Institute for Technology Assessment and  Systems Analysis (ITAS)

ComplexEthics. Perception and orientation tool for the ethical, anthropological, sociological and informatics evaluation of complex socio-technical arrangements in a digitalized living environment

  • Project team:

    Böschen, Stefan (Project leader ITAS); Camilo Fautz; Reinhard Heil

  • Funding:


  • Start date:


  • End date:


  • Project partners:

    Evangelische Hochschule Nürnberg (Coordination), University of Potsdam, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

  • Research group:

    Digital Technologies and Societal Change

Project description

The aim of the project is to empirically and analytically develop orientation knowledge for interpreting, evaluating and acting in present and future complex, IT-networked environments resulting from the comprehensive digitalization and networking, and to pool this knowledge in a “strategy for practice”. Such IT-networked environments are – at least for the time being – conceived and constructed by humans. Their establishment and expansion is justified on moral grounds such as supporting people, improving their living conditions or quality of life, or expanding human opportunities. The project’s basic assumption is: The complexity of the already recognizable or expected form of IT-networked environments will place increasing demands on all humans, be it in relation to the required orientation knowledge, the ability to act, or self-reflexivity. Since the currently applied models of ethical reflection focus almost exclusively on interactions between humans (or humans and animals) or simple human-machine interactions and their evaluation, they are not sufficient to adequately capture and evaluate the complex interaction relationships between humans and IT environments. In order to account for changes in social and anthropological conditions, a new ethical framework for reflection and a methodical instrument is needed, which can be used to provide orientation and sharpen judgment.

In particular, the sociological subproject analyzes specific practices of human-machine interactions. Based on ethically and theoretically grounded interaction scenarios, the focus is on answering the following three questions: Where is the focus of actors’ attention in human-machine interactions and in different interaction scenarios? What heuristics do actors use in situation interpretation and situation management? And: What moral intuitions are articulated and which ones have an effect? This task of exploring practices of human-machine interaction is essentially of an empirical nature. It is done with a view to both user worlds and design worlds.

A crucial part of the project is the empirical investigation of people’s orientation modes in IT environments. The digitalization and mainstreaming of such options by smartphones leads to a special form of human-machine interactions. In essence, the subproject uses an empirical procedure. However, the systematic conceptual and empirical analyzes of interaction scenarios also serve to further develop the MEESTAR model, which will be set up as a handbook for use in IT environments.

The perception and orientation tool to be developed within the project (keyword: “Handbook”) is designed for professional knowledge workers (e.g., programmers, engineers) who explore, construct and distribute such environments.


PD Dr. phil. Dipl.-Ing. Stefan Böschen
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe