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Emerging digital technologies – especially those that are data-driven, intelligent and algorithmic – have the potential to transform how we live our lives and impact on our health and wellbeing, our safety and security, and our work and autonomy. Yet technology-centric products, services and systems often cause more problems than they solve.

The vision of Human and Digital Design is to ensure that digital technologies are developed and used in ways that enable everyone in society to thrive. Our researchers design, understand, build and advocate for socially responsible technologies that are ethically sound and realise the positive transformational benefits emerging technologies can have for diverse members of society. Our projects provide research and insights that embed socially responsible design into the development of digital products, services and systems, to ensure benefits are maximised, and unintended harms are minimised, for all.

Digital connectivity provides a means to empower and unite citizens. However, emerging technologies are being designed and used in ways that have potential to cause social and organisational harms, and with this exacerbate and create new forms of digital exclusion, marginalisation and inequality. Consider the harms that can be caused by virtual agents and bots controlled by malevolent artificial intelligence, the impact of a total loss of personal privacy by providing health data to public and private entities, or the social and economic costs of new forms of unregulated work with few or no social protections.

While concerns around the encroachment of technology on society is an old if recurring debate, they have become especially pressing during the enduring global pandemic, which has rapidly accelerated the uptake of digital and data-driven technology and brought both opportunities for new ways of living and working. It has also caused new forms of exclusion, isolation and harm for certain communities and populations. The challenges posed to humanity of poor and unethical technology development and adoption are increasing rapidly and can no longer be ignored. It is essential to identify, and work with individuals and groups who would benefit from improving digital access and skills to ensure that no one is left behind and to avoid digital disempowerment.  

Our research

Our multidisciplinary activities are currently organised around four domains, underpinned by expert capabilities. These domains are: digital health and wellbeing; digital security, trust and privacy; digital social justice and citizenship; digital across the life-course.

Digital Vitality, Health and WellBeing – This will explore explore the role of emerging technologies in community, peer-to-peer and individual care and wellbeing. It will also support data-enabled design of individual, social and group interventions to promote positive health and vitality. We work with Integrated Health and Social Care to support digital health initiatives. 

Digital security, privacy and trust for all – Our focus is Human-centered approaches to understanding the threats and risks to personal, individual and community safety, security and privacy posed by emerging technologies, in particular to marginalised populations and individuals on the periphery of society. We explore the role of algorithms and data technology and work across disciplines to understand the interaction between humans, data and technology to provide fair, secure digital environments and societies. We seek to ensure that people can protect themselves and their assets from psychological, financial and social harm. 

Digital connections, social justice and citizenship – We seek to understand how to design digital platforms to empower marginalised groups and promote new forms of civic and social action; and understanding the ethical and legislative implications of emerging technologies on citizen and non-citizen rights and employment.

Digital across the life course – Exploring the life-long role technology plays in providing opportunities for all ages. From school age children and those in higher education, to adult learning and continuation into older age. This will ensure that all age groups, across all communities are equipped with the knowledge and skills to safely and responsibly navigate a more digital landscape.

Centre for Digital Citizens

Central to our research is a new research centre which will address the challenges of digital citizenship. The Centre for Digital Citizens, led by Northumbria and Newcastle Universities, will explore how digital technologies can support areas such as public health and wellbeing, community engagement, learning and safety. 


Our Co-Leads are Professors Lynne Coventry and Rob Wilson.

Professor Lynne Coventry has an interdisciplinary background combining interests in psychology, computing and interaction design. She is best known for her work on cybersecurity behaviours and understanding the barriers to adoption of technology by older adults. 

Professor Rob Wilson's research interests include the challenges of applied interdisciplinarity in collaboration and integration of information systems in multi-agency working in a range of public sector contexts (including health, social care and welfare).

Membership comes from across the University including Art and Design, Psychology, Business, and Law. Our partners include Mozilla Foundation, Microsoft Research, Google, NHS Digital, NHS Foundation Trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups (multiple), Academic Health Science Network, Local authorities (multiple), Great North Care Record, Health Call, Philips, BBC, Policy Lab, Northumbria Police, Yoti, Santander UK, Monzo, FutureGov, Oxfam, International Federation of Red Crescent Societies, NCVO, VONNE, Youth Focus North East, My Society, Doteveryone, Open Rights Group. We will also engage with key stakeholders who influence regional and national funding and industry priorities, including the North East LEP, Digital Union, and SuperInnovation Network.




More events

Upcoming events

DynaSun 2024
TaPRA Conference 2024

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