Project Structure

The project “Transformations of Privacy” consists of 8 specific disciplinary projects. Furthermore, the different perspectives are linked in three interdisciplinary fields of cooperation:

Cooperation field I: Privacy and Freedom,
Cooperation field II: Privacy and Democracy,
Cooperation field III: Privacy and Information Society

The cooperation fields serve to raise issues which are discussed further on interdisciplinary conferences and workshops.

Cooperation field I – Privacy and Freedom 

Public and academic debates are often based on a liberal-individualistic concept of privacy. However, in what way should privacy be considered as a sphere of social freedom, in which claims are communicatively mediated and justified, and not only as a legally protected sphere of negative freedom?
In the digital age new communication areas evolve, which make it more difficult to draw the line between private and public. As a result, do individuals experience a loss of control over their own privacy, including the risk of restrictions of freedom? How far individual decisions about the demarcation of the border between privacy and public in digital contexts are leading to a new comprehensive social understanding? To what extent does this understanding affect the treatment of privacy in non-digital contexts?

Cooperation field II – Privacy and Democracy

Privacy has not only an individual value but also a social one. Privacy enables social interactions and establishes societal relationships of trust, which are an important form of social capital in democracies. Also ethical pluralism and creative societal renewal are impossible without privacy.
Liberal democratic societies are characterized by a normative self-conception, which ensures every citizen the protection of the relative autonomy of social spheres and related communication areas. To what extent is political participation becoming a risk balancing between the disclosure of private informations and democratic participation through the digital possibilities of expanding political action and increased transparency requirements on the internet? Which new capabilities of domination arise in the digital age and how can they be countered?

Cooperation field III – Privacy and Information Society

Digitized date can be easily modified, copied, re-mixed and shared with others through the changed technical conditions of the information society. On the one hand this opens up new possibilities of action and decision-making, but on the other hand this practices can cause a “collapse of contexts”, which individuals perceive as loss of control.
Digital communication media can be used for mass communication as well as individual communication. The consequences are paradoxical expectations and an apparent irreconcilability between the open access to data in public and the need to conceal private informations. Alongside the natural identity appears a digital identity because of the participation in social networks and internet platforms. In doing so, the last one can develop a momentum of its own and react on the first one.
How can the “classical” privacy rights be preserved in the context of new technologies of information systems. What can be the role of technical solutions and where are their limits? How important is media education?