Teaching Philosophy

We do not create our teaching philosophy in the abstract. It is not just about the best pedagogical theories; it is about what drives us to aspire, to transform, and to excel. To me, good teaching starts with a productive outlook on failure. Failure is a result of experimentation. It is endemic to innovation. It creates a shift in perspective from the ‘what is’ to the ‘what if.’ There are no failed students. There are failed teaching and learning methods. Evaluation is not about judgment. It is about the enabling one to get to the goals. Thereby, embracing failure allows us to encounter fear head on. Failure humanizes both the teachers and the students. The flip side is that mindless innovation can translate to gambling with the student’s education. We need mindful innovation, that which follows the ‘what if’ with the ‘why.’ To be mindful, we need to be meaningful. By creating an open and engaging environment for learning, we can discover how innovation in the classroom gains relevance to our diverse students. This is not a utilitarian vision where what is meaningful should be personal to the students. Meaning involves not just the student, but also the society within which they live. It is not about catering the world to the student but about taking the student out into the world. We need to help students to move to the unknown and disrupt their comfort zones. Irreverence is the cornerstone for new worldviews to emerge. Innovation is not necessarily about novelty. Disruption can happen through exposure to alternative perspectives. If we can get students to care and expand what is meaningful to them, we can expand our scope of innovation in the classroom.

My teaching philosophy on innovation led me to embark on two initiatives in recent years, transforming theory into practice. With my colleague Professor Filip Vermeylen (from Arts and Cultural studies), we launched a MOOC in partnership with Art Review in the United Kingdom under the budget of 10,000 euros. This MOOC course, ‘Emerging art markets in the Digital Age’ focuses on the internet and global art markets, and how new media technologies serve as game changers in a rapidly changing art world. Through this MOOC, we connected art professionals and students from across the world including the students at Erasmus University Rotterdam. This MOOC serves as an example of how academia can design online courses that are significantly affordable and accessible and thereby sustainable in the higher education system. It also offers a template to other programs on how to go about instilling interdisciplinary learning and engagement with real-world practitioners.

Also, I founded and launched Catalyst Lab. This is an organization that connects academia, the private sector and the public on matters of public concern through innovative social media campaigns. This required a year of raising seed money from General Electric and the Dutch Brewers Association to pay for the website and design two pilot campaigns, giving paid consultancy opportunities to multiple students from the Media and Communication department. Students worked closely with a team of professional artists, designers, filmmakers and the public relations team from GE and the Dutch Brewers to gain firsthand experience in the makings of social media campaigns on topics that are of mutual interest to the private and the public sector.

Lastly, I am a big advocate for using digital storytelling in the classroom. Students create digital storytelling videos as part of their core assignments to explain their arguments in ways that are accessible and engaging to the lay public. To view students digital storytelling videos, click here.

Over the years, I have been nominated for the 'Best Female Teacher' and 'Best Lecturer' by our bachelor students three times in a row (and won once) when I was primarily teaching the bachelors program. In 2017, I have been nominated for the Teaching Prize, a university-wide prize for excellence in teaching at Erasmus University Rotterdam. I am honored and excited to be part of an esteemed group of nominees.


Contemporary approaches to digital cultures: Platforms, politics, performances and people (RMeS)

How do we identify the fake from the real? What strategies enable us to reveal and yet protect our subjects who seek anonymity online? Can researchers be activists and their research serve as instruments for social change? How do we ensure fair representation through big data analytics? These are some of the questions that need addressing as we seek to study digital cultures. This course identifies key research issues and novel methodological solutions in the study of contemporary digital cultures. In particular, we investigate challenges faced in the arena of data authenticity, representation and communication to lay and other publics. The course is organised around four dimensions – platforms, politics, performances and people. Platforms are the new contexts for digital cultures. They are deeply corporatized, walled gardens that often allow a small circle of researchers to access their vast data. They are designed to be unstable, as they need to constantly innovate and re-design to stay competitive. Here, students learn to apply methods of place-making and data hacking to circumvent issues of access and locatedness. To speak thoughtfully about the politics of engagement, students learn to critically identify and capture the perspective from varied actors such as (non)users, programmers, politicians, corporations and activists. To extract voices from below, students learn how to deploy action research using social media campaigns. Performances are about digital expressions, memes and trends. Here, students learn to use digital methods to assess claims of globality and diversity through big data. Lastly, in the module on People, students learn to apply auto-ethnography to digital contexts such as gaming, city navigation and other applications. Overall, this course provides both qualitative and quantitative methodological insights into the examining of contemporary digital cultures.

