Finding a common language at our research symposium

Yesterday we held the second Social Digital Research Symposium of the year.  Last time I blogged about how important these types of events are for bringing like-minded people together to share our thinking and our research. Collaboration in this area is becoming ever more important. With a gap between the 8 million who’ve never used the internet and the 11 million who aren’t or can’t use it at home (ONS), there’s clearly work to be done. Whether we refer to the “narrow” users or compare the “nevers” and the “littles”, or the “first generation users” and “next generation users” (OxIS, not to do with age), there’s plenty of agreement that we need to help people move on to the next stage of internet use if we truly want them to independently reap the benefits of being online.

Yesterday we agreed that a common language will help us to share our research more easily, and from the kinds of ideas that were being discussed yesterday I’m certain this can only be a good thing! Our discussions were interesting as well as revealing, throwing up some gaps in the data that we currently have. Sharing what we know is a great way of highlighting what we don’t know, and is a massive step in figuring out where to go next.

One interesting theme that came up throughout the day was the idea that we can learn from studying the exceptions to the rule. While we know who is disengaged, we don’t know what drives their disengagement. What we do have data on however is what drives the kind of person who does choose to take that first step in getting online; this knowledge could help us in reaching the disengaged and combat the barriers and fears that prevent people becoming confident internet users.

Once again we were keen to emphasise the massive link between social exclusion and digital exclusion and would like to know if any action research studying the combating of social exclusion uses digital tools at all. If you know of something please let us know.

Big thanks to all who attended the symposium, particularly Cecil Prescott (ONS), Julia Rulf (Ofcom), Ellen Helsper (LSE), and Kate Cook (GDS) who all presented research. I suspect many have gone away with new angles on old problems, and there were certainly many promises for action back at the respective ranches to add to the collaborative pot.

We’ll  be getting together to continue the good work at the next symposium in September. In the meantime there will soon be lots of great slides and presentations from yesterday up at http://social-digitalresearch.ning.com/ and we hope the discussion will continue online … after all, we should lead the way and talk about digital using technology as well as face-to-face!

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