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DiDaT - Transdisciplinary Research on the Role of the Internet in the Future in Cooperation with IASS-Potsdam


Digital Data as Subject of Transdisciplinary Processes (DiDaT)

Digitalisation is changing our lives and has resulted in a fundamental transformation of many areas - in the form of benefits, but also of undesirable side effects. Sustainability research now faces the challenge of identifying the unintended side effects (the so-called "Unseens") of the digital transformation. It should develop strategies that enable societies to deal appropriately with these undesirable effects.

According to a structured conversation of European experts held in 2017, the relationship between ownership, economic value, use and access of digital data is not well understood. This can result in unintended side effects for individuals, groups, companies and wider parts of society. The DiDaT (Digital Data as subject of Transdisciplinary Processes) project will investigate and assess the vulnerabilities of different stakeholder groups in a transdisciplinary dialogue between science and practice. It is led by Ortwin Renn and Roland W. Scholz.

DiDaT has the following goals:

  • Establish socially robust orientations on how to deal with unintended side effects (Unseens) of the digital transformation.
  • Promote best practices for the use of digital data.
  • Discussing the principles of data ethics according to the findings of the structured conversation of European experts, according to whom ethical principles are not yet sufficiently discussed and implemented. The initiation phase of the project started on 1 October 2018.

On 25 March 2019, the DiDaT Kickoff Meeting took place at the IASS in Potsdam. 13 practitioners and 25 researchers discussed in a first attempt which undesirable side effects "unseens" can result from the use of digital data. Based on the concept sketches (see below), about 35 practitioners and about 45 researchers were involved in the creation of the first sketch of the rough concepts.

At the 1st Stakeholder Conference, 35 practitioners and 38 scientists discussed the detailed plans for the seven vulnerability areas.

The Corona pandemic had a major impact on DiDaT as well. The physical meetings important for confidence building could not take place. Some members were temporarily pulled out of the process by additional demands. Thus, part of the delayed completion of the two books can be explained by Corona.

The DiDaT research project consists of an equal co-leadership that unites representatives from science and practice at all levels. These are Markus Beckedahl (Head of Civil Society, netzpolitik.org), Stephan Noller (Head of Business, Ubirch and Bundesverband Digitale Wirtschaft, BVDW), Prof. Dr. Dr. Ortwin Renn (IASS) and Prof. em. ETH Roland W. Scholz (IASS-DUK). The scientific management of the project consists of Profs. Renn and Scholz, the scientific management of the project consists of Profs. Eike Albrecht and Magdalena Mißler-Behr (BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg).

With the completion of the white book phase, projects on in-depth research and transdisciplinary laboratories (Td-Labs) will start.

A project funded by the Vodafone Foundation is investigating how young people assess scenarios of social media use.

The Td-Lab Data Economics with a focus on online marketing will continue the work it has started. A Td-Lab on adaptation strategies of SMEs has been formed. In the field of agriculture, a Td-Lab on strategies for assessing data sovereignty in the field of agriculture will be formed. The work of these groups is supported by the Td-Method Lab (BTU-Cottbus-Senftenberg; Paul Honore Takam), where software for participatory scenario construction and scenario assessment has been developed and will be used in the Td-Labs. In the Td-Labs, a solution-oriented view is also taken from the perspective of the practice partners (for example, in strategy/business plan), which is why we also speak here - for certain project phases - of transdisciplinary action research.

Here you can find a detailed description of the DiDaT project. You can read a report on the 2nd DiDaT Stakeholder Conference on 22.01.2020 at Fraunhofer Fokus in Berlin here. Please send us an email or contact Roland Scholz at +41 79 422 44 01 if you would like more information that is not included in the brochure or if you would like to participate in the project.

Important documents on the project:


Concept papers for the white paper, rough plans and detailed plans (documenting the work process) can be provided on request (in German). The main products of the first phase are accessible by click.