Why does technology create an equal society
Jaana Müller-Brehm is a social scientist and takes on analytical, editorial and coordination tasks at iRights.Lab in the areas of publicity, democracy, human rights, society and education, always in connection with digitization.
Philipp Otto is the founder and director of the think tank iRights.Lab and one of the leading digitization experts in Germany. He is a lawyer and was a visiting researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. He also heads the Digital Life Innovation Office of the BMFSFJ and various other high-ranking federal projects in other institutions. He has published a large number of books, essays and strategic analyzes at the interface between law, technology, society and politics in the context of digitization.
Michael Puntschuh is a social scientist and project coordinator at iRights.Lab. His areas of work include human rights online, cyberspace governance and digital ethics, as well as other social and legal issues relating to digital technologies.
Society and their view of technologyTechnologies such as algorithmic systems are part of our everyday life - even when we are not using a smartphone or sitting in front of the laptop. They are used, for example, in traffic light switching systems, barcodes on goods or when receiving parcels. Most people can neither technically understand how algorithmic systems are programmed, nor are the necessary information accessible to them. Hence, such technologies are often given great power. After all, it is the infrastructure and the design of online offers and user interfaces that organize and regulate online activities. The American legal scholar Lawrence Lessig brings this technology-deterministic perspective with the sentence "Code is Law" to the point.
This view easily ignores the fact that it is people who develop and create technologies. In everyday life, algorithmic systems are often assigned a certain neutrality, precisely because they are a technological application that follows clear guidelines and rules. At first glance, that doesn't look like human subjectivity. However, if you take a closer look at how an algorithmic system is created, it becomes clear that it cannot be objective: It is based on numerous assumptions and ideas of people about our world. This already applies to the selection and classification of the data on which an algorithmic system is based, but also to the model according to which it is built and the rules that it follows in order to arrive at a result. The British sociologist Trevor Pinch, for example, shows in numerous works that social assumptions flow into every technology.
The fact that people and their assumptions influence what results algorithmic systems come to and how they ultimately work can be illustrated using the example of social networks or search engines: Here, the interests of the providers themselves flow into the algorithmic systems, for example their desire to advertise in particular to place it in a targeted manner or to prefer certain content.
In addition to the question: Which topics are really interesting for the respective individual? Questions such as: Which posts are harmful to society (for example, because they violate fundamental and human rights, glorify violence) could also flow into the development process? How can this be clearly defined for an algorithmic system?
Such assumptions, which go into the algorithmic systems and are significant for society, often go unreflected in the development teams. This is due, among other things, to the fact that individual attitudes are mostly internalized to a high degree and those who model algorithms are hardly aware of them, as is often the case with everyday racism or sexism. In addition, such considerations have not yet been expressly provided for in most development processes. These relationships are of overriding social importance, but have so far received little attention in the media and political debate.
New and changed cultural practicesThe influence of advancing digitization on life and everyday life can be illustrated with new cultural practices. Active users of social networks are used to presenting and staging themselves. This has become part of everyday culture, especially among younger people. Many publish very personal statements, photos or short films in the sense of experience reports and personal perspectives. Other publications are intended as greetings to confidants or friends. Sometimes spontaneous snapshots are put online. Often, however, what can and cannot be seen is carefully arranged. The type of content published also varies depending on which platform users choose. In professional networks, for example, most of them emphasize their skills and professionalism. Other platforms such as Instagram are often about showing your own lifestyle.
Job description: influencer
Companies have long since recognized the potential and supply influencers with their products. […] Every third social media user over the age of 14 would like to be a successful influencer, according to a Bitkom study. But how do you actually become an influencer? And how do you make money with it? Many academies and agencies offer to help answer these questions. Because in the meantime, not only influencing is a business - but also explaining how to influence successfully. [...]
Many budding influencers are attracted to being the center of attention, but of course money is also tempting. For people with more than 500,000 followers, German companies are willing to pay up to 38,000 euros per post, according to a survey commissioned by Rakuten Marketing. But these are top values that should be rare.
