Time to Talk: Transatlantic Digital Debates


Time to Talk: Transatlantic Digital Debates

Conny Dörfler, in the team of the ARD Chairman at Bayerischer Rundfunk for the next two years, talks to Nunatak about the Transatlantic Digital Debates, which we supported in 2017.

Conny, you participated in the Transatlantic Digital Debates. Can you tell us about what is debated there?

The two Global Public Policy Institute Think Tanks from Berlin and New America from Washington organize the Transatlantic Digital Debates together. Every year, a group of young people spends two weeks taking a closer look at the future of the digital society.

What was the professional background of your group?

Our group consisted of nine Germans and nine Americans from the fields of science, politics and the economy. We spoke to experts and practitioners from different areas in order to understand the challenges of digitalization for transatlantic relationships. In order to do so, two discussion phases took place in Germany and the USA, each lasting one week. The contributors we were able to talk to were extremely interesting. Even more exciting, however, was the networking effect with the other participants. It became clear to us all how fruitful it is when people from different cultures and professional backgrounds discuss with each other. I would also like to integrate this into my everyday work.

What did you find most fascinating during the two weeks?

Of course, I found the topics I also encounter in my everyday work particularly exciting. And this year, both in Germany and the USA, fake news was a huge topic. It was interesting for me to understand that the fake news itself is not the actual problem, as it is possible to “combat” this from a technological or editorial perspective. However, the underlying problem that certain social groups are receptive to such manipulation has not yet been solved. As such, we repeatedly discovered in our Transatlantic Digital Debates that things we observe in the digital world are often just a reflection of or a catalyst for social problems.

During our discussions, we also noticed that technologies do not fundamentally change human behavior, but that expectations change. Thanks to social media, for example, people have become used to the possibility of personalization and interaction and of fast feedback. They now also have these expectations of political processes. As a result, politics – just like companies – are faced with the challenge of completely rethinking the involvement of the “customer”.

During your week in the USA you also went to Austin, Texas – what impressed you most there?

Austin is not only a city with many start-ups. The city administration also wants to go digital. There is an innovation office in the City of Austin for this purpose. Working like an in-house consultancy, the Office of Innovation uses Design Thinking methods and looks for user-centric solutions and services that can improve the lives of the city inhabitants.
And it was the team from the city administration that impressed us most during our week in the USA! I can really recommend applying to participate in the Transatlantic Digital Debates. Not only because I took away many suggestions and ideas for my everyday work but also because of the interesting people you get to know in the program – a network I’m sure to benefit from for a long time to come!