RMeS Workshop: Context convergence: Exploring the implications of our interconnectedness with contacts, platforms, and spaces

Workshop organized by Dr Anouk Mols (EUR), within the context of the RMeS PhD Workshop Grant

When? 3 October 2022 | 13.00 – 18.00
Where? Erasmus University Rotterdam, Mandeville T3-06
Coordinator? Dr Anouk Mols (EUR)
ECTS? 1 EC
Open to? PhD’s and research master students, max 20 participants
Registration will open 1 September 2022

Messaging colleagues from a holiday destination, following news accounts on Instagram, joining conferences from home, keeping up with family from a distance, receiving notifications when new tv series are released… Mobile technologies have not only become our main source of communication but became an indispensable object in our everyday lives. We are permanently connected to social contacts, platform services and content, and digital and non-digital spaces, which causes social contexts to collapse. This goes beyond the collapsing of digital audiences as is often described in media research (Marwick & boyd, 2010; Vitak, 2012) because it entails the converging of digital and non-digital contexts. Mobile technologies also collapse offline contexts when digital connections are incorporated in daily practices (Pagh, 2020), in other words, people can be available in digital and non-digital spaces at the same time. When you watch Netflix from the train, send a work email while visiting a friend, messaging family when you are at work, you are simultaneously present in digital and physical spaces. Experiences of context convergence are amplified by disruptive notification sounds and badges, alerts, messages, and blinking lights that demand our attention (Licoppe, 2010).

Constant connectivity and converging contexts provide many benefits but also challenges that affect our autonomy in several ways. First, the autonomy to balance availability and non-availability is challenged when we are urged to maintain connections. The first speaker Prof. Dr. Mariek Vanden Abeele will discuss the concept of digital wellbeing which revolves around balancing connectivity and disconnectivity in interactions between persons, devices, and contexts (Vanden Abeele, 2021). Second, when using digital communication platforms, we are challenged in our autonomy to manage the boundaries between different social contexts (Mols & Pridmore, 2020). How this affects everyday experiences of privacy will be discussed by the organizer Dr. Anouk Mols in the opening speech. Third, our autonomy to freely navigate online and physical spaces is also challenged when we are constantly monitored and guided by algorithms. Dr. Jason Pridmore will reflect on the implications of context convergence in relation to AI, surveillance, and privacy.

The interactive presentations and the readings of this interdisciplinary workshop will provide starting points for discussions about context convergence. We invite participants to explore the implications of context convergence on interpersonal communication and relations, (dispersed) family life, news consumption, media production, (dispersed) interconnected families, education, and experiences of cultural events. Together, we will analyse cases of context convergence and discuss research opportunities in order to draft recommendations for stakeholders.

Programme

13:00-13:15: Introduction to the theme: Context convergence Opening words by Dr. Anouk Mols

13:15-14:15: Context convergence: Implications on digital well-being Interactive presentation by Prof. dr. Mariek Vanden Abeele followed by Q&A

14:15-14:30: Break: Coffee, tea and chocolates

14:30-15:15: Context convergence: Implications related to AI, privacy and surveillance Interactive presentation by Dr. Jason Pridmore followed by Q&A

15:15-16:00: Short instructions and working together in groups on briefing memo

16:00-16:50: Briefing memo presentations, feedback & discussion

16:50-17:00: Wrap-up

17:00-18:00: Optional: Drinks @ Erasmus Paviljoen (only if allowed by Covid-19 measures)

Speaker bios

Prof. Dr. Mariek Vanden Abeele is Professor in Digital Culture at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences of Ghent University, Belgium. Her research combines media psychological and media sociological perspectives to better understand the role that digital media use play in everyday life and society. Her research interests include mobile communication and social relationships, problematic smartphone use and digital well-being, mobile media and childhood, and the social implications of health and fitness wearable use. Mariek is a recipient of an 2020 ERC Starting Grant on Digital Well-being – this project examines individuals’ relationship to anytime, anyplace connectivity using both computational and ethnographic research approaches.

Dr. Jason Pridmore is an Associate Professor in the Department of Media and Communication and the Vice Dean of Education of the Erasmus School of History Culture and Communication at Erasmus University Rotterdam. His research interests are focused primarily on practices of digital identification, the use of new/social media and consumer data as surveillance practices, and digital (cyber) security issues. He has written extensively on marketing practices and information exchange and participates in research focused on privacy, data ethics, mobile devices, policing practices, citizenship, branding and quantified self movements. He is the Principle Investigator on the Mobile Privacy Project, the coordinator of the TRESCA project, Project Exploitation Manager and Data Security Manager on the BIM-SPEED project, and Project lead at EUR for the Ashvin Project and the SPATIAL project.

Dr. Anouk Mols (workshop organiser) is a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer at the Department of Media & Communication of the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Her research focuses on neighbourhood watch WhatsApp groups, digital communication, smart technologies (such as smart speakers and smartphone assistants), family surveillance, and AI. Under supervision of Dr. Jason Pridmore and Prof. Susanne Janssen, she completed her PhD in December 2021 with the dissertation: Everyday experiences of privacy and surveillance: Negotiating appropriate forms of monitoring.

Assignment for participants: Context convergence briefing memo

This assignments is geared towards identifying tangible implications of converging contexts and exploring these on the basis of the prescribed readings and the participants’ own research. In order to make the shift from academic understanding to societal impact, the participants work together in groups to develop a briefing memo: a concise summary of a case with a call to action in the form of recommendations for stakeholders.

Preparation

Prior to the workshop, participants are asked to submit a 200-word description of a real life example of converging contexts and a short theory-driven exploration of its implications. Cases can range from highly specific examples like ‘a customer following the livestreaming of a funeral while at a hair salon’ (true story!) to more general examples such as ‘journalists live-tweeting current events’. Deadline: Case descriptions need to be submitted to mols@eshcc.eur.nl one week before the workshop

During the workshop

Based on similarities between their case descriptions, participants will be grouped together. The four groups have 45 minutes to select one of their cases and prepare a briefing memo including 1) a contextualised description of the context convergence case, 2) a theoretically driven analysis breaking down the implications, 3) a rationale for empirical research, and 4) two recommendations for stake holders (e.g., parents, media producers, platform companies, educators, policy makers, etc.). This briefing memo needs to be presented in a five-minute presentation. Feedback will be provided during the workshop by the three speakers and the other participants in response to the memo presentations.

Readings

  • Vanden Abeele, M. (2021). Digital wellbeing as a dynamic construct. Communication Theory, 31(4), 932-955. https://doi.org/10.1093/ct/qtaa024
  • Mols, A., & Pridmore, J. (2020). Always available via WhatsApp: Mapping everyday boundary work practices and privacy negotiations. Mobile Media & Communication, epub ahead of print, 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1177/2050157920970582
  • Pagh, J. (2020). Managing Context Collapses: The Internet as a Conditioning Technology in the Organization of Practices. International Journal of Communication, 12, 2810–2827. https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/11872