Governing Inclusion and Exclusion in Digital Societies

A hybrid lecture series co-organised by the research platform ‘Governance of Digital Practices’ @ University of Vienna in the winter semester 2023/24, Mondays 18.30-20.00 CET.

© Gerd Altmann/ Pixabay

How is inclusion and exclusion created, reproduced and governed in digital societies and the digital space?

The lecture series asks how power was and is (newly) distributed through digitization. How old dynamics of power and control are (re)produced, but also how moments of shift and change occur and how digitization can actively be used to foster empowerment and social change.


We will discuss:

  • How biases are written into, reenacted and changed through the digital space and the real-life consequences digital bias (may) have.
  • How the the distribution of resources and political decisions regarding infrastructures and access hinder or aid mechanisms of inclusion. 
  • Possibilities of participating in and shaping digital societies for the common good.
  • Governance tools and how they are purposefully or unintentionally applied in ways that result in the inclusion or exclusion of (marginalised) groups and individuals.
  • The lived consequences of governance decisions for life in digital societies.


This semester's lecture series gives an overview of key debates on mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion in digitisation at the intersection of political science, legal studies, science studies, and other relevant disciplines.

The lecture series introduces central theories and concepts, as well as real-life cases and current research projects, from various disciplines.

The lecture is co-organised by the cross-faculty research platform ‘Governance of Digital Practices’ and is targeted at a non-specialist multidisciplinary audience with an interest in the politics of technology and/or practices of inclusion and exclusion in society.

The lecture will take place in-person at the University of Vienna, Hörsaal 31 Hauptgebäude, 1.Stock, Stiege 9, and will be streamed online given the speaker's permission (Zoom-link will be provided).

General information

The lecture series will take place during the winter semester 2023/24. All lectures will be held in English on Mondays from 18:30 to 20:00 CET.

Info for students

As an enrolled student of the University of Vienna, please register via u:find. You will have access to the (online) lectures and required readings on Moodle.

Info for the general public

As an external participant, please register by sending an email to You will be provided an access link for the lectures held online.

 Schedule for the winter semester 2023/24

October 2, 2023


with Magdalena Eitenberger (University of Vienna, CeSCoS) 

October 9, 2023

How are workers in the platform economy alienated and how do they organize themselves? The case of Amazon warehouse workers and Amazon Mechanical Turk workers

with Sarrah Kassem (University of Tübingen)

In this talk, Sarrah Kassem will be presenting her new book "Work and Alienation in the Platform Economy: Amazon and the Power of Organization". This book examines two key and contrasting Amazon platforms that differ in how they organize workers: its e-commerce platform and digital labor platform (Mechanical Turk). With access to the people who are working at the heart of these platforms, it explores how different working conditions alienate workers, and how, despite these conditions, workers organize within their political-economic contexts to express their agency in traditional and alternative ways.

October 16, 2023

The spiral of surveillance: Exploring digital technologies' role in Israel's democratic crisis

with Anat Ben-David (Open University of Israel)

This talk delves into the multifaceted landscape of digital surveillance within democracies under duress. Focusing on Israel's enduring political crisis, the lecture explores the legal, economic, (geo)political, and social contexts that led to the growing justifications and normalization of state and political surveillance tools, shedding light on their implications for civil liberties and norms.

*** This lecture had to be postponed. A new date will be announced shortly. ***

October 23, 2023

The importance of Māori Data Sovereignty to Māori'

with Te Taka Keegan (University of Waikato)

This lecture will cover data sovereignty, why it is important to indigenous people, and the Māori Data Sovereignty movement. It will also look at the latest example of colonisation of Māori data, the ability of ChatGPT to speak Māori, and the subsequent concerns that Māori have for the protection of Māori knowledge in the new environment of Generative AI.

*** This lecture had to be postponed. A new date will be announced shortly. ***

October 30, 2023

Digital inclusion and its challenges. Reorganizing frontline work in the Danish welfare state

with Sarah Wadmann (Danish Center for Social Science Research)

Reflecting vast government investments over many decades, Denmark sits at the top of international comparative assessments of the digital readiness of the public sector. While the comprehensive digital infrastructure provides for more flexible interactions with government authorities for many citizens, it also poses challenges of digital inclusion. In this lecture, Sarah Wadmann will give a brief overview of the comprehensive digitalization efforts in Denmark, provide examples of how these efforts can reconfigure encounters between citizens and public authorities and discuss how challenges of digital inclusion are currently being dealt with by government authorities in Denmark.

