Media research and data collection
In the 2022-2023 academic year, the following thesis projects are being done within the MA New Media & Digital Culture program. These projects may be collecting public social media data in the public interest at the University of Amsterdam, department of Media Studies.
Eveline Van Duffel
This thesis explores the impact of post-truth politics on media and communication through a network analysis. The phenomenon of post-truth politics, characterised by the manipulation and distortion of facts for political gain, has gained significant attention in recent years. By examining a diverse range of sources and studies, this research aims to shed light on the multifaceted implications of post-truth politics in the context of Facebook in the post-Soviet countries of Slovenia and Serbia regarding the Russo-Ukrainian conflict.
The study begins by analysing the theoretical framework of post-truth politics and its conceptualisation within the field of political epistemology. It further delves into the ways in which post-truth politics influences communication practices, particularly in the era of Facebook. The Actor-Network perspective and the affordances of social network sites as networked publics are explored, considering their role in disseminating misinformation and propaganda.
Furthermore, the thesis investigates the intricacy of link-sharing behaviour in an unstable climate as a European country existing within the Russian sphere of influence. It examines the role of open-source investigation in countering misinformation and disinformation. This is developed using controversy mapping.
Through a comprehensive analysis of scholarly articles, books, and reports, this research contributes to the existing body of knowledge by providing insights into the mechanisms and consequences of post-truth politics on media and communication. The findings of this study have implications for media professionals, policymakers, and society as a whole, emphasizing the need for critical engagement with information and the development of strategies to combat the spread of misinformation.
Conspiracy theories have been around for centuries, although it is not quite possible to agree on the very first instance. Conspiracy theories come in many shapes and forms, not to mention their intentions and motives while conspiracy theories continuously evolve. Furthermore, it might seem difficult to navigate through and establish a clear distinction between closely interrelated notions, such as disinformation, fake news, or post-truth. In the modern world, the contemporary concept of conspiracy theories tirelessly proposes greater threats, with the power of inciting violence, shaping the outcome of a general election, altering the psychological state of one, or promoting populist narratives or radicalistic, extremist views, such as antisemitism or Islamophobia. The following paper gives an insight into the historical and cultural context of conspiracy theories, alongside the negative consequences of them across various domains, ranging from the psychological, and individualistic levels to the collective, global, and political levels.
The research intends to present the above by investigating conspiracy theories, and their impact on various domains of life and nations, while examining the evolution of their narratives, through the persona of the multibillionaire, philanthropist George Soros by utilising and analysing social media data gathered from Twitter with digital methods. The analysed dataset of this research is a subset of an earlier generated substantial dataset by filtering those tweets that contain the phrase “#GeorgeSoros”, ranging from the 10th of April 2008 to the 31st of December 2022. By doing so, the research aims to map out the network of conspiracists and conspiracy theorists, while being critical towards the role and responsibilities of social media platforms in facilitating the dissemination and fuelling of conspiracy theories.
Keywords: conspiracy theory, disinformation, post-truth, antisemitism, social media, politics, Twitter, George Soros, digital methods
Following accusations that its algorithm knowingly promoted hateful content in Myanmar in the lead up to the events known as the Rohingya Genocide, Facebook is now facing two lawsuits that may be pivotal in the governance of social media platforms. Introduced into a rapidly developping market in the latter half of the 2010s, the platform was cited multiple times in UN fact finding report as spreading hateful and harmful content in a country marked by military dictatorships and marked ethnic conflict. The question remains wether Facebook had an active role in amplifying the violence, or wether the flagged content was simply reflective of a socio-political system already headed for calamity. This paper combines the mediation theory outlined by Sarah Kember and Joanna Zylinska in the book “Life After New Media: Mediation as a Vital Process” (2012) with a discursive analysis of the media coverage of the events, to reframe Facebook’s involvement as a biotechnical process. In doing so it reaches a more complete ethical understanding of the phenomenon, that furthers the collective understanding of new media objects, in the hopes of mitigating futur harm.
