Knowledge and Well-Being in the Digital Society

[New preprint posted to SocArXiv]

Has the internet made all the world’s knowledge universally accessible to everyone, anytime and anywhere?

No. But access to knowledge has changed a lot since the 1990s. Ubiquitous digital media means people have developed new default ways of searching for information in everyday life, and there is a lack of research on the structure and outcomes of this change. Successfully fulfilling these mundane knowledge needs can impact subjective well-being and life outcomes, especially in transitional phases such as emerging adulthood. Success, i.e., finding what you need and want, depends on you / the demand (individual level) AND on what is out there in the “digital knowledge infrastructure” / the supply (infrastructure level). The resulting model accordingly has a micro level with various mechanisms that shape how digital information seeking arises and impacts well-being; and a macro level process of the governance of socio-technical infrastructure.

This discussion and model was motivated by previous digital well-being research and Jürgen Renn’s concept of the Epistemic Web, which you can read about here in chapter 32 (open access) and here.

Epistemic Web: A World Wide Web optimized for the purposes of the global knowledge economy, including open access to both content and enriched link structures, and offering prosumers multiple ways to interact with the knowledge through interagents. The structures of links between documents are exposed as federating documents; all data are metadata; and all documents are perspectives into the universe of knowledge (Renn, 2020, p. 424).

Equitable digital societies require understanding and governing how digital media enable access to which knowledge. Considering the knowledge needs and dynamic life trajectories in the digital society, research is needed that provides critical empirical and theoretical insights.

Full paper:


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