Via classic collaborations with companies, you can expect around four to ten euros per 1000 followers for a post on Instagram, says Sascha Schulz [founder of the Influencer Marketing Academy, Berlin] - the more the number of fans increases, the greater the likelihood of getting clients. He calculates: With 100,000 followers that would be 400 to 1000 euros per post. "That sounds like a lot at first, but you need a photographer, you have travel expenses, acquisition costs, maybe an agency." With fewer than 150,000 followers, it is hardly worthwhile as a full-time job, from 250,000 you are "right in business". And even those who only aim for free products: The monetary value must be taxed.
But that's one of the things with advertising: If an influencer doesn't cooperate, he doesn't earn any money, if he posts too much advertising, he bores his viewers. So he has to keep his fans on the screen again and again with insights into his life or with videos in which he explains something useful. However, this quickly merges people with an advertising figure and the influencer pays a high personal price: their privacy.
According to a survey by the management consultancy PwC, 29 percent of people in Germany have already bought a product on the recommendation of an influencer. Women spent an average of 100 euros, men even 130 euros. At the moment, in addition to the operators of the large social media platforms, it is primarily the companies that benefit from the influencers as they have never been closer to their target group. [...]
Veronika Wulf, "Please follow", in: Süddeutsche Zeitung from February 15, 2020
Social networks offer new possibilities of representation and thus also of comparison, but their use for personal identity remains limited. Due to the tendency towards embellished, unrealistic representations, they represent an unrealistic basis for comparison and promote a distorted perception of reality. Images in particular appear very realistic and convincing. Accordingly, they tend to be questioned less than text, as the communication scientist and philosopher Klaus Sachs-Hombach describes.
Constant comparisons on this basis can have a negative effect and create unrealistic ideals of beauty or excessive demands on one's own performance. This is shown, for example, by the communication and media scientist Carolin Krämer in her study "Instagram and Body Image" from 2017. Among other things, she analyzed how fitness-related content affects the body ideal of women who use Instagram: They tend to be more insecure and more dissatisfied with themselves even, the more often they measure themselves against supposed ideals there. In addition, thanks to smartphones and the mobile internet, there is the possibility of comparing one another anytime and anywhere. According to the "Online Study 2019" by the public television broadcasters ARD and ZDF, the daily use of the Internet is an average of three hours a day for all respondents. The 14 to 29 year olds spend about twice as long online, i.e. six hours.
Female self-presentation online
Above all, it should be sexy: The leg that happened to be crossed, the body bent in an S-shape, the view over the shoulder or the angled arm with a hand in the hair are copied umpteen times - typical poses that media scientist Maya Götz used for the study "Female Self-Staging in the new media "of the MaLisa Foundation made a difference to Instagram influencers. Their own selfies are adjusted filter by filter: 70 percent of those surveyed optimize their skin and hair, 47 percent dye their complexion darker, 38 percent lighter their teeth, 33 percent flatten their stomach.
"There is an extreme narrowing of the ideals of beauty, an increasingly similar staging in a supposedly perfect form," says Götz, head of the International Central Institute for Youth and Educational Television at Bavarian Broadcasting. Stereotypes became entrenched. "What happens on Instagram is sexist. Girls are limited to their bodies, and that body has to be changed until it looks the way it doesn't look at all." Behind this self-image, to which young women voluntarily submit, is a market in which money is made with clichés. If you want to finance yourself as an influencer, you have to do it with topics such as fashion, cosmetics, nutrition or lifestyle. And even fit into the picture: "Heroines are always beautiful and thin," says Götz. [...]
Teenagers should be encouraged to contradict such representations. There are positive examples like the activist Greta Thunberg, the former stars of the Chinese video portal TikTok, Lisa and Lena, or the XL model Fine Bauer, but these are exceptions. [...]
