University of Suffolk’s director of research Professor Emma Bond tackles the challenges of people and technology
- Credit: Archant
It is the interaction of people and technology that particularly interests the University of Suffolk’s director of research Professor Emma Bond.
She specialises in socio-technical research and is at the forefront of studies into young people’s use of the internet, social media and mobile technologies. With her team at the university she has also looked into areas such as revenge pornography and the use of technology in abusive relationships.
They are, she says, prepared to “delve into subjects that other people shy away from and tackle them head on”.
Emma’s work has brought recognition - she is on the expert advisory board for online advice service Internet Matters - while the university has built up both a national and international reputation for safeguarding and online safety for young people.
Unprecedented social change
But, she says, its not just young people whose lives are dominated by technology. Every generation, including the elderly, as well as businesses are having to learn to adapt to this brave new world.
“Never before have we had such unprecedented social change through technological advances,” continued Emma.
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“Older people are increasingly at risk of becoming victims of scams. Well meaning relatives are buying iPads and other devices because they are easy to use to keep in touch with them.
“It’s also quite difficult to do anything these days unless you are on the internet. You can’t book a doctor’s appointment without having to do it online.
She added: “But what we are not doing very well is educating older people around some of these issues and helping them to look critically at phishing e-mails or not to open an e-mail from someone they don’t know.
“And if they do fall victim to a financial scam or fraud, often they are too embarrassed to admit it.”
This holistic approach - considering the impact of technology across all generations, is typical of the ethos of openness that the university has developed. Emma says her work isn’t meant to stay in an ivory tower, its point is to inform and help the wider community in Suffolk and beyond.
She continued: “We are not just doing research behind the university’s four walls, we are particularly good at sharing and a lot of our research has real-life applications.”
Examples of the university’s accessibility include a conference it held this February on Safer Internet Day looking at the key online threats facing young people in 21st Century Britain. Over 160 delegates from schools, colleges and the health sector attended the Blurring Boundaries conference, as did Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore.
The university also recently hosted a high-profile symposium into the emerging and current challenges in cybercrime in collaboration with the Centre of Excellence in Terrorism, Resilience, Intelligence and Crime (CENTRIC) at Sheffield Hallam University.
When it comes to helping businesses tackle the myriad of challenges around online, the university has recently launched a
cybercrime research and consultancy unit based in its School of Science, Technology and Engineering headed up by Professor Nicholas Caldwell.
The aim is to deliver a series of public lectures around technology and cybercrime and to offer short courses and consultancy to businesses in this area. A new BSc (Hons) Cyber Security course will
also be launched in the autumn.
Some of the research Emma and her team are carrying out will feed into the unit.
She said: “The online world is really affecting businesses in terms of organisational reputation - what people are saying about them on Facebook and Twitter as well as how they are using social media to promote themselves. It’s also a challenge keeping safe so they don’t get hacked into.
“And with GDPR coming down the line - businesses have to know what strong encryption is, and how to use strong passwords.
“Because data is intangible – you can’t see it or feel it – businesses don’t think of it in the same way that they would lock the front door to protect their TV or the things they treasure.”
She added: “Over the next ten years we are looking to grow specialisms within our research, and because we are new and agile -we can respond to market needs, because we are not entrenched in traditional models of research.”