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Enhancing societal cohesion in Munich through the Digital Transformation Lab Challenge

MUAS DTLab team presenting their project on social cohesion

Photo credit: Johanna Weber/HM

Social information systems – how we share information – use both public systems such as social media and private systems internal to organizations such as internal blogs and wikis. These systems increasingly influence opinion-forming processes in societies and organizations, and supplement and sometimes replace traditional media such as newspapers, radio, and TV. The strength of social information systems lies in their ability to present previously unestablished opinions and viewpoints as fact, and can be used to disseminate false information, leading to polarization.

The Munich University of Applied Science (MUAS) Digital Transformation Lab (DTLab) is experimenting with a number of theoretical concepts to create a research framework on social information systems. The goal is to reduce polarization in opinion-forming processes, help people avoid false news, and increase social cohesion by reducing social media “bubbles” and increasing the range of information sources.

To advance the practical testing of these concepts, MUAS student teams developed various ideas during the first DTLab challenge. Their work was carried out in close cooperation with the City of Munich, which is interested in the development of information technology concepts for the promotion of urban life.

Some of our projects in progress include:

  • The “Keyword” project will create a platform for comparing online news, articles, and social media and classify each as factual or not.
  • The “The News Box” project will create a news network to enable users to gain a broader understanding of a topic or subject through contributions from credible sources from across the political spectrum. The focus is on political content, since polarization is primarily political.
  • The “Rocket News” project will help users form their own opinions, by using a gamification approach to expose the user to different opinions on a certain topic and news.
  • The “JIMPT” project will facilitate the opinion-forming process independently of a reader’s opinion groups. A trend analysis tool will analyze two or more topics based on textual content using a predefined selection of references, to identify a bias (positive or negative), and weigh the different opinions, which are assigned to a certain position on the political spectrum.
  • The “NewPinion” will provide the user with news on a topic originating from different perspectives. It includes various categories, such as politics, sports, or local news. To improve the opinion-forming process, different opinions on each topic messages are presented, including positive, negative, or neutral.
  • The “Applied Expert Finder” will harness the basic mechanisms of social information systems (social production, weak ties, egalitarian decision-making) for the internal structures of the Munich University of Applied Sciences. Social production is the concept describing the organization of work in open source development. Work is not organized by management but by the contributors themselves. Weak ties are connections between members of an organization across organizational boundaries. Learn more about the concept of social production.
MUAS DTLab team presenting their project on social cohesion

Photo credit: Johanna Weber/HM

The MUAS DTLab is powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS) via the AWS Cloud Innovation Centers (AWS CIC) program that provides technical support, Amazon innovation methodology support, and cloud usage credits to build out and test solutions that could be implemented at scale on the public cloud.

MUAS DTLab is one of twelve Cloud Innovation Centers supported by AWS worldwide, including California Polytechnic University Digital Transformation Hub, Arizona State University Smart City CIC, CODE University of Applied Sciences Better Future Lab (BFL), Sciences Po Public Innovation Lab, Busan City CIC, RMIT University Cyber Ready CIC, University of British Columbia Community Health and Wellbeing CIC, University of Bahrain and Bahrain Polytechnic CICs, and Swinburne Data for Social Good CIC. These centers plan to work together in the future on global challenges that matter to communities.

Public sector entities in Germany can contact the DTLab team to learn more and to consider innovation challenge collaboration. Visit the DTLab website or email dt-lab@hm.edu to learn more.

Professor Rainer Schmidt

Professor Rainer Schmidt

Rainer Schmidt is a professor of business information systems at Munich University of Applied Sciences (MUAS). He holds a Ph.D. (KIT Karlsruhe) and an engineering degree in computer science. His current research areas include service science, enterprise computing, business process management, social software, business/IS alignment and the integration of these themes.