Information on theses at the Research Group Digital Communication and Transformation
We put together all relevant information on signing up and completing a thesis in a Moodle course. It is mandatory to look at the information carefully before contacting us.
We oversee theses on the following fields, among others. In the following, you will find proposed topics as well as open topics for theses. You are free to suggest your own topics as well. In general, it is also possible to write theses in cooperation with companies.
We expect you to think about a possible focus of your thesis in the run-up to a first meeting.
Available theses topics
AI and the Future of Knowledge Work
Experimental Design/Qualitative Methods
The "Metaverse" is a computer-generated, three-dimensional, fully immersive environment (Drucker, 1994). The term was first coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash. Today, companies such as META aka Facebook invest hundreds of millions of dollars in building the leading metaverse. Apart from that, the Metaverse promises interesting opportunities for knowledge workers to collaborate and overcome spatial constraints of remote work. The aim of this thesis is to investigate the boundary conditions of performing knowledge in virtual environments such as a Metaverse. To do this, you will get a pair of VR-Goggles (Oculus Quest I) for conducting qualitative experiments at the University. Moreover, it is required to work with an accompanying theory such as conflict-distraction theory.
- Park, S. -M. and Kim, Y. -G. (2022) "A Metaverse: Taxonomy, Components, Applications, and Open Challenges," in IEEE Access, 10, 4209-4251.
- Robinson, S. and Mendelson, A. L. (2012) “A Qualitative Experiment: Research on Mediated Meaning Construction Using a Hybrid Approach”, Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 6(4), pp. 332–347.
- Baron, R. S. (1986). “Distraction-Conflict Theory: Progress and Problems”. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 1–40.
- Davenport, T. (2005). “Thinking for A Living: How to Get Better Performance and Results from Knowledge Workers”. Harvard Business School Press.
Exploring the Identity of Knowledge Workers in a Digital World
Qualitative Methods/Quantitative Methods
The ongoing development of information technology (IT) enables organizations to introduce digital work as the new normal. Therefore, employees face new forms of work that might decrease personal interaction and increase interaction with IT. Nevertheless, these new ways of work entail that individuals cannot do their jobs with the same values and convictions as they are used to. Furthermore, location-independent work such as home office or digital (corporate) nomadism is on the rise in the digital landscape.
However, there is a constant change that might impact self- beliefs constituting professional identity at work, i.e., the perception of one's role in the workplace. Experiencing a new work situation that contradicts one's identity might lead to a loss of self-esteem and a threat to identity. As emerging technologies have changed the landscape and experiences of various professions, various touchpoints correlate with the identification at work. The digitization of the workplace emphasizes the demand for digital work as the new normal in organizations.
Thus, this thesis aims to explore novel factors that might influence a digital knowledge worker's identity at the workplace. To this end, several methods could be applied. Students may choose or connect qualitative and quantitative methods such as a systematic literature review, (Expert) Interviews, or online experiments with (digital) knowledge workers.
This thesis will need a solid theoretical foundation considering an identity perspective. To this end, possible theoretical foundations are (1) IT-Identity, (2) Organizational Identity, (3) Social Identity Theory, or (4) Sociomateriality.
- Prester, J., D. Cecez-Kecmanovic, and D. Schlagwein, “Becoming a digital nomad: Identity emergence in the flow of practice”, 40th International Conference on Information Systems, ICIS 2019, (2019)
- RMirbabaie, M., Stieglitz, S., Brünker, F., Hofeditz, L., Ross, B., & Frick, N. R. J. (2021). Understanding Collaboration with Virtual Assistants – The Role of Social Identity and the Extended Self. Business & Information Systems Engineering, 63, 21-37
- Carter, M., Grover, V., & Clemson University. (2015). Me, My Self, and I(T): Conceptualizing Information Technology Identity and its Implications. MISQuarterly, 39(4), 931–957. https://doi.org/10/gf5sg7
- Carter, M., Petter, S., & Compeau, D. (2019). Identifying with IT in a Digital World. In ICIS 2019 Proceedings (p. 10). Presented at the International Conference on Information Systems, Munich.
