Online technologies are disrupting philosophical notions of human well-being. Persuasive technologies, ubiquitous connectivity, recommender systems, and generative artificial intelligence all create distinct ethical challenges, but a comprehensive evaluation of these technologies requires grasping how they affect the fully flourishing life. The Philosophy & Ethics Group at TU Eindhoven (TU/e) invites applications for a PhD position exploring how philosophical insights on digital well-being can contribute to the design of emerging online technologies. This position has the option to be affiliated with the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies consortium (ESDiT: www.esdit.nl).
Digital well-being (DWB) is a contested term. In everyday use, it connotes how online technologies (from social media to video streaming to wearables) impact subjective well-being, often emphasising how excessive screentime or connectivity affects mental health. Philosophical research on DWB has recently added nuance to the concept by showing how it has implications for the prudential dimension of human flourishing. From a philosophical perspective, DWB is intimately connected to vital human faculties (e.g., focus, attention, deliberation) and the promotion of prudential values (e.g., autonomy, responsibility, self-determination). Both philosophical and non-philosophical perspectives capture important insights into DWB, as well as emphasising how online technologies can both enhance and threaten human flourishing. An interdisciplinary theory of DWB stands to unite current normative approaches to DWB (character-based and design-based approaches) with new insights from empirical disciplines (human technology interaction, communication science).
This PhD project will aim to develop an interdisciplinary approach to DWB by synthesising normative and empirical insights into how online technologies influence human flourishing. The project will focus on DWB in a post-pandemic work context (working from home, hybrid/remote work, etc.), although may draw from research into DWB in other domains (mental health, education, entertainment, etc.) The applicant will be free to explore how research insights on DWB can be applied in practical contexts. Potential examples include a “living-lab” collaboration with TU Eindhoven’s Workplace Vitality Hub (www.workplacevitalityhub.nl) or writing a set of interdisciplinary guidelines on DWB for the tech industry.
We are looking for a philosopher or ethicist of technology (or researcher from a related discipline) who wishes to write a PhD thesis on the topic outlined above. You will have the ability to shape the project in a way that matches your own research interests and future ambitions. This position is also suitable for applicants who would like to apply their research to the activities of non-academic partners, such as policy makers, industry, or third sector organisations. In general, we will look favourably on applicants who wish to explore how philosophical research can have an impact outside of academia. Perspectives from social or political philosophy, feminist philosophy, gender studies, and non-western traditions (e.g., East Asian or South Asian philosophy) are especially welcome.
You will be embedded within the Philosophy and Ethics group in the Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Innovation Sciences at TU/e. The Philosophy & Ethics department at TU/e (https://www.tue.nl/en/research/research-groups/innovation-sciences/philosophy-ethics/) is a vibrant international community, consisting of around 30 members with research interests ranging from ethics of technology to philosophy of science to the philosophy of AI. We have strong cooperation with other departments and the new Eindhoven Artificial intelligence Systems Institute (EAISI) (https://www.tue.nl/en/research/institutes/eindhoven-artificial-intelligence-systems-institute/about-eaisi/). The PhD can also explore connections with the new center for AI and Philosophy at TU/e. TU/e is part of the 4TU.Ethics consortium (https://ethicsandtechnology.eu/), where we cooperate closely on research and education.
You will also have the option to join a team of early career researchers working in the Human Condition line and STEM track of the ESDiT research community. Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies (ESDiT) is a 10-year (2020–30) international research program of 7 academic institutions in the Netherlands (TU/e, TU Delft, Utrecht University, UMC Utrecht, University of Twente, Leiden University, and Wageningen University & Research). ESDiT engages in breakthrough research at the intersections of ethics, philosophy, technology, engineering and social sciences. The consortium has over 100 researchers (PhDs, postdocs, professors, doctors) working on themes in the ethics and philosophy of technology in the Netherlands. ESDiT comes with mentoring and career development opportunities for PhD students in the program.
The project will be supervised by Matthew Dennis.
The desired starting date of the position is 1 September 2023.
A meaningful job in a dynamic and ambitious university, in an interdisciplinary setting and within an international network. You will work on a beautiful, green campus within walking distance of the central train station. In addition, we offer you:
Eindhoven University of Technology is an internationally top-ranking university in the Netherlands that combines scientific curiosity with a hands-on attitude. Our spirit of collaboration translates into an open culture and a top-five position in collaborating with advanced industries. Fundamental knowledge enables us to design solutions for the highly complex problems of today and tomorrow.
Curious to hear more about what it’s like as a PhD candidate at TU/e? Please view the video.
Do you recognize yourself in this profile? Would you like to know more? Please contact Matthew J. Dennis, Assistant Professor, Eindhoven University of Technology, m.j.dennis [at] tue.nl
Visit our website for more information about the application process or the conditions of employment. You can also contact H. Huijs-Palmen, HR-Advice IE&IS, j.b.huijs.palmen[at]tue.nl or +31 40 247 9111.
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We look forward to your application and will screen it as soon as we have received it. Screening will continue until the position has been filled.