Case Study Digital Society Network Projects

Image of data on screen

This page showcases some of the projects that have been supported by the Digital Society Network and that have led on to further activities. For a full list of DSN events and activities, visit the DSN activities & events section.

Image of staff in the Management SchoolBig Data, Employee Health & Well-being

The DSN supported a group of UoS researchers to support preparatory work to develop a bid for a research seminars series to test the idea that routinely collected digital data could be a reliable method for monitoring mental and physical aggregate risk. The group focused on this question: What are the possibilities for appropriate monitoring of risk to the mental and physical health of employees via digital data routinely collected at an organisational level?

As a result of this work, the group, made up of Carolyn Axtell, IWP, Management School, Mark Taylor, Law, Stephen Pinfield, Information School, Christine Sprigg, IWP, Management School, Bridgette Wessels, Sociology submitted a successful bid for an ESRC seminar series, called Exploring Big Data to Examine Employee Health and Wellbeing. The DSN also supported the ESRC seminar series – this additional funding was seen as significant in securing funding. For more information about the seminar series, visit its website.

Image from Data Power Conference 2015Data Power lectures

The DSN supported the organization of a conference in Sheffield in 2015 entitled Data Power, which was attended by over 170 participants from around the world. DSN funding for a keynote session featuring Dr Mark Andrejevic from Pomona College, USA and Professor José van Dijck, University of Amsterdam, made it possible to open up these lectures to all staff and research students in the university. Dr Andrejevic’s talk ‘Big Data Disconnects’ highlighted a series of disconnects between the ways in which people think their data is being put to work and the discourses of big data and predictive analytics. Professor van Dijck’s talk, ‘The Social Web and Public Value’, looked at how the data-based social Web is transforming the public realm, focusing on the cases of online education and digital health.

As a result of the event, the two University of Sheffield organisers, Professor Helen Kennedy from the Department of Sociological Studies and Dr Jo Bates from the Information School, are editing a special issue of the journal Television and New Media entitled ‘Data Power in Material Contexts’, to be published in 2017. The conference was so well received that another one, Data Power 2.0, will be run at Carleton Unniversity in Canada in June 2017. Professor Kennedy and Dr Bates are also on the organising committee for that conference. To find out more about the conference, click here. To see an interview woth Professor Kennedy, Dr Andrejevic and Dr Alison Hearn, another keynote speaker at the conference, who all co-edited a journal special issue which was launched there, click here.

Image of Big Boulder initiativeThe Big Boulder Initiative

The Big Boulder Initiative is a trade association for the social data industry, which aims to establish the foundations for the success of the industry. It brings together social data companies to collectively address the key challenges that face the industry as a whole. It aims to set guidelines and standards for the use of social data. In 2014, the DSN supported one of its members, Dr Farida Vis from the Information School, who was invited to speak at the Big Boulder conference. This resulted in Dr Vis’s nomination onto the Big Boulder Initiative Board. In 2015, she returned to the Big Boulder Conference to host a panel entitled ‘Social Data’s Critical Frontiers’. The panel discussed research methods, the importance of doing question driven rather than data or tool driven research, considered ethics and privacy issues, the structure of the platforms themselves in terms of how users can and cannot behave.

The panel also discussed the importance of academia directly engaging with industry in this way. For more about the Big Boulder Conference, click here.