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Research at HIIG

The Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) aims to broaden the theoretical and empirical foundation of internet and society research in order to contribute to a better understanding of digital society. Throughout the process of digitalisation, societies are undergoing changes. Our conceptual frame of reference for identifying and assessing these societal changes is the relationship between innovation and governance.


Innovation Governance


Innovation and governance interact in ambiguous ways; they may both mutually stimulate and even enable each other but they may also be constraining. Tensions and synergies emerging from this relationship can be found across all societal fields and organisations including the state, corporations and markets, from the local to the global level.

Analysing the relationship between innovation and governance, HIIG has developed three long-term research programmes, who provide the framework for research activities at HIIG. Further research groups and projects add to and strengthen our programme-oriented research. Research results are presented and discussed through science transfer projects and events.  

Research Structure

Research programmes

discourse icon


Concepts, discourses, Materialities


Infrastructure icon


The governance of data-driven innovation and cyber security



Shifts in knowledge production, organisation and transfer

Current research projects

  • All
  • Entrepreneurship and innovation
  • Media and data
  • Politics and law
  • Science and education
  • Society and culture
Science and education · Society and culture

The Third Engagement Report

The Third Engagement Report is a report on civic engagement that focuses on “The Future of Civil Society: Young Engagement in the Digital Age.”

Politics and law · Society and culture

The Public International Law of the Internet

The rapid development of the Internet and the increasing digitalisation of everyday life is raising new legal questions across the world: Which (state?) law is applicable to which life circumstance? What does a nation’s (digital?) sovereignty mean in the era of a potentially limitless cyberspace?

Politics and law · Society and culture

The Ethics of Digitalisation – From Principles to Practices

The international research project “Ethics of Digitalisation – From Principles to Practices” aims to develop groundbreaking answers to challenges in the area of conflict between ethics and digitalisation. Innovative scientific formats, research sprints and clinics, form the core of the project; they enable interdisciplinary scientific work on application-, and practice-oriented questions and achieve outputs of high societal relevance and impact.

Konstruktion von künstlicher Intelligenz
Politics and law · Society and culture

The discursive and political construction of AI

This project empirically investigates the discursive and political construction of AI in contemporary societies. We have started with small-scale preliminary studies on the media discourse in Germany as well as on select national AI strategies.

digitale öffentliche verwaltung
Politics and law · Society and culture

The Digital Administrative State

Current discussions on the Internet’s impact on public administration and on public institutions in general have centred around the notion of e-government. Our research contributes to this debate by investigating the relationship between the Internet and public institutions as well as their modes of action (public governance).

Task Force Plattformökonomie
Entrepreneurship and innovation

Task Force: European Platform Economy

The “Task Force European Platform Economy” is a group of HIIG researchers who study the implications of global platformisation for European actors and institutions. The Task Force works in an explorative and flexible manner across several projects and disciplines, and collaborates with external researchers, policymakers and business experts. The group’s aim is to conduct and foster research on digital platforms, establish a network of platform experts and promote knowledge transfer and exchange.

Society and culture

Shaping 21st Century AI – Controversies and Closure in Media, Policy, and Research

The project employs diverse sets of methods, including historical, ethnographic, and computational methods and the Media Lab’s cartographie de controverses, to investigate the discourse and developments around AI’s “deep learning revolution” over the ten formative years from 2012 to 2021 in the four partner countries and across three key domains. The media analysis investigates AI debates in major news outlets, niche websites and social media conversation.

Society and culture

Scholar-led Plus

The project aims to improve the publication situation of scholar-led, non-APC open access gold journals through a consortial support structure. The thematic focus is on small, trans- and interdisciplinary subjects and communities, where already established funding options are not effective and the responsibilities are often unclear.

Ranking Digital Rights
Media and data · Politics and law

Ranking Digital Rights

Ranking Digital Rights (RDR) works to promote freedom of expression and privacy on the internet by creating global standards and incentives for companies to respect and protect users’ rights. The project does this by ranking the world’s most powerful internet, mobile, and telecommunications companies on relevant commitments and policies, based on international human rights standards.

Internet Policy Review IPR Logo
Politics and law · Science and education

Publication: Internet Policy Review

The Internet Policy Review is an open access, fast track and peer­-reviewed journal on Internet regulation.

