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Communities, Democracy and Society

Many citizens are better connected than ever before. We consume, share, and discuss vast quantities of connected information and content on a daily basis and make use of this to form our relationships, opinions and behaviours. Much of our exposure to narratives about the world around us - and each other – often seem influenced by online rumour and misinformation, as well as being often orchestrated by those in power, and the long-term implications of this are as yet unclear. AI now plays a significant – yet often hidden - role in both how this information is recommended to us and – increasingly – in the generation of content itself. Meta for instance have revealed [1] that more than 20% of the content in Facebook and Instagram feeds is now recommended by AI from people, groups or accounts that users do not actually follow. Europol, the law enforcement agency of the European Union, have also recently speculated [2] that as much as 90% of online content may be synthetically generated by 2026. This is also set against a backdrop of the natural migration to ‘digital first’ platforms by official providers of information and services such as local and national government who are also keen to understand the role of AI in their provision [3]. These developments do not come – however - without challenges and unintended consequences to community cohesion, democratic process, and societal wellbeing.

This theme will explore how approaches that embed citizen-centred approaches to the design of AI can rethink and reconfigure access to, and engagement with, digital information and services to positively support citizens in seeking and sharing information around – for instance – access to public services, understanding of socio-political and public health issues, and how AI can support public consultation and democratic processes, and engagement with policy makers, local and central government services and systems. 

  1. Meta Q1 2023 Earnings Call 
  2. UK Gov (2023) “The use of generative AI in government” 
  3. Europol (2022), “Facing reality? Law enforcement and the challenge of deepfakes” an observatory report from the Europol Innovation Lab, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg


  • Professor Shaun Lawson 
  • Professor Pam Briggs 
  • Dr Kyle Montague 

Related Peak of Research Excellence

  • Computerised Society & Digital Citizens 

Related Projects at Northumbria

  • Centre for Digital Citizens 
  • DCitizens

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