Political science focusses on people’s values, and their desires about how to organise the shared elements of society. However, today we must focus, deepen and improve theories about how digitalisation interacts with the remoulding and development of public values. Our research group analyses how the institutions of society are changing, and how power is expressed in public governance and organisation. Our starting point is that digitalisation and society affect each other in mutual interaction. We are currently working in three areas, described in more detail in the projects detailed below.
All our research is carried out in close collaboration with other organisations in society, students and creative people, in order to ensure the relevance and utilisation of what we do. Academic freedom is crucial for creativity and the advancement of knowledge. In my management role at LiU, I am driven by a desire to increase academic freedom based on democratic values in order to build creative meetings, and thus meet the challenges of the future in a more sustainable manner.
The fundamental values of the digital society
The first theme concerns the fundamental values of the digital society. On a firm foundation of perspectives of democracy and public administration from political science, we analyse how the fundamental values of democracy change in relationship to digital solutions and services. These services are currently characterised by a high degree of individualism, market orientation and commercialisation. But what happens to the way we regard public life and mutual interests when these are digitalised? How does our understanding of what is private and public change? How are new limits set? Who owns our personal information and how can common values be utilised? We base our examination of these questions on extensive high-quality field studies in the operations of municipal and other publicly financed bodies, with a focus on service development, automation and security.
Inclusion in digital societies
One subtheme of the theme described above focusses on strategies to increase inclusion in digital societies. The use of new technology is ever-spreading as a continuous front of progress and development, which meets and interacts with the behaviour and social contexts of people. Many people and communities stand in the shadows of those who have the expertise, ability and resources to adopt new technology with ease. The many new applications of digitalisation are accompanied by continuous redefinition of the borders between those who are inside and those who are outside. Traditional correlations between socio-economic parameters such as income, education and age are now no longer sufficient to explain digital and social divides, and even less so to address them. We work together with libraries and the Digidel network to increase knowledge and support societal development for increased digital inclusion. Together with the Swedish National Digitalisation Council, we have recently delivered to the government a report into digital skills, containing suggestions how to increase inclusion in the digitalisation process.
The power of digitalisation for change
Our third research theme deals with placing the power of digitalisation for change relative to urban and regional planning for sustainable development with a particular focus on political management at all levels: from global development goals to growth and creativity in local communities. This, of course, brings us back to questions about public values, power and governance in the digital society. This theme also deals with how to ensure that as many as possible can be included in the sustainable digital society, and how it can develop in a democratic and inclusive manner. We collaborate with the Swedish Institute to educate young professionals in eastern Europe in sustainable digital public administration.