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School for Transdisciplinary Studies

Teamwork on Digital Transformation Challenges (10SMDSI_DTC)


In this module, interdisciplinary questions on challenges in the field of digital transformation are addressed in various projects. Under the supervision of a researcher from the Digital Society Initiative (DSI) and the URPP Digital Religion(s), students work in an interdisciplinary team of about 4, of which each team member takes on defined tasks and can also contribute specific digital skills. After an innovation phase, each team is allowed to consult an "Expert Panel" of DSI researchers and receives advice on digital methods and approaches and guidance on ethical, legal, social and other aspects that should be considered in the project. In the presentation at the end of the semester, the projects receive further input from the DSI researchers.

Successful projects can be implemented in the follow-up module "Continuation and Reflection on Digital Transformation Challenges" in the FS24 and receive appropriate support for this.


Mon, Sept 18, 14:00-14:30

Apéro and Welcome by Jean-Michel Hatt, Director Digital Society Initiative

Mon, Sept 18, 14:30-17:00

Introduction to Challenges and Teams by Supervisors

Mon, Sept 18, 17:00-18:00

Keynote Presentation by Jonathon Keats – Artist and Advisor in Metadisciplinary Studies at the Digital Society Initiative

Mon, Oct 2

Introduction to Reproducibility and Good Research Practice by Eva Furrer, Managing Director of the Center for Reproducible Science

Mon, Oct 30, 12:00-16:00

Expert Panel: Lunch and subsequent discussion with selected experts for each challenge

Wed, Nov 1, 10:15-11:45

Tag der Lehre Workshop for interested students

Mon, Nov 20

Introduction to Ethical and Data Protection Research Aspects by Markus Christen, Managing Director of the Digital Society Initiative

Mon, Dec 18

Presentations of the Challenges and X-MAS Apéro


Virtuous Reality: The Search for Meaning in Virtual Space


Fabian Winiger 

Learning objectives

  • To critically examine meaningful VR experiences through the social-anthropological method of participant-observation
  • The development of a well-founded empirical approach to current VR technology and its practical applications.

Sinnfluencers, tele-chaplains, "sacred cacao" ceremonies and eco-feminist healing circles: while in the offline world, churches are increasingly empty, a biotope of practices is flourishing in virtual space, in which centuries-old traditions of meaning-making are reinvented and lived out creatively. In this project, virtual reality (VR) experiences are jointly researched, critically questioned and ethically reflected on with theological, social anthropological and media studies approaches. Using Meta Quest 2 headsets, we explore new, "virtuous" kinds of virtual experiences that blend conventional (hedonistic) entertainment with new forms of community, existential engagement, and spiritual and mental (self-)care.

Mental Health Apps for Refugees: Understanding the Needs and the Challenges


Julian März

Learning objectives

Access to psychiatric and psychotherapeutic healthcare is difficult for a large majority of refugees. Digital innovation promises to address these issues and to expand access to mental healthcare to those most at need. Whilst there are many initiatives from the technical side in this matter, there is a significant lack of research on the ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI) of these applications, which is essential to ensuring the context-sensitivity, acceptability and usefulness of such applications.

This challenge aims to inform the following questions: What are the actual needs of the users of such mental health apps? Which challenges are raised by the high vulnerability of users, and how can these best be addressed? What points are essential in the regulation of such apps? How can these apps best be integrated in current mental healthcare for refugees?


Liudmila Zavolokina (Main Supervisor)

Julian März (Co-Supervisor)

Kilian Sprenkamp (Co-Supervisor)

Learning objectives

This challenge offers an opportunity to make a real-world contribution to the management of the ongoing Ukrainian refugee crisis in Switzerland. By further developing an existing application called R2G, which utilizes state-of-the-art topic modelling to identify refugee needs through Telegram data, the public and civil society organizations can be provided with valuable insights into the experiences and needs of those affected by the crisis. With a focus on data science, ethical considerations, and legal compliance, the project will involve an in-depth analysis of the needs and requirements of the stakeholders in the crisis, the iterative development of a prototype, user evaluations, and the creation of a policy brief as outcomes.

