Category: show in team updates

Talking media literacy, Jeroen @DikkeDataShow to discuss TikTok personalisation algorithm

Our own Jeroen de Vos starred in the first episode of the new VRPO series ‘de dikke data show’ (the thick data show). Each episode looking into another aspect of digital culture trying to explain and increase literacy tailored to a younger audience. Jeroen was invited to explain personalisation algorithms functioning on TikTok, with the work of Algorithms Exposed being the backbone to a small experiment to look into this algorithm.

Find the episode here (in Dutch)

About the episode: Who decides whether you go viral on TikTok? Jard Struik and media scholar Jeroen de Vos discover what an algorithm is and how that algorithm determines which videos you see. What is the downside of this invisible regulator? Together with successful and well-known TikTokkers such as Lorenzo Dinatelle, Emma Keuven and Bo Beljaars, he checks whether the algorithm really knows us that well. And Jard also dresses up as an e-boy to increase the chance of going viral.


DATACTIVE 2020 year-in-review

2020 has been an intense year under many points of view. As you know, the DATACTIVE project was supposed to end in August 2020, but due to COVID-19 we negotiated a so-called no-cost extension with our funder, the European Research Council, which extended the life span of the project until June 30th, 2021.

Over these months, we have kept busy despite the many uncertainties and logistical problems imposed by the pandemic. We would love to share the good news and our main accomplishments, together with our best wishes for the new year.

What are we most proud of? The first of the four DATACTIVE PhD students successfully defended his PhD in October 2020! The dissertation, entitled ‘Wired Norms: Inscription, resistance, and subversion in the governance of the Internet infrastructure’, can be found here [0]. Watch out for the other PhD candidates…

We gave many talks, mostly on Zoom!  But we also managed to host the workshop ‘Contentious Data: The Social Movement Society in the Age of Datafication’, organized by Davide Beraldo and Stefania on November 12-13 2020 and contributing towards the Special Issue of the same title, in preparation for the journal Social Movement Studies.

We completed data collection and analysis of over 250 interviews with civil society actors from all corners of the globe. Our developer Christo have finalized (and will soon release in GitHub) an open-source infrastructure that allows to collaboratively analyze and manage qualitative data outside the corporate environment of mainstream data analysis software and safeguarding the privacy and safety of our informants. We are now busy making sense of all these beautiful ‘thick’ data and writing up articles and chapters.

Stefania has been particularly busy with the spin-off blog of the Big Data from the South Research Initiative, dedicated to exploring the first pandemic of the datafied society seen from… communities and individuals left at the margins of media coverage, public concern and government response. You can access the many contributions published since May in COVID-19 from the Margins [1]. We are happy to announce that the blog resulted in an open-access multilingual book edited by Stefania, Emiliano Treré and Silvia Masiero for the Amsterdam-based Institute of Network Culture. The book will be released in both digital and printed form in January 2021. Book your copy if you want to receive one!

Collectively, we published four articles and three book chapters, listed below. Four articles—for New Media & Society, Globalization, and Big Data & Society, will be released in early 2021, alongside three book chapters. A co-edited special issue on media innovation and social change has been released in early 2020, while three co-edited special issues, respectively for the peer-reviewed international journals Internet Policy Review, Social Movement Studies and Palabra Clave, are in the working and will be released in the course of 2021.

Many people worked in the background alongside with PI Stefania, in particular our tireless project manager Jeroen de Vos, our developer Christo, our PhD candidates Guillén Torres and Niels ten Oever, and postdoc Davide Beraldo and to them goes our gratitude.

We wish you happy holidays and a peaceful and healthy 2021!

Best regards, Stefania for the DATACTIVE team




ten Oever, Niels. (2020). Wired Norms: Inscription, resistance, and subversion in the governance of the Internet infrastructure. Ph.D thesis, University of Amsterdam


Milan, S., & Treré, E. (2020). The rise of the data poor: The COVID-19 pandemic seen from the margins. Social Media + Society, July.

Milan, S., & Barbosa, S. (2020). Enter the WhatsApper: Reinventing digital activism at the time of chat apps. First Monday, 25(1).

Tanczer, L. M., Deibert, R. J., Bigo, D., Franklin, M. I., Melgaço, L., Lyon, D., Kazansky, B., & Milan, S. (2020). Online Surveillance, Censorship, and Encryption in Academia. International Studies Perspectives, 21(1), 1–36.

