About the Digital Society Network

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The Digital Society Network (DSN) is a loose network of researchers examining all aspects of digital-society relations. It is part of The University of Sheffield's Faculty of Social Sciences. The DSN aims to: stimulate and support digital society research; enable collaborations within and beyond the Faculty; and host activities which result in research funding and knowledge exchange.

From September 2019, DSN will organise its activities around a series of hubs, affiliations with two of the Faculty’s major research institutes, and a digital methods initiative. Each DSN Hub is led by two academics from distinct departments across the Faculty. This development will enhance the visibility of the DSN, give focus to our work, provide an entry point for new staff in the Faculty engaged in digital society research and enable us to interface with other Faculties. Each Hub will run a small number of events each year, such as seminars, workshops, film screenings, training events and other activities relating to hub themes. The Digital Methods for Social Change initiative will also run a series of events, with a focus on workshops, training and lectures in the first year. Hubs and affiliations are described below.

Digital Politics Hub

(led by Kate Dommett, Politics and Dmitry Chernobrov, Journalism)

This hub will bring together researchers interested in the relationship between politics and the digital. With a focus on the power structures and dynamics that exist between actors, institutions and practices, this hub will explore questions such as: what are the democratic implications of modern digital practices, how is digital being used by international political actors, how do new digital actors emerge and alter the existing relationships of power, and how do the public perceive digital tools? This Hub will work in collaboration with the Crick Centre.

Data, Algorithms and AI in Society Hub

(led by Jo Bates, Information School and Helen Kennedy, Sociological Studies)

This hub focuses on the consequences of the increasingly ubiquitous collection and algorithmic processing of digital data and the related growth in everyday AI technologies. It will explore questions such as: how are data, algorithms and AI changing organisations, work, everyday life, society and culture, both positively and negatively? How does their expansion relate to broader social issues (or wicked problems) such as inequality, fairness and justice? How should these developments be governed to ensure that they work for, not against, people and society?

Global Digital Popular Culture Hub

(led by Jamie Coates (School of East Asian Studies), Ysabel Gerrard and Lukasz Szulc (Sociological Studies)

This hub focuses on the increasingly important role that the digital plays in global popular culture. It will focus on online pop culture communities and practices, and how fandom and popularity develop in digitalised global popular cultures. The hub will explore the interplay between the digital and wider debates in popular culture through both a local and a global lens. It will explore questions such as how the digital engages with new modes and ideas of leisure time, play and community. The global reach of research in this hub extends to East and South East Asia, Africa and USA and Europe.

Affiliation with SIID’s Digital, Data and Innovation for Development (DDI) Research Theme

This is a Sheffield Institute for International Development (SIID) Research Theme, led by Dorothea Kleine from Geography. DSN collaborates with and supports this research theme.

This research theme aims to help leverage digital technologies, data and innovation for change towards social and environmental justice in a prosperous world. Collaboratively, we do this by carrying out excellent research and by supporting our people, staff and students, to develop as responsible leaders in this transformative field. DDI brings together staff members and PhD students from 12 departments at the University of Sheffield, including the Information School, Engineering, Geography, Urban Studies and Planning, Grantham Centre, Health, Education, East Asian Studies and Management.

Affiliation with iHuman’s Digital Humans Research Theme

This is an iHuman Research Theme, led by Warren Pearce from Sociological Studies. DSN collaborates with and supports this research theme.

How is the digital remaking what it means to be human? Our research considers how the accelerating digitisation of society is changing what we know, who has power, and how we see our fellow humans. Issues include the changing face of online expertise, the impact of self-monitoring devices on our health and social relations, and how social media platforms enable new expressions of digital identity.

Digital Methods for Social Change

In 2019-2020, DSN will launch Digital Methods for Social Change. The term ‘digital methods’ refers to a range of tools and techniques for gathering and analysing digital data from across web and social media platforms for the purposes of social research, for example Twitter metadata, YouTube comments, Wikipedia histories. Bringing together expertise in this field from the Faculty’s departments of Politics, Sociological Studies and Information School, DSN will host a range of activities, including training courses, workshops, seminars and lectures on the topic of digital methods for social change.