Main target groups: Master and advanced Bachelor students from all academic disciplines, in particular computer sciences, law, philosophy, bioethics, sociology, psychology, medicine, and communication sciences. Students from other disciplines are also very welcome to apply.

Mapping the Motivation Behind Intentional Data Leaks


Melanie Knieps 

Learning objectives

This challenge aims to map the motivation behind intentional data leaks. Well-known cases like the NSA leaks by Edward Snowden have demonstrated that perceived unethical organizational practices are often named as the motive behind leaking confidential information. Another motive might be retribution due to perceived wrongs. This observation also raises the question whether data leaks can at least in part be attributed to (dysfunctional) organizational structures. To date, these ideas have not yet been empirically tested.

The proposed project seeks to (a) create a database of known, intentional internal data leaks, and to (b) map the leakers underlying motivation. The desired learning outcomes are:

  • find relevant sources online (use OSINT and other methods)

  • use archival data to answer a research question

  • apply best (methodological) practices

  • analyze qualitative data with statistical tools

  • report the results in a concise and clear fashion.

OSINT skills can be acquired as part of the module Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) and social engineering (10SMDSI_OSI).

Towards an Inclusive Urban Environment: Applying Digital Tools to Improve Spatial Accessibility in Zurich


Hoda Allahbakhshi 

Learning objectives

Spatial accessibility is one of the measures of the inclusivity of a city. Although accessibility features (e.g., sidewalk inclination, crossings, and ramps) are crucial to mobility-impaired persons’ navigation, they are usually not offered by commercial geodata providers and are not readily available in existing open-access geographic information databases.

This project, with the help of digital web tools that allow for virtual inspections and measurements of accessibility features, aims to contribute to collecting and enriching accessibility information of the city of Zurich, extending the operation of the above-mentioned web tools and ultimately investigating how the accessibility of people with mobility impairments can be optimized and personalized by using detailed information about spatial accessibility. 

This project would suit an interdisciplinary team with at least one student with a technically oriented/computer science background and one with a Geography background. The project might be interesting also for students from social and health science.

Artificial Digital Imaginations and the Human Body


Janna Hastings (Main supervisor)

Soeren Lienkamp (Co-Supervisor)

Learning objectives

Anatomical knowledge and visual understanding is of central importance in medicine and health. In this project, we will explore the abilities of AI systems to understand human anatomy through the lens of AI image generation tools. During this project, students will use an open-source text-to-image generative model to:  

  • become familiar with the capabilities and limitations of image generation technology 
  • learn how to qualitatively and thematically analyse the anatomical errors that such models typically make 
  • perform a literature review to understand the ways that generative AI models are used in medicine to generate exemplars of images  
  • learn how to further train the model (fine-tune) for better performance generating a selected anatomical image type 
  • learn how to evaluate the performance of a trained model by evaluating their fine-tuned model 

Advancing Access to Information via Search Interfaces


Ladina Tschander (Main Supervisor)

Melanie Röthlisberger (Co-Supervisor)

Learning objectives

In this project students are asked to compare two different types of search interfaces accessible on the computer (choice of e.g. databases, library catalogues, search engines, websites with knowledge graphs, etc.), to evaluate the quality and efficiency of information retrieval, and to make suggestions for improvements. Practically, students design an experimental study (e.g. survey) that should test the way information is retrieved from each search interface and run a pilot with participants that they recruit themselves. Through this project students can learn about some of the fundamental concepts of information retrieval, such as indexing, query processing and relevance ranking; they can learn the newest developments in information retrieval, and the methodologies used to assess information retrieval systems and techniques. The digital skills that can be acquired through this project are in the area of: use of collaborative tools, development of digital content, copyright and licenses, evaluating and managing data, information and digital content, data protection and potentially also data sharing.

Target group


ECTS Credits


Course catalogue

You can find more information about the module here.

Weiterführende Informationen

Digital Society Initiative

Digital Society Initiative

More about Digital Society Initiative

The course will be piloted as part of the interdisciplinary minor "Digital Skills"  in the fall semester of 2023.


Prof. Dr. Titus Neupert