What is digital influence?

In this article

Find out what digital influence is and what the DIIL does.

[ap_spacing spacing_height=”10px”][ap_column_wrap][ap_column span=”1″][ap_spacing spacing_height=”10px”][/ap_column][ap_column span=”4″]Digital influence aims to change real-world behaviours by shaping perceptions, attitudes, preferences and decision-making in the digital space. And by bringing about desired outcomes for political, social and economic goals. It is highly politicised, publicised and contentious. It is central to debates and discussions on the conduct of foreign and security policy, the future of democracy, media, freedom of expression, international development, and the future of civic and private life.

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As the digital space expands, so digital influence becomes more pervasive in the lives of nations, societies and peoples. It is central to emerging Government Technology (GovTech and Data Civics) practice at local, national and international levels and to the development of transnational activities. It is also available to a multiplicity of non-state actors, organisations and individuals as the entry costs of publication in the digital space are practically nil.

Given the pace of change and range of ethical and other concerns about data-driven, digital technologies, it can be hard for governments, public and private organisations, and citizens to keep up. DIIL aims to help policy makers make better decisions. Digital influence is, however, not only a matter for public policy, it affects us all, and we can all participate in it. DIIL recognises that citizens also benefit from a more nuanced understanding of how to use and evaluate digital information, narratives and images in a more effective and critical manner. As public understanding increases, people will also understand better when they are being influenced and how to modify their responses accordingly. This matters to the conduct of civic life, wellbeing and social cohesion.

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What we do

We connect transdisciplinary research with policy and practice. We offer a range of services and tools, drawing on: the computational and experimental work of the Neuropolitics Research Lab (NRLabs); the social computational expertise of the Social Media Analysis and Support for Humanity (SMASH) Lab; M&C Saatchi World Services’ expertise in data-driven research for social listening; and International Cultural Relations’ experience and networks in public policy and practice.

Our services

  • Monitor: A subscription-based ‘MONITOR’ service that will offer real time reports on digital influence tracking topics in multiple languages is under development and available to early subscribers.
  • Research Consultancy: In-depth analyses of digital influence. We offer consultancy services for policymakers and NGOs to help develop the policies and strategies needed for understanding and operating successfully in the digital age.
  • Tools: DIIL draws on the University of Edinburgh’s strengths in Informatics, Design, Social Computing and Neuroscience to develop bespoke tools to analyse digital influence.
  • Transformative Learning: Executive education for policy makers and others to help understand digital influence. Individuals will be able to choose from a range of programmes offered by DIIL including Winter and Summer Schools.
  • Public Understanding: We aim to improve public understanding of digital influence through our learning, public and policy engagement, and DIIL publishing activities.

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Ethics and Governance

We are a partnership whose members share a commitment to maintain the highest standards of integrity in all aspects of research. DIIL research adheres to stringent University of Edinburgh codes of research ethics, integrity and governance.


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