02/2018 | Month in review | “gaudeamus igitur”

Time flies when you are having fun, therefore, I like to take a moment at the end of each month to reflect on what I have accomplished, what topics I was concerned with, and what I learned. February is a short month, but a lot of great things happened:

I was finishing up a project on digital transformation strategies in the insurance industry and had the pleasure to return to Switzerland for this. It was the first time to stay in Zurich and not return to our former apartment in St.Gallen, but thanks to Airbnb and my great host, it felt like a small home away from home.

Day 1: Finding the problem

Back home in Munich, I worked on some proposals, but besides that, I did my first design sprint with the Design Sprint Munich meetup. It went incredibly well, given that the team consisted of different people from diverse backgrounds that did not collaborate before. In this post, I wrote in more detail about our design challenge and what I learned.

February was also the time to celebrate: I officially received my PhD degree from the University of St.Gallen. There were so many milestones in the process of finishing my PhD – from handing in the thesis, seeing the printed version for the first time, to presenting my final conference paper in Seoul – but I guess this was the big finale of my PhD journey and I was very happy to celebrate it with friends and family.

The last week of February, I traveled to Berlin to spend some time with friends, which also gave me the opportunity to participate in the new year’s reception of D64. I joined D64 last year in order to get myself involved more in the field of digital politics and to contribute to shaping technology’s impact on our society. Since most of our discussions happen online, this event was a great opportunity to meet some of the members in person, learn about the PoV paper on artificial intelligence, and Lars Klingbeil’s take on digital politics in the upcoming legislation period.

I particularly liked Valerie Mocker’s short talk. She is very passionate about digital innovation as means to foster social advancement and talked about Nesta’s initiatives in the UK and why we would need a foundation in Germany to stronger support innovative ideas that contribute to social wellbeing. She also highlighted the importance of structured experiments in this field – innovation is always a lot that does not work and very little that does. So overall, a pledge for less talk and more action (or as she put it: “mehr Wumms”).

Some things I was inspired by:

  • A couple of years ago, I followed and discussed (and not always agreed with) Frank Schirrmacher’s critical thoughts on the impact of technology on our society. Therefore, I put Reclaim autonomy on top of my reading list. This book features current articles on our automony in the digital age.
  • The Berlin-based agency AJ&Smart does great videos on design sprints. Their youtube channel is a great source if you are looking for tips and tricks on facilitation of a design sprint.
  • A great talk on social bots, fake news, and filter bubbles (in German) from the 34c3 congress in December.
  • Discrimination through artificial intellingence systems has received some attention lately. The website aiandinclusion.org was initiated by the Berkman Klein Center and highlights key themes in this field, provides an overview of different publications and research questions.
  • The publications of data & society (and their newsletter) are a great resource and I am particularly looking forward to hearing danah boyd deliver the keynote at this year’s re:publica. Yes, I will be travelling to Berlin again in May. Drop me a note if you want to meet up there.

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