For best experience please turn on javascript and use a modern browser!
Social Media and the Transformation of Public Space

Social Media and the Transformation of Public Space


Thomas Poell


Thomas Poell, Mark Deuze, Martijn de Waal, Jeroen de Kloet, Mirko Schaefer, Bernhard Rieder, Carolin Gerlitz, Marcel Broersma, Tamara Witschge, Ansgard Heinrich, José van Dijck, David Nieborg, Niels van Doorn, Eva Fotiadi, Anne Helmond, Michael Stevenson, Joke Hermes, S. Rajagopalan.

Description of the research programme of the research group

This research group critically investigates how public space is reconfigured in the new emerging ecosystem of social media and conventional mass media. The quick rise of social media has affected the balance between (private) space, community (public) space, and corporate (commercial) space, transforming not just the media ecosystem, but also other domains of public life. This group investigates how major social media platforms, mostly steered by global commercial companies, in constant interaction with mainstream media, affect and reshape key areas of public communication in Western Europe, the MENA region, China, and the US. First, in this effort, the focus will be on the political economy of social media, which revolves around the collection of user data, personalized advertising and services, as well as state and consumer surveillance. Second, the group investigates how the social media technologies themselves very much steer connectivity, shaping particular user cultures, and facilitating the development of invasive commercial mechanisms. Finally, we intend to trace how new subversive user practices prompt changes in the technological architecture of social platforms, and open up new public spaces.


This project has resulted in a series of presentations, conferences, seminars, and workshops (both academic and public-oriented). The main event was the "Social Media and the Transformation of Public Space" conference (18-20 June, 2014, UvA & KNAW), in which 300 scholars from the Netherlands and abroad have participated. Particularly productive were also the mini-symposia on: social media activism (21 January 2013), journalism (28 June 2013), and MOOCs (8 April 2014). 


The two main publications of the project are a report for the The Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) and the book The Platform Society. Furthermore, inspired by the Social Media and the Transformation of Public Space conference, we have edited four special issues in international journals. These publications are scheduled to appear in 2016. Already published are:

This group is active in the following constellations: 


Globalization and Migration