The exchange of information via the internet has become deeply embedded in society. VU University anthropologists, communication scientists and sociologists therefore research people’s online behavior in the acts of gaming, blogging, Twitter, the development of virtual assistance and the role of the internet in migration processes.
Young Muslims find their identity on the internet
A growing negative representation of Islam in The Netherlands has the paradoxical effect that the Moroccan-Dutch youth are increasingly attracted to Islam. The internet plays an important role in their search for identity, according to cultural anthropologist Lenie Brouwer. She studies the role of the internet in the establishment of identities establishment of identities of Dutch youth with Moroccan roots.
Moroccan websites like Maroc.nl and Amazigh.nl specifically target this group, the latter more specifically the Berber people. There are several forums on which Islam is an important theme. Users ask questions about wearing headscarves, halal foods or fundamentalists. The websites offer these youngsters a platform but also offer them an opportunity to voice their opinion about current issues. Lenie’s research is part of the research programme of Social and Cultural Anthropology: Constructing human security in a globalising world.
Companies meddling with online product reviews
Professor Peter Kerkhof of Communication Sciences investigates the online interactions between companies and their customers, also known as 'web care', as part of the research programme Communication sciences: Communication Choices, Content and Consequences: new media, new methods.
Customers are increasingly making use of product reviews to get more information about a product. They use this information to come to an informed decision about what product to buy. These reviews heavily influence the sales records and companies are therefore tempted to place positive product reviews themselves or directly react to negative comments. What do the customers think of these online interventions and in what way do these thoughts alter their opinion of the company, the product and the online product reviews?
Online ‘mobilization’ and the evolution of protest
Nowadays, protesters are not only recruited via newspapers and television but increasingly through the use of virtual networks like MSN, Facebook and Youtube. As a part of the research programme of Sociology: Participation in Society, VU University sociologists study the process of (online) protest mobilization. Who will hit the streets? Why do or don’t they participate? In a first study, our sociologists compared two protest demonstrations in 2007 in The Netherlands in which schoolchildren demonstrated against an increase of the standard hours norm for primary schools. In the first protest rally, participants were mobilized through the use of MSN and Hyves, while in the second rally more use was made of traditional means. The results show that both protests attracted a different group of protesters. The group who came to the first, more spontaneous protests, were less highly educated, more cynical about political matters and less of thought the protest would be effective.
Except for mobilization, sociologists also examine how the supply and demand of protest demonstrations develop. To further gain insight in this topic, research is done in housing development areas (VINEX neighbourhoods), because formal and informal networks are built from the ground up in those areas. These new neighbourhoods thus make for an excellent experimental example of how protest demonstration evolve.