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.

Sofie Willemsen: Breaching mobile private life: an experiment with public digital materialities

Sofie Willemsen | University of Groningen, Centre for Media and Journalism Studies | Supervisors: Prof. dr Tamara Witschge and Dr Michael Stevenson | February 2016 to February 2020 | s.a.willemsen[at]

Breaching mobile private life: an experiment with public digital materialities 
Entrepreneurship at work: Analysing practice, labour and creativity in journalism

Description (of a work in progress):

My research takes up an embodied, spatio-temporal perspective on our daily mediated realities. It focuses on the moving trajectories in space and time of people and their media devices. The central question I wish to ask and tentatively explore, is whether and how media materials can help us shape sustainable forms of togetherness.

Existing literature reveals a global development towards mobile privatized lives that connect individuals to ‘mediated centers’ through a variety of individual media-practices. Researchers have extensively discussed the risk of living such private lives and also what problems it brings when people increasingly pay attention to a disembodied center rather than the direct physical environment.

My research engages with these theoretical problems through so-called ‘breaching experiments’. These experiments take up the form of parallel public media installations that draw attention to real-time physical places and people, allowing them to interact with each other as part of an environment. This form was chosen because it allows the researcher to not only focus on the problems surrounding the way people live with media, but lets her also explore imaginative horizons for ways of living more sustainable media lives.

Describing the process of setting up the installations as well as people’s behavior around them, this study first of all helps us to understand better how our current media life is closely related to the political-economic reality of capitalist culture. Second, positive interactions with and through the installations also reveal that there might be a need for more embodied and public forms of (media-)engagement. The questions whether and how such needs can be met beyond this experimental form point to various possibilities for further research.

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.


Stephanie de Smale: Postwar representation and remembrance in media-based collectivities

Stephanie de Smale | Utrecht University, Department of Media and Culture Studies | Prof. Joost Raessens (New Media), Assoc. Prof. Jolle Demmers (Conflict Studies), and Prof. Johan Jeuring (Software Systems) | September 2015 – Augustus 2019 | S.desmale[at]

Postwar representation and remembrance in media-based collectivities
NWO Graduate Programme Games Research

How is wartime suffering is imagined and remembered in translocal digital culture communities? The empirical research conducted offers an in-depth case study analysis of everyday practices of remembrance within digital culture, read in relation to peacebuilding and postwar reconstruction in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Frank Weij: Geopolitics of artivism

Frank Weij | Erasmus University Rotterdam, Erasmus School of History, Culture & Communication | Promoter: Prof. dr Koen van Eijck, Supervisors: Dr Pauwke Berkers; Dr Jiska Engelbert | 01 September 2015 – 31 August 2020 | weij[at]

Geopolitics of artivism
Overarching project: NOW PhD in the Humanities

Geopolitics of artivism explores the complex relationship between arts and politics in an increasingly globalized world. In Western democracies artists enjoy a relatively high degree of artistic freedom, meaning that artists are able to incorporate explicit political advocacy in their artworks. However, since most art fields are relatively autonomous from other societal fields, impact of politically engaged art often remains limited. In order to gain artistic legitimacy, activist artists – or artivists – have to follow artistic hierarchies set by peers and artistic gatekeepers. Political legitimacy, however, revolves increasingly around media and audience representation. This project therefore studies the reception of different cases of artivists in the arts field, in news media and in mainstream society. Hereby it makes a comparison between the three different types of reception and aims to compare the reception of artivists from different geopolitical contexts in order to better understand the extent in which artistic freedom possibly limits the artivist’s impact not just in the arts field but also in mainstream society. In doing so various innovative methods are combined, ranging from topic modelling to computerized content analysis in order to analyse large bodies of textual data. The central research question that guides this project is: how does the attribution of artistic qualities and societal impact in Western democracies differ between Western and non-­‐Western artivists, both in artistic fields and in mainstream society?