Digitalization of Society

S1: Technical standardisation and STS

MIONE, Anne (University of Montepellier), France, RIILLO, Cesare (STATEC), Luxembourg, DE VRIES, Henk (Erasmus U. Rotterdam), The Netherlands, MIJATOVIC, Ivana (University of Belgrade), Serbia, JAKOBS, Kai (RWTH Aachen University), Germany, MEYER, Niclas (Fraunhofer ISI), Germany

Scholars and policy makers are increasingly interested in standards development and its role in science and technology. Indeed, technical standards may accelerate science (and vice versa), facilitate technology development and in a broader sense, shape functioning of the society. For example, common measurement methods are key for scientific experiments. International communication standards are the basis of the complex communications systems we have today. Safety and environmental standards assure that minimum requirements for the health and safety of users and society are observed.
Standards frequently result from science and technical development and form the basis for future waves of innovation. The interplay of standards and standardisation with science and technology is important but remains largely unexplored. This holds particularly for the emerging ‘smart’ technologies like e.g. smart cities or smart manufacturing (aka Industry 4.0).

Accordingly, the session ‘Technical Standardisation and STS’ solicits contributions aiming to explain and explore the role of standards and standardisation for Science, Technology and Society, the ongoing digitisation of society and how STS could help improve standards setting and to make standards more beneficial for society.
Topics include (but are not limited to):

  • The nature of the relationship between standards, standardisation and
  • Standards for digital transformation.
  • Responsible standardisation.
  • Stakeholder representation in standardisation.
  • Legitimacy and influence of different players on standards
  • (When) do standards and standardisation hamper development in science
    and technology?
  • Contributions of science to standards development.
  • Standards and knowledge transfer.
  • Emergence of social norms in society and their impact on science and
  • Education about standardisation.

KEYWORDS: responsible standardisation, stakeholders, smart applications


S2: The politics of algorithmic governance. Data subjects and social ordering in the digital age

EYERT, Florian, IRGMAIER, Florian, REHAK, Rainer (Weizenbaum-Institute for the Networked Society), Germany

A key aspect of the ongoing digital transformation of society is the increasing datafication and quantification of almost all aspects of life. This realm of “data doubles” gives rise to new modes of producing and validating knowledge and of establishing epistemic and thus political authority, enabled by artificially intelligent computer systems and machines learning from big datasets. As a consequence, we are witnessing the emergence of new forms of social coordination, steering and control that are unfolding on the individual level (as in the quantified self movement), on the organizational level (as in people analytics) as well as on the societal level (as in predictive policing and citizen scores). While technology enthusiasts interpret these trends as an opportunity for more reactive, more integrated and less bureaucratic forms of regulation that will ultimately benefit everyone (O’Reilly 2013), critics warn that humans are reduced to passive data providers in a new, depoliticized “surveillance capitalism” (Morozov 2014, Zuboff 2018). As the fusion of digital technology and institutions of public and private governance proceeds, gaining a deeper understanding of these ambivalences is one of the pressing academic and practical issues of our time (Yeung 2017).

During this session we want to continue the conversation about the possible contributions of Science, Technology and Society Studies to this set of questions, debating both concrete empirical cases and broader theoretical considerations. We invite innovative papers from all relevant areas that address issues including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Which new forms of algorithmic governance do we observe?
  • How do they relate to and interact with existing forms of social ordering and what sets them apart?
  • Do we witness the emergence of new forms of subjectivities and identities?
  • In what ways do algorithmic systems foster or inhibit individuals’ conduct of everyday life, and how are they integrated into daily routines?
  • Do we witness the rise of new types of socio-technical networks and assemblages?
  • When do the new infrastructures of algorithmic governance fail and which vulnerabilities are responsible for the failures?
  • In what ways do individuals and groups apply, cope with, adapt to, subvert or re-purpose systems of algorithmic governance?
  • How can we think about these changes in ways that take seriously both the material specificity and the social logics of these new technologies?
  • What are the socio-technical imaginaries that give rise to the various forms of algorithmic governance?
  • What is the relationship between data, algorithms and agency, and what do these forms of algorithmic governance imply for individual and collective self-determination?
  • What are the conditions for the legitimacy of algorithmic governance in the 21st century?
  • How can algorithmic governance itself be governed?

