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


Featured Blog Entries

Date March 2015 / Category News

The symposium "The Datafication of the Public Sphere" at Angewandte Innovation Lab in Vienna provides the platform for a two day master class with Mirko Tobias Schäfer on possibilities and limits of civic participation.

Date March 2015 / Category News

As a post-doctoral research fellow at the Centre for Humanities at Utrecht University I will map research agenda’s that touch upon the transformation of citizenship through digital technology.

More Blog Entries


Date August 2015

A group of distinguished AI and computer scientists expresses concern for the emerging race to build autonomous weapons. They fear for the devastating effects of sophisticated technology which autonomously makes kill decisions; we already see the lack of accountability as well as the terrible effects of conventional warfare. Autonomous weapons will -as most military inventions- reduce the hazardous effects of combat for soldiers while increasing the impact on the civil population. And as with the nuclear arms race during the cold war, another arms race will tie up resources that are very much needed elsewhere; it also will constitute serious challenges in controlling this technology. Quite in contrast to nuclear arms, autonomous weapons will be much cheaper and far easier to acquire.


Date July 2015

Here is great interview with Giorgio Agamben on his notion of the Latin empire that should confront the technocratic Germanic domination of Europe. His plea for a political and cultural union is much needed especially in times where technocrats threaten to destroy the cultural and political values of the European Union. Mr. Agamben points out how 'crisis' is structurally used by the political elite to justify the ongoing deterioration of social welfare and civic rights. Like the mythical 'war on terror' crisis serves as an instrument for coercion.


Date July 2015

This very timely article by the Iranian 'blogfather' Hossein Derakhshan addresses critically the centralisation of the web through the popular platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. Derakhshan mourns the loss of diversity that comes with the commodification of the web in easy to use interfaces. As much as I agree with him, I do not think that we can bring back the meritocracy of the early World Wide Web. Social media brought the masses from TV to Internet and by doing so idocracy marginalizes meritocracy. The diverse and rich web won't seize to exist, but is pushed into the fringes; it is now where critical thought and intellectualism has always been.


Date July 2015

Jörg Heiser from Frieze Magazine asked artists and scholars to think about how art can respond to the challenges of big data, surveillance and algorithms. Their responses provide insight into the diversity of issues that are raised in this profound transformation of our societies and inspiration how to address them.


Date July 2015

Unfortunately, I was not aware of the symposium on the Politics and Practices of Secrecy held at KIng's College, let alone able to attend. Luckily, Regine Debatty from We Make Money Not Art has taken notes and presents them in an excellent review of the symposium. (Part 1) and (Part 2)


Date June 2015

Foreign Affairs has a general audience article on the pitfalls of algorithms. Referring to the analysis software Palantir, the article shows that the findings of the big data crawl can only be as good as the data that are processed behind the comprehensible user interface. Human error is merely hidden behind a rhetoric of big data analysis and computed objectivity.


Date March 2015

Literature scholar and pioneer of 'distant reading' Franco Moretti teamed up with historian of science Dominique Pestre to sift through the words of World Bank reports of the past 70 years. It reveals how the language of the World Bank changed from reporting facts, explaining actions and formulating plans to a self-referential, vague newspeak that lacks any context with empirical reality.


Date March 2015

The unprecedented access to large quantities of data also affects traditional research practices. With Internet Research Ethics, edited by Hallvard Fossheim and Helene Ingierd, the authors present critical investigations to how standards of research ethics are affected by the emerging practices and to what extent they should be adapted. Hopefully this important volume sparkes a debate and leads eventually to improved guidelines of research integrity. Free download (pdf)



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 - 2015 Mirko Tobias Schäfer

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