A social perspective on digitalisation

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Computers in various forms are now an integral part of our everyday lives, from stationary desktops to everyday companions in the form of smart watches or wearables. In addition, we have become accustomed to the connection to the Internet around the clock. The coexistence of more and more apps and of more and more devices around us is putting the vision of ubiquitous computing into reality. Digitalisation pioneer Mark Weiser postulated in 1991, that a lot of our devices today would be more or less "invisible in fact as well as in metaphor" (Weiser, 1991). Our devices are small and intuitive, their impact is their connection to servers, to other systems or to data processing. A large platform economy has grown up around them. In an Internet of Everything, the machine is embedded in our social context, have "become social actors in a networked environment" (Spiekermann, 2010, p. 2). This task focuses on exploration of social dimention of this digitalisation.


  • Exploring the digital dimensions close to our bodies and everyday life
  • Gaining awareness about our digital environment and aspects of control or loss of control


1. Assign participants to individual reflection or partner interviews.

2. Make an investigation about the digital networks your everyday life is connected to, consciously and unconsciously: explore the technical networks beyond your

  • social media,
  • smart home,
  • work/office,
  • mobility,
  • interaction with public and private sector (authorities, companies, etc),
  • your use and habits,
  • and possible consequences of data gained/offered.

3. Draw a mind map – my digital environment.

4. Identify who possibly forms and collects your data, and what kind of data are created and collected.


  • What did you discover?
  • What operating system do your devices use?
  • Are these connected to the Internet?
  • What company owns them?
  • Do your instruments communicate independent from you?
  • What data do you intentionally provide via an internet connected digital device?
  • Can you influence the data provided?
  • What is the potential use and benefit of the data provided?
  • Is there a potential harm?


  • Spiekermann, S. (2010). About the “Idea of Man” in System Design – An enlightened version of the Internet of Things? In Architecting The Internet of Things, edited by D. Uckelmann, M, Harrison, F. Michahelles, Springer Verlag, 2010, p. 25-34. http://ssrn.com/abstract=2046497
  • Weiser, M. (1991). The Computer for the 21st Century in: Scientific American 09/1991; 94-104.

Georg Pirker

Person responsible for international relations at the Association of German Educational Organizations (AdB), president of DARE network.


Have a read of Jill Walker Rettberg’s article on Situated Data Analysis

Time 30 minutes individually, 45 minutes in groups

Material Standard, Mindmap App (e.g., freeMind)

Group Size 5-25 people

Keywords datafication, privacy, data economy, public and private data, data protection




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