Milan, S. (2020). Techno-solutionism and the standard human in the making of the COVID-19 pandemic. Big Data & Society.


Ni Bhroin, N., & Milan, S. (Eds.). (2020). Special issue: Media Innovation and Social Change. Journal of Media Innovations, 6(1).


ten Oever, N., Milan, S., & Beraldo, D. (2020). Studying Discourse in Internet Governance through Mailing-list Analysis. In D. L. Cogburn, L. DeNardis, N. S. Levinson, & F. Musiani (Eds.), Research Methods in Internet Governance (pp. 213–229). MIT Press.

Milan, S. (2020a). Big Data. In B. Blaagaard, L. Pérez-González, & M. Baker (Eds.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Citizen Media (pp. 37–42). Routledge.

Milan, S., & Treré, E. (2020b). Una brecha de datos cada vez mayor: La Covid-19 y el Sur Global. In B. M. Bringel & G. Pleyers (Eds.), Alerta global. Políticas, movimientos sociales y futuros en disputa en tiempos de pandemia (pp. 95–100). CLACSO and ALAS.


Milan, S., & Treré, E. (2020c, April 3). A widening data divide: COVID-19 and the Global South. OpenDemocracy.

ten Oever, Niels. (2020). ‘Cybernetica, dataficatie en surveillance in de polder‘ in: Ni Dieu, Ni Maitre. Festschrift for Ruud Kaulingfrek. Waardenwerk, Journal for Humanistic Studies, SWP.

Di Salvo, P., & Milan, S. (2020, April 24). I quattro nemici (quasi) invisibili nella prima pandemia dell’era della società dei dati. Il Manifesto.

Milan, S., & Di Salvo, P. (2020, June 8). Four invisible enemies in the first pandemic of a “datafied society.” Open Democracy.

Milan, S., Pelizza, A., & Lausberg, Y. (2020, April 28). Making migrants visible to COVID-19 counting: The dilemma. OpenDemocracy.

Pelizza, A., Lausberg, Y., & Milan, S. (2020, maggio). Come e perché rendere visibili i migranti nei dati della pandemia. Internazionale.



Milan, S., Treré, E., & Masiero, S. (2021). COVID-19 from the Margins: Pandemic Invisibilities, Policies and Resistance in the Datafied Society. Institute for Networked Cultures.


Kazansky B (2021). “It depends on your threat model”: Understanding the anticipatory dimensions of resistance to datafication harms. Big Data & Society.

Kazansky, B., & Milan, S. (2021). Bodies Not Templates: Contesting Mainstream Algorithmic Imaginaries. New Media & Society.

ten Oever, N. (2021). ‘This is not how we imagined it’ – Technological Affordances, Economic Drivers and the Internet Architecture Imaginary. New Media & Society.

ten Oever, Niels (2021). Norm conflict in the governance of transnational and distributed i­nfrastructures: the case of Internet routing. Globalizations.


Milan, S., & Treré, E. (2021). Big Data From the South(s): An Analytical Matrix to Investigate Data at the Margins. In D. Rohlinger & S. Sobieraj (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Sociology and Digital Media. Oxford University Press.

Milan, S., & Treré, E. (2021). Latin American visions for a Digital New Deal: Learning from critical ecology, liberation pedagogy and autonomous design. In IT for Change (Ed.), Digital New Deal. IT for Change.

ten Oever, Niels. 2021. ‘The metagovernance of internet governance’. In eds. B. Haggart, N. Tusikov, and J.A. Scholte, Power and Authority in Internet Governance: Return of the State?. Routeledge Global Cooperation Series


Three special issues we are very excited about

Milan, S., Beraldo, D., & Flesher Fominaya, C. Contentious Data: The Social Movement Society in the Age of Datafication, Social Movement Studies

Treré, E., & Milan, S., Latin American Perspectives on Datafication and Artificial Intelligence, Palabra Clave

Burri, M., Irion, K, Milan, S.& Kolk, A. Governing European values inside data flows, Internet Policy Review


Beraldo, D. (2020). Movements as multiplicities and contentious branding: lessons from the digital exploration of# Occupy and# Anonymous, Information, Communication & Society, DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2020.1847164

Grover, G., & ten Oever, N. (2021). Guidelines for Human Rights Protocol and Architecture Considerations, RFC-series, Internet Research Taskforce.

