Research Projects

2020-2028: The future of healthcare If people hear about ‘algorythmic decisionmaking’, they typically think of a computer system and the data sets itcalculates. In reality, all alghorytmic decisions are made in collaboration with humans: it is us, who create them, evaluate them, follow theiroutcomes or deviate from them. This project is an anthropological study of the collaboration between humans and alghorythmic systems, in the field of global public health – a field where the growth in datafication and automation is unprecedented. In six country cases, the researchers of this project will look at how doctors, programmers and algorithms make decisions together, for example in the field of DNA genetic research, or preventive health care.  This research was supported by the European Research Committee, who granted me a Starting Grant of 1.5 million Euro.
Meet the team and find more information here.

2023–2024: Exploring digital transformation through the lens of indigenous communities in the Amazon Rainforest
Digital Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are more than just products to be consumed or tools to be used to facilitate communication. They are agents which impact social practices as well as the development and preservation of diverse languages and communication styles. While ITCs are now used worldwide, their development, design, and production are concentrated in a few countries. What are the implications when these technologies are integrated into social practices among non-westernized populations in the Global South? To answer this question, I codesigned and manage a research project that combines the analysis and learning from the sign-based indigenous community’s digital media practices. Together, we explore how indigenous communities in the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil appropriate digital technologies, the limits they encounter when confronted with digital devices and algorithms designed from a Western-centered perspective, and the creative potential that lies in the moment when different epistemologies collide at the same interface. Aware of its own positioning within a Western, or Global Northern, academic context, this project explores how engagement with non- westernized contexts of digital use opens the potential to shake and expand existing horizons of how digital transformation and integration can and should look like. Both in the design of this project, as well as in the expected output, we make an effort to coproduce, and jointly learn with, our interlocutors. This is reflected in the commitment to co-authoring research papers together with indigenous researchers, as well as in the co-design of joint workshops (both during fieldwork in the Amazon, and afterwards, in European learning and exchange sessions). We thus consider this research project as an opportunity to put into practice inspirational ideas of what may be called collaborative ethnography. For this project, I collaborate with dr. Paula Helm, Media Studies Amsterdam, and dr. Beatrice
Bonami, Federal University of the Amazon. We have been supported financial by a seedgrant (50.000 Euro) of Media Studies, University of Amsterdam.

2022-2024: Ethical AI – from retrospective to prospective
In this research project, I collaborate with a range of invited researchers from different disciplines, among whom Professor Jan Ruijgrok and Professor Johan Wempe of the Free University. We scrutinize ethical frameworks in light of this new (AI) dimension. Does the approach we are used to still work, and how (not)? From history we know that ethical frameworks often develop in small steps, with the prevailing principles remaining dominant for a long time to come. Debates then arise in response to problems that no longer fall within those old frameworks. At a certain point it becomes clear that the current principles are no longer tenable and space is created for new frameworks. More fundamental principles will shift, but at an underlying level people will want to continue to rely on the accepted fundamental frameworks. The fundamental framework that is currently the dominant framework in

our society is Enlightenment thinking – a framework that, we argue, is being challenged by the developments around AI. This framework is based on the individual who makes decisions autonomously and who can also be held responsible for them. One effect of this is that we mainly understand moral issues from a need to hold individuals accountable for the effects of their decisions and the actions that result from them. Ethics have so far functioned as primarily retrospective. In this project, we reason from the (un)desired effect back to the action and the person who can be held responsible for it. The question is whether that way of thinking still works as a result of the changes caused by the use of AI? The researchers in this project hold monthly meetings and investigate individually, within their own expertise-realm. Data for this project is gathered throughout 2023 and early 2024. Publications are expected from 2024 onwards.