Society and culture

Public Interest AI

The “Public Interest AI” research group is therefore developing an operationalisable analysis procedure that allows defining and assessing public interest AI on three levels: on an argumentative level, on the level of the technical implementation of AI, and on the level of the usability of AI in the application context.

Platform Governance and Copyright | HIIG
Media and data · Society and culture

Platform Governance and Copyright (H2020)

This project tackles these issues from two complementary perspectives. On the one hand, it investigates the governance structures that social media platforms have devised over time to create a profitable balance between freedom of and control over speech. How do the obscure algorithmic systems that identify and take down contents function? What private rules are used to regulate both these systems and users’ actions?

Plattform Governance
Politics and law · Society and culture

Platform governance

Platforms have installed themselves as key intermediaries in contemporary societies. They re-organise communication and politics, mobility and travel, work and everyday life. Yet, with this change controversies arise. How do social media companies moderate the content on their sites?

Entrepreneurship and innovation · Media and data

Platform Alternatives

The project team will derive Corporate Governance Principles for digital platforms that seek to distribute collectively created value more fairly. The project is implemented jointly by HIIG and the Oxford Internet Institute (OII).

Media and data

People Analytics

We explore how organizations and users employ people analytics applications. These applications analyze a variety of data such as usage data from digital information systems and combine those with traditional data from human resources like fluctuation rates.

Science and education

Organizational Adaptivity in the Higher Education Context (OrA)

In this project, we investigate the digitalization of higher education, with a focus placed on exploring the implementation of teaching and learning innovations. Specifically, we track how institutions and their stakeholders adapt to these innovations, implement new practices, and ensure their sustainability. 

Entrepreneurship and innovation · Science and education

Open!NEXT – Open and community-based innovation processes

By sharing ideas and knowledge openly on digital platforms, a network of 19 partners in EU-countries, called OPEN!NEXT, will investigate new collaborations between company and consumer to foster the idea of open source and open innovation in the non-software area. The team at HIIG is headed by Prof. Dr. Hendrik Send and Dr. Stephan Bohn. We especially investigate how companies implement open source ideas in their product development and daily business processes.

Jung. Digital. Engagiert.

The project Jung. Digital. Engagiert. ties in thematically with the Third Engagement Report, in which civic engagement is examined with a focus on the opportunities and challenges for youth and young adult engagement in the digital age. It was published in summer 2020. 

Impaqt | HIIG
Science and education · Society and culture

IMPaQT – Indicators, Measurement and Performance of Quality Assurance: Third-Mission-Activities in the Social Sciences

The research project “IMPaQT” is about making knowledge transfer from research to society measurable through quality criteria and indicators. We  plan to analyze communication activities between academia and society in such areas politics, business, civic society, which constitute the “Third mission” of research institutions. We are especially interested in those activities on the science and society interface that have so far been little studied or documented and therefore do not play a role in the evaluation of research. 

Media and data · Politics and law

Global Privacy Governance

In the age of the Internet, in the wake of new challenges from increased network connection, new data generation and collection, new analytical techniques and conflicting cultural values, privacy debates have emerged as a prominent focal point for many concerns.

Empirical Copyright Research

Empirical Copyright Research

Copyright is one of the most contested fields of Internet regulation. Strong copyright protection is routinely assumed to be a key factor in the creative economies

Science and education · Society and culture

DREAM (Digital Research Mining)

As part of the DREAM project, a mobile application is being developed that simplifies the search for scientific open access publications and suggests suitable new content. Our target audience are mostly researchers and students who are looking for scientific content, are producing such content themselves or who intend to network more closely in their working environment. Easy-to-understand teasers will allow interested readers such as journalists, representatives of NGOs, politicians and entrepreneurs to inform themselves  on certain scientific topics, and the state of research.


Digitalisation, Entrepreneurship & Climate

As part of the Global digital knowledge community project, a team of researchers at HIIG, in cooperation…

Entrepreneurship and innovation

Digital Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship

In the “Digital Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship” research project, we investigate entrepreneurial organisations that primarily focus on society – often called social enterprises. We look at the role of digital technologies in solving social and environmental challenges and in creating societal value. We also examine how organisations with societal aims can succeed in shaping a digital, inclusive and sustainable transformation.

