Question mark on blackboard

Supported Projects

The DSI uses its strategic resources to support projects of DSI network members that meet the objectives of DSI.

Ongoing projects:

Digital Democracy Center

Applicant: Prof. Dr. Fabrizio Gilardi

The influence of digitalisation on democracy is great. Digitalisation cannot only simplify existing democratic processes, for example through e-voting, it also creates new forms of participation in political life. However, digitalisation does not automatically lead to better democracy. The flood of information and the non-transparent distribution of many messages, including false or distorted messages, place ever greater demands on citizens who want comprehensive and reliable information. Therefore, the UZH pursues the goal of creating a Digital Democracy Center (DDC) that addresses two central issues:

1. to accompany the digital renewal of Swiss democracy with a digital political barometer;

2. the creation of a centre of excellence to support research into digital democracy

The DSI supports this project for one year with the funding of a position of a research assistant.

Visual analysis of audiovisual data

Applicants: Prof. Dr. Barbara Flückiger, Prof. Dr. Renato Pajarola

The visual video annotation software VIAN developed as part of the "FilmColors" project is to be expanded into a comprehensive crowd sourcing client with an offline tool for video analysis and a web portal for publishing and processing the results. This portal and the analytical methods are to be made globally accessible from 2019. The target audiences are lecturers, students and researchers from film and media studies, art history and other disciplines who deal with moving images and need an advanced analysis package including video annotation application as well as interested laymen. 

The DSI supports the development of this crowd sourcing portal for 12 months.

Online publication of the Zurich Tangram Corpus

Applicants: Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Stark, PD Dr. Wolfgang Kesselheim, Dr. Tanja Samardzic

The Zurich Tangram Corpus includes more than 30 hours of audio and video recordings consisting of Face-to-Face-interaction (Swiss varieties of High German) as part of a psycholinguistic experiment (based on the classical experiment by Clark & Wilkes-Gibbs 1986). The corpus, that was compiled by Yshai Kalmanovitch as part of his dissertation project, allows the investigation of processes regarding verbal and nonverbal accommodation, both within individual conversations and over a longer period. This opens up a wide range of research possibilities, ranging from phonetic issues regarding sound accommodation up to accommodation phenomena in gestures, facial expressions and looks. The aim of the project is to publish the transcribed audio- and video-data in a format (web interface) which allows queries as well as liveediting. The result of this Lighthouse-project is not only a widely usable, publicly accessible audiovisual corpus, but also a best practice documentation in which concepts for the development of a central linguistic research infrastructure at the University of Zurich are specified.

The DSI supports this project together with the Zurich Center for Linguistics (ZüKL) and the URPP Language and Space.

Advancing the Assessment of Dynamic Psychological Processes in Daily Life

Applicant: Prof. Dr. Mathias Allemand and national/international collaborators

We are an interdisciplinary and international group of researchers in computer science and psychology who are interested in the assessment of psychological processes in daily life using digital technologies. Recent technological advances (e.g., mobile technology, wearable sensor technology) in the field of computer science and the rapid growth in popularity of the use of wearable technological devices in daily life (e.g., smartphones, smart watches) create new and interesting opportunities for the assessment of various psychological processes and outcome variables in daily life (e.g., health-related outcomes, affective and social experiences, well-being and life satisfaction, personality manifestations/expressions). The goal of this research initiative is to advance the assessment of dynamic psychological processes in daily life using digital technologies. To do so, we will organize research meetings and a workshop to bring researchers from different disciplines together to discuss innovative technology-based models and data collection tools for the assessment of dynamic psychological processes and to discuss future directions and collaborative research initiatives.

Together with other partners the DSI supports this project.

Value Sensitive Humanitarian Innovation: Integrating Ethical Values in the Humanitarian Use of Drones

Applicant: Prof. Dr. Nikola Biller-Andorno, Ning Wang

In the attempt of reflecting on the digitalization of a rapidly changing social reality, we aim to develop a research theme on the role of digitalization in humanitarian action. Humanitarian organizations increasingly implement innovative technologies as they respond to the needs of communities affected by war, disaster or public health emergencies. However, technological innovation intersects with moral values, norms and commitments, and may challenge humanitarian imperatives. Therefore, an analysis of ethical issues associated with humanitarian innovation is a pressing need for understanding what is at stake and how best to move forward.

