Professor Pitches FS 2021

As part of the DSI Excellence Program, the Professor Pitches give an appealing overview of DSI-related research conducted at UZH. The audience consists mainly of the PhD students participating in the DSI Excellence Program, but other interested PhD students, DSI fellows, and further interested persons from UZH can also attend. The presentations are held in English and are scheduled for Mondays 16:15 – 17:30, from November 2020 to March 2021. In case of space restrictions, the participants of the DSI Excellence Program have priority.

Until further notice, the presentations will be held online. If you are interested in attending a talk, please write an email to to receive a Zoom link from us. 

Talk Overview 2021

Date Presenter Title
18.01. Abraham Bernstein Data, People, AI and the Internet
01.02. Markus Christen The ethics of algorithms, big data and cybersecurity
08.02. Davide Scaramuzza Autonomous, Agile Micro Drones: State of the Art and the Road Ahead
22.02. Luis Aguiar Digitization and the Creative Industries
01.03. Thomas Schlag Religion in the Digital Age - phenomena, interpretations and perspectives
08.03. Lorenz Hilty

Long-term opportunities and risks of the digital transformation for society and their short-term consequences

15.03. Karin Schwiter The DSI Community "Work": How does digitalisation transform the way we work?
22.03. Florent Thouvenin Rethink Privacy: Why data protection law is unable to deliver and how to fix it


Talk Details

Jan 18: Data, People, AI and the Internet

Abstract: The Internet and the rapid increase in computational power has changed how people and machines collaborate. In this discussion, I will focus on three phenomena accompanying this change.
First, I will shed some light on how the internet offers an unprecedented opportunity for sharing data. Fueled by volunteers this had led to the collection of massive knowledge graphs, which are the core of many on line applications today.  
Second, I will illustrate, how intelligent people and machines can collaborate in unexpected ways paving the way for new division of labour between the two.
Third, I will highlight how these advances both arise from and are driven by a confluence computer science and social phenomena.

Bio: Abraham Bernstein is a Full Professor of Informatics as well as director of the Digital Society Initiative at the University of Zurich (UZH), Switzerland. His current research focuses on various aspects of the semantic web, data mining/machine learning, and collective intelligence. His work is based on both social science (organizational psychology/sociology/economics) and technical (computer science, artificial intelligence) foundations. Prior to joining the University of Zurich Mr. Bernstein was on the faculty at New York University and also worked in industry. Mr. Bernstein is a Ph.D. from MIT and holds a Diploma in Computer Science (comparable to a M.S.) from the Swiss Federal Institute in Zurich (ETH).

Feb 1: The ethics of algorithms, big data and cybersecurity

Abstract: Digitalization allows for the increased outsourcing of thinking and decision-making to machines, enables the collection of enormous amounts of data on all aspects of our lives, and makes human civilization increasingly dependent on digital infrastructure. This “ABC” of digitization - algorithms, big data and cybersecurity - needs ethical orientation to ensure that digital change is moving in the right direction. This talk will provide an overview on current research projects of the Digital Ethics Lab of the DSI (DSI-DEL) to find answers to questions such as: How do we ensure that decisions made by artificial intelligence are fair? How can the data collected about us be used for the benefit of all? How far can our privacy be invaded when it comes to cybersecurity? How does the digitalization of everyday life affect people as moral beings?

Bio: Markus Christen is managing director of the DSI and he is leading the DSI Digital Ethics Lab. He received his MSc in philosophy, physics, mathematics and biology at the University of Berne, his PhD in neuroinformatics at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and his habilitation in bioethics at the University of Zurich. His research interests are in empirical ethics, neuroethics, ICT ethics and data analysis methodologies.

Feb 8: Autonomous, Agile Micro Drones: State of the Art and the Road Ahead

Abstract: In the past three years we witnessed the rise of micro drones with weight ranging from 30g up to 500g performing autonomous agile maneuvers with onboard sensing and computation. In this talk, I will summarize the key scientific and technological achievements and the next challenges.

