Research at the Department of Sociology of Technology and the Environment

The research projects at the Department of Sociology of Technology and the Environment investigate the diverse interrelationships of technology, society and the environment in the context of social change.

Our work is application-oriented, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary as well as transformation-oriented.

Current research projects

Interdisciplinary Kolleg in the scholarship focus „Besser wirtschaften und leben in Kreisläufen – Transformationspotentiale der Circular Economy“ (Better business and living in cycles - transformation potentials of the circular economy)

In the research group, 10-15 fellows from different disciplinary perspectives research the conditions for the emergence and success as well as the transformation potential of different approaches of the circular economy. The research group addresses the challenges of a circular economy throughout the entire life cycle of products and for sustainable economic activity and life in cycles. This concerns in particular questions from the social sciences, humanities, law, economics and the arts, but also from technical, mathematical and natural science disciplines. Within the framework of an accompanying project, an interdisciplinary cohort that is as broadly based as possible is to contribute to a transdisciplinary exchange within the framework of various joint workshops and other activities, thereby promoting both interdisciplinary learning and the emergence of a network in the science area that is as permanent as possible. In addition, this network should provide an impulse towards society and contribute to a broad discourse with the means of modern science communication.

Care & Repair – Förderung der Fürsorge für Gegenstände als neue Form der Verantwortungsübernahme und globalen Solidarität (CaReSo) (Promoting care for objects as a new form of taking responsibility and global solidarity) 

The aim of CaReSo is, on the one hand, to examine the potential of the collective repair of consumer objects within the framework of repair initiatives as a form of taking responsibility for sustainable development and for the emergence of a new global solidarity. On the other hand, it will be examined which learning processes in the sense of transformative learning take place in the context of community repair and which challenges and conditions for success can be identified. On this basis, teaching approaches for the further diffusion of the idea of collaborative repairing into broader educational contexts will be developed and tested. For this purpose, real experiments will be conducted with citizens and formats will be developed with teachers according to the approach of participatory action research in order to promote repair as a learning approach in schools.

Circular Consumer Practices and Circular Society - Marie Curie Innovative Training Network (ITN) C-PlaNet (Circular Plastics Network)

  • Funded by: EU Horizon 2020
  • Duration: January 2020 - December 2024
  • Cooperation partners: Ghent University, TU of Denmark, TU Eindhoven, Montanuniversität Loeben, KU Leuven, Friedrich-Alexander-Unversity Erlangen-Nürnberg, Aristotle University Thessaloniki
  • Staff involved: Mubarik Kassim Rabiu, Melanie Jaeger-Erben

The integration of plastics into the circular economy is one of the great challenges of our time. C-PlaNeT is laying the foundations for a new plastics economy through a joint European doctoral programme that will train 15 early-stage researchers to become part of a new generation of scientists, engineers and policy-makers for the EU's circular economy, which must encompass the design, processing, use and reuse of plastics. Each ESR, developing their research skills with a supervisor and co-promoter, represents a piece of the puzzle while benefiting from being part of a project team with 14 other ESRs and their supervisors covering other parts of the life cycle and challenging each other on life cycle thinking and a more sustainable future for plastics.

*started at TU Berlin/ continued at BTU Cottbus

Joint project MoDeSt:"Produktzirkularität durch modulares Design – Strategien für langlebige Smartphones" (Product circularity through modular design - strategies for durable smartphones)

  • Funded by: BMBF - "Ressourceneffiziente Kreislaufwirtschaft – Innovative Produktkreisläufe (ReziProK)" (Resource Efficient Circular Economy - Innovative Product Cycles).
  • Duration: July 2019 - June 2022
  • Cooperation partners: Fraunhofer IZM, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Shift GmbH, AfB gGmbH
  • Staff involved: Sabine Hielscher, Melanie Jaeger-Erben

Modular smartphones have the potential both to reflect technical progress through upgrades and to meet changing consumer needs. This enables longer useful lives, which reduce the number of devices and the associated environmental impact. In order to unfold positive potentials of modular construction (or: modular design?) and minimise negative aspects (or: undesirable consequences), technical, social and economic preconditions for modular concepts are explored and solution approaches are developed.The innovative project comprises a broad, transdisciplinary consortium. The integration of research and practice as well as technical and social science competences form the basis for a holistic approach to the research task. In the work packages of the TU Berlin, user expectations and practices are investigated qualitatively and quantitatively. An open innovation space for actors from industry and research is being created in so-called living labs. The project is funded by the BMBF within the framework of the funding measure "Ressourceneffiziente Kreislaufwirtschaft – Innovative Produktkreisläufe (ReziProK)“ (Resource-efficient circular economy - innovative product cycles) from 2019 to 2022.

SÖF junior research group: "Obsoleszenz als Herausforderung für Nachhaltigkeit - Ursachen und Alternativen (OHA)" (Obsolescence as a Challenge for Sustainability - Causes and Alternatives) 

  • Funded by: BMBF - SÖF junior research groups.
  • Duration: July 2016 - June 2022
  • Funding recipients: TU Berlin, Fraunhofer IZM
  • Leadership: Melanie Jaeger-Erben

Many products of the 21st century cause significant environmental impacts both during production and disposal. In Germany alone, about 1.9 million tonnes of electronic waste are produced annually. Fast-moving products and short service lives are an important driver of this development. In public discourse, the term "obsolescence" is often cited as a reason for the short service life. It is assumed that a product, compared to a technically possible ideal state, is prematurely obsolete and no longer usable or is no longer considered functional and usable. The junior research group aims to research the reasons for electronic products becoming obsolete and shortened useful lives and to develop and evaluate strategies for more sustainable product consumption on a technical, social, socio-political and economic level. Obsolescence is seen as an umbrella term for a range of different socio-technical phenomena, each of which must be reconstructed taking into account the logics of action and practices of actors in different areas of society - economy, production, trade, consumption, politics - and their interactions. The junior research group is funded within the framework of the BMBF's Social-Ecological Research (FONA) from 2016 to 2022. As part of the project, the platform "Lang Lebe Technik!" (Long Live Technology!) was developed, which is being further developed at the BTU Cottbus.