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 of  digitalization).

In 2017, the WZB research group contributed to the founding of the German Internet Institute, the "Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society". A subsection of the POLDI group is located at the Weizenbaum 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 January 2023, Bernd Lechler from the Südwestrundfunk came together with Prof. Jeanette Hofmann and other professionals to explore the question of whether digitalization is making us lonely. You can listen to the insightful discussion, in which a psychologist also joined in, here:  "Smartphone and I - Are We Becoming Digitally Isolated?"


Germany has acquired somewhat of a reputation for lagging behind when it comes to digitalisation, in particular its public administration. When compared to leading countries, such as Estonia or Denmark, this gap may be as much as 20 years, says Prof. Jeanette Hofmann. In her conversation with Julia Stamm, Jeanette Hofmann shares insights on why this is the case and where Germany’s biggest challenges lie when it comes to enabling effective knowledge transfer between science and policymaking. Drawing on her extensive experience as part of scientific enquiries and other processes intended to transfer scientific insights into policy decision-making, she points out where positive steps forward have already been taken and where inherent dilemmas make progress tricky. She also highlights possible ideas for scaling "lighthouse” project successes to wider scale transformation.


Jürgen Habermas caused a bit of a furore with his slim volume "A New Structural Change in the Public Sphere and Deliberative Politics," in which he criticizes how social media damage the self-perception of the political public sphere. Thorsten Thiel and Philipp Staab (HU Berlin) examine Habermas' theory of the public sphere ("Social Media and the Digital Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere"). They take a new look at Habermas' classic diagnosis of the structural change of the public sphere and reactivate the political economy dimension of his analysis. They show that under the conditions of the digital constellation, the central problem is no longer the immobilization of citizens as consumers, but the permanent activation under the primacy of the commercial, which stands in opposition to the emancipatory promise of collective self-determination. 

New publications

Berg, Sebastian/Koster, Ann-Kathrin/Maschewski, Felix/Matzner, Tobias/Nosthoff, Anna-Verena (2023): "Algorithmen der Alterität –Alterität der Algorithmen. Überlegungen zu einem komplexen Verhältnis". In: Behemoth - A Journal of Civilization (Special Issue), 15(2), 1-16.


Staab, Philipp/Thiel, Thorsten (2022): "Social Media and the Digital Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. Theory, Culture & Society", 39(4), 129–143. 


Fritzsche, Kerstin/Pohle, Julia/Bauer, Steffen/Haenel, Fabio/Eichbaum, Felix (2022): Digitalisierung nachhaltig und souverän gestalten. CO:DINA Positionspapier 10. CO:DINA.


Hofmann, Jeanette (2022): "Demokratie und Künstliche Intelligenz". In: Digitales Deutschland, 05.07.2022.


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.


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 to listen in

In the Weitergedacht podcast series (thinking ahead), Dr. Julia Pohle and Isabel Skierka, Program Leader for Technology Politics at the Digital Society Institute at the European School of Management and Technology Berlin, discuss the connections between digital sovereignty and the future of democracy in Europe. Both women are part of the expert group of the Alfred Herrhausen Society's "Digital Europe 2030" project, in the context of which the podcast was produced.

The podcast deals with the question of how the EU can shape digital policy in such a way that the collection, analysis and utilization of data take place for the democratic benefit of society. 


Dr. habil. Lena Ulbricht's research focuses on the use of digital technologies and the transformation of state power. She analyzes the regulation of technologies, the control of platforms and resistance to digital technologies. Here is a podcast in which she talks about her research. 


In this IT-BUSINESS podcast, Dr. Julia Pohle explains what is important in a self-determined data economy.


Unfair algorithms: Our guest researcher and mathematics graduate Paola Lopez (University of Vienna) speaks with a data protection lawyer about data sovereignty in this podcast.