DSI Fellows

The fellowship program of the UZH Digital Society Initiative aims to promote interdisciplinary cooperation at the University of Zurich regarding all questions concerning the impact of digitalization on society and science.

DSI fellows are researchers from UZH and other universities who work or will work with a DSI Community.

Current DSI Fellows

Dr. Alexandra Diehl

Dr. Alexandra Diehl is DSI Fellow from June 2020 to June 2022:

Visual Tools Based on Citizen Data for Improving the Communication of Severe Weather Events

According to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), the indirect economic losses caused by climate-related disasters increased by over 150 % during 1998–2017 compared to the period 1978– 1997 [1]. Among the most prominent high-impact weather events are flooding, storms, and heatwaves. Scientists need to improve the accuracy and communication of weather forecasting to reduce or even avoid the damage caused by these kinds of weather hazards. To know even a few hours in advance about the place and intensity of weather hazards can help to mitigate the consequences of natural disasters, save lives, and prevent economic losses. Very-short-term weather forecast techniques, known as nowcasting, are vital tools in this endeavor, but they are not yet accurate enough in many regions, or fail to cover certain areas because there are no sensor data available. In this context, the availability of trustworthy observations coming from citizens can play a new decisive role. Citizens continuously generate an enormous amount of digital content of diverse kinds such as blog posts, tweets, as well as photos and videos. People tend to proactively participate in digital media and communicate this kind of high-impact events in internet channels such as social media, news feeds,and citizen science projects, which represents a huge opportunity to improve current weather forecasting.To be able to use this information, scientists need methods to assess and quantify the quality of citizen data. The high-dimensionality and complexity of citizen data make the use of purely automated and algorithmic approaches for quality assessment challenging and insufficient. Currently, it is computationally intractable to consider all possible hidden and yet essential features that citizens may have included in the data by only using algorithms. To tackle this challenge, we propose a combined approach of visualization, modeling and data analytics to (i) generate a ground truth of weather events based on social media and citizen science data, (ii) analyze the topological traits of the emergent activity of users in social media in the presence of severe meteorological outbreaks, and (iii) visually explore the model results and assess their quality, as first steps towards a systematic approach for the quantification of citizen data in the context of weather events.

The project will tackle those challenges unifying two different approaches, citizen science and social media analytics. For this purpose, we will design a mobile citizen science application considering perceptual visual cues to collect data about high-impact weather events, and gather common terminology used by citizens when they refer to weather events and weather conditions. The second approach will consist of the analysis of social media data and initial modelling of social networks to extract useful information associated to high-impact weather events, identify expert users among the social networks, and individualize key thematic terms and associated emotions. The outcome of this project will consist of (i) a percetually-based visual design of a mobile application for citizen science on high-impact weather events, (ii) a visual analytics tool to integrate citizen science and social media data, the open source code, and anonymous and aggregated data sets used for research, according to the current GDPR regulations and Swiss laws on data privacy.


 [1] P.Wallemacq and R. House. UNISDR and CRED report. economic losses, poverty and disasters 1998–2017. brussels: Centre for research on the epidemiology of disasters (CRED), 31, 2018.


Website: Dr. Alexandra Diehl

Prof. Dr. Tina Freyburg

Prof. Dr. Tina Freyburg is DSI fellow in the spring term 2022.

In her work as professor of Comparative Politics at the University of St.Gallen, Prof Freyburg is committed to unravelling some of the most important challenges for democracy in an increasingly interconnected world. She is currently leading a large-scale project in which they examine determinants and effects of the provision, use, and control of internet services across African countries.

What role do telecommunications companies have in the implementation of internet censorship? Most social science studies on the provision and control of access to internet services tend to ignore the fact that the internet relies on a complex infrastructure governed by different actors—public and private, foreign and domestic—and hence determined by a variety of interests. Together with Dr Lisa Garbe (WZB Berlin) and Dr Joss Wright (Oxford Internet Institute), Tina Freyburg investigates how telecommunications companies react to state governments’ requests to manipulate access to the internet. To this end, the team collected data on Telecommunications Ownership and Control, covering all internet service providers (ISP) and their shareholders in Africa since 2000. And, they leverage Virtual Private Networks (VPN) usage data to examine the involvement of ISPs owned by different shareholders in internet censorship. The project makes two scientific contributions: (1) It produces a more realistic understanding of the internet as tool of repression or liberation, taking into account the role of telecommunication companies; (2) It produces new datasets that can be used to analyze more accurately the political and economic determinants and effects of internet diffusion. The findings have important practical implications for the assessment of the political, societal and economic consequences of internet use, and its disruption, including the corporate responsibility of ISPs.

Dr. Laura Giurge

Dr. Laura Giurge is DSI Fellow from Mai 2022 to October 2022:

Re-defining well-being for the future of work

The way we work today is fundamentally changing. Ongoing workplace innovations such as ubiquitous technology, alternative work arrangements, or hyper-efficiency are revolutionizing our work experiences, making it easier to share information, collaborate with others, and achieve more with less effort (Spreitzer et al., 2017; Wang et al., 2020) At the same time, it has become increasingly difficult for individuals to draw boundaries between work and other aspects of their life (Ashford et al., 2018; Giurge et al., 2020; Leslie et al., 2012; Mazmanian et al., 2013). On an individual level, working one extra hour one day might not seem hugely problematic, but when amplified across time, failure to disconnect from work has huge costs both for individuals but also for organizations and society at large. One researcher estimated that the health care costs of workplace stressors such as long hours is $48 billion per year (Goh et al., 2016).

While there is a growing number of studies exploring the future of work, the well-being implications of the future of work have so far received limited attention. We urgently need to develop a comprehensive understanding of what the future of work means for well-being so that we can inform leaders and employees on how to best navigate the various changes that are happening at work.

Together with Prof. Dr. Lauren Howe, this fellow will use their stay to review, synthesize, interpret, and critique the existing (management) literature on well-being and its implications for the future of work.