Speaker: Davide Scaramuzza, University of Zurich

Bio: Davide Scaramuzza (Italian) is Professor of Robotics and Perception at both departments of Informatics (University of Zurich) and Neuroinformatics (University of Zurich and ETH Zurich), where he directs the Robotics and Perception Group. He did his PhD in robotics and computer vision at ETH Zurich (with Roland Siegwart) and a postdoc at the University of Pennsylvania (with Vijay Kumar and Kostas Daniilidis). His research lies at the intersection of robotics, computer vision, and machine learning, using standard or neuromorphic cameras, and is aimed at enabling autonomous, agile, navigation of micro drones in search and rescue applications. For his research contributions, he received several awards: the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Early Career Award, an ERC Grant, a Google Research Award, KUKA, Qualcomm, and Intel awards, the European Young Research Award, the Misha Mahowald Neuromorphic Engineering Award, and several paper awards. He coauthored the book “Introduction to Autonomous Mobile Robots” (published by MIT Press; 10,000 copies sold) and more than 100 papers on robotics and perception published in top-ranked journals (TRO, PAMI, IJCV, IJRR) and conferences (RSS, ICRA, CVPR, ICCV). In 2015, he cofounded Zurich-Eye, dedicated to the commercialization of visual-inertial navigation solutions for mobile robots, which later became Facebook-Oculus Zurich. He was also the strategic advisor of Dacuda, an ETH spinoff dedicated to inside-out VR solutions, which later became Magic Leap Zurich. Finally, he has been consultant for the United Nations for the Fukushima Action plan and ethical issues about robotics. Many aspects of his research have been prominently featured in wider media, such as The New York Times, BBC News, Discovery Channel, La Repubblica, Neue Zurcher Zeitung and in technology-focused media, such as IEEE Spectrum, MIT Technology Review, Tech Crunch, Wired, The Verge.

Feb 22: Digitization and the Creative Industries

Abstract: Over the last decades, digitization has drastically affected the content industries and the way creative products are consumed, produced, and distributed. This presentation will discuss the empirical evidence on the effects of digitization on revenues, production, and welfare, focusing more specifically on the market for music. I will present how technological change — despite leading to significant decreases in revenues — enabled an increase in the creation of new​ ​products, leading to substantial welfare benefits. I will also present evidence​ ​regarding the new business opportunities enabled by digitization and discuss​ ​how new distribution and consumption platforms like Spotify have affected sales​ ​and revenues in the music industry.

Bio: Luis Aguiar is Assistant Professor in the Management of Digital Transformation in the Department of Business Administration at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. He holds a PhD in Economics from Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, an MSc in Economics, Finance and Management from Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, and a Degree in Economics from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. Prior to his appointment at the University of Zurich he was a Research Fellow in the Digital Economy Unit at the European Commission’s Joint Research Center in Seville, Spain.

His research focuses on the economics of digitization and online markets. His work relies on various econometric methods to analyze the effects of technological change on firms, consumers, markets, and welfare, with a particular focus on digital media products. His research has been published in leading academic journals, including the Journal of Political Economy, Information Systems Research, the Journal of Industrial Economics, and the International Journal of Industrial Organization. His research has also been covered by various news outlets, including The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, CNBC, and Billboard Magazine.


Mar 1: Religion in the Digital Age - phenomena, interpretations and perspectives

Religion as an expression of the human search for meaning and transcendence is currently taking on a variety of digital forms. The scientific, interdisciplinary research of different phenomena of "digital religion" is therefore complex, dynamic and exciting. By presenting different empirical and hermeneutical approaches, the aim of this talk is to unfold how religious practices in the digital age can be analyzed and interpreted more precisely and what perspectives this opens up for interdisciplinary research as well as individual and communal religious practice in the future.

Thomas Schlag is Professor of Practical Theology at the Faculty of Theology and head of the Centre for Church Development (ZKE) at the University of Zurich. He is director of the UZH's University Research Priority Program (URRP) "Digital Religion(s)" , which will officially start in January 2021.

