Politics, Media and Communication

University of Amsterdam, BSc Political Science (6 EC). This course explored the dynamics that the internet and digital media have introduced to current politics. It critically traced the evolution of a debate on the political potential of digital media, starting from hopes for a revival of the public sphere and civic participation up to the current scepticism about the detrimental effects of social media on democratic politics. We critically examined the internet’s promise for political change: Does social media contribute to a critical exchange of news and opinion? How does digital media shape new forms of political advocacy? What are the strengths and weaknesses of ‘networked protests’?  We also explored how political actors use digital technologies to reinforce their hold on power, be it by integrating social media in their election campaigns or by disinformation, censorship and surveillance. In order to better understand the mechanisms of news consumption and data collection in the digital age, students were asked to document and critically reflect on their own media use and data privacy habits.

 

Revolutions of the Middle East

University of Amsterdam, BSc Political Science (6 EC). This course familiarized students with the academic literature explaining causes and pathways of revolutions. The study of different revolutionary upheavals in the Middle East shows how structural changes in society, economic inequality, and conflicts between powerful interest groups, culture and ideology can lead to mass mobilization and the toppling of political leaders. As one of the ‘big’ revolutions in the 20th century, the case of the Islamic Revolution in Iran helped students to understand typical pre-conditions for a revolt against the existing political order and the cycle of revolutionary change, starting with the first resistance and the formation of social movements up to the consolidation of a new political regime. We examined how violence and ideological fervour as well as the international environment may influence the outcomes and outreach of a revolution. On the basis of this knowledge, students approached more recent events in the region, namely the uprisings in the Arab World, particularly in Egypt. As these events have often been designated as ‘Facebook Revolutions’ we also discussed the role of media during moments of revolutionary change. Using social media content, films and interviews with participants, this course allowed students to get a feeling of the enthusiasm, agitation but also uncertainty and confusion that characterize revolutionary upheavals as critical junctures in the history of a country.

 

Authoritarianism in a Global Age

University of Amsterdam, MSc International Relations, Research Project Course (30 EC). This course was part of an ongoing research project at the University of Amsterdam’s Political Science Department called ‘Authoritarianism in a Global Age’. The teachers were the seven researchers involved in this project, who between them have regional expertise on the Middle East, Central Asia, Latin America and China. They shared their own ongoing research and invited students to contribute to the group’s understanding of authoritarianism in a global age. The overarching question of the research project was: How is authoritarian rule affected by and responding to processes of globalisation, defined as the unprecedented extensity, intensity, velocity and impact of global flows? Such processes strike at the heart of classic authoritarian methods of control. For instance, state monopolies on information and communication have given way to the challenge of managing privatisation and globalisation of media and ICT; state control over a stationary citizenry has given way to the challenge of managing flows of regular and irregular immigration, outmigration and travel; and state control over citizen association has given way to the challenge of managing transnational NGOs and networks.
In the first month of the project, students: (a) studied classic and recent academic literature on authoritarianism, (b) familiarised themselves with the more specific research questions connecting authoritarianism to globalisation processes and (c) considered the methodological obstacles and avenues to conducting research on authoritarianism. This provided them with the necessary factual, theoretical and methodological background to work on their thesis.
Meanwhile, students were expected to proceed towards identifying the specific topic, puzzle, research question, methodology and research design of their thesis, through collective discussion and individual meetings with the course teachers. Subsequently, students formulated a research proposal, compiled a bibliography of the literature that was most relevant to the selected topic, identified appropriate research methods, and were then allocated to specific teachers and got to work. During the second half of the semester, students were asked to present their progress alternately to their supervisor only and to the whole research group.

Other courses taught

Academic Skills for Political Scientists
University of Amsterdam, International BSc Political Science.

Expert and Qualitative Interviews
University of Amsterdam, Method Lab Social Sciences, MSc Program.

Beyond the Facebook-Revolutions: Media and Political Transitions
University of Erfurt, Department of Media and Communication Studies, MSc Media Research: Politics and Society (15 EC).