Knodel, Mallory., Uhlig, Ulrike., ten Oever, Niels., Cath, Corinne. (2020) How the Internet Really Works: An Illustrated Guide to Protocols, Privacy, Censorship, and Governance. No Starch Press, San Francisco, United States.

Milan, C., & Milan, S. (2020). Fighting Gentrification from the Boxing Ring: How Community Gyms reclaim the Right to the City. Social Movement Studies.

Stefania’s talks in November-December 2020

In November-December, DATACTIVE PI Stefania Milan will participate in a number of public events where DATACTIVE will variably feature.

In November:

  • Internet Governance Forum (3 November)
  • FallingWalls Fireside chat (6 November)
  • Jean Monnet Network
  • Wagening workshop (9 and 16 November )
  • ASCA Summit (24 November)

In December:

  • Roundtable “AI and Bias in Translation”, organised by the Goethe-Institut (2 December)
  • “Stories of the pandemic: voices and data from communities and the South”, part of the Speaker Series of the Institute for Media and Creative Industries at Loughborough University London (3 December). Stefania will join Vinod Pavarala (University of Hderabad, India) and Emiliano Treré (Cardiff University, UK) in a two-hour discussion on the role of community media during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Digital methods for social change” workshops for the Swedish International Centre for Local Democracy (15-15 December)

28th at 14:00 PhD defence Niels ten Oever: How to align the Internet infrastructures with human rights?

On October 28th at 14:00, Niels ten Oever will defend his dissertation titled ‘Wired Norms: Inscription, resistance, and subversion in the governance of the Internet infrastructure’. In his dissertation Niels analyzes the governance of the Internet infrastructure and the role norms play in it. While the governance of earlier information networks, such as the telephone and the telegraph, was done by nation states, the Internet is governed in so-called private multistakeholder bodies. This research analyzes how social and legal norms evolve, are introduced, subverted, and resisted by participants in Internet governance processes in order to develop policies, technologies, and standards to produce an interconnected Internet. The research leverages notions and insights from science and technology studies and international relations and combines quantitative and qualitative methods to show that the private multistakeholder Internet governance regime is designed and optimized for the narrow and limited role of increasing interconnection. As a result, the governance regime resists aligning Internet infrastructure with social or legal norms that might limit or hamper increasing interconnection.

The defense will be streamed online on October 28th at 14:00 – you can find the URL by then on Niels’ twitter account: – you can find his PhD dissertation and his other writings on his website:

Stefania in conversation with Ranga Yogeshwar (Berlin & YouTube, 19 September)

Stefania was in Berlin on Saturday the 19th of September to give a talk at the Futurium museum–the awesome House of Futures.

With a reduced audience due to Covid-19, Stefania discussed risks and opportunities of datafication in conversation with Germany’s most famous science journalist, Ranga Yogeshwar. The event is available on YouTube. Note that the talk is in English with some inserts (e.g., the introduction) in German. Enjoy!

Help, the internet is breaking in two – Niels ten Oever in the NRC

Niels’ work has been covered in an article in the Dutch newsroom NRC last week.

Read his contribution on insights on the culture behind internet infrastructure governance in the article [in DUTCH]:

Help, the internet is breaking in two: The conflict between the US and China has lead the tech world to a geopolitical divide. Who gains power on the internet? 

[original NRC header image by XF&M]

Stefania on first pandemic of the datafied society @ZeMKI & @Milano Digital Week

May 27th 2020, As part of the Milano Digital Week, Philip Di Salvo, Daniele Gambetta and Stefania Milan discussed the complex triadic relationship between health, new technologies and privacy: between big data, contact tracing and the pandemic.

Watch the entire conversation here (in Italian)


June 3rd 2020, Stefania presented “from the first pandemic of the datafied society” at the Online Research Seminar series by ZeMKI, University of Bremen

– find talk below –

Protesting online: Stefania interviewed by the Dutch Tegenlicht

Only a few months ago, we were able to walk the streets with for the Women’s or climate march. Now streets are empty and activists, except for a few, stay at home. How to demonstrate in the so-called one-and-a-half meter society?

Stefania has been interviewed in an article by the Dutch critical public documentary series Tegenlicht / BackLight concerning protesting online. In light of COVID what does it mean to protest changes – read the full article here (in Dutch).

