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Professor dr. Ellen Rutten & Dr. Niels van Doorn


Local partners: Luiza Bialasiewicz, Carolin Gerlitz (UvA/Goldsmiths), Jan Hein Hoogstad, Jeroen de Kloet, Patricia Pisters, Thomas Poell, Sudha Rajagopalan, Ellen Rutten, Olga Sezneva (faculteit FMG), Jules Sturm, Ed Tan, Nadia de Vries, Jakko Kemper, Natalia Sanchez-Querubin, Patricia de Vries, Mykola Makhortykh

International and/or non-academic partners: Natalie Dixon (Goldsmiths /, Adi Kuntsman (University of Manchester / Research Institute for Cosmopolitan Cultures)

Description of the research programma of the research group

In the past two decades, cultural studies and cultural sociology have created a rich vocabulary for thinking about emotions, feelings and affect. The same period has witnessed a spike in the growth of digital media and information and communication technologies and their social and political impact in all world regions. In short, for some time we have been witnessing the simultaneous booming of two academic fields – studies of emotion and of digital media. The two fields largely live parallel lives, however, despite a limited number of publications that do turn the intersection between the digital and the affective into an object of scholarly inquiry. By carving out a fresh niche of scholarly investigation – feelings and emotions in digital cultures – this research group has, between 2015 and today, contributed substantially to the Uva research priority area Globalization and Cultural Transformation and to the focus research programs Digital Humanities and Creative Industries.

The group discusses topical literature and (non-academic/artistic) projects, whose relevance to the members’ individual research is explored in group seminars. Examples of questions that the group has engaged with are:

* How are emotions/affects given shape (i.e. how are they materialized and translated) in digitally networked spaces?

* How are emotional investments and affective relationships captured and valorized by platform owners and third parties (e.g. advertisers)? How are interfaces and platform infrastructures designed and engineered to generate, modulate, circulate, aggregate, analyze, and commodify users’ feelings?

* Consequently, how are these intensities (e.g. feelings, moods, emotions) turned into measurable extensities? How are they quantified, i.e. turned into numbers and metrics? In other words, how is emotional value turned into monetary value? How do we approach the measurement and valuation of digital emotions?

* In contrast, what about the feelings of/for the common and the public in digital networked spaces? How are new media mobilized to compose a common world and how do digitally mediated publics emerge? Consequently, how do we approach the feelings associated with digitally mediated publicness, sociality, and politics?

* Finally, how do we deal with digital emotions in our own work? There is an ongoing need for methodological reflections: how are digital technologies and our emotional/affective experiences shaping our research?


Apart from bimonthly seminars, the ‘Digital Emotions’ project has hosted an international conference and a series of public lectures and workshops; the initiators are also interested in potential research collaborations and joint (academic as well as popular) publications.

Work plan

At the moment, the group hosts a number of group meetings and public lectures during each academic year. Group members are also invited to initiate larger-scale events, which the collective can support and co-facilitate.

Societal relevance

Given the emerging re-valuation of emotion and affect in digital media cultures and economies, it is vitally important to identify and understand the new forms and functions of feeling in the networked spaces of digital communication and computation. At a time when emotional experiences and affective relations are becoming increasingly valuable (and measurable) resources in digitally mediated social life, questions about how particular feelings are mobilized by different actors demand carefully substantiated answers. In this context, the Digital Emotions research group investigates how digitally mediated emotions, feelings, moods, and other affective phenomena are constituted in – and constitutive of – new power relations and cultural productions, examining their multivalent iterations at the intersection of cultural, intimate, and economic practices. It does so in an emphatically public setting: group members include academic as well as non-academic partners, and project results are shared in both scholarly and popular publications.

This research group is active in the following constellations: