TRACK Digitalization of Society


S9: Webvideos: Science communication, power and credibility

Erik STENGLER (University of the West of England), United Kingdom
Isaac KERLOW (Earth Observatory of Singapore), Singapore

In previous years we have explored webvideos as a tool for science communication. Moving forward,we now focus on the reality that the proliferation of science channels on the most popular webvideo platforms is not free from concerns about influences from positions of power, such as the search engines and the platforms themselves. In a medium where views and likes are essential for content to be seen among the huge amount of materials that are uploaded every minute, the search algorithms exert an unprecedented influence on what users find and see. We will welcome contributions that address the use of webvideos in science communication in general, and especially those who will open a discussion about the influence of search algorithms on the management and content of channels, e.g. on how to circumvent or adapt to their dictates and maintain a reputation of credibility and objectivity.

KEYWORDS: science communication, webvideos, credibility, power


S10: Algorithmic Society: Shaping and relying on algorithms

Valentin JANDA & Matthias BOTTEL (Technische Universität Berlin), Germany

In digital societies algorithms are part of the everyday life and work. They match couples in online dating, maintain our filterbubbles, govern the smart city and are used to optimize ourselves with gamification and quantified self. They basically have become ubiquitous and are used to make decisions with far-reaching impact. In this session we want to address two connected crucial points: first how algorithms co-shape work, creativity and many more aspects of digital live. Second, to examine how algorithms are outcomes of social actions.

On one side, as any other technology, information technology comprises a certain  interpretative flexibility and is therefore socially shaped by different sets of actors. We ask: Who shapes the algorithms, whose interests are being followed? Which practices and which means of inscription emerge? On the other hand we ask: How are these socially shaped algorithms adapted in the user practices? Are they re-shaped by their adaptors? To what extent do they shape the diverse actions they are involved in?

Algorithms and all practices incorporated with them are a promising empirical field to investigate these intertwined questions of shaping technology and the shaping via technology:

The algorithms beneath social media, swarms and crowds populating the internet allow new forms of organized collective action, and non-organized situated activities (Dolata and Shrape 2014). In the profession of architecture new work practices based on algorithms change the way how architects draft and even the matter what has to be drafted, as the capabilities of three dimensional renderings lead to new forms of drafting (Houdart 2008). While being implemented, algorithms may cause unexpected problems. Highly routinized work practices have to be re-organized and even more effortful re-routinized. Results are higher workloads and sophisticated problem solving which is imposed to the workers (Ortmann 2014). In other cases, the use of algorithm-based work-tools is prevented for longer periods of time as Mackay and Potthast point out for the case of flight-control (Mackay 2000, Potthast 2008).

Not alone are the questions concerning constitution and effect intimately connected, the creation and impact of algorithms shape, change and stabilize our work, our social relations, in short many aspects of our societies. The aforementioned perspective to focus the social shaping of and by algorithms draws the focus to the following interests:

• The differences between projected and real application and thereby the producer to user relationship

• The implications of power regarding the technical (and thereby more reliable and steady) realization of rule systems via algorithms

• Attempts of opening or closing the access to algorithms in consensus or confrontational ways

• Inclusion and exclusion of knowledge (e.g. filterbubble) and participation by algorithmic decisions and coping strategies to overcome exclusion

• Iterative negotiations between producers and users though algorithms

• Accountability and adaption of artificial intelligence

KEYWORDS: algorithms, social shaping of technology, digitalization, case study

S11: Transdisciplinary approaches to technology assessment for evaluating opportunities and risks of the sharing economy enabled by digitalization

Clemens MADER & Lorenz H. HILTY (Empa, Technology and Society Lab, St.Gallen, and University of Zurich); Maria POURI  (University of Zurich),  Switzerland

Sharing or exchanging things of common interest has been around ever since mankind exists. What has changed over time is the scale of impact that has exponentially increased with the stepwise implementation and use of digital technologies, i.e. digitalization.

From analog agreements (e.g. contracts) between people with in trusted relationships to machine-to-machine communications over the Internet, digitalization has provided people with global access to information flows that facilitate the sharing of products and services. It has moved the scale of the prevailing type of economy forward to new levels of reaching out to people to share various goods. Familiar examples are AirBnB, Uber or even Bitcoin that started using the existing small scaled sharing economy models of Couchsurfing, CarSharing and peer-to-peer economy using digital currency, respectively, and scaled them up to wider and even global use by leveraging state-of-the-art technologies in digitizing the economy.

The gig economy is also another type of the sharing economy that has emerged fairly recently and in the form of online on-demand work platforms for labour and job market.

In this session, we will firstly discuss the definition, concept and application of the sharing economy enabled by new waves of digitalization. We then will bring to light the impacts, opportunities and risks of the sharing economy within the sustainable development context. Such opportunities and risks depend hugely on motivations and the values perceived by individuals as well as “the crowd”. So, we also discuss and potentially test transdisciplinary methods of technology assessment to evaluate various opportunities and risks brought about by the latest development of digitalization as the enabler of the sharing economy through the lens of sustainable development. The need for this session on the proposed topic area is felt because of the potential of the sharing economy and its assumable impacts on development and progress for countries. Researchers are invited to propose their papers relevant to the content or method of this session (transdisciplinary methods for technology assessment). We like to create an interactive session and will get in contact with you to discuss a productive and co-creative procedure.

