Digital technologies, while expanding existing possibilities and creating new opportunities, are also a source of key challenges, as they cause new uncertainties and potential risks that could negatively affect human autonomy, democracy, innovation, and social cohesion. These opportunities and challenges are central to current EU policymaking, which aims to promote a human-centered digital transformation. However, the measurements currently available of the transformation focus primarily on infrastructures (e.g., 5G, cloud computing) and partially on other limited aspects of technology adoption (e.g., digital skills). Indicators more relevant to assessing broader societal impacts are piecemeal and not apt to provide a coherent and systematic overview of the effects of the digital transformation across the EU.
The call for papers and the follow-up interdisciplinary workshop aims to gather the views of economists, lawyers, political and social scientists, as well as engineers and computer scientists on the most appropriate measurement of the impact of the ongoing digital transformation on markets and society. It invites scholars to contribute to the assessment of the features of current indicators and sources of information, of their limits and of the present measurement gaps. Moreover, it wants to elicit ideas and scholarly views on the possible routes and priorities in addressing these gaps, as well as on the methodological aspects of single measures and on their combination in indexes and metrics that can represent the complexity of the phenomenon.
More precisely, the workshop aims at advancing academic thinking on a broader view of the measurement of the digital society and therefore on the development of EU-level evidence-based policies in this area by addressing a range of issues including (but not limited to):
- What are the main existing sources of information and how are they used to measure relevant aspects of the digital transformation?
- What are the main current gaps in the measurement of the digital transformation?
- What can we learn from existing attempts at measuring the digital transformation and their limitations?
- Can the existing academic literature on the measurement of institutions and on structural indicators provide guidance on the issue of measuring the impact of digital transformation on society?
- How to correctly balance recourse to objective sources of information and information based on subjective or expert perceptions?
- How to develop indicators best suited for international comparisons and index aggregation?
- Can digital tools such as machine learning techniques and big data contribute to the search and development of appropriate indicators of the social impact of digitalisation?
- What new indicators and measurements are needed to assess the effectiveness of recent EU regulatory interventions in the digital sphere (i.e., DMA, DSA, AI Act, GDPR, etc.)?
- What measurements should be prioritised to improve EU evidence-based policymaking with respect to the digital transformation?
Theoretical, methodological, review and applied papers are welcome. Given the exploratory nature of the themes addressed by this call for papers, the workshop is open to accepting long abstracts and preliminary projects for discussion.
Expected workshop output
The workshop would constitute an intermediate step in the broader project to conceptualise and define a new holistic index – the Digital Society Observatory (DSO) – to be established by the Centre for a Digital Society (CDS). Selected papers could be published as RSCAS WP and/or in a Special Issue of an academic journal dedicated to the framework and findings of the new research project.