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Creative technology academic to explore protecting workers’ rights in the digital age as part of £1.2m project

The University of Sussex is involved in a major new research project looking at how digital technology is changing the world of work.

Professor Ann Light will explore protecting workers’ rights in the digital age as part of a £1.2m nationwide research project.

Director of User Experience at Google Elizabeth Churchill, who received an honorary degree from the University of Sussex in July, is on the Not-Equal steering group.

The University of Sussex is involved in a major new research programme alongside Google, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the BBC aimed at making digital services fairer and more secure for all.

The University is working in collaboration with academics at Newcastle University, Royal Holloway, University of London and Swansea University as well as businesses, public sector organisations, professional and voluntary community groups on a three year social justice project, Not-Equal – Social Justice through the Digital Economy.

Professor Ann Light, an expert on design and creative technology in the School of Engineering and Informatics, will lead on one of the project’s three main strands; Fairer Futures for Businesses and Workers theme. The University of Sussex’s Creative Technology research group has research expertise into the interfaces between humans and digital technology and how these are changing.

Prof Light said: “Rapid change in the way that businesses are organized has affected working life, particularly as digital platforms direct more people’s labour. Not only are new skills needed, but new sources of protection for people with increasingly precarious livelihoods. Whether working or displaced by a new wave of automation, people face a range of social justice issues linked to uses of technology. This network will offer researchers the chance to address these issues and develop alternative systems.”

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the £1.2m NetworkPlus project will focus on developing social justice through the digital economy. It has three strands: algorithmic justice, security for all and fairer futures for businesses and workers, and will explore issues such as how to ensure protection for the vulnerable when they go online and how digital platforms can be designed to deliver ethical business models.

In addition to the work led by the University of Sussex to explore ways to ensure fair opportunities and working conditions as digital technologies change the very nature of work, the project will also seek solutions to how computers and algorithms can help make services and their decision-making processes fairer as well as exploring ways to ensure that digital security models ensure the safeguarding of everyone.

Dr Clara Crivellaro, from Newcastle University’s School of Computing and NetworkPlus director, said: “We live in times of exceptional digital innovation that can really enhance our problem-solving capacities. But technology can either reinforce inequality or help mitigate it. With this NetworkPlus, we want to create the conditions for technology to support social justice.”

Two one-day launch events in London and Newcastle in January 2019 will give an opportunity to attendees to meet Network+ partners, share ideas, and hear about the funding criteria, process and support available. The first will take place at the Digital Catapult in London on Tuesday 29 January, and the second at The Core in Newcastle Helix, on Thursday 31st January. Admission is free for both events, and tickets can be reserved through Eventbrite.

Further events will follow on all three themes with the University of Sussex hosting an event on the future of workforces in the first half of 2019.

By: Neil Vowles
Last updated: Friday, 21 December 2018