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 The engagement around games with historical references displays this type of memory practice.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.

PhD Defence Lianne Toussaint (Radboud University Nijmegen)

Photography by Roos van de Kieft

Wearing Technology
When Fashion and Technology Entwine

Date: Thursday, September 6, 2018 at 14.30 hours
Venue: Aula of the Radboud University, Comeniuslaan 2, Nijmegen.

On September 6, 2018 at 14:30, Lianne Toussaint will defend her doctoral thesis, Wearing Technology, When Fashion and Technology Entwine.

Tech Style

Since the nineties, fashion designers and engineers have been experimenting with the integration of technology into fashion. A robotic dress that protects your personal space, a shirt that sends hugs over distance, or trousers that help to correct posture; they now all exist in real life. Wearing Technology focuses on the emerging phenomenon of ‘techno-fashion’: garments that fuse technological functionalities with the socio-cultural role of fashion. Through a combination of literature study and interviews with designers and wearers, Lianne Toussaint explores the bodily, communicative, and ethical dimensions of techno-fashion. What does it mean to wear, rather than just use, technology? How does the integration of fashion and technology affect our physical relation to garments? The advent of techno-fashion is something to look forward to as well as prepare for. Its direct proximity to the body and powerful abilities urge an open yet critical stance towards its development and future implementation.


Pauline van Dongen,’Solar Windbreaker’ (2016)
Photography by Roos van de Kieft


PhD Defence Yu Sun

Engaging in politics: everyday political talk in online China

Date: 12th July, 2018
Time: 11:00
Venue: the Aula, Academy building (Broerstraat 5, University of Groningen)
Promotor: Prof. M.J. Broersma
Co-promotor: Dr T.S. Graham

On July 12, 2018 at 11:00,Yu Sun will defend her doctoral thesis, Engaging in politics: everyday political talk in online China.

Everyday online spaces may be the new and alternative places where people can talk about politics and engage in it. Accordingly, this study wonders how Chinese citizens’ everyday political talk in such spaces impacts their practice of citizenship and whether they will contribute to an active online public sphere in China.

This dissertation studies those small-scale interactions among ordinary citizens on the Chinese internet in the everyday life context. It shifts the focus to the citizen communications in internet-based everyday spaces beyond those traditional political spaces people join online. For this purpose, I study forums mixing politics with lifestyle issues or non-political online forums. Specifically, the study implies the approach of everyday political talk, which may serve as an alternative way to link Chinese citizens’ personal concerns to politics. Here, everyday political talk does not only imply mundane communicative practices per se but also bears the social-civic culture where those communicative actions take place. In other words, everyday political talk is situated in the local social-cultural context. By studying this, it is possible to probe into how citizens’ everyday life is interwoven with politics and how citizens think about and engage in politics in their lifeworld at the micro-level. Thus, it provides us opportunities to investigate the chances that everyday political talk opens up for the emergence of a public realm that cultivates and sustains a relatively autonomous space for new political formations in China.

PhD Defence Joëlle Swart (University of Groningen)

Date: June 28, 2018, 16.15hrs
Promotores: prof. dr Marcel Broersma (RUG) & prof. dr Irene Costera Meijer (VU); co-promotor: dr Chris Peters (Aalborg University Copenhagen)

On June 28, 2018 at 16:15, Joëlle Swart will defend her doctoral thesis, Haven’t you heard? Connecting through news and journalism in everyday life.

Arjen Nauta | Governing Through Reality TV in China: The Case of Hunan Satellite TV

Arjen Nauta | University of Amsterdam, Department of Media Studies | Supervisors: Prof. Jeroen de Kloet and Prof. José van Dijck | January 2015 – February 2019 | apm.nauta[at] / a.p.m.nauta[at]

Governing Through Reality TV in China: The Case of Hunan Satellite TV
ChinaCreative, funded by the ERC (Consolidator grant), led by prof. Jeroen de Kloet

My research seeks to address the surge of reality television in China in the 21st century within strategies of governance. First, I analyze the political economy in which television makers operate. Then, based on one year of ethnographic research at HSTV in Changsha, I show how political and economic factors influence the daily labor of production. For example, what does the rapid expansion of digital media technologies mean for production? And what about censorship? Which constraints are placed on television makers and how do they deal with them? Secondly, I focus on the product (reality shows) and examine how reality TV diffuses and amplifies the government of everyday life, utilizing the cultural power of television to assess and guide the ethics, behaviors, aspirations, and routines of ordinary people. And thirdly, I seek to understand the tactics of consumption; how do individuals act in environments defined by governmental or institutional strategies? This research therefore hopes to shed light not only on processes of governance in contemporary China, but to show as well how media practitioners are not just political agents who superimpose official propaganda; they are imbedded in the governance of a media ecology shaped by a multitude of interlacing forces.