With the study "Self-empowerment or standardization?" the MaLisa Foundation also analyzed the gender ratio and the images of women on YouTube: in the top 1000 there are three men for every woman, in the top 100 the ratio is 2: 1. There, too, successful channels reproduce stereotypes: women advise on beauty issues, men serve all topics from entertainment to politics, as the media scientist Claudia Wegener, professor at the Film University Babelsberg, and Elisabeth Prommer, director of the Institute for Media Research at the University of Rostock, take stock. Her interviews with YouTubers also showed that the conservative image of women on display is - as with Instagram - also an adaptation to the pressure to finance oneself through advertising partners. By focusing on rather irrelevant topics, hateful comments can also be avoided.
Even if more diversity is necessary, Wegener sees no one-sided media effect: "YouTube is only one aspect in the life of young people, the medium alone does not consolidate stereotypes." In addition, the enthusiasm for stars of the portal is limited to a certain age group and thus time. "Ultimately, you have to let young people have their worlds, that's always been the case." But it is important to explain clearly that the world of social media is staged and determined by market mechanisms. […] There are also many offers on YouTube […] [on alternative role models], even if not in the top playlists. As examples, Wegener names the chemist Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim and their channels with scientific topics and learning videos or the financial expert Hazel with "Pocket Money". [...]
Nadine Emmerich, "Heroines are always beautiful and thin", in: E & W, Erbildung und Wissenschaft 3/2020, p. 16 ff.
The changes that digitization brings about in everyday life and social life also have an impact on art. Because she focuses on society as the object of her artistic considerations and thus also on changing cultural practices. For example, the photo exhibition "Ego Update", which the NRW Forum Düsseldorf showed in 2015, dealt with selfies as a central contemporary motif.
In addition, digital media are increasingly being used to present art in combination with existing offers. Museums offer virtual exhibitions on the Internet and also integrate new technologies into on-site exhibitions: The Museum for Communication in Berlin visualizes the global data streams on a digital world map that automatically shows the latest values.
Digitization also creates new sources and forms of art as well as its own genre Net Art: Here, for example, pieces of music, poems or paintings are created with the help of algorithms, virtual voices sing songs, robot bands perform at festivals. Skillful staging through stage design, drama, light and sound is no longer the only thing that counts in theater plays. Rather, complex technological effects can be integrated into the dramaturgy of a play, such as live streaming from the perspective of the actors who are filming directly on the stage or interactive light installations that are influenced by movements.
Existing artistic disciplines and their market are also experiencing a fundamental change: The music industry, for example, is subject to profound changes that affect the entire business model of the industry. With the switch from cassettes and records to CDs, it had initially received a growth spurt that collapsed around the turn of the millennium.CD sales fell rapidly until music downloading and streaming services were established with the invention of the MP3 compression process. However, at the beginning there were hardly any payment models that guaranteed the artists adequate or even sufficient remuneration. The industry has been recovering since 2018 - also due to established and successful streaming concepts such as Spotify. According to the Federal Association of the Music Industry, online purchases and consumption account for more than 64 percent of total sales in the music industry in 2019.
Importance of media and digital skillsThe changes in the areas of media, communication and the public as well as the new or strongly changing cultural practices make it clear: media and digital skills, too digital literacy are of central importance in technological change, emphasizes media didactic Kerstin Mayrberger.
More precisely, the terms media and digital competence refer to several aspects: They describe the ability to properly use and operate digital end devices such as smartphones or advanced media equipment - both at the hardware as well as that of software. Media literacy is also expressed in being able to differentiate between applications and to use them appropriately. "Individual communication" - for example in private chats - is suitable for matters other than partially public or completely public communication in communities and networks. Those who can understand the content and functional logic offered by platforms or apps, for example, also show that they are digitally competent. Competent users must be aware of the consequences of their own media use on an individual and societal level. Due to digitization, the requirements are constantly evolving.
Media and digital literacy also includes the ability to navigate between relevant and irrelevant news, between reports and opinions, between factually correct information and targeted disinformation (see also chapter Communication, media and public debate). In this context, the media scientist Bernhard Pörksen creates the vision of an "editorial society" in which everyone has the skills that journalists, in particular, had in the past. This is the only way to recognize what is relevant, credible and publication-ready information. In addition, members of an "editorial society" could always competently decide which information and representations deserve to be published or which should remain private.
