The research work of the Research Unit Sociological Theory aims to achieve a contouring and continuous further development of a pragmatist theory of society. Such a theory is based on historically open problem and crisis constellations of contemporary society - such as global economic interdependencies, ecological challenges, side effects of digitalisation or political and cultural transnationalisation dynamics - and focuses on the social processes and experimental structural developments through which routines of action are (re)established and collective orders are stabilised and creatively developed.

Ongoing Third-Party Funded Projects

Users of digital services often face the challenge of not being able to realistically assess how and why exactly their personal data is being used or passed on by providers. Users generally have to acquire the skills for informational self-determination, i.e. responsible information selection and information control, themselves. This is often done by asking friends and acquaintances, through their own Internet research in networks, databases and recommender systems or through professional advisory institutions and authorities. Users are often confronted with a flood of offers and information, which makes it difficult for them to filter out reliable and helpful information. This is where innovative advisory services are needed to provide users with the support and informational self-determination skills they need to navigate the digital world safely.

The project "Advice for users: Strengthening informational self-determination through working alliances in digital consumer protection (BeDeNUTZ)" (orig. "Die Beratung der Nutzenden: Zur Stärkung der informationellen Selbstbestimmung durch Arbeitsbündnisse im digitalen Verbraucherschutz") explores the question of how forms of advice for digital consumer protection must be designed in order to improve the informational self-determination of users in the digital world. Specifically, this question is to be researched based on the need for advice on the topics of digitalized electricity consumers and digital electricity consumer services. The aim of the project is to identify and analyze the need for support for consumers and, on this basis, to design appropriate further training offers and network structures. To this end, various methods will be empirically examined and analyzed in detail. In order to be able to use the concepts in consumer advice, a catalog of measures will be developed that consumer organizations can use directly in practice. The new concepts are intended to cover the needs of both traditional and digital consumer protection.

The BeDeNUTZ project thus makes an important contribution to strengthening the IT security of citizens. By empirically researching different advisory constellations, the findings can be used not only for questions relating to digitized electricity consumers, but also for other topics in which informational self-determination plays a central role. With the help of cooperative advisory formats, citizens can learn how to use digital media more competently while preserving their informational self-determination. This enables them to make more reflective decisions in complex information worlds, which makes a significant contribution to safeguarding European values and fundamental rights in connection with digital technologies.


Team members of the Research Unit Sociological Theory:

  • Prof. Dr. Jörn Lamla
  • PD Dr. Carsten Ochs
  • Mareike Pfläging, MA

In the agenda process for future-oriented consumer research, scientists from various disciplines who conduct research in the fields of consumption, consumer protection, consumer policy and consumer work come together to intensify the existing exchange on the further development of consumer-related research. The question is whether, and if so, how an overarching scientific self-image can be developed for consumer science.

Six specialist events will be held as part of the project, in addition to a kick-off conference on topics such as sustainability, digitalization, professionalization, social rights and normative issues. The aim is to develop a white paper.

In the next step, the agenda to be drawn up can guide the expansion into a longer-term development of the scientific field with a view to its significance for a sustainable transformation of social forms of consumption and life. The next steps can include both the endogenous further development of existing scientific institutions (focus areas at and between universities and colleges, establishment of new training and further education courses and degree programmes), as well as various federal policy funding or institutionalization measures (federal consumer research programme, creation of new or thematic expansion of existing federal research institutions, departmental research).

The project is funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection on the basis of a decision by the German Bundestag. The department organizes the event series in cooperation with the Federal Network for Consumer Research.


  • Prof. Dr. Jörn Lamla, Spokesperson of the Coordination Committee of the Federal Consumer Research Network

Team members of the Research Unit Sociological Theory:

  • Jakob Roschka, M.A.

Former team members:

  • Damaris Lehmann, M.A.

[Further Information on the project page]

The digital transformation of societies worldwide has not only gained further momentum in recent years, but has also formed increasingly tangible global impact and problem contexts. In this process, new technologies and associated forms of knowledge ("technoscience") are constantly appearing on the scene; moreover, the focal points of the transformation dynamics have also shifted in recent years. Whereas a few years ago we were still talking about social networks on the Internet, today it is primarily the virtually ubiquitous systems of artificial intelligence (AI) that are at the centre of scientific, political, economic, normative and regulatory interest. While the possibilities for economic exploitation of AI systems seem extremely promising, nation-states continue to struggle to get a concerted grip on what are now largely global problems. At the same time, the assumption is increasingly gaining ground that the data-economic possibilities of algorithmically automated, deeply private behavioural influences are now attacking the very foundations of self-determination - and thus, at the same time, of democratic systems. Against this background, an empirical understanding of the (privacy) demands placed on systems capable of democracy proves to be urgently needed for the reinvention of democracy under AI conditions.

