Digital Technologies, Communication and Artificial Intelligence (DCA)


The Digital Technologies, Communication and Artificial Intelligence (DCA) Pathway focuses on the key contemporary challenges that emanate from the intersection of technology and society, and considers how new and emergent technologies such as artificial intelligence are transforming our understanding of the societal world and what it means to be human. This Pathway deals with a range of interconnected issues, examining how social dynamics shape and are shaped by digital infrastructures; the facilitative role of the internet and digital platforms in terms of identity-shaping, community-building, and societal change; how digital data is gathered and used by public and private organisations; the evolving relationship between digital platforms and corporate and state regulations in terms of platform governance, surveillance and censorship; the effects of metrics and algorithmic biases on information production, dissemination and use; and, the impacts and ethics of artificial intelligence in terms of supporting or displacing human endeavour. The DCA Pathway adopts a broad focus, examining such issues at the micro-level of individual practices through to the macro-level of global networks and transnational platforms; and pays critical attention to the socio-political disparities that exist in terms of access to infrastructure and unfiltered information. 

Contributing disciplines 

To address the challenges above, new ways of thinking that draw on a range of perspectives are required, and the DCA Pathway adopts an interdisciplinary approach that brings together fields including information science, sociology, media and communication studies, journalism, psychology, linguistics, geography, science and technology studies. The DCA Pathway is committed to methodological innovation and to research that uses cutting-edge tools such as social media data mining, practice-oriented digital hacking, visual methods, and critical approaches to big data. 

Pathway training and development 

The Pathway’s training supports students in theorising the relationship between technology and society, engaging with debates on, for instance, datafication, the sociology of AI, the political economy of global platforms and the impact of digital governance on the creative industries. Along with theory-based sessions, it offers advanced methodological training, supporting students in the design and implementation of research that employs cutting edge methods to collect, analyse and interpret digital data and establish good ethical practices. To ensure accessibility, the Pathway offers training through a combination of online and face-to-face interactive sessions, targeting students at different stages of their PhD programme.

Pathway Governance Team

Dr Warren Pearce

Pathway Director, University of Sheffield

Charles Umney

Prof Charles Umney

Deputy Director, University of Leeds

Maitrayee Basu

Dr Maitrayee Basu

Deputy Director, University of Leeds

Dr Dani Madrid-Morales

Deputy Director, University of Sheffield

Dr Tom O'Brien

Deputy Director, University of York