- Burke, P. J., & Stryker, S. (2016). Identity Theory: Progress in Relating the Two Strands. In New Directions in Identity Theory and Research (pp. 657–810). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Supporting Ethical Decision Making in Recruiting Processes Through Virtual Assistants in Digital Work
Online Experiment / Onlinestudie
Even prior to Amazon’s discriminatory human resources (HR) software or Microsoft’s racist chatbot, the dangerous sides of artificial intelligence (AI) have become points of public and scholarly relevance as well as interest (Dastin 2018). With AI-based technologies becoming more capable (Loebbecke and Picot 2015), they have become a key driver of digitalization (Verweij and Rao 2017), significantly influencing and transforming organizations. Business organizations are facing challenges regarding the opportunities and consequences of an increasingly AI-based economy (Russell and Norvig 2016).
In this context, research often addresses ethical principles for AI, with the goal of not harming humans, not discriminating, and not being biased (Floridi et al., 2018; Yampolskiy 2016). However, events such as the VW emissions scandal have shown that unethical decisions are often made by humans (Stieglitz et al., 2019). Even in the near future, AI-based systems will not yet act fully autonomously; rather, they will assist humans in their work (Mirbabaie et al., 2021). Therefore, the question arises how AI-based assistant systems can guide humans to make ethical decisions (Brendel et al., 2021).
One process where unethical behavior can often be observed in companies is the hiring process of new employees (Dastin 2018). In some cases, women are less likely to be hired, certain minority groups are discriminated against in the recruitment process, or there is little overall transparency about the hiring process.
This work thus aims to examine how AI-based assistance systems can encourage people to make ethical decisions in the hiring process. For this purpose, an (online) experiment is to be conducted in which participants in two different groups are supposed to make hiring decisions together with a virtual assistant. In one of the two groups, the virtual assistant will use digital nudging to encourage the participants to make ethical decisions.
The goal of the work is to gain knowledge about how people can make ethical decisions at work by applying AI-based assistance systems.
- Brendel, A. B., Mirbabaie, M., Lembcke, T., & Hofeditz, L. (2021). Ethical Management of Artificial Intelligence. Sustainability, 13(4), 1974; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13041974.
- Dastin, J. 2018. “Amazon Scraps Secret AI Recruiting Tool That Showed Bias against Women,” Reuters. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-amazon-com-jobs-automation-insight/amazon-scraps-secret-ai-recruiting-tool-that-showed-bias-against-women-idUSKCN1MK08G).
- Floridi, L., Cowls, J., Beltrametti, M., & Chatila, R. (2018). AI4People — An Ethical Framework for a Good AI Society: Minds and Machines, 28(4), 689–707. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11023-018-9482-5
- Loebbecke, C., and Picot, A. 2015. “Reflections on Societal and Business Model Transformation Arising from Digitization and Big Data Analytics: A Research Agenda,” The Journal of Strategic Information Systems (24:3), pp. 149–157.
- Mirbabaie, M., Stieglitz, S., Brünker, F., Hofeditz, L., Ross, B. & Frick, N. (2021). Understanding Collaboration with Virtual Assistants – The Role of Social Identity and the Extended Self. Business and Information Systems Engineering (BISE), 63, 21–37.
- Russell, S. J., and Norvig, P. 2016. Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach, Pearson Education Limited.
- Stieglitz, S., Mirbabaie, M., Kroll, T. & Marx, J. (2019). ‘Silence’ as a Strategy during a Corporate Crisis - The Case of Volkswagen’s ‘Dieselgate’. Internet Research (IR), 29(4), 921-939.
- Yampolskiy, R. V. 2016. “Taxonomy of Pathways to Dangerous Artificial Intelligence,” in Workshops at the Thirtieth AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence.