The subproject "Demokratieentwicklung, Künstliche Intelligenz und Privatheit" (Verbundprojekt PRIDS) ("Democracy Development, Artificial Intelligence, and Privacy") aims to empirically identify the requirements that are placed on democracy-enabled AI systems by initiating a pluralistic, controversial, and open-ended exchange between groups of actors who are either involved in the design of AI systems or affected by the social consequences of these systems.

The subproject is integrated into the interdisciplinary joint project "Privatheit, Demokratie und Selbstbestimmung im Zeitalter von Künstlicher Intelligenz und Globalisierung" ("Privacy, Democracy and Self-Determination in the Age of AI and Globalization") (PRIDS), which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). In addition to sociology, the disciplines of ethics/philosophy, economics, psychology and law as well as experts from the field of data protection are involved.

Team member of the Research Unit Sociological Theory:

  • PD Dr. Carsten Ochs

Companies that market digital products or services are often faced with the dilemma that their interest in and need for customer data conflicts with customers' desire for privacy. For consumers, this means an encroachment on their rights of self-determination if they have to disclose too much data or if their behaviour is guided unnoticed by digital surveillance. In the project <i>"Faire digitale Dienste: Ko-Valuation in der Gestaltung datenökonomischer Geschäftsmodelle (FAIRDIENSTE)"</i> ("Fair digital services: co-evaluation in the design of data-economic business models (FAIRDIENSTE)"), this structural conflict is taken as an opportunity to explore and relate to fairly different ways of communicating values in the course of business model design using sociological and (business) informatics approaches. First, the extend to which different values can be translated into an economic language of prices and fairly accounted for (accounting) will be investigated. Second, it will be elaborated how companies can use their economic design power to channel value conflicts (design). Third, it will be examined to what extent the negotiation of value conflicts can be outsourced via social media elements in order to promote a culture of fairness among users (cultivation). In this way, a multidimensional methodology of "co-evaluation", i.e. cooperative value mediation, will be developed and tested in practice, in order to assist companies to harmonise their economic business models with aspects of data-economic fairness.

The project is a cooperation between the Research Unit Sociological Theory (Prof. Dr. Jörn Lamla, coordinator), Gender/Diversity in Informatics Systems (Prof. Dr. Claude Draude) and Knowledge Processing (Prof. Dr. Gerd Stumme) at the University of Kassel, the Institute for Information Systems and New Media at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich (Prof. Dr. Thomas Hess), the company BurdaForward (Dr. Richard Weber, Munich) and the Institute for Technology and Journalism (Miriam Ruhenstroth, Berlin).

The sociological subproject relies in particular on the research direction of the sociology of conventions. This emphasises that monetary value points of view are not the only benchmarks for conveying value; rather, within the framework of complex social contexts, it is always a matter of coordinating and conveying a plurality of value points of view. With this sociological approach, the subproject pursues the goal of examining the social, technical, and economic constellations of value mediation through interdisciplinary cooperation with its partners from the fields of business informatics and computer science, but also by drawing on the expertise of its partners in practice. The sociological subproject makes a central contribution to each of the three approaches to co-evaluation: Thus, the perspective of the sociology of conventions is used to explore the potentials and limits of the clearing approach, to explore value conflicts and their resolution in the implementation of the design approach, and to promote critical competencies of consumers for the evaluation and fair mediation of value conflicts in the context of the cultivation approach.

Team members of the Research Unit Sociological Theory:

  • Prof. Dr. Jörn Lamla
  • Dr. Jonathan Kropf
  • Dr. Markus Uhlmann

see also (German)

Mobile information and communications technology is almost ubiquitous in view of the proliferation of smartphones and tablet computers; broad sections of the population are making use of it. However, there are growing complaints about the user-network relationship: users seem to be becoming more and more transparent in the sense of transparent citizens, while the network and its components appear to be becoming more and more opaque. The Research Training Group (RTG) aims to contribute significantly to reversing this trend, i.e., to enable better privacy protection for users and a better transparency in the network. Privacy protection needs to be tailored to personal interests and at the same time made manageable for laypersons; conflicts of objectives with economic or public interests are to be made more compatible. Research on the transparency of networks will be comed out from the perspective of assessing trustworthiness.

Privacy and trust have been socially relevant topics for centuries, which is why an interdisciplinary approach seems indispensable. Therefore, in interdisciplinary projects, researchers from the University of Kassel from the sociology and law departments will cooperate with those from the TU Darmstadt from computer science, usability research and economics.

An important technical vision of the RTG is the development of new types of mobile devices subject to the greatest possible user control. They should represent the user in the digital network, regulate privacy and trust evaluation, negotiate between user and service provider interests, and control spontaneous networking. New approaches for such mobile devices, for networked IT services, for social networks, and for sensor-based environments will be explored.

Participating persons of the Research Unit Sociological Theory:

  • Prof. Dr. Jörn Lamla: Applicant
  • PD Dr. Carsten Ochs: associated postdoc
  • Barbara Büttner: associated PhD student
  • Dr. Jonathan Kropf: associated postdoc
  • Dr. Markus Uhlmann: research assistant (first cohort)
  • Suzette Kahlert: research assistant (second cohort)
  • Florian Müller: research assistant (third cohort)

Further information is available at:

Completed Third-Party Funded Projects

To ensure sustainable development worldwide on an economic, social and ecological level, the United Nations has defined 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Digitisation poses new challenges to the achievement of these goals, but due to its transformational character it can also open up new opportunities. However, conflicts and synergies arising between SDGs have hardly been explored – neither in general nor in relation to digitisation in particular. This is the background for the project group’s research. Using innovative approaches such as collaboration engineering and citizen science, the project group aims to identify digitisation-related conflicts of goals and synergies between SDGs, discussing them in a transdisciplinary manner and developing solutions. The focus is on the SDGs 4 (quality education), 10 (reduced inequalities) and 12 (responsible consumption and production).

Speaker: Prof. Dr. iur. Gerrit Hornung, LL.M., University of Kassel
Deputy: Prof. Dr. phil. Gerd Doeben-Henisch, Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences
Further participants: Prof. Dr. Matthias Söllner and Prof. Dr. Jörn Lamla, both University of Kassel; Prof. Dr. Birgit Blättel-Mink and Prof. Dr. Indra Spiecker, both Goethe-University Frankfurt; Prof. Dr. Gerd Doeben-Henisch, Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences; the FH Fulda and others

As part of the project group, a professorship substitute for Prof. Dr. Jörn Lamla was funded for the winter semester 2021/22.

The attribution and disappearance of personal responsibility through algorithmic decision-making is a problem for society, the economy, democracy and the state. This joint project focuses on core phenomena of algorithmic decision-making in which a blurring and shifting of responsibility can be observed.

The research is conducted in two areas of application: a) on decision support in the area of private consumption through digital evaluation infrastructures (e.g., recommendation systems and algorithms) and b) on governmental evaluation procedures as a control mechanism of governmental decision-making in the case of uncertainties. The normative implications of responsibility diffusion will be elaborated in these fields, breaking new ground in comparing and connecting private and governmental decision problems.

The project group is headed by Indra Spiecker referred to as Döhmann (Public Law, Goethe University Frankfurt/M.). Jörn Lamla acts as the deputy spokesperson. Other members include Christoph Burchard (Criminal Law, Goethe University) and Michael Bäuerle (Administrative Science, University of Applied Sciences Police and Administration, Wiesbaden).

For more information about the project group click here

In digital societies, social actors move every day in data economies that are diversely shaped and differently (strong) constituted in regulatory terms. The coordination of professional life, the organisation of social environments, the planning of leisure activities, and self-constitution in socio-digital environments are all framed in economic terms. This subproject aims to make the structures of this data-economic environment visible, to analyse them, and to draw practical conclusions from the insights gained with regard to the status of informational privacy. The subproject is integrated into the interdisciplinary joint project "Forum Privatheit - selbstbestimmtes Leben in der digitalen Welt" (Forum Privacy - Self-Determined Life in the Digital World), which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). In addition to sociology, the disciplines of ethics/philosophy, computer science, economics, psychology and law as well as experts from the field of data protection are involved.

In the subproject "Data Economies", sociology will focus on the social, technical and economic constellation of data economy networks through interdisciplinary cooperation, especially with the collaborative partner from the field of economics, but also by drawing on the expertise of the other collaborative partners. In the course of the implementation of the WP, the following questions will be addressed:

  • How do centrally and decentrally organised data economies function in economic and social terms?
  • Which value creation processes and exchange relationships emerge in this process, which values are created in the process, and how are these distributed?
  • What is the relationship between the value creation logic of data economies and privacy?
  • Which concepts and practices of private property play a role here (or approach their limits)?
  • What are the consequences in political, regulatory, economic and civil society terms?

