Universität Bielefeld

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Current research projects


The research programme "Digital Future"

The current progress in the development of technology leads to revolutionary changes in all aspects of modern life. These developments are summarized under the term digitization, albeit heterogeneous developments follow these changes. For example, on the one hand, the high flexibility in working life made possible by digital technologies is perceived negatively as a constant availability and a dissolution of boundaries between work and private life. On the other hand, the novel flexibility is appreciated as an individual control over time with new freedom and possibilities.

Poorly noticed is the fact that the technical development opens up possibilities to actively create a modern and mature form of digital life and work. Even though research studies about organizational and employee readiness for these change, and possible consequences of digitization of work processes exist, a clear trend about the employment effects cannot be found. This means that it is not the technical innovation that deterministically forces a certain route and formation of the digital transition. Instead, the diversity and formability of the future becomes apparent. These possibilities of forming a digital future are studied in the projects of our research programme considering chances as well as risks appropriately.

Interdisciplinary research approach

Interdisciplinary research teams of the Universities of Paderborn and Bielefeld are working together on different research questions. The teams consist of psychologists, sociologist, engineers, economists and computer scientists. The interdisciplinary work is a prerequisite for a new approach to potential future scenarios. Due to the close cooperation of different experts a comprehensive exploration of the components of socio-technical systems is possible - not only isolated for singular aspects but in a systemic context.

With our research programme we aim at the development of the scientific basis for a master plan "Digital Future" for employers, employees, freelancers, and private persons to support them in the proactive forming of the digital transition. We want to understand its mechanisms and generate methods that prepare and guide people in their working and private life.

Psychological impact

The digitization does not just change existing working relationships but establishes effectively new forms of employment. One of these new forms is crowdworking or paid crowdsourcing. In crowdwork, working tasks of varying complexity and granularity are advertised extern and outsourced to a mostly anonymous crowd. These tasks are usually tendered and assigned by online platforms which have the function of a digital job market.

It is still not clear how this form of work affects people. Within the scope of this research program, we want to examine perceptions, risks, and opportunities of crowdwork from a psychological perspective. Furthermore, we want to analyze work design at the task level to get a better understanding of this new form of work and the underlying mechanisms.

Participating persons of Bielefeld University:

Prof. Dr. Martin Diewald
Prof. Dr. Günter W. Maier (deputy spokesman)
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Ulrich Rückert

Participating persons of Paderborn University:

Prof. Dr. Johannes Blömer
Prof. Dr. Gregor Engels (spokesman)
Prof. Dr. Martin Schneider
Prof. Dr. Eckhard Steffen

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