Dr Bridgette Wessels

Reader in Digital Sociology (BA (Durham), MA (York), D. Phil (Sussex))

Photo of Bridgette Wessels

Email: b.wessels@sheffield.ac.uk
Room: Elmfield, LG23 | Telephone: 0114 222 6416 (external), 26416 (internal)

Academic Profile

Bridgette Wessels has extensive research experience in the area of digital communication in a wide range of areas, such as public sphere, the creative and cultural industries, media and new media, e-services, and in everyday life studies. She is currently working on projects that include focusing on the open data movement, participatory design for digital research in the early news books, mainstreaming telehealth, and the role of social media in the new dynamics of cultural audiences (for full details of her projects please see below). She is now addressing two emerging research areas, which are issues that are emerging in civic media in terms of political culture and in the developing uses of open data such as open services, data journalism and data curation. These foci also involve addressing methodological challenges in terms of working with big data in meaningful ways. She has written 6 books and numerous articles and has received funding from the research councils in the UK as well as European funding. She has been on advisory boards for the EU, UK government, the Association of South East Asia nations, and the Consumer Action Network, Australia, and the EU e-Forum Privacy Group, including the EU ICT–China programme.

Her work is based on a sociological informed interdisciplinary approach and explores the cultural dynamics of social and technological change. There are three main interrelated strands:

1. Social innovation and technological change, focusing on digital and social media technologies, digital services and social agency.
2. Social media, digital-services and social participation, in the public sector, the wider public sphere, the creative sector and in everyday life.
3. Innovations in methodology: e-research, participatory methods, and action research.

She is Director of the Interdisciplinary Research in Socio-Digital Worlds (IRiS) research stream: see http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/icoss/streams/iris and http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/icoss/streams/iris-ypiee.

She has been awarded the title of Visiting Scholar to pursue research activities in the School of Letters, Arts and Media, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Sydney. She is also Guest Professor at the University of Linnaeus, Sweden.

She teaches courses on the Internet and Society and Social Change at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, including UG Internet and Society module, the MA in Sociology and MA in Digital Research, and teaches on the White Rose DTC in qualitative and digital methods. She undertakes PhD supervision in information society and digital and social media related topics.


Bridgette has undertaken comparative research in Europe that addresses diversity, participation and communication. She has also undertaken research in developing countries looking at inclusion and the digital divide.

Funded Research Projects
Date Sponsor Details
2015-17 ESRC Exploring Big Data to Examine Employee Health and Wellbeing: A Seminar Series
2015-17 Barometern Foundation Investigating what the regional means in global media culture
2013-17 European Cooperation in Science and Technology - COST Social Networks and Travel Behaviour
2015-16 IIKE Collaborative Research & Development Fund, University of Sheffield New Services, New Perspectives: Decision making in remote care
2015-16 Arts & Humanities Funding, University of Sheffield Virtually Live
2015 Worldwide University Network Web Observatory Project (Co-Investigator - project led by Dame Wendy Hall)
2013-15 European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7 Policy RECommendations for Open Access to Research Data in Europe (RECODE)
2014 Welsh Government Understanding digital engagement in Wales (digital inclusion advisor)
2014 IIKE Collaborative Research & Development Fund, University of Sheffield Collaborating with Film Hub North: Developing a Strategic Plan for the BFI and National Cinema (Co-Investigator)
2014 ESRC Evaluation of the ESRC Digital Social Research Programme (PI)
2012-14 AHRC Participating in Search Design: A Study of George Thomason's Newsbooks, 1649-1653
2011-14 TSB and ESRC Overcoming Barriers to Mainstreaming Assisted Living Technology
2012-13 The Cabinet Office Digital by Default: South Yorkshire Alpha Project
2012 University of Sheffield

Q Cinema (Co-Investigator): this project aims to provide enterprise training for early career researchers and to assess the economic impact of the research content they develop.

2011 Horizon, the Nottingham University Digital Economy Research Hub Cultural Movements. Digital Economy and Mediapolis
(with Dr Abigail Durrant and Professor Bob Anderson)
2011 The University of Sheffield HEIF-4 Knowledge Transfer Scheme and The Museum, Libraries & Archives Council (MLA Council, DCMS) Look Closer: Augmenting The Courtauld Gallery
2009 Divisional Director's Award Developing Interdisciplinary Digital Worlds
2008 University of Sheffield Devolved Funds Identity and Privacy in Digital Contexts
2005 University of Sheffield Knowledge Transfer Opportunities Fund - HEIF 2 Public participation and sustainability in complex e-enabled portal services: comparing the cases of London Connects (UK), South Yorkshire Connects (UK) and Digital City Ronneby (Sweden)
2003-05 ESRC Collaborative Analysis of Offenders' Personal and Area-based Social Exclusion: A demonstrator project for e-social science
2002-03 Office of Deputy Prime Minister National Evaluation of e-government (with Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies and the Social and Business Informatics Centre, University of Newcastle


At undergraduate level, my teaching at Sheffield includes:

  • SCS2012 Internet and Society

See our Undergraduate Degree pages.

At postgraduate level, I convene the MA in Sociology and teach the MA modules:

  • SCS6047 Contemporary Social Change
  • SCS6037 MA Digital Research

I teach qualitative and digital methods on the White Rose DTC.

Publications since 2005

Taylor, J., Coates, E., Wessels, B., Mountain, G., Hawley, M., (2015). ‘Implementing solutions to improve and expand telehealth adoption: participatory action research in four community healthcare settings’. BMC Health Services Research. 15:529. DOI: 10.1186/s12913-015-1195-3 http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6963/15/529

Wessels, B., Borrill, K., Sorensen, L., McLaughlin, J. and Pidd, M. (2015) Understanding Design for the Digital Humanities. Studies in the Digital Humanities. Sheffield: HRI Online Publications. Available online at: http://www.hrionline.ac.uk/openbook/book/understanding-design-for-the-digital-humanities

Wessels, B. (2015) 'Digital Divide: Authentication, Status, and Power in a Digitally Organized Society' in International Journal of Communication, v. 9, ps. 2801-2818.

Wessels, B and Sveinsdottir, T. (2015) Evaluation of the Digital Social Research Programme Executive summary Swindon: ESRC. http://www.esrc.ac.uk/_images/DSR-report-executive-summary_tcm8-34271.pdf

Linde, P., Noorman, M. Wessels, B. Sveinsdottir, T. (2014) ‘How can libraries and other academic stakeholders engage in making data open?’ in Information Services & Use, 34 (2014) 211–219

Wessels, B (2014) Exploring Social Change: process and context (Palgrave MacMillan)

Wessels B, Finn RL, Linde P, Mazzetti P, Nativ S, Riley S, Smallwood R, Taylor MJ, Tsoukala V, Wadhwa K, Wyatt S (2014) ‘Issues in the development of open access to research data’ Prometheus: critical studies in Innovation, 32 (1) pp. 49-66, doi: 10.1080/08109028.2014.956505

Taylor J, Coates E, Brewster L, Mountain G, Wessels B and Hawley M (2014) 'Examining the utilization of telehealth in community nursing: four case studies identifying the factors affecting frontline staff acceptance and telehealth adoption'. Journal of Advanced Nursing. Early View, doi: 10.1111/jan.12480

Dittrich, Y., Eriksen, S and Wessels, B (2014) 'Learning through situated innovation - why the specific is crucial for participatory design research' in Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems, 26 (1) pp. 29-56

Brewster, L, Mountain, G, Wessels, B, Kelly, C, and Hawley, M (2014) 'Factors affecting frontline staff acceptance of telehealth technologies: a mixed-method systematic review'. In the Journal of Advanced Nursing Studies. Volume 70, Issue 1, pages 21–33. Early View published 20 June 2014. doi: 10.1111/jan.12196

Wessels, B., Anderson, B, Durrant, A. and Ellis, J. (2013) 'Mediating genocide: cultural understanding through digital and print media stories in global communication' in the International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics, doi: 10.1386/macp.8.2-3.193_1

Wessels, B (2013) 'The reproduction and reconfiguration of inequality: differentiation and class, status and power in the dynamics of digital divides' in The Digital Divide: The Internet and Social Inequality in International Perspective eds. Ragnedda and Muschert, G. Routledge Advances in Sociology series

Wessels, B. (2012) 'Identification and the practices of identity and privacy in everyday digital communication' in New Media and Society, first published on July 23, 2012 as doi:10.1177/1461444812450679

Wessels, B., Dittrich, Y., Ekelin, A and Eriksen, S. (2012). 'Creating synergies between participatory design of e-services and collaborative planning' in International Journal of E-planning Research, Volume 1, Issue 3, doi: 10.4018/ijepr.2012070101

Wessels, B. (2012) 'Exploring human agency and digital systems:services, personalisation and participation' in Information, Communication and Society, first published on August 14, 2012 as doi:10.1080/1369118X.2012.715666

Wessels, B. (2010): The Cultural Dynamics of the Innovation of New Media; the Case of Telematics, VDM Verlag: Saarbrucken

Wessels, B. and Craglia, M. (2010): ‘Researcher led development of e-Research in the Social Sciences: the case of the ‘Collaborative Analysis of Offenders’ Personal and Area-based Social Exclusion’ project’ in Sociological Research Online,15 (2) 7

Wessels, B. (2010): ‘The Role of Local Agencies in Developing Community Participation in E-Government and E-Public Services’ in Carlos Nunes Silva (Ed.) Handbook of Research on E-Planning: ICTs for Urban Development and Monitoring pp. 286-305 (Hershey, PA: IGI Global)

Wessels, B. (2010): ‘E-inclusion: European Perspectives Beyond the Digital Divide’ in the Encyclopedia of E-Business Development and Management in the Global Economy, Vol III, edited by In Lee (Hershey PA: Business Science Reference/Global), pp 1068-1075 (Chapter 107).

