Five new studies into digital society

5 February 2020

NWO awards three million euros to five new studies within the programme Digital society - the informed citizen. The aim of the research programme is to better match the use of digital techniques with societal preferences, needs and skills, and vice versa. Accordingly, the studies tie in with the content of the Digital Society Research Agenda of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU). Within the scope of these projects, researchers work in cross-disciplinary consortia that civil society organisations and companies also participate in. The programme contributes to the objectives of the top sectors Creative Industry and ICT.

Dutch citizens are among the most active in the world when it comes to adopting ICT in their daily lives. However, their digital skills with respect to privacy or identifying fake news, for example, have not kept pace with this. How can the resilience of citizens be facilitated? How can we make the variety of news items and opinions on the internet more comprehensible so that we can better formulate a standpoint? These and other questions play a central role in the research projects funded by NWO. Prof. Inald Lagendijk, chair of the NWO selection committee: ‘Generating more scientific knowledge about all aspects of digitalisation is important for everybody. The knowledge gained from these research projects will help Dutch citizens to optimise their digital skills and will provide starting points for developing technologies that tie in with this.’

Projects awarded funding

Measuring pedestrian dynamics: doing it the right way

Main applicants: Dr M. Wang, Prof. M.R. van Steen (University of Twente)
Consortium partner: Locatus

Understanding pedestrian behaviour is vital for the design, planning and management of public space. After all: without people, there would be no cities. However, automatically measuring this behaviour is a privacy-sensitive issue and is not usually accepted by society. Therefore other methods are needed. The researchers from Measuring pedestrian dynamics: doing it the right way will develop a framework for measuring behaviour with respect to urbanisation problems whilst retaining privacy and social expectation.

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Main applicants: Dr L.M.M. Royakkers (Eindhoven University of Technology), Dr Q.C. van Est (Rathenau Instituut)
Consortium partner: Clingendael Institute

Dutch citizens are among the most active in the world when it comes to adopting ICT in their daily lives. However their digital skills, especially with respect to cybersecurity, have not kept pace with this. This research project will investigate how the resilience of citizens to cyber criminality and online fake news can be facilitated. For this, use will be made of the concept of “technological citizenship”, the rights and obligations that enable citizens to benefit from the advantages of modern technology and to defend themselves against the associated risks.

Improved knowledge utilisation from online discussions

Main applicants: Prof. E.J. Krahmer (Tilburg University), Prof. Antal P.J. van den Bosch (Meertens Institute), Dr Ernst van den Hemel (Meertens Institute), Dr Florian Kunneman (Tilburg University)
Consortium partner: Sanoma Media

Other people’s opinions inform you. However, on the comment sections of news websites, a clutter of opinions are brought together that are not always constructive. Researchers from Better informing citizens about current debates will investigate discussions on Nu.nl and develop technology that will capture the variation of messages and comprehensively show the most constructive messages per opinion.

The future is now: how language use connects generations online

Main applicants: Dr Dong Nguyen (Utrecht University), Dr T.A. (Tijs) van den Broek (VU Amsterdam), Prof. Kees van Deemter (Utrecht University), Prof. Bianca Beersma (VU Amsterdam)
Consortium partner: EMMA

Many urgent social issues such as climate change require generations to be considerate towards each other. However, online discussions sometimes escalate. The polarisation that arises as a result of this can influence political behaviour. In this research project, computational methods will be used for the large-scale analysis of online data. This analysis will be combined with laboratory and field experiments to develop data- and theory-driven interventions with which citizens, journalists, organisations and generations can be brought together online. These interventions will focus on the role of mediators who enter into online discussions with different generations.

Informed citizenship for everybody

Main applicants: Prof. M.J. Broersma, Dr A.M.L. van Cauwenberge, Dr J.A.C. Swart (University of Groningen)
Consortium partners: SKSG, the National Library of the Netherlands, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alfa College, Biblionet Groningen

Whether it concerns assessing news and information or communication with the government: digital literacy is vital for participating in society. People from a lower socioeconomic background are at risk of being excluded. This project will study which individual, social and technological factors encourage or hinder the development of digital literacy. Accordingly, the research will investigate two groups: children aged 8 to 12 years, whose media consumption habits develop within the family and education, and adults with a low level of literacy where a lack of digital skills can lead to digital exclusion. This research programme will focus on strategies for stakeholders to facilitate digital literacy and therefore to contribute to digital societies in which all citizens can participate.

Source: NWO