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Ethnographic explorations of security needs and practices in protests


   Information Security Group

  Dr Rikke Jensen  Sunday, August 20, 2023  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Please note that advertised projects are sample projects and prospective applicants are not required to apply to one of the advertised projects, but are welcome to discuss broader research interests with the academic named in the advert - and/or to apply with their own research proposal.

The Centre for Doctoral Training in Cyber Security for the Everyday at Royal Holloway University of London seeks to recruit a PhD student to explore the security needs and practices of participants in protests.

Grounded in ethnography, this project sets out to understand how information security is understood, practised, negotiated and shaped by protesters. Through extended fieldwork, it aims to engage with the social relations, structures and assemblages that underpin protesters' security needs as well as the technologies they rely upon.

The significance of digital technology in protests is well documented in existing scholarly work. These settings, where many activities and interactions map to some form of digital communication, therefore present distinct and rich research opportunities for ethnography. Their adversarial and highly digitalised contexts, shaped by dynamic networks, provoke a series of information security questions:

How is trust established - and with whom?

What security expectations are held within protest groups and how do they manifest themselves?

How does onboarding work?

What role(s) do security technologies play within protest groups?

How are concerns over infiltration of networks considered and voiced?

In dynamic protest settings, responses to these questions are likely to be shaped and continuously re-shaped over time, making extended and immersive ethnographic fieldwork a particularly useful research approach.

With an emphasis on collective action and shared security goals, it is expected that the ethnographic fieldwork will explore the mundane social, political, spatial, cultural notions that underpin large-scale protests and related information security needs and practices. Moreover, it will study how technologies facilitate collective action and engage with participants through on-the-ground observation and engagements, during protests and related activities.

This project complements existing work in the Ethnography Group (https://ethnography.isg.rhul.ac.uk) within the Information Security Group at Royal Holloway. The Ethnography Group was established in September 2022 and comprises researchers with distinct interests in using ethnographic approaches to un-earth information security needs among populations with no institutional representation. Current work by members of the Ethnograpy Group includes exploring how information security is experienced and practised among domestic workers in Nigeria, within single-parent households in Thailand, in post-conflict societies and among activist and protest networks, to name a few.

Applicants should have an interest in information security but come from a social science background, with at least an undergraduate degree in a field cognate to Anthropology, Human Geography, Sociology or Science and Technology Studies. Ideally, applicants will have experience in conducting ethnographic fieldwork, engaging in participant observation and/or collecting and analysing qualitative data.

Prospective applicants are welcome to discuss with  


Funding Notes

The Centre for Doctoral Training in Cyber Security for the Everyday can offer up to ten studentships per year, three of which can be awarded to international students (which includes EU and EEA.)
Please ensure you are familiar with the eligibility criteria set by UKRI and their terms and conditions.
In order to apply please visit the CDT website and follow the application instructions.
www.royalholloway.ac.uk/cdt
The studentship includes
* Tuition fees:
* Maintenance: £23,668.00 for each academic year.

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