Stefan Baack: Knowing what counts. How journalists and civic technologists use and imagine data

Stefan Baack | University of Groningen, Media Studies and Journalism | Supervisors: Prof. dr Marcel Broersma and Prof. dr Tamara Witschge | September 2013 – August 2017 | sbaack[at]

Knowing what counts. How journalists and civic technologists use and imagine data

My dissertation examines how the growing reliance on data and the steady quantification of social life affects democratic publics. It studies the practices and social imaginaries of two actors who facilitate the use quantitative techniques in key areas of public space: data activists and data journalists. As data activists, I describe activists in the open data and civic tech movements who develop projects that aim to make engagement with authorities easier for citizens, e.g. parliamentary monitoring websites that make parliamentary speeches more accessible. Data journalism is used as a label to describe all forms of journalism that work with quantitative data. Data journalists and data activists are relevant because they are so called ‘pioneer communities’ for the use of data within civil society and journalism, which means that they act as exemplars that provide orientation for others.

The thesis is based on three case studies and asks two research questions: (1) What is the role of data in the social imaginaries and practices of data activists and data journalists; and (2) how do the practices and imaginaries of these actors diverge and converge, and how does this shape the entanglements between them? The study shows, first, that the implications of data for democratic publics cannot be determined in an abstract way because they are socially and historically situated and, second, that datafication is creating new entanglements between actors who aspire to work in a public interest, which affects how classic democratic visions are being implemented.

Leonieke Bolderman: Musical Topophilia. A Critical Analysis of Contemporary Music Tourism

Leonieke Bolderman | Erasmus University Rotterdam, Department of Arts and Culture | Supervisors: Prof. dr Stijn Reijnders and prof. dr Susanne Janssen | 01 February 2013 – 01 February 2017 (defense date: 22 March 2018) | s.l.bolderman[at] (currently employed at the University of Groningen)

Musical Topophilia. A Critical Analysis of Contemporary Music Tourism
This research was funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) as part of the project ‘Locating Imagination. An Interdisciplinary Perspective on Literary, Film and Music Tourism’, grant number PR-11-77 (‘Vrije Competitie’).

Music tourism is an increasingly popular practice. Why would people be interested in visiting places related to music? How can something abstract like music lead to tourism, and what makes this activity meaningful to those concerned? In this dissertation these questions are answered by analyzing music tourism as a form of ‘musical topophilia’: creating, developing and celebrating an affective attachment to place through and with music. Interviews with tourists and participant observation of seven examples of music tourism across Europe support and refine this theory. Thereby, this dissertation captures the complex and often quite abstract ways music, place and tourism are connected in practice, showing how and why music literally moves people.


PhD Defence: Rik Smit (University of Groningen)

Image: Sylvia van Schie, illustrator

Platforms of Memory: Social Media and Digital Memory Work

Date: 29 March 2018, at 16.00h
Venue: University of Groningen
Promotor: Prof. dr Marcel Broersma

On Thursday 29 March 2018, Rik Smit will defend his PhD Thesis Platforms of Memory: Social Media and Digital Memory Work.

People increasingly share their experiences and knowledge about the past on social media. Simultaneously, social media are enormous archives that contain vast amounts of audiovisual material from which the past is reconstructed. This study examines this ‘memory work’ by social media users and these platforms themselves by means of three case studies.

The first case study revolves around a chemical weapons attack in Syria in 2013. In the days after the attack, thousands of videos were uploaded on YouTube by various individuals and organizations with their own agendas. The research showed that especially videos edited by mainstream media gained popularity and visibility, instead of the material uploaded by witnesses. The main reason for this is that these media know how to curate footage well.

The second case study zooms in on the Facebook page Justice for Mike Brown. During and after the riots in Ferguson in 2014, this page was used for diverse types of memory work. Page users shared their personal memories of Michael Brown, reconstructed the shooting, created iconic and recognizable images and phrases, and made historical comparisons. Facebook’s technology played a guiding and shaping role in these practices, especially in terms of visibility and dominance of specific representations.

