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Podcast header: Exploring digital spheres – a rocket on an expedition into the digital universe

Exploring digital spheres: a podcast by HIIG

Everything about our digital society

In our connected world, we are surrounded by buzzwords like Big Data, Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence. But what exactly does our digital future look like? This podcast takes you on a journey across our interdisciplinary pioneering work to better understand the digitalisation of all areas of life.

Exploring digital spheres is a production of the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG).

Season 2

The second season is all about global digitalisation projects with a focus on topics like sustainability, entrepreneurship or women* in technology. Join our research team on a journey to 6 different countries. We spoke with experts from civil society, academia, and the private sector in order to learn from each other. All related information about the projects can be found through the following buttons.

Project: Women* in Tech

Project: Sustainability, Entrepreurship and global Digital Transformation

06 Exploring the challenges of women* in Mauritania's digital landscape

The episode will be released in the summer of 2024.

Special: New educational approaches – with the toolbox "Making sense of the future"

In this special episode we explore new ways of learning and teaching through Open Educational Resources (OER).

05 Exploring Mexico's sustainable entrepreneurs fight for climate change

This time we visit Mexico City to explore the potentials and challenges of sustainable digital entrepreneurship to mitigate climate change.

04 Exploring Indonesia's digital solution for rainforest protection

How can digital skills and technologies be trained and implemented in remote regions where the rainforest is of particular importance for local development?

03 Exploring Kenya's gig work opportunities

Digital platforms are fundamentally changing the world of work. While the platform economy opens immense opportunities for flexible, gainful and convenient entrepreneurship, the precarious livelihoods of workers and service providers often remain unaddressed.

02 Exploring Kosovo's sustainable spatial developments

In this episode we shine a light on the transformation of a former military camp into the Innovation and Training Park (ITP) Prizren in Kosovo, an aspiring hub for innovation, economic development and digital transformation in the city and wider region.

01 Exploring Benin's rising digital economy

At the SENIA, Benin’s first AI conference, our team had the opportunity to talk to local experts about the possibilities of digitalisation for the improvement of the agricultural sector and its working conditions

Season 1

In the first season of this podcast, the researchers at HIIG present their research projects. Surrounded by buzzwords like Big Data, Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence, we asked ourselves what constitutes our digital society and what the future of the interconnected society might look like.


27 Fabian Stephany und Fabian Braesemann: CoRisk Index

Fabian Stephany and Fabian Braesemann talk to Bronwen Deacon about the first economic indicator that provides valuable real-time information on economic risks related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

26 Lorenz Grünewald-Schukalla: Music industry in the digital age

Lorenz Grünewald-Schukalla talks about new branding strategies, power-relations and digital flows that shape the music industry.

25 Julia Hoxha: AI technology for healthcare

Jessica Schmeiss is talking to Julia Hoxha about an AI-based health assistant, which answers questions about health factors via voice input.

24 Wolfgang Schulz: Human rights online

Wolfgang Schulz explains the difficulties of regulating intermediaries – they increasingly can be seen as hybrids between state and society.

23: Uli Erxleben: Automised paper work

HIIG researcher Jessica Schmeiss interviews Uli Erxleben (Hypatos) on how exactly the startup uses deep learning automation technology for document processing and how this frees up some of our time. The episode is part of the "Demystifying AI in Entrepreneurship" project at HIIG.


22 Theresa Züger: Digital civil disobedience

What do Edward Snowden, Aaron Swartz and Phil Zimmermann have in common? This episode is all about whistleblowers, activists and other people deliberately breaking the law for a specific ideological conviction. What are the parallels of todays' digital civil disobedience to for example the civil rights movement in the US, Ghandi, Rosa Parks or the anti-nuclear energy protests in Germany. Well, and what's new?

Theresa Züger, researcher at HIIG, talks with Wouter about her research insights into practices and characteristics of digital disobedience. Listen to her sharing stories of encryption, hacking and whistleblowing.

21 Frank Sauer: Autonomous weapons

Suppose they gave war and nobody has to come. The idea of autonomous weapons is tempting for some and troubling for most, because it raises many ethical issues. Yet, what exactly do we mean when saying 'autonomous weapon systems' (AWS) – does it mean we're really taking the human out of the loop Thomas C. Bächle and Frank Sauer met at HIIG to talk about the question of how to regulate these systems, how China or the UK deal with this, what the future of weapons looks like, what the CCW does and much more.

20 Benedikt Fecher: Organised stupidity

In this episode, HIIG-researcher and head of research programme Knowledge & Society Benedikt Fecher talks about the impact science has on society and vise versa. Fecher critises not only the infrastructure of universities, but also a strong normative focus within the scientific community.

19 Armin Nassehi: For what problem is digitalisation a solution?

18 Christian Katzenbach: How do we govern?

HIIG researcher Christian Katzenbach speaks about the responsibility of platforms and the content that they host, regulative mechanisms as well as the widely discussed EU directive on copyright better known for its proposed upload filter and Article 13. Also in the conversation with Wouter Bernhard, they discuss Zuckerberg's hearing in the US as well as the role of AI for content moderation.

