Research on internet and digitalisation

The Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) was founded in 2011 to research the development of the internet from a societal perspective and better understand the digitalisation of all spheres of life. As the first institute in Germany with a focus on internet and society, HIIG has established an understanding that centres on the deep interconnectedness of digital innovations and societal processes.  The development of technology reflects norms, values and networks of interests, and conversely, technologies, once established, influence social values.

We explore new models of thought and action

Modern societies are based on ever-changing sets of norms, procedures and structures that are intended to enable free and democratic coexistence. In times of fundamental social, economic and technical transformation, however, some of these institutions are reaching the limits of their ability to change and "broken concepts" are emerging. This term refers to ways of thinking, patterns of action or explanatory models that are so deeply connected to their previous context that they now seem to have come from a different era and need to be rethought. We want to research such broken concepts – such as the once-meaningful distinction between the offline and online world – and help overcome them by offering new models of thought and action. 

By doing so, we are actively shaping the society of the future. Based on the scientific competences brought together at the institute and its dedication to interdisciplinarity, HIIG can engage with current topics such as the "platformisation" of the economy and society or the use of artificial intelligence and question the underlying concepts, structures and norms.

We develop concepts for a better understanding of the digital society

We create creative spaces for knowledge production that allow us to respond quickly to disruptive phenomena and promote new thinking. The intellectual context for this is formed by our continuous examination of overarching developments in science, politics, business and civil society. This helps us to generate concepts that offer a better understanding of the digital society, based on our own and others' theoretical and empirical work. By integrating various disciplines and interest groups into the research process, we facilitate an exchange of knowledge that strengthens the ability to think and act sustainably and responsibly. In this way, our interdisciplinary research contributes to redesigning democratic processes for a future-oriented, free society.

We promote unconventional research approaches

We give pioneering thinkers of the digital society the opportunity to engage with issues early and develop networks – without the bureaucratic hurdles. We enable them to develop projects and topics flexibly and without any thematic preconceptions. We promote unconventional approaches and are open to new ideas from all areas of society. We build bridges where others are busy staking their claims.

We research from a European perspective

In order to achieve its goals, our institute sees itself as a node in an international network of knowledge production and distribution. With this in mind, we invite established thinkers to give lectures on current structural changes, offer young researchers from across the world our infrastructure as an incubator for their ideas, and support  the international networking of researchers to exploit the scientific potential of such collaborations. For HIIG, the European perspective is central to encouraging more and better quality debate, both locally and globally

We share our knowledge

The results of this research are presented in an easy-to-understand and usable way for different target groups. The impact HIIG aims to achieve is based on excellent, socially relevant interdisciplinary research. We realise this through transfer services such as online magazines, science blogs, public discussion rounds, media contributions and podcasts.

Alexander von Humboldt was once called the greatest “scientific traveller of all times”. As a pioneer of interdisciplinary research and intellectual father of the Enlightenment, today he serves as a role model for the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society in Berlin. Until his death, he worked tirelessly on his book Cosmos, which is his attempt to explain the whole world. HIIG has taken on a research subject of similar proportions: society in the digital age.