Information for Researchers, No. 55 | July 6, 2022

Priority Programme “The Digitalisation of Working Worlds. Conceptualising and Capturing a Systemic Transformation” (SPP 2267)

In April 2019, the Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) established the Priority Programme “The Digitalisation of Working worlds. Conceptualising and Capturing a Systemic Transformation” (SPP 2267). The programme is designed to run for six years. The present call invites proposals for the second three-year funding period.

The Priority Programme assumes that the digitalisation of the worlds of work represents a systemic transformation that will change all the institutional systems of the society of work in a fundamental and lasting way. This programme’s intention is to research the digital transformation as an interaction of three process dimensions in which this socio-technical change is: a) socially prepared, b) technically enabled and c) discursively negotiated and socially mastered. At present, the research on digitalisation is fragmented and focuses strongly on isolated technical phenomena. The Priority Programme, in contrast, seeks to investigate the societal conditions and ways of shaping the current digitalisation of the society of work as a whole as well as the dynamics and impact of this systemic transformation, which is at once nonsynchronous, interdependent and contradictory. The programme plans to achieve and deepen an interdisciplinary combination of perspectives from the social sciences, economics and history on new configurations of work and technology, on multi-layered dynamics of change and on changing forms and places of value creation.

The Priority Programme investigates systemic transformation as a process that simultaneously manifests itself in three overlapping motion dynamics: permeating (e.g. work processes are permeated by digital technologies), making available (e.g. data on individual workers and operations are made available) and perpetuating (e.g. the emergence of autonomous systems). The digital transformation will be investigated at three levels: (1) at the micro level, in the interplay of working subjects/practices with digital artefacts, (2) at the meso level, in the interplay of enterprise and network structures, value chains and digital systems, and (3) at the macro level, in the interplay of social institutional structures and digital infrastructures. From an economic perspective, diminishing effects of information and communication technologies (ICT) on information asymmetries evoked by the interplay of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity in different inter- and intra-organisational relationships and compositions of value-adding structures is of particular interest. The programme includes a deep historical understanding of the current transformation process by focusing on actors of digitisation and their negotiation processes as well as on social conflicts from a historical perspective. Further, different temporalities of the process may be analysed as well as questions about long continuities or discontinuities asked. The debate surrounding the 1970s and 1980s as a time of structural change or epochal break is of particular interest.

The Priority Programme comprises two funding phases, each lasting three years. In the first funding phase, the aim was to identify and empirically research the individual structures, processes and mechanisms in which the systemic transformation of the worlds of work manifests. In the second funding phase, the programme will continue to focus on current developments (and asynchronisms) but also on the historical precursors and dynamics of the digital transformation. Overall, the corpus of projects to be funded in the second phase should again ensure a good balance between the micro, meso and macro levels. It is expected that the project proposals refer systematically to the heuristics of motion dynamics described above and locate themselves within them comprehensively. The individual projects are expected to establish interdisciplinary connections between two or more of the fields of research contributing to the Priority Programme. The kind of interdisciplinary collaboration must be specified in the project proposal in terms of content and formats of interdisciplinary exchange. Interdisciplinary collaboration can be realised in different ways: by interdisciplinary projects, in which researchers from different fields of research work together; by organised interdisciplinary collaboration between individual projects; or by obtaining the interdisciplinary expertise necessary to conduct the proposed project in other ways.

The Priority Programme aims to fund projects that will make basic research contributions to the understanding of socio-technical change in the field of digitalisation of the worlds of work. It particularly addresses sociology, economics and history, but also other disciplines of the social sciences that investigate the worlds of work (e.g. political science, ergonomics, work and organisational psychology, economic geography and business informatics, educational research). Project proposals with a comparative design (including international comparisons) are especially welcome.

The research envisaged here is to focus on various forms of paid employment, including dependent employment and self-employment. The projects can focus on the transformation of work in traditional service and industrial sectors as well as on the development of new forms of platform-mediated solo self-employment or digital “shadow” work. The individual projects can examine the forms of digitalisation currently under discussion as well as longer existing automation, computerisation or informatisation phenomena and thus the digital transformation of historically conditioned processes and developments.

The Priority Programme was initiated by Michael Henke (TU Dortmund), Martina Heßler (TU Darmstadt), Martin Krzywdzinski (WZB Berlin), Sabine Pfeiffer (FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg) and Ingo Schulz-Schaeffer (TU Berlin).

All applicants are invited to participate in a workshop that will provide detailed scientific and administrative information on the call. The workshop will be held online, on the 16 September 2022, 10 am to 3 pm (approximately). To register for the event, please send an e-mail to:, not later than 13 September 2022.

A summary of the initial application for establishing the Priority Programme and further information can be found on the programme homepage (see link below).

Proposals must be written in English and submitted to the DFG by 30 November 2022. Please note that proposals can only be submitted via elan, the DFG’s electronic proposal processing system.

Applicants must be registered in elan prior to submitting a proposal to the DFG. If you have not yet registered, please note that you must do so by 16 November 2022 to submit a proposal under this call; registration requests received after this time cannot be considered. You will normally receive confirmation of your registration by the next working day. Note that you will be asked to select the appropriate Priority Programme call during both the registration and the proposal process.

Young scientists seeking their own post-doctoral funding (“Eigene Stelle”) are encouraged to apply with a project hosted at one of the eligible German institutions. Applicants may contact the programme committee for assistance in finding a suitable host.

Applicants are encouraged to contact the programme coordinator (Professorin Dr. Sabine Pfeiffer, prior to submission to ascertain if their proposal fits the scientific scope of the programme.

If you would like to submit a proposal for a new project within the existing Priority Programme, please go to Proposal Submission – New Project – Priority Programmes and select “SPP 2267” from the current list of calls. Previous applicants can submit a proposal for the renewal of an existing project under Proposal Submission – Proposal Overview/Renewal Proposal.

In preparing your proposal, please review the programme guidelines (form 50.05, section B) and follow the proposal preparation instructions (form 54.01). These forms can either be downloaded from our website or accessed through the elan portal.

Further Information

More information on the Priority Programme is available under:

The elan system can be accessed at:

DFG forms 50.05 and 54.01 can be downloaded at:

For scientific enquiries please contact the Priority Programme coordinator:

  • Professorin Dr. Sabine Pfeiffer
    Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
    NCT Nuremberg Campus of Technology
    Lehrstuhl für Soziologie
    Fürther Straße 246c
    90429 Nürnberg
    phone +49 911 5302-96670

Questions on the DFG proposal process can be directed to: