PhD Researchers

Ruth Mei Ulina Malau | Understanding the relationship between social media use and identity performances of the minority youth in Indonesia

How do the minority youth consume social media? What are the effects social media use on the social interactions of the minority youth in Indonesia? How do the minority youth in Indonesia express and negotiate their identities on social media? These are the research questions addressed in the project. Despite the fact that young people are among the most active users of online media, their experiences are often marginalized in academic discussions of the internet within the discipline of communication (Livingstone, 2003, cited in Redden and Way, 2016). This study seeks to address this gap by focusing on the experiences of minority youth in Indonesia, particularly those who are considered minorities based on their ethnicity, gender, and religion. Through the application of virtual ethnography, this research aims to enhance understanding of the convergence of social media and the physical world, with a particular focus on concepts drawn from media and cultural studies.

Fabian Schlott | Algorithmic Mediation in the Digital Creative Economy

Traditional cultural economics research has primarily focused on the economic aspects of art markets and museums, neglecting the burgeoning platform economy’s impact on cultural consumption and dissemination. The rise of User-Generated Content platforms, which serve as intermediaries between numerous producers and users, introduces new dynamics in platform competition and consumer engagement through automated algorithms that streamline transaction costs. These platforms employ recommender, search, and ranking systems to cater to diverse user preferences, encouraging longer and more frequent interactions. However, the opaque nature of these algorithms raises concerns about potential biases and inequalities, as they are not subject to external audits or transparency.

Helena Baard | Afrikaans Film in Flux: Investigating the Deconstruction of Apartheid Ideology in Contemporary Afrikaans Films

How do contemporary Afrikaans films, rooted in biographical and historic source material, interrogate apartheid ideology to deconstruct the cultural hegemony of traditional Afrikaner culture and its reproduction within contemporary Afrikaner culture? I do a film analysis of six recent Afrikaans films made in South Africa, namely Vir die Voëls (2016), Ellen: The Ellen Pakkies Story (2018), Kanarie (2018), Moffie (2019) Poppie Nongena (2019), and Toorbos (2021). The history of South African cinema is closely tied to the country’s socio-political past. South Africa was an apartheid state from 1948 till 1994, which meant that it had legalised racial segregation.

Eirini Tsitse | Cultivating Cultural Innovation: Audience Engagement, Digital Dynamics, and Entrepreneurial Strategies

This PhD research investigates the transformative potential of audience engagement in the cultural and creative sectors and industries (CCSIs), focusing on the intersection of audience engagement, cultural entrepreneurship, and digitalization. Motivated by a research gap in understanding individual-level audience experiences in cultural sectors, the study aims to uncover how audience engagement influences the overall trajectory of CCSIs.

Vanessa Richter | Imaginaries of Artificial Intelligence – Mapping (Social Media) Platforms’ Role in Shaping (Public) Tech Imaginaries

Artificial intelligence is considered a key technology today, although interpreted diversely and ambiguously. With the shift of AI products into everyday life, new fears of job loss and promises of easing work burdens are hatching, impacting large public investments into research and industry and are reflected in policy discourses and legislation. The imagination and future perception of what AI can and should become have led to different trajectories showcasing the importance of social and cultural discursive imagination in envisioning and determining trajectories of AI and its integration into society through such imaginaries.

Luuk Schröder | Re-sensing electronic waste through artistic practice, how can lived experience at e-waste recycling centers contribute to our media-ecological future?