Using drones as an exemplar case of humanitarian innovation, we aim to answer three questions: First, what is known about the interplay between technological innovation and ethical values, norms and commitments in the humanitarian use of drones? Second, how should the shared or disparate values of humanitarian stakeholders be interpreted and addressed in the development and deployment of drones? Third, what policies and guidance tools can best direct the integration of ethical values in humanitarian innovations? 

The DSI supports this project together with the Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine (IBME) and other partners.

APARIUZ Series Volume XX - "Digitization and Law"

Applicants: Dr. iur. Alexandra Dal Molin, Dr. iur. Anne Schneuwly, MLaw Jasna Stojanovic

Since the founding of the APARIUZ series in 1999, young lawyers at the University of Zurich have been publishing an annual anthology of articles on fundamental legal issues. This tradition will be continued in the coming year and in early summer 2019 the 20th (anniversary) volume of the series entitled "Digitalisation and Law" will be published by DIKE-Verlag.

Under this highly relevant theme, the interplay between the rapidly advancing digitalisation and our legal system will be examined: Will our legal system be able to keep pace with digitalisation or will adjustments be necessary? What responsibility does the government bear in this respect? How does digitalisation change our law? What influence does the law have on digital progress? Does digitalisation make our legal system superfluous? Possible answers to these questions will be sought and found in the individual contributions of the authors. The authors also work interdisciplinary with ETH assistants and doctoral students to promote innovative ideas at the interface of law and technology.

The APARIUZ series offers young jurists at the University of Zurich a first opportunity to independently publish an academic contribution in an anthology. During the book launch - which will take place after the publication of the anthology - the authors will also have the opportunity to establish valuable contacts with professors, project sponsors and practitioners. The target groups of the anthology are academics, practitioners, administrative staff and law students.

The DSI supports this project together with other sponsors.

The Integrative Data Management Portal for Longitudinal Human Development Data: An innovative contribution to research infrastructure at the University of Zurich

Applicants: Dr. Franz Liem, Prof. Dr. Mike Martin, Dr. Susan Mérillat, Dr. Christina Röcke

The way in which scientific research in the social sciences is conducted has fundamentally changed with the growing influence of digitalization and technology. These changes, together with the current legal requirements regarding data protection and data privacy, result in increasing demands on data management. Effective research data management facilitates the sustainable use of data throughout their lifecycle. This leads to more responsibly spent research funding and fosters open science. If datasets are well-organized, documented and accessible, the research output can be increased.

While the importance of systematic, orderly data management procedures has been acknowledged, the implementation at the level of research institutions is still in a very early phase and the development of infrastructure, services and other resources to support researchers in their everyday data management is therefore urgently needed. In the context of studying human development, the sustainable use of data is of particular relevance because the acquisition of longitudinal data, which are needed to draw conclusion about developmental trajectories, is usually very time- and cost-intensive, rendering the resulting datasets enormously valuable. Thus, it is highly desirable that such datasets are made available and used to full capacity.

The primary goal of the current project is therefore to develop a comprehensive concept for an up-to-date data management portal that can serve as an innovative infrastructure at the University of Zurich. The main innovation of this portal is that a modern data storage infrastructure is embedded in a bigger framework of services (e.g. education, consulting, etc.), technologies and outreach functions that boost the efficient use of the data stored in the portal.

Beyond bringing together existing technologies and services, this also includes the development and feasibility testing of additional new features, such as the integration of individual data across studies, automated analysis tools for high-density activity data of individuals or the professional implementation of stakeholder-management embedded in a participatory research approach. Implemented as a “one-stop shop”, the data management portal will employ a network of specialists who can provide specific, high-level support to the researchers and, thus, also enhance the research output by freeing the researchers’ resources for their core research activities. 

The DSI supports this project together with other sponsors.

Credibility of Conspiracy Theories

Applicant: Dr. Juliane A. Lischka 

Conspiracy theories are a frequent topic in online discussions, have a long online distribution life and are almost globally available on digital platforms. The belief in conspiracy theories is often related to a decrease in trust in media and politics. The evaluation of conspiracy theories ranges from being thought provoking to insane. This project aims at understanding (a) how online users conceptualize conspiracy theories, (b) which cues are decisive for assessing conspiracy theories as credible and (c) in what way the belief in conspiracy theories determine future behaviour. Data is collected with online surveys and analysed with standard social science as well as machine-learning approaches.

The DSI supports this project with the funding of data collection costs.

