Democracy and Digitalisation - Project at the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society


The project "Democracy and Digitalisation", which is part of the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society, aims to develop a better understanding of the interplay between digitalisation and democratic self-governance. To this purpose, the research group analyses the interplay between digitalisation and democratic self-governance by combining normative democratic theory and empirical research on digital transformation. It examines how liberal societies form and make use of digital technologies, as well as how democracies are shaped by digitalisation by focussing on three areas of interest:

Political Participation

In the area of ‘Political Participation’, we ask how individual and collective potentials to act politically are transformed and how this change is to be assessed in terms of democratic theory. For example, we examine how the conditions for political action change in relation to the governmental regulatory framework or the possibilities of extra-parliamentary forms of organization and intervention.

Transformation of public sphere(s)

In the area ‘Transformation of public sphere(s)’, we dissect the role of datafication and algorithmic sorting of information and its dissemination in the context of privately organized, global platforms. On this basis, we examine to what extent and by which means democracies can setup ‘their’ publics.

Law and domination

The third area of interest is the reconfiguration of rule in the digital constellation. Our research on ‘Law and domination’ examines e.g. to which extent fundamental democratic rights – like privacy or the right to assemble – are subject to a conceptual change in response to digitalization. In the light of new and emerging threats of infringement and violations, we further analyze if and how the scope of protection of fundamental rights needs to be redefined.


Contact: Dr. Thorsten Thiel



Hofmann, Jeanette (2019): "Die digitalisierte Demokratie". In: WZB-Mitteilungen, H. 163, Sonderausgabe zu 50 Jahre WZB "in touch. Forschung und Gesellschaft", S. 9-11.

Fleuß, Dannica/Helbig, Karoline/Schaal, Gary S. (2018): "Four Parameters for Measuring Democratic Deliberation. Theoretical and Methodological Challenges and how to Respond". In: Politics and Governance, Vol. 6, No. 1, Special Issue "Why Choice Matters. Revisiting and Comparing Measures of Democracy", edited by Heiko Giebler/Saskia P. Ruth/Dag Tanneberg, S. 11-21.

Helbig, Karoline (2018): "Der Einfluss von Algorithmen auf demokratische Deliberation". In: Resa Mohabbat Kar/Basanta Thapa/Peter Parycek (Eds.): (Un)berechenbar?. Algorithmen und Automatisierung in Staat und Gesllschaft. Berlin: Kompetenzzentrum Öffentliche IT, S. 339-363.

Hofmann, Jeanette (2017): "Demokratie im Datenkapitalismus. Das Verhältnis von Medien und Macht muss neu vermessen werden". In: WZB-Mitteilungen, H. 155, S. 14-17.