The DTPC research project, which sets out to investigate how digital technology configures user power and control, has now reached its data collection phase. Over recent months, DTPC researchers have developed strong partnerships with a diverse range of communities situated across the UK. Now that lockdown restrictions are easing, ethically approved, risk assessed, in-person focus groups are running for those communities who, for whatever reason, cannot or do not access digital technology. We are privileged that so many community members have chosen to share their digital technology experiences with us.
Taking just one example, DTPC team member Dr. Ben Evans recently visited The Manchester Adult Education Service (MAES), part of Manchester City Council. One of the sites where MAES hosts their digital technology sessions is the Beswick Library.
MAES tutor Kate Lindley called upon a wide range of people who attend courses to improve their digital technology skills. This group were also keen to participate in our research. Kate and Ben co-ran a focus group wherein participants communicated how digital technology impacted their daily lives. There were concerns about the necessity to trade personal data online in order to receive goods and services in return. Conversely, there were positives. For example, instead of posting abroad cassette tapes with messages for family members (which can take many weeks), participants now enjoy real-time video contact. Participants explained how they digitally take part in weddings and funerals far away, for example. One participant was sent a video of their sister’s baby river christening. This was passed around the group on the day and it induced emotion from everyone.
Speaking to the MAES community helps to remind us that digital technology can empower us because it can overcome geographical barriers and those financial barriers of travel, for example.
With thanks to Kate Lindley and the inspirational MAES community.