Giving Social Action a Voice

Reframing Communication as Social Action

“In recent times the social action agenda has started to recognise young people’s role as active citizens with the potential to drive social change in a constrained fiscal climate. This has been recognised in Government supported initiatives such as Step Up to Serve’s #iwill campaign and the National Citizen Service (NCS). While these programmes offer a ‘double benefit’ both to individuals and wider society, the programmes’ focus on skills development can mean that social action becomes a set of non-discursive, practical activities, which can leave the value of young people’s voices side-lined.

This [study, led by Gemma McKenna of Fixers and Dr Lee Edwards of the University of Leeds] was designed to contribute to the debate on youth social action by reframing communication about social issues as a transformational form of social action in itself. By extending the current perception of social action beyond its dominant definition, new priorities for the government’s social action agenda are proposed. The focus is re-positioned towards the importance of helping young people to communicate effectively about issues important to them.” (McKenna & Edwards 2016) Read more…

Communities at the Margins

meccsa communities at the margins 2016_Page_1Dr Helen Thornham and Prof. Claire Wallace led a plenary session with Dr Leah Bassel (New Blood Senior Lecturer at University of Leicester) at the MeCCSA conference, this month. Dr Thornham’s presentation raised the issue of digital inequalities, data and NEET groups in Leeds and presented key findings from the CCN+ research portfolio.




Public Health 2.0

Public health 2.0 poster

Hosted by mHabitat and the Communities and Culture Network+ at the School of Media and Communications at the University of Leeds, Public Health 2.0 was a half day workshop in which we heard about existing work in this field and considered the future of public health fuelled by digital innovation – the opportunities, the challenges and the threats. The event included talks by Dr Madeline Balaam (lecturer in Interaction Design in Computing Science at Newcastle University and a member of Open Lab), Helen Thornham (Associate Professor in Digital Culture at the University of Leeds) and Victoria Betton (mHabitat).

During the workshop, we discussed the ethics, challenges and disruptions around public health in relation to digital and social media. We also explored a number of cutting edge digital technologies and interactions, including technological and business advances through community initiatives like FeedFinder – an App that enables women to find, rate and share places for public breastfeeding, and AppMovement – a platform enabling communities to commission and design their own location review applications, and develop a crowd-generated evidence base through which to drive change.

Participants included representatives from Leeds City Council, Leeds Health and Social Care Transformations Portfolio, Health Watch, Leeds Community Health Care, HSCIC, NHS Scotland, Bradford District CCG, and academics from the University of Leeds.


Fully Funded Ph.D. Scholarships in Media and Arts Technology (MAT)

Available for September 2016 intake

EPSRC/AHRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Media and Arts Technology
School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science

Queen Mary University of London

The PhD in Media and Arts Technology is an innovative inter-disciplinary programme in the science and technologies that transform the creative sector, with a special focus on Music, Media, and the Arts. Our mission is to produce post-graduates who combine world-class technical and creative skills and are ready to contribute to Digital Economy. Read more

The ethics of digital innovation in health and care


January 13 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Digital innovation is heralded as the panacea for modern health and social care – creating more efficient and effective services, enabling patients to take more control of their health, and citizens to manage their transactions with government online. Personalised Health and Care 2020 (November 2015) sets out a framework for digital technologies with a bold ambition:

One of the greatest opportunities of the 21st century is the potential to safely harness the power of the technology revolution, which has transformed our society, to meet the challenges of improving health and providing better, safer, sustainable care for all. To date the health and care system has only begun to exploit the potential of using data and technology at a national or local level. Our ambition is for a health and care system that enables people to make healthier choices, to be more resilient, to deal more effectively with illness and disability when it arises, and to have happier, longer lives in old age; a health and care system where technology can help tackle inequalities and improve access to services for the vulnerable.

But in our rush to embrace digital technologies, are we paying proper attention to the implications for all of us as patients and citizens? What does digitally transformed health and care mean for privacy and surveillance? Who benefits and who might get left behind from the so called ‘digital revolution’ in health and care? How do we elide patient/citizen choice with professional expertise?

This session aimed to bring people with an interest in the topic to start a conversation. We hope that it will result a regular meet up of interested people and bridge a dialogue across disciplines and sectors and was aimed at academics, people accessing health and care services, practitioners, digital innovators and anyone else with an interest in this topic.

The session was hosted by Victoria Betton, director of digital health programme mHabitat and PhD student at the School of Media and Communications; Dr Helen Thornham, Associate Professor Digital Cultures at the School of Media and Communications; Dr Ian Kellar, Associate Professor and lead for behaviour change at the School of Psychology; Imran Ali, Founder of Carbon Engineering and Living Lab, with an interest in emerging technologies.



Victoria Betton mhealthhabitat

Dr. Ian Keller: University of Leeds

Nicola Tiffany: HMA Digital Marketing

Dex Hannon: Healthwatch Team

Dr. Chris Till: Leeds Beckett University

Dylan Roberts: Chief Digital Officer, Leeds Council

Dr Mohannad Alajlani: Teaching Fellow Informatics, LIDA, University of Leeds

Susan Morton: Research Assistant Leeds Beckett University

Rachel Rutherford: Ripple Programme Leeds Council

Imran Ali: Carbon Imagineering

Nathanial Mills: Titch, Devices For Dignity

Maneesh Juneja: Digital Health Futurist

Dr. Sue Richardson: University of Bradford

Alison Potts: Leeds Involving People, Leeds Hospital Trust

Helen Thornham, University of Leeds