Politics and law · Society and culture

Digital Electoral Compass 2021

The Digital Electoral Compass is intended to create transparency, show the parties’ positions on digital policy issues and provide an overview of their individual plans. The election programmes are divided into six thematic categories: Work & Economy, Infrastructure, Social Affairs & Health, Media & Internet, Education & Research, Administration & Openness and Security.

Dewmystifying AI

Demystifying AI in entrepreneurship

The AI production process is not a magic blackbox, but rather an entrepreneurial process designed and carried out by actors, such as entrepreneurs, with a certain motivation. In this context, HIIG researchers are examining the entrepreneurial process of AI production in Germany as part of the pilot project “Demystifying AI in entrepreneurship – What’s behind German AI production?”.

Konzepte der digitalen Gesellschaft
Science and education · Society and culture

Defining concepts of the digital society

This publication project seeks to substantiate the conceptual ambition of the research programme The Evolving Digital Society by curating and publishing a set of reference articles on key notions and concepts. Leading academics will write short articles that portray and discuss the state of research with an interdisciplinary mindset. As a result, these reference papers will provide guidance for research, teaching and stakeholders in policy, business and civil society.

Data protection as a service | HIIG
Politics and law · Science and education

Data Protection as a Service

In this research project we are developing, together with several research partners, solutions that help website owners to overcome their knowledge uncertainties. By specifying GDPR provisions regarding the operation of websites, we create certification criteria that determine how hosting providers can help website owners to operate their website or blog in accordance with the GDPR. These hosting providers can, on the other hand, signal this help to their (potential) customers as a product feature and thus gain a competitive advantage over their competitors. 

Entrepreneurship and innovation

Data Cooperation Platforms for SMEs

The project Data Cooperation Platforms for SMEs (DaPla Mittelstand) is exploring how small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) operating in data-rich markets can better participate in the increasing platformization of value chains. The project examines the extent to which SMEs are able to establish and use digital platforms. It discusses conditions for successful cooperative governance models for SMEs in data-intensive markets. In particular, collaborations among SMEs or alliances between SMEs and and large companies will be assessed.

Media and data · Society and culture

Data & Society Interface

The Data & Society Interface therefore aims to think beyond and go beyond the widespread calling for “open data”. How can we make data from private and public organizations usable for scientific purposes and for the general good of the society, and still take legal, ethical, economic or organizational challenges and legitimate interest of all stakeholders into account? How can we identify, develop and test solutions – both technical and non-technical, as proof of concept, demonstrator or prototypical implementation – which facilitate interfaces on the organizational level?

Politics and law · Society and culture


The project explores the important, both mutually beneficial and conflict-prone relationship between cybersecurity and privacy. State-of-the-art cybersecurity protection often relies on the collection and analysis of large and ever increasing amounts of data. In order to detect anomalies, measures like deep packet inspection are used. At the same time, new regulation demands sharing that data with other companies and with governments in order to prevent cyber threats.

Competing and complementing – The relation of Co-determination and new participatory platforms within companies

In our project “Competing and complementing – The relation of co-determination and new participatory platforms within companies” we do research on workers participation on digital platforms by examining new forms and processes of employee participation online. In Germany co-determination defines a set of employee rights including the possibility of actively participating in the shaping of their working environment. In the context of digitization, numerous companies are introducing digital platforms that are intended to strengthen the participation of employees by using e.g. Enterprise Social Software.

Case Study: Innovation and Imitation in the Games Sector

The Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society is currently launching an 18-month study into the tension between innovation and imitation in the Digital Games Industry.

Wissensarbeit | HIIG
Entrepreneurship and innovation · Society and culture

Artificial Intelligence & Knowledge Work – Implications, Opportunities And Risks

The research project focuses on the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications in the intraorganizational workplace of knowledge workers. The project investigates with which intentions and strategies AI applications are used in the workplace, which changes are perceived by the participants and how employees, companies and co-determination actors react to them. The work is methodically guided by an empirically qualitative social science research design with a mixed-method approach.

ACTiSS, a MOOC for learning computational science
Science and education · Society and culture

ACTiSS: Action for computational social science

ACTiSS is an educational project aimed at fostering the development of computational thinking among social science students and young professionals. Together with the Universities of Warsaw and Groeningen, the HIIG is developing a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that combines academic expertise and real-world examples from politics, economics, sociology and other areas in which computational models are used to analyse societal processes. The project aims to promote students’ computational skills and reduce barriers to computational thinking. All digital training and teaching materials will be freely available to learners and teachers.

