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Living in a Digital Society

Research theme

Life in the societies of the global West and North first began to be significantly shaped by digital technologies two to three decades ago and now the effects are felt everywhere across the world. Technological advances are experienced by people in a social context, and the theme of 'Living in a Digital Society' is a university-wide initiative concerning the double-edged nature of digital innovations in the real world. There are opportunities that we can harness for social good and there are societal dangers we want to avoid. Like the other De Montfort University (DMU) Research Themes, 'Living in a Digital Society' will stimulate new investigations by bringing together interests and expertise from across the institution and beyond.

Where the other research themes are concerned with unquestionable goods such as wellbeing, peace, justice, creativity, and decarbonization, 'Living in a Digital Society' is concerned with warnings as well as optimism. Purely free-market business responses to digital possibilities tend towards unrealistic techno-utopianism and myopia about the negative consequences of digitization for the health and autonomy of citizens and social institutions. Yet everywhere around us we also see the positive social benefits of digitization. This theme aims to develop digital innovations for the society of the future whilst keeping a close eye on social and ethical responsibilities, so that we can support a productive, connected and sustainable world to come.

Initial scoping of the intersections that this theme covers suggests some tentative subthemes, including:

  1. Safe and secure digital technologies

    securing citizens' private data; building systems that resist interference and misuse; graceful failure of digital infrastructures.
  2. Digitisation as a driver or a mitigator of social inequality

    access to public and commercial services; digital exclusion by age and class; flexible working versus contractual security; social networks and educational achievement; digital literacy.
  3. Medical interventions and public health

    new devices and procedures; new means of diagnosis; personalized medicine; big data into and out of the NHS; anonymous data and medical autonomy; the future of actuarial science.
  4. The future of production, distribution, and consumption

    automated manufacturing; frictionless trade; financial technology; capitalism with and without democracy; cashless economies in developing nations; local and global money; digitally enhanced logistics
  5. The psychology of digitally mediated interactions

    cyber-bullying and online hate crime; dating, sex, and ubiquitous pornography; the uniting and isolating effects of video-conferencing; automated systems removing appeals to humans
  6. The surveillance society

    digitized policing; targeted marketing; big data and privacy; political activism; facial recognition and the public/private sphere; data encryption for good and ill
  7. Smart living in smarter cities

    safer, cleaner design and construction; automated mass and personal transit; resilient urban infrastructures; the risks and benefits of edge computing and the Internet of Things
  8. Artistic creation, dissemination, and consumption

    digital methods lowering the costs to creators; the concentration of power in digital platforms; the changing notion of 'live' performance; preserving digital creative artefacts; the future of publishing; copyright and the changing notion of 'property'


video conference screen with attendees holding up drawings

Project: Community resilience through digital media

This study examines the use of creative arts-based methods that enhance community resilience building amongst South Asian diasporic communities through aspects of cultural heritage. The project aims to create a culturally appropriate model of resilience building that will feed into policies nationally and globally.

digital style map with logos dotted around

Project: Digital fashion and the Metaverse

This research project aims to position DMU as a leader in the emerging international field of Digital Fashion. Its goal is to establish a Centre of Excellence in Digital Fashion by harnessing existing cross-school research expertise at DMU and forging partnerships with other universities and leading industry innovators

diagram of devices connected to the cloud

Project: Domestic Abuse and the Internet of Things

This research project aims to explore how individuals working within the area of domestic abuse and cyber security perceive the use of the Internet of Things in cases of coercive control.


Project: Audience Participation in Online Performance of Collaborative Music

This research project explores how audience participation during online music collaborative performances can be enhanced in a hybrid, digital world.


Our futures will be increasingly digital -- what remains to be decided is how far the machines serve our collective needs instead of the other way around, so that our digital society remains livable

Gabriel Egan, Living in a Digital Society Theme Director

Theme leads