Lancaster University - Transforming Tomorrow

Social inequalities can be both alleviated or exacerbated by digital technologies. Professor Katy Mason explains how the MANY project involves local communities in identifying and solving their own challenges. Mobile and internet access for those living in very rural areas is often technically difficult to provide, uneconomical for suppliers, and unaffordable for residents. Some claim this has created a ‘digital divide’ between urban and rural populations, denying very rural villages and their communities access to services that make their lives better – including health, education and government services. During the pandemic, these deprivations became more acute, unjust and urgent. Mobile Access North Yorkshire (MANY) was an interdisciplinary project, sponsored by the UK Government Department of Culture, Media and Sport. It brought together technologists, communication specialists, NGOs, local authorities, SMEs and social scientists to trial new technologies to provide accessible and useable digital solutions to infrastructure (see P8) these rural communities and their economies. The project used the Responsible Research and Innovation framework to direct activities and to ensure communities were aware of the project and had opportunities to voice aspirations and concerns. Some volunteered to test the technologies in their homes, others in their businesses. LUMS researchers developed a community engagement toolkit to help other projects work with their local communities, and we worked with local businesses to develop use cases and digital skills. We also worked with the local Mountain Rescue Team to use 5G to support their work. This featured on the BBC's Click programme, triallingmountain rescue using the new technology on tracker dogs and patients, so “we can nowmonitor vital signs on the move”. In a gale, in the dark, when you are carrying someone on a stretcher, this can save significant time, keeping the patient warm and enabling the team to return them to safetymore quickly. We worked with local tourist attraction The Forbidden Corner, and used augmented reality to engage children and their families with a garden adventure experience. Our work revealed how the carefully choregraphed process of the project – developing technological solutions for local sociomaterial and economic needs – produced a knowledge architecture that could underpin innovative activities for socioeconomic flourishing in this particular place. By making high-quality digital connectivity services accessible to excluded communities in very rural places, MANY took the first tentative steps in making imperfect markets more moral. We paid particular attention to the sociomaterial practices that sit beneath tourism and agricultural markets, and looked at how materials can be used to insert moralities into the infrastructures that underpin those markets. We now better understand how knowledge architectures capture, reuse, reform and embed experimental sociomaterial practices, through the aggregation and integration of moral market actions. From this research, we have learnt how to develop a knowledge architecture that better infrastructures moral markets in very rural settings – helping us understand how to level up parts of the country where there iare challenges to socio-economic flourishing. Find out more about the MANY project at Or email Professor Katy Mason, Transforming Tomorrow 4 Credit: FloCulture Mobile Access North Yorkshire