The Weizenbaum Institute investigates the current changes in all aspects of society occurring in response to digitalisation. Our goals are to develop a comprehensive understanding of these changes based on rigorous academic analysis and to offer informed strategies to address them at a political and economic level.
The Weizenbaum Institute is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research with € 50 million over 5 years. The consortium is coordinated by the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB) and includes the four Berlin universities – Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin, Universität der Künste Berlin – as well as the Universität Potsdam and the Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems (FOKUS).
The Berlin-Brandenburg Consortium focuses on the interaction of the social sciences, economics and law with design research and computer science. Interdisciplinary basic research and the exploration of concrete solutions in practice-based labs are combined with knowledge transfer into politics, business, and society. The conceptual design of the Institute aims to achieve scientific excellence with a nationwide and international impact, as well as networking with cooperation partners from civil society, business, politics, and the media.
The institute is named after the computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum, who was born in Berlin in 1923 and passed away in 2008. His entire life’s work was concerned with the socio-critical dialogue between man and machine.
The Institute’s core objective is to conduct outstanding, interdisciplinary, and problem-oriented basic research, which at the same time drives application-oriented projects and, moreover, stimulates the formulation of new research questions. To do justice to the interplay between technology and society, the principle of interdisciplinarity will be implemented not only selectively, but in all research areas and projects. For the first time, the Institute will unite all relevant disciplines in a single research program and develop a holistic perspective on the process of digitalisation in society. A central social challenge is to ensure democratic self-determination and participation under the conditions of increasing digitalisation and automation. Accordingly, the Institute’s overarching question is the following:
How can the goals of individual and social self-determination be achieved in a world characterised by digitally mediated processes of transformation and demarcation, and which framework conditions and resources are necessary for their realization?
Here, self-determination is understood as the individual and collective competency to recognise, use, and design the scope of action. It is a fundamental prerequisite for the democratic organisation of society and a competitive market economy.
Research Areas and Research Groups of the Weizenbaum Institute
The conditions and requirements for social self-determination will be examined in the institute in six central areas under varying aspects such as self-determined work, digital sovereignty, digital citizenship, participation, and democracy. Here, the Institute will not only analyse current developments, but also identify and publicly discuss future political, economic, and social options for action.
Several research groups have been established in each of these research areas, whose main questions and research approaches are aimed at bringing together different disciplinary perspectives on society and digitalisation. In addition to 20 research groups, accompanying cross-sectional formats are also planned. They focus on overarching issues of ethics and the political structuring of the relationship between technology and society. Special emphasis is placed on the sustainability of digital technologies, the relationship between autonomous systems and self-determination as well as the relationship between security and openness.
Fraunhofer FOKUS / TU Berlin
Fraunhofer HHI / TU Berlin