KEYWORDS: algorithms, social shaping of technology, digitalization, case study


S12: Socio-technical systems in the digitized society

Jacqueline LEMM, Alexander MERTENS, Nenja ZIESEN (RWTH Aachen University), 
Robert WEIDNER (Helmut Schmidt Universität Hamburg), Germany

Socio-technical systems shape our society everyday. We serve vacuum cleaners, use navigation systems, older people operate the SOS button on their wrist when they fall, and older workers put their knowledge into tutorial apps that help apprentices to learn. Even in working life we are increasingly supported or assisted by different technical systems like augmented or virtual reality systems and exoskeleton in order to relief cognitive and physical stress. Architects are supported in the planning of technologies by digital planning systems that take not only the technical but also the social and ethical implications into account – tasks and interactions are changed by the use of socio-technical systems. How should socio-technical systems be designed to support and not to replace humans? What can socio-technical systems actually do against the background of societal challenges, such as demographic change or digitization?

What is the technical-ethical rating for these systems? How should the interaction between humans and technology be shaped in the future? This session will focus socio-technical systems in the digitized society for different areas of life: Life, Work and on a micro-level Body. In this context, aspects like acceptance of technology, adaptability, design, interaction, usability and functionality should be especially addressed. The session addresses on the on hand interdisciplinary issues and approaches from researchers with different background, e.g.

engineering science, sociology, psychology, computer science, movement science and  medicine as well as on the other hand research and application related topics. Topics include but are not limited to:

  • Approaches for human machine interaction and integration for physical and cognitive support (e.g. life (health/age), work)
  • Interfaces between users and support systems
  • Assistance Systems with integrated industry 4.0 principles
  • Strategies for acceptance improvement
  • Relations of body and technology, interpretable body-date, knowledge stocks in context of ascertainability of the body
  • Technical, economical, ethical, gerontological and social impacts

The session organizers themselves work interdisciplinary in different research groups made up of researchers of the engineering sciences, of sociology, of psychology, computer science, sport science (ergonomics) and medicine.

KEYWORDS: socio-technical systems, human machine interaction, physical and cognitive support, assistance systems, acceptance, body and technologies, ethical and social impacts, interdisciplinary

S13:  Degrowth and Digitalization

Petra WÄCHTER (University of Vienna), Austria; Melf-Hinrich EHLERS (Kassel University), Germany; Linda NIERLING (ITAS, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology), Germany; Christian KERSCHNER (Masaryk University), Czech Republic

The Degrowth movement gained much popularity in recent years. Degrowth can be described as a scientific, political, and activist movement which aims to transform the society towardsmore equality, autonomy, democracy etc., but within ecological limits. The role of technology for a sustainable society without continuous economic growth is important for those who pursue Degrowth. Generally, within the Degrowth community, more enthusiastic attitudes towards technology and more sceptic views can be found. Those in favour of technology such as fab-labs or 3-D-printing clash with techno-sceptics. Some Degrowth-related communities and projects literally define themselves around particular technologies. Examples linked to digitisation are digital commons, the Fairphone community (Haucke forthcoming), the open source and hacking community (Hankammer, Kostakis, March, Likavcan & Scholz-Wäckerle, Vetter forthcoming), digital makerspaces and fab labs (March, Kostakis forthcoming).

A central theme among more techno-enthusiastic authors is the democratization of  echnology, including liberation of access to technology in terms of know-how (open source), necessary skills for production (prosumers), of use and repair, of income (affordability) and gender. Despite a widespread suggestion that ICTs could play an important role in the democratisation of technology, there is not yet a unified answer on which, how and to what extent ICTs should be supported by Degrowth advocates. The conditions in which a technology supports Degrowth principles still require deeper investigation (Haucke forthcoming). A reflective approach (Samerski forthcoming) is required, also because the socio-psychological effects of the increasing prevalence of ICTs in our lives, which Ivan Illich for example warned about, are still poorly understood. Strand et al. (forthcoming) identify a general trend in the dominant socio-technical imaginaries to place great hopes in ICT-based sustainability solutions (see also Pollex & Lenschow forthcoming) and expectations of conclusive accounts of material and energy needs and rebound effects of the “ICT revolution”. For Lange (2017) digitisation will be part of future technology. But he warns of excessive economic growth, increased inequality and material throughput and of data storage used to influence consumption. An important limitation of the suggested ICT revolution is that unlike “epoch-making inventions” many of the latest ICT applications “eat” human time rather than saving it for other purposes (e.g. smartphones and social media) (Bonaiuti forthcoming). This contradicts the accelerationists (Snircek and Wilson 2015), who argue that capitalism’s future technology can release time that can be used for democratic activities to overcome capitalism.

