Universiteit Leiden

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Leiden University Centre for Digital Humanities

Eliza Steinbock


Areas of interest

Digital activism, digital outreach, information society, digital privacy and bullying, interactive social and educational tools, surveillance and big data, community driven hackathons and tech entrepreneurship, hashtag activism and folksonomy, media ethics.

Current Projects

“Vital Art: Transgender Portraiture as Visual Activism”
The Transgender Murder Monitoring Project’s digital tracking of news reports in 60 countries provides statistical evidence of endemic discrimination, including an alarming number of minors killed. A large-scale survey by Trans Media Watch shows that the lack of ethical media coverage given to transgender lives and deaths can directly contribute to hostilities. Quantitative approaches to studying transphobic violence are important responses to signaling the extent of the problem. However, they are unable to provide the necessary insight into the qualitative experiences of lived or mediated stigma; who are the faces behind the statistics?
The goal of this project is to produce three key studies of transgender visual activism that address experiences of stigma and critique mass media portrayals. Located in visual studies and using theories of gender and representation, this study is the first to create an interpretative framework for a socially embedded analysis of transgender cultural productions. It concentrates on contemporary visual art portraits because the genre of portraiture foregrounds a subject’s personal experience and seeks to establish identity visually, hence it is a privileged form for addressing stigmatized identities.
The methodology is concept-based: it uses the interdisciplinary category of "portraiture" to bridge different objects of study: artistic portraits, media representations, and ethnographic studies of artists. The overall objective is to investigate how and to what effect these forms of portraiture yield archives of transgender experience. The outcomes include 1) a monograph illuminating the role of visual art in minority power struggles, 2) an international conference “Art & Activism: Resilience Techniques in Times of Crisis” held in Leiden 13-15 December 2017, 3) a journalist tool-kit for positively shaping public opinion about gender diversity through media platforms.
Regarding this third outcome, I work specifically with DH approaches to develop and launch the tool kit. In the short term, together with Atria: Institute on Gender Equality and Women’s History and Transgender Netwerk Nederland, I’m convening an international trans* media expert meeting to share best practices. In the medium term, we are planning meet ups with (transgender) journalists and media makers to develop an analysis of how trans lives become portrayed and trouble-shoot the dissemination plan for a digital tool-kit that can be tracked through multiple platforms. We are partnering with the Trans*H4ck community to host a combined online and on-site hackathon event to build an application for “Trans* Media Respect” based (potentially) on Tumblr’s API.


Eliza Steinbock works as a cultural analyst with expertise in (trans)gender studies and media theory. Broadly interested in how visual culture shapes social understandings of bodily difference, Eliza publishes on trans* cultural production, porn/sexualities and contemporary mediascapes. Her recent articles deal with digitally mediated oppression and gender self-determination, that is, digital activism, see especially: “Framing Stigma in Trans* Mediascapes: How does it feel to be a problem?” in Spectator issue “Transgender Media” 3.7. (2017); and “Catties and T-Selfies: On the ‘I’ and the ‘We’ in TransAnimal Cute Aesthetics”in  Angelaki: Journal of Theoretical Humanities issue “Tranimacies: Intimate Links Between Animal and Trans* Studies ” 22.2 (2017). Building on their findings, Eliza is preparing a VIDI application on how transgender selfhood is contested and affirmed in/through digital culture, specifically via the prosumption of social media technologies. Case studies include digital-born interventions and streaming content, news of LGBTIQ asylum seekers in Europe together with transgender refugee blogs, and a history of Dutch trans policy debates carried out online. This project will examine the ways long established uneven life chances are now being determined, and challenged, by digitally revamped forms of biopolitics in the algorithmic age. The project also continues with building digital media knowledge within trans advocacy/research organizations by launching a think-tank of trans media experts from around the world. 

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