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Imagining Opaque Power: The Production and Consumption of Conspiracy Theories on YouTube

Imagining Opaque Power: The Production and Consumption of Conspiracy Theories on YouTube

The Institute for Media Studies is a diverse and dynamic research group studying the production, effects, uses and perceptions of media and the broader policy in which media are embedded. IMS conducts both fundamental and applied research. Moreover, the research group employs qualitative, quantitative, and multi-methodological approaches, as well as secondary data. IMS strives for excellence in both research and teaching and publishes widely in international, peer-reviewed, highly-rated journals. More particularly, the research topics of IMS are: strategic communication; journalism and news; human-computer interaction and (digital) media culture. The latter topic - focusing on the way media and culture influence each other and develop in tandem - aligns with this research project that will be supervised by Prof. Dr. Stef Aupers.

Conspiracy theories about the 'deep state', medical industries, politicians, celebrities and mass media are highly popular in western societies - particularly amongst youngsters - and function as 'cognitive maps' or 'meta-narratives' to make sense of opaque power in globalized institutions. Critiquing the academic blind spot for the way people construct conspiracy theories in everyday life and, particularly, the role of social media therein, this research project studies how and why conspiracy theories are produced and consumed in audio-visual video's on YouTube. To answer this question, different complementary methods are applied in three phases: 1) a multi-modal content analysis of conspirational video's about the 'power elite' (i.e., politicians and popstars) to construct a typology of these oppositional readings, 2) 20 in-depth (Skype)interviews with the producers of such amateur video's to asses their motives to critically 'decode' mainstream media content and their audio-visual
construction of conspiracy theories 3) 20 in-depth interviews with strategically selected high school students in Flanders to empirically assess if, how and why they decode, modify, post and share these video's on social media platforms.

The candidate:

Has a master degree in the social sciences (sociology and / or communication science / media studies)
Has a high grade point average for the bachelor and master programs
Has an affinity with / academic knowledge of digital / social media, internet culture (relevant courses, subject master thesis)
Has ample experience with qualitative research (particularly content analysis, in-depth interviews) and (preferably also) digital methods
Is both interested in empirical research and (the development of) theory in mediastudies / social sciences
Has excellent skills in English (mastering the Dutch language is an extra asset)

A fulltime position, initially for 1 year, with an extension to 4 years after good evaluation
A monthly stipend of about 1900,- euro net, depending on family situation and work experience
Possibilities for further professional development (e.g. through additional courses, participation in workshops and seminars)
A stimulating and demanding research environment


KU Leuven - Universiteit

Imagining Opaque Power: The Production and Consumption of Conspiracy Theories on YouTube

KU Leuven, Leuven
Production Engineer
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