Perceived risks and vulnerabilities of employing digitalization and digital data in agriculture – Socially robust orientations from a transdisciplinary process

Roland W. Scholz, Jana Zscheischler, Reiner Brunsch, Sebastian Rogga

he digitalization of agricultural production and the use of digital data are fundamentally transforming processes, products, and services of the agro-food systems. Digitalization improves efficiency and facilitates sophisticated farm management, thus increasing productivity, efficacy, and profitability. At the same time, it promises many opportunities for a more sustainable and, especially, more ecological and cleaner agricultural production. However, with it comes the potential for a number of unintended side effects and risks that may increase the vulnerability of agricultural production and have, thus far, received scant scientific and societal attention. This article presents the results of a two-year transdisciplinary process that aimed to identify unintended side-effects (short “unseens”) and perceived risks of digitalization in German agriculture. Results base on a triangulation of knowledge integration from the transdisciplinary group process involving twelve representatives from science and practice and an ethnographic qualitative meta-analysis. The findings have shown that, despite digitalization’s numerous promises for a more ecological and resource efficient agricultural production, a broad range of risks was perceived by some key stakeholders involved. These risks were anticipated to be caused by unintended negative and uncertain side effects on agro-ecological and social systems. Data rights, the restructuring of the value chain with new market concentrations, power structures and dependencies, changing knowledge requirements for farmers (lacking “digital literacy”), and information asymmetries that may cause potentially negative effects on food security were identified as causal factors. Based on these results, we codeveloped socially robust orientations (SoROs) for coping with resulting risks and vulnerabilities. We argue that these SoROs provide perspectives on how anticipated knowledge can be turned into responsible action within the RRI (responsible research and innovation) framework. Finally, with regard to the preventive and anticipatory paradigm of “cleaner production”, our transdisciplinary methodology shows a way to adaptively govern the highly complex socio-technological transitions of digitalization in agriculture in the sense of a sustainability-oriented transformation.

To the arcticle

Organizational vulnerability of digital threats: A first validation of an assessment method

Roland W. Scholz, Reiner Czichos, Peter Parycek, Thomas J. Lampoltshammer

We present a Strengths, Vulnerability, and Intervention Assessment related to Digital Threats (SVIDT) method, which provides a problem structuring and decision support for organizational vulnerability and resilience management with respect to changes of the digital transition. The method starts from (i) a multi-level actor analysis, (ii) identifies strengths and weaknesses of organizations, (iii) constructs digital threat scenarios and provides judgment-based expert assessments on the organization's vulnerability, (iv) develops intervention scenarios for tangible threat scenarios, and (v) suggests win-win action scenarios when referring to the multi actor system analysis as for strategic management. A first validation and application includes a structural analysis of the response patterns and a quantitative and qualitative appraisal of the organizations’ managers. This validation is based on an application of the method to 18 German and Austrian organizations of different types and magnitude. We show how the basic concepts of vulnerability (i.e., sensitivity, exposure adaptive capacity) can be quantitatively operationalized when constructing consistent combinations of threat and intervention scenarios. The validation approaches indicate that the method provides meaningful data and assessments and that the managers provided a positive feedback on the method and the recommendations which they received. It is further deliberated whether the assessment method supports organizations’ specified resilience management in an overly complex, systemic digital transition in a (semi) quantitative manner. In addition, we discuss needs for future research regarding practical utility of SVIDT, as well as the positioning of SVIDT in relation to soft operational methods and other methods of operational research.

To the Article

Digital Entrepreneurship: A Theory-Based Systematization of Core Performance Indicators

Liliya Satalkina, Gerald Steiner

Digital transformation affects socioeconomic systems, bringing inevitable changes to business processes, particularly those related to resource demands, networking processes, and communication mechanisms within entrepreneurial activities. Furthermore, digital transformation leads to unintended side effects on the societal system and affects the competitiveness, resilience, and viability of the overall innovation system. It also fosters the formation of new business models or the reshaping of existing ones and determines digital entrepreneurship as a process or as an outcome of business activity. The tendencies of digital entrepreneurship differ concerning the underlying innovation system conditions. The analysis and the systematization of categories and performance indicators of digitalization and digital entrepreneurship provide a framework for micro- and macro analytic perspectives. This research aims to provide a theory-based systematization of the existing performance indicators that characterize digital entrepreneurship, with a particular focus on compound indicators that characterize the tendencies of digital entrepreneurship on a country basis in the period from 2016 to 2019. As a theoretical basis for categorization and further analysis of the indicators, we applied a set of 10 determinants of digital entrepreneurship. These determinants cover a broad range of elements (from individual patterns to organizational management processes and the influence of external infrastructure and institutional settings) that define the phenomenon of digital entrepreneurship within three core dimensions: the entrepreneur, the entrepreneurial process, and the relevant ecosystem. We defined how the subindices of the chosen compound indicators are interrelated with the determinants of digital entrepreneurship. Further correlation analysis was applied in order to define the systematic interrelations between the different dimensions of digital entrepreneurship as part of a socioeconomic system.

To the article

Transdisciplinary knowledge integration PART II: Experiences of five transdisciplinary processes on digital data use in Germany

Roland W. Scholz, Heike Köckler, Jana Zscheischler, Reiner Czichos, Klaus-Markus Hofmann, Cornelia Sindermann

Transdisciplinary problems are complex, ill-defined, societal real-world problems with high ambiguity that are contested and require multiple trade-offs. Part I of this paper showed that transdisciplinary processes include seven types of knowledge integration: system (ontological), epistemological, cultural, cognitive, social conflict, evolutionary (levels of representation), and complexity-theory-based types of knowledge integration. The epistemological integration of the different modes of reasoning from science and practice is a unique selling point of the transdisciplinary process. Part II presents five transdisciplinary processes for the responsible use of digital data in different vulnerable/sensitive subsystems of Germany (mobility, health, agriculture, SME, and social media). Between 10 and 18 participants (equally representing science and practice in each group) synchronously constructed socially robust orientations as pillars of a white book. We elaborate that outcomes of a transdisciplinary process can be improved, and barriers diminished by reflecting on which of the seven types of knowledge integration are applied (see Part I). This is done for the six phases of a transdisciplinary process: (1) triggering, (2) initiation, (3) preparation, (4) planning, (5) core, and (6) post-processing. We particularly address researchers and practitioners who seek insights into how the production and integration of knowledge can be improved by transdisciplinary processes.

To the article
Zum Anfang der Seite