Orientation on Master Thesis topics

Research area’s ALEXANDER van DEURSEN

Alexander’s research concerns the use and effects of new media. Most of his research focuses on digital inequality in the contemporary information society. His doctorate dissertation, entitled ‘Internet skills, vital assets in an information society,’ focused on inequalities caused by different levels of Internet skills among segments in the Dutch population. The dissertation won the Herbert Dordick Dissertation award in 2011, an annual award handed out by the International Communication Association for the best dissertation in the field of communication and technology worldwide. His first book, co-authored by Prof. Dr. Jan van Dijk, will be published in 2014 and discusses skills inequalities and the (individual) consequences of these inequalities.

Research projects Alexander is responsible for are annual trends in Internet Use and eSkills at Work. The first project concerns annual investigations of differences in Internet use among the Dutch population. The second project aims at investigating and improving ICT skills among the Dutch labor force. Recent investigations furthermore concern differences in Internet usage types, reasons for online disengagement of senior Internet users, and Internet skills performance tests of primary and secondary school students. Early 2013, Alexander worked as a visiting scholar at the department of Media and Communications of London School of Economics (LsE). A collaboration with scholars from LsE and Oxford University on Internet engagement is in progress and funded by Fell Fund.

Alexander collaborates with Digivaardig & Digiveilig, an organization that enables collaboration between government, industry and civil society organizations with the aim of improving digital skills and safety online. Practical goals are improving service provision and policy making at the national and international level based on a better understanding of digital media use. Alexander consults several national public agencies in the Netherlands on how to improve their service delivery by accounting for differences in Internet use.

Alexander publishes his work on his website: www.alexander vandeursen.nl
Articles on most of the subjects below are available for download here.

Research ideas that master students can build on (examples):

Internet use among disadvantaged groups

  • What activities do seniors undertake online?
  • What reasons do seniors have for disengagement in Internet use?
  • What is the effect of seniors’ surroundings on their Internet uptake?
  • How do specific ethnic groups employ the Internet?
  • Can we support disadvantaged groups with tablets / handhelds?

Outcomes and implications of Internet use

  • How do people benefit from the Internet. Who benefits most?
  • What does mobile Internet add to traditional use in terms of (enonomic, social, political, health or institutional) outcomes?
  • What factors determine beneficial Internet use?

Digital inequality and Social inequality

  • How do these concepts relate to each other?
  • Are people who are digitally excluded also socially excluded? If so, how exactly?

Internet skills

  • What are the level of Internet skills among a specific part of the population (e.g., seniors, primary school or secondary school children, unemployed people, immigrants)?
  • Different skills to focus on:
     - Operational and formal Internet skills
     -  Information Internet skills
     - Communication (or social media) Internet skills
     - Content creation Internet skills
     - Strategic Internet skills
  • What specific problems do people experience online?
  • What specific skills are required for mobile Internet use?
  • Can communication skills be employed when information skills are insufficient?

eSkills at work

  • What digital skills are needed for a specific group of workers?
  • What is the level of these skills?
  • What could organizations do to account for skill insufficiencies?

Support in using the Internet

  • Who do people turn to for help when using the Internet? (e.g., friends family, social media, training)
  • What is the result of this support?

Possible methods:
Surveys / Interviews, Performance tests (semi experimental), Content analysis, Experiments