Maranke Wieringa | Approaching algorithmic account(-)ability: developing tools to foster formalized and practical transparency in municipal data projects

Maranke Wieringa | Approaching algorithmic account(-)ability: developing tools to foster formalized and practical transparency in municipal data projects |  overarching project: Governing the Digital Society | Utrecht University, Department of Media & Culture | Supervisors: prof. dr José van Dijck, prof. dr Albert Meijer, dr Mirko Tobias Schäfer | September 2018 – August 2022 | m.a.wieringa[at]uu.nl

This research aims to tackles the question: What is the current view on algorithmic accountability within municipalities, (how) do they practice it, and how can this practice be improved? The first part of the investigation will thus sketch a general overview of algorithmic accountability, in collaboration with VNG Realisatie. Aside from this national picture, the project will also look into a concrete case: the algorithmic fraud detection system implemented by several municipalities to screen those who receive benefits (Hijink 2018), which were the topic of recent parliamentary discussion (Security.nl 2018).

The second part of the project will establish a practical intervention in the field: a toolkit will be developed in close collaboration with municipal data professionals (e.g. data scientists, decisionmakers). This collaboration will reveal unique insights into professional perspectives and current practices regarding algorithmic accountability. Developing the toolkit provides ‘a seat at the table’, and ‘anthropologicalesque’ insight into the data professionals’ attitudes which will feed back into the former part of the research.

The aim of this toolkit is to help these professionals reflect on the algorithmic decision making process, to formally embed this reflection into municipal data projects, and to create a valid method to provide testimony to the working mechanisms of algorithms and the public values which inform them. In other words, to give more insight in the ‘black box’ (Pasquale 2015) of municipal data projects, conform the GDPR.

Kun He | From Civil Society to News Reports: How Populist Discourse affects News Discourse and Official Discourse in China

Kun He | From Civil Society to News Reports: How Populist Discourse affects News Discourse and Official Discourse in China | University of Groningen, Department of Media Studies and Journalism | Prof. Marcel Broersma & Dr. S.A. (Scott) Eldridge II | October 1st 2018 to October 1st 2022 | Kun.H[at]rug.nl

From Civil Society to News Reports: How Populist Discourse affects News Discourse and Official Discourse in China

Recent political trends and events, such as the Brexit, the triumph of Donald Trump in the US presidency election as well as the rise of populist parties and politicians in European countries, have brought the concept of “populism” to the center of global discussion. However, populism is inherently a shifty concept, which makes it difficult to grasp analytically. A number of scholars have therefore compared populism to chameleon, which adjust its own colors to contexts in a consistent manner . Remarkably, however, the topic of populism have generated a wealthy of theory and research since the 1990s, provoked considerable debate and numerous theoretical models encompassing different understanding of the definition and construct of populism, and produced few clear straightforward answers due to its high dependence on socio-political contexts.

Although the contemporary populism study is in a considerable state of flux with several parallel developments taking place and new directions emerging, there are three approaches that have been particularly prominent in the field: the ideational-approach by Cas Mudde (2004) , political-strategy approach by Kurt Weyland (2001) and socio-cultural approach by Pierre Ostiguy(2017).

In my study, therefore, the developments and directions with respect to the existing theoretical approaches aforementioned will be traced so as to map the current political issues (in both traditional perspectives and socio-contextually sensitive perspective). As the introduction chapter of The Oxford Handbook of Populism (2017)stated, “unfortunately, we have not been able to include chapters on populism in China… because there is little current research on populism about those places” , my research questions will be focused on: 1) whether the existing definitions are still explainable/can be applicable to the China context and what the “color” of populism is in China; 2) what the characteristics of online populism are in the Chinese context and whether they vary from those in Western countries/in the west-east transaction; 3) Whether online populism affects news reports, official reports or official discourse. If so, in what manner?

 

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]gmail.com / a.p.m.nauta[at]uva.nl

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.

 

 

Veerle Ros | The Subjective Frame: a Cognitive Approach to Authenticity in Documentary Film

Veerle Ros | University of Groningen, Faculty of Arts | Promotor(es); supervisor(s):  Prof. dr Liesbeth Korthals Altes, Dr Miklós Kiss and Dr Susan Aasman | March 2017 – March 2021 | v.ros[at]rug.nl

The Subjective Frame: a Cognitive Approach to Authenticity in Documentary Film

Project description:

The idea that photographic and filmic images contain traces of historical or actual reality has long been thought of as central to documentary’s defining quality as a ‘document’ of historical reality. This paradigm proved untenable in the face of arguments concerning the inherently constructed nature of representations, given additional momentum amidst the current digitization of visual media. Recent documentaries abandon this referential claim altogether by utilizing innovative techniques such as re-enactment, animation, and digital image manipulation. While this has led to an understanding of documentary as something more diverse, subjective and performative than previously assumed, a side-effect is that the boundaries between documentary and fiction film appear to become ever more nebulous. Nevertheless, the cognitive distinction between fiction and non-fiction remains of crucial importance to human communication.

This project aims to construct a functional model of the cognitive processes by which viewers of documentaries distinguish fact from fiction in engagements with contemporary, genre-defying forms of documentary, such as animated documentaries and video memoirs. These provide challenging border cases that force us to critically reflect on the different mechanisms viewers utilize to assess the (non-)fictionality of a medial representation. The working hypothesis is that such assessments depend on the cognitive principle of framing, with viewers drawing on a wide array of textual, contextual, and intertextual cues to construe a film as fiction or nonfiction. The proposed model takes into account not only these three levels of textuality, but also examines the largely roles that embodied simulation and perceptual specificity play in reality status evaluations. Thus, the research seeks to bridge the gaps between existing text-, context- and reception-oriented approaches to documentary film and the embodied cognition of a hypothetical viewer.

 

 

Qian Huang | Digital Vigilantism in China: Mediated Visibility in the Context of Social Change and Social Harm

Qian Huang | Erasmus University Rotterdam, Media and Communication Department | Dr Daniel Trottier and Prof. dr Susanne Janssen | 1 March 2017 to 1 March 2021 | huang[at]eshcc.eur.nl

Digital Vigilantism in China: Mediated Visibility in the Context of Social Change and Social Harm
Part of the NWO project: Digital Vigilantism: Mapping the terrain and assessing societal impacts

Digital vigilantism is a process where citizens who are facilitated by digital media and technology are collectively offended by other citizens’ activities and use visibility as a weapon to conduct mediated policing and control. In China, DV is featured by the so-called ‘human flesh search engine’ and other forms of citizen-led vigilante activities. Such DV activities reflect the current social and political situation in contemporary China; in turn, DV activities construct the social and political reality in China. This proposed PhD project aims to develop a theoretically nuanced and empirically grounded understanding of DV in China and the interplay between DV and Chinese society. With the situated theoretical framework, first-hand data and analysis, the research will offer a conceptually and empirically grounded understanding of DV practices in China. By answering the research question: “How is digital vigilantism manifest in the contemporary Chinese media landscape?”, the research will be able to provide a clear conceptualization, comprehensive understanding and analysis of digital vigilantism in contemporary China.