The European Commission systematically records the necessary media and digital skills by identifying five central areas in which the entire population should be extensively trained:
- Information and data literacy: This includes being able to formulate information needs, access digital data and content, assess the relevance of a source and its content, and be able to store, manage and organize digital data, information and content.
- Communication and collaboration: This includes communicating and working together using digital technologies and being aware of cultural and generational differences. This field also includes participating in society through public and private digital services and organizing and shaping one's own identity and reputation in the digital space.
- Content creation online: This includes being able to integrate information and content presented online into the existing knowledge base while at the same time being aware of copyright law and the need to obtain licenses. This field also includes knowledge of how to operate hardware and software.
- Security: This includes knowledge of how devices, content, personal data and overall privacy can be protected in digital environments. In addition, this includes knowledge and skills in order to maintain one's own physical and mental health and social well-being in the face of technological change and to promote social integration. Finally, this field also includes knowledge of the environmental impacts of digital technologies and their use.
- Problem solving: This area of competence requires the ability to identify needs and problems that exist in digital environments, as well as to develop solutions and to design innovation processes using digital tools.
Technologies and imparting skills in the education systemSchools are an important institution for teaching media and digital skills at an early stage. The Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK) agreed on this in its action strategy "Education in the digital world" in December 2016 (published in the version of December 2017). She compares dealing with topics of digitization and the considered use of digital media in terms of their importance with the skill of reading and writing. This means that digital skills are an elementary and fundamental component of school education, especially in secondary schools.
Whether the knowledge and skills are imparted in computer science lessons or in other subjects is not stipulated and is up to the countries that specify this in their curricula and education plans. The discussion of digitization is taken up in these plans in the so-called guiding objectives or guiding perspectives, which describe the basic educational mission at schools and are to be implemented in various subjects. Computer science lessons are of particular importance in teaching the necessary digital and media skills in some federal states. It is currently only mandatory in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saxony. North Rhine-Westphalia will introduce computer science as a compulsory subject from the school year 2021/22, Lower Saxony from 2023/24.
Fast, reliable internet access is a prerequisite for a functioning digital infrastructure at schools and universities. First and foremost, this includes a sufficient number of end devices such as computers, tablets or interactive devices Whiteboards. It is also important to technically manage and maintain networks and end devices. The digital infrastructure also includes devices that can be used directly in the classroom.
Digital pilot school project
The end of the Cretaceous Period in 2013 was heralded at the Goethe School. At that time Florian Rau came to the school, a trainee lawyer from nearby Upper Franconia. The now 36-year-old studied in Jena, he wants to make a difference and is enthusiastic about digital technology. At that time, he called a parents' evening for the desire to introduce iPads and received approval. In the summer of 2013, the first tablet classes came together in grade 7. The friends' association took out a loan for the start of the new era, the tablets were paid for by the parents, because the school's budget was insufficient. The idea gradually caught on, meanwhile all 7th to 10th grades and all teachers work with tablets. The apps and their use are managed by the school's administrator, to whom the devices are registered.
Rau is sitting at the teacher's desk in front of a 9th grade, a student pushes the old green chalk board down. A huge 65-inch screen appears behind it. Fingers fly over his tablet, he connects wirelessly to the large monitor in his back and starts one of the many apps that the students also have. With Google-Earth you can explore the earth, with the "Geotrainer" simulate a volcanic eruption. Rau, enthusiastic geography teacher, pushes the plate tectonics apart with his fingers and changes the subterranean lava flow. "You can design any subject lesson with the iPad," he says. "The internet is full of learning apps for every type of school, every subject and every age." From his device, the teacher can control the students' tablets, call them up on the large monitor board or set them to an app so that they cannot use any other application.
