Media and communication are changing fundamentally, with increased convergence and an evolution from mass communication and personal media to mass self-communication. Mediated communication becomes increasingly participative and personalised by means of social computing (Web 2.0). In this realm the user is the central actor, but only to the extent that he or she is actually empowered to grasp the opportunities and face the challenges in the digital media environment.
The goal of the interdisciplinary project EMSOC is to critically assess to what extent and how people are empowered or disempowered via their everyday use of social media. We investigate how the vulnerability of these people (does not) change(s) through these new forms of online communication and interaction. The issues are addressed from a social, legal, media, educational and policy perspective.
This research about user empowerment in a social media culture revolves around three societal dimensions:
1. Inclusion: to understand the relation between social media and people we need to understand who gets access to which kinds of social media technologies and services and why. That is why we give extra importance to the notion vulnerability (of certain actors) in a social media environment.
2. Literacy: not all users have the same capabilities to use social media to the fullest potential in their own life and work. Only those that are sufficiently digital literate are able to use these media adequately. Therefore the project wants to elaborate on the concept of digital literacy vis-à-vis social media.
3. Privacy: many users lack sufficient understanding of new evolutions and consequences of data mining, analysis and (commercial) diffusion of their digital activities (digital footprint). For this we analyse the (im)permeabilty between the public and the private for mass self-communication in a legal and user centered way.
To achieve optimal valorisation our results are communicated and adapted to the needs of EMSOC's Advisory Committee of Users (ACU). This committee consists of various societal stakeholders who play an important role in Flanders social media debate.