Millions of people across the world now work remotely for freelance and microwork platforms, creating a largely invisible workforce, often based in low-income countries, that offer outsourcing services to international clients and help power AI systems. While online work has been associated with freedom and empowerment and a borderless labour market, a new report by from the Oxford Internet Institute, part of the University of Oxford, reveals that these ‘ghost’ workers often face low pay, risky and exploitative conditions, opaque disciplinary systems and little to no bargaining power. The Oxford report calls for greater protections for gig workers across the globe.

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The transformation of democracy through digital public spheres is the topic of a virtual conference on June 17 and 18, 2021. The “Weizenbaum Conference” is being organized by the research area “Democracy – Participation – Public Sphere” of the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society and Freie Universität Berlin under the direction of Professors Barbara Pfetsch, Jeanette Hofmann and Professor Martin Emmer of the Institute of Journalism and Communication Studies. Under the title “Democracy in Flux – Order, Dynamics and Voices in Digital Public Spheres,” speakers from several countries will discuss digital technologies and their effects on democratic orders, political actors, and social practices on virtual panels. Interested parties can follow the presentations and discussions via livestream. Registration is required and participation is free of charge.

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The Center for Advanced Internet Studies (CAIS) in Bochum will receive long-term funding from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia from April 2021 and will be expanded into a central research institute. Minister-President Armin Laschet and Minister for Culture and Science Isabel Pfeiffer-Poensgen will formally communicate the decision to CAIS Director Prof. Dr. Michael Baurmann on 6 May 2021. CAIS will run four research programs to explore digital transformation in all its facets. The state will support the new research institute with an initial 2.1 million euros in 2021, and an annual six million euros in the final phase starting in 2024.

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A nationwide study by the #UseTheNews project reveals a deep information gap in the upcoming generation: about half of the young people do not consider it important to be informed about news and current events. At the same time, they are significantly less informed than their peers who also regularly use journalistic news sources. However, journalistic offers are only one of many sources of the information they use. These are the results of the #UseTheNews study “News Usage and News Literacy in the Digital Age”, initiated by the dpa and the Hamburg Ministry for Culture and Media. The study was conducted by the Leibniz Institute for Media Research. The results were presented and discussed today at the Mediendialog Hamburg [Media Dialogue Hamburg].

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With the Platform Governance Archive (PGA), the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) is taking a pioneering step in collaborative research on online platforms and their governance. The archive is open to researchers, citizens and journalists from all over the world. It collects and organises platforms’ documents on their regulation and governance and makes them accessible via open access.

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Data is everywhere and it is an increasingly valuable asset for firms, governments, and society at large. Due to its importance, it is no surprise that the issue is high on international policy agendas. However, a growing polarization in policy debates hampers constructive ways forward to handle the massive amounts of data across borders, which now underpin almost all human activities.

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How did students experience the digital university semester in summer 2020? Gergana Vladova and Norbert Gronau from the Weizenbaum Institute, together with associated researchers André Ullrich and Benedict Bender (both from the University of Potsdam), investigated students’ experiences with technology-mediated learning. To this end, the researchers conducted a longitudinal study at four German universities in the summer semester of 2020. The results show that the acceptance of technology-mediated learning depends on the disciplines and declined over the course of the semester.

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Political parties and free media are essential for the proper functioning of representative democracies. For some time now, however, these institutions have been subject to major structural change. As part of the series Making Sense of the Digital Society, Jan-Werner Müller discusses what the changes in this critical infrastructure mean for the effective exercise of fundamental rights as well as for the relationship between citizens and the political system. We invite all interested parties to participate in the online event On Wednesday, 9 March, from 7:00-8:30 p.m., via livestream on hiig.de

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