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Digital Good Network

exploring equity, sustainability and resilience in people’s relationships with and through digital technologies

The ESRC Digital Good Network (DGN) is an exciting initiative focusing on three societal challenges that are crucial to envisioning good relationships with, and through, digital technologies:

● equity: because digital relationships take place in conditions of structural inequity
● sustainability: because planetary challenges like climate change demand that our digital relationships are sustainable
● resilience: because wellbeing, wellness and coping strategies in the face of pandemics, political conflicts, natural disasters, digital misinformation, online hate are important to realise the digital good

This £4M grant is being led by social scientists at Sheffield University, with core team spanning several other institutes including Oxford, and has partners at BBC R&D and Birmingham Museums Trust.

Society increasingly relies on digital technologies, with many having become integral to people’s relationships and experiences. Institutions use technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) to make their relationships with the public more efficient; digital platforms can be used to share information and connect to others; and apps are increasingly used to administer our lives.

But those same technologies can also discriminate, or be used to harass or mislead – even the most well-intentioned technologies can end up doing harm. And all of our relationships with digital technologies have both positive and negative effects on the planet.

To help ensure that digital technologies have good societal outcomes, the DGN will produce a Digital Good Index to evaluate digital innovations and ensure good societal outcomes. The index won’t reduce the ‘digital good’ to a simplistic checklist; rather, it will account for how, when, where and for whom digital relationships might be considered good.

Imagination researcher, Dr Dan Richards is the team’s “Technology Translations Coordinator”, looking at how we can use Design as a means to bridge the gap between social science and technology development in relation to the overarching challenge of creating “better relationships with digital tech”.

My primary goal is to create more opportunities for interdisciplinary design-based research that can explore possible futures of emerging tech that are rooted and co-created with social science teams, and able to provoke richer discussions with wider audiences as to how we make real change. (Dr Dan Richards)

Funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the DGN will bring researchers together across disciplines and sectors to generate new insights into the ‘digital good’, and provide digital technology developers, companies and policymakers with the know-how to ensure technologies contribute to the public good.

To discover more about this project please visit the Digital Good Network website.

Read an article from UKRI.