data activism: the politics of big data

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Hello! If you have landed on this page, it means you are curious about my latest brainchild, DATACTIVE.
DATACTIVE is the shortcut to 'Data activism: The politics of big data according to civil society'. It was awarded 1.5 million euro in research funds by the European Research Council (ECR Starting Grant 2014). And, yes, I am hiring!

More specifically I am looking for 2 PhD students and 2 Postdocs. Here you can find some information to decide whether you are suitable for the positions, and what the project is about.

Project description
Principal Investigator: Dr. Stefania Milan
Host Institute: Department of Media Studies, University of Amsterdam

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 I term ‘data activism’. While activists see massive data collection by governments and businesses as a challenge to civil rights, big data also offer new opportunities for collective action.

This research will investigate civil society’s engagement with massive data collection, addressing three research questions: How do citizens resist massive data collection by means of technical fixes (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?

The project will develop a multidisciplinary conceptual framework integrating social movement studies, science and technology studies and international relations. It will analyze organizational forms, action repertoires and the enabling role of software in data activism, and will identify emerging structures and strategies of transnational advocacy networks. Data will be collected via qualitative (interviews with activists, field observations, infrastructure ethnography on software platforms) and computational methods (such as data mining in online repositories). ‬

‪This research is groundbreaking in four ways: 1) by analyzing civil society’s engagement with massive data collection, it evaluates risks and promises of big data; 2) by addressing an uncharted but rapidly growing field of human action, it sets the basis for understanding future civic engagement; 3) by integrating adjacent disciplines that seldom interact, it magnifies their ability to understand the interplay between society, information, technology and power; 4) by developing dedicated data collection tools, it adds to methodological innovation in big-data analytics.

Whom I am looking for
I am looking for collaborators who are creative, energetic people, enthusiastic about out-of-the-box thinking, and able to work autonomously as well as willing to contribute to the team. Read the calls for application:
- PhD (coming soon)
- Postdocs (coming soon)

I am in the process of establishing an interdisciplinary team of 2 PhD students (4-year program) and 2 postdocs. The PhDs and the Postdoc 1 positions will be filled within 6 months from the inception of the project; the second postdoc position will be filled starting from year 2,5. The PhDs and the Postdocs will join the project for a maximum of 48 and 30 months, respectively. In the composition of the team, particular attention will be given to gender balance and internationalization. The team will be composed as follows:

One PhD position (PhD 1) will be for a student with a background in sociology, preferably with expertise in one of the following fields: political sociology, social movement studies, sociology of organizations, sociology of knowledge and/or culture. PhD 1 will be skilled in both quantitative and qualitative methods. One PhD position (PhD 2) will be reserved for a student with a background in science and technology studies and sociology of innovation, or in political science. S/he will be skilled in qualitative and ethnographic methods. Familiarity with, or willingness to acquire data processing techniques will be an advantage.

One postdoc position (Postdoc 1) will be filled by a researcher with a background in sociology of innovation, science and technology studies, critical internet studies, software studies. One postdoc position (Postdoc 2) will be reserved for a political scientist or a lawyer with a background in one of the following fields: international relation, internet governance/governance of cyberspace, big data governance, data management, security studies, information policy, human rights law. Experience with the non-governmental sector will constitute an advantage. Both Postdocs will have experience with both qualitative and quantitative methods, and a demonstrated willingness to engage in interdisciplinary research. They will overlap at HI for at least six months, in order to ensure smooth transition, skill transfer, and interdisciplinary exchange.