Kim Smeenk | Making it personal. A digital humanities analysis of how subjectivity shapes the news

Kim Smeenk | Making it personal. A digital humanities analysis of how subjectivity shapes the news | Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Journalism and Media Studies | prof. dr Marcel Broersma, prof. dr Huub Wijfjes, supervisor: dr Frank Harbers | Project dates: 1 september 2019 – 31 augustus 2023 | k.s.p.smeenk[at]rug.nl

My project conceptualizes personal journalism and its epistemological underpinnings by analysing its forms and underlying practices between 1945 and 2018 in Dutch newspapers through a multi-method digital humanities approach. Personal journalism, in which journalists are transparent about how stories are shaped by the reporter’s subjectivity, has been gaining prominence. By foregrounding reporters’ subjectivity, personal journalism overtly shows how a story is grounded in their experiences and beliefs

With journalism’s current struggle to maintain its authority and commercial viability, alternative norms and practices have become more central in journalists’ and academics’ debates on journalism. Embracing a stronger personal engagement in covering the news has become a prominent strategy to (re)engage audiences and foster their trust.

This project addresses these debates by researching personal journalism and its epistemological underpinnings in the Netherlands. It models four types of personal journalism and traces their manifestation over time. I adopt a digital humanities approach, combining a large-scale content analysis, for which I develop and test digital tools, with a qualitative textual analysis. This enables me to provide both an overview of the underlying patterns and trends of personal journalism in Dutch newspapers and an in-depth inquiry into its underlying epistemologies. As such, it aims to advance both the theoretical and empirical knowledge on personal journalism, and to benefit the ongoing debate on journalism’s future as society’s ‘primary sense-making practice’.

 

Jeroen Boom | Cinematic Cartographies of Urban Peripheries in Contemporary Europe

Jeroen Boom | Cinematic Cartographies of Urban Peripheries in Contemporary Europe | Radboud University Nijmegen, Department of Modern Languages and Cultures | Supervisors: Prof. dr Anneke Smelik & dr László Munteán | 01 September 2019 – 31 August 2023 | j.boom[at]let.ru.nl

European cities have been privileged sites for thematizations of modernity, progress, and national identity. What happens at the margins of these cities tends to acquire less attention. This research aims to map the production of urban peripheries in contemporary cinema from a trans-European perspective in order to understand the political, aesthetic and affective dimensions of marginality across and amidst local expressions of urban deprivation. Europe’s urban outskirts have long been seen as either a violent spectacle or a placeless wasteland in the shadows of the city-center. This project aims to de-essentialize this dominant narrative and dismantle its aura of universalism. Although diverse in their industrial context, the filmmakers under examination (e.g. Céline Sciamma, Matteo Garrone, and Ruben Östland) are interconnected through the Deleuze-Guattarian concept of ‘minor cinema,’ characterized by its struggle to define itself against the hegemonic and exclusive discourse that occludes it. This research will explore how these minor filmmakers attach divergent feelings and meanings to Europe’s urban peripheries, tracing the different strategies and tactics that are employed in imagining these marginal spaces.

Dulce da Rocha Gonçalves | Science for the People

Dulce da Rocha Gonçalves | Science for the People | NWO Project: Projecting Knowledge – The Magic Lantern as a Tool for Mediated Science Communication in the Netherlands, 1880-1940 | Utrecht University – Department of Media and Culture Studies – Institute for Cultural Inquiry (ICON) | Prof. dr Frank Kessler | 01.12.2018 – 01.12.2022 | d.m.darochagoncalves[at]uu.nl | https://projectingknowledge.sites.uu.nl/

The project Science for the People will research the phenomenon of the public illustrated lecture in the Netherlands, focusing mainly on the period between 1880 and 1940. The main research questions are: How was public knowledge transmission and science communication mediated through the optical lantern in illustrated lectures organized in the Netherlands between 1880 and 1940? What subjects were treated? Which audiences were addressed? What different types of speakers are to be distinguished? The research will mostly make use of primary sources such as (digitized) newspapers and periodicals, lantern slides, lecture notes, reports and correspondence.

Anna Marieke Weerdmeester | Personalised Information Gatekeepers: Social Media Platforms’ Responsibilities to Protect European Citizens’ Right to Receive Information

PhD Project

Anna Marieke Weerdmeester | Personalised Information Gatekeepers: Social Media Platforms’ Responsibilities to Protect European Citizens’ Right to Receive Information | Overarching project: Governing Digital Societies | Utrecht University – Department of Media and Culture Studies | Supervisors: Professor José van Dijck & Professor Janneke Gerards | 1 May 2019 – 1 May 2022 |  a.m.weerdmeester[at]uu.nl

This projects investigates the responsibilities of social media platforms, as gatekeepers of information, to protect European citizens’ right to receive information.

Social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, have become increasingly important actors in the facilitation of information on the Internet. As such, they are increasingly being identified as gatekeepers of information (e.g. Helberger, Kleinen-von Königslöw & van der Noll, 2015; Laidlaw, 2015). However, while social media are increasingly classified as gatekeepers, a comprehensive understanding of social media platforms’ role as gatekeepers lacks in the literature. Therefore, their responsibilities as gatekeepers of information have thus far remained unclear.

This is problematic, for social media gatekeeping can threaten citizens’ right to receive information in several ways. Social media platforms’ algorithmic personalisation of content, specifically, could threaten information diversity and manipulate free access to information, thereby influencing individual forum internum and collective democratic deliberation.

Therefore, through an interdisciplinary study building on human rights law, media theory and philosophy, this project investigates the following question: What responsibilities do social media platforms, as gatekeepers of information, such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have to protect European citizens’ right to receive information, specifically from manipulation through personalised information filtering?

The project investigates both descriptive and normative questions and makes use of legal analysis based on primary documents and jurisprudence, interviews with stakeholders (such as interest groups and policy-makers) and literature review based on secondary sources.

Zexu Guan | Cashing in online fame in China: beauty blogger and Internet celebrity economy

PhD Project

Zexu Guan | Cashing in online fame in China: beauty blogger and Internet celebrity economy | Leiden University, Centre for the Arts in Society | Supervisor: Prof. Ernst van Alphen & Dr Eliza Steinbock | October 17, 2016 – October 17, 2020 | z.guan[at]hum.leidenuniv.nl

Chinese beauty bloggers are social media users, mainly women, who produce makeup tutorials regularly and attract plenty of followers successfully. In China, they are called wanghong (网红, Internet celebrity). With the online fame, this group creates pop-cultural trends on social media platforms and boost the e-commerce business. By cashing in their online fame, they transfer their usage of social media into business, shaping the new type of employment and economy in the age of social media in China. Despite their growing influence on Chinese society, the group has seldom received scholarly attention–in part, due to the fact that their labor looks like an amusement activity on social media, rather than serious work. My research is the first to focus exclusively on this group, by asking: how have the beauty bloggers on Weibo, a grass-roots group mainly consisting of women, grown in size and influence, to take the key role in the digital Chinese wanghong economy?

From the perspective of gender studies, my research will map the manifold reasons why female audience are fond of the beauty blogs. From the perspective of political economy of communication, my research will elaborate the dynamics between beauty bloggers, Internet industry, and cosmetic industry and reveal the hidden drives behind the rise of beauty bloggers. From the perspective of China studies, my research will explore the relationship between wanghong economy and the agenda of China’s government, aiming at bringing the online cultural phenomenon back to the social, political, and economic context of contemporary China.