Digital technologies and the Internet are placing fundamentally new demands on education. Users can gain practical application skills in a short period of time and manage to very quickly integrate new media and applications into their everyday life. This process is supported by increasingly intuitive user interfaces that allow already children to rapidly learn and even use complex applications without basic instructions. In these rather pragmatic usage situations, however, the possible further long term consequences of the technologies can only be reflected on to a limited extent. The dangers they may contain for one’s own well-being, for the private living environment, as well as for individual self-determination – but also the potential positive opportunities, which may be created in certain applications – are often not immediately apparent to individuals in their roles as citizens, consumers, or employees. This occurs due to the fact that t the technical foundations and societal consequences are not fully transparent in their complexity.

This presents a challenge to research at various levels. It is therefore necessary, to investigate what future knowledge and which future competencies will be required for people in a digital world e within the framework of digital education. One particular challenge poses  the social differentiation of knowledge transfer: depending on educational background, age, and usage experience, it is necessary to impart practical usage skills, technical background knowledge, or social impact assessments to recognise and counteract the inherent potentials for inequality.

At a higher level of analysis, the objective is to enable people to preserve and expand their own scope of action in an environment of ever-new digital products, services, and communication structures. Itt is necessary to examine which rules must be established and which specific competencies must be developed to empower individuals to be able to independently assess technological, economic, and social effects: How can the principle of individual self-determination and sovereignty be defined and implemented in digital worlds?

The aim must be to understand the negative consequences of digitalisation through well-grounded research – e.g. in data protection and privacy – while, identifying and seizing the potential of digital media and applications for improving individual and social living conditions. This applies not only to individuals, but also to social groups and the society as a whole. The integration of migrants, majority and minority societies, people with disabilities or different generations can be achieved more effectively –– with the help of new communication technologies, especially in the face of possible permanent global lines of conflict. This requires the research and further development of applications and their thorough exploration.

 

The research area is accordingly divided into five research groups: