Economic and social behavior occurs increasingly in digital space, or the digital economy and society. There has been exponential growth of online spaces that generate both implicit (through clicks, transactions, downloads etc.) and explicit (through social media posts, reviews, recommendations and the like) signals of citizens’ needs, desires, motivations, opinions and sentiments. For example, the frequency of a health term search query can help inform future social care interventions and planning; and, the posts by social network users can provide glimpses into society-level concerns that both unite and divide. There is, in other words, a new public sphere, in which digital citizenship and civil society are increasingly played out.
This interdisciplinary pathway sits in this rapidly developing, challenging and innovative area. It is designed to develop expertise in how to research big social media data to understand a wide range of economic and social issues. Equally, it will focus on how the desire for new ways of expressing economic and social needs can drive developments in digital technology and their applications. Typically, doctoral students are co-supervised by an expert in an area of applied social science in Swansea and Cardiff, and an expert in a computer science. Their research projects are likely to focus on problems of health and social care, constrained communities, business and innovation, cyber security, crime and safety and what insights may be drawn from analysis of big social data.
The pathway draws upon an impressive track record of research projects and research centres, including: the Next Stage Digital Economy – CHERISH DE Centre, the Centre for Digital and Social Media, and the new Computational Foundry, at Swansea; the Social Data Science Lab at Cardiff, consisting of members of staff from Cardiff’s School of Social Sciences and School of Computer Science and Informatics.
The Masters-level research training will be delivered via parallel Masters programmes located in each institution, and these combine a breadth of research skills with subject-specific elements such as Theory of Digital Information and Society (Swansea) and Computational Social Science (Cardiff). Further subject-specific training and cohort-building are achieved through jointly taught residential skills labs.