Mariek Vanden Abeele - DISCONNECT

Description of the PI

mariekvandenabeele.jpgMariek Vanden Abeele is a recipient of an 2020 ERC Starting Grant on Digital Wellbeing. Mariek is Associate Professor in Digital Culture at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences of Ghent University. Mariek obtained her PhD in Communication Sciences at the University of Leuven in 2012, and started working as Assistant Professor in that same year at Tilburg University's School for Humanities and Digital Sciences. In 2015, Mariek worked as doctoral assistant at imec-mict-UGent, after which she returned to Tilburg University in 2016. In 2018, Tilburg University appointed Mariek as Associate Professor, and also awarded her with a Philip Eijlander Diversity (PED) fellowship, to recognize her accomplishments. As of February 2021, Mariek has re-joined imec-mict-UGent as Associate Professor in Digital Culture.

Mariek's research focuses on digital culture. She combines media psychological and media sociological perspectives to better understand the role that digital media use play in everyday life and society. She is especially interested in mobile media use. Her research interests include mobile communication and social relationships, problematic smartphone use and digital well-being, mobile media and childhood, and the social implications of health and fitness wearable use. Mariek is an active member of the Mobile Communication Interest Group of ICA (International Communication Association). She was the secretary of this group from 2017-2019 and has been elected as (vice-) chair for the period of 2021-2025.

In her ERC project, titled “Digital Wellbeing in a Culture of Ubiquitous Connectivity: Towards a Dynamic Pathway Model”, Mariek will build on her interdisciplinary background to examine individuals' relationship to anytime, anyplace connectivity using both computational and ethnographic research approaches. In addition, Mariek works on several other (funded and unfunded) research projects with PhD students and (international) collaborators, such as a project exploring the association between smartphone use and student well-being and a project on the social impact of mobile phones on family life in Liberia. Her work is published in leading journals in the field of Communication Sciences, such as Communication Theory, Mobile Media & Communication, New Media & Society and Media Psychology. Mariek has received various awards for both her teaching and her research output.

Description of the projectdisconnect1.jpg

Digital Wellbeing in a Culture of Ubiquitous Connectivity: Towards a Dynamic Pathway Model

Digital technologies such as smartphones, laptops and smart watches enable an ever-present connectivity. This connectivity both empowers us and threatens our autonomy. On the one hand, digital technologies help us manage our everyday life and reach our personal goals. On the other hand, they divert our attention away from our primary activities, and exert pressure to be permanently online and permanently connected. This paradox creates an urgent challenge to balance connectivity and “disconnectivity." Current scholarship lacks answers to this conundrum. Mariek Vanden Abeele, communication scientist at imec-mict-UGent (Belgium), aims to fill this gap by building a dynamic pathway model of digital wellbeing. Through empirical tests of her model, Dr Vanden Abeele will generate new insights into the science of digital well-being. How do individuals understand and practice digital wellbeing? Which constellations of person-, device- and context-specific factors contribute to digital wellbeing, and does digital wellbeing protect against burnout or depression? How effective are interventions such as digital detoxes and screen monitoring apps? Armed with new evidence, users, technology developers and policy makers will more likely be able to make our relationship with technology happier and healthier.