KEYWORDS: algorithms, governance, self-determination, artificial intelligence, social ordering



S3: Socio-technical challenges of health technologies

OLOFSSON, Jennie & MALI, Franc (University of Ljubljana), Slovenia

We live in an era of unprecedented progress and convergence of emerging technologies, something that has enormous social, commercial, ethical and legal implications for today's society (Rocco 2012). Nano, bio, info, and cognitive technologies, i.e. converging technologies (Coenen 2009; Rocco 2012) are all seen as game changers in that they radically alter our existence. At the same time, the actual reach of their impacts is far from certain. While emerging technologies, can be seen as the main drivers in the reconstruction of social life and human identification at large, special attention is needed with regards to their implications for biomedicine and health treatment, particularly as they represent a paramount example of how current science and technology can reshape social condition of human life (Savulescu et al. 2011).

Following converging technologies and their impact on medical diagnoses, therapy, disease prevention and health treatment, they constitute a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they hold an immense potential for the provision of effective medical practices. Particularly the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) pave way for individually adapted, medicine; it provides online access to health information, so that patients have the opportunity to engage more actively in different matters of health as they perform the role of prosumers rather than consumers. It also enables health providers to respond more quickly to patients’ needs, something that can help to improve health treatment. At the same time, ICTs result in an excess of information, much due to the web 2.0 facilitated interaction between individuals, patients, health workers and medical experts on social media platforms, something that also makes us monitor ourselves in radically new ways. The use of converging technologies more generally also results in increasingly blurred borders between medical treatment and human enhancement, something that challenge basic and long-standing (bio)ethical principles such as the issue of human dignity, privacy, confidentiality and medical secrecy, autonomy, informed consent and justice.

This session explores the socio-technical expectations and transformations in and of biomedicine with regards to converging technologies and in particular their impact on medical diagnoses, therapy, disease prevention and health treatment.

Questions include (but are not limited to):

  • What are the social, cultural and ethical implications of the increasingly blurred borders between medical treatment and human enhancement?
  • How do patients' engagement and involvement in the health system challenge traditional relationships between patients, health workers and medical expertise? How do these actors navigate to understand and manage these relations?
  • What are the risks and potentials of converging technologies when it comes to solving health problems connected to social, cultural and economic factors? In which ways do converging technologies alter the condition for what counts as good psychosocial conditions and quality of life?
  • How to map (and prevent) emanating power structures in relation to the use of converging technologies in everyday medical practice?
  • In which ways are genetic determinism both challenged and reinforced in and through the use of emerging technologies?
  • How do local, national, cultural and institutional agents contribute to shaping policy discourses in relation to converging technologies?
  • How to think about converging technologies in relation to resourcification of human bodies?

KEYWORDS: emerging technologies, biomedicine, health treatment

Coenen, C (2009) Zauberwort Konvergenz. Technikfolgenabschätzung. Theorie und Praxis 18(2): 44-50. (accessed 2018-11-19).

Rocco, M.C. (2012): Methods and global investments for converging technologies, Converging Technologies for Societal Benefits, Sharp, P., et al. (2012) The Third Revolution: The Convergence of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences and Engineering. MA: MIT Press.

