SMIT – VUB – imec

Studies on Media, Information and Telecommunication

SMIT is the acronym for Studies on Media, Information and Telecommunication. The research centre, established at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) in 1990, is specialized in fundamental and applied research in ICT. ICT and the advent of an information and knowledge society leads to new forms of organizing work, education, leisure, social interaction, political participation, health, well-being etc. This way, ICT has an impact on every aspect of the life of the ‘networked individual’. In terms of research expertise, the focus of SMIT lies on long-term research on societal consequences of ICT innovations and on industry-level value-creation processes. SMIT approaches the field from a user, policy and business perspective with quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. In order to develop new methodological tools, a continuing dialectic between theory and empirical research is one of the centre’s high-level objectives. SMIT is part of imec. The research department engages in a close interaction with the facilitatory imec Living Labs. Here, innovation and user centric design methodologies, living lab methodologies and business modelling tools are further tested, developed and improved.

In recent years, SMIT has done research for various governments, institutions and enterprises. It is a member of several important European and international academic networks (e.g. IAMCR, ECREA, COST, DIGRA Flanders, EINS). SMIT has a long track record in performing people-centred design for the development process of new and emerging technologies. This is done via an interdisciplinary team consisting of communication scientists, sociologists, psychologists, historians, product-designers as well as economists.

Role in the project

SMIT’s role in DiSSeCt mainly lies in the first and fifth work package of the project. They are the WP lead in WP1 where, in close collaboration with the other research partners and the advisory board, SMIT defines a set of use cases per domain (eHealth and Transport), through a literature study, interdisciplinary workshops and desk research. This work is extended through the study of the current socio-technical work practices, which will be examined through ethnographic interview sessions with the central stakeholders per domain (such as caregivers, patients, commuters, etc.). The third key section of WP1 is the application of the innovation binder collaboration methodology, which will be employed in close collaboration with IBCN from day one of the project to ensure the collaboration between partners from different research fields.

In WP5, SMIT investigates the problems and opportunities encountered by end user developers as well as analyse the embedded user scripts in the currently used technologies. Further more, SMIT together with IBCN will send up an iterative process of large scale testing of the developed demonstrators for the two use cases with the relevant stakeholders. To this extent an evaluation protocol should be developed. SMIT also helps IBCN with the dissemination of the outcomes of the project to external companies, through the set up of a public website and reaching out to a broader network of relevant companies and organizations.


anJacobs Prof. Dr. An Jacobs co-ordinates the digital health projects within SMIT. She has both expertise on adoption and appropriation of new technologies from a professional and end consumer point of view. She was guest lecturer at the Hogeschool Artesis Antwerp teaching product sociology in the integrated product development degree. At the University of Brussels she teaches qualitative research methods and coordinate the master dissertation in Communication Science. At imec she has participated in and coordinated various European and Flemish projects and work packages with a focus on digital technologies development, use and appropriation in health and wellbeing. She was also part as methodologist in the program coordination by imec of the Care Living Labs in Flanders (Belgium):
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LaurenceClaeys_lr Prof. Dr. Laurence Claeys joined SMIT in February 2013. She currently works on the development of a co-creation platform enablement strategy for M2M software platforms. Her research is always situated at interdisciplinary crossroads and focuses on end-user programming, real-time data, context-awareness, privacy and interdisciplinary R&I methods. Laurence holds a PhD in Communication Sciences, a postgraduate Genderstudies and a Master in Sociology.
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tomseymoens Tom Seymoens gained a master degree in New Media and Society at the university of Ghent in 2012. He wrote his thesis about the development of a government communication plan concerning electromagnetic waves. After his graduation, Tom completed a traineeship at the communication department of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in Madrid. Tom joined SMIT in January 2014 as part of the user research unit. Besides DiSSeCt, he currently is involved in the USEMP-project, where a set of tools are created to help people with the management of their personal data online.
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