Sayat Rahman Chowdhury
Podcasts are becoming an increasingly popular media tool establishing a ‘long-tail’ format of content with multiple niches, contrary to its radio cousin. This relatively new tool comes with its unique set of features and affordances which creates a very particular scaffold for itself in the dissemination information and its subsequent absorption by listeners. The distinctive features and dynamics characterising podcasts as a medium, makes it an interesting tool to study, particularly through the lens of its ability in informing audiences. The general perception of mixed martial arts amongst casual viewers, primarily upon the initial and surface-level glance, is that of a sport that is violent, backwards and brutish putting on a display of hyper-masculinity in attempts to ‘out-man’ the competitor. However, not only is this perception limited and takes away from the credentials of both the male and female athletes operating at the highest levels of the sport, but also the complexity in techniques, physical and mental dexterity, history, background and the nuances that sport brings to the table. The beauty of the sport truly is found in its nuances. As with any sport, training and education are crucial in garnering success and recognition, and MMA is no exception. Mixed martial arts, and particularly MMA podcasts, is therefore deemed to be an appropriate vessel to analyse and demonstrate the ability of podcasting in informing its audiences in how they educate and shape public discourse about the sport. This paper therefore aims to explore the educational aspect of MMA podcasts by asking the questions: “How do MMA podcasts contribute to knowledge production within the sport?”, “How do MMA podcasts create a public sphere for discussion and debate among fans, fighters, and analysts?” and “How do MMA podcasts shape fan cultures and contribute to the development of the sport?” amongst others. This exploration is intended to contribute to the growing body of literature on the role of podcasts in sports media and their potential to shape the future of sport by providing insights into the educational aspect of MMA podcasts. The educational aspects encompass contribution to knowledge production, shedding light on the ways in which MMA podcasts create a public sphere for discussion amongst fans, fighters, and analysts, how these discussions then contribute to the sport’s growth and development, as well as shape fan cultures, and examine how MMA podcasts foster a sense of community and belonging amongst fans and the potential implications of this for the future of the sport.
During COP27, researchers noticed that ‘an organic search for the word “climate” on Twitter returned #ClimateScam ahead of two other, ostensibly ‘pro-green’ hashtags”. COP27 occurred in a period of chaos when the takeover of Twitter by Elon Musk caused heavy changes in the platform’s content moderation approach. I want to study the guidelines related to climate change on TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook, as the three platforms have different target audiences and offer different services. I am interested in researching climate change’s portrayal on social media as the urgency of the issue demands our immediate attention. With social media as a critical component of communication and education, examining how the climate crisis is formed to the users and influencing their knowledge as climate denial has increased over the past decade is essential. Under 60% of US citizens agree that climate change is caused mainly by human activities. Hence, feelings of fear and hope emerge for the future. At the same time, the polarization of the issue segments the issue and the possibility of mobilization. Moreover, the science denial – the same one that plagued COVID-19 – distorts people’s views and does the groundwork for the misinformation, further deepening the divide (Rizvi et al., 2022). I am also interested in analyzing how platforms approach climate change through the lens of COVID-19, in which case social media platforms have reacted quickly to prevent disinformation.
After acquiring the social media platform Music.ally in 2016, parent company ByteDance has successfully rebranded the app into TikTok, a prominent player in the current social media landscape. The app has experienced substantial growth recently, particularly among the younger generation who have adopted it ardently. Most research on the platform currently available is focused on the platform’s short video content. However, these studies overlook an essential aspect of the app, TikTok Live, which is the subject of this research. TikTok Live enables creators to broadcast live video content to their followers. This feature includes affordances that allow viewers to communicate with hosts by messaging in the live chat, sending gifts, and subscribing among others. The content of these live streams varies, but one category stands out as particularly interesting: creators broadcasting themselves working their legitimate professions. These streamers provide their viewers with a behind-the-scenes look into their daily, often manual labor. Unlike some other channels on the platform, the focus is not on the creator and their personality, but on what they do for a living. These creators range in popularity, with some amassing thousands of followers and live viewers. With these metrics, one could categorize these users under the concept of the ‘micro-celebrity’. However, this paper aims to identify a new category that these creators fall under instead, the jobfluencer. In order to properly define and develop this term, an analysis of TikTok’s interface and how these creators develop their brand is necessary. Digital ethnography will be employed to explore this category and its associated community on TikTok. Fifteen creators that best represent this group of creators will be selected and analyzed, with an average of 20 minutes spent taking notes on each of their live streams. These qualitative methods provide the best understanding of this phenomenon as the development of online brands on TikTok is complex with nuance.
The jobfluencer is a combination of the conventional and micro-celebrity. While they are tied to their profession and are known for their ability to complete said labor, the authenticity of their work is what makes them more akin to the micro-celebrity. The jobs they complete are not held in high regard but mostly attract viewers interested in seeing a behind-the-scenes look at someone working a job they will never have, nor want. These creators range in success and aspiration. Some users broadcast their work in the hopes of developing a following and becoming a micro-celebrity where their followers focus instead on their personalities. Meanwhile, other jobfluencers merely see the Live feature as an additional form of income that adds value and a welcome distraction to their labor.
