re:publica 2024 – Data and AI in the digital society

on 04.06.2024 by Dr. Matthias Böck

As in previous years, FELD M was visiting re:pubilca 2024 in Berlin and engaged with some of the currently socially relevant discourses. From data, data ethics and AI to the future of care and personal insights into crisis journalism, there were plenty of interesting and exciting talks and presentations.

Our colleague Dr. Ramona Greiner also made a contribution and talked about agile project management in romantic relationships. You can find the video of her talk (in German) here!


What is re:publica?

re:publica is an annual conference taking place in Berlin that focuses on the digital society and covers topics such as net politics, digitalization, social media and technology. Since it was founded in 2007, it has developed into one of the most important events of its kind in the world. The conference promotes interdisciplinary dialogue between experts and interested parties from various fields and offers a wide range of talks, workshops and interactive formats. re:publica aims to raise awareness for the impact of digitalization on people and the environment and discuss the opportunities and challenges of the digital transformation.

Impressions from this year's well-attended re:publica 2024.

Impressions from this year’s well-attended re:publica 2024.

In the following blog post, you will find an insight into the presentations and talks at re:publica 2024 which have remained in our memories.



What role did the “classic” FELD M topics of data, AI, data ethics and privacy play?

Many of the lectures focussed on the (still) hyped topic of AI or ‘Generative AI’ and its potential applications.

The presentations ‘AI will save us all! Unless it doesn’t’ (Matthias Spielkamp, AlgorithmWatch – held in German) and ‘Empty Innovation: What are we even doing?’ (tante) provided a differentiated view of what really useful fields of application or actual innovations are, as well as of the question of whose interest this hype is. For us at FELD M, it is a fundamental task to identify what the actual problem of our customers is and only then to ask the question about the appropriate technology to deal with this problem. AI is just one of many possible solutions and we help our clients choose the right one.

In his talk ‘Empty Innovation’, tante criticises the supposed or ‘empty’ innovation through generative AI.

In his talk “Empty Innovation”, tante criticizes the many “empty” innovations à la NFT and blockchain and reflects on what we should actually expect from innovations.


In addition to the question of which use cases we actually want to use AI for, it is controversial, especially in the areas of GenAI or LLMs, how reliable the models are and how we can judge the truthfulness of content. Machine learning can help us to find false or problematic content more quickly and categorise it or point out what we should pay attention to in particular. Ultimately, however, it is important to include people in the fact-checking process. The presentation ‘How science works: AI in factchecking’ (held in German) dealt with this topic. Caroline Lindekamp and Benjamin Werner from CORRECTIV, together with Jochen Spangenberg (Deutsch Welle), presented solutions they have developed to help us check content for accuracy.

With the help of use cases, Caroline Lindekamp, Jochen Spangenberg and Benjamin Werner showed how AI can support us in fact-checking.

With the help of use cases, Caroline Lindekamp, Jochen Spangenberg and Benjamin Werner showed how AI can support us in factchecking.


However, it is not only the question of whether we can achieve a goal with AI that is important, but we also need to think and talk about the costs involved. Several presentations focussed on the effects of AI on people and nature.

In ‘The Backlash to the AI-Fueled Data Centre Boom’, Paris Marx showed the enormous growth of Google, Amazon and Microsoft data centres in recent years and the vast amounts of water and energy required to operate them. Marx raised the question of whether this chosen path will really help society or is currently only serving the interests of the tech industry.

In the presentation ‘Big Brother made in Germany: New online tracking via mobile phone identifiers’ (held in German), Susanne Klausing and Torben Dzillak reported on their extensive research into ‘Utiq’, the new joint venture between the major European telecommunications providers Vodafone, Telefónica, Telekom and Orange. With the use of Utiq, the online activities of mobile phone users can be tracked using a mobile phone identifier. The research team from digital think tank D64 outlined the data protection benefits of the solution (e.g. extra consent banner for this service), but also addressed concerns: Utiq makes it possible for Utiq customers to combine the tracking service with other tracking technologies, thereby circumventing the anonymisation and data protection measures used by Utiq. This would mean that Utiq would not give users MORE, but LESS control over the use of their data and increase the risk of data misuse.

Scientist and poetry slammer Marcel Schneuer highlighted the dimension of data and advertising ethics of web tracking, particularly for people dealing with addictions in his catchy talk ‘Consequences of addiction: Advertising tracking and addictions‘ (held in German). This is just one of many discourses on data ethics and (often related) AI ethics that were discussed at re:publica.

Marcel Schneuer in his interesting discourse on the perspective of addicts on behaviour-based advertising.

Marcel Schneuer in his interesting discourse on the perspective of addicts on behaviour-based advertising.


At the end of this brief review of data-related content of re:publica, the main thing that remains with us is that we all need to take good care. All of us, pointing at  we as your consultants and you as our partners or customers, should answer the following four questions before and during every project in order to avoid wasting resources and having a negative impact on society:

  • What really is the important goal of this data project?
  • What are the costs (financial, environmental, human, ideally)?
  • How reliable are the solutions (in terms of technology and truthfulness)?
  • Is the solution ethically justifiable? What negative ethical consequences have to be avoided?


Our highlights apart from von AI and data topics and the “big stages” 1 and 2

  • Carolin Emcke’s lecture ‘Queer Life – An Intervention’ (held in German) was one of our personal highlights, which absolutely deserved the audiences’ standing ovations – for an engaging, comprehensible, emotional but also positive outlook into the future, if we find the courage to speak up against hate speech and mockery and stand up for an openminded society.
Carolin Emcke's emotional talk is not only a positive memory for us.

Carolin Emcke’s emotional talk is not only a positive memory for us.

  • At the age of 21, Teun Toebes moved into a care home for people with dementia for over three years and shared his experiences in his presentation ‘Human Forever – A more humane future of care’ (held in German). One in five people will be affected by dementia in the future. His appeal: we should not give up on people and instead of just keeping them in care, allow them to continue participating in life.


  • In their discussion ‘War and Crisis Journalism: Unveiling the Unseen’ with Anna Ramskogler-Witt, Annie Slemrod and Jordan Byron talked about their experiences as reporters in crisis areas such as Yemen and Afghanistan and how they themselves had to learn to deal with what they experienced there. Preview: The two are planning a joint podcast, which we really are looking forward to.


Enjoy watching some of our highlight talks – wherever a recording is available, we have included the link to the YouTube video in the text alongside with a note in case the talk has been held in German.

If you have any questions about re:publica, please get in touch with our colleague Dr. Matthias Böck. Feel free to let us know what else would have been of interest for you beyond our provided highlights – we’ll be happy to include it in our next conference review. And who knows – maybe we’ll meet up live at re:publica next year.

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