Jan 5, 2011

Full Time PhD position on social media & privacy, Free University of Brussels

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@ vub.ac.be) and Prof. Jo Pierson (jo.pierson@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@ 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@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 bene�ts 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 �rst 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 environment
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.

Please quote 10 Academic Resources Daily in your application to this opportunity!

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