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Digital Markets and Public Spheres on Platforms

Between the Common Good and Economic Imperatives

In recent years, markets and publics have emerged on digital platforms, which are investigated in the four research groups of the focus area. Normatively, these platforms are in tension between public good orientation and economic imperatives. For their investigation, the perspectives of communication science, political science, economics, and computer science are brought together.

Different forms and sites of interaction have evolved over time to coordinate human action. Internet technologies have enabled the establishment of digital platforms that complement traditional coordination functions with algorithmic and participatory ones, while opening up unprecedented potentials for influencing action. How such platforms work depends on the strategies of the actors, the social subsystem as context, and the interdependencies that arise from them. 

This gives rise to a variety of questions that will be investigated in the focus area: How can innovations be promoted on digital platforms that not only promise economic returns but are oriented toward the common good? How can dangers be averted, for example with regard to the implementation of data protection or even the concentration of power? While digital platforms have both expanded and accelerated access to information and the course of communication, they also call into question previous mechanisms for ensuring the quality of information and discourse and open up new possibilities for disinformation. How can a reconceptualization of journalistic mediation improve the quality of platform publics?

Research Groups

Digital News Dynamics

The group will work on the question how digital platforms shape expectations, performances, and dynamics of public discourse, with a specific focus on the role of journalistic intermediation of news topics. Specifically, we want to understand the process of generation, examination, selection, dissemination of, and acting upon information in a platform environment.

Digital Economy, Internet Ecosystem, and Internet Policy

The research group investigates the tensions between competition, regulation and innovation from an interdisciplinary perspective. Particular emphasis is placed on research into the platform economy, the role of data in the digital economy, various aspects of the roll-out as well as innovative forms of sharing digital infrastructures, and the efficiency and evolution of the Internet ecosystem.

Platform Algorithms and Digital Propaganda

The group investigates the “information ecosystem“ on search engines and social media platforms to understand how algorithmic systems are designed and how the audience perceives them. It analyzes the organization of information filtering algorithms and their relationship with disruptive influence such as Russian online propaganda. Moreover, it studies how platforms reconcile market-driven algorithmic organization with their role as de-facto gatekeepers of information and the social responsibility this entails.

Dynamics of Digital Mobilization

The research group investigates the logics and interrelationship of digital information infrastructures, (transnational) mobilizations in networked digital publics, the dynamics of diffusion and manipulation of information under conditions of automation and algorithmic control, and the quality of public debates in Europe and on an international scale.