November 6, 2023

Algorithmic systems in public administration. The AMS Algorithm (AMAS) and its sociotechnical implications

with Astrid Mager (Institute of Technology Assessment) and Fabian Fischer (University of Applied Arts Vienna)

In this lecture, we will present our sociotechnical analysis of the so-called AMS Algorithm the Austrian public employment service tries to roll out for some time now. We will highlight its potential for socio-technical bias and discrimination, but also the challenges involved in the implementation of such a (semi)automated decision-making system into institutional practices and wider society.

November 13, 2023

Exclusion and inclusion beyond the state

with Linnet Taylor (Tilburg University) 

In the lecture Linnet Taylor will talk about the ways in which ID and fintech systems are coming together into supra-state infrastructures that pose new questions of governance. She will look at displaced and disadvantaged populations, and the ways in which they are being conceptualised as both test-subjects and new markets for these systems.

November 20, 2023

Digital Labour and Capitalism

with Thomas Allmer (Paderborn University) 

Although new information and communication technologies bring direct benefits for consumers, they arrive with a high social and ecological prize. The societal costs of digital media are tremendous, though often inconspicuous and invisible. This lecture will shed light on local, national and global phenomena such as the gig economy, digital slavery and e-waste.

November 27, 2023

Technology and the Politics of Affect

with Eugenia Stamboliev (University of Vienna)

This lecture will examine the role of new technologies (such as artificial intelligence) in shaping and norming affect and emotions, as well as the implications for politics and governance. It will discuss the positive and negative political perceptions of emotion and affect, the role of cognitive sciences, the political value of emotions, ethical norms, and governance issues.

December 04, 2023

Democratizers or inequality machines? Understanding the gatekeepers of the platform society

with Rene König (Rhine-Waal University) 

Can you imagine a life without digital platforms? Probably not. They shape what we know about the world, how we work and connect to each other, what we buy, where we go. There can be no doubt that we live in a platform society. But what does that actually mean? How do platforms decide what or who is visible, who gets access, who is excluded? The lecture unpacks some of the underlying principles that drive platforms to provide an understanding of their impact. Pressing problems will be explained and then discussed in an interactive way.

December 11, 2023

Open for Whom? The Un/intended Divides of Open Science

with Katja Mayer (University of Vienna, DigiGov)

Open for Whom? The Un/intended Divides of Open Science With the digital transformation, the demand for better and broader access to scientific knowledge production has been increasingly actualised, for example through open access to scientific publications and educational materials. However, while open science is often presented as a mechanism for democratisation, it also reveals multifaceted power imbalances. Specifically, open access publishing can introduce financial challenges that may disadvantage researchers from low-resource settings. Additionally, the increasing emphasis on data availability and open-source approaches brings forth concerns about potential concentrations of knowledge and power. This talk will provide an overview of these issues and discuss the advantages and potential pitfalls of public digital infrastructures supporting open science.

January 8, 2024

AI and Inequality - Where do we go from here?

with Amelia Fiske (Technical University of Munich)

AI raises pressing ethical concerns, ranging from bias, to fairness, accountability, explainability, and responsibility. Importantly, the effects of AI are not experienced equally, exacerbating social, material, and political inequalities and creating new ones. In debates over how to build ethical AI, two dominant responses have emerged: ethicists and social scientists have focused largely on principle-based approaches, and developers have focused on technical fixes for addressing problems in databases and applications of AI models. In this talk I consider some approaches for building more just, public-centered forms of AI, and introduce the embedded ethics methodology as one possibility.

January 15, 2024

Reconceptualising culture as a reasoning tool for global AI ethics regulation

with Emma Ruttkamp-Bloem (University of Pretoria)

We will consider the seeming dichotomy between a need for global regulation to ensure responsible AI governance on the one hand, and the need for diversity in drawing up such regulation. How do we find the connection between the global and the local?

January 22, 2024

Ordinary ethics of exclusion

with Ranjit Singh (Data & Society) 

Global North scholarship on AI ethics revolves around keywords such as bias and fairness, accountability, transparency, explainable AI, and human-centered design. A key similarity between these AI ethics keywords is that all of them are grounded in thinking about AI from a design perspective. AI is seen as a tool; it is approached as a design problem. In contrast, the conceptual vocabulary of scholars in/from the majority world (or the global south) focuses more explicitly on how these systems work for some, often at the expense of others, but not for everyone. The challenges of contending with AI are often mirrored in mundane moments of everyday life where people navigate inequities in power relations along well-recognized intersections of gender, race, class, caste, and ability. AI is treated as a part of everyday life; the core problem is not designing it but living with it. In this talk, I examine ordinary ethics of everyday experiences with processes of marginalization in the implementation of digital welfare services through India's biometric-based national identity number (Aadhaar) that manifest in exclusion.