Jessica Taylor Piotrowski has been appointed Professor of Communication in the Digital Society at the University of Amsterdam’s (UvA) Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences. Her appointment commences on 1 August 2022. How would she describe her chair? What is its social importance?
The technological transformations of our time
Piotrowski ‘s chair is focused on the Digital Society. The phrase ‘digital society’ reflects the digitalization of data in every aspect of life. ‘From public policy, economic, and governmental infrastructures, to health and educational systems, to the ways members of society work with and communicate with one another – every aspect of society has been digitized. In other words, digitalization has changed how daily life is experienced’, says Piotrowski.
Her chair will focus on questions such as: how can we be resilient to the technological transformations of our time? How can we capitalize on the opportunities that the digital society offers, but also be protected from ill effects? ‘Just as social media can be a powerful tool for disseminating accurate information quickly, it can just as quickly spread misinformation that harms us all. Covid19 surely highlighted that’, she explains.
Communication Science at the UvA is ready to become the global hub
For Piotrowski, the formation of this chair can be seen as public statement that Communication Science at the UvA is ready to become the global hub for digital society scholarship, teaching, and impact. ‘The research and teaching profile of Communication Science convincingly demonstrates a commitment to understanding the many facets of the digital society. For years already, researchers and teachers in Communication Science have been tackling questions about the digital society. They have been asking about individual skills necessary for the digital society; the ways to optimize communication with family, peers, community; and the organization of education, health, government, and mass media.’
A desire for impact
Piotrowski sees this chair position as providing her the capacity to further support impact in meaningful ways. ‘In my scholarly journey, I have been committed to impact’, she tells. ‘I have always felt that the classroom is one of the most impactful moments of my day. Indeed, Nelson Mandela’s famous quote “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” has guided my approach and faith in the education.’ Her research has similarly been fueled by a desire for impact – particularly helping youth as they navigate a complex digital world of selfies, YouTube, and TikTok.
Piotrowski is looking forward to the road ahead. ‘From shining light on the excellent scholarship housed within the department; to shaping and refining our educational curriculum; to serving as a bridge between academy and practice – I am committed to supporting my colleagues as we, together, provide guidance and understanding about the digital society.’
About Jessica Taylor Piotrowski
Piotrowski received her PhD in 2010 at the Annenberg School for Communication of the University of Pennsylvania in the United States. She joined the UvA in the 2012. She is presently the Director of the Graduate School of Communication, the co-director of FMG’s Teaching & Learning Centre, and the Director of the Center for research on Children, Adolescents, and the Media (CcaM).
Piotrowski’s research asks how the digital society of today (and tomorrow) is intertwined with young people’s development. She is particularly interested in understanding digital competence. She is currently funded by the Dutch government (Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelaties) where she is leading a team to develop a measure of digital competence that works across the lifespan. Moreover, she is currently promoting two PhD projects investigating the digital world: one on the role of virtual assistants in the lives of young children and a second on the opportunities and consequences of digital content for well-being and solitude. In addition, through a project funded through the Ministry of Health together with scholars at the VU University Amsterdam, she is promoting a PhD project focused on the role of digital media in the sleep health of adolescents, asking what role the educational ecosystem can play in this process. Piotrowski’s educational offerings are connected to her scholarly work. Presently, this includes two graduate seminars – Digital Media Lifestyles and Emerging Technology – where students are challenged to take a user-centered perspective as they consider the contributions of digital media to all aspects of daily life; the ethical ramifications of digital media; and recommended practices in design.
Piotrowski is the co-author of the book Plugged In: How Media Attract and Affect Youth (Yale University Press, 2017), and her work is regularly published in communication, psychology, and education journals; as well as widely valorized at academic and trade organizations.
To learn more about Piotrowski’s scholarship and teaching, please visit her website