The final case study investigated the memory work behind the scenes of the Wikipedia page on MH17. Some editors have more power over how an event like the MH17 disaster is re-constructed on Wikipedia. They can also deny other editors from editing the page. This ultimately shaped the content of the wiki.

All three cases show that users as well as platforms themselves play an important part in the representation of the past in the present.

Image: Sylvia van Schie, illustrator

PhD Defence: Tim van der Heijden (Maastricht University)

Hybrid Histories: Technologies of Memory and the Cultural Dynamics of Home Movies, 1895–2005

Date: Thursday 18 January 2018, at 16:00h
Venue: Aula of Maastricht University, Minderbroedersberg 4-6, Maastricht
Promoters: Prof. dr Maaike Meijer, Prof. dr Andreas Fickers, Dr Jo Wachelder

On Thursday 18 January 2018 at 16:00h, Tim van der Heijden will defend his PhD dissertation Hybrid Histories: Technologies of Memory and the Cultural Dynamics of Home Movies, 1895–2005. This research project analyses how throughout the twentieth century various generations have recorded their family memories on film, video and digital media. More specifically, it investigates how changes in these “technologies of memory” have shaped new forms of home movie making and screening. Covering the period from the invention of the film camera in the late nineteenth century, the introduction of 9.5mm, 16mm, 8mm small-gauges and Super 8 film technologies for amateurs, via home video to digital media technologies, this study addresses the complex interrelations between the materiality of film, video and digital media technologies, their social usages and cultural meanings from a long-term historical perspective. Focusing on specific periods of transition, it becomes clear that different media technologies, user practices and discourses not only succeed each other in time, but also increasingly interrelate, interact or even transform each other. Maintaining both a diachronic and a synchronic perspective on media transitions, this dissertation proposes an alternative form of media historiography that rethinks media histories beyond the frameworks of change and continuity by perceiving hybridity as a constant factor in media historical development.

The dissertation is carried out in the context of the research project “Changing Platforms of Ritualized Memory Practices: The Cultural Dynamics of Home Movies”, funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). It entailed a collaboration between Maastricht University, the University of Groningen and the University of Luxembourg as well as several partners from the field of cultural heritage in the Netherlands and abroad. For more information about this research project, see the project weblog:

You are cordially invited to attend the public defence, which will take place at the Aula of Maastricht University (address: Minderbroedersberg 4-6, Maastricht). In case you have any questions or would like to receive a digital copy of the dissertation, please contact Tim van der Heijden via:

PhD Defence: Christian Gosvig Olesen (University of Amsterdam)

When? Wednesday 10 May 2017, 14:00
Where? Agnietenkapel at the University of Amsterdam, Oudezijds Voorburgwal 229-231, Amsterdam.
The doors close at the exact time and latecomers will not be able to enter.

On Wednesday 10 May 2017, Christian Gosvig Olesen will defend his PhD Dissertation Film History in the Making – Film Historiography, Digitised Archives and Digital Research Dispositifs. The research project investigates the implications which digitisation in film archives bears upon film historical research in primarily academic settings. It adresses the need for understanding the consequences of digitisation for film historical methodology to develop a critical framework for evaluating and conceptualising digital archive-based scholarship. From this point of departure, it produces both a historical account of digital scholarship in film historiography and suggestions for further developments of digital research methodology. To this end, it discusses in a historical perspective how the conception of film archives as a source of film history has developed, from the ”first wave” of scientific film archives founded in the 1910s, over filmic appropriation art in the 1970s to scholarly Hyperkino presentations of silent cinema a century later.

The ceremony will open with a general introduction to the research project which will last approximately 10 minutes and is followed by a defence of 45 minutes. After the defence a reception will be held on the floor below the Agnietenkapel where attendees are cordially invited to join the celebration.

You can read more about Christian Gosvig Olesen’s project and the research process on his research blog.