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The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded Starting Grants to six researchers from the University of Amsterdam (UvA). A Starting Grant is a personal grant of about 1.5 million euros and gives talented researchers the opportunity to conduct research for a period of five years.

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The recipients


Dr Balázs Bodó (Information Law): The Disrupted Society: Blockchain & Society

Recent advances in cryptography have yielded the blockchain technology, which enables a radically new and decentralised method to maintain authoritative records without the need for trusted intermediaries. Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency blockchain application, has already demonstrated that it is possible to operate a purely cryptography-based, global, distributed, decentralised and anonymous financial network, independent from central and commercial banks, regulators and the state. Blockchain is now being applied to other social domains such as public registries of ownership and deeds, voting systems and the internet domain name registry. Scant research, however, has been done on the societal impact of blockchain, which makes it difficult to properly assess its risks and promises. In addition, crucial knowledge is missing on how blockchain technologies can and should be regulated by law. Balás Bodó will use his project ‘Blockchain & Society’ to address these issues.

Also see:

Dr Niels van Doorn (Media Studies): Platform Labour: Digital Transformations of Work and Livelihood in Post-Welfare Societies

Digital platforms like Uber and Airbnb are transforming how people work, create and share value, and sustain themselves in their everyday lives. As such, platforms are becoming increasingly ubiquitous as new institutional actors that redraw relations between civil society, the market and the state. As much scholarship has shown, such relations have historically been shaped by pervasive gender, class and racial inequalities. It is therefore crucial to ask to what extent/how platforms, as new sites of capital accumulation, governance, and norm-making, remediate existing inequalities and if/how they also generate new vulnerabilities or – alternatively – tools for empowerment. Niels van Doorn’s research project aims to determine how digital platforms are reconfiguring the gendered, classed and racialised organisation of labour and social reproduction in post-welfare societies. 

Dr Luca Incurvati (Philosophy): From the Expression of Disagreement to New Foundations for Expressivist Semantics

Disagreement is a pervasive feature of human life, which finds linguistic expression in the speech-act of rejection. If somebody asserts that Amsterdam is in Belgium, one can express dissent by responding ‘No’ and thereby reject the assertion. In the study of human language, assertion has taken centre stage and rejection is traditionally regarded as negative assertion. However, linguistic evidence shows that rejections and negative assertions have different functions in discourse. So, what is rejection? And how does it behave? Luca Incurvati will develop a novel theory and logic of rejection, which will then be used to establish a new approach to natural language semantics: inferential expressivism.

Dr Gijs Schumacher (Political Science): Politics and Emotions Investigated Comparatively

Many claim that politicians are making more and more extreme emotional appeals than ever before, because these appeals win over the emotional citizen.  But are emotional appeals persuasive or do citizens’ existing emotional attachments to parties, leaders or issues prevent the success of emotional appeals. Also, do politicians actually make more emotional appeals than in the past? And if so why are they doing it? Is it a personality trait or a strategy? Gijs Schumacher will investigate these questions using innovative methods in political science such as automated text analysis and physiological experiments. The research results will indicate the importance of emotion in the decision-making of citizens and the level of rationality that is behind politicians’ decision to make emotional appeals.

Credits: Marten Boekelo

Dr Emily Yates-Doerr (Anthropology): Global Future Health: A Multi-Sited Ethnography of an Adaptive Intervention

Emily Yates-Doerr’s research project is a multi-sited ethnography of an emergent global intervention to improve nutrition in the ‘first 1000 days of life’. The intervention links growth during this window to chronic and mental illness, human capital, food security, and ecosystem sustainability, positing early life nutrition as the key to meeting the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. Yates-Doerr and her research team will work with global health and development experts and study deployment sites in the Netherlands, Guatemala and the Philippines. Anthropological techniques of contrasting and co-labouring will allow them to analyse the intervention while contributing to its further refinement. Health experts currently tend to treat social complexity as an obstacle to overcome. The innovative force of this research is to consider the adaptive transformations of the intervention as a source of inspiration, turning living with/in difference into both a social ideal and a research style.

Magdalena Wojcieszak

Dr Magdalena Wojcieszak (Communication Science): Europeans Exposed to Dissimilar Views in the Media: Investigating Backfire Effects

In many countries, hostility, distrust, and intolerance are on the rise. In this context, scholars claim that encountering dissimilar arguments fosters tolerance, and policymakers promote exposure to different views in the media. Yet, these efforts can make people more extreme and more hostile toward the other side. Magdalena Wojcieszak’s project will use online behaviour tracking, automated content analyses, panel surveys, qualitative work, and experiments in four countries to address a fundamental question: Under which conditions exactly does exposure to dissimilar views in the media amplify or attenuate hostilities among citizens with different opinions? The results will offer insights for scholars, policymakers and practitioners working on media diversity and social cohesion.

A Starting Grant has also been awarded to Dr Emilia Sanabria, a postdoctoral researcher at the UvA’s Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR). Sanabria will conduct her research project, titled ‘Healing Encounters: Reinventing an Indigenous Medicine in the Clinic and Beyond’, at the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon (France).