Mirko Tobias Schäfer / Assistant Professor
University of Utrecht Department for Media and Culture Studies


Featured Blog Entries

Date May 2016 / Category News

The Journal Computer Supported Cooperative Work approached me to put together a special issue on the impact of social media and big data on citizenship. The journal consists of five papers. Using different examples from medicine, urban space, journalism and blogs, these papers reflect on how social media and emerging data practices affect our understanding of citizenship. The fifth paper proposes a model for researching shared issues in the public sphere.

Date April 2016 / Category News

As a Meractor Research Fellow at the NRW School of Governance at University of Duisburg-Essen I am investigating social media use in public management and police in Nordrhein-Westfalen (NRW). With this research fellowship, I want to investigate exploratively the state of 'datafication' in NRW. Expert interviews with decision makers and practcioners from government bodies and the police shall provide insight into the process of implementing social media metrics and algorithmic processes into the various activities from communicating policies to monitoring publics and intervening in case of emergencies. The insights gained will be relevant in order to understand the transformation of our understanding of public sphere and democracy.

More Blog Entries


Date August 2016

An unknown author has recently published a paper about the neo-reactionary movement. I stumbled upon this paper through a read-worthy review by Ethan Chiel who is also wondering who might be hiding behind the pseudonym Josephine Armistead, the alleged author of the piece. This paper discusses how the neo-reactionary movement is intertwined with technology development in Silicon Valley, popular culture and pseudo-science. However, there is an excellent post on Reddit criticizing the author's understanding of history and economy as well as their interpretation of some cultural references. Nevertheless, the racism, the misogyny and the open contempt for democracy of the neo-reactionary movement pose a challenge for students of new media and society at large.


Date July 2016

In this compelling article Kathrine Viner argues that the distinct qualities of social media contributed to the deterioration of public discourse. Where news are replaced by click-bait, where fact are not verified but simply don't matter and where emotions prevail over reason and argument, truth and reason are eroding. Katherine Viner presents a number of convincing examples and explains why this trend is not only affecting journalism but society at large.


Date May 2016

Pro Publica investigated the COMPAS software that is used across the U.S. to assess the recidivism rate of criminal defendants. They found significant bias in the models that calculate the probability of recidivism with a clear favour for whites and a strong bias against coloured defendants. In this article Jeff Larson, Surya Mattu, Lauren Kirchner and Julia Angwin explain how they analysed the recidivism algorithms. Their findings are alarming about the trust users put into machine calculated results.


Date May 2016

The LA Review of Books is running a fascinating series on digital humanities, opening the debate to wider audiences than those usually occupied with DH. The interviews and articles are a much needed critique and correctional view upon the overly hyped digital humanities. In this article, Daniel Allington, Sarah Brouillette, David Golumbia identify DH as part of neo-liberal campus politics. Although I agree with most of their critivizing of said policies, I cannot identify with their critique of digital humanities.


Date April 2016

Lindsay Caplan has published an excellent article at eFlux, questioning the seductive mode of data visualisations. Caplan argues that the currently popular analysis of data often has more aesthetic than epistemic value. Worse, researchers seem to cut corners and neglect social contexts and historic perspectives of their research objects. Her criticism is to be taken seriously if researchers want to achieve more than mere aesthetization of social and cultural phenomena in data visualisations.


Date March 2016

In this excellent essay, Shoshana Zuboff discusses the emergence of business models that depend and thrive on user data. Zuboff explains convincingly how paying with data is invading privacy, transforming public space and remodelling democracy towards what she calls surveillance capitalism.


Date February 2016

This article tells about the person behind Sci-Hub who built an efficient system for distributing scholarly articles for free. Scientific publishers such as Elsevier, Springer, Taylor and Francis or Sage charge universities hefty fees for making available scientific and scholarly articles. They thrive on low production costs as the authors, reviewers and editors are not paid for these activities. Receiving profit margins up to 30% this industry is guarding their monopolies anxiously through lobbying against open access, futile attempts of controlling digital distribution and aggressively suing platforms or persons who go against them.


Date February 2016

Facebook has emerged as powerful brokers of awareness. Hence, the algorithms managing the dissemination affect the reach of messages and the quality of public debate on these platforms and beyond. As a private company, Facebook is less invested in our public affairs but rather into its immediate profits. Therefore it is inclined to monetize awareness and throttle the so-called organic reach to make you pay for views. B. Traven over at ValleyWag has some interesting insights.



Mirko Tobias Schaefer is a researcher in the field of digital culture.

This website provides information on his research interests and teaching activities.




Mirko Tobias Schaefer

Department for Media and Culture Studies

Utrecht University

Kromme Nieuwegr. 20
NL-3512 HH Utrecht

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