This special session will draw together empirical and theoretical work that addresses the question of whether certain digital technologies or ICT in general could support a Degrowth Society. Descriptions of practical attempts to match digital technology with Degrowth are also welcome. Contributions can be from any disciplinary background and on any digital technology and Degrowth concern. The aim is to convene a special session based on the format of the knowledge café, within which diverse perspectives can be elaborated and evaluated jointly by the contributors and an actively engaged audience.

KEYWORDS: digitalization, Degrowth, technology, democracy, autonomy


S14: Information infrastructures and the digitalization of science: Perspectives of STS, TA and cultural studies

Dirk HOMMRICH (openTA, KIT-ITAS), Germany

As socio-technical arrangements, specialized information services and scholarly social (or “academic”) online networks share similarities, two main features of such internet-based offerings are: 1) a specialization in one (or more) academic discipline(s) and a corresponding (inter-)disciplinary community; 2) multimodality and the integration of diverse functions. This is why we don’t include single-purpose services like “simple websites” (e.g. of an expert association), library catalogs, repositories, digital document delivery, blogs, mailing lists etc. as specialized information services or scholarly social online networks which rather manage diverse functions. But which kind of functions and socio-technical relations are we talking about and what kind of broader (e.g. institutional, political, economic, legal and social) contexts define the environment in which those information services are embedded?

On a fundamental level we might distinguish between information (messages, announcements, events calendar, new book releases), communication (two- or multi-sided correspondence, e.g. mailing lists, blogs, discussion groups), cooperation (multi-sided interaction, collaborative coordination, collective writing in the “cloud”, distributed analysis of data) and transaction (binding communicative action, e.g. the order of a publication, signing a research proposal).

Following a (stereo)typical scholarly workflow you would start by searching for publications, data, projects, partners, sponsors. Once a research project is funded you create your own publications and research data which are to be shared within a specialized (scientific) community. Workshops (and virtual seminars or streaming solutions) are also part of this research episode. It might also be useful to offer research tools, e.g. online questionnaires and survey systems or shared libraries in the humanities and the social sciences. Outcomes would have to be discussed, evaluated, improved and reviewed. But we might also distinguish between actors and addressed audience. Do recipients have the opportunity to contribute or do they have to remain passive, how about the figure of the “prosumer” to describe the hybrid role actors can assume in such e-infrastructures of scholarly communication that incorporate user-generated content (e.g. in blogs and internet forums)?

Generic questions that could be addressed:

  • Which kind of approaches form Cultural Studies, TA and STS deliver which type of tools to analyze these kinds of internet platforms?

  • Are there any results of evaluations regarding scientific information systems, specialized information services, scholarly networks? Are there typologies for these systems?

  • Which resources and requirements exist for their development and maintenance? What are the financial and business models of such services? How about New Public Management of scholarly communication?

  • What do we know about the requirements researchers have regarding informational infrastructures? Which presuppositions are guiding existing services and infrastructures?

  • Which kinds of informational architectures are being developed?

  • A central question seems to be if the informational and communicative functions are the main purpose of such services or rather collaborative functions?

  • Which kinds of information technology and which mix of technologies are being used? How do they work in practice, how about grimpacts?

  • Do we have to account for the interplay between scholarly and science communication (what exactly is the difference here between scholarly and science?); do we find interdependencies with other socio-technical developments?

  • How about socio-technical future visions of scholarly and/or digitalized communication?

Alternative setting: 3 Min. talks/short presentations by the contributors/authors plus extended abstracts prior to the conference; queries and comments of each extended abstract by one or two colleagues for about 10 min.

KEYWORDS: information ecology, e-infrastructure, scholarly communication, digitalization, media/communication studies


S15: Towards digital health

Bernhard WIESER (Graz University of Technology), Martina LANG (IFZ - Inter-University Research Centre for Technology, Work and Culture), Austria

Digital innovations are expected to change how we deal with health and illness. Computer modelling may allow a better understanding of diseases and hence earlier intervention with preventive measures. New technologies may provide more accurate diagnoses, inform choices, assist treatment and monitor compliance. Promises of medical potentials are intertwined with economic perspectives. On the one hand, digital innovations are expected to boost growth and benefit regional and national economies. On the other hand, economic reasoning addresses the demographic change in European societies. Ageing populations need more medical attendance, treatment and care. The “grand challenge” for European policies is not least covering the cost for that. Health care exercises economic pressure on the welfare state.

This combination of great expectations and grand challenges fuels a powerful discourse and mobilizes resources in order to bring about digital-health. We invite researchers to discuss critically the wider implications of such technological visions. Submissions are especially welcome but not limited to contribute with:

• empirical studies of digital health practices

• deliberation and reflection on the desirability of such socio-technical futures

• aspects of inclusion and inequality

• methodological issues (regarding the social study of digital health)

• analysis of political framings (including paternalistic, neo-liberal, technocratic agendas)


KEYWORDS: digital health, ageing society, grand challenges, ambient assisted living, age, health care, policy analysis, human machine interaction, body and technologies, neo-liberalism