New Media MA at the University of Amsterdam
Department and faculty
The M.A. in New Media & Digital Culture is a one-year, English-language degree program in the Department of Media Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Amsterdam. From fall 2013 onwards we will also offer a two-year Research Master. Please see our call for applications for the M.A. and research master’s in New Media studies.
New Media M.A. program & application information: http://www.uva.nl/onderwijs/master/masteropleidingen/item/new-media-and-digital-culture.html
Program director: Prof. dr. Richard Rogers
Thesis coordinator: Dr. Geert Lovink
Faculty and staff
- Prof. dr. Richard Rogers, Professor
- Dr. Geert Lovink, Associate Professor
- Dr. Jan Simons, Associate Professor
- Dr. Yuri Engelhardt, Assistant Professor
- Dr. Thomas Poell, Assistant Professor
- Dr. Bernhard Rieder, Assistant Professor
- Dr. Almila Akdag, Post-doctoral researcher
- Carolin Gerlitz, Lecturer
- Sebastian Scholz, Lecturer
- Michael Dieter, Lecturer
- Erik Borra, PhD candidate
Read more about the specializations of the New Media faculty and staff members.
New Media & Digital Culture M.A. Courses, 2012-2013
New Media Research Practices (Carolin Gerlitz and Bernhard Rieder)
New Media Theories (Michael Dieter and Niels van Doorn)
New Media Research Methods (Richard Rogers, Erik Borra and Bernhard Rieder)
New Media Project: Data Visualization (Almila Akdag and Bernhard Rieder)
MA Theme Seminar: Issue Mapping for Politics (Richard Rogers and Carolin Gerlitz)
MA Theme Seminar: Ubiquitous Computing (Jan Simons)
MA Theme Seminar: Digital Sexualities (Niels van Doorn)
MA Theme Seminar: The Digital Book (Michael Dieter)
New Media M.A. Thesis (Coordinator Bernhard Rieder and faculty supervisors)
New Media Research. Areas of concentration
Media Theory & ‘New Media’
While still young, media theory is a discipline with quite a reputation. Stretching from Walter Benjamin through Marshall McLuhan to Friedrich Kittler and Lev Manovich, we encounter schools of thinking that struggle with the materiality of new media. The main issue that we are still facing centers on the issue how technology informs us. Techno-determinism is not so much a philosophy or belief system as it is a challenge to define and refine to status of the user. What are our degrees of freedom when we surf the Web, install a blog or join a social bookmarking project? Media theories also deal with the status of the image, its relation to the computer and the general relationship between ‘old’ and ‘new’ media. A subset of this field deals with the question of network architectures. Are virtual communities merely a special effect of software? What are the social dynamics of online groups and how do we visualize and interpret their behaviour?
Space, Place & Technologies of Location
In the 1980s and early 1990s new media were expected to open new and unknown territories, where the most fundamental dimensions of the physical world as we knew it, were absent. Cyberspace was conceived as a universe where along with physical and material limits space and time no longer reigned supreme. Nowadays, ‘real time’ and ‘real space’ have made a surreptitious comeback in new media. ‘Where are you now?’ has become the most asked question since the rise of mobile and wireless technologies, GPS and GIS support navigation through the ‘real’ world, satellites and surveillance systems, RFIDs and CCTVs keep track of persons and objects, and together with other applications these technologies will make it possible to customize the perception and experience of places for personal needs and desires. The courses look at how this return of space in the realm of new media affects and transforms (‘remediates’) our sense of place and space, and how mobile and wireless media may possibly redefine our notions of time, place and subjectivity.
Networks, Information & the Politics of Tools
Hypertext theory has treated the link as an invitation to surf, and ultimately to author a pathway, even a story. Google, however, treats the link as a marker of reputation. One could say that in counting links, Google authors information lists.
