Any Thing for Anyone? An individual and socio-contextual approach to Internet-of-Things skill inequalities


Inequalities in access to technologies reinforce social inequalities. The latest phase of technological development, the Internet-of-Things (IoT), combines device-device, device-person and person-person networked technologies. The devices and persons involved create a complex, omnipresent system in which IoT devices can go unnoticed and make autonomous decisions. However, behavioral factors necessary to understand the impact of the IoT have been ignored, and we know little about the key driver for benefitting from the IoT: skills. To ensure more equal opportunities, the proposed research sets out to investigate inequalities in IoT skills among the general user population from an individual and social contextual perspective. The scientific goal is to develop theory on both IoT user skills and the socio-contextual mechanisms that affect these skills. For society, the goal is to achieve a population better equipped to benefit from the IoT, specifically resulting in lower energy consumption and improved healthcare. Several aspects of this research are innovative. The characteristics of the IoT is theoretically interpreted in terms of user skills. These skills are studied among the general user population using performance tests that allow subjects to actually use the IoT. Most studies of digital skills are conducted in specific (often educational) settings, ignoring large parts of the population that might need skill improvements the most. Furthermore, the proposal integrates traditional and digital inequality research by studying IoT skills in field experiments in the home. This method goes beyond the typical individualistic approach to digital divide research by addressing the roles of relationships as they relate to IoT skills. The project will not only consider the IoT as an object of study, but also use it to augment traditional methods of data collection for research, thus opening pathways for future studies of technology use in concrete social contexts.


Wetenschappelijk artikel

Publicatie bedoeld voor een breed publiek





Dr. ing. A.J.A.M. van Deursen

Verbonden aan

Universiteit Twente


Dr. ing. A.J.A.M. van Deursen, P. de Boer, Alex van der zeeuw


01/12/2017 tot 01/09/2022