The DiDaT project investigates the unintended side effects of digitalisation.

Headline: Digital Data as Subject of Transdisciplinary Processes (DiDaT)


Project website

Digitalisation is changing our lives and bringing fundamental change to many domains, including both benefits and unwanted side effects. The challenge for sustainability research is to anticipate and identify the "unintended side effects" (so-called 'unseens') of the digital transition and to develop strategies that enable societies to cope with them properly.

According to a European Expert Round Table held in 2017, the relations between the "ownership, economic value, use, and access" of/to digital data are not well understood and may cause unintended side effects to individuals, groups, companies, and other parts of society.The DiDaT (Digital Data as subject of Transdisciplinary Processes) project, which is led by Ortwin Renn and Roland W. Scholz, will analyse and appraise the vulnerabilities of different stakeholder groups in a transdisciplinary dialogue between science and practice.

DiDaT aims to:

  • construct a structured list of critical, unintended side effects of the digital transition affecting sensitive stakeholder groups;
  • promote self-declarations and regulations as an important input for the successful development of "best practices" for the use of digital data;
  • discuss the principles of digital data ethics in accordance with the finding of the European Expert round Table that ethical principles have not yet been sufficiently discussed and implemented.

The project's initiation phase commenced on 1 October 2018. On 25 March the DiDaT Kickoff Meeting took place at IASS in Potsdam. 13 practitioners and 25 scientists discussed in a first attempt which undesirable or unintended side effects (Unseens) can result from the use of digital data. Based on the concept sketches (see below), approximately 35 practitioners and 45 scientists were involved in the preparation of the first sketch of the rough concepts. This outline was discussed at the first stakeholder conference with around 50 people attending. The rough sketches are available via the link below and have undergone an intensive revision process. These formed the basis for the detailed plans that were presented at the 2nd Stakeholder Conference, which took place on 22 January 2020 at the Fraunhofer Fokus in Berlin. The 3rd DiDaT Stakeholder Conference was postponed from June 2020 to February 2021 and will take place on 24th February 2021 at Fraunhofer Fokus, Berlin.

A new co-management structure has been implemented across the DiDaT research project, providing leadership and input from experts from science and practice at all levels. From autumn 2019 onwards, the project will be co-managed by Prof. Ortwin Renn (IASS), Prof. em. Roland W. Scholz (IASS-DUK), Markus Beckedahl (Head of Civil Society, and Stephan Noller (Head of Economics, Ubirch and Bundesverband Digitale Wirtschaft, BVWD). Other project participants are identified in the organigram in the brochure 09/2019, p. 3. Verena van Zyl-Bulitta uses the example of DiDaT to research the potential of transdisciplinary processes for sustainable sociotechnical transformation management.

Click here to view a detailed description of DiDaT. Please send us an email or call Roland Scholz at +41 79 422 44 01 if you want us to give you more information that cannot be found in the brochure or if you would like to participate in the project.

Important documents:

Broschüren / Brochures

Konzeptpapiere zum Weißbuch / Concept papers for the white book