PhD Researchers

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.

Anunaya Rajhans | Meme Culture and the crisis of meaning in Indian public discourse

The project proposes to create a first-of-its-kind account of meme culture in India. The study aims to survey the everyday internet practices of individuals and online communities, to try to understand their growing socio-political influence and cultural capital. By looking at memes as mirrors​of socio-cultural formations, the idea is to develop a thorough understanding of individual motivations, desires and the shared creative energies that form these communities within the given context.

Yichen Zhao | The influence of social media use on social trust in the context of public crises in China

This project aims to explore how people’s social engagement with news on social media may influence social trust in the context of public crises in China. Social media has changed main features of news consumption and the way in which people engage with news. Previous audiences are enabled to produce, share and discuss news on social media. News engagement on social media even becomes a popular way for people to interact with each other and maintain social relationships. Social trust, defined as people’s trust in other citizens, is considered to be an essential aspect of social capital. Previous studies have addressed the impacts of social media use and online social interactions on social trust, though the results remain controversial due to different circumstances.

Dennis Jansen | The becoming-playful of warfare in the Netherlands

How can we understand and explain the occurrence of the ludification of warfare in the Netherlands? Over the past two decades, the Netherlands Armed Forces have witnessed an increased usage of virtual training environments and serious games across all branches of the organisation. In the same period, the armed forces began acquiring remote-controlled unmanned aerial vehicles (a.k.a. drones); this recently culminated in the scheduled acquisition of four MQ-9 Reaper drones in 2021.

PhD Defence: Anouk Mols (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

8 December 2021 at 13:00
On an ordinary Wednesday evening, a family is about to have dinner. Meanwhile, the father receives WhatsApp messages from the neighbourhood crime prevention group, the mother checks the student tracking system of the youngest son, and the daughter instructs a smart speaker to play music. In this scenario, personal information of the family members is collected, processed and shared. In other words; they are the subject of surveillance.

Emillie Victoria de Keulenaar | Norm and technique in language moderation: deplatforming and replatforming problematic speech across contested public spheres

Emillie Victoria de Keulenaar | Norm and technique in language moderation: deplatforming and replatforming problematic speech across contested public spheres | University and department: University of Groningen, Media Studies | Promotors: Marcel Broersma and Bharath Ganesh | 1 September 2021 – 1 september 2025 |[at] Focusing on 2015 to 2021 as period of significant […]

Jakob Boer | Sensing Slowness: A Phenomenology of Slow Cinema

This PhD-research entails a qualitative audience study into the experience of watching slow cinema. This is ‘a type of cinema characterized by minimalism, austerity, and extended duration; downplaying drama, event, and action in favor of mood; and endowing the activity of viewing with a meditative or contemplative quality’ (Oxford Dictionary of Film Studies).

Esther Schoorel | Challenging the State Narrative: Transnational Online Memory Activism After Lebanon’s 2019 ‘October Revolution’

In the wake of the Arab Uprisings, a vibrant debate among scholars of Middle Eastern Studies emerged about the impact of the digital sphere on political activism in the region. Twitter, Facebook and blogs played a vital role in these uprisings, specifically when it came to organizing protests on the ground and connecting people in- and across societies.

Jülide Kont | Winning the ‘information war’: creating knowledge and methods to measure and enhance individual’s resilience to disinformation

Disinformation has always existed and even though there are prevention methods, with yet more to be developed, we currently cannot assume it will disappear anytime soon. What we can do however, is to create and understand the conditions for resilience, both on a societal and individual level. The focus in this work will lie on the latter, with the guiding question: Who are vulnerable to disinformation and how can we protect (these) individuals from the potentially harmful effects of disinformation?

Cristel Kolopaking | Re-Frame: Tracing Re-Use of Audiovisual Data in Journalism

Cristel Kolopaking is a PhD candidate at the Institute for Cultural Inquiry in the RE-FRAME project, based on a collaboration between Utrecht University, the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision and Make Media Great Again. RE-FRAME addresses the merging of journalistic sourcing practices by investigating the reuse of audiovisual data with Artificial Intelligence (AI) through an affordance analysis of the technical components, combined with an ethnographic production and action-based research with journalists.

Bartosz Grzegorz Żerebecki | Depolarizing Narratives: The role of TV shows in promoting positive diversity attitudes

The support for LGBTQ people and immigrants is a contentious issue in Poland. Young people, who are still in high school, witness a strongly polarized public discourse. The national, pro-government media staunchly oppose pride parades and multiculturalism, while private ones take more liberal stances. This project wants to establish whether the media, which are now seen as part of the problem of tearing people apart, can also be part of the solution in bringing people together.

Victoria Balan | Discourses of Digital Citizen Activism

Digital activism has been gaining increased attention in recent years: the media coverage of #MeToo stories from all around the world, the political debates on racial discrimination and police brutality in the context of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the growing number of anti-vaccine groups on social media during the Covid-19 pandemic – all illustrate the rise of this phenomenon and its inclusion in the broader public discourse.

Cedric Waterschoot | Constructive messaging and computer-assisted moderation of online platforms

Online platforms, like social media or newspapers with comment sections, often struggle with moderating the enormous influx of new posts. The Better-MODS project, a collaboration between KNAW Meertens Instituut, Tilburg University and, aims to improve the moderation practice of such online content by developing computer-assisted moderation tools. My research specifically deals with the recognition and computational classification of so-called constructive posts, the opposite of spam, toxicity or other unwanted content.

Zhen Ye | Livestreaming Industry in China: An Investigation of Cultural Production, Labour and Platformization

We are witnessing how the development of live-streaming practices is increasingly influencing Chinese people’s everyday life in social, cultural, and economic terms: The showroom live-streaming, known as xiuchang zhibo in Chinese, features various content of entertainment from singing and dancing to mundane everyday life activities such as chatting and eating.

Pengnan Hu | China’s global cinema: state-driven film-related co-operations with BRI countries

China now constitutes the second-largest film market in the world. One significant change accompanying this unprecedented expansion has been the Chinese government’s active encouragement of film exports as part of its drive to augment soft power. This is closely allied to China’s most important foreign policy, known as Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims to intensify China’s influence in Eurasia.

Bianka-Isabell Scharmann | Fashion-as-Moving-Image: Dancing Figures, Swirling Fabrics

: Fashion-as-Moving-Image: Dancing Figures, Swirling Fabrics

By drawing on the rich history of fashion media from the 20th and 21st century – ranging from fashion magazines, fashion illustrations, filmed fashion shows for newsreels from early and silent cinema to feature films and contemporary productions such as fashion films – in a transmedial perspective, the project attempts to theorize and historize the relationship between fashion, dance and moving image media aided by a wide range of theories from film, media, fashion and dance studies.

Karla Zavala Barreda | Apps for Learning: A software study analysis of mobile applications for language development in children

Apps for Learning

The project analyses the ecology and development of mobile apps for language development in typical and atypical children from the perspective of software designers and developers. Software ethnography, quantitative analysis and modelling, and interviews with software developers will be integrated to identify how notions and theories of language acquisition and development in early childhood are translated into mobile applications for the market.

Inga Luchs | Data Discrimination: Rethinking Systems of Classification Beyond Homophily

Machine learning algorithms permeate our everyday life. They are used to discriminate against spam emails, to sort results in search engines and to recommend content. They find application in the detection of credit card fraud and in predictive policing. This PhD project seeks to investigate the key technical principles of machine learning in order to uncover underlying assumptions and beliefs.