HIIG Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society | Internet Research

HIIG: Research on the internet and society

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 (HIIG) 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: the dynamic relationship between the internet and society in the digital age.

We no longer discover unfamiliar worlds by sailing around the globe but find them lurking in cyberspace.

HIIG has accepted the challenge of understanding socio-technical changes and translating them for the public at large. For HIIG, research means opening up the black box, looking behind bits and bytes, and making the knowledge we gain accessible to a wider audience. Therein lies the quality and meaning of our work: we use interdisciplinarity to make new discoveries, include a diversity of voices to energetically discuss issues in new ways, and communicate the results in an easy-to-understand way.

Who governs the net? How do we innovate?

Since 2011, HIIG has been working on fundamental research questions. Our central question is: who and what governs the internet? How do innovations come into being and what ones prevail? And how do these innovations relate to governance processes? Are we seeing signs of an emerging global constitutionalism and what norms is it based on? How is science changing in the context of digitisation? Our discoveries help to ensure that the discussion on the challenges of digitisation is built on solid factual foundations. HIIG understands its role in this process as providing a platform to enhance the dialogue between research, business, politics and civil society.  

“Innovation and regulation are often pitted against each other. Companies complain about inflexible regulations that inhibit development. Conversely, some fear that ‘disruptive’ development will ultimately undermine hard-fought legal standards. HIIG wants to better understand the relationship between innovation and governance and thus create the basis for productively using these tensions and ideally even for optimising both.”

Multi-faceted perspectives on innovation and governance

HIIG is a publicly and privately funded independent research institute whose work complies with scientific quality standards and transparency rules. The founding partners – the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK) and the WZB Berlin Social Science Center, along with its integrated cooperation partner the Hans-Bredow-Institut for Media Research in Hamburg – enable us to develop multifaceted perspectives that shed light on technological, legal, social, economic and creative issues regarding the internet. As Humboldt once said: “Everything is related!”