Investigating How the Future Internet Amplifies Societal Trends

posted 12 Apr 2011 02:41 by Michael Boniface   [ updated 19 Apr 2011 07:05 by Michael Boniface ]

SESERV aims to facilitate discussion and debate between those who study and those who build the Future Internet. The challenge is to provide a conceptual framework that can support effective discourse between both technical and social science disciplines considering that many social scientists are much more comfortable than technologists with indeterminate, emergent approaches to understanding socio-technical phenomenon. Although social science does not offer a unified approach to understanding socio-technical issues we need a common framework to help understand the social issues and how the Future Internet addresses them. SESERV adopt a Conceptual Framework for understanding the relationship between technology and society authored by a leading European Scholar, van Dijk (2010). The method allows the community to understand the social impacts of Future Internet developments by linking to existing research, data, and expertise about general social trends when trying to understand the role of new technology and asking the question: what, based on current trends, can we predict would happen without this new technology, and conversely, what amplification of well-established societal trends does this new technology offer?

Importantly, the framework takes a middle position between strongly technology determinist views that technology independently causes change in society and the strongly constructivist views that all technology is socially constructed and only gains power through the meanings attached to it by human actors.  This middle ground is essential to support discourse between both technical and social science disciplines. The framework is compatible with the tussle approach being used to understand micro-economic interaction and has successfully been applied in the European Commission project The Social Impact of ICT (CPP No55A – SMART No2007/0068) 

 In van Dijk’s framework, ICTs such as those being developed by Future Internet projects are understood to be trend amplifiers that are both defining and enabling; that is, most ICT developments over the last 25 years have not created social trends as much as amplified already existing social trends, but with the understanding that some technological developments (such as the Internet) have been more defining that others.  There is every expectation that, with few exceptions, new Internet technologies will continue this role as trend amplifiers which define and enable evolutionary change, rather than revolutionary change. van Dijk identifies ten social trends (time, space, scale, social infrastructure, complexity, capitalism, class, politics, culture, daily life) and four common themes (Rationalization, Networking and social capital, Empowerment and participation, Information and lifelong learning) related to ICT.  SESERV will use the framework for identifying the trends which Challenge 1 projects are amplifying.

SESERV will provide simplified, easy to read descriptions and examples based on direct liaisons with a representative set of Challenge 1 projects working on the social aspects of the Future Internet. These include

SOCIOS: Exploiting Social Networks for Building the Future Internet of Services

TA2: Together anywhere, together anytime

SMARTSANTANDER: world city-scale experimental research facility in support of typical applications and services for a smart city

SENSEI: Integrating the physical with the digital world of the network of the future

SOCIALNETS: Social networking for pervasive adaptation

LAWA : Longitudinal Analytics of Web Archive data