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2024 ISTARI.AI Research Partner Workshop

Johannes Dahlke (

Taming Complexity: Using WebData to Address Grand Societal Challenges

Grand societal challenges are complex, multifaceted problems that span across geographic, political, and industrial boundaries (Rittel & Webber, 1973). These challenges resist simple solutions and require a coordinated, and often collaborative response among actors embedded in socio-economic systems (Ritala, 2024). Researching grand societal challenges around sustainability or digital transitions requires social sciences to engage in complex systems thinking (Foster, 2006; George et al., 2016).

Web-scraped data has emerged as a valuable and abundant resource for social scientists and economists seeking to understand and address grand societal challenges due to its liveness in reflecting societal activities and discourses in near real-time and its liveliness mirroring the dynamic and evolving landscape of societal issues and public engagement (Marres & Weltevrede, 2013). Metadata retrieved from the web such as hyperlinks have been shown to capture the emergent properties and scaling characteristics of complex systems such as innovation systems (Katz & Cothey, 2006). This has allowed metrics derived from company websites to be used in recent scientific research to detect greenwashing (Schmidt et al., 2022), understand the diffusion of artificial intelligence technology (Dahlke et al., 2024), gauge regional economic development (Kinne & Lenz, 2021) and explore connection strategies (Arifi et al., 2023).

However, the nascent state of research making use of web data leaves many opportunities underexplored and returns unanswered questions about what web data as an approximation of reality can and cannot be expected to represent (Alaimo & Kallinikos, 2021). We extend an invitation to researchers to join our research community and present and discuss these topics at our 3rd annual research workshop. Specifically invite recently completed, ongoing, or planned research from a broad range of fields in management, information systems, economics, geography, network, computer, and social science that

  • use web data to explore grand societal challenges and systemic responses around issues of sustainability, digital transformation, and inequality;
  • develop new methodologies of processing and complementing different types of web data for such research;
  • or explore web data and its information value epistemically.

We warmly encourage you to send us your short abstract of 500 words by July 15, 2024 at indicate the state of the research and author information. We look forward to discovering your innovative contributions.


The workshop will take place at the headquarters of ISTARI.AI in Mannheim, Germany, on October 1st, 2024. Parts of the workshop will be offered in a hybrid format to allow for global participation of our research partners. The workshop will feature presentation sessions, discursive formats, a keynote from the ISTARI.AI founders, and a panel discussion on the representativity of web-based data. The workshop will give a best-paper recognition awarding the opportunity to join the ISTARI.AI research partner program, receive one year of full access to the ISTARI.AI webAI platform, and get a cool t-shirt. There is no conference fee. Lunch, coffee, and dinner will be provided.


Timeline, October 1st 2024

10:00    Welcome

10:15    Keynote on using gen AI in social science

10:45    Break

11:00    Presentation Session 1

12:30    Lunch

13:30    Ping-pong tourney: 1st round

14:00    Presentation Session 2

15:30    Coffee

16:00    World Café on current issues in using web data

17:00    Presentation Session 3

18:00    Break

18:15    Panel discussion on representativity of web data

18:45    Closing remarks and best paper award

19:00    Ping-pong tourney: Final round

19:30    Joint dinner

Apply now

Application closes 15th of July 2024.