Horizon CDT Research Highlights

Research Highlights

Exploring Working Age Social Isolation, Digitally and Spatially and enabling Social Inclusion.

  Dominic Reedman-Flint (2017 cohort)   www.nottingham.ac.uk/~psxdrr

Context The purpose of this PhD is to explore whether Social Isolation and Loneliness (SIL) can be identified in an specific group of working age people through digital data and if intelligent mobility strategies can aid in reducing this phenomenon. This question presents a variety of avenues of exploration, from types and accessibility of digital data, through impact of location (urban, suburban and semi-rural ‘Commuterville’), from defining the cohort to be examined to intelligent mobility solutions and measuring success. It is possible that a new definition of Social Isolation will develop from this PhD. Social Isolation and Loneliness is currently defined within Public Health England literature as Social isolation: The inadequate quality and quantity of social relations with other people at the different levels where human interaction takes place (individual, group, community and the larger social environment). Loneliness: An emotional perception that can be experienced by individuals regardless of the breadth of their social networks. I am interested to know if, in this digital age where communication is increasingly virtual, these definitions are still relevant. Does social media isolate or connect us? Does our interactions with AI in the home (eg Alexa, Smart TV) impact on feelings of isolation? Are there interventions in these realms that may decrease SIL? Exploring these areas will form the early drive behind this PhD. I will then move over to considering potential areas within the realms of Intelligent Mobility that may reduce SIL. It has been long recognised that lack of public transport connectivity is a major contributing factor to Social Exclusion, which, in turn, can lead to Social Isolation Background The interest in this area of research came about from a knowledge of data available and underused at Local Authority level, an interest in understanding if emotional reactions can be identified through digital footprints; An awareness that no research has been done into SIL in working age people, with a major focus on the elderly and some attention towards teens and, given the increasing global nature of the workforce and the end of ‘jobs for life’, an increasing need to explore this area; And an interest in seeing how intelligent mobility strategies may act as an enabler for reducing isolationism. Methods This PhD will involve literature reviews to identify existing definitions of SIL and provide a start point for analysis of what I am searching for through digital data and seeking to relieve through intelligent mobility. Identifying who I am considering within the broad scope of ‘working age’ will require some legitimate framing based upon research and availability of appropriate data. Elsewhere I will use language analysis methods to attempt to identify SIL on Social Media. There will be spatial studies to compare and contrast SIL across urban, suburban and semi-rural locales (using digital data held about individuals). There will also be trials of a limited number of intelligent mobility products and services identified at the start of the PhD to recognise and measure any ‘success’. Outcomes The importance from the start is identifying what success looks like. In order to do this framing the PhD around some identifiable artefacts or strategies that are measurable in terms of preventing isolation is a key driver. Having some ‘product’ identified in the first instance will drive the PhD in a direction and help to tie it all together. Hence, identifying this output will be a key initial driver for the PhD.


  1. Zavaleta D, Samuel K, Mills C. Social isolation: a conceptual and measurement proposal. POPHI Working Paper No 67, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, 2014. Aybek, C. M., Huinink, J. and Muttarak, R. (2015) ‘Migration, spatial mobility, and living arrangements: An introduction’, in Spatial Mobility, Migration, and Living Arrangements, pp. 1–19. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-10021-0_1. Schaie, K. W. et al. (2003) Aging independently: living arrangements and mobility, Springer Pub., New York, NY. Springer Pub.Schaie, K. W. (Klaus W. and Pietrucha, M. (2000) Mobility and transportation in the elderly. Springer Pub. O’Keeffe, G. S., Clarke-Pearson, K. and Council on Communications and Media, C. on C. and (2011) ‘The impact of social media on children, adolescents, and families.’, Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics, 127(4), pp. 800–4. doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-0054. Bell, C. et al. (2013) ‘Examining social media use among older adults’, in Proceedings of the 24th ACM Conference on Hypertext and Social Media - HT ’13. New York, New York, USA: ACM Press, pp. 158–163. doi: 10.1145/2481492.2481509. Taha, L. H. and Caldwell, B. S. (1993) ‘Social isolation and integration in electronic environments’, Behaviour and Information Technology. Taylor & Francis Group , 12(5), pp. 276–283. doi: 10.1080/01449299308924391.


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This author is supported by the Horizon Centre for Doctoral Training at the University of Nottingham (RCUK Grant No. EP/L015463/1) and Ordnance Survey.