Why (my) research matters: Charis Papaevengelou

By Gabriela Sanseverino

Our ESRs try to answer the hardest question that plagues a PhD: why their research matters. And mostly, why you should care about it. Today we look at work of Charis Papaevengelou.

Charis Papaevengelou might be the PhD who came into the project with the biggest challenge. Greek-native, now based in France at LERASS at the University of Toulouse III – Paul Sabatier, Charis, joined JOLT one year later than the other ESRs, and he had to figure out how to bring new insights into The Civic Role of User-Generated Content, part of the work package of Politics, Values and Ethics, with far less time than his fellow jolters. But when you talk to him about his research, you know he has an incredible grasp on the subject! With a focus on the political economy of digital platforms, he can masterfully answer the “so what” question, when we ask him why his work matters.

So what? You ask. Well, I found this to be a very timely topic because we lack a good grasp of the procedures that have led proposals to regulate digital platforms and, specifically, the so-called “Big Tech.” The previous decade was marked by numerous instances of negligence from the part of platforms to tackle the ways in which their systems could be used and/or manipulated to spread deleterious content; from electoral interference to live-streaming of mass shootings, the examples have been striking. Governments across the globe have been trying to rein in on platforms’ power and make them accountable”.

But he reminds us that the there is far more involved when we discuss platform regulation, as this can have “chilling consequences for fundamental human rights, especially in countries with authoritarian regimes”, as putting all the blame on platforms in, in many cases, “a fig leaf for deeper societal problems”.

Needles to say, this a contemporary and pressing topic that Charis has taken on; but his research is now unpacking the political and social stakes that are at play with platforms’ regulation, while also divulging the actors who take part in the decision-making processes. And as the JOLT projected intended, his work “will help inform both policymakers and citizens and provide them with a holistic and critical perspective on how the internet could be governed for the decade(s) to come”.

We should note that Charis is the most famous amongst ESRs, having appeared on show “Eidikes Apostoles” (“Special Missions”), to talk about content moderation on social media and whether social media are part of public or private space. He also gave his take on the recent EU Commission’s proposal for regulation. Those with a knowledge of Greek can check out the full interview on the link; or follow him on Twitter for his hot takes on platforms regulation.

Charis making his fellow ESRs proud on Television.

Beyond tackling this utterly complex topic, Charis is also working on what will be a great feat since moving to France: getting his C2 level qualification (something that has eluded his fellow foreign colleagues in Toulouse, who just gave up). He also greatly fancies French wines, baguettes and chocolatines, but that might be completely unrelated. He is the proof that taking a leap of faith in a research project it’s worth it when you have the opportunity to not only debate in depth a topic you love, but also be paid to do it.

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This project is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska Curie grant agreement No 765140