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dr.ing. A.J.A.M. van Deursen (Alexander)

Associate Professor

About Me

As a scholar at the University of Twente, I work in three lines of research (digital inequality, digital skills to participate in the information and network society, and 21st century skills at work) with the overarching theme of digital inclusion. Within debates concerning social inequality, inclusive societies, or the grand challenge of well-being, it is my goal to evaluate the contribution of technological developments. Original utopian views - based on extrapolations of the Internet’s technological characteristics - predicted levelling effects on existing forms of social inequality. We now know that such prospects of techno-gurus are unrealistic. In a scientific manner I map barriers of online engagement and explain differences in the outcomes that people get from engaging with digital content.

Expertise

Internet
Internet
Digital Divide
Internet
Inequality
Electronic Government
Model
Education

Research

Research line 1: Digital inequality

In the first line of research I focus on the use and effects of Internet (technology) in relation to a person’s position in society. I recently showed that some sections of the population more frequently use applications that have the greatest advantages for accruing capital and resources (such as work, study and societal participation), while other sections relatively often choose to use entertainment applications that have little advantage. Besides increasing relative differences, there is the disturbing trend of absolute exclusion; when offline alternatives become unavailable. By building on traditional classifications of potential areas of exclusion in my theorization, I try to understand who benefits in what way from the Internet. To further enrich quantitative work, I focus on specific types of internet usage that affect offline outcomes across several areas of society.

During my stay at London School of Economics and Political Science (LsE), I worked on the project 'From digital skills to tangible outcomes’ (DISTO). With scholars from LsE and Oxford University we created a theory driven index for digital exclusion. The index follows the process of technology appropriation by accounting for motivation, access, skills, uses and offline outcomes. Last year, I was awarded a grant to study the interrelationship between social and digital inequality by following technology use in the household context for several months.

Research Line 2: Digital skills to participate in the information and network society.

Digital skills play an important role in the translation of a type of use (e.g., search for a job) in the corresponding outcome (employment). Performance tests based on my framework of six types of skills (operational, formal, information, communication, content creation and strategic) revealed that assumptions about the level of digital skills among citizens are unjustified. I have for example shown that older users outperform young users in content-related digital skills, and that we should not underestimate the importance of traditional skills for performing on digital skills. With graduate students, I am currently conducting performance tests of skills that are required for new – supposedly more intuitive – devices. From a practical perspective, much of the interest in this research line comes from the public domain, for example in relation to the objectives regarding the digital government. Digital skills are considered an important requisite to achieve this objective.

Research Line 3: Digital skills for 21st century labor

The third line of research is an extension of the previous one and concerns the skills needed in the context of employment. In political and economic discussions about what knowledge and skills are important in our current and future society, these skills are referred to as ‘21st century skills.’ Examples are information management, communication, collaboration, problem solving, or critical thinking, skills that are also needed in the digital environment. In this line of research I respond to challenges such as the increasing demand for high skilled jobs, or the mismatch between what students learn at school and what the labor market requires. In 2012 and 2013, I conducted vignette studies and interviews that revealed that much time is lost in the workplace because of digital skill shortages, that organizations take few initiatives to support the worker, and that the effects of training are underestimated. Last year, I was awarded an NWO project (eskills in the Dutch creative sector) which aims to identify digital skills for workers in the creative sector and to determine the level of these skills and the interplaying factors influencing this level. The results help to establish policy that will be applied in the last phase of the project.

Publications

Recent Articles
van Laar, E., van Deursen, A. J. A. M., van Dijk, J. A. G. M., & de Haan, J. (2017). 21st-Century digital skills for work: A systematic literature review. Paper presented at 67th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association 2017, San Diego, United States.
van Deursen, A. J. A. M., Helsper, E., Eynon, R., & van Dijk, J. A. G. M. (2017). The Compoundness and Sequentiality of Digital Inequality. International journal of communication, 11, 452-473.
van Deursen, A. J. A. M., Helsper, E. J., & Eynon, R. (2016). Development and validation of the Internet Skills Scale (ISS). Information, communication and society, 19(6), 804-823. DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2015.1078834
van Deursen, A. J. A. M., Helsper, E., Eynon, R., & van Dijk, J. A. G. M. (2016). Compound and Sequential Digital Exclusion: Internet Skills, Uses, and Outcomes. Paper presented at 66th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, ICA 2016, Fukuoka, Japan.
van Deursen, A. J. A. M., & Helsper, E. (2016). Quantity and Quality of Support for Digital Engagement. Paper presented at 66th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, ICA 2016, Fukuoka, Japan.
Helsper, E. J., van Deursen, A. J. A. M., & Eynon, R. (2016). Measuring types of internet use: from digital skills to tangible outcomes project report. Oxford Internet Institute, University of Twente, The London School of Economics and Political Science.
van Deursen, A. J. A. M., & Helsper, E. J. (2015). A nuanced understanding of Internet use and non-use among the elderly. European journal of communication, 30(2), 171-187. DOI: 10.1177/0267323115578059
de Greef, M., Segers, M., Nijhuis, J., Lam, J. F., van Groenestijn, M., van Hoek, F., ... Tubbing, M. (2015). The development and validation of testing materials for literacy, numeracy and digital skills in a Dutch context. International review of education, 61(5), 655-671. DOI: 10.1007/s11159-015-9519-4
van Deursen, A. J. A. M. (2015). Digitale ongelijkheid in Nederland. In ICT kennis en economie 2015 (pp. 274-281). CBS.
van Deursen, A. J. A. M., & van Dijk, J. A. G. M. (2015). New Media and the Digital Divide. In J. D. Wright (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences (Second Edition) (pp. 787-792). ELSEVIER. DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-08-097086-8.95086-4
Helsper, E. J., & van Deursen, A. J. A. M. (2015). Digital skills in Europe: research and policy. In K. Andreasson (Ed.), Digital Divides: The New Challenges and Opportunities of e-Inclusion (pp. 125-148). (Public administration and public policy). CRC Press.

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Contact Details

Visiting Address

University of Twente
Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Cubicus (building no. 41), room C 215
De Zul 10
7522NJ  Enschede
The Netherlands

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Mailing Address

University of Twente
Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Cubicus  C 215
P.O. Box 217
7500 AE Enschede
The Netherlands

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www.alexandervandeursen.nl

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