Our mission

The Network Institute is the hub for interdisciplinary research on the Digital Society at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
But what is the Digital Society? There are several definitions of digital society, our favourite is the one by Paul and Aithal: “The Digital Society is an interdisciplinary research area and a kind of progressive society that has been formed as a result of adaptation as well as integration of advanced technologies into the society and culture”. The Digital Society is already happening. Indeed, nowadays we fluently use various digital technologies – from smartphones to social robots, to global social networks, virtual/augmented reality, natural language processing tools, and virtual agents. Digital technologies are not static, they are always and rapidly evolving, and society is evolving with them.
Digital technologies and societal/cultural processes thus become increasingly entwined. To study how digital technologies and society interact, it is not sufficient to look at them from a monodisciplinary approach. Instead, an interdisciplinary mindset is necessary. The mission of the Network Institute is to:

Understand, challenge, and improve the Digital Society

This ambition builds on our deep belief that researchers, citizens, and organisations from different (cultural and professional) backgrounds must work together. It is only by working as a network that we are able to challenge our own ideas and working routines in order to understand the interaction between digital technologies and societal challenges, such as digital divide, opinions polarisation, privacy, fake news and disinformation, and health.

What we offer

The Network Institute implements its mission by providing a number of contributions and services to three main types of stakeholders:

  • Researchers interested in carrying out interdisciplinary research on the Digital Society
  • Young talents interested in taking their first steps into the world of interdisciplinary research on the Digital Society
  • Companies and organisations seeking support for amplifying their societal impact

The Network Institute is designed to be the ideal place to put in place our vision. These are the most relevant advantage points of our institute:

  • We have a privileged perspective over a wide pool of researchers who are experts within the various disciplines related to the Digital Society (such as, AI, ICT, social sciences, communication, law, etc.)
  • We have access to young talents (aka, Bachelor, Master, and PhD students) and the skills to train them towards academic excellence
  • We have a proven and long-lasting expertise to attract national and international funding, ranging from NWO/RVO national funds to European and other international funds
  • We have a proven and long-lasting expertise in organising (academic) events
  • We have the technical expertise (and equipment) on the most recent technologies, such as VR, AR, Cloud, AI. These can be used either for:
    • designing and conducting experiments on the Digital Society (via our Tech Labs)
    • providing advice on better understanding how such technologies impact commercial products, policies, and our society in general

Click here to access an extended description of our mission, values, vision, provided services, governance, and success stories.