Special Issue: ICT Development and Use in Europe

Abstract - The Information Society 16(4)

Europe Experiments with Multimedia:An Overview of Social Experiments and Trials

Birgit Jaeger, Roger S. Slack, and Robin Williams

This paper examines the proliferation of multimedia experiments - widely defined to include social experiments, commercial pilots and technical trials around the adoption of multimedia-based technologies - that has occurred in most developed economies. It explores the diverse objectives of such experiments, as well as largely overlapping concerns with the need to match technological opportunity with the emerging needs of potential users of new technology products and services. It discusses some dilemmas that arise in the very endeavour of conducting experiments.

The main part of the paper summarises a set of reviews of multimedia experiments in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway, and the UK. It examines their national and sectoral distribution and considers a possible taxonomy. Exemplary 'social experiments' are rare today. However even experiments oriented towards addressing 'technical' matters inevitably grapple with understanding the 'social' purposes and contexts of future users. The paper notes the importance of experiments as a forum for 'social learning' about the design and use of multimedia offerings and discusses the implications for the ways in which we support technological change.

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