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


Featured Blog Entries

Date July 2019 / Category News

For our seminar Markets and Corporations in the Open Society, I wrote an article about how social media platforms transform the political debate. Policy makers and journalists often blame social media for disseminating fake news, spreading hate speech, manipulating audiences and creating filter bubbles. However, this techno-determinist view neglects user practices and the role of mainstream media in amplifying social media messages. This article shows why most policy efforts currently underway are ill-informed and will rather limit freedom of speech and access to information.

The article will be part of an edited volume that is about to be published in September at Boom. The book launch will take place during the IOS Toogdag on 12 September.

Date July 2019 / Category News

“Data and algorithms offer many possibilities, but they are not neutral. What you analyse, which algorithms you build, the data you use and what for, these are political and ethical choices. Policy makers are insufficiently aware of this. Furthermore, basic knowledge of data literacy is absolutely necessary for local politicians.” That’s what the Dutch data expert Mirko Tobias Schäfer says in this interview with Bart Van Moerkerke for magazine Lokaal and the Association of Flamish Cities and Municipalities.

More Blog Entries


Date June 2019

Writer and data journalist Kevin Litman-Navarro read 150 different privacy policies from Facebook, AirBnB, Google but also from media outlets such as the BBC. This article is as informatiev as it is amusing. Using a software to determine the complexity of texts, Litman-Navarro found that of a sample of classical texts only Kant's Critique of Pure Reason is more complex than Facebook's privacy policy.


Date May 2019

This eye-opening interview with Kai-fu Lee, former exec at Apple and Microsoft, ex-president of Google China and venture capitalist, addresses weaknesses of EU's AI strategy. It also reveals the great need for regulation of AI. As EU is talking about ethics in AI, others are completly neglecting the topic and develop solutions that profoundly affect civil rights. EU fails to come to terms here and most importantly fails to develop actual designs that carry and foster the values of the open society. 


Date April 2019

AlgorithmWatch has put together an impressive list of ethics guidelines for AI, algorithms, data analysis etc. Only few of them -like our Data Ethics Decision Aid- provide practical steps for evaluating data projects and deliberate design choices.


Date April 2019

As Google's ethics council on AI is quickly dissolved due to widespread criticism and internal controversy, MIT Technology Review has put together an overview of some of smartest and most prolific ethics experts in the field.


Date March 2019

The NYT ran this great feature on women in the history of computing. Featuring the ground breaking work of historians of technology such as Mar Hicks (Programmed Inequality) the article sketches the role of women in in developing computers and programming, and follows how they have been pushed out of the field from the 1980s on and how their historic contributions have been marginalised.


Date February 2019

Evgeny Morozov has written an exhasutive critique of Shoshanna Zubiff's recent book Surveillance Capitalism. The Fight for a Human Future and the New Frontier of Power. He notes that Zuboff emphasizes surveillance as symptoms of business models developed by large tech corporations while she neglects to critically engage with the underlying logic of capitalism.


Date November 2018

Bruno Latour has spent his academic life researching how scientists generate knowledge. This article tells about his efforts to help science suceed in a world where people reject expertise and prefer fake over facts.


Date October 2018

Negligence, ignorance and unintended consequences of their algorithms have brought public outrrage and political pressure onto the tech industry. While they sucessfully evade questioning their activities in parliamentary hearings, they now also try to hijack 'digital ethics'. Natasha Lomas at TechCrunch argues critically against this shallow attempt to channel the debate and evade regulation.



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

2000 - 2019 Mirko Tobias Schäfer

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