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Funded Research Projects

  • Imagining Institutions Otherwise: Art, Politics, and State Transformation

    Vidi Chiara de Cesari 2020-2024

    Following the “social turn” in contemporary art, a number of political and cultural theorists have argued that art’s primary function is to “imagine things otherwise” and incite social change. Still, despite this theoretical interest in art’s capacity to reconfigure society and politics, there is a dearth of empirical studies showing how this happens in the everyday practices of artists and political movements. Accordingly, this multi-researcher project undertakes a series of ethnographic studies exploring the role of artistic practices in reimagining and transforming societies from below. In particular, IMAGINART explores how artists are reinventing crumbling public institutions. Against the backdrop of state failure, transformation or withdrawal under (post)colonial, postsocialist, and neoliberal conditions, artists are creating “micro-utopias”: alternative spaces of collaboration and cohabitation in which to prefigure new forms of organized collective life. To explore these institutional experiments, IMAGINART focuses on the three case studies of Lebanon/the West Bank, Hungary, and Italy. In these contexts, artistic practice has figured prominently in recent protest movements against state repression, corruption, or neoliberal restructuring.

  • MSCA ITN Early Language Development in the Digital Age (e-LADDA)

    Stefania Milan receives funding  from the European Commission (Horizon 2020/ Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions)

    Current theories of language learning emphasize the role of language input and the child’s interaction with the environment as crucial to language development. Modern digital technologies are transforming rapidly the environment in which children are growing up and developing skills. This new digital reality has changed both the nature of the linguistic input provided to young children and affords new ways of interaction with communication agents (tablets, robots). Thus, we need to establish whether new digital technologies also change the way in which language is learned. If so, do digital technologies provide useful tools to enhance/optimize language learning in increasingly multi-cultural educational and therapeutic contexts? Despite the rapid and unprecedented advance of technology and the rapid change in the child’s ecology, research on the impact of digital technologies on children’s communication and language development is still scarce and highly fragmented with no unitary approach across disciplines. The central scientific goal of e-LADDA is to establish whether the new and quite intuitive interactions afforded by digital tools impact on young children’s language development and language outcomes in a positive or adverse way. We further aim to identify exactly what factors in both the technology itself and the communication channel advance language learning and growth or may impede it. This goal will be pursued in e-LADDA from a highly interdisciplinary and cross-sectorial perspective, bridging between research disciplines and methodologies and in collaboration with industry and the non-academic public sector.

  • SoBigData++: European Integrated Infrastructure for Social Mining and Big Data Analytics

    Richard Rogers received funding from the European Commission (Horizon 2020)

    SoBigData++ strives to deliver a distributed, Pan-European, multi-disciplinary research infrastructure for big social data analytics, coupled with the consolidation of a cross-disciplinary European research community, aimed at using social mining and big data to understand the complexity of our contemporary, globally-interconnected society. SoBigData++ is set to advance on such ambitious tasks thanks to SoBigData, the predecessor project that started this construction in 2015. Becoming an advanced community, SoBigData++ will strengthen its tools and services to empower researchers and innovators through a platform for the design and execution of large-scale social mining experiments. It will be open to users with diverse background, accessible on project cloud (aligned with EOSC) and also exploiting supercomputing facilities. Pushing the FAIR principles further, SoBigData++ will render social mining experiments more easily designed, adjusted and repeatable by domain experts that are not data scientists. SoBigData++ will move forward from a starting community of pioneers to a wide and diverse scientific movement, capable of empowering the next generation of responsible social data scientists, engaged in the grand societal challenges laid out in its exploratories: Societal Debates and Online Misinformation, Sustainable Cities for Citizens, Demography, Economics & Finance 2.0, Migration Studies, Sport Data Science, Social Impact of Artificial Intelligence and Explainable Machine Learning. SoBigData++ will advance from the awareness of ethical and legal challenges to concrete tools that operationalise ethics with value-sensitive design, incorporating values and norms for privacy protection, fairness, transparency and pluralism. SoBigData++ will deliver an accelerator of data-driven innovation that facilitates the collaboration with industry to develop joint pilot projects, and will consolidate an RI ready for the ESFRI Roadmap and sustained by a SoBigData Association.

