Networking for Society

Cultural, economic, political, educational, and other social issues are rising around the implications of new information and communication networks across the world. New technologies, like artificial intelligence (AI) have raised Utopian views on their transformative potential for work and leisure but also dystopian visions. Has the world reached an inflection point when the harms associated with technology are overcoming the benefits, from exacerbating problems such as disinformation to posing existential threats to humanity. Too often, claims about the benefits and harms of new network technologies are technologically deterministic, fearmongering, or otherwise divorced from evidence such as around how technologies are used by individuals, households, business and industries, governments, and institutions, from the press or voluntary organizations.

Portulans Institute seeks to marshal data and related evidence, from case studies to global surveys and data collections, such as the Network Readiness Index (NRI), to critically examine claims about the social implications of new technologies and emerging assemblages of media technologies. Projects, reports, academic papers, blogs, and panel discussions are among the approaches we use to challenge claims about the impact of technologies of the digital age – whether positive or negative – to more analytical scrutiny and evidence-based research. Policy and practice for the public good needs to avoid fearmongering and advance creative empirical research on the social shaping and impacts of new technological developments of the digital age.

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