Prof Simeon Yates BA BSc DipNatSci PhD

Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research Environment and Postgraduate Research Vice Chancellor's Office

Research

Social impacts of digital technologies

Simeon has recently led the Economic and Social Research Council review of "Ways of Being in a Digital Age" (https://waysofbeingdigital.com) in collaboration with 17 UK and international universities. The aim of the scoping review is to undertake a systematic literature review and synthesis that will identify gaps in current research and determine where future initiatives by the ESRC might add most value. A further aim of the review is to build and extend networks among the academic community, other stakeholders and potential funding partners. The review examined:

Citizenship and politics: How digital technology impacts on our autonomy, agency and privacy – illustrated by the paradox of emancipation and control.
Whether and how our understanding of citizenship is evolving in the digital age – for example, whether technology helps or hinders us in participating at individual and community levels.

Communities and identities: How we define and authenticate ourselves in a digital age. What new forms of communities and work emerge as a result of digital technologies – for example, new forms of coordination including large-scale and remote collaboration.

Communication and relationships; How our relationships are being shaped and sustained in and between various domains, including family and work.

Health and wellbeing: Whether technology makes us healthier, better educated and more productive.

Economy and sustainability: How we can construct the digital to be open to all, sustainable and secure.

Data and representation: How we live with and trust the algorithms and data analysis used to shape key features of our lives.

Governance and security: What the challenges of ethics, trust and consent are in the digital age. How we define responsibility and accountability in the digital age.

Other recent funded projects have examined digital inclusion, exclusion and participation. Along with my colleagues Dr. Eleanor Lockley and Dr. John Kirby we have been studying the differences in access to and use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). This work has taken an empirical approach – both quantitative and qualitative - and has documented inequities in access, rates of use and the impacts of this on other aspects of social life. A cursory review of contemporary media coverage would lead to the impression that digital media have become pervasive and ubiquitous in UK society. Yet our analyses show two fifths (41%) of the UK population have no access, limited access or are limited users of digital media. Our own qualitative action research has found evidence of considerable 'churn' in access to ICTs for those on lower incomes and evidence of structural market barriers to access for these citizens (Yates, Kirby and Lockley, 2014, 2015a, 2015b). Yet we live in a context where assumptions about the pervasiveness of digital media now influence and shape educational, social, economic and welfare policies in many developed nations. This interplay between new social policies and the material realties of digital access has been a focus of our recent research work in collaboration with UK city governments, national charities and local groups.

Digital arts

Recent research has sought to explore the the role of digital technologies in art and culture. Simeon was recently seconded to Department of Culture Media and Sport providing academic and evidence supporting to the Digital Culture team reporting to the Minister for Digital and Culture. This has included analyses of the intersections of digital, social and cultural inclusion, exclusion and participation.

Simeon is currently working on an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project "Beyond the multiplex" led by University of Newcastle and in partnership with the Universities of York and Sheffield. This project will explore regional and local film cultures. This will use innovative digital methods for data analysis and will also focus on using "big data" to assess film cultures and audience features. A key research question will focus on the digital consumption of film.

Prior projects have examined the practicalities of making a public space, adjacent to and often used by arts organizations and venues into a “digital arts space”. This work also sought to examine the technical, organizational and social challenges of interactive media interventions faced by artists, providers and users of ubiquitous mobile media. As expectations of digital and interactive experiences for audiences grow, so too do demands on arts organizations to be more innovative in audience engagement. Those looking to innovate in art form development - moving away from a traditional stage and theatre audience set up - require an understanding of the challenges of presenting innovative interactive digital works. Demand for such opportunities is high but there is a lack of access to high-speed connectivity for use by multiple mobile devices. This demand is both from potential existing audience members – those already digitally engaged – but also from the requirement for arts organizations to engage publics beyond their existing spaces and audiences to social groups, especially those from more marginalized communities.

Digital media language and communication

Since 1990 Simeon has conducted research on language and language use and communication mediated by the Internet, the World Wide Web, and mobile technologies. The work has made use of analytical methods from linguistics, discourse analysis, and observational work – including both qualitative, quantitative and corpus studies. Topics have addressed differences in spoken written and online language, gender variations in digital media use, political on-line discourse and research methods. Simeon undertook the first UK Phd to study the linguistics of online interaction (1990-1993) and has published and supervised research on this topic over the last two decades. This has included work on on mobile phone and smart phone use, textuality of Japanese online interaction and political interaction on-line. This research has often been funded or supported by industry (Virgin Media, Xerox Europe, SAS, Unilever). He is currently leading a team undertaking research on the linguistics of consumer websites in collaboration with Unilever.

Research Grants
  • Me and my big data- developing citizens data literacies
  • Beyond the Multiplex: Audiences for Specialised Film in English Regions
  • Protecting and recording Yazidi heritage
  • Ways of Being in a Digital Age: A Systematic Review
  • Liverpool 2018: Evaluating the legacies of the European Capital of Culture 10 years on
  • Cultures of Everyday Internet Use in Arab Societies

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