Reproducibility Day

Applicants: Prof. Dr. Leonhard Held, Dr. Eva Furrer

The Center for Reproducible Science (CRS) at the Univeristy of Zurich offers in partnership with the DSI a Reproducibility Day on February 5, 2019 to all researchers at UZH. The day is devoted to transparent and reproducible research practices. Researchers get information on issues of reproducibility, learn about solutions and offers at UZH. They are invited to take the plunge and practice to use modern software tools and online offers for preregistration with experts from CRS in hands-on workshops.

Confirmed external speakers are:

  • Joachim Wagner, chief editor of The International Journal for Re-Views in Empirical Economics, the first journal for the publication of replication studies based on micro economic data.
  • Nathalie Le Bot, senior editor at Nature.

This workshop is supported by the DSI.

Digital History Lab

Applicants: Prof. Dr. Monika Dommann, Prof. Dr. Martin Dusinberre, Prof. Dr. Gesine Krüger

The Department of History’s Digital History Lab (DHL) will tackle the crucial issue of how contemporary society should understand the historical emergence and evolution of digital societies. It will analyse a history of digital data, including its cultural and epistemological dimensions, while focusing also on societal issues (surveillance, privacy, cultural properties, public access, indigenous knowledge, citizen science, and the public understanding of academia). Drawing on existing digital history expertise in the Department of History, especially in Media History, History of Knowledge, E-learning, and digital dissemination, it will be a forum for sharing best practices, so as to offer practical and intellectual support to future projects. In these ways, the DHL will be a focus for research, teaching and engagement activities, offering scholars a space in which to reflect on and practice history in the digital age.

The DSI supports the Digital History Lab together with the Department of History.



Completed Projects:

Workshop "Philosophical questions on AI governance and law"

Applicant: Prof. Dr. Christoph Graber

The aim of the workshop on 15/16 February 2018 was to explore innovative ways of interdisciplinary research in order to improve the understanding of the normative implications of artificial intelligence (AI). 
The workshop was divided into two case studies. The case studies highlighted various aspects and concerns raised in the public debate on AI, such as discrimination, data collection, surveillance and the commercial potential of the technology. By analysing two cases, the researchers with different backgrounds were able to find a common basis and successfully lay the foundation for future discussions in research and identify governance issues. UZH News and More...

The workshop was organized by the Chair of Sociology of Law with special focus on media law (Prof. Christoph B. Graber) at the UZH Faculty of Law in cooperation with the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. The workshop was financially supported by the Faculty of Law and the DSI.

Brainhack Zurich 2018

Applicant: Dr. Franziskus Liem

The aim of the Brainhack was to network the neuroscientific community and to provide an introduction to open science ideas and tools in order to make neuroscientific studies more reproducible in the future. Besides the organized program, which consisted of a mixture of tutorials on tools such as Git, GitHub, Docker, analysis of DWI data and lectures on topics such as transparent and reliable science, neural networks and mobile data acquisition, an important part of the workshop was organized by the participants themselves. In spontaneous groups, topics such as data organization or analysis of longitudinal data were discussed. This format allowed a lively exchange between participants with different backgrounds and expertise and contributed to an open and inspiring atmosphere. More...

Together with the UFSP "Dynamics of Healthy Ageing" the DSI supported this hackathon.

Workshop "Cybersecurity, Industry and Ethics"

Applicant: MLaw Salome Stevens

Thanks to co-financing from the DSI, the applicant was able to participate in the workshop "Cybersecurity, Industry and Ethics" in Helsinki. The participation served as research for a book contribution entitled "Ethical Cyber-Defence for Companies", which is edited by the DSI Fellows PD Dr. Markus Christen and Dr. Michele Loi, among others. The workshop was helpful for the applicant's book project in various ways. The speakers' presentations provided a good overview of the ethical problems that cybersecurity actors are currently confronted with. In particular, questions relating to Ethical Cyber-Defence for Companies were discussed, which provide concrete clues for the research on the book chapter. In addition, by participating in the workshop, the applicant was able to broaden her understanding of the technical aspects of cyber attacks.  Last but not least, participation in the workshop made it possible to establish contacts with cybersecurity actors and experts from research to whom it can refer in the course of the research.   

Together with the CANVAS project, the DSI supported the project.

