Future Lab: Society and Labour

The “Future Lab: Society and Labour” (“Zukunftslabor Gesellschaft und Arbeit”, 2019 to 2024) is a consortium of nine universities in Lower Saxony to investigate the conditions and practices of labour in digital cultures. The Centre for Digital Cultures, as one of the investigators, will focus in its project on the emergence of algorithmic management in organizations and especially the fragile status of anonymity within these data-driven processes of management.

We live in an era of networked data, which causes complex conditions to produce and maintain anonymity. For example, social media neighborhood platforms create networks of hybrid offline and online information based on small-scale local areas and groups of people leading to machine-readable user profiles owned by private tech companies. These developments cause a “problematization” of how anonymity can or should be defined, regulated, and produced under contemporary media-technological conditions.

To understand the processes transforming anonymity and the sociopolitical challenges we are facing today regarding questions of information governance, the project combines a historical perspective on neighborhood related technologies with ethnographic research at the production level – where anonymity is negotiated and (re)programmed by software developers, UX-designers, data scientists, marketers and in the case of algorithmic decision making methods even by the technology itself. The fieldwork with actors who are developing neighborhood platforms for marketing purposes opens up questions around social-spatial networks and their historical, political and cultural relation to anonymity.

Subscribing the complexities of the tension field around social media and anonymity, data analysis and information politics, provides a critical access to current relations of power, (non-)knowledge and questions of subjectivity and agency in digital cultures. Therefore, this project wants to show that we are currently witnessing a complex transformation of how anonymity gets imagined and practiced today instead of subscribing to the general diagnosis of an “end of anonymity”. The overall outcome of this dissertation project will be a theoretical model of the transformation of anonymity based on new empirical knowledge with a special focus on social media, more precisely on neighborhood platforms and technics of data profiling, called nearest neighbor analytics.



  • Prof. Dr. Andreas Bernard
  • Randi Heinrichs