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Software Systems, the Public and Participation

Software Systems, the Public and Participation

Digital media make it easier to be informed about and participate in socially relevant topics. They do not only open up new possibilities for actions but also frame the practices of users in their own way: data structures, algorithms, preferences and interfaces are inscribed within the “code”, meaning the underlying software systems. These inscriptions influence the users’ actions and their consequences: what options do data fields offer to an individual profile page on a social media platform in order to express political preferences? How narrow or diverse are information worlds with their outputs of recommendation and search algorithms? What forms of circulation and data processing support open interfaces and APIs? These questions demonstrate that the form of software systems shape society and public participation. However, the form itself is also a result of social practices in software companies, development departments in organisations, open-source-communities or the like. In other words, it is always the specific constellations of actors with own communicative practices that design models of a social reality and translate it in “running code”.
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Project Description

The objective of this project is to develop an access in communications sociology to the relationship between software systems, the public and participation. Firstly, this includes the development of compatible categories relevant for social sciences for the description of software systems in order to illustrate and explain its shaping power. Secondly, we examine the social influence of software systems in communicative figurations of their providers, developers and users.

Project Information


Duration: 2015-2037

Research programme:
RP2 - Regulatory Structures and the Emergence of Rules in Digital Communication

Involved persons

PD Dr. Jan-Hinrik Schmidt

Third party

Cooperation Partner

Contact person

PD Dr. Jan-Hinrik Schmidt
Senior Researcher Digital Interactive Media & Political Communication

PD Dr. Jan-Hinrik Schmidt

Leibniz-Institut für Medienforschung | Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI)
Rothenbaumchaussee 36
20148 Hamburg

Tel. +49 (0)40 45 02 17-83
Fax +49 (0)40 45 02 17-77

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