This research project addresses the mediation processes that persistently hide the materiality of media technology. Media technologies contribute siginicantly to the current ecological crisis. Yet, ‘a pivotal feature of media technology’s is that their “materiality”, their material presence, and sensorial impact in the mediating process, tends to escape regular users’ (van den Oever and Fickers, 2023). As a result, the role that media technology plays in the current ecological crisis and the lived experiences of people working at the end of the production chain is often overlooked. If we want to grasp the human involvement and environmental harm that are consequences of the material that media equipment is made of, we must re-sensitize ourselves to the media technology we use so much

Semmy Claassen | Researching The Pros of Digital Bookish Platforms and How They Can Improve Reading Education in Dutch-Language Contexts

Semmy Claassen | Utrecht University
As evidenced by the PISA 2022 Results, a third of Dutch 15-year-old students is at risk of leaving secondary school illiterate (OECD, 2023; Stichting Lezen, 2023). This points to the reading crisis among Dutch youth which manifests a decrease in reading (Waal, 2023). In the midst of this reading crisis, there is a fair share of adolescents who are (re)discovering and celebrating reading through TikTok’s literary subculture BookTok (Martens et al., 2022). I will further explore the mechanisms of digital literary platforms in Dutch-language contexts and their possible role in motivating reading among young people.

This interdisciplinary PhD project, combining media studies, literary studies, and educational sciences, consists of two main phases. The main research question is whether and if so, how, digital platforms and/or their subcultures with an emphasis on reading can enhance reading education in secondary schools to contribute towards combatting the reading crisis described above.

PhD Defence: Jeroen Boom (Radboud University Nijmegen)

6 March 2024 | 16.30hrs | Aula Radboud University Nijmegen
Strangers Unseen explores images of refugees and migrants that are deliberately obscure, opaque, and illegible. It examines these images within a group of recent essay films that employ fractures and frustrations as expressive cinematic elements to engage with the different realities of displacement and statelessness.

Jiaxin Liu | Unlocking the Past: Bridging Art, History, and Young People’s Media Environment Through Multisensory Extended Reality (XR) Engagement

Museums and art galleries play a crucial role in enlightening the public and improving appreciation and comprehension of art and cultural heritage. In today’s increasingly competitive and hyper-mediated world, attracting and engaging young people is one of the most challenging issues museums face; young people are constantly bombarded with information and entertainment options, making it difficult for museums to compete for their attention, museums must find ways to make their collections and programs engaging and relevant for youth.

Sanghwa Lee | PlatforMuse: Korean musicians’ identity and working conditions within the dynamics of the platformization of music

This project offers the first global analysis of how platforms are shaping – and being shaped by – the creative practices and working experiences of Korean music artists.

It has been well established that the cultural industries (television, film, music, publishing, gaming etc.) require academic attention not only for their economic clout, but for the influence they exert on shaping our knowledge and experiences of the world we live in (Hesmondhalgh, 2019). The importance of these industries in ‘the production of social meaning’, also directs our attention to the creative workers and cultural producers who work in these industries.

Jim Kroezen | PlatforMuse

PlatforMuse aims to investigate how online platforms shape—and are being shaped by—the
work of music artists. The project involves ethnographic fieldwork on the music industries of
three countries: The Netherlands, South Korea, and Nigeria. Digital platforms have become a
central part of contemporary capitalism and changed the way in which we produce and
consume culture. However, we still do not know much about how platforms change the actual
work conditions and creative practices of cultural producers.

Ilker Bahar | Digital transformation of body, identity and intimacy through social VR: The case of VRChat

Supported with gradually advancing AR and VR technologies, social VR platforms began to offer various opportunities for users to interact, communicate, and create with others in a shared digital space. Launched in 2014 and used by millions across the world today, VRChat platform is one such place where participants engage in practices such as role-playing, ASMR, and cross-gender avatar embodiment and form communities such as mirror dwellers, furries, and memers. Despite burgeoning research on the technological and economic aspects of virtual worlds and the parallel developments in blockchain, NFT, and immersive technologies, there is still a lack of scholarly research on the social and cultural dynamics of these digital ecosystems.

Mohammad Talebi | Dance-music communicology: interaction of dancers with musical rhythm for narrative embodiment in classical ballet variations

Dance-music communicology: interaction of dancers with musical rhythm for narrative embodiment in classical ballet variations

Classical ballet is a European technical dance theater genre using various dramaturgic elements such as libretto, music, and choreography to share a nonverbal narrative with the audience. Dancers integrate textual, aural, and visual components of the ballet using various corporeal articulations and expressive gestures to represent a new multimodal narrative from each element. Dancer-music communication for narrative visualization is embedded within a complex dynamic system that has received less attention.