Savulescu, J., ter Meulen, R. and Kahne, G. (2011): Enhancing Human Capacities. Oxford: Willey Blackwell; Buchanan, A. (2011), Beyond Humanity? The Ethics of Biomedical Enhancement. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


S4: Applying artificial intelligence on vulnerable target groups: chances and challenges

SCHNEIDER, Diana (FH Bielefeld - University of Applied Sciences) & SIEBERT, Scarlet (TH Köln - University of Applied Sciences), Germany

Digitalization in general and artificial intelligence (AI) in particular, e.g. applications of big data analytics and robotics, are radically changing society. This applies not only to the world of industry and politics, but also to an increasing extent to social services like education and healthcare, where vulnerable groups like children, elderly or disabled people are targeted. In this context, societal challenges, e.g. the demographic change, are powerful narratives for a technology-push, that is supposed to foster self-determination, participation, and equality of these groups. For instance, applications of smart home shall allow the elderly to stay in their familiar environment longer (Wessling, 2013), while social robots are supposed to foster the participation of children with special needs in educational settings (Dautenhahn et al., 2009; Kim et al., 2013). With the assessment of big data, unemployed people shall receive adequate offers concerning their job opportunities (Fanta, 2018) and refugees shall get sufficient treatments concerning their health (Baeck, 2017). Furthermore, dangers to the welfare of children shall be identified at an early stage (e.g. Gillingham & Graham, 2016). At the same time, the question arises if technology might transfer social disparities into the digital world. For instance, algorithms for predictive policing seem to replicate inequality because they are based on biased data that leads to accusing ethnic and religious minorities more often than the white majority (e.g. Tayebi & Glässer, 2018; Datta et al., 2015). Living in a socially deprived neighbourhood in the analogue world accounts for a bad digital score, which might then lead to analogously executed punishments.
Although AI is already being used in highly sensitive areas such as kindergartens, welfare state institutions, and authorities, the effects of this technology on these areas have hardly been researched, if at all. The assessment of advantages and disadvantages of AI in these areas is still in its infancy. Therefore, this session seeks to discuss challenges and chances of the application of AI on vulnerable target groups, that shall function as a “burning glass” for the current state and future trends of possibilities to experience self-determination, participation, and equality in a digital society. These groups include, e.g., children, the elderly, people with disabilities, unemployed people as well as refugees.
By taking into account different disciplines, the session follows the concept of integrated research (Stubbe, 2018), that might enable a broader view on the technological impact on individuals (micro level) and institutions (macro level) and help answering the following questions systematically (Manzeschke et al., 2013): In which ways is the application of artificially intelligent technologies ethically questionable with respect to a certain target group? Which ethical challenges do emerge from the application of these technologies? How can these challenges be mitigated or even dissolved? To answer these questions, we would like to focus on conceptual and theoretical work. However, empirical findings, that report on challenges or solutions concerning the application of artificially intelligent technologies on vulnerable target groups, are welcomed as well.

KEYWORDS: digital society, artificial intelligence, self-determination, participation, integrated research

Baeck, J.-P. (2017, Mai 29). Überwachungssoftware für Geflüchtete: Der gläserne Flüchtling. Die Tageszeitung: taz. Abgerufen von!5409816/
Datta, A. et al. (2015): Automated Experiments on Ad Privacy Settings. A Tale of Opacity, Choice, and Discrimination, In: Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies (1), S. 92-112.
Dautenhahn, K., Nehaniv, C. L., Walters, M. L., Robins, B., Kose-Bagci, H., Mirza, N. A., & Blow, M. (2009). KASPAR - a minimally expressive humanoid robot for human-robot interaction research.

Fanta, A. (2018, Oktober 13). Österreichs Jobcenter richten künftig mit Hilfe von Software über Arbeitslose. Abgerufen 23. Oktober 2018, von
Gillingham, P. & Graham, T. (2016): ”Big Data“ in social work: The development of a critical perspective on social work´s latest ”electronic turn“, In: Australian Social Work, March 2016
Kim, E. S., Berkovits, L. D., Bernier, E. P., Leyzberg, D., Shic, F., Paul, R., & Scassellati, B. (2013). Social robots as embedded reinforcers of social behavior in children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43(5), 1038–1049.

