Digitalization and Social Change


With the help of digital applications and devices, the spheres of production &consumption as well as everyday life can be organized more efficiently. For instance, e-mails, tweets and short message allow for quick and asynchronous communication; online maps enable people to swiftly find an address in an unfamiliar city; and online shopping reduces the time needed to buy goods and services to a few mouse clicks. This suggests that digitalization contributes to an acceleration of the pace of life. At the same time, there are numerous examples of how “playing around” with digital devices, gaming, and hours of Internet browsing or time-consuming surfing on social networks can turn digitalization into a tool for procrastination, hence making time less productive. In this case, one might think that digitalization can contribute to a deceleration of the pace of life.

Building on decades of discourse on social acceleration, this sub-project empirically examines whether digitalization accelerates or decelerates the pace of life. New scales will be developed in order to measure both the degree of digitalization of individuals and the effect on the pace of life. Regression and correlation analyses will subsequently be carried out to investigate the connection between digitalization and social acceleration. Among other things, the effects of digitalization on multi-tasking, time-efficient practices, and perceived time stress (subjective acceleration) will be examined. In addition, we will analyze whether timesaving technologies lead to time-rebound-effects such that individuals perform even more activities per day (objective acceleration).