Digital Nudging to overcome hierarchy in organizations
Hierarchies are omnipresent in organizations. They form the chain-of-command and sometimes provide the required stability in complex enterprise environments (Knight and Mehta 2017). (Hogg 2010) point out that given hierarchical power can alter people’s behavior. Despite positive intentions, it can easily lead to negative effects that hinder innovation (R. A. M. Mudambi 2011) and an organization's performance in general (Leavitt 2005; Meske et al. 2020).
Digital nudging was suggested as a new way of guiding users towards to optimal decision. It seeks to optimize formerly negative decision-making processes and persuade the user towards the better decision (Weinmann et al. 2016). In the discipline of information systems, digital nudging was found to positively influence the user adoption (Gregor and Lee-Archer 2016; Thaler and Sunstein 2009) and effectiveness of application usage (Hummel and Maedche 2019).
Nudging was applied in various contexts to verify positive influence on behavior (Meske and Potthoff 2017; Stieglitz et al. 2017). Yet, the application in the context of organizational hierarchy is missing. Research currently lacks the link between digital nudging in information systems and hierarchy in an organizational context. Thus, overcoming these hierarchical distances is both key and potentially benefiting from the new and subtle form of persuasion, digital nudging. First studies identified an accelerated effect of nudges when influenced by hierarchical power (Kretzer and Maedche 2018), however the opposite has not been elaborated on yet.
The study is a mixed-method study and has two parts. First, interviews with experts are conducted to find out what burdens exist with hierarchy. This will allow the validation of findings in literature that hierarchy forms an obstacle in the way towards an increased productivity in the digital age. In addition, the interviews should reveal what the examples and use cases are that hierarchy is impacting. This will contribute to the study by (1) verifying the hypothesis that hierarchy can be an inhibitor for productivity, (2) detailing out where the obstacles are (including their relative strength so prioritization is possible) and (3) what intentions of the interviewees are to overcome those obstacles. The interviews should be done with a target number of 12 participants conducted in an organization of at least around 100 employees. The second part is an experiment that will test a designed digital nudge, which was derived from the interviews. Depending on the interview outcomes, the strongest inhibitor for productivity should be chosen, preferably with backing from previous literature. This will allow the design based on the input from the interviews as well as previous research background and results. The nudge then should be tested at the same or another company in an automated way.
- Gregor, S., and Lee-Archer, B. 2016. “The Digital Nudge in Social Security Administration,” International Social Security Review (69:3–4), pp. 63–83. (https://doi.org/10.1111/issr.12111).
- Hogg, M. A. 2010. “Influence and Leadership,” in Handbook of Social Psychology, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (https://doi.org/10.1002/9780470561119.socpsy002031).
- Meske, C., Kissmer, T., and Stieglitz, S. 2020. “Bridging Formal Barriers in Digital Work Environments – Investigating Technology-Enabled Interactions across Organizational Hierarchies,” Telematics and Informatics (48), Elsevier Ltd. (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tele.2020.101342).
- Stieglitz, S., Potthoff, T., and Kißmer, T. 2017. “Digital Nudging Am Arbeitsplatz,” HMD Praxis Der Wirtschaftsinformatik, Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden, pp. 1–12. (https://doi.org/10.1365/s40702-017-0367-5).
Sciebo und Open Science: Soziotechnische Gestaltungsempfehlungen für ein verbessertes Management von Forschungsdaten
Um dem Gedanken der offenen Wissenschaft zu folgen, wird ein präzises Forschungsdatenmanagement (RDM) immer wichtiger. Mit dem Aufkommen datenintensiver Forschungsmethoden geht der Wunsch nach offen zugänglichen Daten einher (Link et al., 2011). Die Open-Science-Idee ist aber nicht nur aus der intrinsischen Bereitschaft der Forscher, ihre Daten zu teilen, entstanden (Wilms, Stieglitz, Buchholz, Vogl & Rudolph, 2018), sondern ist vielmehr auf die von der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) veröffentlichten Richtlinien zurückzuführen. Eine Folge davon ist, dass Forschungseinrichtungen und Drittorganisationen begonnen haben, e-Science-Technologien wie Datenspeicher und digitale Forschungsumgebungen zu entwickeln (Kim & Zhang, 2015, Vogl et al., 2015). Auf operativer Ebene gibt es jedoch keine geeignete Infrastruktur und die Dienstleistungen sind nur unzureichend mit den RDM-Schritten verknüpft. Aus diesem Grund hat die Universität Duisburg-Essen in Zusammenarbeit mit der Universität Münster und Bielefeld begonnen, eine modulare RDM-Infrastruktur unter Berücksichtigung der bestehenden Dienste zu integrieren, um den offenen Wissenschaftsanspruch zu unterstützen (sciebo RDS). Ein wesentlicher Aspekt des Projekts ist die Entwicklung und Verbesserung niedrigschwelliger Dienste, die zu einer verstärkten Nutzung von RDM-Richtlinien bei potenziellen Nutzern führen werden.