2015-2020: The future of human relationships Our experience of love is undergoing rapid change. Many people will have noticed the first signs of this shift in their everyday lives: whether it be the dating apps on their phones, the porn on their computers or the growing number of single or polyamorous people in their extended circle. Over the past few years I have begun to wonder whether we are sufficiently aware of the implications of these changes for our species—and whether there are others who, like me, believe these shifts in how we love will radically transform the human experience and, by extension, the fundamental makeup of our society. I spent years doing research on how the way love is changing, is changing us. I read hundreds of academic articles and dozens of books about the history and the current state of love, attended conferences and interviewed scholars—both social scientists and futurists. I was inspired by conversations with the members of the Dutch Future Society, an organization for professional explorers of the future, and also conversations with my students at the University of Amsterdam, whose fresh critical perspectives keep challenging—and sometimes exploding—my own beliefs. I also read a lot of prose and poetry about love, watched movies and documentaries, went to intimacy- themed art exhibits and studied relevant sci-fi. But my most important method for exploring the future of love—as with all of my research and all of my books—is anthropological fieldwork: personal experiences of developments that are currently only taking place on a small scale but that may well be taking the world by storm before long. I use my body, my spirit and the journal I keep about my work in order to make sense of the theory, and to better understand what something might feel like for a person; what emotions, thoughts, joys and complications certain experiences evoke. I took love pills, formed a virtual friendship, hired a rent-a-friend and an erotic masseuse, shared my bed and sofa with sex dolls and flirted with artificial intelligence; I dated and danced in a virtual world and went out into the real world to visit robot brothels. I talked with polyamorous folks, practitioners of sologamy, sex workers; with pansexual, asexual, heterosexual and gay people; men, women and people who don’t identify with the gender binary or the idea of a fixed sexual orientation. The results of this research were published, amongst others, in a book called ‘With six in a bed. The future of love’, published with Polity Press in 2024. The book was also translated to other languages, for example to German (Hirzel publishers), Spanish(Deusto) and Dutch (Podium). More academic outputs for this work are, amongst others, the article ‘My adventures with Nick and Hannah: Anthropological explorations into sexdolls and the potential implications for human intimacy’ (Journal of Future Robot Life, 2022)
2016-2020: The future of conflict and humanitarian aid In this project I collaborated as postdoctoral researcher with Proffessor Dorothea Hilhorst, with whom I cosupervised four PhDs Candidates: Rodrigo Mena, Isabelle Desportes, Samantha Melis and Annissa Srikandini. The core of the research consisted of case studies in 9 conflict countries where disasters occur. We saught to understand how the politicization of disaster response affects the legitimacy, power and relations between governance actors. Within the team, I was responsible for exploring future-scenarios of humanitarian aid, and developing a methodology to do so. Some of our key publications are listed below, and you can find many more on the website we created.

The project was financed by a VIDI grant (NWO) of Professor Hilhorst.

  • van Voorst, R. (2019). Praxis and paradigms of local and expatriate workers in ‘Aidland’. Third World Quarterly

  • van Voorst, R.S. & Hilhorst, D.J.M (2017). Humanitarian action in disaster and conflict settings. Insights of an expert panel.

  • Kool, L., Pospisil, J., & Voorst van, R., (2021). Managing the humanitarian microspace of the future: the practices of relief access in Syria, Third World Quarterly, DOI: 10.1080/01436597.2021.1896359. Third World Quarterly, March.

  • Voorst van, R. (2019). Third World Quarterly. Praxis and paradigms of local and expatriate aid workers in response to anticipated (future) major problems in the aid arena, pp 1-21.

  • Voorst van, R. (2019). Research brief ‘Delphi Survey’ – survey results on the future of humanitarian aid and development work in different governance settings. The Hague: ISS, Erasmus University.

  • Voorst van, R.S., & Hilhorst, D. (2018). Key points of Interactive Research: An Ethnographic Approach to Risk. In Researching Risk and Uncertainty Methodologies, Methods and Research Strategies. Olofsson, Anna, Zinn, Jens (Eds.), Pp 53-67. Palgrave.

  • Srikandini, A.G., Voorst, R.S. van & Hilhorst, D. (2018). Contrasting disaster Risk Governance in Indonesia and Myanmar: The Practice of Co-Governance. Politics and Governance, 6 (3), 180189.

2014-2017: The future of food
Three centuries ago, during the Enlightenment, it became illegal to burn witches or kill people because of their religion. Some eight generations ago, slavery was abolished worldwide. Five generations ago, women in the West were given the right to vote and became formally equal to men. You and I live in a similarly turbulent, important and exciting time. We belong to the generation that is going to experience a world in which the use of animal products will have fallen into disrepute. Based on literature research, participant observation and dozens of interviews with futurists, trend- watchers, lawyers, lobbyists, sociologists, historians, food experts, psychologists, inventors, vegan bodybuilders, influencers and farmers, in this research project I have outlined the world of a potential future that is kinder to nonhuman animals. I show how norms, trends, and cultures in societies might rapidly change and introduce a post-cruelty future. The results of this research were shared, amongst others, in my book called ‘Once we ate Animals’, published by Harper Collins in the US, and translated to six other languages.

