Quantification and Social Regulation - Project at the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society
The research group “Quantification and Social Regulation” investigates how regulation changes when it makes use of contemporary automated information and decision-making systems. Ubiquitous computing, big data and artificial intelligence (AI) entail new practices of quantification and valuation whose role for regulation and for democracy require further examination. The research group undertakes this endeavor by combining perspectives from social science and computer science.
Regulation as a feature of modern societies
Regulation can be understood as the intentional steering of individual and corporative actors’ behavior by state and non-state organizations and is a key component of modern social life. Forms of regulation change with the underlying practices and technologies: at present, big data and artificial intelligence raise questions about changes in regulation the same way the development of statistics and accounting did in the past.
Influence of modern computer technology on regulatory processes
Digital technologies increasingly pervade modern societies at all levels. Individual life decisions are more and more shaped by online environments and digital devices. Concurrently, state, political and economic organizations increasingly adopt algorithmic procedures and AI to optimize their workflows. Modern computer technologies seem to render regulation more encompassing, tailored and effective – simply more powerful.
Analysis of concrete cases
Yet only empirical studies can reveal how exactly automated information and decision-making systems work in a specific institutional context and how they are interrelated with organizational structures, power relations, and professional norms and identities. We thus analyze concrete cases where quantification and datafication are deployed in regulation. These include big data and AI in policing, in social policy, for jurisdiction, for policy-design, in the development of political strategies, in social sciences and in the management of labor.
The research group is composed of scholars from political science, sociology and computer science and positions itself in the research fields of governance and regulation research, public policy research, the sociologies of classification, quantification and valuation as well as in science and technology studies, critical computer science and critical algorithm studies.
A detailed project description can be found here.
Contact person: Dr. Lena Ulbricht