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Quantification and Social Regulation

The research group “Quantification and Social Regulation” investigated how regulation changes when it makes use of contemporary automated information and decision-making systems. Ubiquitous computing, big data and artificial intelligence (AI) entail new practices of quantification and valuation whose role for regulation and for democracy require further examination. The research group undertook this endeavor by combining perspectives from social science and computer science.

This research group conducted research at the Weizenbaum Institute from 2017 to 2022. In the newly launched research program, research will henceforth be organised in 16 research groups. These will be flanked and supported by the new Weizenbaum Digital Science Center.

Regulation as a feature of modern societies

Regulation can be understood as the intentional steering of individual and corporative actors’ behavior by state and non-state organizations and is a key component of modern social life. Forms of regulation change with the underlying practices and technologies: at present, big data and artificial intelligence raise questions about changes in regulation the same way the development of statistics and accounting did in the past.

Influence of modern computer technology on regulatory processes

Digital technologies increasingly pervade modern societies at all levels. Individual life decisions are more and more shaped by online environments and digital devices. Concurrently, state, political and economic organizations increasingly adopt algorithmic procedures and AI to optimize their workflows. Modern computer technologies seem to render regulation more encompassing, tailored and effective – simply more powerful.

Analysis of concrete cases

Yet only empirical studies can reveal how exactly automated information and decision-making systems work in a specific institutional context and how they are interrelated with organizational structures, power relations, and professional norms and identities. We thus analyzed concrete cases where quantification and datafication are deployed in regulation. These include big data and AI in policing, in social policy, for jurisdiction, for policy-design, in the development of political strategies, in social sciences and in the management of labor.

The research group was composed of scholars from political science, sociology and computer science and positions itself in the research fields of governance and regulation research, public policy research, the sociologies of classification, quantification and valuation as well as in science and technology studies, critical computer science and critical algorithm studies.


A detailed project description can be found here.


Prof. Dr. Jeanette Hofmann, Principal Investigator
Dr. habil. Lena Ulbricht, Research Group Lead

  • Sonata Cepik
  • Guillermo Díaz
  • Florian Eyert
  • Ole Fechner
  • Florian Irgmaier
  • Jana Pannier
  • Rainer Rehak


Events of Research Group

The research group „Quantification and Social Regulation“ has organised scientific events on current research topics and the challenges in the networked society. Here you can find an overview of past events:

Go to the event overview

Publications of Research Group

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