Society and culture

A media theory of the humanoid robot – Artificial intelligence in Japanese and European interpretations

It is exactly because AI concepts and discourses are in no way universal but depend on the contexts of their formation, that cross-cultural perspectives and comparisons are of utmost importance. This is why the project particularly looks at humanoid robots in Japan with the objective of uncovering the multiple realities of artificial intelligence – between science and fiction, East Asian and European concepts.

Completed research groups and projects

  • All
  • Entrepreneurship and innovation
  • Media and data
  • Politics and law
  • Science and education
  • Society and culture
Politics and law · Society and culture

Wahlkompass Digitales

Click here for Wahlkompass 2021 Digital policy will be a focal point of the German federal elections…

Entrepreneurship and innovation · Society and culture

User innovation in smart energy technologies

Interconnected, intelligent energy systems are a highly discussed issue. Such systems are used by customers to control and measure their energy us-age.

Politics and law · Science and education

The Futures of Telemedicine: Knowledge, Policy, Regulation

Digital health cards, electronic health records, medical telematics infrastructure – these are the terms dominating the public and political debates on the digitalization of the health care system in Germany. At EU level, electronic health services (eHealth) are also seen as a great opportunity.

Skyscrapers and Wifi signals
Entrepreneurship and innovation · Media and data

Privacy by design in smart cities

How to build smart cities in a privacy and security-friendly way, when more and more movements and human…

Science and education · Society and culture

Pelagios Network: Linking the places of your past

The project investigates new methodologies for using Linked Data to connect historical sources through common references using a variety of digital content including text, images, media, 3D objects, or online databases. This approach minimizes the entry threshold for data users by placing no requirements concerning the adherence to specific metadata schemas, data models, vocabularies or technical implementations with regard to the data.

Media and data · Politics and law

Participation in German Law

In the context of a comprehensive project concerning online participation in cooperation with the Hans-Bredow-Institute, the sub-project „e-petitions“ focuses on the e-petitions platform of the German parliament, the Bundestag.

Politics and law · Society and culture

Participating through the Outernet

Due to technological progress and a price decline in display technologies, it is believed that almost any surface in urban spaces could become digital. In the long run, people might live ‘inside’ the Internet, surrounded by interactive and digital surfaces.

Science and education · Society and culture

Opening Science

It seems as though the digitalisation of research is accompanied by a revision of established research practices and an opening of the research process. In the lead project Open Science we examine the mentioned changes.

Networks of Outrage
Media and data · Society and culture

Networks of Outrage

In the past decade, Europe has witnessed the birth of many movements at the right end of the political spectrum.

Learn Match Partner | HIIG
Entrepreneurship and innovation

Learn. Match. Partner.

The aim of the first phase is to develop an understanding of the functioning and basic principles of the partner. Interfaces thus found enable an initial, pragmatic short- and medium-term cooperation. These experiences create a trusting basis for medium to long-term, intensive cooperation and joint value creation (partner phase).

Politics and law · Society and culture

KORSE @ HIIG – the Internet and civil security in Europe

The emergence of cyberspace has challenged the law of civil security in Europe. Today, nearly all aspects of life have a digital dimension and therefore, we face new digital threats.

Entrepreneurship and innovation · Society and culture

Internet of Things: Entrepreneurship & eGovernment

Our research project is divided into two areas. First, we examine the issue from the perspective of technology adaptation and commercialisation – both by startups and established companies. Secondly, we examine how governments can use these applications themselves and what role regulation plays in the internet of things.

Science and education · Society and culture

Innovative Open Access in small sciences (InnOAccess)

The project builds on prior work by the Internet Policy Review, published by HIIG since 2012. This journal publishes independent of any publishers, does not charge and processing fees, and has made a name for itself through an accelerated and open peer review process. Internet Policy Review follows legal changes as well the development of internet standards and norms that have long-term impacts on European societies. The journal constitutes a resource for academics, civil society, entrepreneurs, media, and politicians in equal measure.

