Responsible Use of Digital Data as the Subject of a Transdisciplinary Process (DiDaT) in Germany
A transdisciplinary project on a national level
Funding: Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes (German National Merit Foundation), BMBF-FONA, DiDaT Consortium consisting of TMG Systemhaus, DB, Fraunhofer Fokus, University of Bremen, Danube University Krems (DUK), VDE, NABU, University of Bayreuth.
Ortwin Renn, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c.
Roland W. Scholz, Prof. Dr.
DiDaT guiding question: DiDaT aims to reduce the risks of sensitive stakeholders and subsystems in Germany regarding (undesired) unintended side effects (Unseens) in the use of digital data and to increase their adaptive capacity to deal with negative consequences. This should enable a safer, better, and ultimately more sustainable use of the potential of digital data and technologies. To this end, it is necessary to identify the occurring Unseens and to develop social and technological innovations. In this way, a contribution is made to shaping a smooth digital transformation through active design.
White Book as an essential product (individual chapters can be found here)
Public handover of the White Book to civil society: Hanna Gleiss (Civil Society Networking Centre against Hate Speech on the Internet), business: Dr Claus D. Ulmer (German Telekom, Economy perspective) and the public sector: Prof. Ulrich Kelber (Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information).
Photo from the 2nd Stakeholder Conference 22.01.2022: 35 practitioners and 39 researchers present relevant "unintended side effects" of the use of digital data.
Dealing with digital data as a subject of transdisciplinary societal learning processes
Science with society to shape sustainable digital environments
Planning the project: Short brochure
What is DiDaT about?
Digitalisation is changing our lives. However, it not only creates desired products, new opportunities and services, but also has unintended side effects. The new spaces of possibility, but also the undesirable consequences were the research topic of the project "Responsible use of digital data as the subject of a transdisciplinary process" (DiDaT). The formulated goal was to identify and analyse side effects and to develop design proposals for this. At the end of March 2019, representatives from science and practice came together for a kick-off event in Potsdam to define focal points and outline initial approaches to solutions.
"More than research is expected from this project: DiDaT is a transdisciplinary project that integrates knowledge from practice and science. The goal is to develop orientations for society on how we can deal responsibly with digital data," explains Roland Scholz, Professor at Danube University Krems and Affiliate Scholar at IASS Potsdam. He led the project together with IASS Director Ortwin Renn.
Seven vulnerability spaces as subsystems (facets) of the responsible use of digital data in Germany
In the initiation phase, the project contents were structured into the following vulnerability spaces (German: Vulnerabilitätsräume, VRs):
3. Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs)
5. Social media and values
6. Trustworthiness of information in the digital space
The identification of threats (Acronym: Unseens) as part of the vulnerability analysis (sensitivity of the considered vulnerability spaces)
As a first step, the contributors identified the most important opportunity and possibility spaces over a period of several months, but also the risks of digitalisation that have not yet received sufficient attention. Vulnerabilities were considered in terms of resilience theory. A vulnerability is composed of risk and adaptive capacity. Risk can be defined as the interplay between sensitivity (how strongly a system is affected by "threats", "unseens" or "threats") and "exposure" (i. e. the probability with which a threat etc. takes place).
For the seven vulnerability spaces, the following threats and unseens were formulated (at the 1st stakeholder conference):
1. Mobility: Digitalisation and connectivity are changing vehicle and infrastructure technologies and enable new market structures. What framework conditions and incentives are conducive to reconciling social, economic, and ecological objectives of the digitalisation of the transport sector? How could a national digital infrastructure database support digital mobility?
2. Health: Patients can benefit greatly from digitalisation and the availability of data. But what negative effects can digitalisation have on health care operations and how can these be prevented?
3. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs): small and medium-sized enterprises often have less access to data than large companies, which collect, use, and provide data themselves for a fee. How can SMEs persist in the digitalised world of work alongside large corporations? What measures and innovations should be sought here and in which areas?
4 Agriculture: Digitalisation is already well advanced in the agricultural sector. It has great potential, but also harbours dangers, for example, if digitalisation strategies only relate to the model of large agricultural enterprises. How can negative impacts on the environment and employees be avoided?
5. Social media and values: Social media have had a major impact on communication, marketing and democratic processes in a short time. They guide people's behaviour and influence their well-being. The working group focused on the one hand on the positive and negative consequences of using the internet in different areas. On the other hand, it dealt with the consequences of "personalised information" on communication, also from the point of view of maintaining the ability to discourse as a prerequisite for democracy.
6. Trustworthiness of information in the digital space: the wide availability of tools for falsifying information and the increasing shift of our communication into the digital space challenge familiar forms of our coexistence. What technological and behavioural innovations can enable fact-based social, scientific, and political discourse?
7. Cybercrime/cybersecurity: The use of digital systems facilitates or enables crime. It therefore poses an increasing challenge to public security and order. Is the current legal and organisational framework suitable to prepare society for the challenges of digitalisation?
Development of Socially Robust Orientations (SoRO) as an essential product of the White Book chapters
For the above threats/Unseens, SoROs were developed in the transdisciplinary working groups (by six researchers and practitioners each). The working groups on the VRs each defined 4-7 specific Unseens, for which SoROs were defined separately. These can be found in the White Book chapters and in more depth in the Supplementary Information (SI) volume.
Anyone who is interested can read them individually or in the entire SI volume.
- Data culture
- Mobility offer
- Spatial impact
- Resource consumption and digitalisation
- Value creation
- Individuality and self-determination
- Use of algorithms
- Data-driven personalisation
- Health communication with digital data
- Dealing with patient expectations
3. SMEs (Small and medium-sized enterprises)
- IoT and data analytics
- (Re-)positioning in production networks
- Platform dependency of SMEs
- Cloud dependency of SMEs
- Organisational change
- Employee qualification
- Agro-ecological impacts
- Agricultural data rights
- Global food security
5. Social media
- Digital violence
- Democracy capacity
- Social fabric - changes in communication
DidaT Next Level
In the project planning, transdisciplinarity laboratories and deepening research were targeted for the second phase. In this context, "Transdisciplinary Action Research" (which is linked to mandates) will be continued within the framework of the transdisciplinarity laboratories.
The following three projects have been realised so far (April 2022)
- Vulnerability analysis from the VR02 Health (expert opinion for the German Bundestag as commissioned research)
- Data economics and basic data rights in online advertising (transdisciplinary working group to prepare position papers)
- In-depth research on the knowledge and preferences of young people in relation to the use of social media was carried out at the University of Ulm; with the help of a grant from the Vodafone Foundation, questions raised in the VR Social Media can be investigated. These include the questions (i) what knowledge young people have about payment models and (ii) which concrete payment models they know and accept.
- Head of research: Dr. C. Sindermann with Prof. C. Montag of the Department of Molecular Psychology at the Faculty of Engineering, Computer Science and Psychology at the University of Ulm.
- The results are produced as part of a transdisciplinary process by researchers and practitioners of the VR Social Media.