This study aims to help develop a better understanding of this new category of internet celebrity, as well as fill a gap in academic research on the TikTok Live feature.
Researching TikTok and TikTok Live. Analyzing the content of 15 creators. I pseudonymized all of the users’ data. Creators have to be 16+ to use the TikTok Live feature. Did not include any personal details or their username. Will include screenshots from the broadcasts but will blur any identifiers and the users face. Subjects do not belong to any vulnerable group, there is no possibility of negative affects, and the data is stored in Onedrive. Date ranges from 1/5/2023 to 31/5/2023
TikTok and other social media platforms have been criticised for promoting content that idealises and amplifies hegemonic beauty standards. The architecture of the TikTok platform is geared towards users who are thin, white, able-bodied and cisgender. The recommendation algorithm that determines which videos are most likely to end up in wider circulation favours creators that conform to western ideals of beauty and present in ways that are deemed conventionally acceptable. The platform also encourages creators to apply beauty filters, retouching their features so as to adhere to a hegemonic beauty ideal. Studies have found that exposure to unattainable body standards on social media has a damaging effect on the body image and body satisfaction of viewers, with younger audiences being especially vulnerable.
An online body positivity movement has emerged to address and combat the propagation of a singular beauty ideal that favours already privileged groups. Body-positive creators on TikTok aim to increase the visibility and acceptance of features that may not conform to the western beauty ideal, in order to create a more realistic representation of human bodies and their diversity. They often specifically address the ways in which the TikTok platform is complicit in cultivating unhealthy beauty ideals.
In this thesis I investigate how the affordances of the TikTok platform shape the practices of the body positivity community when it comes to combating the glorification of hegemonic beauty ideals and navigating issues of algorithmic invisibility, both of which seem interwoven in the platform’s design and culture.
This article analyse how the Chinese state regime strategically utilises the concept of cuteness to mobilise the public and foster adherence to the state’s political ideology and implementations during a time of crisis. Specifically focusing on the pervasive internet phenomenon of dàbái, a popular term refers to the pandemic prevention workers dressed in white hazmat suits, I illustrate how the government-run accounts and online publics co-created the cute videos of dàbái on the platform of Douyi to counterbalance the crisis during the Covid-19 pandemic. Employing a multi-modal approach that combines the analysis of co-hashtag network, text, and sounds, the research investigates a dataset of Douyin videos collected using search queries associated with the hashtag “dabai”, spanning from January 27 2020 to April 5, 2023. The study argues that hashtags on Douyin serve as propagandic signifiers, playing a regulatory and instructive role in shaping user practices rather than encouraging diverse interpretations. The extensive use of hashtag “cute” as part of the state ideological conduit engenders a complex of feelings among the public, encompassing not only the performance of cuteness but also the display of positivity, happiness, gratitude, and self-discipline. In addition, the narratives surrounding dàbái, structured through the cute objects such as hashtags, text, visuals and sounds, serve to evoke public appreciation and empathy towards dàbái while instilling a sense of security and safety. These narratives effectively render the public in a state of vulnerability. By actively engaging with and employing the cute materials on the platform, while simultaneously experiencing the powerlessness, the public are inevitably driven into the process of cutification.
Affordances, Pornification of Fitness, Monetisation of health and wellbeing, Instagram
The golden thread underpinning this thesis, the aim is to understand to what extent is the monetisation of health and wellbeing perpetuated on Instagram. Through conducting content analysis on the posts of 5 Instagram influencers that have been handpicked, the thesis aims to identify and highlight the ways health and wellbeing are being monetised on the app and how this is being perpetuated. This raises questions about users’ own health and wellbeing being sold back to them and notions of health and wellbeing residing behind a paywall in the digital. Results from the collected data indicate that there are three concepts that are relationally intertwined. These concepts are, pornification of fitness, sexualised bodies as a path to a better life, and, branding & promotion. These concepts are central themes in the monetisation of health and wellbeing on Instagram. The space of Instagram affords this fetishisation of health in the digital.