But there’s more to it. When links add up, sites rise in the rankings. When certain sites rise, and others fall, viewers are presented with the consequences of selection mechanisms. The politics of search engines – algorithmic politics, one may say – concerns itself with media placement and displacement. The courses deal with new media information politics, deconstructing and critiquing devices that author lists and recommend sites, blogs, news, images, video and music, from the early days of the Web to the 2.0 era. Also offered are opportunities to work on tool proposals and participate in projects at the TEMLab, the Temporary Experimental Media Lab, run by research staff members working on devices and exhibitions for national and international audiences.
Filmic Games Theory
The surprising and spectacular breakthrough of computer and video games has been accompanied by efforts to theorize them as a new cultural form, distinct from other existing forms and formats like stories and storytelling in general, and cinema and television in particular. Games studies scholars strive to identify ‘ludological’ traits unique to games, and to distinguish those of games from the narrative formats employed by cinema, novels, TV-series, etc. The courses look at the narratology-ludology divide from the perspective of the mathematical and economic and evolutionary game theory as developed by John von Neumann, John Nash, Robert Axelrodt and their likes, and examine whether game theory could provide an encompassing theoretical framework of which narratives are a particular sub-domain rather than being something alien or opposed to games. The courses also examine how game formats have transformed cinema as well: a film is nowadays just one of the formats in which ‘content’ is articulated for a particular ‘window’, besides other formats like games, toys and gadgets, books and comic books, CDs and DVDs (which often contain supplementary content), websites, and, increasingly, spoofs and ‘mods’ produced and distributed by amateur video filmmakers. The key to this ‘narrative economy’ (Henry Jenkins) is ‘modularization’, which, according to Lev Manovich, is one of the defining characteristics of new media. In contemporary (new) media culture, games and narratives share rather than vie for one another’s features.
Cognitive science and New Media
The Web provides a unique medium for the integration of visual, textual and auditory information in an interactive way. This offers fascinating challenges for perception theory as to how multimedia information is represented in the mind and how it is processed and produced. The field of cognitive science provides various analytical tools to explore new media representations, complementing cultural-studies and network-based approaches. Main questions from a cognitivescience perspective are: What is the nature of new media perception and production? Are there new media “grammars”? How do text, image and sound interact in new media perception? We will work with state-of-the-art methods drawn from speech recognition / understanding, computational linguistics, machine vision and machine learning to tackle those questions. Much of our work is inspired by formal models of human cognition and learning, ranging from the early Perceptron machine to the recent Bayesian revolution in cognitive science. Courses in this cluster will study cognitive approaches to the analysis of new media, the interaction between image, sound and text, the esthetics of new media, and the nature of new media representation.
Digital studies on culture may be distinguished from cultural studies of the digital at least in terms of method. The research takes up the question of the distinctiveness of ‘digital methods’ for understanding internet cultures. It concentrates on the research opportunities afforded especially by tacit knowledge of the internet, such as having sites, maintaining blogs, making wikis, adding friends to social software pages, keeping up with a del.icio.us account, the affect of changing your Skype state, etc. It focuses further on the tools that build in a cultural understanding of how to study the ‘natively digital’. Consider, for example, the hyperlink, the thread and the tag. Each may ‘remediate’ older media forms (reference, telephone chain, book index), and genealogical histories remain useful. At the same time new media environments – and the softwaremakers – have implemented these concepts, algorithmically, in ways that may resist familiar thinking as well as methods. In other words, the effort is not simply to import well-known methods – be they from humanities, social science or computing. Rather, the focus is on how methods may change, however slightly or wholesale, owing to the technical specificities of new media. The digital methods initiative is twofold (see http://digitalmethods.net). First, we wish to interrogate what scholars have called “virtual methods” (aka “e-social science”), ascertaining the extent to which the new methods can stake claim to taking into account the differences that new media make. Second, we desire to create a platform to display the tools and methods to perform research that, also, can take advantage of “web epistemology”. The web may have distinctive ways of recommending information. Which digital methods innovate with and also critically display the recommender culture that is at the heart of new media information environments?