Manzeschke, A., Weber, K., Rother, E., & Fangerau, H. (2013). Ergebnisse der Studie „Ethische Fragen im Bereich Altersgerechter Assistenzsysteme“ (neue Ausg). Berlin: VDI.
Stubbe, J. (2018). Innovationsimpuls „Integrierte Forschung“. Diskussionspapier des BMBF-Forschungsprogramms „Technik zum Menschen bringen". Berlin: VDI/VDE Innovation + Technik GmbH. Abgerufen von
Tayebi, M. A., & Glässer, U. (2018). Social Network Analysis in Predictive Policing: Concepts, Models and Methods (Softcover reprint of the original 1st ed. 2016). Springer.
Wessling, C. (2013, Dezember 17). Smart Home für Senioren. Zwischen Unterstützung und Überwachung. Abgerufen von


S5: Technology and the promise of decentralization

SCHRAPE, Jan-Felix (University of Stuttgart / University of Hohenheim), Germany

From the very beginning, the social appropriation of the Internet has been accompanied by the promise of technology-driven decentralization: Already in its earliest embodiment, the World Wide Web was meant to foster decentralized and thus more democratic social and economic structures (Negroponte 1995); Web 2.0 was to trigger a replacement of traditional mass media and one-to-many distribution networks by user-centric exchange processes and many-to-many communication – ultimately leading to an unprecedented ubiquitous form of prosumer capitalism (Ritzer and Jurgenson 2010); with the advent of the Internet of Things, 3D printing, and cyber-physical systems, the promise of new forms of collaboration in the production of material goods sufficient to effectively counteract existing asymmetries of economic power (Rifkin 2014; Mason 2015) again has carried on for a number of years now.

Although none of these expectations, in all of their radicality, has yet to empirically redeem itself, their underlying premise for the future has proven to be astonishingly stable. The belief that the Internet and digital technologies will someday lead to a decentralization of fundamental communication and societal transaction processes, along with hopes for equality, transparency, and far-reaching democratization, has significantly shaped the various discourses in their respective areas of development; most recently, this includes discussions of blockchain technologies and systems for distributed accounting in computer networks that may someday make classic financial intermediaries obsolete: “Using cryptography, some clever code and collaboration, blockchain creates a decentralised network with trust built into the system.” (Tapscott 2018: 3)

Against this backdrop, this session (a) traces the origins of the notion of decentralizing socio-economic forms of coordination through technological means and (b) discusses past and present ideas and attempts of decentralized and distributed economic systems. Submissions may include but are not limited to the following topics:

  • Socio-historical reconstructions from the early do-it-yourself (DIY) scene of the 1960s, the computer counterculture of the 1970s and 1980s to the debates on cyberspace and Web 2.0 in the 1990s and 2000s;
  • Empirical observations on present day concepts of decentralized economic structures (e.g., "Maker Economy", “Collaborative Commons”) and presumably decentralizing technologies (e.g. Blockchain);
  • Reflections on the basic patterns of arguments and communicative functions of
    technology-based promises of decentralization.


KEYWORDS: decentralization, technological change, socio-economic coordination, digitalization


S6: Exploring critical and engaged approaches for investigating the complexities of digital health

MARENT, Benjamin & HENWOOD, Flis (University of Brighton) United Kingdom

The notion of ‘digital health’ (Lupton 2018) refers to sociotechnical assemblages where a range of technologies are embedded in practices of accessing health information, sharing illness experiences, supporting people with chronic diseases to engage in self-care or empowering others to take up healthy lifestyles. These affordances are often interpreted by the medical and public health literature to mean that digital health will increase the quality and effectiveness of health services and bring forth emancipated citizens and patients that take responsibility for their own health.

Social scientists, on the other hand, have begun to articulate a number of concerns towards the increased digitisation of health. For example, it has been argued that digital technologies shift responsibility for health towards individual patients without problematizing the ‘digital divide’ or acknowledging the social determinants of health, that the over-reliance on ‘objective’ health data can undermine awareness of haptic sensations, leading to a reductionist understanding of the self and its complex health conditions, and that digital technologies are producing an unprecedented ‘net of surveillance’ that extends medical power and raises serious concerns regarding data security and privacy.

