A Techno-linguistic Analysis of Conflict in the Online Culture Wars

Interdisciplinary PhD Scholarships on the Theme of Conflict

Have you recently completed or expect very soon a Masters degree in Media/Internet Studies, Political Communication, Politics, or Applied Linguistics? Are you interested in carrying out interdisciplinary research on the Online Culture Wars during the next years, commencing in September 2022? 

The School of Communications and the School of Applied Languages and Intercultural Studies are offering a fully funded, four year fees + stipend scholarship in the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences at Dublin City University. The project will be supervised by Dr Debbie Ging and Dr Iker Erdocia. This is one of four interdisciplinary PhD Scholarships being offered in the Faculty from 2022. Note that candidates may apply for one scholarship only. 

TITLE: A Techno-linguistic Analysis of Conflict in the Online Culture Wars


Online politics and communication have become increasingly characterised by conflict, manifested in a marked shift from agonistic to antagonistic debate. Whether in the context of feminism versus men’s rights activists, the left versus the alt-right/far right, trans activists versus gender-critical feminists or pro- versus anti-vaxxers, public debate is in danger of becoming increasingly polarized and volatile. 

To date, the majority of scholarship on online conflict comes from the fields of internet studies and political communication, with a strong focus on technology. While some scholars have used discourse analysis to explore the rhetorical and linguistic characteristics of ‘toxic technocultures’ (Massanari, 2017), very little work has been done on the language of conflict itself. The proposed project will combine qualitative and quantitative methods to explore how language (e.g. word forms, lemmas, clusters, metaphorical expressions, neologisms, binarization) is strategically used in conjunction with the technological affordances of social media (e.g. hashtags, memes, sockpuppet accounts). It will produce a comprehensive, interdisciplinary analysis of the strategic weaponization of language and technology in the service of creating, amplifying and accelerating online conflict.

Candidate profile

The ideal candidate must have recently completed or expect very soon a Masters or equivalent degree in Media/Internet Studies, Political Communication, Politics, Applied Linguistics, or a closely related area. The candidate is expected to have first class or upper second-class honours bachelor’s (or equivalent) degree. In addition, the applicant should:

  • Have a strong interest in digital culture, social media, online conflict and radicalisation, far right or other extreme movements, language and technology  
  • Have a strong background in social media communications, multimodal discourse analysis, corpus linguistics
  • Have excellent skills in project management and organisation, written and oral communication, critical thinking 
  • Have excellent knowledge of written and spoken English (See DCU’s requirements for English language skills; applicants must ensure that they meet these requirements before submitting an application.
  • Meet DCU’s entry requirements in general (see general entry requirements here)



The strict deadline for application is: 19 April at 5 pm (Irish Standard Time). Applications received after this deadline will not be considered. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview around the middle of May. 

What to submit:

Candidates should email their applications in a single pdf file to debbie.ging@dcu and iker.erdocia@dcu.ie with “Interdisciplinary PhD in Conflict” in the subject line. This application must include:

  1. A brief cover letter outlining your motivation for applying
  2. A complete version of this form

Note: Incomplete applications will be deemed ineligible.


Applications will be reviewed by the supervisory panel and short-listed. Short-listed candidates will be called for interview (online). If successful at the interview stage, candidates will then be invited to make a formal application to DCU via the Student Application Portal. Applicants are expected to read the information available here on the general process for PhD applications to DCU. Please note that the offer of a scholarships is not a formal offer of a place for PhD studies at DCU. The latter is made only after successful application via the Student Application Portal and verification of eligibility. 

For queries contact: debbie.ging@dcu and iker.erdocia@dcu.ie