Building BOLD Cities

12 07 2017

BOLD Cities, the research center that the Universities of Leiden, Delft and Rotterdam (Erasmus) so generously funded last year, is thriving. We have developed a research agenda that combines our different expertise and which is focused on using ‘big data’ for pressing urban social issues. In all our projects we have a data science aspect and a data ethics aspects, which mostly means that apart from crunching massive and different kinds of data about people, we also involve these people in the research process and integrate their concerns in our outcomes. A first set of projects that I am really proud of concerns the usage and linkage of registration, survey and social media data to improve the municipal services to vulnerable groups in the city, in particular people on benefits, young NEETs (not in education, employment or training) and the working poor. We have received funding for these projects from two national funding agencies (ZONMW, NWA/NWO)and from the cities of Rotterdam and The Hague. A second set of projects is about the way people inhabit the digitized and datafied city. We focus on privacy as a situated and spatial experience in the city, and we also try to put data literacy and data empowerment on the agenda. We have taken several groups of civil servants on a walking tour through their city, and are currently developing a project aimed at children and adolescents. We do this in collaboration with grants and researchers of the city of Rotterdam, all channeled through the Knowledge Lab Urban Big Data.  Thirdly, we are developing work around the urban living labs hausse, interrogating both their practical and the discursive arrangements and questioning in which domains they can really make a difference for urban cohesion and inclusion. All in all, we currently have a group of 4 funded PhD candidates and 4 postdoctoral researchers in the Erasmus branch of BOLD Cities, and an increasing number of affiliated senior staff. It is a great score to start the summer break with.  For more details see:


Reporting the data walks

26 05 2017

I am extremely happy that Bang the Table, an Australian specialist in digital engagement invited us to write a short piece about our data walk

Bang the table aims at improving the quality of public debate and level of community involvement in public life and hence is a natural partner for our work in BOLD Cities towards the data-empowerment of city users and city makers. The article is called ‘Seeing more than you think’: a data walk in the smart city and one of the conclusions we draw is that we have not found a way yet to define data-empowerment as a collective issue rather than as an individual one. We therefore have introduced the ideal of a SHARED smart city. See my post of January 13 this year, and the full article for more detail: 

Rotterdam Lecture coming up

5 05 2017

It is an incredible honor to have been selected to hold the annual Rotterdam Lecture, a gift of Erasmus University to the city in which one of its top academics discusses a pressing urban issue. I will talk about our quickly expanding smart city research, especially about the question what the digitized and datafied developments in the city mean for ordinary citizens and civil servants. In Dutch this produces a nice alliteration of ‘burgers’ and ‘bestuurders’. The lecture will take place in the Arminius Church in Rotterdam and starts at 20.30. It is completely in Dutch and more information, including a registration button, is here [click].

Artistic research and policy

2 04 2017

Our graduate school has a structural collaboration with the Rotterdam School for Circus, Dance and Music (Codarts), and we help about 6 to 7 of their staff to do their PhD research. It is part of the wider Codarts policy to stimulate artistic research and part of our policy to be a key partner for the knowledge ambitions of the Rotterdam area.  As part of Codarts yearly research days, I held a keynote about artistic research, focusing particularly on the challenges you encounter when you want to articulate ‘artistic’ with ‘academic’. There are so many varieties of research that one could embrace as an artist, but when you chose for ‘academic’ you run into tensions between, among other things, making and writing; tacit and formalized knowledge; or intuitive versus rule-based procedures. Nevertheless, for both art and academia the connection is inspiring and useful leading, possibly, to both a wider underpinning of arts practices and a more innovative agenda for academic research. My full presentation is online [click here].

One of the possible drawbacks of the increasing importance of academia in arts education and practice, is that the already limited possibilities for people from working class and/or lower education backgrounds may decrease even further. Is there still room for the working class artist? In the UK there is already some concern about the middle and upper class dominance in the arts sector [see here], and it is a phenomenon that sounds familiar in the Dutch context as well. Diversity (also and importantly with respect to ethnicity, gender and disability) is one of the key goals for the UK Arts Council who claim there is a ‘Creative Case for Diversity’ [see here] and in Dutch cultural policy this has been embraced in the form of a Code for Cultural Diversity [see here]. I am happy and proud that I will be able to contribute to cultural diversity in my new role, from April 1, as member of the Dutch ‘Raad voor Cultuur’ [see here].


