Social encounters at the digital frontline: Digital text-based interaction between human service organizations and clients

Primary investigator: PhD Candidate Frida Höglund, MSsc (CESAR, Uppsala University).

Funder: Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (known in Swedish as FORTE); awarded to Marie Flinkfeldt, PhD (CESAR, Uppsala University).

Project description: Digitalization has changed the way people interact with each other. This change is also visible in how human service organizations (HSO) interact with clients. In social work, social interaction has traditionally been conducted through e.g., face-to-face meetings and telephone calls but has in recent decades also come to include digital interaction. Social work practice has also, to varying degrees, come to be characterized by standardization, which has affected HSO professionals’ discretion. Nevertheless, discretion includes as well the opportunity to intervene both to the advantage but also to the disadvantage of clients, e.g., through discriminatory practices. Previous research has studied social encounters in terms of verbal interaction but has to date given limited attention to how digital text-based interaction is conducted in practice and how clients are treated in this type of interaction. Understanding what happens in digital text-based interaction in social work is crucial in order to make visible the treatment of clients but also how professionals interpret and apply laws and regulations, and how institutions and different practices are shaped and produced.  

The dissertation aims to investigate how professionals in HSOs interact with clients in digital text-based interaction by using a conversation analytical approach. The project is expected to contribute with knowledge of how digital text-based interaction is conducted in practice within the Swedish welfare sector, and how equal treatment can be promoted in these specific interactions.

The dissertation project is part of the research project 'Equal terms? Manifestations of inequality in parents' contacts with the Swedish Social Insurance Agency about parental leave'. The Primary Investigator for this project is Dr Marie Flinkfeldt (at the Centre for Social Work, CESAR), who was awarded the funding this dissertation relies on.

Advisors to dissertation: Dr Anna Olaison (CESAR, Uppsala University) and Dr Marie Flinkfeldt (CESAR, Uppsala University).

Last modified: 2022-01-25