  • Making the hidden visible: Co-designing for public values in standards-making and governance

    Stefania Milan receives funding from NWO Maatschappelijk Verantwoord Innoveren 2020

    Straddling computer science, sociology, law, and media studies, this project investigates standard-making in relation to democratic values and practices. It asks how the public sphere is governed today through the standardization of the digital and how to support societal values in the creation of standards. Specifically, it looks at standard-making as a sociotechnical practice, analyzing technology development and implementation, the related governance arrangements and legal aspects. It investigates three cases of national relevance and global breadth: 1) the development of cybersecurity standards for the Internet of Things, 2) identity management standards (e.g., DigiID), and 3) the development and implementation of 5th generation (5G) cellular mobile communication. In so doing, the project contributes to illuminating the “wiring” of values (or lack thereof) into technical standards, the relation and the balance of power between a variety of public (e.g., states) and private actors (e.g., the industry, consumers), informal lawmaking and multistakeholder governance mechanisms. It will result in the co-design of mechanisms for technology and governance, and in standards which are “value- and rights-respecting by design”.


  • The Platformization of the Global Sex Industry. Markets, Morals, and Mass Intimacy

    Thomas Poell (with Olav Velthuis) receie funding from NWO (Digitisation), 2020-2024

    This project studies the spectacular rise of webcam sex platforms, such as Chaturbate, or Myfreecams. What is the impact of platformization on competition within this industry? Which risks and opportunities does webcamming create for sex workers? Are there reasons for better regulation of these platforms?

  • Big Brother Wants Your Vote: How Critical Micro-targeting Influences Dutch Democracy

    Beate Roessler [co-applicant],  Prof. N. Helberger (Main applicant) receive funding from NWO (Maatschappelijk Verantwoord Innoveren) 2020

    Political parties send citizens tailored, microtargeted messages, hoping to get more votes. This approach comes with potential upsides (more political engagement) and potential downsides (deceit of citizens). This project studies the chances and threats of microtargeting to society and how to limit these threats and embrace the chances. Partners: AlgorithmWatch, DATACTIVE Ideas Lab, ProDemos, WhoTargetsMe

  • Decentralising Conceptual Art's Internationalism: Latin American Artists in Western Europe, 1968-1979

    Eliza Mazadiego receives Funding from the European Commission (Marie Curie Career Integration Grant)

    Elize Mazadiego’s project aims to problematise conceptual art’s ‘internationalism’ and the persistent binary between Euro-American conceptual art and global conceptualism with a re-examination of the interregional flows and networks of production between the two. Mazadiego will comprehensively study transnational artists who fled from Latin American repressive political regimes to Western Europe between 1968-1979, yet conceivably moving in and out of Conceptualism’s centres. The aim of this research is to develop our understanding of Latin American conceptualist art practices as they developed and adapted in a diasporic context, with the objective to demonstrate the fundamental importance of these artists to the development of Conceptual art in Europe and its international context beyond the U.S.

  • Worlding Public Cultures: The Arts and Social lnnovation

    Chiara de Cesari [Wayne Modest, main applicant] receive funding from NWO (Social Innovation of the Transatlactic Platform (T-AP-SI)), 2020

    Worlding Public Cultures: Art and Social Innovation is a research project and transnational platform designed to strengthen the resilience of public culture in the context of populist nationalisms and global challenges. This project’s ultimate goal is to contribute to the creation of a more open and resilient society with more complex cultural narratives about nation, identity, and migration through changes in public discourse through the arts and curation. It does so by using arts-based methodologies to provide new perspectives on social innovation, by proposing new ways of imagining the cultural consequences of globalization as social innovation, and by applying those research insights for social innovation in the higher education and museums/galleries sectors.

  • Sociale Media en Verkiezingen 2019

    Research Project Commissioned by the Dutch Government Richard Rogers 2019

    This research project, commissioned by the Netherlands Government, looks into the role of fake news, false information, and computational propaganda in the upcoming elections of 2019. The project will include a series of empirical case studies to examine how search engines and social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube) are effectively used to spread disinformation in the Netherlands. An additional case study focuses on how the so-called “deep vernacular web” (4Chan, Reddit, and other alternative platforms) is used in the Netherlands to create a breeding ground for the mainstreaming of disinformation and extremist reporting.

  • Cross-Lingual Event-Centric Open Analytics Research Academy

    EU project Richard Rogers 2019

    The CLEOPATRA EU research project aims to make sense of the massive digital coverage generated by the events of global importance in Europe over the past decade. CLEOPATRA offers a unique interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral research and training programme, which explores how we can begin to analyse and understand the major events that influence and shape our lives and our societies. It facilitates advanced cross-lingual processing of textual and visual information related to key contemporary events at scale, and develops innovative methods for efficient and intuitive user access to and interaction with multilingual information.

