2 PhD positions - The Politics of Big Data, Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, Netherlands

Publish Date: May 26, 2015

Deadline: Jun 09, 2015

Two PhD positions in the project ‘The Politics of Big Data’
Closing date: June 9, 2015

Organisational Unit: Faculty of Humanities – The Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA)
Level of Education: University (Master of Arts/Science/Research or equivalent degree)
Scope of work: 38 hours (1,0 FTE for each position)
Salary indication: €2.125 to €2.717 gross per month, based on 38 hours per week

The Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA) of the Faculty of Humanities is looking for two PhD students 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. The project will be based at the Media Studies Department/

Located at the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Amsterdam, the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA) is an interdisciplinary research community whose members share a commitment to maintaining a close connection with contemporary cultural and political debates in society at large. Within ASCA they collaborate to provide a stimulating environment for scholars, professionals, and graduate students from the Netherlands and abroad.

Job / Project Description
With the diffusion of ‘big data’, citizens become increasingly aware of the critical role of information in modern societies. This awareness gives rise to new social practices rooted in technology and data, which fall under the rubric of ‘data activism’. Data activism takes two forms: re-active data activism, whereby people increasingly resist the threats to civil rights that derive from corporate privacy intrusion and government surveillance, and pro-active data activism, by means of which people take advantage of the possibilities for advocacy and campaigning that big data provide. The DATACTIVE project addresses three research questions: How do citizens resist massive data collection by means of technical fixes and other tactics (re-active data activism)? How do social movements use big data to foster social change (pro-active data activism)? How does data activism affect the dynamics of transnational civil society, and transnational advocacy networks in particular?

You will join a team of five people working under the leadership of Dr. Stefania Milan (the PI) 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).

Both candidates are expected to:

  • Complete and defend a PhD dissertation within four years
  • Actively participate in the work of the project team, and collaborate with others
  • Occasionally travel abroad for fieldwork and conference presentations
  • Contribute to the publication of project results in academic endeavors as well as the popular press
  • Contribute to the organization of project-related research activities and events such as workshops and symposia
  • Assist in teaching activities, if needed
  • Collaborate with nongovernmental organizations and activist groups, if circumstances so dictate.


Vacancy 1
The ideal candidate should have:

  • An interest in one or the combination of the following fields: grassroots activism/social movements, digital technology and citizen participation, human rights
  • A Master or equivalent degree in one of the following disciplines: sociology, political science, philosophy or neighboring disciplines, preferably with expertise in one of the following fields: political sociology, social movement studies, sociology of organizations, sociology of knowledge and/or culture, surveillance studies, participatory governance
  • Expertise (or willingness to acquire it) in qualitative and/or quantitative research methods
  • Familiarity (or willingness to acquire it) with data processing techniques and digital methods is an advantage.

Vacancy 2
The ideal candidate should have:

  • An interest in one or a combination of the following fields: digital technology and citizen participation, software and platform studies, big data, data journalism, human rights, privacy and surveillance, cyberspace governance
  • A Master or equivalent degree in one of the following disciplines: science and technology studies, media studies, software studies, critical internet studies, surveillance studies
  • Expertise (or willingness to acquire it) in qualitative and ethnographic research methods
  • Familiarity (or willingness to acquire it) with data processing techniques and digital methods is an advantage.

Both candidates should have:

  • 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
  • Willingness to engage in research collaboration with nongovernmental organizations.

Further Information
Questions about the project content should be addressed to: Dr. Stefania Milan (s.milan@uva.nl), with the subject line “[DATACTIVE vacancy]”.

The candidates will be appointed full-time (38 hours per week) for a period of 48 months at the Department of Media Studies of the Faculty of Humanities, starting in September 2015 (or as soon as possible thereafter), initially for a period of one year. Contingent on satisfactory performance it will be extended by a maximum of three additional years leading to the completion of a PhD thesis. The gross monthly salary (on a full-time basis) will range from € 2,125 during the first year to € 2,717 during the fourth year, in accordance with the Collective Employment Agreement of the Dutch universities.

Job Application
Your application must consist of one pdf or word document including the following:

  • An up-to-date CV, inclusive of a list of courses taken during your Master studies and before, if relevant, and publication list, if applicable
  • A cover letter of not more than 2 pages outlining your motivations to join the project and illustrating how you meet the requirements for the position
  • One to two reference letters from an academic (or work- or activism-related) advisor
  • PhD Vacancy 1: A one-page essay in one of the following topics: ‘Big Data and the political’, ‘The social construction of big data’, ‘Big Data for the grassroots’.
  • PhD Vacancy 2: A one-page essay in one of the following topics: ‘The future of Big Data algorithms’, ‘Big Data and the Internet of Things’, ‘Big Data beyond the Internet’.

Applications may be submitted no later than June 9, 2015. Please submit your application by e-mail to asca-fgw@uva.nl. Interviews with the selected candidates are expected to take place on June 19.

This opportunity has expired. It was originally published here:


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