[Air-L] Full Time PhD position on social media & privacy, Free University of Brussels

Jo Pierson Jo.Pierson at vub.ac.be
Fri Dec 17 06:48:42 PST 2010

Vacancy: Full Time PhD position, Free University of Brussels
(ref. IBBT/SMIT/Privacy)

The research centre IBBT-SMIT at the Free University of Brussels  
(Vrije Universiteit Brussel) offers a full time PhD position in the  
field of Social Sciences, more in particular of Media and  
Communication Studies. The vacancy is open for a research position of  
4 years, in order to realize a PhD on the use of social media and  
social networks sites, the reconfiguration of privacy practices and  
the social and technological consequences thereof. The position starts  
in January 2011, and is supervised by Prof. Jo Pierson.

Candidates are expected to show strong affinity with and interest in  
the domain of audience and user studies, social media technologies and  
media sociology, and are holder of a Masters degree in Social Sciences  
(Communication Studies, Sociology, ...). Applications are to be sent  
electronically as soon as possible (at the latest by 14th January  
2011) to Hans De Canck (Hans.De.Canck at vub.ac.be) and Prof. Jo Pierson (jo.pierson at vub.ac.be 
). When applying, a motivation and an elaborated vision on the theme  
under concern are expected to be included with the CV.

Contact information:

Hans De Canck
Free University of Brussels (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)
Pleinlaan 9
B-1050 Brusssels
E-mail: Hans.De.Canck at vub.ac.be
Tel.: +32-(0)2-6291628

Prof. dr. J. Pierson
Dept. of Media and Communication Studies
Faculty of Arts and Philosophy
Free University of Brussels (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)
Pleinlaan 2
B-1050 Brusssels
E-mail: jo.pierson at vub.ac.be
Tel.: +32-(0)2-6292412

Description of research theme:

We are witnessing the rapid growth of a new generation of  
participatory and collaborative network technologies that provide  
individuals with a platform for sophisticated online social  
interaction. Social networks today have hundreds of millions of users  
and are transforming our social and professional interactions and to  
some extent are shaping society itself. Gradually, society is  
discerning that this development not only brings strong benefits to  
the social and economic fabric, but also introduces new risks related  
to privacy violations. At this stage, these issues are often perceived  
as isolated incidents that most organizations do not take  
accountability for. Yet, the implications of social networking  
environments for individual users, communities, organizations and  
society at large will become much more evident and most likely more  
substantial if necessary precautions are not taken. Especially  
alarming is the massive responsibility that individuals incur with  
respect to managing privacy and security risks arising from the  
information collected and shared about their everyday life on social  
networking sites. This phenomenon is has been coined as the  
responsibilisation of individuals.

The main objective of the overall research project is to mitigate the  
responsibilisation of individuals who use or are affected by social  
networking services by making the underlying social networking  
infrastructures and the organizations that run them more accountable.  
In order to achieve this objective first an understanding of the  
target audience is required as well as forms of responsibilisation.  
This target audience includes users, communities and organizations in  
Flanders (Belgium). The plan is to develop solutions that facilitate  
better decision making with respect to the target groups’ privacy and  
security concerns, and that mitigate the risks, threats and concerns  
that currently are manifest in this domain.

The PhD research position at IBBT-SMIT (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) is  
part of this larger four-year interdisciplinary research project on  
security and privacy in online social networks, involving different  
Belgian universities and one American university. More in particular  
the doctoral research has a twofold perspective. On the one hand it  
wants to understand the practices and needs of users with regard to  
privacy issues within social network sites, mainly based on the use of  
qualitative and ethnographic methods. On the other hand it will focus  
on the critical design variables and tools for social software. For  
the latter a translation needs to be made from the user research  
findings to possible guidelines and requirements for future media en  
technological solutions.


A Master degree in Social Sciences, (Communication Studies,  
Sociology, ...)
Good knowledge of Dutch (and English)
Strong affinity and/or interest in the domain of audience and user  
studies, social media technologies and media sociology
Good knowledge of user research methods
Good writing skills
To be flexible and to be able to cope with deadlines
Team player with strong social skills
Research experience is a plus.

We offer:

An interesting PhD research position (4 years) in a stimulating work  
Enthusiastic and young co-workers and a pleasant environment
Day to day support and project guidance based on high quality standards
A place for personal involvement and input
Flexible working hours
Multiple social benefits
Salary in accordance with the job market.

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