Consortium for H2020 proposal CHAnGE (Crowd Health Alignment and Greater Engagement)

Applicant: Dr. med. vet. Simon Rüegg

From 7 to 10 August 2018, Simon Rüegg from the Section of Epidemiology at the Vetsuisse Faculty convened a workshop to discuss ways to address One Health from a perspective of participatory governance. One Health (OH) is conceptualised as integrating decisions on human, animal and ecosystem health across sectors and disciplines, using systems theory and participatory processes. During the workshop the participants had lectures and exercises on personal construct psychology (PCP), while exploring in parallel opportunities and challenges of building a digital tool to facilitate system thinking and citizen participation in One Health governance. A sequence of drawing workshops, world café and mind-mapping sessions were used to construe the project. The core idea was to develop a smart phone enabled tool to elicit value systems associated to the different aspects of OH relying on PCP. The consortium decided to aim for an ERC Synergy grant with a project consisting of five working packages, but also explore alternative funding opportunities for fragments of the project. The working packages were, a package for transdisciplinary process management, a package for qualitative data collection and gaining a deep understanding of the landscape of values in which OH is situated, the development of a prototype of the app to be tested in sentinel populations, the roll out of the final app with options for user engagement and pathways from values to action for health improvement, and finally a package commending and customising the app for stakeholders at various levels of OH governance between international organisations and local users. The project is entitled Crowd Health Alignment and Greater Engagement (CHAnGE) and is currently involving eleven scientists form public health, animal health, food systems, sustainability science, health diplomacy, psychology, computer science, economics. It was interesting to see that all have professional trajectories involving both, quantitative and qualitative approaches, and were exceptionally agile in interdisciplinary conversation. The project plan will now be developed in more detail and submitted for funding within the next year.

Further details:

Together with Vetsuisse, the DSI supports this project.

Workshop "Digital Health and Shared Decision-Making"

Applicant: Dr. Corine Mouton Dorey

The workshop was a one-day multidisciplinary activity looking for the impact of digitalization on shared decision-making in healthcare. As digital health is an important challenge in a digital society, we had a lot more applications than the 20 planned with the graduate campus grant. Thanks to the DSI support we could increase the number of participants up to 30. The interactive format of the workshop was very well appreciated. The key success factors (KSF) can be summarized in 3 main points: First, we had talented speakers who bring their expertise in: Shared decision-making and autonomy (Prof. Schumacher, Uni Fribourg). Social systems theory and digital media (Prof. Vogd, Witten, Germany). Digital health (PD Dr. Christen, UZH). They interacted very generously during the day and took part in the subgroup works. This gave the possibility for PhDs and post-docs to develop fruitful discussion on their research topic. The second KSF was the diversity of people: experts in IT from UZH or ETHZ, in biomedical ethics or narrative literature. This made all discussions very rich. Interestingly, IT people were looking for more ethical perspectives, and the other non-IT attendants for more knowledge on algorithms. The third KSF was the work in three subgroups around the question of: Design a digital tool to improve shared decision-making in healthcare settings. The strategic thinking is different coming from philosophy, medicine or IT. However, each team came up with similar approaches that showed the high expectation for a positive digital influence on patient-physician relationships. Following the event, one sub-group decided to continue to work together on the digital tool they started to design. Some of the attendants are now working on a common position paper on digital health and shared decision-making. A follow-up meeting is planned before Christmas.

The DSI supported this workshop together with the Graduate Campus.

Conference of the "International Humanitarian Studies Association"

Applicant: Ning Wang

With the generous support of the DSI in May 2018, a new research project “Value-Sensitive Humanitarian Innovation - Integrating Ethical Values in the Humanitarian Use of Drones”, hosted by the Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine (IBME), successfully achieved a research grant from the Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS) in July 2018. In August 2018, with continued support of the DSI and the IBME, Ms. Ning Wang, the principle researcher of the SNIS project represented the research team in the World Conference on Humanitarian Studies, in the Hague, Netherlands.

This conference is organised by the International Humanitarian Studies Association (IHSA) every two years. It is a world-renowned conference in the humanitarian sector, providing a platform for the different disciplines that address humanitarian studies on humanitarian crises caused by natural disasters, conflicts or political instability, and offering a venue where scholarly communities can meet and have dialogues with policy actors and relief and aid agencies. One of the major thematic focuses of 2018 was “The Impact of Technology and Innovation in Coping with, Responding to, and Transforming Crises”, within which a panel on “The Ethics and Technology in Humanitarian Settings” was chaired by Prof. Dr. Matthew Hunt, the Co-PI of the SNIS project, at McGill University, Canada.

