Digital Society: Perception, Assessment, Opinion Formation

Like any technological revolution, digitalization not only holds great opportunities, but also great risks. In addition to massive changes in the world of work and the labor market, complete transparency and 'predictability' of the individual, which can be achieved through the collection, consolidation and analysis of countless traces of data, is considered as a significant transformation. Governmental bureaucracies, political and/or commercial actors might then exploit this data out of individual interest. The dangers emerging for democratic elections have been highlighted by recent publications on the potential role of Cambridge Analytica in Donald Trump's electoral campaign. These possibilities arise from the fact that many, especially young people, are increasingly entrusting their lives to systems whose security is highly questionable in a naive enthusiasm for technology. This is by no means self-evident; on the contrary, it requires a great deal of explanation. In a country where every major technology (from nuclear technology to biotechnology and genetic engineering to nanotechnology) has been met with skepticism for decades. The ambivalences and dark side of digitalization seem to have largely disappeared from collective consciousness, if not been suppressed. How can it be that only three decades after the 'census boycott' Big Data has become a generally positively connoted term? Why do many people either not perceive the dangers of digitalization at all or write them off as negligible collateral damage? Under what conditions do attitudes towards digitalization change and when do they become relevant for action? These are the initial questions being addressed in this field of research. The research program is based on the premise that the state and politics are in many ways overwhelmed with the task of steering digitalization into socially and democratically acceptable paths. If alternative ideas for dealing with private data have a chance of realization, then the path leads there via the behavior of individual users of digital technologies, which in turn depends on knowledge and perceptions. Research in this area provides the necessary basic knowledge for the overarching goal of securing and strengthening democracy in the digital society.


  • Development of Public Opinion on Digitalization in Germany
  • Online Privacy Concerns in Germany
  • Big Data Belief Systems
  • Fair Artificial Intelligence Reasoning (FAIR) – funded by the VolkswagenStiftung

Selected Publication

Kieslich, K. (2019). Digitalization vs. Robotization Framing Effects on Fear in Context of the Digitalization of Work. Précis für das Düsseldorfer Institut für Internet und Demokratie (DIID). Abrufbar unter (Download)

Lünich, M., & Marcinkowski, F. (2018). Der Facebook-Datenskandal im Spiegel der öffentlichen Meinung. Précis für das Düsseldorfer Institut für Internet und Demokratie (DIID). Abrufbar unter (Download)

Klinger, K., Garrell, D., Voskoboynikova, M., Konsek, A., Neppel, M., Kuth, M. J., Obermöller, D., Groß, S. & Heiß, F. (2018). Systematisch irrational? Zum Umgang mit privaten Daten im digitalen Zeitalter. Working Paper No. 1 des Lehrstuhls KMW I. Düsseldorf: Institut für Sozialwissenschaften, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf. (Download)