  • Algorithms Exposed. Investigating Automated Personalization and Filtering for Research and Activism

    Proof of Concept Grant (ERC) for Stefania Milan and her DATACTIVE team 2018

    Personalization algorithms—filtering content on the basis of someone's profile—increasingly mediate the web experience of users. By forging a specific reality for each individual, they silently shape customized 'information diets': in other words, they determine which news, opinions and rumors users are exposed to. Restricting users’ possibilities, they ultimately infringe on their agency. As exposed by the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, they are supported by questionable data sharing practices at the core of the business models of the social media industry. 

  • Documenting Curatorial Practices in Dutch Art Museums (1945-today)

    KIEM Research Grant Rachel Esner 2018

    The Netherlands has a tradition of innovative curatorial practice in temporary museum exhibitions and collection presentations. Much of this practice – once dismantled – has unfortunately become invisible. This pilot-project represents the first step in creating a database that will make available to art historians, museologists, curators, educators, exhibition designers, and the general public the wealth of photographs and subsidiary material documenting exhibitions and displays in Dutch art museums from 1945 to today.

  • Apps and Data Infrastructures

    Veni Esther Weltevrede 2019

    Apps have become an important part of our everyday life. However, how they operate is still largely unknown. This project develops novel digital methods to study how apps recombine, valorize and distribute data from various sources.

  • Imagining the Rural in a Globalizing World

    ERC Consolidator Esther Peeren 2018-2023

    With globalization primarily considered an urban phenomenon, its impact on rural areas tends to be neglected. Tackling this blind spot is urgent as rural-urban divides persist and rural communities, notably in the 2016 Brexit vote and US election, claim their concerns about globalization’s effects are being ignored. 

  • App Ecosystems: A Critical History of Apps

    Veni Anne Helmond 2018-2022

    The aim of this project is to write the first critical history of the app ecosystem. People spend much of their time online using apps to communicate with people and to share content. Yet, despite their popularity we know little about the development of individual apps, their emergence as a new media form, and their native environment, the app stores.

  • Sonic Entanglements: Listening to Modernities in Southeast Asian Sound Recordings, 1890-1950

    Veni meLê yamomo 2018-2022

    »Sonic Entanglements« will identify, organize, and analyze extant early sound (musical and non-musical) media in and about Southeast Asia during the emergence and development of early recording technologies in the region (1890-1950). The research endeavors to expand the historiographical archival corpus to include the early sound media and technologies as primary sources for the theoretical reflection of the Southeast Asian cultural history of modernities and the region’s entanglement with modern globalization. 

  • Opinion Dynamics and Cultural Conflict in European Spaces

    EU project Richard Rogers 2017-2021

    Social media, online news and the comment space are having far-reaching effects on the manner in which individuals and communities communicate, organize and express themselves. Can the information circulating on these platforms be tapped to better understand and analyze the enormous problems facing our contemporary society?

  • The Sensory Moving Image Archive

    Smart Culture Grant Giovanna Fossati 2017-2021

    The project’s objective is to establish a set of tools that is needed for the sensory exploration of moving images and it aims to provide a boost to the practice of users who seek to creatively repurpose collections.


  • Data Activism

    ERC Starting Grant Stefania Milan 2017-2021

    We take a critical look at massive data collection, privacy and surveillance | social movements, activism and internet activism | internet infrastructure, cybersecurity and their governance | open data and civic tech networks.

  • Sublime Imperfections

    Vidi Ellen Rutten 2016-2020

    Ours is an age of digital spellcheckers; of refined street mapping technologies; and of advanced visual editing tools. Word’s spellchecker, Google Maps, Photoshop: myriad digital technologies aim at lightening our everyday lives. Against this growing mediatised and digitised perfection, the late twentieth and early twenty-first century boast a strong preoccupation with imperfection.

  • Corporate Collections

    NWO project Arnold Witte 2015-2019

    By using a signalling framework to integrate cultural studies and management science perspectives the project will study the effects of corporate art collecting in the context of the dynamics of the art world, as well as in the context of the competitive strategies in which corporations that build collections are involved.

  • From Made in China to Created in China

    ERC Consolidator Jeroen de Kloet 2015-2019

    This project is funded by an ERC consolidator grant. It asks: What does creativity mean in the context of China, and what does it do? With its emergence as a global power, China aspires to move from a “made in China” towards a “created in China” country. Creativity and culture have become a crucial source for innovation and financial growth, but are also mobilised to promote a new and open China to both the citizenry as well as the outside world.