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

SHARED principles of engaging citizens in smart cities

13 01 2017

The current mantra in research and policy about smart cities is that citizen perspectives have often been ignored in smart city research, but that for smart technologies and big data to indeed improve city management, economic and environmental resilience and the quality of urban life, it is imperative to include citizen perspectives and interests in all their dimensions in smart city and big data applications. It is, however, often unclear who are meant with these ‘citizens’, what the purpose of their engagement is, and what qualifies as ‘good’ engagement. The SHARED principles proposed here, may be the beginning of thinking about criteria that one may want to consider when designing and evaluating citizen engagement. They include my own understanding and preferences in the debate, which I will (later) develop in a better substantiated article.

S of Sustainable

Citizen engagement needs to be invited and organised in a way that it will last longer than just the launch of a project, or the development of a program.

H of Harmonious

Citizen engagement needs to be organised in ways that are inclusive and do not contradict existing legislation, social policy and/or standard norms of good citizenship and civil behavior.

A of Affective

Citizen engagement needs to include acknowledgement of and respect for different emotional investments and concerns with respect to technology and data.

R of Relevant

Citizen engagement need to engage those people who are directly affected by and involved with smart city developments and projects.


Citizen engagement needs to be aimed at providing people with a better understanding what is going on, the intellectual and practical tools to form an opinion and assessment of it, and possibly, but not necessarily, the technical tools to participate in it.


Citizen engagement needs to acknowledge and accommodate the various dimensions of diversity in cities, including gender, ethnicity, class, disability, sexuality, religion.

New grant: Big Data and Reintegration

4 01 2017

Our Centre for BOLD Cities has been awarded a grant for researching and designing personalised reintegration strategies helping people from unemployment to paid labour, based on the individual capabilities of city residents who are entitled to social benefits. Such personalisation can be developed through anonymised linkage of various data sources, which is already frequently done in other disciplines, such as marketing, medication and political campaigning.

In the project, a prominent role will be played by client councils. In so-called ‘data dialogues’, they will join the conversation on the possibilities and risks of this innovative approach, especially concerning privacy issues.These dialogues are inspired by my work with the UK/ONS and the ESRC in prepation for their administrative data centers (see here: link).

The research project is financed by ZonMw, the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development. ZonMw invited a number of parties, including the Centre for BOLD Cities, to write a proposal on big data in reintegration, as part of their ‘Vakkundig aan het werk’ programme, which focuses on reintegration and health. The Centre’s proposal has been reviewed by a specialised committee, and was rated as scientifically sound and socially relevant.

For the proposal, titled ‘Reintegration in BOLD Cities’, we assembled a team with researchers from Leiden University (Marike Knoef),  Erasmus MC (Merel Schuring) and the city of Rotterdam (Maarten van der Kooij).

New chapter: Collective Digital Citizenship through Local Memory Websites

23 12 2016

My PhD candidate Mike de Kreek, who will defend his thesis next month, and myself published a chapter in a recent book about digital citizenship [click here]. It is based on Mike’s research about two local memory websites in Amsterdam: the Memory of East and the Memory of West. In the chapter we show how the two websites are able to facilitate collective empowerment to a certain degree by resisting dominant influences of memory institutions, commercial popular culture and local politics. They do so in different ways, however. The Memory of East developed into a well run website with only a few but diversely covered topics. However, this limitation unintentionally excludes residents who do not identify with these topics. The Memory of West, on the other hand, presents a more diverse set of topics, but draws less participation. We connect these different outcomes to the historically different ways in which the websites have emerged and have been organised. Using theories about civic culture by, among others, Dahlgren, we conclude that, ultimately, East was  better able to resist dominant local discourses and whereas West more representative for its neighborhood’s residents.


De Kreek, M. & L. van Zoonen (2016). Collective Digital Citizenship through Local Memory Websites. In A. McCosker, S. Vivienne & A. Johns (eds). Negotiation Digital Citizenship – Control, Contest and Culture (pp. 247 – 263). London: Rowmand and Littlefield.