How to ensure that everybody benefits from new technologies? How can organizations connect to relevant audiences in our heavily digitized society? What effects do robots have on employees? How to design apps, interfaces or social robots that meet the gratifications of its user?
Just a few of the many questions that result from the increasing merger of technology and human life. The primary role of communication scholars in this ongoing process is to connect people and technology and to ensure the promises of new and future tech innovations are lived up to. At the same time, communication scholars help to minimize negative effects of human-technology interactions. The department Communication Science (COM) at the University of Twente is about empowering humans and organizations in our high-tech digital society: How do we affect technology and how does technology affect us?
Our research and education focus on three main themes:
1. The digital society. Emerging technologies radically transform the ways in which people behave and interact with each other, with companies, with (social) media, with (online) information, with (collaborative) robots, etc, and how rich and ever more pervasive interactions generate meaning. Communication scholars in our department play to the strengths of technological advancements, aid in their development and maximize their positive influence in the world. We study the most important developments and think about interventions and policy directions to guide these developments.
2. Changing organizations. Organizational forms and employment relationships are changing and becoming more flexible, innovations are disrupting companies and markets, and social media are forcing organizations to increase their transparency as participants in growing international, intercultural networks. We study how organizations (both private and public) use innovative technologies to interact and connect with their (1) internal and (2) external environments. Regarding the first, our interest goes towards how innovations can change organizations from within (e.g., social robots as colleagues, new ways of working). Regarding the latter, communication towards and between relevant stakeholders is of our interest. This includes how new media technologies can be used to communicate with key audiences as well as how media technologies play a role in shaping an organization’s image in the public’s eye.
3. Persuasive tech. As technology becomes ever more integrated within our daily lives, the products and services surrounding us become smarter as well. Embedded in our clothes and environments with sensors and connectivity modules, they are increasingly capable of registering facial expressions, bodily states and expressive behaviors such as movements, intonation and body language. Using these data, they may in turn provide feedback or stimulate specific behaviors. In other words, ‘every-thing’ communicates. At the same time, smart technologies increasingly raise ethical questions regarding privacy, freedom and choice. Do we want to live in a world where smart billboards can read our minds by applying ever more advanced algorithms? Is it OK to induce behavior change when people are not consciously aware of what is happening? And should we protect consumers from technologies which prompt purchases they cannot afford?