ZU’s research landscape is based on research areas and traditions that have been cultivated over many years. The main research areas developed so far can be condensed into three strategic research lines that will constitute the guidelines of cooperative research at ZU in the coming years:
| Complex Freedom
| Risky Innovation
| Transformative Cultural Production
These three integrative subject areas have arisen from fundamental changes in society, which we see as challenges for theory and practice. On the one hand there is the critical analysis of the consequences of advancing economic, political, and cultural globalization, and on the other hand the study of the digital transformation and exponential technologies that are penetrating all areas of everyday life.
Both developments are leading to the challenges of a locally and globally linked world in which the topics of freedom, innovation, and culture are obviously highly relevant and thus the scholars at ZU will now take an interdisciplinary approach to researching these topics, which represents a change in focus. The issue is no longer freedom as a general political demand, but rather the specific options and risks of a multi-dimensional concept of freedom in a politically, economically, and culturally multi-layered system, which excludes any simple model or solution. The issue is no longer innovation as a general economic driver, but rather and more specifically the risks of a local and global civilization that necessarily go hand in hand with disruptive innovations, and which can for example be seen in the manufacturing sector and financial system, especially the systemic risks. And the issue is no longer culture as a symbol or value system, but rather the specific determination of options, variations, and challenges that are the result of cultural change in a multipolar and multicultural world.
To analyze, explain, and apply some sort of structure to the social dynamics associated with this, the ZU has created four interdisciplinary research clusters, which benefit from significant support:
1. Governance of Global Collaborative Networks (Prof. Lisbeth Zimmermann)
- The research cluster deals with transnational networks and their role in innovative processes in the economy and in politics. The central aim is to better understand the way in which these networks function.
- Specific issues relate in particular to the impact and regulation of transnational networks (epistemic networks, professional networks, advocacy networks, etc.), the interaction of transnational networks with intergovernmental organizations, the innovative capability of transnational networks, as well as the (democratic) legitimacy and accountability of transnational networks as a means of global collaboration in the context of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).
2. Computational Social Science (Prof. Martin Elff)
- The research cluster deals with the fundamental issue of whether and how the increasing behavior trails brought about by the digitization of the economy and everyday life can be used to measure, model, and ultimately predict economic and social attitudes. Behavior trails are broadly defined, from transaction and consumer data via user and app logs in digital media, right through to user-generated content in social media.
- Specific issues relate in particular to analyzing and predicting behavior on the basis of data trails, modeling and simulating complex individual or social processes, analyzing large volumes of data in the field of economics and social sciences, as well as collecting and analyzing high-frequency and/or complex process data.
3. Decision-Making Research (Prof. Anja Achtziger)
- The aim of this research cluster is to investigate the sequence of individual and collective decision-making processes, as well as the impact of information processing and institutional frameworks on the outcomes of decisions. Building on this, the aim is to devise interventions that promote rational decisions and socially acceptable, collective decision-making processes. In the process, decision-making processes are investigated from the point of view of various disciplines (consumer research, cognitive psychology, political science, and behavioral economics) using various empirical methods (EEG, eye tracking, NIRS, labor/field experiments, representative surveys, statistical analysis of process-produced data and behavior trails).
- Specific issues relate in particular to the following aspects: automatic and controlled decision-making processes, motivation and monetary incentives, as well as their impact on decisions in social, political, and economic contexts, ethical decisions in business and finance, and the development of (digital) tools to promote psychological/ethical skills, determinants of corruption and cooperation, consumer decisions, and the impact of institutional frameworks on (political) decisions.
4. Transformative Cultural Production (Prof. Martin Tröndle)
- The research cluster deals with analyzing the most important changes in the cultural field from the macro-level to the micro-level, categorized under the topics of viewers and listeners, practices and styles, as well as political entities (discourse and its institutionalization). Owing to its focus on real problems and issues, the research cluster is interdisciplinary in its approach.
- Specific issues relate in particular to the transformation of the following fields: viewers and listeners, artistic practices, styles, publicly funded institutions, cultural policy decision-making processes, and policies (and the associated impact on cultural policy).
In addition to the collaborative research in these four research clusters, whose members belong to various faculties, the ZU also provides significant support to those individual and collaborative research projects that have a bearing on the three defined research lines in terms of topic and content. As in the case of the research clusters, this applies to both fundamental and transfer research. At ZU, for example, this includes research into Family Businesses, Finance & Banking, Leadership & Leadership Ethics, Innovation Management & Innovation Research, Integration & Globalization, Consumer Research, Media & Society, Mobility, Sustainability, Political Institutions & Political Decision-Making, Administration 4.0 & Public Management.