Jessica Taylor Piotrowski, Ph.D.
Photo by Jaap Vork

Presently, I am an Associate Professor in the Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR) at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). I am the Director of the Center for research on Children, Adolescents, and the Media (CcaM), the Director of the Graduate School of Communication, and previously served as the Chair of Children, Adolescents, and the Media division of the International Communication Association – the largest academic division of children and media scholars worldwide. My research investigates how youth process and comprehend media content, with specific attention to the potential benefits of media. I am particularly focused on understanding how young users process media content (cognitively, affectively, and physiologically) and the role of individual differences (dispositional, developmental, and social) in the selection and processing of media content.

My scholarship asks how the digital society of today (and tomorrow) is intertwined with young people’s development. At the moment, I am particularly interested in understanding and supporting digital competence. In that regards, I am currently funded by the Dutch government (Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelaties) to develop a measure of digital competence that is valid with children as young as 10 years old and to provide feedback as to interventions in this space. Together with my colleagues at UvA, I am also promoting two PhD projects investigating the digital world: one on the role of virtual assistants in the lives of young children and a second on the opportunities and consequences of digital content for well-being and solitude. In addition, through a project funded through the Ministry of Health together with scholars at the VU University Amsterdam, I am promoting a PhD project focused on the role of digital media in the physical health of adolescents (particularly in terms of sleep health) and asking what role the educational ecosystem can play in this process.

As an educator, I hold a firm belief in the power of student motivation for educational success. My teaching is anchored in the principles of self-determination theory (e.g), whereby I work to ensure that my courses encourage autonomy, relatedness, and competence. I am a practitioner of research teaching, and inasmuch, my educational offerings are connected to my scholarly work. Presently, I most often teach graduate seminars in Digital Media Lifestyles and Emerging Technology where students are challenged to take a user-centered perspective as they consider the contributions of digital media to all aspects of daily life; the ethical ramifications of digital media; and recommended practices in design. Topics include apps, social robots, virtual reality, chatbots, virtual assistants, and more. It’s not unusual for my students to try their hand at programming chatbots or to develop low fidelity prototypes of apps and games. I encourage my students to go “all-in” to learn about our digital world. Moreover, I encourage my students to question their assumptions, to reflect critically on the literature, and to think ahead about who and where we want to be as a society.

In my role as the Graduate School Director, my policies also place an emphasis on research-based teaching. In that regard, I find it imperative to annually reflect upon our education to ensure that it balances fundamentals with ongoing developments in the field, while being sensitive to the needs of our student community and our teachers. For example, with support from students and teachers in my department, I am shepherding a new focus of Good Research Practices in our Research Master programme; integrating the theme of digital society into the school’s curriculum vision; strengthening our extracurricular training in academic writing; and supporting initiatives to ensure that the Graduate School respects and practices diversity and inclusion

I am the co-author of the book Plugged In: How Media Attract and Affect Youth (Yale University Press, 2017), and my work is regularly published in communication, psychology, and education journals. These academic outlets are complemented with a range of valorization practices. I frequently speak at academic and trade conferences on the role of media in the lives of young people today. Moreover, with a strong belief in forging the divide between academic scholarship and societal practice, I frequently share my work in higher education classrooms, at public policy organizations, at children’s media organizations and with childcare providers both within the Netherlands and worldwide.