Almost four years ago, the university began a digital human science initiative. The term barely existed, but this field of research was certainly found to exist at the university. Digital human science differs from the term digital humanities, which is used at many other universities. The idea is to describe research into digitalisation and its consequences and it crosses the faculty borders between humanities, social sciences and law.

Uno Fors. Photo: Eva Dalin

“We have seen very great interest from researchers; our seminars have been fully booked and we have found that a great deal is already going on in this subject,” says Uno Fors, professor at the Department of Data and System Sciences and project manager for the university’s digital human science initiative.

The Board of Humanities took the initiative for this work, for which the Vice Chancellor has allocated SEK 3.5 million. The task was to map out the field, gather together and develop human science at the university, organise seminars and workshops and determine a definition for the term. Twelve research projects have received funding within the initiative, either for smaller projects or to apply for external funding.

The digital human science hub 

The project group asked researchers working on digital human science what they needed and the most common answer was coordination via a network, but also new project funding. A decision will be taken in December on how the university will proceed. The proposal being worked out is for a long-term approach in the form of a digital human science hub as a meeting place for all researchers in this area. How comprehensive the hub will be remains to be seen.
“Something is needed that will continue to arrange meetings, the individual researcher cannot manage alone. In the longer term, I hope it can be something bigger than a network. So that we can take in doctoral students and visiting researchers and develop the subject,” says Uno Fors.
Regardless of how large the next initiative will be, research in digital human science continues. An anthology will be published in summer 2020 and many of the research projects that have started since 2016 live on.

Digital human science

Digital human science at Stockholm University is defined as “interdisciplinary studies of digital artefacts and environments and their significance for humanity and society. This includes human science studies of actors and their roles in the digital society, social and legal aspects, questions of responsibilities and ethics and interaction between people in digital systems and between people and digital entities.”