Entrepreneurship and innovation · Media and data

Innovation and Imitation in the Games Sector

This 2-year study investigated the tension between innovation and imitation in the Digital Games Industry. In this project, we understand imitation as a basic social practice that informs our learning and making. This seems to be particular true for the gaming industry: Entire game genres (think platform sidescroller games or first person shooters) have emerged by re-making and extending on great games.

Entrepreneurship and innovation · Society and culture

Index of Internet-based Innovation

The Index of Internet-based Innovations illustrates how sectors, regions and companies utilise the Internet when developing new products and services. The objective is to determine parameters identifying the innovative capacity of the Internet for organisational contexts. In connection with the use of information and communication technologies, some factors can serve as a basis for Internet-enabled innovation by applying their empirical indicators.

Entrepreneurship and innovation · Society and culture

How to collaborate with startups?

It is obvious that the tremendous differences in terms of culture, available resources and agility between corporates and startups present challenges for a successful cooperation. Thus, the failure and discontinuation rates of corporate startup collaboration remain high. To date, reliable success factors for these common development projects have rarely been identified. For this reason, the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) and Spielfeld Digital Hub, a common initiative of Visa Europe and Roland Berger, have initiated a research project. The one year study “How to collaborate with startups?” will consist of two parts.

Society and culture

Goodcoin – Robust Privacy for Loyalty Programmes and Payment Systems

The processing of customer data plays an important role both in traditional business and e-commerce.

Gemeinsam digital
Entrepreneurship and innovation · Society and culture

Gemeinsam Digital

_Gemeinsam digital, the Mittelstand 4.0-Kompetenzzentrum Berlin, is a central contact point for all companies in Berlin and nationwide that have questions about digitization. Our work is practical, user-oriented and cross-industry. The HIIG is in charge of the topics AI, digital business models, digital further education, and collaboration and offers competent consulting and scientific expertise in various areas.

Meinungsfreiheit im quasi-öffentlichen Raum
Media and data · Society and culture

Freedom of Expression in the Quasi-Public Sphere

The emerging publics on the Internet heavily rely on the infrastructure and platforms provided by private entities such as Facebook, Twitter, the Apple App Store, or Google. Previous research, predominantly in the form of case studies, has revealed that online platforms not only facilitate but also limit private speech in certain contexts.

Innovation Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship and innovation

Entrepreneurship Research Lab

Our Innovation and Entrepreneurship team is a transdisciplinary group of researchers at the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet & Society (HIIG).

Digitale Innovation im Mittelstand

Digital Innovation in German mid-sized businesses

The respective projects do not only take place in different functional areas of the companies, but are also related to trending topics like Smart City, New Work, or Augmented Reality. Frequently, these projects are implemented in close collaboration with startups. The goal of the study is to present several examples and success stories from different companies and regions of Germany and to derive recommendations for action.

Politics and law · Society and culture

Digital Civil Disobedience

The political phenomenon of civil disobedience has undergone a remarkable change in recent times, with the expression electronic civil disobedience coming into being in the mid­-1990s.

Digital Citizenship

DECiDe – Digital Identity, European Citizenship and the Future of Democracy

We developed a prototype for e-voting and e-polling based upon digital identity and Random-Sample Voting. The project was one of the winning projects by the Mercator Foundation’s Advocate Europe ideas competition 2018.

Data Governance: Finding common ground for interdisciplinary research

The sharing and re-use of digital data can foster innovation and increase economic and social welfare. However, economic and legal obstacles as well as strategic uncertainties often seem to prevent organizations from sharing the data they control. The “Data Governance” project therefore aimed at elaborating on data governance models that help actors to share and re-use their data

Media and data · Politics and law

Creative uses and cross – border copyright regulation

The Internet and digitisation simplify access to copyright protected works, and facilitate their distribution and use. However, these developments also pose fundamental questions of how to reconcile the often-opposing interests and ideas for regulation in this domain.

Media and data · Society and culture

Big Data & Nudging – Regulation by Big Data and Behavioural Sciences

The research project aims at bringing together the fragmented discussions on big data-driven behavioural regulation, relating the results of these debates to each other and thus identifying both new research questions and needs for political action. To this end, a conceptual framework is developed first which is used to classify and characterise the instruments, both in existence and under discussion, of big data-driven behavioural regulation.

Entrepreneurship and innovation · Media and data


In March 2014, a three-year research project on new technologies for digital moving images will start in Babelsberg: the »dwerft«.