European Expert Research on "Structuring Research on Sustainable Digital Environments"

Roundtable takes place in September 2017


In September the second Expert Roundtable on Sustainable Development takes place in Bonn on the topic “Structuring Research on Sustainable Digital Environments (SDE)". The Tokyo Expert Roundtable will be supplemented by an Asian and a North-American Roundtable.

Digital technologies are transforming all domains of economic, sociopolitical, (bio)technological, environmental, and other systems and has provided groundbreaking beneficial innovations. Until now, however, much research has focused on the development and implementation of digital technologies, yet little attention has been given to reflecting on and anticipating the unintended side effects (unsee(ns)) of such technologies, although they have the potential to endanger systems and structures that are considered valuable and contribute to the resilience of socio-technological systems.

In order to cope with this Janus-faced nature of the digital transition, identifying, analyzing, and managing specific risks and vulnerabilities can only be a first step. Thus, the expert workshop aspires to go beyond descriptions of single risks and threats and, instead, aims to sketch conceptual and theoretical frameworks or perspectives that allow for an overarching structuring of unintended side effects of the digital transition. And as the digital transition poses pressing societal questions of how to adapt current systems in all domains—from health, education, business and industry, and warfare to socio-ecological or environmental or management—one of the outputs may be to consider and identify what issues can be dealt with through the use of transdisciplinary processes (i.e., science–practice discourses that relate different types of knowledge for effectively mastering complex and relevant societal challenges). Thus, the European Expert Roundtable takes aim at:

(i) Identifying positive or negative unsee(ns) that are linked to digital transitioning;
(ii) Reflecting in what way(s) the unsee(ns) can become best subjects of science in an overarching way; and
(iii) Projecting (from the science perspective) what unsee(ns) might become subjects of transdisciplinary processes (i.e., science–practice discourses that relate different types of knowledge in order to efficaciously master complex relevant societal challenges).

In preparing for the Expert Roundtable, participants are asked to present several basic propositions related to the three topics described above. Each of the three to five propositions should be accompanied by a comment with a maximum of 150 words. This is necessary as there are about 10 inputs from different perspectives. A primary goal is that we have the opportunity and the time needed to read, to understand, and to discuss all propositions in depth in order to identify the specifics and generics to better structure overarching research on sustainable digital environments.

The European Roundtable will be supplemented by the Tokyo Roundtable (which took place on February 15, 2017) and the North American Roundtable (under preparation).

The summaries of the three roundtables will be published separately in order to illuminate different regional perspectives. For Europe, we intend to launch a meeting with representatives of several key stakeholder groups to discuss options for transdisciplinary processes.

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