EMTEL work programme emerges from,
and will contribute significantly to, an increasingly important body of
social scientific work that has its starting point the need at address
technological and media change as a social process.
The society in which European now
live is one impregnated by technologies, and especially those that we know
as communication and information technologies. These technologies
and services are deeply embedded in the fabric of everyday life.
Digitalisation is having an increasingly significant impact on the conduct
of everyday life, and our mediated and non-mediated relationships to each
other are having, in their turn, significant consequences for the ways
new information and communication technologies and services are being developed
EMTEL research and training is grounded
in this radical and interdisciplinary approach to innovation. It
recognises the significant shift in the centre of gravity in the process
of innovation from production to consumption (Silverstone
and Hirsch, 1994). It also recognises that the inter-relationship
between technological and social change requires new forms of analysis
and theory, as well as more sensitive methodologies, if its full complexities
are to be understood.
Information and communication technologies
have both material and symbolic significance. They have functional
and aesthetic characteristics. They change the world in which they
are introduced. But they also changed by that world and by the ways
in which users confront them.
We speak of domestication (Lie
and Sorensen, 1996). By that is meant the capacity of individuals,
families, households and other institutions to bring new technologies and
services into their own culture, to make them their own. Domestication
involves concerns with the learning of skills, practice, and the construction
of meaning. It is a dialectical process, for these technologies and services
change the way things are done in everyday life.
Evidence suggests that, rhetoric apart,
the process of technological change runs neither in a smooth nor in a straight
line. Some products never reach market, or when they do, do not always
succeed. Users and consumers impose their own meanings and practices
on those technologies and services that do reach market. The home
computer, the answerphone, e-mail, the mobile telephone have all had unpredictable
careers as consumer goods. The information and communication industry
currently manifests many examples of the ways in which, as it converges
both technologically and industrially, uncertainties prevail: the struggle
over the portal and over integrated mobile communications are cases in
point (Mansell and Silverstone, 1996).
The research on which this programme
of work is based is interdisciplinary. It recognises that the relationship
between social and technological change in this area has political as well
as economic implications, and cultural as well as social implications.
It draws on the appropriate and relevant social science disciplines.
It recognises that the particular character of European society requires
a comparative approach, sensitive to differences across States but also
rigorous enough to recognise similarities. And it recognises the
need to combine both qualitative and quantitative methodologies (Dutton,
Recent work from EMTEL researchers
and others has involved the definition of a new field of research: new
media and society. This has been represented in the publication of
new international journal with that title on whose editorial board a number
of EMTEL members sit. It addresses the implications of technological
change, and especially the digitalisation of new media, from an interdisciplinary
social scientific perspective. Sociology, economics, political science
and anthropology contribute to this research agenda whose aim it is to
make sense, and to enable the guidance, of the innovation process.
This process involves convergence: of technologies, industries and patterns
of use. It also involves changing relationship between the global
and the local as sites for social, economic and political activity, as
well as the changing relationship between public and private spaces.
It involves, finally, changes not just in industrial structures but also
in the structures that underpin everyday life: those of community and family,
work and leisure.
The theory that drives this innovative
work draws on, and extends, work undertaken in recent years in the social
shaping of technology, in the anthropology of everyday life, in the study
of the regulation of new media, and in the market analysis of new media
industries and products. The aim of the proposed EMTEL research is
to build on this converging field of academic and policy oriented research.
This research is seen as urgent.
The rapid spread of access to the Internet within European households and
institutions; the explosion in television, cable and satellite channel
availability, the rapid advances in mobile telephony, are together changing
the communicative infrastructure of Europe, with potentially profound but
unknown consequences for everyday life. The issues to be addressed,
those of access to new media technologies and services, but also those
of participation in economic and political life possibly transformed by
those technologies and services, are of vital importance. They have
consequences for the European communication and information industry struggling
to maintain or enhance its position in the global marketplace. And
they have consequences too for the governance of the Union.
The study of these issues requires
a focus on the users of new media in a number of different contexts and
from a number of different, but interrelated perspectives. EMTEL
research will therefore consider the user as an active participant in the
innovation process. It will consider the temporal and spatial co-ordinates
of everyday life, and how those both constrain, and are affected by, the
emergence of new media. It will examine both inclusion in, and exclusion
from, the Information Society and their cultural and social consequences.
It will examine the emergence of new forms of consumption and political
action that are seen to be being facilitated by the new media. It
will investigate the relationship between supply and demand in the new
world of e-commerce. It will address how such technologically informed
social changes affect the quality of life.
At this crucial point in the emergence
of the Information Society it is essential that European social scientists
achieve a firm grasp on the both the frame and the detail of the consequences
of new media change for consumers and citizens in the Union (Ducatel,
Webster and Hermann, 1999). It is EMTELís intention to provide an informed
and critical analysis of these changes and to extend our understanding
of the processes involved through new empirical research, developed theory
and advanced methodologies.
The aim of the project is to provide
policy makers and market managers, as well as the academic community, with
empirically grounded evidence of the social dynamics of the emerging Information
EMTEL will ask three crucial questions which technology driven programmes of research generally fail to address:
Through a series of carefully designed,
interrelated and co-ordinated studies EMTEL will investigate the
individual and social dimensions of the emerging Information Society.
EMTEL will focus on the everyday life of the European citizen and consumer.
It will examine the realities of the new ways of living and working that
are seen to be at the core of the Information Society. It will explore
the ways in which new technologies can be more effectively integrated into
the social fabric of the Community, and the ways in which the citizens
and consumers of the Community can be more effectively integrated into
the Information Society.
What does a user-friendly society mean?
What are the facilitators of, and the
obstacles to, its realisation?
What are the consequences for markets
and policy making?
7 research projects are organised into two substantive Thematic
Projects. Each Project is the responsibility of an
individual team, as in the table below. The overall project is the
responsibility of the London team. Each research project will result
in a key report, relevant to its main research theme,
produced in both on-line and off-line formats. In addition, EMTEL II
as whole will produce a series of horizontal, final reports
which will provide synthetic overviews of the research as a
Such a project requires both an interdisciplinary
and a multi-methodological approach. The interrelationship of social
and technological change, the need to understand the dynamics of those
changes, and the need to address the social, cultural, economic and political
implications of those changes, requires an integrated theoretical framework
for the research and a flexible methodology which is sensitive both to
the large scale and structural transformations as well as to the details
of meaning and consequence in everyday life.
The methodologies adopted will therefore
be informed by a theoretical approach defined principally by the idea of
domestication. Domestication involves:
Each partner is EMTEL has developed specific
expertise based on academic, market related and policy research. These
complementary skills will enable the network to address the complexity
of issues that must be considered if progress is to be made in this field.
the argument that users are active in
the innovation process and that such activity has material consequences
for that process
the argument that the acceptance of,
as well as resistance to, new technologies and services is conditional
on the contexts of use of old technologies and services as well as on the
supply-side capacity for technological innovation and market creation
the argument that social factors are
pre-eminent in determining access and participation, and an understanding
of the economic dimensions of socio-technological change in this field
has to be supplemented and qualified by an understanding of cultural dimensions
the argument that such an overall approach
to innovation in this area requires the development of qualitative methodologies
which can examine the details of meaning and value as well as the structural
determinants of action, and that these methodologies need to be complemented
and informed by quantitative assessments of trends and patterns of production
The methodology proposed will have
the following five components:
qualitative studies of individual users
and social uses, based on in depth interviewing with selected respondents
desk research monitoring and analysing
socio-technological trends and market penetration
comparative research, focusing on differences
and similarities in the take-up and use of new information and communication
technologies and services across Europe
policy research at EU and national levels
The research is interdisciplinary.
It is informed by theories and concepts that have their source in sociology,
economics, political science, social psychology and anthropology.
It has close links to the emerging fields of media and cultural studies.
Indeed these latter fields provide an important intellectual context for
the study of the social aspects of innovation in this area.
iterative discussions with key players
in relevant industries.
Such an approach presents a considerable
challenge, since the field has so far failed to develop an integrated approach
to these issues in a European context. However it is a challenge
which EMTEL is uniquely qualified to accept. EMTEL researchers have
worked with each other over a number of years, and have developed a strong
sense of trust and mutual understanding, both of which are vital preconditions
for effective partnership and demanding collaboration. Too many European
projects founder on their absence.
EMTEL intends to make a major and
substantive contribution to the field through a final deliverable devoted
to the methodological issues generated by the research. This will
report on the methodologies adopted in the research and the mechanisms
of their integration. It will reflect on the strengths and weaknesses
of the different approaches and advance recommendations on methodology
appropriate to the development of research in this area.
Ducatel, K.J., Webster, J. and Herrmann,
W. (eds.) (1999) The Information Society in Europe: Work and Life in an
Age of Globalization, Rowman Littlefield, Boulder, CO.
Dutton, William H. (1999) Society
on the Line: Information Politics in the Digital Age, Oxford, Oxford University
Mansell, R. and Silverstone R. (eds.)
(1996) Communication by design: the politics of information and communication
technologies, Oxford, Oxford University Press
Lie, Merete & Knut H. Sørensen,
eds. (1996): Making technology our own? Domesticating technology in everyday
life, Oslo: Scandinavian University Press
Silverstone, R. and Hirsch E. (eds.)
(1992) Consuming Technologies: media and information in domestic spaces,