Gruppenbild Politik der Digitalisierung
David Ausserhofer
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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

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D-10785 Berlin


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


Dr. Lena Ulbricht, research fellow of the POLDI group, is the co-host of the recently launched Purple Code podcast, which seeks to illuminate digital technologies from an intersectional feminist perspective. Three female migrant researchers, including Lena, engage with guests on how overlapping, multiple forms of oppression are relevant in the development, application and study of digital technologies.

The podcast aims to hear about the research findings, but also about the personal views and experiences of female or gender dissident scientists, artists, activists and journalists of diverse backgrounds whose voices - despite their potential for influence - are often not heard or even silenced, be it because of their sex, heritage, skin colour or other reasons.

All three hosts are based at the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society in Berlin.


Who are you - human or machine? In the first episode of the BR50 podcast, Thomas Prinzler delves into this question with Prof. Dr. Jeanette Hofmann, Dr. Aljoscha Burchardt, deputy Berlin branch spokesperson of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence and Dr. Thomas Müller, Postdoc at the Center for Humans and Machines at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. This discussion provides insight into questions such as how intelligent is AI, what is intelligence actually, who controls AI or the companies that develop it? What does AI mean for our society and politics?

New publications

Hofmann, Jeanette (2022): "Digitale Infrastrukturen im Wandel". In: Bürger & Staat, Jg. 72., H. 1/ 2-2022, S. 56–62.


Schwarting, Rena/Ulbricht, Lena (2022): "Why Organization Matters in “'Algorithmic Discrimination'”. Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie. doi:10.1007/s11577-022-00838-3.


Pohle, Julia/Voelsen, Daniel (2022): "Centrality and power. The struggle over the techno-political configuration of the Internet and the global digital order". In: Policy & Internet, 14, S. 1-15.


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.


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.


POLDI easy read

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.