Mar 8: Long-term opportunities and risks of the digital transformation for society and their short-term consequences

Abstract: The global society is facing challenges that develop slower than a pandemic, but are no less serious: climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution and dissipative use of mineral resources. The UN sustainable development goals demonstrate some political consensus about what should be achieved by 2030 to fulfil the basic needs of all people while reducing stress to the global live-supporting systems. My research revolves around the potential and actual role of digital technologies in sustainable development. After an overview of the "big" questions of long-term technological opportunities and risks, the talk will introduce three topics currently treated in my research group: The potential of the digital transformation to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, serious games for education in systems thinking, and the digital sharing economy. 

Bio: Lorenz Hilty is Professor of Informatics and Sustainability at the Department of Informatics at the University of Zurich. He also serves as the Sustainability Delegate of UZH. He holds a PhD in informatics from the University of Hamburg. Before he was appointed professor at UZH, he was leading the “Technology and Society Lab” of Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research, and was affiliated professor at the Center for Sustainable Communications (CESC) at the Royal Institute of Technology KTH, Stockholm. He is the founder of the international "ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S)" conference series and a member of the Steering Committee of the Foundation for Technology Assessment of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences.

Mar 15: The DSI Community "Work": How does digitalisation transform the way we work?

Abstract: How does digitalisation transform the jobs offered in the labour market? Which skill sets show rising or falling demand? How can humans and machines best work together? When do workers trust artifical intelligence? What does it mean to work for digital labour platforms such as Uber, Deliveroo or Batmaid? The presentation will give a brief overview of the research projects the members of the DSI Community „Work“ pursue with regards to these and other questions. It will then explore in more detail how digital platform labour transforms the social, spatial and temporal patterns of work.

Bio: PD Dr. Karin Schwiter is an economic geographer and leads the research group „labour, migration and gender“ at the Department of Geography UZH. In her most recent research, she is interested in the opportunities and challenges resulting from the rise of online labour platforms in Switzerland and beyond. Her research explores how digitalisation processes in labour mediation transform the meaning of work itself and how work is organised socially, spatially and temporally.

Mar 22: Rethink Privacy: Why data protection law is unable to deliver and how to fix it

Abstract: Privacy is a key concept in all western societies. However, the established concepts of privacy and its protection have been, and continue to be, fundamentally challenged by modern data processing practices. While these practices are often beneficial for individuals and society, they may also cause harms and a loss of privacy. In Europe, (informational) privacy is primarily protected by data protection law, namely the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). But the GDPR is based on principles and approaches from the 1960ies and focusses on the regulation of the process of data processing, thereby mostly ignoring the consequences for individuals and society. As a result, the current approach to data protection is unable to meet today’s challenges. A growing number of scholars and practitioners are calling for a novel approach to ensure privacy in a digital world. This talk addresses these challenges and develops a possible way forward that focuses on the protection of a private sphere and appropriate remedies for harms (namely discrimination and manipulation) that can be caused by the processing of personal data.

Bio: Florent Thouvenin is one of the four directors of the Digital Society Initiative and Associate Professor of Information and Communication Law at the Faculty of Law of the University of Zurich. He studied at the University of Zurich, where he also received his doctorate and habilitation. He was a research assistant at the ETH and the University of Zurich, practiced as a lawyer in a Zurich commercial law firm and was subsequently Senior Research Fellow in a research project at the University of Zurich and Assistant Professor at the University of St. Gallen (HSG).

His research focuses on copyright and the protection of privacy in the Digital Society. His research focuses on the fundamental question of whether and how privacy and its protection through law and technology must be rethought in the information society. Other ongoing research projects deal with automated decisions, exclusive rights to and access to data, and the increasing personalization of advertising, contracts, and prices.

Florent Thouvenin is Director of the Digital Society Initiative and Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Center for Information Technology, Society, and Law (ITSL) and Associate Fellow at the Collegium Helveticum.