Alexandra de Swart
Finding environments where neurodivergent people feel fully understood and accepted can be challenging. As humans, we desire the connection that is found from being included within some form of community. For those with neurodevelopmental differences, finding such community spaces isn’t always so simple. However, with a rise in popularity of recent years, TikTok as a social media space has provided a creative environment within which a diverse array of communities have been able to flourish. An example of this is the ADHD community on the platform which provides those living with the diagnosis a place to find commonality with others sharing their lived experience. Through exploring the affordances of TikTok as a tool for community building, it reveals not only how the platform facilitates such spaces to evolve but further highlights their necessity in providing solace for individuals who are ostracized due to their neurodevelopmental differences. This thesis, through using a medium-aware digital ethnographic approach, aims to highlight the potentiality of TikTok as a community building space as seen through the ADHD community on the platform.
This thesis focused on the research question “How has Vogue.com’s reporting on the Met Gala evolved over time, and what does this evolution reveal about the attention economy in the fashion industry?” whilst conducting a content analysis of the reporting of the event between 2011 – 2023 by Vogue.com, Vogue.in, Vogue.de, Vogue.it and Vogue.co.uk. Regarding the attention economy, it became apparent that big tech companies increasingly gained sovereignty over the Met Gala reported by Vogue. All five international web pages of Vogue reported on the Met Gala and translated articles to fit not only the social media accounts, but also the local audience. Fashion magazines are increasingly using attention-grabbing tactics that favor big tech companies like Google and Facebook (to name a few). Once this information has been established, it became apparent that the meaning of this data can be tied back to critiques of the capitalist economy – a system that prevails in most modern democratic nations. Over the years fashion magazines like Vogue have been forced, in order to survive digitalization, to hand some of their valuable cultural sovereignty to large digital platforms with significant societal and economic impact. The attention of magazine readers is therefore progressively being managed by a few big tech companies who earn a lot of money from their data. I suppose that we – and I mean media scholars – should reach out to other fields in academia (such as political studies, postcolonial studies) in order to get the full picture of the mediation of fashion within this “new global economy”. There is growing evidence that social media platforms interfere in the editorial content decision-making of magazines. This thesis is an attempt to add to this discussion and better understand the attention economy fashion magazines find themselves in. This paper also begs the question if we want to continue to live in an attention economy where there is a scarcity in attention but an abundance of centralized power by tech companies on what we pay attention to.
Keywords: fashion, social media, attention
As platformization processes have penetrated every area of today’s society, the labor market is not an exception. Nowadays, it is difficult to imagine how an individual would go around finding a job without approaching the online tools available. Launched in 2003, LinkedIn was one of the first platforms in history of the Web 2.0. Starting as a social network for professionals, today it forms a large infrastructure for the labor market, where it seems that it can at times be difficult to navigate one’s career without having a profile on LinkedIn. This thesis is looking specifically into how LinkedIn has evolved as a platform from the year it was established until the present day. By drawing on an interplay between theories of platformization, platform evolution, and human capital, it aims to investigate how LinkedIn has expanded into a dominant infrastructure to cater to the needs of the workers and how it aids users in investing in their human capital potential, as well as shaping it by introducing the notions of an ‘ideal’ employee according to its set standards. The platform evolution was approached both from a business and technical affordances perspective. Overall, the research has shown that through growth as a company, LinkedIn could further develop its technical affordances, growing from a simple social network to a large social media platform that also takes on an educational role, as well as the place where one can self-promote their ‘personal brand’.
Key words: LinkedIn, platform evolution, platformization, human capital, features, affordances, business model
Many post-Soviet countries keep strong affinity and ties with Russia, therefore, the suspicion that there is journalistic bias in the coverage of the war in Ukraine arises. By applying content analysis, driven by the theory on media framing, on one hundred online articles related to the Russian invasion in Ukraine in the Bulgarian media landscape, this research contributes to the literature on framing war and conflict in the digital media sphere. Contrary to the expectations, findings reveal that no articles express pro-Russian sentiment, instead, most coverage on the topic is done in a neutral and professional way. More findings and the second part of the research related to how the topic is picked up on social media by the Bulgarian population is yet to be finished.
This research explores through the measurement of Instagram’s social, cultural, economic and technological affordances against the theoretical framework of neoliberalism and feminism, to highlight the parallel conditions needed for MLMs to grow, namely through visual aesthetics, consumerism and social networking. This is conducted through data collection through critical hashtags, visual themes and language in qualitative analysis to represent how Instagram encourages the perfect environment for MLMs in targeting and connecting users together.
If you have any remarks regarding these research projects, you can contact the secretary of the Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Amsterdam, firstname.lastname@example.org, phone number: +31 20 – 525 3054; Binnengasthuisstraat 9, 1012 ZA Amsterdam.