Recently, science and technology scholars (Ruckenstein and Schüll 2017) have argued that while the social science literature has used analytical concepts to outline potential negative consequences and concerns towards digital health less focus has been given to reveal the inherent tensions and contradictions that are enacted in sociotechnical practices. A dichotomised view that emphasises either the benefits or the drawbacks of digital health is problematic because it is blurring our sense of the complexities that are part of using self-care technologies. Moreover, in current societies, the digital has been portrayed as a ‘total social fact’ as it touches on most aspects of social life (Marres 2017). Consequently, the role of social sciences as a distant critic of the digital has been perceived as limited. Increasingly, social scientists are challenged to take up their critical role within the configuration of digital interventions (Marent et al. 2018).

This session invites papers that explore options for renewed critical and engaged approaches to digital health that do closely involve users, practices and technologies. In this way, we seek papers that…

… explore how users are constructed and involved within the design, development and implementation of digital health to intervene in the configuration of digital futures.

… focus on the practices of design and use to generate evidence on the broader social, ethical and political consequences of digital health.

… engage with new sources of data that are made available by the ‘digital’ and, thereby, contribute to methodological innovations and develop concepts and methods for research and knowledge translation.

KEYWORDS: digital health, sociotechnical practices, care fnfrastructures, co-design, user involvement, digital methods, health platforms

Lupton, D. (2018) Digital Health: Critical and Cross-disciplinary Perspectives, New York: Routledge
Marent, B., Henwood, F. and Darking, M. (2018a) Ambivalence in digital health. Co-designing an mHealth platform for HIV care. Social Science & Medicine 215: 133-141
Marres, N. (2017) Digital Sociology. The Reinvention of Social Research, Cambridge: Polity Press.
Ruckenstein, M. and Schüll, N.D. (2017) The Datafication of Health. Annual Review of Anthropology, 46, 261-278



S7: Humans & machines in healthcare contexts: interdisciplinary perspectives

BRUCKSCH, Susanne (DIJ Tokyo), GRÜNEBERG, Patrick (Kanazawa University), SASAKI, Kaori (Otaru University of Commerce), Japan

Technical devices have been shaping daily routines and clinical practices in hospitals and healthcare institutions, including surgical operations, nursing and long-term care, management of patient data, and the organisation of public health systems. Medical instruments are used to manipulate the human body, ranging from general devices with extremely low risk to such ones highly invasive to patients. Considering the care-recipient’s agency, healthcare technologies also provide possibilities to assist and empower persons in more frail or impaired conditions or even to enhance healthy subjects and their autonomy. At present, the technological development progresses at high pace in the fields of biomedical engineering, medical informatics, and assistive technology, with processes of digitization and automation contributing to new configurations of the human-device interplay in healthcare contexts. Particular hopes in the face of demographic challenges concern the employment of AI and robotic technologies in the field of labour-intensive healthcare.

Following recent trends in healthcare developments, interaction between machines and healthcare professionals as well as patient and/or care recipients rely on human agency in order to decrease the human workload or to improve (human) judgement during actions of prevention, diagnostics, therapeutics, and rehabilitation of disorders and diseases, or even bodily enhancement. As known from other fields of digitization, there is the risk that the utilization of human agency draws on the manipulative nature of technical devices. For instance, human-machine interaction might blur boundaries between (new) life/death, disease/health, (dis)-abled, as well as body boundaries and human identities. The resulting legal and public controversies issue not only challenges to practitioners and patients, but also to decision-makers that have difficulties institutionalising appropriate rules, procedures and standards. Consequently, developers face new opportunities for interaction design that at the same time ask for responsibilities considering the effects on human agency. Here, participatory approaches and responsible innovation are two current methods to ensure patient-safety.