In order to answer these questions, the subproject will undertake the ethnographic study of two relevant platforms in a dialogue with the economic project partner.

Prof. Dr. Jörn Lamla
Department of Sociological Theory
University of Kassel

PD Dr. Carsten Ochs
Dipl.-Soz. Barbara Büttner

The Internet of Things stands for the spread of digitally networked everyday objects in the home, in the car or on the body. Thus, environments are increasingly established in which automated and partly unnoticed data are collected and stored. In this situation, the interdisciplinary project "Smart Environment, Smart Information?" (SEnSI) asks how users can be adequately informed about data collection and processing in such environments.The goal is to develop alternative information concepts that test new strategies for consumer and data protection.

In the course of advancing digitalisation, more and more everyday objects are being equipped with sensors and wireless connections in order to then be connected to the Internet and networked with each other. Such objects form the so-called "Internet of Things" and, as a consequence, environments in which the collection of data becomes ubiquitous and thus more obscure. This "ubiquitous computing" makes it sometimes difficult for users to understand which data is being collected, stored or processed.

In this situation, the legal, sociological and pedagogical research project analyses the normative and social conditions for information concepts in the Internet of Things. The question is how users can be informed about their participation rights and the processes of data processing without being over- or under-challenged. The project work focuses in particular on three scenarios of the use of the Internet of Things: smart car, smart home and wearables. The aim is to develop proposals for regulating the Internet of Things.

The sociological part of the project will analyse which images of humanity and concepts of democratic legitimacy are associated with different models of information. Sociological theory will be used here to show which paradigms lie behind different models of information and which consequences are associated with the choice of certain technical means.

From a jurisprudential perspective, the normative framework of information and disclosure obligations will first be examined. The General Data Protection Regulation, which is due to come into force in the European Union in May 2018, provides a new legal basis for data processing. This must be analysed in general and specifically with regard to the three scenarios of smart cars, smart homes and fitness wearables. The interdisciplinary proposals for regulating the Internet of Things are to culminate in concrete legislative proposals.

For the educational part and in the development of alternative information and participation approaches, the research project focuses on the needs and competencies of adolescents and young adults. As "digital natives," they have good access to the Internet of Things but little explicit knowledge about the opportunities and risks of these technologies.

The BMJV-funded third-party project "Smart Environment, Smart Information?" (SEnSI) is based on the initiative of an interdisciplinary working group on consumer policy research funded internally by the University of Kassel and will be carried out at the Re­search Cen­ter for In­form­a­tion Sys­tem Design (ITeG) of the University of Kassel from January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2017. The collaborative partners are:

Projektgruppe verfassungsverträgliche Technikgestaltung (provet) (project coordination)
University of Kassel
Prof. Dr. Alexander Roßnagel
Dr. Philipp Richter
Charlotte Barlag

Research Unit Sociological Theory
University of Kassel
Prof. Dr. Jörn Lamla
Dr. Fabian Pittroff
Dr. Andreas D. Schulz

While the public/private distinction is a fundamental social ordering mechanism, sociology has so far failed to present an elaborate social theory of privacy. The sub-project "Digital Life - Social Practices and Appropriation Processes" aims to remedy precisely this deficiency. It is integrated into the interdisciplinary joint project "Forum Privatheit - selbstbestimmtes Leben in der digitalen Welt" (Forum Privacy - Self-Determined Life in the Digital World), which is being carried out by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and involves not only sociology but also the disciplines of ethics/philosophy, computer science, psychology and law, as well as experts from the fields of data protection and economics.

In the sociological sub-project, it is assumed that forms of privacy take place and are reproduced in and through social practices, which are actively produced and renewed by the actors, are technically mediated in many ways and are often socially contested, and consequently change historically. These practices manifest contemporary cultural ideas, social rules and regularities, normative claims as well as momentous interactions and problems of privacy.

The contributions in the project area "Digital Life - Social Practices and Appropriation Processes" aim to systematically review and empirically concretize the theoretical, methodological and empirical state of knowledge in the field of the sociology of social practices for the thematic area of privacy and self-determined life in the digital world. In this way, the development of a contemporary social theory of privacy that is both practice-oriented and relevant to the subject matter will be advanced.

Prof. Dr. Jörn Lamla
Research Unit Sociological Theory
University of Kassel

PD Dr. Carsten Ochs

Privacy has become a contested and uncertain concept. The BMBF project "Kartografie und Analyse der Privacy-Arena" ("Cartography and Analysis of the Privacy Arena") therefore aims to investigate the political processes that drive, limit and evaluate this change in privacy. Exemplary public debates around privacy will be investigated. These debates and disputes bring together important instances and actors of a renegotiation of privacy in different ways. The different situations can therefore be understood as relevant sections of the privacy arena, in which the future of privacy and the constitution of the digital world are negotiated in a coalescing and conflicting manner. Through these exemplary explorations, the project aims to empirically record and relate different democratic modes of reaction and articulation and the associated modes of access to privacy.

