The Oxford Internet Institute is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Dr Amaru Villaneuva Rance in 2022. Amaru was an alumnus of the OII’s MSc Social Science of the Internet programme, studying with us as part of the very first intake in 2009/10.
Committed to social change and democratic advance, Amaru was a brilliant student who sought to put what he had learned into practice. Having come to OII to study the ways in which digital technologies shape modern life, he went on to found a print and online magazine (Bolivian Express), and worked in the field of telecommunications strategy and innovation in Mountain View, CA.
After returning to Bolivia in 2012 he worked as an editor, journalist, and university lecturer. From 2014 to 2017 was Director for the Centre for Social Research (CIS), a department of the Bolivian civil service. In 2017 he started a PhD in Sociology at the University of Essex studying the changing contours of the Bolivian middle class, which he completed in July 2022. His last publication, based on his doctoral thesis, was published in the Routledge book Middle Class Identities and Social Crisis: Cultural and Political Perspectives on the ‘Global Rebellion’
Those who had the privilege of working with Amaru speak highly of his academic and personal contributions to the department. His supervisor Professor Mark Graham described Amaru, who received a distinction for his MSc thesis Gaze-Translucency in Computer-Mediated Interactions Subtitle: Ways of seeing, being seen, and being seen to be seeing online as “a brilliant scholar” and as “a kind, calm soul who was a pleasure to interact with”.
Professor Bernie Hogan, who taught and collaborated with Amaru, remembers fondly his innovative ideas about social media platforms and his concept of “gaze transparency” (i.e. whether you can see who has viewed your profile) as a key means for understanding how different platforms organise their audiences from online dating to establishing influence. Amaru worked with Bernie after he left for GiffGaff to look at diffusion patterns among package subscribers. Recalling Amaru, Bernie remembers him as “warm and intelligent, clever and iconoclastic”.
Amaru will be sadly missed by the OII community.
Image: Amuru on the day of his PhD graduation (Sociology) at the University of Essex, 22nd July 2022