PhD position 'A computational analysis of advertising language on social media' (1.0 FTE)

PhD position 'A computational analysis of advertising language on social media' (1.0 FTE)

Published Deadline Location
9 Nov tomorrow Utrecht
PhD position on A computational analysis of advertising language on social media. This position is part of the European Research Council Starting Grant HUMANads

Job description

The Utrecht Centre for Regulation and Enforcement in Europe at the Utrecht School of Law, Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance, is looking for a PhD candidate to conduct research in natural legal language processing and social media advertising under the supervision of dr. Catalina Goanta (Utrecht University), and dr. Gerasimos (Jerry) Spanakis (Maastricht University).

Content monetization reflects a new era of social media business models, changing the nature of digital advertising from platform to human ads. Human ads are Internet influencers (also referred to as content creators) who earn revenue from social media advertising by creating authentic, relatable advertising content for their armies of followers. While their activity has been touted as a new form of creative labour, the overlap between their freedom of expression, political thought and advertising interests raises some serious concerns. One underlying danger is the convergence of speech in two ways. Consumers and citizens can no longer distinguish
(i) between ads and non-ads, and (ii) between commercial and political communications. This is a new form of consumer vulnerability on digital markets where speech cannot be separated from platform infrastructure. Human ads are an emerging category of stakeholders who turn engagement into currency in novel ways. Users are faced with a double transparency problem:
(i) human ads have incentives to hide commercial interests, and
(ii) platforms have incentives to algorithmically amplify human ads engagement in opaque ways.

This reflects a general good faith and fair dealing problem: the social media economy is increasingly based on deceit. However, we know very little about the size of deceit on social media. Even basic questions such as defining influencers or understanding how much sponsored content they post are difficult to formalize and compute.

This PhD project consists in conducting interdisciplinary research to develop methodologies for the classification and detection of advertising language on social media. The PhD project will be mainly focused on the application of natural language processing to regulatory issues arising out of the proliferation of commercial and political advertising on social media, but could potentially also include web measurement and social network analysis approaches. Examples of questions which could fall under the PhD project include:
  • What are the characteristics of commercial v political advertising language on social media?
  • What kind of research methodologies can be used to classify social media content that is monetized by content creators/influencers?
  • How can content creators/influencers be computationally defined?
  • How can we use computer science methodologies to identify, describe and measure social media harms arising out of the proliferation of hidden advertising?
This PhD position is part of the European Research Council Starting Grant HUMANads. The PhD candidate will have an opportunity and be expected to further define the initial research objectives set out by the project, in collaboration with the supervision team. This PhD position will be part of a broader project team featuring computer scientists, law and media scholars, and it will be based in the RENFORCE research center and the Molengraaff Institute for private law.

Specifications

Utrecht University

Requirements

  • Academic excellence proven through a good track record of initiatives related to, among others, academic research;
  • Obtained (or obtained by the start of the PhD trajectory) Master in Computer Science or a Master in adjacent fields such as Computational Social Sciences, Data Science or Empirical Legal Studies;
  • Interest in being part of an interdisciplinary team;
  • Interest in being the first computer science PhD candidate at Utrecht Law School;
  • Knowledge of natural language processing (and related programming frameworks);
  • Practical experience with programming (esp. Python);
  • Affinity to or interest in developing knowledge about social network analysis and web measurement;
  • Affinity to or interest in developing practical knowledge about social media technologies;
  • Demonstrable strong interest in doing scientific research and specifically research on the subject of the PhD project;
  • Ability to process and critically assess large body of complex information;
  • Clear, critical and creative thinking;
  • Good planning and organizing skills, ability to deliver high-quality results on time;
  • Ability to function both independently and under supervision, communicate to the supervisor and process feedback effectively;
  • Sense of initiative and proactive thinking;
  • Excellent writing skills;
  • Excellent command of English.

Conditions of employment

This is an appointment of 1.0 FTE for the duration of 18 months. Upon a positive evaluation of the PhD student’s performance the contract will be extended by a further 2.5 years. The gross salary starts with €2,541 per month in the first year and increases to €3,247 per month in the fourth year of employment (scale P according to the Collective Employment Agreement of the Dutch Universities) for a full-time employment.

Besides that, you will receive a holiday allowance of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3%. Utrecht University also has an appealing package of terms of employment, including the choice for a good balance between work and private (a good arrangement for leave, among other things), possibilities for development and an excellent pension scheme. For more information, please visit working at Utrecht University

The starting date will be 1 March 2023. The interviews will be scheduled in December 2022.

Employer

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability. 

The Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance is a faculty at the heart of society, with a strong focus on social issues. Our subjects of Law, Economics and Governance give us a strong mix of academic disciplines that complement and enhance each other. This is a unique combination and a mark of our faculty's strength.

The Utrecht University School of Law has provided quality research and education for more than 350 years. Constant innovation has enabled the School to maintain its leading position. Top-ranking research is conducted in all important legal fields: private law, criminal law, constitutional and administrative law, EU law, public international law. Researchers collaborate intensively with foreign partners, mainly from the angle of European and comparative law. The School of Law also conducts contract research and consultancy for other organisations. The extensive educational programme is based on academic research conducted within the faculty of Law, Economics and Governance. Students are trained to be highly qualified, internationally-oriented lawyers on the basis of modern didactical principles.

The Utrecht Centre for Regulation and Enforcement in Europe (RENFORCE) is a dynamic research programme for some 60 researchers from EU law, international law, constitutional law, administrative law, criminal law, private law, economic law, and criminology. It builds on the Utrecht Law School Europa Institute's renowned and longstanding reputation in the field of the interaction between European and national legal orders.

Additional information

For more information about this position, please contact dr Catalina Goanta (Associate Professor in Private Law and Technology and Principal Investigator of the ERC Starting Grant HUMANads), via e.c.goanta@uu.nl.

Specifications

  • PhD
  • Law
  • 36—40 hours per week
  • €2541—€3247 per month
  • University graduate
  • 1199989

Employer

Location

Newtonlaan 201, 3584 BH, Utrecht

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Application procedure

Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

We invite you to apply for this position via the "apply" button. Please enclose:
  •  your curriculum vitae (including a list of publications - if any);
  • a motivation letter;
  • a sample of academic writing and contacts of two referees.
Interviews will be scheduled in December 2022.

Application procedure

Application procedure

Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

We invite you to apply for this position via the "apply" button. Please enclose:
  •  your curriculum vitae (including a list of publications - if any);
  • a motivation letter;
  • a sample of academic writing and contacts of two referees.
Interviews will be scheduled in December 2022.

Make sure to apply no later than 1 Dec 2022 23:59 (Europe/Amsterdam).