[blog] Show me the numbers: a case of impact communication in FLOSS

Author: Jeroen de Vos, header image by Ford Foundation

This blog post will explore the potential of repurposing impact assessment tools as a means to leverage funding problems in Free and Libre Open Source Software by making explicit the role they have in crucial public digital infrastructure. Two key concepts are relevant to help explain this specific exploration, the first of which is Free and Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) and the central role it plays in facilitating a common software infrastructure used by both public and private organisations as well as civil society at large. The second is the notion of impact assessment as a strategy to understand, account for and communicate results of your efforts beyond merely financial numbers.

‘Money talk is kind of a taboo in the F[L]OSS community’, one respondent replied in an interview I most recently conducted at CCC 36C3. The talk he just gave outlined some of the tentative revenue models one could think of to make your software development activities more sustainable – it attracted a larger-than-expected audience with interesting follow-up questions. FLOSS software development very much draws on the internal motivation of developers or a developer community, with recurring questions of sustainability when relying on volunteering time that could be spent differently. And the complexity of this situation cannot be underestimated. The 2016 Ford Foundation report Roads and bridges: The Unseen Labor Behind Our Digital Infrastructure (Eghbal) contextualizes some of the common problems in the open-source software development – think of for instance the lack of appreciation of invisible labour, the emotional burden of upkeeping a popular project started, or the constant struggle over motivation while being structurally un- or underfunded.

The report draws on the metaphor of FLOSS as infrastructure, since it is readily available to anyone alike, but also in needs maintenance – has its limitations, but works well to illustrate the point. Just like infrastructure supports the flows of ideas, goods and people FLOSS operates on every level of digital infrastructure, whether talking about the NTP protocol synchronizing the internet, GnuPG (an encryption protocol allowing secure communication and data sharing) or MySQL (a database structure which quickly became a go-to standard for information storage and retrieval). Another commonality: as long as the infrastructure functions, its underlying support systems are seemingly invisible. That is, up until the point of failure it is unseen to which extent both private and public goods and services and public or private communication rely on these software packages. Only at failure, it becomes painfully explicit.

The recent well-known example of this escalation taking place is with the so-called Heartbleed bug. The FLOSS OpenSSL package contains the most widely used protocol for encrypting web traffic. Due to a bug creeping into the code somewhere in 2011, attackers could intercept information from connections that should be encrypted – which rendered large parts of online infrastructure unsafe in design, including services like Google, Amazon and many others. The issue raised the attention to the OpenSSL developers’ under-capacity – only one working full time for a salary of only a third to its colleagues in commercial counterparts. This is the point where the impact assessment tools might come into play – rather than relying on controversies to make visible the apparent widespread embedding and dependency on particular pieces of software, why not use impact assessment as a way to understand public relevance?

Conducting impact assessments can help communicate the necessity of maintenance by making visible the embeddedness of FLOSS software packages – whether it is on the level of language, operating system or protocol. To briefly contextualize, impact assessment grew out of changing management needs and has been implemented in the organisation of ‘soft output’ whether it be policymaking or social entrepreneurship. It is an interventionist tool that allows defining qualitative output with subsequent quantitative proxies to help understand the implementation results in relation to the desired output as described in a theory of change. It helps to both evaluate the social, technological, economic, environmental and political value created and subsequently make insightful the extend to which obsoletion would disrupt existing public digital infrastructure.

Without going too much into detail it needs mentioning that impact assessment already made its introduction as part of reporting deliverables to funders where relevant. Part of this exercise, however, is to instrumentalize impact assessment not only for (private) reporting by projects already funded but for (public) communicating FLOSS impact especially for projects without the necessary revenue streams in place. Needless to say, this output is only one of the steps in the process of making crucial FLOSS more sustainable but an important one, assessment output might help tapping into public or private sponsorship, establishing new collaborations with governments, educators and businesses alike, and venture into other new and exciting funding models.

This piece is meant as a conversation starter, do you already know of existing strategies to help communicate FLOSS output, are you involved in creating alternative business models for for-good public data infrastructure – ideas and comments welcome. Email:

As for a short disclaimer I have been working with social enterprises developing market research and impact-first business models, I have been mulling over the crossover between social entrepreneurship and (FLOSS) activism, in their common struggle for sustainability, relying on informal networks or communities of action and trying to make a social change either from within or from the outside. This blog post is an attempt to think together social entrepreneurship and data activism through the use of a use-case: impact assessment for FLOSS.


Eghbal, N. (2016). Roads and bridges: The unseen labor behind our digital infrastructure. Ford Foundation.