17 Nathalie Maréchal: How do we hold internet companies accountable?

Nathalie Maréchal, Senior Research Analyst at Ranking Digital Rights, talked with Frédéric Dubois about the wrong doings of Internet and telecommunication companies such as facebook, apple or Deutsche Telekom. Learn about free basics and Myanmar and how RDR is rethinking human rights – maneuvering from only looking at individual rights to understanding the collective consequences of the companies doings.

16 Uta Meier-Hahn: For the good of the internet

The internet is currently built of more than 60.000 autonomous systems. Without connectivity among those, the internet simply doesn't exist. Associated HIIG researcher Uta Meier-Hahn looks ...

Find the full transcript and additional information here.

15 Dirk Baecker: Understanding (A)I?

An automatic vacuum cleaner runs over a cat. Is the manufacturer or the owner to blame? Luhmann student and system theorist Dirk Baecker says: "Maybe just the cat?" Dirk Baecker talked to Thomas C. Bächle about "artificial intelligence" and how we can understand current developments from a systems theory perspective. Ultimately, the question is what intelligence is and what systems theoretical research can achieve.

14 Max von Grafenstein: Data protection and innovation

This week its the General Data Protection Regulation's (GDPR) first anniversary. Wouter speaks with HIIG-researcher and data protection expert Max von Grafenstein on the difficulties of data protection and his research on the innovation potential of the GDPR.

13 Marcel Pirlich on Advertising and AI

Online advertisement companies have been using statistical models for long. HIIG researcher Jessica Schmeiss interviews Marcel Pirlich (Adspert) on how exactly the startup uses AI technologies in online marketing and how this results in a successful business model. The episode is part of the "Demystifying AI in Entrepreneurship" project at HIIG.

12 Nicolas Friederici on African innovation hubs

"Silicon Savannah", "Africa is rising" – much attention is directed at Africa as a continent of economic opportunity and growth. In this episode, HIIG researcher Nicolas Friederici stresses that relative to the hype and hope, things are not that easy and we shouldn't limit our focus on how to copy silicon valley models.

The research presented in this episode is part of the Geonet project by the Oxford Internet Institute (check the show notes for more information on the project).

11 Marleen Stikker on Smart Citizen

"People think it’s inherent of the internet that you lose your privacy, but it’s not, it’s based on the business model of those companies.” – Marleen Stikker speaks about how the fairphone was invented, what fablabs are for and how we eventually should get involved ourselves to decide what to do with disruptive technology. This is an episode for smart citizens!

10 Jessica Schmeiss on AI and entrepreneurship in Germany

When did you hear of the last German Facebook, Uber or Amazon? Today’s episode is on the question why Germany tends to find it difficult to make the translation between researching AI and creating a successful AI startup. We’ll be speaking with Jessica Schmeiss, doctoral researcher at the Humboldt Institute. Her research focusses on digital entrepreneurship and in trying to make AI less of a ‘black box’.

9 I, just extraordinary (in German)

Andreas Reckwitz and Thomas Christian Bächle discuss singularity in the internet society.

8 Smart bureaucracy

Christian Djeffal talks about how artificial intelligence can help public administrations cut costs and resources, and re-allocate them to be of better service to its citizens.

7 Bad content, good content

Often we don't see the same content on the internet as others do. Julia Krüger, an editor for and assistant to a German member of parliament, is deeply convinced that we need to create alternative moderation schemes to uphold liberal values. Together with HIIG-researcher Amélie Heldt, she discusses the different methods of moderation and the role of AI yet to come.

6 Squeak-clean internet

Wouter met Martin Riedl in the middle of Berlin to discuss how platforms keep the internet "clean" from undesirable content – but what is undesirable? And what does it mean for moderators when they click through thousand of graphic images?

5 Are we colonised by data?

Nick Couldry, professor of Media, Communications and Social Theory at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) talks about his very own media rituals – celebrity spotting and falling asleep to the radio news – as well as how a media professor is dealing with knowing what kind of personal data WhatsApp is collecting. Also: What exactly is data colonialism?

4 Rithm of algo

In this episode, Wouter dives deeper into the universe of algorithms. Did you also wonder why certain videos pop up in your timeline? How do computers recognise objects? In an insightful conversation with Wouter, HIIG director Björn Scheuermann tells us about his research as a computer scientist and in how far he trusts algorithm based machines.

3 Fake news and elections

Amélie Heldt speaks with Clara Iglesias Keller about the regulation of fake news in times of election campaigns. They speak about the dissemination of false information in social media, the set of problems regarding information manipulation during the elections in France and the United States, possible countermeasures and much more.

2 Filtered away

A conversation with Rike Maier on the use and mis-use of remixes on the internet. How does one regulate the immeasurable amount of material uploaded every minute and do filters do a good job of keeping copyright infringements at bay?

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