PhD student (4-year position) in Behavioural aspects of Internet-of-Things: a social-contextual perspective

The latest phase of technological development, the Internet-of-Things (IoT), is composed of everyday devices implemented with microprocessors and sensors (e.g., sound, movement, temperature) beyond the rectangular confines of PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones. The ...

14 dagen geleden


Drienerlolaan, Enschede, Overijssel
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
38 - 38 uur
€ 2222 - € 2840 per maand


The latest phase of technological development, the Internet-of-Things (IoT), is composed of everyday devices implemented with microprocessors and sensors (e.g., sound, movement, temperature) beyond the rectangular confines of PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones. The technology has been finding wide applicability and is expected to deliver great benefits to its users. The possibilities range from better healthcare as a result of health monitoring through wearables to less energy consumption as a result of smart thermostats. However, many of the possibilities that are emphasized in popular media are techno-utopian promises. The IoT combines device-device, device-person and person-person networked technologies. The devices and persons involved create a complex, omnipresent system in which IoT devices can go unnoticed and make autonomous decisions. So far, behavioral factors necessary to understand the impact of the IoT have been largely ignored, and we know little about the key driver for benefitting from the IoT: skills. To ensure more equal opportunities, the aim of this PhD project is to investigate inequalities in IoT skills among the general user population from a social-contextual perspective.

So far, it is unknown what social-contextual factors affect IoT skill levels. Although a variety of studies on information and communication technologies highlight the importance of one’s surroundings and informal social networks, the role played by other members of one’s social networks in facilitating the use of IoT skills is unknown. In the PhD-project, the IoT is considered as a dynamic component of the situated practice in which it is used. Society’s values, processes and the actors involved determine this use.

The work that has been done indicates that an individual’s digital skills are strongly shaped by his or her local social context, especially the home context. Children might learn to use the IoT from their parents or siblings. After children reach school age, home becomes an even more relevant locus for learning digital skills. Older people tend to turn to their partners, (grand)children or neighbors to help them learn digital skills. However, we do not know the extent to which such support is helpful. Studies that include the home context are scarce because of the difficulties of capturing the richness and complexity of experiences in the home setting.

This PhD project will start with a systematic literature review regarding social-contextual mechanisms that might play a role in the use of IoT skills at home. This review will provide input on specific mechanisms or relationships that will be monitored in a field experiment to closely monitor how the IoT is employed in 30 family settings over a period of 12 months.

Given the complexity and autonomy of the home-based IoT, studying this system requires a combination of disciplinary approaches that provides the means to facilitate such research. Three data-collection methods will be employed to conduct a detailed investigation of how IoT skills are applied and learned: IoT log data, diary study, and semi-structured interviews.


You have a master’s degree in communication science, sociology, educational science, or a related field. In addition, you:

  • have a creative and critical attitude, combined with perseverance and being flexible and stress-resistant
  • have an interest in social aspects surrounding the use of technology;
  • are able to conduct research using various qualitative and quantitative methods, including literature research, diary studies and interviews;
  • are interested in multidisciplinary collaboration;
  • have good analytical skills;
  • have good English language skills, both in writing and speaking;
  • have good Dutch language skills;
  • have good social and communication skills in academic as well as non-academic contexts;
  • are able to work independently, but also motivated to collaborate with others, including project participants and stakeholders from different countries and with different backgrounds.

Job application
Your application should include the following documents:

  • a cover letter which explains your interest in the position and your qualifications for it;
  • a curriculum vitae which includes the name and e-mail address/telephone number for (preferably) two or more references.
  • a copy of your master's thesis or, if it is not yet available, a summary and table of contents of the thesis

Applications should be uploaded via > vacancies > current vacancies. The application deadline is September 10th, 2017. Interviews will be held in September. Since only three documents can be uploaded per application, please combine documents if needed.

Further information
Location: This position is based at the Department of Communication Science, University of Twente, Enschede, the Netherlands.
Contact: dr. Alexander van Deursen T: +31 (0)53 489 6102 (

Your primary supervisor will be dr. Alexander van Deursen, at University of Twente. Please visit his website for an overview of his research:


A four-year full-time Ph.D. position, starting November 1 (preferred), 2017. The gross salary is € 2222,- per month in the first year going up to € 2840,- in the fourth year. On top of this, you receive a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary and an 8.3% end-of-year bonus. You will have a budget for traveling to SIENNA workshops and to international conferences. We offer excellent auxiliary terms of employment, such as professional and personal development programs; a secondary remuneration package; a dynamic environment with enthusiastic colleagues; an organization focusing on internationalization and a high degree of responsibility and independence.


The University of Twente. We stand for science and technology, high tech, human touch, education and research that matter. New technology which drives change, innovation and progress in society. The University of Twente is the only campus university in the Netherlands; divided over five faculties we provide more than fifty educational programs. The University of Twente has a strong focus on personal development and talented researchers are given scope for carrying out pioneering research. The Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences strives to hold a leading position in their fields in relation to the science and technology research programs of the University of Twente. In all these fields, the faculty provides bachelor, master and professional development programs.

Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social sciences The Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social sciences (BMS) strives to play a pivotal role in understanding, co-engineering and evaluating innovation in society. Innovation is driven by advances in technology. Through 'social engineering' these technological advances are embedded in society befitting human needs and behaviour, within proper public and private management and business structures. For this the faculty of BMS upholds high quality disciplinary knowledge in psychology, business administration, public administration, communication science, philosophy, educational science and health sciences. All with a focus on the challenges in society. Research is strongly connected to our Institutes on Governance (IGS), ICT (CTIT), Health (MIRA) and Nanotechnology (MESA+).


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