The Design Research Lab is a platform for interdisciplinary research into new forms of human computer interaction, critical making, community based infrastructures and digital education.

Several diverse groups are tied into the Design Research Lab network: As a team, we investigate future perspectives for a digital society, its ramifications, and policies for inclusive and sustainable development. We believe in participatory design and invite different groups of people to join our research endeavors in order to reflect on their individual experiences, hopes, and constraints. Furthermore, we work with interventions, cultural hacking and design explorations as research methods to address today’s challenges in a different way. Besides the professorship for design research at the College of Architecture, Media and Design at the Berlin University of the Arts, The Weizenbaum Institute investigates the current changes in all aspects of society occurring in response to digitalization. 

The goals are to develop a comprehensive understanding of these changes based on rigorous academic analysis and to offer informed strategies to address them at a political and economic level. The Design Research Lab is involved with two research groups. Within the Einstein Center Digital Future Prof. Dr. Gesche Joost is principal investigator for the topic of digital humanities and society. For the DFKI the Interactive Textiles research group builds on extensive expertise in the field of concept development for electronic textiles and wearable technology and is dedicated to the design and analysis of portable interfaces based on textile materials and production techniques. Using the methods of interdisciplinary and participative design research, projects are developed around human-machine interaction with wearables and soft interfaces. 

Research Themes, Groups and Collaborations

Material Interactions

Within the material interactions theme, we develop and analyse novel interactive interfaces based on electronic textiles and textile production techniques. Applying practice-led research approaches, principles and knowledge from fashion and textile design are utilised to develop a textile-specific vocabulary for interaction modes. The aim is to create soft Wearable Technology that promotes autonomy, inclusion and diversity in application areas such as Creative Industries, Health and Wellbeing, Industry 4.0, and Smart Home.

Civic Design

Civic Design situates and differentiates design’s new relations to politics and society. It frames design as a social and political practice both from bottom-up perspectives as well as governmental bodies. Against the backdrop of digital transformation, Civic Design inquires into alternative forms of political action and self-organization, and the relations between processes of digitalization, civil society and policy making. By incorporating participatory design approaches and practice-based research, it develops civic technologies, fosters discourse and facilitates spaces for negotiation between different stakeholders.

Social Design

The research fields of Social Design discover the social and political dimensions of design. Following an inclusive and diversity-based approach for transformational change and activism in underrepresented and disadvantaged communities, this research cluster addresses issues such as dis/ability, poverty, ageing, gender, health, protest culture or intercultural dialog.

Critical Making

The ‘Production possibilities of the maker culture’ is an interdisciplinary research group of the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society. The group explores social and political dimensions of hacker- and maker-culture with a focus on gender and diversity, international development and sustainability. The work of the group merges sociological methods with a practice-based design approach to critical making.

Digital Sovereignty

The term digital sovereignty has been used for some time as a new leitmotif for navigating the digital world, that focuses on the competencies, duties, and rights of the individual in times of increasing data analysis, profiling and dwindling privacy. The Weizenbaum Institute research group »Inequality and Digital Sovereignty« investigates the constitution and coordination of personal and collective possibilities, spaces and tactics for maneuver and decision-making with regard to the use and appropriation of digital technologies on the one hand, and their formability on the other. With integrative approaches of practice-led design research, complex possibilities of knowledge transfer and knowledge integration are identified and worked on, which at the same time outline social, political and economic options for action.