Brochure: The Digital Self

Table of Content Into the Internet of Everything | Mentally Controlled by Data? | Our Creepy Lines.

Nils-Eyk Zimmermann (2020). The digital Self. Project: DIGIT-AL – Digital Transformation in Adult learning for Active Citizenship. DARE Blue Lines, DARE – Democracy and Human Rights Education in Europe, Brüssel 2020, 60 pages,

Networked devices as social actors, platforms and data traces shape our everyday lives today. The digital self, the representation of our identity in digital space, is inseparable from our old “analogue” self.

Digital transformation is also shaping notions of what it means to be human and of the body, as well as of human capabilities. Computers are ubiquitous companions and the techno-sociologic vision of ubiquitous computing has become largely real. Before 2023, it is predicted that Western Europeans will own 9.4 connected devices per person. Networking and tracking are part of everyday life, for example in the form of fitness apps. In contrast to some fears, the majority of their users seem to be able to find a reflective and balanced attitude towards such tools. Nevertheless, a differentiated view is also important here: people who do not fit into the norms or who are dependent on the technical monitoring of their bodies have more reservation.

Major parts of our interpersonal communication take place digitally mediated. Many of our everyday activities leave digital traces, or many digital functions would not be so intuitively designable without the continuous generation of data. However, as datafication becomes a matter of course, the feeling of a lack of information and control does not diminish.

More urgently than before, we need to ask ourselves under what premises this Internet of Everything is being woven around us. The role of platforms and services, which left their role as purely technical intermediaries, must be recognised in their influence on the digital self. Positive experiences are juxtaposed with negative ones, discriminated groups experience more visibility, but so do also their opponents.

In relation to the body, new challenges arise: Implants and prostheses are changing the image of people with disabilities. Robots and vehicles will work more closely with people in the future. If they are to find their way into our everyday lives, they must be designed to be particularly safe, to respect the rights and dignity of their users, and also to guarantee human control in any situation.

Citizens have the power to decide which direction digitalisation will take. There is no need to be afraid of it. But at the same time there will be no democratic transformation und no human-centered path of the transformation without competent citizens who can find a self-determined way of dealing with their digital-analogue identity. Because the body and the self touch everyone, the topic is a good starting point for political education about digitalisation.


The brochure was published as part of the series Digital Transformation in Education for Democratic Citizenship, available at:

The project DIGIT-AL is a European cooperation of the Arbeitskreises deutscher Bildungsstätten (AdB), supported by the Erasmus + programme of the European Union.