In our digital age, we are confronted with many challenges as digitalisation affects every aspect of modern life: How we store and protect our personal information, how we make use of newly emerging possibilities to measure our health and quality of life, and what flexible work arrangements emerge within and across organisations. Digitalisation also has unforeseen effects, such as new roles or professions emerging as the rise in ‘intelligence officers’ and ‘data cleaners’ illustrate. Both intended and unintended consequences raise an abundance of questions for society and research. However, the answers to these questions are not confined to the expertise of a single (research) field. Therefore, we need a strong, multi-disciplinary community to develop strategies for human-centric solutions and create a resilient future of work. The Digital Society Research Agenda addresses this need.
On a November 27th, the first annual Digital Society Conference was the place to be for around 400 people to discuss the pressing challenges in our digital society. Upon arrival in the central hall, conference visitors were welcomed by a variety of showcases, where each university displayed their current research projects around digitalisation.
After this informal beginning, the official opening session set the tone for the conference by announcing the Digital Society Research Agenda’s overarching goals:
● Putting societal needs central to further research about processes of digitalisation
● Promoting responsible digitalisation with people at the core
● Collaborating more with stakeholders.
The audience responded with enthusiastic applause and carried the goals forward to the themed workshops.
The workshops covered topics like cybersecurity or creating multi-stakeholder consortia. Marleen Huysman from the KIN Center for Digital Innovation, together with Marlous Agterberg, Julia Schlegelmilch and David Passenier, held two workshops about digitalisation in work and organisations. In the first workshop, the participants dreamt up projects with researchers from very different disciplines. It was a welcome challenge to identify how they complemented each other in terms of skills or knowledge and they came up with some innovative ideas for collaborations.
During the second workshop, the participants’ variety in backgrounds – from research, business and government – provided fuel for stimulating discussions. They deliberated about the most pressing challenges like the role of “data work”, new forms of organizing, changing professional skills and organizational restructuring. One insight was that researchers could act as the glue between different stakeholders, for example policy makers and business people.
The day was concluded with a humorous performance, which left people energized and ready to have inspiring conversations with new connections.