Linda Kopitz | Artificial Amsterdam: Architectural Writing and the Urban (Re)imagination of Nature

Artificial Amsterdam: Architectural Writing and the Urban (Re)imagination of Nature

In our current moment of ecological crisis, creating urban environments that are more green, more sustainable, more livable has become an urgent challenge. Encompassing strategies as diverse as the private greening of rooftops via technological ‘smart’ solutions to the municipally mandated use of renewable construction materials, sustainability is a practical concern, representational practice and discursive process. This PhD project proposes that the cross-mediality of ‘architectural writing’ – architecture as writing – plays a crucial role in the sustainable (re)imagination of urban life through the production of nature within the city.

PhD Defense: Gemma Newlands (University of Amsterdam)

22 June 2023 | 16:00hrs | Agnietenkapel
As new occupations emerge in response to the growth of the digital economy, the relationship between digital technology and labour has resulted in significant changes in how work is evaluated. By critically examining the ways in which humans and artificial intelligence (AI) are co-evolving and the ways in which work is becoming more technical and less human(e), this dissertation provides insights into the challenges and opportunities of this rapidly changing landscape.

PhD Defense: Kun He (University of Groningen)

29 June 2023 | 14.30hrs | Academy building RUG
Chinese populism exhibits unique features that distinguish it from populism observed in democratic settings. Notably, Chinese populism encompasses two distinct forms: communist populism and online bottom-up populism, each operating in its own distinct manner. Communist populism is propagated through the party-state system, mobilizing against perceived corrupt elites in the name of the majority Chinese people.

PhD Defense: Constanza Gajardo (VU University)

Friday 20 October 2023 at 13:45 hrs | VU University – Amsterdam
From a traditional normative perspective, it is understood that if people do not consume news, democracy loses an informed foundation for an engaged citizenship (Christians et al., 2010; Schudson, 2008; McNair, 2009). Hence, the acquisition of factual information, primarily about politics and public affairs, is often considered what people need from journalism (McQuail, 2013). However, such normative formulations seem to primarily represent the viewpoint of journalists. The audience’s perspective has only been tangentially included in the normative framework of journalism, mainly based on predefined definitions of what it means for individuals to fulfil a citizen’s role (Moe, 2020).

Marc Prüst | The visual economy of the photographic industry

In the age of digital media, images are more important than ever, but the vast majority of image makers find it increasingly difficult to make a full time living from their work. We are in a moment of contradiction where, at the same time, the social value of visuals has increased while the economic value of photography has declined. However, the industry’s attitude to the production and distribution of photographic images seems to have changed little.

Floor Mijland | Platformisation of Education: Edtech and Learning Ecosystems in Dutch Secondary Education

Many educational institutions build heavily on EdTech’s, EduApps, and Learning Management Systems in their daily practices. At the ‘back end’ of this incorporation of such platforms are usually private American big tech Google (Alphabet), Amazon and Microsoft (Kerssens and van Dijck, 2022; Williamson et al., 2022). The platforms and data-infrastructures provided by these companies are convenient, easy to access, and user friendly. Yet, they are built by profit driven companies from countries which do not (necessarily) share the public values of Dutch secondary education: they do not govern an accountable, responsible, and transparent use of technology.

Hannah Poon | Surviving in Abeyance: Digital Networks and Resistance in Hong Kong after the Anti-Extradition Bill Movement

How to sustain a political movement when it is not allowed? How to survive in abeyance? Hong Kong’s 2019-20 Anti-Extradition Bill (Anti-ELAB) Movement, a full-scale democratic struggle against Chinese rule, was forced into abeyance under the National Security Law imposed in June 2020. Followed by hard-handed suppression, activist networks were forced to shift to other arenas less susceptible to the regime’s control: consumer marketplace, fan culture, and diasporic communities. These informal networks remain active in constructing political discourse and staging micro-resistance, which remaps the boundaries of politics and solidarity outside traditional institutions, protests, and civil society.

