About the project

The research context and background of the Space for Sharing study.


Research context

Acts of sharing are core to developing empathy and trust. The concept of sharing is under-developed within social science, yet sharing is implicit in our understanding of the social and has a particular relevance to online relationships that depend on empathy and trust.

The online world is arguably defined by the concept of sharing. The infrastructure of the Internet represents a vast shared space, and it is by sharing information within this space that individuals create the real value and significance of the Web. In this sense, the online world is both a shared space and a space for sharing.

As we become increasingly involved in, and dependent on, online relationships of various kinds, there are signs that this exponential increase in information sharing – what Zuckerberg (Hansell, 2008) refers to as the ‘law of information sharing’ – is transforming our privacy norms, which in turn shape trust and empathy both online and offline.

How the project came about

In early 2014 the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), in partnership with other funders, commissioned new research ‘to develop a greater understanding of how empathy and trust are developed, maintained, transformed and lost in social media interactions’ (ESRC 2014). This funding call was named by the ESRC as EMoTICON – Empathy and Trust in Communicating Online.

To encourage innovative and transdisciplinary thinking, the ESRC commissioned projects via a sandpit process. The sandpit was an intensive five-day event in which a diverse group of 25 participants from a range of disciplines and backgrounds collaborated to generate, develop and present project ideas within the scope of EMoTICON. The initial ideas for this project emerged during this sandpit.

Find out more about the project, and what we are aiming to achieve with the research:

A global reputation

Sheffield is a research university with a global reputation for excellence. We're a member of the Russell Group: one of the 24 leading UK universities for research and teaching.