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Digitization and Democracy (Completed)

Democracy is a fundamental element of liberal societies. To be sustainable, democracy must continue to develop with a constantly changing society. Digitalization plays an important part in current social developments, but also in meeting the challenges of democracy.

Digital technologies expand the possibilities of social, economic and political organization in many ways. This is currently noticeable not only as a structural change affecting the general public but also as a change in democratic processes and forms of political communication. This change is observed with concern by politicians and the general public. It is feared that the use of digital media will influence the shaping of political opinions and lead to election manipulation. The power of transnational social networks and platforms is also a subject of this discussion. On the one hand, these platforms have contributed decisively to lowering the barriers of participation and have created new opportunities for public communication. On the other hand, the business model of such platforms leads to extensive monitoring and algorithmic curating of social life. Although the selection mechanisms of such algorithms greatly influence the flow of public information, their mode of operation is nontransparent.

Given the significance on democracy attributed to digital media, the working group is concerned with individual aspects of this relationship. The objective is to assess the current change in terms of new ways to strengthen and expand political self-determination, but also to look at the existing risks to derive recommendations for action for politics and society. The working group will concentrate in particular on issues related to the public realm because this is where the greatest potential for change is currently suspected.


  • German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina (responsible)
  • Union of German Academies of Sciences and Humanities (responsible)
  • German National Academy of Science and Engineering acatech

Spokespersons of the Working Group

  • Prof. Dr. Johannes Buchmann ML, CDC - Theoretische Informatik - Kryptographie und Computeralgebra, Technische Universität Darmstadt,
  • Prof. Dr. Judith Simon, Fachbereich Informatik, Universität Hamburg

Members of the Working Group

  • Prof. Dr.-Ing. Reiner Anderl, Fachgebiet Datenverarbeitung in der Konstruktion, Technische Universität Darmstadt
  • Prof. Dr. Elisabeth André ML, Institut für Informatik, Universität Augsburg
  • Prof. Dr. Matthias Bäcker, Öffentliches Recht und Informationsrecht, Datenschutzrecht, Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz
  • Ass.-Prof. Dr. Tobias Dienlin, Institut für Publizistik- und Kommunikationswissenschaft, Universität Wien
  • Prof. Dr. Thorsten Faas, Otto-Suhr Institut für Politikwissenschaft, Freie Universität Berlin
  • Prof. Dr. Dirk Helbing ML, Computational Social Science, ETH Zürich, Schweiz (Member until November 2020)
  • Prof. Dr. Andreas Hepp, Zentrum für Medien-, Kommunikations- und Informationsforschung, Universität Bremen
  • Prof. Dr. Ralph Hertwig ML, Forschungsbereich für Adaptive Rationalität, Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
  • Prof. Dr. Jeanette Hofmann, Forschungsgruppe Politik der Digitalisierung, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung
  • Prof. Dr. Lisa Herzog, Centre for Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Groningen, Netherlands
  • Prof. Dr. Frauke Kreuter, Lehrstuhl für Statistik und sozialwissenschaftliche Methodenlehre, Universität Mannheim
  • Prof. Dr. Jörn Lamla, Fachgebiet Soziologische Theorie, Universität Kassel
  • Prof. Dr. Thomas Lengauer ML, Max-Planck-Institut für Informatik, Saarbrücken
  • Prof. Dr. Martina Löw, Institut für Soziologie, Technische Universität Berlin
  • Prof. Dr. Barbara Pfetsch, Institut für Publizistik- und Kommunikationswissenschaft, Freie Universität Berlin
  • Prof. Dr. Indra Spiecker gen. Döhmann, Lehrstuhl für Öffentliches Recht, Informationsrecht, Umweltrecht, Verwaltungswissenschaft, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
  • Prof. Dr. Michael Zürn, Abteilung Global Governance, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung

ML = Member of the Leopoldina


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Dr. Henning Steinicke

Scientific Officer, Department Science - Policy - Society

Phone 0345 - 47 239 - 864
Fax 0345 - 47 239 - 839
E-Mail henning.steinicke (at)leopoldina.org