Maud Oostindie

Cultural scripts of online conflict

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences of Maastricht University, Department of Philosophy,

Supervisors: Prof. dr. John Parkinson and dr. Anna Harris


I obtained my BSc in Anthropology from the University of Utrecht and my MA in Globalisation and Development Studies from Maastricht University. After graduating I worked for three years as a junior teacher in the department of Philosophy at the Maastricht University Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

For my BSc I wrote my thesis on the tensions between globalism and locality in the Slow Food Movement, based on three months of ethnographic fieldwork conducted in northern Italy. My MA thesis focused on communication and knowledge exchange in Sino-African agricultural development cooperation.

Summary PhD Project

As it continues to become easier to communicate with others in online settings, large parts of our political lives are moving online. Specifically, social networks and news media comment sections become increasingly important arenas of public debate and contestation. In other words: these platforms are turning into online public spheres. In Habermasian terms, the public sphere is a normative ideal that values communication based on deliberative norms of rationality, mutual respect, and listening. While public debate and contestation by definition include disagreement and productive conflict, much of the conflict taking place on these online platforms does not adhere to deliberative norms and instead tends to escalate, undermining the normative ideal of the public sphere.

This thesis aims to empirically understand online communication and conflict. In doing so, I look specifically at cultural scripts of conflict escalation and de-escalation. Trough digital ethnographic fieldwork I will analyse how different communities of practice regulate conflict, and how they respond to strategies of de-escalation as employed by other users or by bots.

This PhD research is part of the Volkswagen Stiftung funded research project Deliberation Laboratory (, led by Valentin Gold (University of Göttingen), John Parkinson (Maastricht University), Annette Hautli-Janisz (University of Passau), Chris Reed (University of Dundee), and Katarzyna Budzynska (University of Warsaw).