The BMBF-funded project "Kartografie und Analyse der Privacy-Arena" ("Cartography and Analysis of the Privacy Arena") (Exploration Project) is designed as a collaborative project. The collaborative partners are:

Prof. Dr. Jörn Lamla (Project Coordination) / Dr. Carsten Ochs
Research Unit Sociological Theory
University of Kassel

Barbara Büttner
Fabian Pittroff


Prof. Dr. Regina Ammicht Quinn / Dr. Jessica Heesen
Center for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW)
University of Tübingen

Dr. Thilo Hagendorff
Simon Ledder


Prof. Dr. Alexander Roßnagel / Dr. Silke Jandt
Research Unit Public law with a focus on the law of technology and environmental protection
Universität Kassel

Dr. Christian Geminn


Since the autumn of 2015, the project network has been cooperating with a group from the Visual Communication program at the Kassel University of the Arts, led by Joel Baumann, the Rector. Within the framework of this cooperation, visualisations of the scientific project results will be developed and published at the end of 2016.

Joel Baumann
Rector/Professorship for New Media
Kunsthochschule Kassel

Jörn Röder, Visual Communication/New Media


From December 1 to December 11, 2016, the project organised an exhibition at the Interim in Kassel. The show is an important component of the publication of the visualisations of the project network. The interactive and multimedia installations of the exhibition make the struggles about the status of privacy tangible. In the exhibition, visitors can walk through the complex arenas in which diverse social worlds negotiate their conflicts.

The exhibition is accompanied by a website ( that allows interested parties and visitors to continue and deepen their engagement with the research results. The interplay of scientific research and artistic intervention is intended to contribute to the public's participation in the discussion about the future of privacy and democracy.

Other projects and project contexts

The Re­search Cen­ter for In­form­a­tion Sys­tem Design (ITeG) is a research institution of the University of Kassel whose focus is on the interdisciplinary design of socially desirable information and communication technology from a socio-technical perspective. By bundling competences from computer science, ergonomics, technology law, business informatics, sociology and business psychology, the ITeG is a research network aimed at sustainably strengthening the research profile of the University of Kassel.

Prof. Dr. Jörn Lamla has been a member of the ITeG board of directors since 07/2015.

Further information:

The Research Unit Sociological Theory is involved in the graduate program "Ökologien des sozialen Zusammenhalts" ("Ecologies of Social Cohesion") (Head: Prof. Dr. Kai Ruffing). This project analyses under which conditions and with which consequences people live together globally while the ecological framework is changing dramatically.

How does the coexistence of different cultures work? Like a global balance of interests? What consequences does this in turn have for the environment? Not only current developments are compared; it is also examined what mankind can learn from transformation and adaptation processes of the past.

In line with the research profile of the ITeG, the doctoral program "Sozio-technische Gestaltungskompetenz in der digitalen Gesellschaft" ("Socio-technical Design Competence in the Digital Society") offers interdisciplinary training and support for young researchers. It creates an inspiring and encouraging university environment for interdisciplinary scientific exchange and for joint cross-disciplinary publication projects.

In addition to imparting and deepening knowledge and skills, the study program also includes interdisciplinary supervision of doctoral students by two professors from the program, regular graduate seminars, research days and the promotion of international research contacts. In addition to the profound professional training, offers for the development of communicative competences are included and an openness for other scientific perspectives is conveyed.

Start of the doctoral program:
summer semester 2016

Planned duration:
4 years

Participating doctoral students of the Research Unit Sociological Theory:

  • Jonathan Kropf
  • Fabian Pittroff

Further information:

Consumer policy is facing difficult new challenges. These are characterised above all by two epochal social changes: In the "digital world", information technology permeates all areas of life and generates new development opportunities for consumers, but also threats. In the "natural world," climate change and resource scarcity are making it increasingly clear that this world is finite and also demands sustainable consumer behavior. Consumer policy must respond to these challenges. The research focus pursues the goal of critically examining both the functions and contents of the currently discussed guiding principles of the consumer as well as the instruments used and discussed. Legal, economic and social scientists at the University of Kassel are developing an innovative research perspective to this end.

The coordinators are:

  • Stefan Laser (FB 05)
  • Julia Blum (FB 07)