Prof. Dr. Tilman Santarius

Sustainable Design in Digitalization

Prof. Tilman Santarius has been researching and working on digitalization and sustainability since 2001. Following his studies in sociology, ethnology, and economics, Santarius worked on an interdisciplinary project at the Wuppertal Institute entitled “What Kind of Globalisation is Sustainable?”
From 2009 to 2011 Prof. Santarius, who was born in Düsseldorf, headed International Climate and Energy Policy at the Heinrich Böll Foundation. “I recognized pretty quickly that, as a science manager, I was missing the conceptual work so I decided to pursue a career in science and do my doctorate,” said Santarius. From 2012 to 2015, he wrote his doctoral thesis at the University of Kassel and also spent a year at the University of California, Berkeley. Since 2016, Tilman Santarius has led a junior research group on digitalization and socio-ecological transformation at Technische Universität Berlin and the Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW). The group focuses on the question of how to design digital services more sustainably. In 2017 he became professor of socio-ecological transformation at TU Berlin and the Einstein Center Digital Future (ECDF).
On the one hand Santarius’s research focuses on the effects of digitalization on social organization. “Digitalization is a huge trend that affects all of us and every area of our lives. I want to understand the great questions this raises and that we as a society must discuss, meaning what questions do we absolutely need to discuss in the areas of mobility, shelter, work, the economy, etc. My goal is to initiate and inspire an important societal debate about digitalization.”
In another project he and partners from the field of building automation are examining empirical and social science topics in the smart home sector: How does consumer behavior change when consumers install intelligent control at home? How does it influence energy expenditure and consumption? Which sustainable strategies do companies pursue? “Using this empirical data we can examine the direct influence of digitalization on people’s daily lives,” says Santarius.
“In my working group we place great value on transdisciplinarity: my colleagues come from the fields of economics, psychology, marketing, philosophy, and engineering. We integrate diverse practitioners into almost all of our projects. This year, for example, we are planning a major conference to establish contact between members of civil society who deal with digital policy topics – Netzpolitik, the Chaos Computer Club, or the Open Knowledge Foundation, for example—and the environmental and sustainability community,” says Santarius. (kj)