During the conference, the SNIS team successfully established a number of new and strategic partnerships, many of whom will soon join the SNIS project as extended project partners. These novel partnerships not only include scholars and researchers who stand at the forefront of humanitarian studies, but also extend to funding organizations and policy think-tanks, all of which will play critical roles at different stages of the SNIS project. In sum, the SNIS team’s participation in the IHSA conference has proven to be fruitful and effective.

The DSI supported the applicant together with the Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine.

Conference "Sports, Data, and Journalism"

Applicant: Anil Özdemir

On October 25, 2018, the official Swiss Digital Day, the Center for Research in Sports Administration (CRSA) invited academics, data journalists, and experts from media and industry to the conference on Sports, Data, and Journalism at the University of Zurich to discuss the use of data science in sports.

At the sold-out event, over 100 participants from around the world listened to more than 35 interesting talks, participated in data science workshops, and exchanged ideas on the use of sports data. The conference was organized in an academic and data-driven journalism track. To allow an exchange of ideas and a discussion on methods, panel sessions, poster sessions, and workshops were offered to all participants.

Social scientists analyze sports data to test hypotheses, answer research questions, and develop new theories. Journalists ask similar research questions and analyze the same data. They might, however, use different methods, have different target audiences and publishing procedures. The conference provided a platform to discuss those different methods and the research questions asked. In some ways, both social scientists and data journalists were tackling very similar problems (e.g., judge biases in ice skating).

Although sports data is readily accessible, a key issue in the day to day work with sports data was that data came in structures that required heavy cleaning work before they could be analyzed. This opened a discussion on a potential sports data platform that would ensure data was made available in formats that made them easier to handle and analyze.

The multidisciplinary conference was very well received and we were asked whether there will be future conferences on the same topic.

The DSI supported this conference together with other partners. 

Rethink Privacy! Towards a Harms-Focused Governance of Digital Traces

Applicants: Dr. Alfred Früh, Prof. Dr. Michael Latzer, Prof. Dr. Florent Thouvenin

Privacy is a key factor for individual and social well-being. In the digital age, ubiquitous data processing practices by businesses and government agencies and the abundant digital traces we knowingly or unknowingly leave behind affect privacy in various ways with consequences for individuals and society. The attempts to meet these challenges are heterogeneous and not based on a common understanding. Policymakers, for example, have reacted by enacting stronger privacy and data protection laws. Particularly the European Union (EU) has taken a comprehensive approach by enacting the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR; effective May 2018). But the conceptual basis of the GDPR and other data protection laws, such as the Swiss Data Protection Act (SDPA), date back to the 1970s and are unable to fully meet the challenges of the digital age. To ensure that the processing of digital traces ultimately benefits individuals and society, we launch a research project that rethinks privacy with a synergetic combination of four perspectives: Philosophy (University of Lucerne), communication studies (UZH, IKMZ), law (UZH, ITSL), and technology (Università della Svizzera italiana). In addition, it collaborates with behavioral economics (ETH Zurich) on selected challenges. Governing privacy in the digital age in a meaningful way requires contributions from all these disciplines.
The project is structured in three parts. In the first part – Deconstructing Privacy – the project team explores the definitions, ascriptions, perceptions, and concepts of privacy as well as existing mechanisms to protect it. Combining different disciplines and defining a common language will result in a common understanding of the rich research in each field and enable an interdisciplinary synthesis. Upon these findings, the second part – Reshaping Privacy – starts out on the presumption that the processing of digital traces can be both beneficial and harmful, and that current regulatory and technical attempts have their limitations to successfully fight the actual harms, thereby curtailing important benefits. We explore three (potential) harms that are particularly important: manipulation, discrimination, and chilling effects (i.e., deterring or inhibiting certain actions or interactions due to, e.g., state surveillance or user-tracking by businesses). By analyzing these harms with an interdisciplinary approach, we develop a better understanding of how they affect individuals, groups, and society at large. Further, we will be able to develop criteria and benchmarks to separate the acceptable from the unacceptable, e.g., to distinguish manipulation as a harm from acceptable forms of influencing. In the third part – Governing Privacy – all disciplines will jointly devise governance arrangements that minimize the harms caused by the processing of digital traces while allowing the benefits to come to fruition. For each of the three harms, we will be able to draft novel, adequate, and workable governance recommendations that could have the form of technical solutions, legislative proposals, “green papers”, or calls for industry self-regulation including guidance. Based on a comparison of the governance recommendations for the three harms, we ultimately aim to draw up the foundations for a new governance framework for privacy in the digital age.

The DSI supported the grant application for the Rethink Privacy project together with the Faculty of Arts.