Digital networking refers to the continuous and integrated linking of the physical world with the digital world. This process underlies very different terms such as the Internet of Things, Smart Cities, Smart Grid, Smart Production, Industry 4.0, Smart Buildings, the Internet of Systems Engineering, cyber-physical systems, or the Internet of Everything. In each instance, the digital capture, mapping, and modelling of the physical world as well as the networking of the resulting information are central. They enable the real-time and semi-automated monitoring, evaluation, and control of the physical world. Digital images play a key role alongside digitalisation technologies and infrastructures. Networking in the physical world can be reflected by a networking of models and data. Utilising the data, models with execution semantics provide the basis for the verification and validation of digital images and their analysis using simulation and analytical methods for evaluating and forecasting effects in the physical and/or digital world. In addition, different network technologies and types are likewise needed for networking. They will be implemented by software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), and network slicing.

The focus of this research area’s work concerns how this should be done in coordination with society, politics, manufacturers, and operators. It combines IT and technical perspectives with technological-sociological approaches. The latter question a deterministic perception of technology, in which technological development is largely autonomous and society must adapt to what has been achieved. In contrast, the pragmatic approach, which is based on John Dewey’s work, emphasizes the co-evolution of machines, infrastructures, and processes, on the one hand, and socio-political institution building, on the other. The current empirical research of this approach focuses on complex hybrid arrangements and infrastructures such as aircraft, online communities, or digital global stock exchange trading, which not only enable simultaneous social actions, but also limit, mediate, and standardise. The research results show the growing interconnectedness and interdependence of human, delegated, and automated actions and point to the emergence of new logics of action that internalize and advance the experience of technologically mediated interaction.

At the Weizenbaum Institute, two research groups will focus on questions of technological development:

 

The two groups will work in close cooperation with the other research areas and pursue clear lines of inquiry to the research questions, including the use of automated processes and procedures as well as questions of governance or the usability of technology. In addition, individual analyses will be developed on the further development of digital infrastructures, systems, and solutions. Finally, the research area will compile detailed literature and data collections on technical and political developments in the Internet, breakdowns and attacks on the Internet, security methods and architectures as well as the resource consumption of hardware and software.
In the medium and long term, recommendations will be developed in coordination with the other research areas for socially intended technological change and possible incentive or control systems. This research area can thus culminate into a think tank for central high-tech, innovation, digitalisation, or sustainability strategies in Germany and Europe.