The Fifth RTD Framework Programme of the EU is presented under the heading
Creating a user-friendly information society. It has as its main
objective the realisation of “benefits of the information society for
Europe both by accelerating its emergence and by ensuring that the needs
of individuals and enterprises are met”.
The European Media, Technology and Everyday Life Network (EMTEL)
addresses this agenda directly.
EMTEL is a research and training network of European social scientists
investigating the social dimensions of the Information Society in Europe.
It includes 7 partners in 6 different countries (Ireland, the Netherlands,
Belgium, Spain, Norway, the UK). It involves more than 20 scholars,
working on 7 different projects, 2 Key Themes, providing training and
research resources to 8 Young Research Fellows.
A co-ordinated research and training programme addresses, from a
user point of view, key issues and problems of the Information Society
through a series of thematically interrelated case studies. EMTEL’s
objective is to investigate the realities and dynamics of the User Friendly
Information Society .
New technologies have had substantial effects on the ways in which
organisations function. Considerable research has been devoted
to the economic and commercial aspects of the Information Society.
So far very little attention has been given to the social implications
of these potentially revolutionary developments: to the ways in which
individual citizens and consumers adapt to, and adopt, new technologies
and services. We urgently need to understand the implications
of their willingness to do so, as well as the sources of their resistance.
For their quality of life, for their capacity to work, for their social
institutions, especially the family, the community, and for their meaningful
participation in all aspects of European society.
EMTEL, building on research conducted as a network funded by the
EC in its Human Capital and Mobility programme (1995-8) and drawing
on an emerging global research agenda to which it has already made a
significant contribution, will deepen and extend socio-economic research
on the Information Society in order directly to affect policy making
and market management in the twenty-first century.
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 Union, and the ways in which the citizens and consumers
of the Union can be effectively integrated into the Information Society.
The speed of technological change goes on unabated. Societies
change more slowly. Impacts are never uniform or consistent.
Markets emerge unpredictably and disappear as fast. Competition
is intense. New policies are required to manage and to steer the
complex interrelationship of technological and social change.
Information policies and social policies may need to converge.
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 Society and on the
new ways of living and working that this makes possible. It will
engage critically with the assumptions underlying the discourses surrounding
the Information Society.
A number of Reports and Green Papers from the Commission have identified
key areas where more research and a deeper understanding of the social
dimensions of the information society is called for. From these
and other publications EMTEL has identified seven interrelated thematic
areas where it will undertake research in order to generate an incisive,
conceptual and empirical investigation of the character and dynamics
of the Information Society as it is experienced by individuals in their
These are: community, exclusion, citizenship, quality of life, flexibility,
consumption, and domesticity. Each of these thematic areas will
be explored in the research through discrete, but comparative and interrelated,
case-studies. Each of these thematic areas will be linked to, and inform,
policy making at all levels of the Community. Each partner in
the network, building on existing expertise, will take primary responsibility
for one thematic area.
Six out of the seven teams in the current project were, in one way
or another, members of the EMTEL Network funded under the Human Capital
and Mobility Programme (1995-8). TNO and ASCoR collaborated in
that programme. Media@lse brings faculty previously with the Sussex
team in that project. The seventh team, from the Institute for
Prospective Technological Studies in Seville, is an EU JRC, and brings
to EMTEL a wealth of relevant and complementary expertise.
EMTEL’s programme of research promises to provide a major breakthrough
in the social understanding of the Information Society and how this
will lead to new ways of living and working. Comparative studies
will be conducted alongside detailed case studies. A major work
of synthesis is in prospect, as are a number of innovative analyses.
So far European social science has failed to address social and individual
dimensions of technological change in this area from the point of view
of their meaning, their significance and their consequences for everyday
life. EMTEL will change this. This is our vision.
Knut H. Sørensen