5th Turkish-German Frontiers of Social Science Symposium 2019: “Where do we go? Turkey and Germany and the digital revolution”

Last week, at the invitation of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, I was a participant in the 5th Turkish-German Frontiers of Social Science Symposium 2019  titled “Where do we go? Turkey and Germany and the digital revolution”. Please find the program here.

For three days, from an international and interdisciplinary perspective, we exchanged views on how we will live, learn and work in the future. The symposium consisted of different sessions that each had their own perspective, but the discussions revealed an astounding amount of common ground: What spaces do we want to live in? The future of education: Revolution, disruption, or digital capitalism and the future of work, and how do the young and the elderly want to interact with each other?

Although I was skeptical at the beginning because of the title I have to say it was the most interesting conference for a long time. From my perspective the questions that were discussed are highly relevant: What role do algorithms play in our life and work? How are current social developments related to software and its design? What role does data play in our lives now and in the future, from urban planning to education? The topics were then versatile, but surprisingly similar to the discussions behind them. For example, we repeatedly discussed ambivalences between the so-called sharing economy, smart environments and capitalism as an economic order, and the role of design in relevant apps, including ethical issues. Or we asked what implications smart cities have for citizens. In addition, we were quickly faced with socio-technical practices that need to be looked at, but which, I believe, are still searching for an adequate research method, especially in the social sciences. One participant put it, in a nutshell: we have to get from things to systems without losing sight of responsibility.

The special thing for me was the interdisciplinarity of the participants: So, to have a look into different science areas (Urban Planning, Computer Science, IT Security, Medicine, Cognitive Science, Computer Engineers, Visual Arts, Media Psychology, or Sociology). From every discipline, my impression, there were interesting hints, but it also became clear that many current challenges can only be dealt with in such a composition. Because the question of how we want to live is quite justified, it became clear that many of the questions are actually ethical, because technically many things are possible: from speech and face recognition to the measurement of geodata or the reading of data in household appliances to the design of cities based on user profiles or apps like Instagram – the questions behind them were those who, in my opinion, were all interested in: What does that mean for living together? And what does that mean for future education?

For me, of course, the session on „How we will learn?“ was the most appropriate, but I found this not that exciting, perhaps because I already know many of the actors and concepts. The session focused on VR / AR and flipped classroom, just on the verge of 21st century skills. From my perspective, it was clear at this session how important it is for education to not only be „impressed“ by technology, but also to critically accompany developments. After all, in other sessions, data-based treatment was talked up several times, right through to class situations in which it automatically measures whether students are attentive. For me these were points that needed discussion – also and especially from the perspectives: How do we want to learn in future? What is learning? And what relationship does pedagogy have with it? Instead, we discussed in the session, which role can Flipped Classroom take at a university. The discussion was also interesting, no question, because it came here very clearly „cultural differences“ expressed under the question: What role actually do universities and university teaching have. And yet there remained the feeling that „we“ in (German-speaking) education in many places are not really aware of the direction in which the world is developing technologically. Then, a good summary is: