Over the past twenty years, digitalisation has deeply affected our world in ways that we are only beginning to experience and understand. The accumulation of data and the progress in the analysis and processing of this information have increasingly datafied societies with many different externalities. These advances have the potential to improve the lives of many, be they citizens or customers. But unmanaged, these externalities may pose great threats to societies, businesses and democratic governance. For example open data initiatives may do a lot of good and allow for services that benefit the population. At the same time, they are a challenge for data privacy. Another example is social media which has brought about important ways to organise political grassroot movements and rally against authoritarian leadership. But we have also seen that it may undermine the social fabric of democratic societies and critically endanger their governance.
The data driven society has not only affected businesses and governments. These changes also take dramatic impact on how scientific progress occurs—and in particular so in the social sciences. The sheer amount of data and their complexities increasingly require collaboration. There is a need for more interdisciplinary work in larger research teams. Data intensive research projects require a delicate interplay between software engineering, data analytics and substantive research questions. In addition, cooperation with stakeholders from outside the university will become more and more relevant, simply because businesses and governments have data that university researchers struggle to collect themselves.
In short, these technological advances offer great opportunities to understand and learn how to manage the pressing governance challenges of today’s data driven societies. I explicitly take account of the ever broader availability of data and our fast improvements in interpreting this evidence. Excited by these opportunities, my work lies at the intersection between political science and computer science.