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Weizenbaum Institute: Research Group 13 "Digital Citizenship"

The online world offers almost unlimited possibilities to connect with other people and to get active beyond the private sphere: We find our partners online, can give away surplus food through an app, or seek advice which political party programmes come closest to our ideals. With all these new possibilities, the question arises as to how they will change the citizens’ attitudes towards our democracy. However, we still know only little about whether and how open-mindedness towards newer forms of social engagement influences the citizens' ideas of their role in society.

The research group intends to systematically examine these processes of change: changing or newly emerging attitudes and expectations regarding political engagement in democracy – so-called emergent citizenship norms – will be identified, and their consequences for individual political participation will be analyzed. We examine how people understand their role in democracy today with a focus on how this understanding is shaped by online communication on an individual level. One working hypothesis in this context is that the adoption of emergent citizen norms in practice promotes the willingness to express ones view and the expression of opinion as well as the individual responsibility for the emerging public online disourse. Therefore we analyze, for instance, under which conditions emergent citizen norms can promote so-called "moderating action", i. e. the willingness to intervene in public discourse when the civil cuture of discussion is perceived as threatening.

Both qualitative and quantitative research methods are used for our research: guided interviews and ethnographic studies as well as representative surveys will help to identify, describe, and holistically explain citizenship norms and participation behavior. Additionally, experimental designs will help us to tackle the issue of effects under simulated online conditions.

Our research aims to further develop the academic debate on participation and citizenship norms from the integrative perspective of communication science, political science, sociology, and psychology. This interdisciplinary perspective will benefit both civil society practice and the political decision-making process: Firstly, a basic understanding of the citizens' new role in the networked society will be provided, in order to further develop the concepts of participatin and democracy. Secondly, citizens are to be understood as tangible ambassadors of civil discourse on the internet, who can play an important role in the consolidation of democracy under the conditions of digitalization.

The research group 13 is one of 20 research groups at the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society.