"The colleagues decide for themselves what they use the tablets for," says headmaster Hieb. The applications are varied. Apps can be used to learn in teams and projects, and older students can teach younger students something. In the meantime, the young people have learned some of the subject matter themselves - at school, questions are mainly discussed and exercises done. "This way you can differentiate very well according to your level of learning," says Hieb. He sometimes has his homework sent to his account at a fixed date. For him, however, the iPad is no substitute for good pedagogy: "If I don't have discipline in class, I don't have it either with iPads."
[...] Digital media only lead to educational added value if they are meaningfully integrated into a good teaching concept with the primacy of pedagogy. "Technology is no substitute for well-trained teachers," emphasizes [Ilka] Hoffmann [GEW board member for schools]. At the same time, she warns of the hegemony of international corporations in schools. "We don't want the digital industry to impose concepts on schools." [...]
Sven Heitkamp, "Simply do", in: E & W, Education and Science 12/2019; P. 6 f.
Some schools and numerous universities rely on the approach Bring your own device (BYOD). Learners bring their own mobile devices with them from home and use them in class as well as in lectures and seminars. This concept is mainly controversial because personal data may not be adequately protected in group work and, moreover, not everyone can afford the appropriate devices. This is where the so-called digital divide, the digital divide, noticeable. This term covers differences in access to information technologies that exist between different population groups and national economies due to socio-economic conditions such as living and working conditions (see also chapter Infrastructure and Environment).
Learning management systems can be used to organize teaching and teaching content as well as learning processes: In web-based environments, teachers can map and control their lessons, for example, store study material or set up self-study units, online courses and cooperation rooms for learners. In addition, learning progress and assessments can be managed here. By connecting to a server and a schoolCloud digital learning tools, programs and files can be structured and saved centrally. Such software and hardware systems are much more widespread at universities than they have been in schools up to now. The Hasso Plattner Institute, for example, is working on a solution that will standardize the IT infrastructure in schools.
In order to be able to impart media and digital literacy in schools, the teachers themselves need these skills. In order for this to be possible, the training and further education of teachers must be adapted accordingly. According to a survey conducted by the industry association Bitkom in 2019, 96 percent of the teachers surveyed are of the opinion that, in addition to money, schools primarily need digital concepts, digital content and digitally competent people in order to be able to impart media and digital skills appropriately. 95 percent are convinced that Germany's schools are lagging behind in terms of digitization in an international comparison.
Digitization not only creates changed requirements for the infrastructure of educational institutions and new skills to be learned. There are also numerous other ways of learning. One of them is the so-called MOOC - short for Massive Open Online Course (in German: Open Mass Online Course). What is meant are courses on the Internet that are - firstly - open to everyone: There are no admission restrictions or participation requirements. Second, in most cases they are free. Thirdly, the participants can use them on all internet-enabled devices.
The ascription "open" also relates to copyright: MOOCs should be under licenses that allow the content to be distributed as freely as possible (see also the chapter on politics, law and administration). This makes them one of the Open Educational Resources (OER): These are materials that are designed for the educational context and are openly licensed. The aim is to provide materials for school, extracurricular and individual education that teachers and learners can change, use and distribute free of charge and legally protected. The idea behind this is that education should be a common good that is equally available to all. There are now numerous portals for the German-speaking area that distribute OER, and state institutions are increasingly relying on making openly licensed educational materials available.
In the meantime there are also many online courses that are not openly licensed and still use the self-description MOOC. MOOCs in particular and OER in general are available on all conceivable topics. Regardless of the content, they are designed and structured very differently. Providers include state institutions such as the education servers of the federal states, those involved in education and, increasingly, companies.
Networking civil societyDigitization influences individual, cultural and thus also social life. In order to shape these comprehensive changes for the benefit of the individual and the coexistence of all as well as to promote the necessary competences far away from formal educational structures, civil society engagement plays an important role.
Civil society organizations in the field of digitization are set up in a variety of ways in terms of content and structure: One of them, the Chaos Computer Club (CCC), is shaped as an association in particular by computer scientists and technology-loving people and has repeatedly helped Hacks Privacy scandals made public and security gaps in devices uncovered. The digital society association is another example. He is active with projects and campaigns and has been campaigning against surveillance measures for years. In addition, the Society for Freedom Rights (GFF) primarily uses legal means and tries to enforce the protection of fundamental rights online through strategic litigation.
