ICT COST Action 298
Participation in the Broadband Society
The main objective of this Action is to create new knowledge about users’ creativity and to facilitate their empowerment in a broadband information society. This knowledge is crucial in order to strengthen the European Research Area. Moreover, this requires an examination of the factors that can both constrain and enhance users abilities to shape and use ICTs, nowadays also referred to as information society technologies and services (ISTs). The term 'broadband' in this Action refers to an aggregate technology comprising several technical solutions (such as IPv6, xDSL, broadband ISDN, Bluetooth, UMTS, wireless and satellite networks, DVB-T, IP datacast, etc.). These have been introduced with the promise of providing users with communication that is faster, easier and offers a higher quality of service. The extent to which such benefits have been realised remains something to be assessed. From this Action’s perspective, the 'broadband society' refers to a possible, but not inevitable, substantial transformation of the experience of telecommunications based on these technologies allowing information and communication technologies to be used everywhere, all the time and by everybody. Given the widespread aspirations of Governments and companies to achieve this goal, the extent to which any such transformation has occurred needs to be evaluated in a balanced manner. The technologies mentioned above have resulted mainly from technological and institutional imperatives. To what extent have potential users managed to find ways in which such technologies can be useful, worthwhile and attractive? It is certainly known from previous research that this can require those users to be creative in terms of fitting ICTs into their activities or using them to find solutions to the everyday problems that they already encounter. But how much is being demanded of those users, what considerations have a bearing upon whether these technologies actually find a place in their lives and what new issues, or indeed problems, can these ICTs themselves create, especially if they really are 'disruptive technologies'? Ultimately, users may well decide that their existing solutions suffice, in which case these new technological options may find only a modest place in their lives. Whatever strategies users employ for assessing and dealing with such innovations, more has to be learnt about these social processes, including how they apply to the up and coming generation of new information and communication products and services. It is only by gaining this knowledge that if can be hoped to empower the user further in their relationships to technology and through this hope to increase the quality of their lives. The Action’s specific objectives are as follows: 1) To examine the modalities in which users actually use ICTs and to discover their current forms of creativity. This involves assessing existing studies and, on the basis of this, informing industries and developing recommendations about ways to integrate these insights into future products and services. 2) To look ahead to technology related-developments in the more medium term (e.g. the planned implementation of certain national and EU regulations) in order to apply the insights gained from existing research and indicate the implications 3) To suggest new approaches and methodologies for constructing a more user- driven model of innovation in order to overcome the limitations of current models of 'user-centred' development. This entails providing an analysis of the various conceptualisations of the role of users held by those developing new applications within different parts of the ICT industry. 4) To produce a new phase in interdisciplinary cooperation. This would provide the basis for conceptually integrating the various methods for assessing the experience of broadband technologies from the perspective of different disciplines (e.g. through workshops that invite people from various disciplines to attend in order to stimulate dialogue)
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