Major investigation launched into impact of an increasingly digital world

The impact of digital technology on our day-to-day lives will be the focus of a new international investigation being led by the University of Liverpool.

Professor Simeon Yates, Director of the University’s Institute of Cultural Capital (ICC) will lead the Economic and Social Research Council-funded project, which will see 17 partner institutions across the UK and US assess how digital technology is affecting lives in the 21st century.

Professor Yates, who has led a number of national and international projects assessing the impact of digital technology, said: “The ICC is very excited to lead this interdisciplinary scoping review on Ways of Being in a Digital Age.

Interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary

“Digital technologies touch on nearly all aspects of modern life, and studying them requires an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approach.  In the social sciences this spans nearly all disciplines.

“In collaboration with 17 other partner Universities and organisations, the ICC has developed a team with expertise ranging from linguistics and psychology, through to cultural and information studies.

“The intention is to provide a holistic view of research to date on how digital technology mediates our lives and how technological and social change co-evolve and impact on each other.”

“This review will be pivotal in informing any potential future strategic investment to help understand what it means to be human in a digital age, and the opportunities and associated with digital living”

The project will focus on seven key areas: citizenship and politics, communities and identities, communications and relationships, health and wellbeing, economy and sustainability, data and representation, governance and security.

Professor Yates will be joined by the University’s Professor Simon Maskell, who researches data analytics in the Department of Computer Science, and Professor Claire Taylor, from the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, whose expertise lies in investigating digital culture and community. The steering group also includes public sector input from Ofcom and private sector input from Cisco.

The key technical partner will be the Humanities Research Unit (HRI) at University of Sheffield. The HRI is a leading centre for digital humanities research and practice. Also on board are UK universities; Bath, Sussex, Aberdeen, Newcastle, Leicester, Brunel and the London School of Economics. Those partners are joined by academics from American University in Washington DC, University of Arizona, Michigan State University, Santa Clara University and University of California, as well as University of Bourgogne in France and Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.

Vicki Crossley, ESRC Head of Society and Global Security, said: “We are delighted to appoint Professor Simeon Yates and the interdisciplinary consortium to undertake an independent and systematic scoping review on behalf of the ESRC.

Significant contribution

“This review will be pivotal in informing any potential future strategic investment to help understand what it means to be human in a digital age, and the opportunities and associated with digital living.

“The ESRC Council, in early 2017, will discuss the recommendations and opportunities for the social sciences to make a significant contribution to emerging interdisciplinary research, policy and practice needs.”

For each of the seven key areas, the project will undertake a Delphi panel review of international experts’ opinions, a systemic review of literature samples and concept mapping of identified literature, as well as holding engagement events with non-academic stakeholders.

It will conclude with a symposium to feedback findings, and discuss the future of digital research in the social sciences.

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