Wessels, B (2010): 'The Public Sphere and the European Information Society' in Bee, C and Bozzini, E.(eds.) Mapping the European Public Sphere, Aldershot: Ashgate

Wessels, B. (2009): 'Locating the Self in Web 2.0: explorations in creativity, identity and digital expression' in Observatorio (OBS*), Vol 3, No 3

Wessels, B. (2009): 'Information and Communication Technologies and Policing: The Dynamics of Changing Police-Public Communication in the East End of London' in Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, Vol 48, Issue 5, p.501-513

Wessels (2009): Understanding the Internet: a socio-cultural perspective, Basingstoke: Palgrave

Wessels, B and Craglia, M (2009): 'Situated Innovations in e-social science' in Jankowski, N. (ed.) E-research: transformations in scholarly practice, London: Routledge, p.291-310.

Harrison, J. and Wessels, B. (eds.) (2009): Mediating Europe: new media, mass communication, and the European Public Sphere, Berghahn Publishers, Oxford

Wessels, B. (2009): 'The Public Sphere and the European Information Society' in Mediating Europe: new media, mass communication, and the European Public Sphere, Berghahn Publishers, Oxford

Dittrich, Y., Eriksen, S., & Wessels, B. (2009): 'From Knowledge Transfer to Situated Innovation: cultivating spaces for co-operation in innovation and design between academics, user-groups and ICT providers' BTH: Blekinge Techiska Hogskola

Wessels, B. (2008): 'Creating a regional agency to foster eInclusion: the case of South Yorkshire, UK¹' in European Journal of ePractice, No 3 pp 1-11

Wessels, B. (2008): 'Exploring the Notion of the Europeanization of Public Spheres and Civil Society in Fostering a Culture of Dialogue Through the Concept of Proper Distance¹' in Sociology: Thought and Action (Sociologija. Mintis ir veiksmas) No 3 (23) pp 28-46

Wessels, B., Walsh, S., and Adam, E.(2008): 'Mediating Voices: Community Participation in the Design of E-Enabled Community Care Services' in The Information Society 24 (1)

Wessels, B. (2007) Inside the Digital Revolution: policing and changing communication with the public, Ashgate: Aldershot

Wessels, B and Craglia, M (2007): 'Situated innovation of e-social science: performances between infrastructure, collaboration and knowledge'. Special edition on e-social science in Journal of Computer Mediated Communication 12(2), article 18. http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol12/issue2/wessels.htm

Wessels, B. and Miedema, S. (2007): 'Towards Understanding Situations of Exclusion' in Steinert, H. and Pilgram, A. (eds.) (2007) Welfare Policy from Below: struggles against Social Exclusion in Europe 2nd Edition, Aldershot: Ashgate pp 61-76

Wessels, B. (2007): 'Community, Subculture, Secondary Association as a Resource: patterns of association to counter exclusion and configured networks to manage exclusion' in Steinert, H. and Pilgram, A. (eds.) (2007) Welfare Policy from Below: struggles against Social Exclusion in Europe 2nd Edition, Aldershot: Ashgate pp 175 – 186

Wessels, B, Janssen, J. and Miedema, S. (2007): 'Double Difficulty: female and foreigner' in Steinert, H. and Pilgram, A. (eds.) (2007) Welfare Policy from Below: struggles against Social Exclusion in Europe Aldershot: Ashgate pp 241-254

Wessels, B. (2006): ‘First Impressions: Arriving and Reading the City’ (a digital photoessay) in Materializing Sheffield: Place, Culture and Identity, Sharon Macdonald (ed.), HRI Online publishing: Sheffield

Harrison, J and Wessels, B (2005): ‘A new public service communication environment? Public service broadcasting values in the reconfiguring media’ in New Media and Society, Vol. 7 (6): 861-880

Craglia, M. Wessels, B. Griffiths, M. and Costello, A (2005): ‘Building bridges between social science, grid, and geospatial communities: a reflection on practice’ JISC: ESRC

A full list of publications can be downloaded by clicking the link on the right of this page.

Postgraduate Supervision

I welcome applications from students interested in the following broad areas of research:

  • Technology/Information and Communication Technology and Society
  • Culture and Communication
  • Cities and regions
  • Qualitative methodology
  • Public sphere, citizenship, public services

To find out more about our PhD programmes, go to:
Studying for a PhD in Sociology