New Media Audiences and Emerging Markets (RMA)

Tagging of newlyweds, downloading the latest movies, teens flirting on social network sites and virtual gaming may seem like typical behavior in the West; yet in the context of a town in Mali or a slum in Mumbai, it is seen as unusual and perhaps an anomaly in their new media practice. The fact is, as emerging economies globalize and urbanize exponentially, their users are becoming more critical consumers and creative contributors of digital content or ‘prosumers’ and arguably free laborers instead of classic development beneficiaries. We no longer can talk about internet practices in the West as normative given that emerging markets have surpassed the wealthier nations in terms of internet users. Hence, to talk of global and representative practice, we need to expand our frames of reference, revisit sacred discourses and Western-biased rubrics of digital design and practice. A paradigm shift is needed in approaching new media audiences with a more global-oriented, open-ended and pluralistic perspective. This seminar takes as a starting point popular discourses in new media studies, primarily shaped by Western concerns, contexts and concepts, and juxtaposes them against web 2.0 users in emerging markets. This opens up critical discussions on key topics such as prosumption, online privacy/surveillance, digital labor/leisure, social media activism, and search engine research. This is essential for students to be able to position their research and target audience on a more globally-architected digital and cultural landscape.

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Media & Business Transformations (MA)

A decade ago, a travel agent was a legitimate job. Today, this line of employment has become redundant with online sites such as kayak, priceline and expedia allowing customers to shop virtually for competitive pricing. This captures not just a shift in the nature of employment, but possibly the birth of a new worldview, corporate ideology, management, and customer relations strategy in the tourism sector where certain intermediaries have become digital. In fact, change seems to be occurring across different industries with the advent of new media: we use mobile phones to check-in at airports through SMS barcodes; customers willingly watch ads in exchange for free television shows offered online by media companies; cancer patients verify treatment choices through online support groups; prostitutes use online platforms to significantly increase their revenue. These shifts are however not necessarily unprecedented in the business world. If we look back, older information and communication media such as print, the radio and television have played a part in the shaping of diverse business models. Additionally, it is worth considering to what extent media transforms the business culture in its varied dimensions - legal, socio-cultural, economic and political. Also, how are companies’ online business presence syncing with their brick-and-mortar entities? Thereby, this course serves to create a historical and cultural overview of the role of information and communication media in the business sector and the opportunity to critically assess claims on radical shifts in organizational work practices and spaces. This includes a reexamining of the dichotomy between virtual and real business in our current digitally-mediated environments. To do so, we look closely at the complex relations between the state, the market and the public. To best situate such overarching understandings of the relations between business and media, this course applies theory to real world business news, trends, and events concerning the Web 2.0. Emphasis will be placed on emerging markets and their usage of media to restructure their role in the global economy. Overall, the intent of this course is to gain a more critical perspective on the role of media in the shaping of businesses across cultures, histories and contexts.

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Communication Management (BA)

T-mobile succeeds in creating a YouTube viral video by capitalizing on the already viral flashmob videos online. Marc Jacobs gains a loyal following on Twitter through his personable tweets. KLM, currently the undisputed European king of social media for airlines designs a media campaign encouraging people to ‘stewardess’ themselves, gaining significant attention with well over 55,000 new fans on Facebook in just 7 days. Whether it is the electronics, fashion or the transportation sector, all markets seem infected and challenged by new communications rising in this Web 2.0 era. However, most organizations are in the stage of experimenting with their communications and some are deeply hesitant to go into this new arena. Have business models transformed radically with the promulgation of new media? For instance, is Barnes & Noble a redundant business now with the growth of Amazon? How should Starbucks respond to customer complaints on their Twitter feed? Do customers want more personalization from their companies via social media and if so, in what ways? And how does new media impact business to business (B2B) relationships? Whether it is the innovating of new business communication or the managing and expansion of current practice, such concerns loom large. Further, the concept of ‘international’ business has expanded from the conventional notions of having operations in different countries to catering to transnational and cross-cultural clients and establishing business relations across national boundaries. With Twitter, Facebook, Skype, Wordpress, Foursquare and other applications and tools entering the market, businesses are deeply pressured to consider new media to communicate to stay on top of their game. In this course, students serve as ‘consultants’ on new media communication. The goal is for students to create a social media business proposal to enhance the organization’s communication strategies using new media that helps them be more effective.

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ICT and Emerging Markets (BA)

The field of international development has witnessed a major shift in recent years, following the coming of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). As a consequence, new concepts, all ICT-driven have emerged. They include telemedicine, mobile learning, mobile banking, One Laptop Per Child, SMS- or Web-based Market Information System, to name a few. They all reflect a new trend in policies, strategies and approaches to development, the theory and practice of which are still to be fully grasped. This seminar offers a critical, analytical, and practical insight into the various ways in which international development policy makers and agencies have integrated ICTs in poverty alleviation initiatives and assess their potential of success. The seminar focuses on the following key development areas: education (in the broader sense), healthcare, rural entrepreneurship (income-generating activities), economic livelihood, and banking (and related services). While exploring these areas, students are invited to go beyond the surface (the hype) to critically consider underlying issues such as gender equity, sustainability, and participation.

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