The Internet allows access to a wide range of information, it facilitates conversations, networking with like-minded users, and the coordination of interest groups. The Internet promises a more vibrant, diverse and competitive public sphere, a flattening of hierarchical decision-making processes, and more citizen participation in public decision-making. However, as more and more people are using the Internet to communicate, retrieve information, contribute and share content, what becomes increasingly apparent is that the social and strategic competencies needed to make full use of the participatory potentials of the Internet differ among the socially disadvantaged on the one hand, and the more 'elite' users on the other hand. Different Internet use, online skills, and online as well as offline participation play a significant role in this divide.
With the 'Digital Inclusion Network', we want to search for practical measures to build a more inclusionary online space, through bringing the Norwegian and US research community closer together. We will seek answers to such questions as to in what ways the Internet helps overcome exclusion, by better access to information, learning and support as well as better forms of participation. With the network, we want to establish learning opportunities form the rich body of US experiences, in particular when it comes to online diasporas and social marginalization, and intend to design comparative research with a Scandinavian approach to policy building and inclusion. Over the course of two years, we intend to foster near-term collaboration, to connect scholars with similar or overlapping topical interests and research approaches within the US and Scandinavia, search for mid-long term collaboration opportunities, and to invite the public to a series of discussion sessions on building a more inclusionary Internet.
With the Digital Inclusion research network, we are interested to explore, in collaboration with the researchers at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, the effect social media may have on the welfare of people in society.
Long-term knowledge development in the project will focus on the digital community and inclusion of citizens, and the strategies employed in terms of media use, identity management and skill development to best enable economic, cultural and social inclusion via digital means.
Working together with the research community in the United States, we want to disseminate theoretical as well as methodological and empirical knowledge between Norway and the United States. Our goal here is to help finding ways to empower citizens to benefit from participation in digital media, and to improve exchange between Norwegian and American Internet scholars.