Arbeitsgruppe Informationsmanagement
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Digital Society Considering Aspects of Living, Learning and Governing

WiSe 2015/16

Modulbereich: Spezielle Themen der Angewandten Informatik

VAK: 03-ME-803.99b

Termin: Thursday 12.00-14.00 & Sat.. 05.12. 08:00 - 18:00

Raum: MZH 1460

CP: 4

Diese Veranstaltung findet in englischer Sprache statt!


In this seminar we want to critically engage with topics that relate to living and learning in a digital society, and how digital societies may be governed. Topics we want to discuss relate to questions such as:  Do we live in a Digital Society and what does that mean? How is sociality performed in the digital age? What is the role of information technologies in and for society? What are challenges of a digital society that aims to be inclusive and innovative? What do terms such as transparency, accountability, ethics and politics relate to in a digital society and how are they enacted? Throughout the seminar we will attend the increasing datafication of social life as one particular aspect of digital sociality.

While following this seminar, students should be able to:

  • appreciate the history and development of the term ‘digital society’ and develop an understanding of some of the key themes that have arisen; how they may be conceptualised and researched;
  • develop, understand and evaluate many of the opportunities and limitations that arise from the ever growing entanglement of organisation, work and technology;
  • gain familiarity with a particular aspect of a ‘digital society’ through the application of theoretical concepts on a specific case study/area;
  • develop group competencies and an interest in team working;
  •  synthesise the different elements of understanding in a verbal presentation and in an essay or video.



PART I – Introductory Sessions: Interpretations of Technology and Digital Sociality
The introductory part of our seminar deals with fundamental questions about what technology is and most importantly is to us. You will learn about different ways of conceptualising and framing technology and digital sociality. This ranges from technological determinism to the social construction of technology to sociotechnical systems approaches and actor-network theory. The theoretical introduction will provide us with tools and concepts for analysing the ways in which digital sociality transforms living, learning and governing.

PART II – Living and Learning in a Digital Society
In this part of the seminar we are interested in the opportunities and challenges that a Digital Society poses. In particular we will attend to questions around the inclusiveness and openness of digital sociality. Our guest speakers will one the one hand describe how digital technologies enable citizen scientists to engage in science and hence create ‘no-walls laboratories’ (Fermín Serrano) and how on the other hand a digital divide between the global south and north poses significant threats on the ways in which science and health care can be conducted and delivered in developing countries (Barbara Aronson).

PART III – Governing (in) a Digital Society
The third part of our course attends to questions of digital governance and digital democracy. In particular the open data movement has changed the ways in which citizens and civil society organisations participate and engage in the political arena. We will spend a full day with Prof. Rajão learning about and discussing the role of open government data for environmental policy making. We will consider different stakeholders perspective and data practices. In a subsequent guest lecture Timo Lundelius from We build Hamburg will present a civic engagement tool that aims to exploit the potential of open government data for inclusive policy making and governing. In our last guest lecture we will hear first hand from Stefan Domanske how and why public administrations are opening their data repositories to the public.

PART IV – Conclusion
In our last session we will recap our seminar and consider the ethical dimension of the ‘digital turn’. In particular we want to consider the themes from part I and part II against the open data movement and digital forms of democracy.

Teaching includes lectures and student-led discussion sessions. Part of the lectures will be held by external speakers. For every part (introduction, living, governing, working, ethics) we have activities scheduled such as films, a data session, and self-tracking. Students will be required to read academic papers and practitioner case studies in English.


1) Citizen Science: Creating no-walls laboratories
Guest Lecture by Fermín Serrano (Fundacion Ibercivis, Spain)

2) Digital Divide: HINARI Access to Research in Health Programme
Guest Lecture by Barbara Aronson (World Health Organization, Switzerland)

3) The social aspects of digital democracy: The example of satellite-based monitoring of the Brazilian Amazon and environmental policy making
Full-day seminar (5th December) with Prof. Raoni Rajao (UFMG, Brazil)

4) Civic Hacking
Guest Lecture by Timo Lundelius (We build Hamburg)

5) Doing Open Government: Lüneburg’s Open Data Portal
Guest Lecture by Stefan Domanske (IT Manager County Council Lüneburg)

Students will be assessed based on active seminar participation, group work and individual work. The group work includes a 15 minutes presentation on one of the activities scheduled for each part of the seminar and the preparation of a discussion session on one of the activities and for one of the guest lectures. The individual tasks include weekly, reflective short assignments and a final 5ooo word essay. Instead of the invidiual essay students may choose to prepare a 5 minute video/animation which reflects on a particular aspect/question of the course.