Qingling Zhang | The Sublime in Cosmic Horror Films

Cosmic horror derived from Romantic literature at the end of the 18th century and reached its climax in Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. By hybridizing scientific outer space with ancient cultural material, Lovecraft’s cosmic horror emphasizes the vastness of time and space, and in turn, it expresses the insignificance and inadequacy of human beings.

Maciej Grzenkowicz | Tik-Tok, it’s time for the truth! The multimodal language of fact-checking on TikTok

In my project, I am analysing the fact-checking accounts on TikTok in order to understand the specifics of multimodal argumentation on the social media platform and the argumentative strategies used by the fact-checkers. Even though TikTok is one of the most downloaded applications in the world, there have been little efforts to fight mis- and disinformation, which are omnipresent in the platform.

Sarah Burkhardt | Socio-technical and feminist strategies of visibility: Rethinking and programming representation through mapping Dutch #MeToo formations

The project critically engages with the Dutch #MeToo debate by situating it within a longer history of attempts to render visible‚ the struggle to end sexist oppression‘ (hooks, 1984) across different online media. It maps involved actors and researches the role of different spaces, such as educational or governmental institutions, social media platforms, legacy news outlets.  As part thereof, the project creates access and knowledge about #MeToo-related debates through leveraging, building and critically reflecting TwiXL as a cross-media research infrastructure.

Maud Rebergen | Marginalising Machines: Digital Citizenship in the age of e-Governance

The growing role of digital technology in society has changed the notions of citizenship and inclusion. Governments worldwide are becoming increasingly digital and shift the responsibility to handle e-governance technologies towards citizens. Digital divide scholars express concern about these developments, as it becomes increasingly difficult for a significant part of society to participate. This is the case, even in societies that are digitally advanced. The Netherlands is an example of such a place where 97% of citizens have domestic internet access but where four out of 17 million citizens lack the basic digital literacy to participate in the digital society.

Nathalie Fridzema | Before WEB 2.0: A Cultural History of Early Web Practices in the Netherlands from 1994 until 2004

The objective of the PhD project is to create a cultural history of web practices before web 2.0, specifically in the Netherlands between 1994 and 2004. This period of the preliminary web – characterized by idealistic initiatives adhering to utopian ideals like participatory democracy, freedom, and accessibility – is often overshadowed by the swift development of platforms and social media.

Skinner Myers | Black Star: Race, Representation, & the need for Intransigence against the Despotism of Anti-Blackness over Black Hollywood Cinema

Black Star analyzes the “idea of blackness” in the world and how there are two separate paths “Black Cinema” can take: “that which ‘awakens’ the spectator by taking him along the path of progress, and that which ‘lulls him to sleep’ by making him sluggish and escape from reality by merely entertaining him.”[1] The dissertation posits that “Cinema”, which it designates as a “Colonizing Cinema”, has demanded, “Black Cinema” to perform with a minstrel mask and explicit blackface that grants a partial humanization of the “idea of blackness” in “Cinema.” This allows “Colonizing Cinema” to take possession of “Black Cinema” to make it palatable, which further concretizes its place as the “other” within “Cinema.”

Saskia Asser | The Spaarnestad Collection, a Resourceful Archive. A Study of the Relevance of Analogue Press Photo Archives in Digital Times for the History of Photojournalism

The central focus of my research is the Spaarnestad Collection in the National Archives of the Netherlands. The collection is a good example of a resourceful archive: an archive that is not so much a passive resource but reflects a social practice in its physical form and material coherence. The core is formed by the former photo library of De Spaarnestad, a major Dutch publisher of illustrated magazines in the 20th century.

Daniel Leix Palumbo | From Spoken Audio to Digital Identities: How AI impacts the interpretation of information communicated by the sound of voice

Today’s digitised media context is undergoing an oral/aural renaissance, where voice technology increasingly permeates much of contemporary life. In particular, tech companies and states are massively investing in voice biometrics, making such technology a multi-billion global industry and a new centre of digital innovation.