Im Rahmen dieses von der DFG geförderten Projektes wurde eine erste begleitende Studie durchgeführt. Ziel dieser Studie war es, herauszufinden, unter welchen Bedingungen Wissenschaftlerinnen und Wissenschaftler aus verschiedenen Disziplinen den Empfehlungen des RDM folgen und entsprechende Dienste nutzen. Dazu wurde ein theoriegeleiteten Interviewleitfaden erstellt und 15 halbstrukturierte Experteninterviews durchgeführt. Ziel der Interviews war es, ein besseres Verständnis für den Umgang mit Forschungsdaten aus verschiedenen Disziplinen zu gewinnen und Vorschläge zu sammeln, wie die Berücksichtigung von RDM-Schritten durch eine geeignete Infrastruktur und bestehende Dienstleistungen verbessert werden kann. Außerdem wurde gefragt, welche technischen und psychologischen Mechanismen erfolgreich eingesetzt werden können, um das Bewusstsein für die offene Wissenschaftsidee zu erhöhen. Dabei wurden verschiedene hierarchische Positionen und verschiedene Forschungsdisziplinen von drei Universitäten abgefragt.
Auf Basis dieser Interviewdaten sollen in dieser Abschlussarbeit nun anhand der Actor-Network-Theory konkrete Handlungsempfehlungen zur Verbesserung des Managements von Forschungsdaten am Beispiel von Sciebo abgeleitet werden, die anschließend implementiert werden können.
- Kim, Y., and Zhang, P. 2015. “Understanding data sharing behaviors of STEM researchers: The roles of attitudes, norms, and data repositories,” Library & Information Science Research, (37:3), pp. 189–200 (doi: 10.1016/J.LISR.2015.04.006).
- Vogl R., Angenent H., Rudolph D., Thoring A., Schild C., Stieglitz S. and Meske C. 2015. „sciebo – the Campuscloud for NRW”, European Journal of Higher Education IT (EJHEIT) (2:3), pp. 1-12. (Winner of the Elite Award for Excellence).
- Vogl, R., Rudolph, D., Thoring, A., Angenent, H., Stieglitz, S., & Meske, C. (2016). How to build a cloud storage service for half a million users in higher education: Challenges met and solutions found. Proceedings of the Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, 2016–March, 5328–5337. https://doi.org/10.1109/HICSS.2016.658
- Wilms, K., Brenger, B., López, A., Rehwald, S. (2018). Open Data in Higher Education – What Prevents Researchers from Sharing Research Data?. In: Proceedings of the 39th International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS).
- Wilms, K., Meske, C., Stieglitz, S., Decker, H., Fröhlich, L., Jendrosch, N., Schaulies, S., Vogl, R. and Rudolph, D. (2017). Digital Transformation in Higher Education – New Cohorts, New Requirements?. In: Proceedings of the 23rd Americas Conference on Information Systems (AMCIS)
Giving advice on cyber threats
Online Experiment / Online study
Nowadays we have adopted a variety of technological devices into our lives that we use on a daily basis. Among these technologies are numerous devices that are connected to the internet. This makes them vulnerable to cyber-attacks from individuals with malicious intent.