2008-2014: The future of climate changes While for people in the socalled Northern part of this world increasingly worry about a climate crisis that is likely to occur within the next decades; for many others, this climate crisis has already occurred. In the Arctic, the ice cap is melting so fast that traditional hunters cannot longer sustain their livelihoods. In South East Asia, people cope with severe flooding – thousands of climate refugees are on the move, and many more might follow. In this research project, I conducted intensive anthropological fieldwork in the places of the world where climate changes are already felt on an everyday basis. I have spent two long periods among the Inuit in Greenland, and discovered that climate changes do not just obstruct their economy – but their relationships too: alcoholism, frustration and domestic violence skyrocketed as men were no longer able to fulfil their traditional role as provider. I have also lived, several years in total, in a flood-prone slum in Indonesia: this latter project was part of my PhD trajectory and was rewarded with a cum laude/with honors, in 2014. Here is a selection of key publications:

  • Stevens, V., Minkman, E. & Van Voorst, R. (2021). Backfiring boomerang brands in Jakarta: the case of the Great Garuda. In: Public Branding and Marketing: A Global Viewpoint. Zavattaro, S.M (Ed.). Cham: Springer.

  • Voorst van, R. (2020) Juxtacities in Jakarta: how floods lead to (differentiated) citizenship in current and future megacities. Urban Forum, 3(2).

  • Voorst van, R. (2020) Juxtacities in Jakarta: how floods lead to (differentiated) citizenship in current and future megacities. Urban Forum, 3(2).

  • Voorst van, R.S., Hellman, J. & Thynell, M. (2018) Shaping Jakarta: Claiming spaces and rights in the city. [Edited Volume]. Oxfordshire: Routledge.

  • Hellman, J. & Voorst, R.S. van (2018). Claiming Space in Jakarta: Megaprojects, City Planning and Incrementalism. In J Hellman, M Thynell & R van Voorst (Eds.), Jakarta. Claiming spaces and rights in the city (pp. 157-172). London: Routledge

  • Hellman, J., Thynell, M. & Voorst, R.S. van (2018). Introduction: Shaping Jakarta, Jörgen Hellman, Marie Thynell, Roanne van Voorst. In J Hellman, M Thynell & R.S. van Voorst (Eds.), Jakarta. Claiming spaces and rights in the city (pp. 1-14). London: Routledge

  • Fuller, A., Hellman, J., Kusno, A., Thynell, M. & Voorst, R.S. van (2018). Jakarta: a Conversation. In Jakarta Claiming spaces and rights in the city. London: Routledge

  • Srikandini, A.G. (2018, March 27). Politics of Disaster Risk Governance in Indonesia and Myanmar: a study into the dynamics of governance network on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). Dissertation, EUR Supervisor(s): D.J.M. Hilhorst & R.S. van Voorst.

  • Voorst van, R.S. (2016) Natural Hazards, Risk and Vulnerability. Floods and Slum life in Indonesia. [book, 2nd print 2018]. Oxfordshire: Routledge.

  • Voorst van, R. (2015) Formal and informal flood governance in Jakarta, Indonesia. HABITAT International. August 23, DOI: http://dx.doi.or- g/10.10.1016/j.habitatint.2015.08.023

  • Voorst van, R., & Hellman, J. (2015) How one risk replaces the other. Floods and evictions in Jakarta. Asian Journal of Social Science. Volume 43, Issue 6, Pages 786-810.

  • Voorst van, R., Wisner, B., Hellman, J., & Nooteboom, G. (2015) Introduction to the ‘risky everyday’ (editorial). Disaster Prevention and Management: an International Journal. Volume 24, issue 4. DOI:

  • Voorst van, R. (2015) Heterogeneous risk-handling styles in Jakarta, Indonesia. Disaster Prevention and Management: an International Journal. Volume 24, issue 4.

  • Voorst van, R. (2015) Reappraising the risk society thesis: towards a normal uncertainty perspective. Health, Risk and Society.

  • Voorst van, R. (2014) The Right to Aid: Perceptions and Practices of Justice in a Flood-hazard Context in Jakarta, Indonesia. The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology.

  • Voorst van, R. (2009) “I work all the time – he just waits for the animals to come back” : social impacts of climate changes : a Greenlandic case study. Jamba : Journal of Disaster Risk Studies Vol. 2, No. 3

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