Digitalization and Social Change


It is said that digitalization has a "disruptive" character: "Everything will change, it will be a new world" is what we hear from the Silicon Valley. On the supply side, it will radically change production and marketing. On the side of the individual, how and what we consume as well as the way we communicate is changing fundamentally. To what kind of institutional and structural change does digitalization ultimately lead? Does this rather point towards a socio-ecological transformation or towards a renewed modernization, which results in stabilizing existing socio (natural) conditions?

Conventional modernization or socio-ecological transformation?

In this habilitation project, the impact of digitalization on social change and how this affects individual consumption and consumption of resources will be examined. Key questions are going to be: Does an increase in digital individualization in consumption lead to a decrease in demand, to a continuing boost of differentiation of the market, or even increased consumption due to compensatory effects? Will democratic elements in the economy really increase - or will digitalization rather encourage even greater oligopolization, while the veil of algorithms is giving more power to less people and is leading to less transparency for many people? And finally, will we save time and money through the use of efficient digital communication media - or will the social life cycle accelerate, so that we will eventually fill our days with even more activities, all of which require a certain amount of energy and resources?

These questions will be studied using a transdisciplinary mix of methods, including a quantitative survey, qualitative interviews and the analysis of case studies. Beyond that, an intensive exchange with partners in the practical world and a strong cooperation with the dissertation projects in this research group are going to contribute to this habilitation project.

Contact Person

Dr Tilman Santarius