13:00-17:00
Where? Erasmus University Rotterdam, Polak 3-09
For? PhD Candidates and RMa Students
Credits? 6 ECTS
Coordination? Dr Payal Arora (Erasmus University Rotterdam – ERMeCC)
Registration will open 31 October 2019

How do we identify the fake from the real? What strategies enable us to reveal and yet protect our subjects who seek anonymity online? Can researchers be activists and their research serve as instruments for social change? How do we ensure fair representation through big data analytics? These are some of the questions that need addressing as we seek to study digital cultures. This course identifies key research issues and novel methodological solutions in the study of contemporary digital cultures. In particular, we investigate challenges faced in the arena of data authenticity, representation and communication to lay and other publics.

The course is organised around four dimensions – platforms, politics, performances and people. Platforms are the new contexts for digital cultures. They are deeply corporatized, walled gardens that often allow a small circle of researchers to access their vast data. They are designed to be unstable, as they need to constantly innovate and re-design to stay competitive. Here, students learn to apply methods of place-making and data hacking to circumvent issues of access and locatedness. To speak thoughtfully about the politics of engagement, students learn to critically identify and capture the perspective from varied actors such as (non)users, programmers, politicians, corporations and activists. To extract voices from below, students learn how to deploy action research using social media campaigns. Performances are about digital expressions, memes and trends. Here, students learn to use digital methods to assess claims of globality and diversity through big data. Lastly, in the module on People, students learn to apply auto-ethnography to digital contexts such as gaming, city navigation and other applications. Overall, this course provides both qualitative and quantitative methodological insights into the examining of contemporary digital cultures.


Students have knowledge and understanding of:

  • A critical understanding of contemporary digital cultures
  • Key methodological problems risen due to the advancement of new technology platforms
  • Exposure and critical insight into novel empirical approaches for the digital age
  • Diversity in digital cultures and the implications on social equality and representation

Students are able to:

  • apply relevant theoretical insights in choosing appropriate methods to analyze digital cultures
  • critically reflect on academic texts, both verbal and in written form
  • design and write an essay; make an intellectually compelling argument on the choice of methods and identification of challenges in the chosen topic
  • present their argument in a clear, convincing and engaging manner

Compulsory literature:

  • Readings via RMeS and online resources