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Phd student (4 year position) in behavioural aspects of internet-of-things: user skills

Universiteit Twente , Enschede, 40 hours
Job description

The Department of Communication Science of the University Twente in the Netherlands is looking for a PhD student (4-year position) in Behavioural aspects of Internet-of-Things: user skills. VIDI scheme The project is part of a larger 5 year VIDI project that is funded through the NWO with a budget of 800K euros. The project will take place from November 1st, 2017 to November 1st, 2022, and is led by dr. Alexander van Deursen. Besides Alexander, two PhD’s and two co-promotors will take part in the project. Furthermore, the project will be supported by an international advisory board. 

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.

After interpreting the IoT system, the PhD candidate will develop a theoretical framework for IoT skills, which is scientifically relevant because it requires a new approach: the IoT differs from prior phases of technological development. The next step will be actual measuring the identified IoT skills. Although performance tests are labor-intensive, the measurement of IoT skills should include actually using the IoT. Participants should take part in enacting situations that require the use of the actual IoT. The goal in the project is to create tasks that involve situations that are closely linked to real-life challenges. These tasks will be administered in performance tests (for energy and for health) in a lab environment. Three data sources are used: data generated by the IoT devices, successful assignment completion and thinking-aloud data. To quantify the effect of the several potential IoT skill determinants, a survey will be administered to the participants of the tests.

For society, the goal is to achieve a population better equipped to benefit from the IoT, specifically resulting in lower energy consumption and improved healthcare. Several aspects of the project are innovative. The characteristics of the IoT is theoretically interpreted in terms of user skills. These skills are studied among the general user population using performance tests that allow subjects to actually use the IoT. Most studies of digital skills are conducted in specific (often educational) settings, ignoring large parts of the population that might need skill improvements the most.

Job requirements

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, questionnaires and performance tests;
  • 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.
Company profile Universiteit Twente

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+).


A four-year full-time Ph.D. position, starting November 1 (preferred), 2017. The gross salary is € 2.222,-- per month in the first year going up to € 2.840,-- 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. 


Closingdate: 10 September 2017.

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