- Digital cultures
This research area focuses on the impact of digital technologies across politics, culture, the economy and everyday life. We are interested in empirical investigations of how social processes are transformed and affected by digitalization; what conflicts, contradictions, benefits or consequences arise from the introduction of digital technologies in a variety of social processes and how this feeds back into the development of the digital itself. The focus is on empirical research and possible areas of interest could be (but are nor limited to) the following: The impact of digital technologies on the daily life in urban neighbourhoods or rural communities; the transformation of intimacy through digital meditation; the rise of new forms of digitally empowered entrepreneurship, whether in the bazaar economy or related to novel phenomena like micro influencers or crypto traders; the impact of automation and ‘industry 4.0' technologies on work and industry, novel dynamics of opinion formation and political mobilization. The ambition is to make empirically grounded contributions to theory development in this domain.
- Social Innovation and Sustainable Development
This theme brings together the study of social innovation and ecological transitions through education, research activities and public engagement. The main focus will be on understanding how social and technical factors influence responses to climate change and ecological crisis. A critical analytical approach will be adopted, exploring the social and technical dimensions of innovation and bridging different levels of analysis. Empirical research will address smart/just urban transitions as well as neo-rural entrepreneurship in different fields, including social inclusion and territorial empowerment, local services, interventions in disadvantaged urban areas, management of cultural heritage and sustainable tourism, the green economy, the energy transition and environmental justice. Research will examine practices and strategies, materiality and technologies, institutional layers and contexts of innovation, identifying the individual and collective actors and strategies at play in these processes.
- Digital Policies and Administration
In this domain, research activities will focus on how new technologies can support processes of policy and institutional change. As new technologies have become a core element of public sector reform in several Western countries, public investment has focused mainly on technological aspects of ICT. However, as in all other areas of the digital revolution, the change in hardware in public administration needs to be accompanied by a 'new software', that is, with a comprehensive redefinition of management practices, organisational structures, cultures and work roles. Of particular interest in this area will be the processes of digital innovation in the public sector, the re-organisation of public administration, the redesign of administrative services, the analysis and evaluation of algorithmic initiatives and applications for socio-political regulation, the skills and training of administrative personnel, and the definition and evaluation of digital policies.
- Digital Education
In the area of education, we are interested in research that critically explores the social shaping of education and digital technology from a non-normative perspective, while avoiding any form of technological determinism or solutionism. Empirical investigations may focus on innovation processes based on automation, platformization, AI and the use of robotics in education. Research in this area is expected to offer new insights on changing educational epistemologies and forms of schooling, shifts in the timings and spaces of education or in the modes of teaching and learning, or emerging modalities for the governance and evaluation of education. We encourage global perspectives, as well as research that sensitive to the diversities of digital transformations in different educational localities or contexts of use. We are open to proposals which explore innovative research methods, are interdisciplinary by design and theoretically ambitious, promoting a cross-fertilization among disciplines and fields like sociology and philosophy of education, software and media studies, STS studies and governmentality studies.
The methodology domain will drive three related lines of enquiry: - the promotion of innovative and creative methods for digital transformation research, which combine traditional social science methods and digital tools, such as digital experiments, digital ethnography, and digital walkthroughs; - the exploration of digital data and computational methods for the reconstruction of the narratives on digital transformation through web scraping, Big Data integration, techniques for text analytics, and natural language processing (NLP); - methods for unfolding the affordances of dominant technologies (e.g. algorithms, AI, Digital Twins and Robotics) and anticipating their impacts on individual and social rights.