Digital societies

We engage with the role of emerging technologies, data and platforms in contemporary mediated societies. Our work is aligned with connecting societies and culture, one of our grand challenges in research, the living and working in the digital age research priority and the digital innovation research theme. Our research is constantly changing, reflecting the nature of digital mediation in contemporary societies.

Research areas

Our research covers a range of areas, including the role of datafication and platforms, intersections of digital technologies with different facets of the social and uses of digital commuications in relation to wellbeing.

Work in this strand focuses on the implications of datafication, big data, the internet of things and new technologies such as 5G for contemporary media communications, everyday lives and social research.

This strand includes a range of projects that each explore the relationships and intersections of digital technologies with different aspects of contemporary societies, from science and knowledge, to crime, to youth cultures and peer to peer production. This includes:

  • Christine Hine’s work on technologies and society, particularly on cyberscience, knowledge and expertise online and on the transfer of social relations between online and offline forms of communication
  • Mike McGuire’s work on cybercrime and the relationships between crime and technology
  • Emily Setty’s ongoing examinations of young people's negotiation of digital cultures of sex and sexuality, including research on youth and sexting.
  • Paul Hodkinson’s work on youth and social media falls within this strand
  • Nigel Gilbert’s and Alex Penn’s work in the forthcoming AI FORA project to examine the future options of AI-based social assessment in public service provisions to create improved AI technology for social welfare systems.
  • Anastasia Loukianov’s work on the understandings of the good life that are developed on Instagram and their implications for sustainable living.
  • Interest in digital methods of research, exploring intersections between society and technology
  • Robyn Muir's research on constructions of femininity through Disney representations of princesses.
  • Tom Roberts' developing projects related to the disposal of obsolete digital devices.
  • Work by current and former PhD students, notably Ellen Harris' work on young women's understandings and experiences of online pornography; Jo Smith’s work on online harassment of feminists, David Rozas’ exploration of peer-to-peer production in Drupal and Acheinu Iseko’s work on the social media use of professional employees.

This strand centres on the way digital technologies increasingly are integrating with people’s everyday management of aspects of life related to health and wellbeing, from sleep monitoring, to the use of social media for information and support and in maintaining relationships. It also includes work that explores the playing out of health controversies on social media.

  • Emily Setty is surveying young people about their use of digital media in relationships during lockdown and the positive and negative experiences that they have had with image sharing, pornography etc. She also has an ongoing impact project to design resources that can support healthy and safe youth culture both on and offline in schools
  • Ranjana Das has done research on the complex role of digital technologies in new motherhood, with a particular focus on maternal mental health She has done specific work on new motherhood and the COVID-19 pandemic as well as migrant mothers’ mental health. Her work has been funded by the British Academy and the Wellcome Trust. Ranjana’s research in the area has been published as a monograph Early Motherhood in Digital Societies, and has also appeared in various journals.

  • Paul Hodkinson and Ranjana Das have carried out research on new fathers’ use of digital media as part of coping with mental health challenges. Their book, New Fathers, Mental Health and Digital Communication outlines a range of digital strategies and practices among struggling new fathers, from selective forms of disconnection to different forms of interactive disclosure and support.  

  • Rob Meadows and Christine Hine are conducting research funded by a BA Leverhulme small grant exploring how the AI chatbots increasingly being used in the field of mental health are both shaped by, and shaping, the concept of mental health recovery. They previously conducted research funded by the Wellcome Trust on emerging ethical agendas relating to social media and sleep.