In sum, beyond the mere modification of technical procedures, recent trends in healthcare technologies challenge our very understanding of health and its meaning for human well-being. Hence, we argue there is a need for interdisciplinary research considering the nascent state of many developments and the urgent need for designing and implementing standards and policies for emerging healthcare technologies. When conceiving the development and employment of healthcare devices as an ongoing process of negotiation among different stakeholders, appliances and practices appear as societal phenomena.

More precisely, this session invites contributions approaching the field of Humans & Machines in Healthcare Contexts from historical, regulatory, cultural, ethical, STS, social, life-science, engineering and political-economic perspectives to initiate an academic exchange. We welcome academic presentations from various disciplinary angles as well as interactive and innovative contributions to this session.


KEYWORDS: medical technology, care, agency, digitization, robotics


S8: Digital transparency for more sustainability on the business level

NIEHOFF, Silke & BEIERGrischa (IASS Potdsam), Germany

Industrial production plays an important role for achieving a green economy and the sustainable development goals. Therefore the digital transformation of industry should be evaluated from a sustainability point of view to identify threads and potentials regarding a sustainable development. One starting point for bringing together the goals of sustainable development and the digital transformation of industry is the potential of an improved transparency of industrial production. One of the main characteristics of Industry 4.0 is the digital interconnection of manufacturing systems (also across company borders) and products along the entire product life cycle. The availability of production-related information along the entire value chain of a produced component allows for informed environmental management, for example when reducing the greenhouse gas emission of a product while at the same time avoiding to increase the emission elsewhere in the supply chain. It could also open up new possibilities for sustainable business models, for stakeholder management, corporate reputation building or even environmental legislation.

In this session we would like to approach the topic of “Digital Transparency for more Sustainability on the Business Level” in an interactive and creative way. To apply for this session we ask interested applicants of different backgrounds to prepare an abstract of max 500 words elaborating on their approach on the topic “Digital Transparency for more Sustainability on the Business Level”. In the session itself all successful applicants will be asked to either present a poster or give a short presentation (no powerpoint presentations though) of their approach. In the first part of the session presentations will be held for 15min in parallel. Based on the received information and with the help of some guiding questions and framework conditions, small groups of participants (max. 5 people each) are then asked in an interactive part to produce their own “scenarios” of a transparent digital and (un)sustainable production.

KEYWORDS: industry 4.0, transparency, sustainability management, scenarios

S9: Effects of socio-technical systems that generate virtureal workspaces

LEMM, Jacqueline (RWTH Aachen University), Germany

The relationship between space and sociality is being redefined as a direct consequence of the digitalization of all areas of life.
This becomes strikingly visible with regard to communication processes in organizations of tomorrow's world of work: communication processes and approaches to communication are changing through the use of new sociotechnical communications-systems, including the latest information and communication technologies (ICT).

With Alexa for Business, Amazon has started the age of the voice-controlled office or is trying to do so. Appointments can be organized via voice control, conference rooms can be booked and sales presentations can be called up.
A number of companies have already developed prototypes or business applications:

The New York office provider Wework takes part in a beta test of Alexa for Business and enables its employees and customers to control the lights in the company premises by voice command and to book conference rooms. In a luxury hotel in Las Vegas (Wynn's), echo devices are installed in every room so that only the power of one's voice can switch the television on and off or order food.
New communication and information technologies can contribute to more effective and transparent planning, realization and, if necessary, modernization of work processes, for example the methods of Building Information Modeling (BIM) represent the tool for realizing these goals using the example of the construction industry. The result is a virtureal workspace that raises socially relevant questions.

In this session we invite colleagues to reflect on the use of various new socio-technical systems that will change our communication and work processes, for example to work together in new virtureal workspaces. Furthermore we want to discuss controversially the opportunities and challenges of such socio-technical systems (e.g. support or replacement of people at work) which create virtureal workspaces.

KEYWORDS: socio-technical systems, ICT, Alexa, BIM, virtureal workspaces