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Take the Digital Technologies, Power and Control survey

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The Digital Technologies Power and Control Working Group (DTPCWG) aims to develop understandings about those power and control asymmetries which can emerge between organisations (such as corporations and local government) and communities during routine, digitally-mediated action.

Funded by SPRITE+ and led by The Open University, the delivery team comprises five academics drawn from a range of UK universities. Team members have cross-disciplinary specialisms in psychology, social science, human-computer interaction and computer science.

The DTPCWG is especially concerned with how an increased dependence upon digital systems can socially exclude some individuals and communities. To address this concern, two primary research questions drive the group’s work:

  • What could prevent future technologies deepening the digital divide, worsening existing power asymmetries, and creating new ones?
  • How do we create empowered, informed communities with the knowledge and ability to make fair choices about the impact of future technologies?

These vital questions acknowledge the challenges power asymmetries and digital exclusion might pose. To answer them, the DTPCWG designed a UK-based qualitative research study, which undertook fieldwork ‘out there’ with marginalised communities and ‘online’ with a range of digitally-invested organisations.

In terms of the community fieldwork, DTPC researchers hosted four focus groups for geographically disparate, ‘marginalised’ communities. These focus groups were situated in the Midlands and Northern regions of the UK and typically, their size ranged between 4-9 persons. Participants were considered marginalised for a) their ability to access digital technology; b) their ability to effectively use digital technology and c) their motivation to engage with digital technology.

Fieldwork with organisations manifested itself in the form of online, semi-structured interviews. This online setting was appropriate because participating organisations were convenience sampled via networks developed by the SPRITE+ hub. This hub brings together those people active in that research, practice and policy concerned with digital contexts. Participants therefore expected to converse in digital formats.

The DTPCWG is now devising and conducting a nationwide survey of UK adults in order to develop understandings concerned with the digital divide, the COVID-19 pandemic and issues of power and control in digital settings. This survey also invites participants to consider the extent to which society should move toward a ‘digital-by-default’ strategy. That is, where core government and commercial services/products are primarily accessed through digital devices, as opposed to in-person.

The survey results will be used to create a benchmark of challenges and opportunities in designing digital technologies going forward.

Please take a few minutes to share your views by participating the survey.

Survey end date: 31 Jan 2022.

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