Examinations: politicians in talkshows, Japanese characters

2 04 2017

I examined two PhD theses last month, both of them solid cultural and media studies. On March 14, Birte Schohaus of Groningen University defended her thesis Entertaining politics, seriously? She studied Dutch TV talkshow formats and analysed how producers and politicians negotiate the affordances of the format to, respectively, make and appealing program and communicate a political message. The thing I liked best about her work was her explanation of the situated rules that enable the performance of authenticity. More info and a link to the full dissertation can be found here [PDF]. Quite a different thesis was defended by Ruobing Han of Leiden University on March 21. She described The “Characterization” of Japan, in particular how characters like Pikachu or Hello Kitty have become means for merchandising, political campaigning and international country branding. I knew little about the so-called ‘cutification’ of Japan so was happy to read more about it. More info and a link to the full dissertation can be found here [PDF].

Encyclopedia Media Effects

7 02 2017

Much of my research and writing time last year was dedicated to co-editing the Wiley Encyclopedia of Media Effects. Interestingly, I was asked to develop a whole section on critical media studies in the encyclopedia, especially dedicated to the question if and how media effects studies connect to critical media theory. Some critical propositions of how media work, explicitly adopt traditional hypodermic needle models and psychological socialization theories. Moreover, many critical media theories have implicit assumptions about how media work that resemble other psychological media effects theories. Those observations were my starting point for compiling and editing the critical sections in the encyclopedia, and we thus have entries about, among other things, critical authors like Brecht, Bourdieu and McLuhan and their implicit ideas about how media work, critical theories of racism and orientalism, and feminism and their effects-theories, and critical concepts like false consciousness or intertextuality, which also include ideas about how media influence people. I am altogether pleased with the outcomes, and hope all of this will be helpful to students, PhD candidates and even my seasoned colleagues.


Roessler, P., Hoffner, C. & :L. van Zoonen (eds). International Encyclopedia of Media Effects. Wiley-Blackwell

I contributed two entries myself, for which you can find the unedited author versions here:

False consciousness as a theory of media effects – link

Intertextuality and media effects – link

Doctoral degree for Mike de Kreek

27 01 2017

My PhD candidate Mike de Kreek succesfully defended his doctoral dissertation yesterday. Mike conducted his research while working at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences at the same time. He examined local memory websites and their meaning for the neighborhood: how do they achieve empowerment at individual, collective and cultural levels, and what does their particular organisational form has to do with that? The defense committee questioned Mike about the use of several theoretical concepts (such as cultural citizenship, empowerment and memory), and about the logic of his self-designed data scraper and analytic instrument. He was praised for his solid empirical work and the outcomes of his research, especially the comparison between two Amsterdam memory sites, each with a different kind of empowerment. The ‘Geheugen van Oost‘ is carried by a small, dedicated group of volunteers who cover a select group of historical themes that invite quite a lot of comments from neighborhood residents. The ‘Geheugen van West‘, on the other hand, has a wider and less solid group of volunteers, and draws less comments, but has a more diverse collection of memories.  Mike celebrated his achievements with a large group of volunteers from both memory sites, whom he took to the Rotterdam Storyhouse Belvedere.

P1260174 kopiex.jpg

Parts of Mike’s dissertation have been published already, below is a list of references and links for follow up:

Kreek, M.D. (2016). Collective empowerment through local memory websites: balancing between group interest and common good. Dissertation Erasmus University Rotterdam: PDF

Kreek, M. D., & Zoonen, L. van (2013). New directions in research on local memory websites. Journal of Social Intervention: Theory and Practice, 22(2), 113-130. PDF

de Kreek, M., & Oosterbroek, M. (2013). The Future of Local Memory Websites as Empowering Niches in Amsterdam. In Intelligent Environments (Workshops) (pp. 653-662).PDF