Politics of Digitalization
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).
The research group consists of three interrelated projects: The project “Quantification and Social Regulation” investigates the growing importance of automated processes of quantification and valuation with big data, algorithms and artificial intelligence as a resource for regulation and governance. The project “The Internet Policy Field” studies, in a comparative manner, the discourses, institutions, actor constellations and governance procedures that contribute to shaping the digital transformation at the national and transnational level. The project “Democracy and Digitalization” examines the transformative power of digitalization with regard to the assumed changes in the form of democracy; it particularly focuses on the evolving constitution of the demos, the public sphere and the formation of political will.
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).