In order for end-users of these technologies to handle such threats, they need to be informed about current cyber threats and how to handle them in case they become a victim of such an attack.
Therefore, it is important to understand the behavior of the end user in seeking out such information and the factors that influence the end-users behavioral intention to follow or ignore warnings in regard to cyber threats when they are presented with information about current threats.
Thus, this work aims at identifying such factors and their information-seeking behaviors through an (online) experiment where participants are surveyed in regard to their behavioral intention when presented with such information and how they seek out such information.
The aim of this work is to acquire insights into factors that might influence the end-user to act appropriately when experts provide them with information about cyber threats and how to handle them.
- Kovačević, A., Putnik, N., & Tošković, O. (2020). Factors Related to Cyber Security Behavior. IEEE Access, 8, 125140-125148.
- Nicholson, J., Coventry, L., & Briggs, P. (2019, May). " If It's Important It Will Be A Headline" Cybersecurity Information Seeking in Older Adults. In Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1-11).
- Gratian, M., Bandi, S., Cukier, M., Dykstra, J., & Ginther, A. (2018). Correlating human traits and cyber security behavior intentions. computers & security, 73, 345-358.
Effective Use of the VR Application Spatial for Collaboration in an Enterprise Context
Interviews, confidence in conducting interviews in English, high engagement during the recruitment of interview partners
Virtual reality (VR) collaboration platforms enable employees to engage in a more natural conversation, perceive non-verbal cues, and collaborate in a distraction-free environment. The VR collaboration platform Spatial has been highly successful, especially since the widespread home office policy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many large companies such as LARVOL, Mattel, Pfizer, BNP Paribas, Ford, Nestlé Purina, and Enel SpA use Spatial for collaboration and interactive meetings. For example, the fully remote company LARVOL moved their headquarters into Spatial, while companies such as Mattel and Ford bring diverse teams of designers, engineers, and manufacturers from around the world into Spatial project rooms to co-design new products.
Nevertheless, collaborative meetings in VR are still rather an exception than the rule, and it remains an open question how VR can be used effectively especially in light of the wide range of other available meeting options such as face-to-face meetings, phone calls, and video conferencing tools. Therefore, the goal of this thesis is to understand what constitutes effective use behavior regarding VR for collaboration in an enterprise context. In this regard, the literature on effective use theory and the affordance network approach as a methodological step-by-step approach to understanding effective use behavior will serve as a good starting point for engaging with the topic.
To gain insights regarding the research questions, interviews with employees who use Spatial for collaboration purposes should be conducted. As the target group might not be easy to recruit for interviews, a high excitement for the topic and engagement regarding the recruiting process is required. Furthermore, a certain confidence in talking English is required since some interview partners might work at international companies. A good start could be to contact the Spatial company itself and the abovementioned companies who already use Spatial. While working on the thesis, the candidate has the opportunity to rent an Oculus Quest headset from the chair, allowing them to try out Spatial (and other apps) themselves and meet with interview partners in their Spatial environment to get a better impression on how companies are using this environment.
- Spatial (2020). LARVOL Uses Spatial As Their Virtual Headquarters. https://spatial.io/blog/larvol-vr-office
- Burton-Jones, A., & Grange, C. (2013). From Use to Effective Use: A Representation Theory Perspective. Information Systems Research, 24(3), 632–658.
- Burton-Jones, A., & Volkoff, O. (2017). How can we develop contextualized theories of effective use? A demonstration in the context of community-care electronic health records. Information Systems Research, 28(3), 468–489.
- Fromm, J., Mirbabaie, M. & Stieglitz, S. (2020). The Effects of Virtual Reality Affordances and Constraints on Negative Group Effects during Brainstorming Sessions. In Proceedings of the 15th International Conference on Wirtschaftsinformatik (WI), Potsdam, Germany.
- Misinformation in Social Media - Contact
- Automated communication in social media - contact
- (Digital) science communication - Contact
- Echo chambers and filter bubbles in social networks - Contact
Communication and Collaboration