PhD Studentship Data Politics and Grassroots Participation (Amsterdam)

datactivePhD Studentship Data Politics and Grassroots Participation (Amsterdam)

The DATACTIVE ( project at the University of Amsterdam is looking for a PhD student to join the team and contribute to conduct research on data politics and grassroots participation. Apply with a PhD project proposal by August 26.

Job description

The Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA) of the Faculty of Humanities is looking for a PhD candidate to join the ERC-funded project ‘Data Activism: The Politics of Big Data According to Civil Society’ (DATACTIVE), with Dr. Stefania Milan as Principal Investigator. DATACTIVE investigates citizens’ engagement with massive data collection, seeking to understand how activism evolves in the time of datafication.

As datafication progressively invades all spheres of contemporary society, citizens grow increasingly aware of the critical role of information as the new fabric of social life. This awareness gives rise to new sociotechnical practices taking a critical approach to ‘big data’ and massive data collection, which fall under the rubric of ‘data activism’. Data activism takes at least two forms: re-active data activism, whereby people increasingly resist the threats to civil rights that derive from corporate privacy intrusion and government surveillance (e.g., by means of technical fixes such as encryption); and pro-active data activism, whereby citizens take advantage of the possibilities for campaigning and social change that data availability provides (e.g., data-based advocacy). The DATACTIVE project explores how activism broadly defined evolves in the age of big data. We take a critical look at, among others, citizen empowerment through data; civil society’s privacy practices; surveillance and internet activism; governance of data flows and internet infrastructure; open data and civic tech networks.

You will join an interdisciplinary team working under the leadership of Dr. Stefania Milan (the Principal Investigator; and collaboratively examining the emerging dynamics of data activism at the intersection of its social and technological dimensions. We offer a multidisciplinary, interactive and international research environment in a leading department (Communication and Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam currently ranks number 8 in the QS World Rankings).


The ideal candidate should have:

  • a demonstrable affinity with one or the combination of the following areas of research: social movements/grassroots activism’s engagement with data, digital technology and citizen participation, datafication and digital citizenship, democratic agency and algorithmic power, social effects of algorithm discrimination, (participatory) governance of data flows;
  • a Master’s, Master of Research, or equivalent degree in one of the following disciplines: sociology, political science, communication sciences, media studies, and neighboring disciplines, preferably with expertise in one of the following fields: social movement studies, digital sociology, sociology of knowledge and/or culture, international relations, governance studies, critical internet studies, critical data studies;
  • demonstrable expertise in qualitative/ethnographic and/or quantitative research methods;
  • familiarity (or willingness to acquire it) with data processing techniques and digital methods.

In addition, he or she should also possess:

  • a good knowledge of current developments in digital communication technology in the post-Snowden era, and the related socio-technical and policy processes;
  • a creative mind and an interest to think across disciplines and domains;
  • strong communication skills, and an interest in building bridges between research, policy and advocacy/activism;
  • excellent command of English. Familiarity with other languages constitutes an asset;
  • the ability to work independently as well as in a team, and be responsive to feedback;
  • the willingness to engage in research collaboration with nongovernmental organizations;
  • superior organizational skills, including the ability to plan one’s work and meet deadlines. He or she should have an eye for detail, and be available occasionally to work under tight deadlines.

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