Gruppenbild Politik der Digitalisierung
David Ausserhofer
Main content

The WZB research group “Politics of Digitalization” (POLDI) investigates how today’s societies make sense of and shape the digital transformation. For this purpose, the group examines and evaluates the strategies, competences and practices that contribute to the governance and regulation of digitalization and its consequences for society.

The research group’s work is based on an understanding of digitalization as a continuous socio-technical process of change. The digital transformation is not primarily technology-driven; it rather is a conflictual and reflexive process in a permanent state of flux. To investigate this transformation, the group’s conceptual work builds on governance research, discourse analysis, the sociology of technology, field theory, and the sociology of quantification and evaluation, as well as modern theories of democracy.

The empirical research of the group focuses on the political dimension of the digital transformation in a double sense:  first, it views digitalization as a resource of political governance (regulation through digitalization); second, it analyses digitalization as an object of political decision-making (regulation ofdigitalization).

In 2017, the WZB research group contributed to the founding of the German Internet Institute, the "Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society". Two of POLDI's research projects are part of the new institute. The group closely collaborates through joint publications and academic events with the Weizenbaum Institute and the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG).


Katya Rösch
Mail: katya.roesch [at]
Fon: +49 30 25491-625

Reichpietschufer 50
D-10785 Berlin


Research stays and internships

Please address all requests and applications for guest research stays and internships via e-mail to katya.roesch [at]


In the now published statement "Digitalisierung und Demokratie" of the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, a group of experts presents their recommendations for action for digital publics that promote democracy. Jeanette Hofmann co-chaired the group until November 2020. A summary in English is available.


In No. 171 of the WZB-Mitteilungen of March 2021 "Of Computers and Humans: The Digitised Society", numerous members of the research group describe their research in an easily accessible way in German. Abstracts are available in English. The whole issue is available here for download. Published exclusively online is "Long breath instead of short process: online freedom of expression in Germany" by Torben Klausa.


Julia Pohle writes in Digital Sovereignty about the struggle for freedom of action and decision-making on the net. Jeanette Hofmann and Thorsten Thiel describe the creeping takeover of artificial intelligence and the transformation of democracy. Sebastian Berg argues that despite the immediacy of data, even digital democracy cannot do without political representation.


Ronja Kniep asks who monitors digital surveillance? and portrays the control of intelligence services as a gauge of democracy. Clara Iglesias Keller shows the dilemma in the fight against disinformation, but for freedom of expression using the challenges of digital communication in Brazil. Paola Lopez warns about discrimination through data bias, that artificial intelligence can reinforce social inequalities.


Florian Eyert and Paola Lopez call for: Democratise AI, fairness and transparency cannot be established through technology alone. Silvio Suckow and Thorsten Thiel promote in Overcoming Boundaries how digitalisation promotes cooperation between disciplines. And Florian Irgmaier exposes the irritating loss of non-knowledge through which digitalisation confronts society with itself.

New publications

Ulbricht, Lena/Yeung, Karen (2021): "Algorithmic regulation: A maturing concept for investigating regulation of and through algorithms". In: Lena Ulbricht/Karen Yeung (Eds.); Regulation & Governance, special issue „Algorithmic Regulation“, S. 1-20.


Busch, Christoph/Graef, Inge/Hofmann, Jeanette/Gawer, Annabelle (2021): Uncovering Blindspots in the Policy Debate on Platform Power. Final Report. Brussels: Expert Group for the Observatory on the Online Platform Economy of the European Commission.


Thiel, Thorsten (2021): "Anonymity. The Politicisation of a Concept". In: The Anon Collective (Ed.): The Book of Anonymity. Earth, Milky Way/Goleta, CA: punctum books, S. 88-109.


Thiel, Thorsten/Rostalski, Frauke (2021): "Künstliche Intelligenz als Herausforderung für demokratische Partizipation [Artificial intelligence as challenge for democratic participation]". In: Interdisziplinäre Arbeitsgruppe Verantwortung: Maschinelles Lernen/Künstliche Intelligenz der Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (Eds.): Verantwortungsvoller Einsatz von KI?. Mit menschlicher Kompetenz!. #Verantwortung KI - Künstliche Intelligenz und gesellschaftliche Folgen, Nr. 4/2021. Berlin: Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, S. 56-63.