The importance of digitization for society and the role of civil society organizations is discussed at regularly held, constantly growing events. This is where committed people network and continue their education. This includes re: publica in May, the largest conference on digitization and society in Europe. It attracted over 20,000 visitors in 2019.
Digitization is not only affecting civil society organizations that deal with it.It also helps other civil society organizations such as associations, charities and foundations to expand their work opportunities: Digital end devices and the Internet provide new methods and tools and thus change the idea of how volunteering and social engagement can work. For example, older people can find helpers online to support them with everyday tasks. In addition, numerous associations make use of digital structures: They use messenger groups or online platforms, for example, to organize and exchange ideas, as well as online petitions to exert public pressure. A large number of civil society organizations offer digital advice and support options.
Committed individuals, initiatives and organizations can also participate in online formats and thus advance innovation processes. The Hackathon "#WirvsVirus", which generated almost 2000 project ideas during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic in order to meet societal challenges. Here new opportunities for participation met innovation potentials that result from new technologies.
At the same time, digitization can support civil society organizations and movements in performing their role as correctors and observers of politics and companies. The possibility for everyone to publish and distribute content online allows political and social movements to network and to draw attention to demands that are detached from political ones Agenda setting or mass media reporting (see also the chapter on communication, media and the public debate). An example of this is the OccupyMovement whose supporters protested in 2011 for more stringent regulation of the financial markets, initially on Wall Street in New York, and later in front of other stock exchanges, for example in Frankfurt am Main. 2019 was formed with the help of the Social web through the initiative of the Swedish climate protection activist Greta Thunberg the global climate movement Fridays For Future. Participants regularly organize and communicate online protests and make society and politics aware of the importance of climate change, the environment and sustainability.
Voluntary engagement is also finding new topics with digitization - in this case more of a necessity: Numerous organizations and associations of civil society such as the Amadeu Antonio Foundation or the Association of New German Media Makers deal, for example, with the topic of online hate speech and the possibilities to meet her (see also the chapter on communication, media and the public debate). In this context, among other things, the term digital moral courage was created, which captures the commitment to human rights and broadly shared social values online. This includes communication activities that support those affected by hate speech and seek to strengthen them and, for their part, advocate diversity, openness and other democratic values online. In this context, the author and activist Kübra Gümü & scedil; ay points out the extent to which language influences thinking and hate speech and the reproduction of stereotypes restrict it.
Digitization expands the possibility of volunteering
Voluntary work makes our society more livable, more diverse and more democratic. This also applies to digital engagement. As a result of this commitment, the German-language Wikipedia has over two million articles. This is an enormous wealth of knowledge that everyone can freely access. Or the free radio operators who create free internet access. For refugees who communicate with families in their home country primarily via the Internet, this is extremely important, for example, as otherwise they are sometimes completely cut off from their families. It is time that both politics and society understood the enormous importance of digital engagement and expressed it to volunteers. Reality has been ignored here for too long.
What is digital engagement for you?
A recognized definition of digital engagement has yet to be developed. I start from a broad understanding of digital engagement and would like to lead the discourse on it across society. According to a study by Fraunhofer Fokus (2014), a distinction is made between five types of engagement that illustrate the broad understanding of digital engagement:
- Creation and improvement of content: e.g. B. Wikipedia or Wikimedia Commons
- Communication, teaching and advice: e.g. B. Online telephone counseling
- Development of technical solutions: e.g. B. Volunteer Planner in Refugee Aid
- Citizens' participation: e. B. ePetitions of the German Bundestag
- Crowdfunding: e.g. B. About Betterplace
All content is created and maintained by volunteers. The Wikimedia Foundation operates the servers, develops the software and forms the international umbrella. Wikimedia Germany supports the volunteers in their commitment, develops software in certain areas and advocates free content.
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